Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Barbecue Meatloaf

Comfort food. When all else fails go for comfort food.

CrabCake2 is finally over the flu. Rest, various over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, orange juice and a few bowls of chicken soup got him through his bout with H1N1. As I mentioned last time, it's disheartening when the best medical science can offer your fever ravaged son is chicken soup. I haven't been paying close attention to the whole national health care debate, but after this latest experience, I'm going to assume that the lynchpin of any plan will entail a card entitling us to a "Bottomless Soup Bowl" at Olive Garden.

"What course of treatment do you suggest Dr. Campbell?"

"I'm not sure. What are the patients' symptoms nurse Progresso?"

"High fever, cough, congestion, headache and assorted aches and pains."

"Hmmmm? I think Chicken Noodle is in order, but before we start let's consult with Dr. Lipton."


More like, "Mmmm, mmmm, good", if you ask me.

Anyway, CC2 made it through. He lost a few pounds so we need to get him back up to fighting weight. When in doubt, go with comfort food. Barbecue Meatloaf is a Paula Deen version of the traditional standby. The meatloaf braises in a tomato based barbecue sauce that you whip up in a few minutes. I'll warn you though, we found the original sauce very salty. I'm not sure if it was from the canned tomato sauce or the Worcestershire, but I've removed the salt from the recipe to be safe. Eat and grow healthy by enjoying...

Barbecue Meatloaf
by Paula Deen with tweaks by SSSal

1 egg
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup water
3 TBSP vinegar
3 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP mustard
2 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together egg, 1/2 cup tomato sauce and pepper. Add beef, onions and bread crumbs; mix well to combine (your hands are the best tool for this job).

Form mixture into a loaf and transfer to a baking pan large enough to hold the loaf plus the sauce, 9x13 or so.

In a medium bowl combine the remaining tomato sauce, water, vinegar, sugar, mustard and Worcestershire Sauce.

Pour sauce over meatloaf and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting the meat every 15 minutes with the sauce.

Remove from the oven and allow the meatloaf to rest for 15 minutes.

Slice and serve with a spoonful of the cooking sauce.

Pretty basic stuff. I don't know if it will cure anything beyond hunger, but the recipe is very satisfying on a cold autumn night. Well folks I'm off to research another advance in medical science; I'll post the recipe later. Until next time, remember you can do it, you can cook.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

White Bean & Pasta Soup

CrabCake 2 has the flu.

My symptoms are trailing his by about 2 days.

Around noon Monday CC2 said his head hurt and he had a scratchy throat. By 4PM he had a 102 fever, a hacking dry cough, headache and runny nose. You don't need a medical degree to see flu.

Of course we talked to the doctor's office and it's the usual answers, rest, plenty of fluids, Tylenol and Motrin staggered by a couple of hours, call us if it gets worse. Worse!?! He's got a 102 fever! How much worse do you want? Well if he's still feverish on Thursday bring him in.

Thursday morning breaks but his fever hasn't. So after once again running through the doctor's automated phone gauntlet of choices and after having the same conversation as Tuesday with the "phone triage nurse", we were given an appointment.

We got there at 4PM. As soon as they realize we are a "potential flu case", both of us are immediately issued face masks and ushered to an isolated waiting area. This is a waiting area that's over the river and through the woods, past all the doctors' and nurses' lockers and down by the business offices. We are quarantined folks, pure and simple.

In the waiting area are other masked "potential flu cases". We are our own little pod of Typhoid Marys, ready to wreak havoc on the countryside by simply breathing. We waited. I was just about ready to rouse the rabble by throwing off our masks and gleefully running through the halls threatening to talk to everyone unless we got some help, when the nurse arrived. I think she was a nurse but I'm not really sure, she was covered head to toe in plastic. Plastic cap, plastic goggles, gloves up to the elbow and a plastic gown that can best be described as baby blue Hefty bag. Quite attractive really, very slimming.

We were ushered to an examination room where she took CC2's vitals and then used Purell disinfectant on her gloves, which she then threw away, before sending in the doctor. The doctor walked in wearing the same get-up; she looked more ready to knock off a bank than perform a diagnosis. I couldn't resist asking, "Why the get up? Are patients spontaneously combusting?" "Just precautions", but she sheepishly conceded that to date none of her patients had actually exploded.

After a ten minute exam she conclude that CC2 had the flu and I was probably coming down with it. Wow, four years of med school told you that huh? She said CC2 was through the worst of it so just keep getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids. That's it? You greet us and treat us like we're carrying Ebola and the best you've got is, go back to bed and have some soup?

Here's a tip for all the kids out there: Forget Medical School, just get a good Soup cookbook.

Soup! You gotta be kidding me! Well here's Crabby's contribution to National Health Care and the recipe's free. All this cure costs is the price of the ingredients and the time it takes to prep it. White Bean & Pasta Soup is pretty easy to make and if you have leftover chicken lying around you can throw it into the pot, so pull up a box of Kleenex and enjoy...

White Bean & Pasta Soup
from Bon Apetit, October 2009 with a few tweaks from Crabby

3 TBSP Olive Oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped carrots
2/3 cup chopped celery
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 (14.5 ounce) can white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup cooked pasta, I like elbow shaped
1/3 cup chopped scallions
Extra olive oil for drizzling

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute the vegetables until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute an additional minute.

Add the chicken stock, beans and tomato and bring to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes. Roughly puree part of the soup with a stick blender.

Mix in the pasta.

If the soup is too thick add water 1/2 cupful at a time until you reach your desired consistency.

Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on some of the chopped green onion.

There you go, you're cured. I'll be billing your insurance companies $1,000 each. For what it's worth, I have the same symptoms as CC2 except for the fever. Seems as though old crabs like me get the flu but with far less severe effects. I'm off to bed crablings, I'll be back next week. Until then remember you can do it, you can cook.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Veal Cutlets with Creamy Marsala Sauce

When I say "Indiana", what do you think of?

The Indy 500? Jim Nabors? Elkhart, RV manufacturing capitol of the world?

Well all those are true, but there are two more things that you need to be aware of.

Billboards and Flat.

Last weekend CC2 and I drove much of the length of Indiana to visit IU-Bloomington (more on that in another post). The thing that struck me almost immediately was how flat the place is. From the northern border to just north of Indianapolis, the state is so flat it looks concave. I swear you can see the curvature of the Earth if you stare at the horizon. If one bathtub overflowed in Gary, the water would swamp everything from Ft. Wayne to Terre Haute.

They make flat in Indiana and ship it to other places. In its own way the flatness is mesmerizing. Driving down highway 69 looking out over the cornfields I swear I saw Cary Grant being chased by a crop duster. I would have been able to confirm it was Cary Grant except the other thing Indiana is now famous for got in my way.

I've never seen so many billboards in my life. They are everywhere. They are in the cities, in the towns in the middle of no place cornfields. There are decrepit collapsing wooden ones, there are two-tier riveted steel monstrosities. They are of course noticeable because it's so dang FLAT!!!

Occasionally, the placement led to some interesting juxtapositioning. There was the billboard for the unfortunately named and quality confused "Butt Hut - Indiana's Cheapest Cigarettes", followed almost immediately by the billboard for "Witham Health Centers New Cancer Treatment Wing". Smart move, get your new customers right after they pick up their last carton.

Flat state, flat signs, got me thinking about flat food. The only thing I had in inventory that is remotely flat is Veal Cutlets with Marsala Cream Sauce. This is a twist on traditional Veal Marsala in that it adds some heavy cream towards the end. I only add half a cup of heavy cream, others may want a little more. just make sure and adjust the seasoning on the sauce. Enjoy...

Veal Cutlets with Creamy Marsala Sauce
by Crabby

8 veal cutlets pounded thin, about 1 1/2 pounds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 TBSP Salt
2 teaspoons pepper
3 TBSP olive oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms, preferably cremini
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup dry Marsala
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

Place the flour, salt and pepper in a large re-sealable bag. Seal the bag and shake well to combine.

Open the bag and add 1/2 the veal. Seal and shake to coat. Shake off any excess flour and place the cutlets on a large plate. Repeat for the remainder of the veal.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high. When the oil is shimmering add the cutlets forming a single layer. If necessary work in batches. Saute the veal two minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter and cover with foil while you finish cooking the remaining veal.

Once the veal is done, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. When hot add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for 3 minutes tossing occasionally. Add the garlic and shallots and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Add the wine and broth. Bring to a boil and scrape up any brown bits attached to the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and turn to a simmer. Return the veal cutlets and any collected juices to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes.

Adjust the seasoning, the sauce may need salt.

Serve the cutlets, napping each plate with sauce and mushrooms.

Flat food inspired by a flat state. I'm outta here crablings, see you next time. Remember you can do it you can cook.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Company Pot Roast

Good crowd, about 300 people.

My left leg is jumpy, tapping out a constant nameless rhythm on the theater floor. It's a variety show, 8 skits in the first act, 9 more in the second.

Stage ready. Lights come down. Show begins.

CrabCake2 doesn't come on until halfway through the second act. The show is full of his friends, more than a few of whom have been over to the house. But CC2's going solo tonight, he seems fine, a lot of nervous energy, but nothing you'd call stage fright.

Intermission. Cookies and juice.

He's been rehearsing. He's done this before. To him the whole event feels somewhat old hat.

Lights come down. He walks on stage. Lights come up. He plays.

I'm a wreck.

He has talent by the bucketful. Kids who couldn't care less about classical music listen in rapt silence. Five minutes thirty seconds later it's over. The audience erupts.

Afterwards parents and administrators come up and congratulate SSSal and me as if we had something to do with it. I'll admit it, reflected glory gives off a pleasant warmth.

Sometimes you just want a warm comforting meal. A meal that feels good just thinking about it. Company Pot Roast fits the bill. This is Ina Garten's version which seems to fall halfway between old fashioned pot roast and beef bourguignon. Enjoy...

Company Pot Roast
from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

1 (4-5 pound) boneless beef chuck roast
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
All-purpose flour
Olive Oil
2 cups carrots, chopped
2 cups yellow onions, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
2 cups leeks, white and light green parts, chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 cups dry red wine, preferably red burgundy
2 TBSP cognac or brandy
1 large (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 chicken bouillon cube (optional)
3 branches fresh thyme
2 branches fresh rosemary
1 TBSP unsalted butter at room temperature

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

Pat the beef dry. Season the roast with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper. Dredge the roast in flour.

In a large dutch oven or Le Creuset heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear 4-5 minutes. Turn and sear the other side and the ends 4 minutes per side. Transfer the roast to a large plate.

Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the dutch oven. Add the carrots, onions, celery, leeks, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper. Cook over medium heat for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine and cognac. Bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Tie the thyme and rosemary together using kitchen string. Add the herbs to the pot.

Return the roast to the pot, bring to a boil and cover. Place into the oven and cook for 1 hour. After 1 hour turn down the oven temperature to 250 degrees and cook for an additional 1 1/2 hours.

After 2 1/2 hours, remove from the oven and transfer the roast to a platter and lightly cover with foil. Remove the herb bundle and discard. Using a stick blender roughly process the sauce to your desired consistency.

Return the dutch oven to the stove top and warm over medium heat. While the dutch oven is warming, blend 2 tablespoons of flour with the 1 tablespoon of room temperature butter, (NOTE: This is a thickening agent known as a Beurre Marnier).

Add the beurre marnier to the sauce and bring to a boil. boil for 2 minutes, the sauce will thicken.

Slice the roast and ladle on sauce. Serve with mashed potatoes to get every bit of the sauce.

OK this is a great recipe for a cold autumn day. So turn on the TV, watch some baseball or football or listen to classical music, just remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Braised Swiss Chard

This is the second version of today's opening. I asked SSSal to review the first and her response was, "Boy, you are Crabby today". So after much grumbling and mumbling, I've made a few (nearly complete) changes to the opening.

The truth is I've got no particular story for today. No amusing bon mot. No compelling insight into the human condition. I woke up grumpy and I just started typing. The results weren't pretty and I promise there were absolutely no prisoners taken. While I fully subscribe to the attitude: "If you have nothing nice to say about someone sit next to me", I'll not vent on you, the faithful members of Crab Nation.

Instead I'm just going to give you a somewhat bitter recipe to go with my acrid mood. Swiss Chard seems to be all the rage this time of year for reasons that are just beyond me. It is bitter, it takes comparatively forever to cook and the results aren't all that great when you're done. But, supposedly the stuff is good for you. Besides, it's cold, the leaves are turning and winter's icy grip is just a few weeks away, why not go for something bitter and vaguely sour? So here's Braised Swiss Chard, a Giada recipe that has enough other ingredients to actually make the result palatable. So don't like it, like it, don't enjoy, enjoy...

Braised Swiss Chard
from Giada De Laurentiis' Family Dinners

1/4 cup olive oil
2 large red onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 large bunches of Swiss Chard, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until tender, approximately 8 minutes.

Add 1/3 of the chard and saute until it begins to wilt. Continue adding chard until it begins to wilt before adding more.

Add the tomatoes, soy sauce, broth and red pepper flakes.

Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer, stirring often, until the chard is very tender, about 12 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and serve.

OK crablings, that's it, no story, no big intros. Remember you can do it, you can cook.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Swordfish with Citrus Pesto

So I'm watching the TV this morning to see how NASA is going to blow up a chunk of the moon and nothing happens. You know, nothing. No KAPOW!!!, no BLOOEY!!! Nothing. The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, the Travel Channel, everyone is waiting for the big something and...




Now I admit a certain glee in watching preening Matt Lauer and clueless Meredith Viera suddenly have to explain why nothing happened after they spent the last two days promoting the event like it was Armageddon II. They trotted out some poor scientist to explain why nothing happened. The guy gave it his best shot, but it's really hard to talk about, nothing. Believe me I have to do it twice a week and there is many a time when I struggle to come up with something to write about.

Of course, the experts and the network talking heads overlook the most obvious explanation. The reason there was no explosion is because, as any child can tell you, the Moon is made of cheese. Cheese does not spew rocks and hydrogen atoms when hit by a large SUV traveling at 6,000 miles an hour. No! Slam into a continent-size piece of Brie at that speed and you'll be sucked under in picoseconds.

As you read this, Moonie Men are sipping port and nibbling on the Moon and crackers, wondering who the driver was of the NASA 2009 Explorer that slammed into their neighbor Harry's crater. Get real folks, it's the only reasonable explanation.

Today's recipe has nothing to do with the Moon or cheese. The best I can come up with is a vague affiliation to water. Today I'm making Swordfish with a Citrus Pesto. The star of this recipe is the pesto. Though it's a bit tart, it does give the fish a fresh acidic bite. So sit back, look up at the moon and enjoy...

Swordfish with Citrus Pesto
by Giada De Laurentiis with minor adjustments by Crabby

2 cups fresh basil leaves, stemmed
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1 clove garlic
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

1 1/2 pound swordfish steak
1 TBSP cooking oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Blend the basil, pine nuts, garlic, citrus zests, juices, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Process until until the mixture is finely chopped.

With the machine running, slowly pour the olive oil into the mixture until it is smooth and creamy.

Transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Set Aside.

Pre-heat your gas grill over medium-high heat.

Brush both sides of the swordfish with the tablespoon of cooking oil. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.

Grill the swordfish about 4 minutes per side (assuming approximately a 1 inch thickness).

Transfer the fish to a serving platter and top with the citrus pesto.

All in all a very simple recipe. I upped the amount of olive oil slightly and you may want to add some extra pepper depending on your taste.

I'll see you in a few days, let's all hope that the NASA satellites didn't dislodge some sort of Moon Flu that's rocketing it's way in our direction as we speak. Until next time, remember you can do it, you can cook.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chicken Thigh Stew with Sweet Potatoes

Years ago when I was but a fledgling crabby cook, I was working for a major multinational computer company. Back then they hired college grads by the dozen, dumped them into an outpost on the frontier of commerce and waited to see what happened.

The result was an environment of creativity, aggressive thought and even more aggressive partying. But old college habits die hard and when Thanksgiving rolled around people assumed they could just buzz out on Tuesday and be back at their desk on Monday. Well it didn't and doesn't work that way in the real world. When a group of us realized we wouldn't be able to get home for Thanksgiving and be back at our jobs on Friday!!, we decided to have our own feast.

On paper this made all the sense in the world. Surely a group of college educated individuals could cook a turkey, mash some potatoes and whip up some gravy. Well by now you can guess that things didn't quite turn out that way. The bird had to be the greasiest thing Farmer Brown had ever created. There was a pool of fat floating atop the drippings sufficient to heat a three bedroom house for 6 months.

Lacking the utensils to skim this amount of fat we were left to our own creative devices. Somehow, in the stupor of a few glasses of wine, we fell upon an idea to use iceberg lettuce leaves (the only lettuce widely available back in the day, no fancy Romaine then) to scoop off the fat. This works fine for two scoops, or until the heat of the grease cooks the leaves, wilting them into a greasy, green mess. Two heads of lettuce later and the roasting pan still looked like the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez, but now with floating green bits.

In spite of that disaster, the meal became a tradition of sorts and I went on to internet fame and no fortune as a CrabbyCook. I still believe in creativity, but I admit to having more kitchen gizmos than I could possibly use. So stick to the basics, cook the ingredients the fridge gives you and remember there's always tomorrow's meal.

Today's recipe is one of my "boy it's late in the day, what am I making for dinner tonight" meals. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs can be substituted for just about any stew recipe you care to try. They cook up faster, but also taste great if you have the time to let them stew for a few hours. Please enjoy...

Chicken Thigh Stew with Sweet Potatoes
by CrabbyCook

1 TBSP olive oil
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1 small hot (jalapeno type) pepper, seeded, deveined and diced
1 sweet pepper (yellow or red), chopped
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch cubes
1 14 ounce can tomatoes sauce
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup red wine
1 cup low sodium beef broth
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup frozen peas

Heat oil in a dutch oven (Le Creuset) over medium heat.

Add onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add the hot and sweet peppers and saute an additional minute.

Add all the other ingredients except the frozen peas. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Add frozen peas during the last 10 minutes.

Serve in bowls over rice.

OK, the thing about this recipe is that it's a great way to clean out the pantry. This meal is perfect for a cold autumn night.

Alright crablings, I'm outta here, remember, iceberg lettuce is a lousy fat skimmer and, you can do it you can cook.