Tag Archives: sauces

Mmmm! My famous Macaroni and Cheese!

23 Nov

Hello All!

Well, after months of my 32-year-old oven being offline for four months, I finally got it fixed! The problem was an ignition that gave out.  My Tappan 1979 36″ gas range is back online, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything* on this planet. Unless of course someone ( Wolf, Viking or Garland) would like to sponsor this blog and send me a new oven!

*You all know I had to try;  Tappan, you can send me another oven as well!

Now that I’m back in business, this is just in time for my famous Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe. I won an ad-hoc contest between my old boss and I at one of the Super Bowl parties we used to host, and my family loves it. It is a variation of my beloved mother’s recipe  that she made for years and is decadent and rich.The technique is simple but exacting; you must follow to the letter the directions to this recipe. Once you master the technique, play around with it to see the endless possibilities with adding vegetables and meats.


Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 Lb box elbow macaroni
3 cups milk ( use at least 2% milk)
3 Tbl. butter
3 Tbl. flour
1/2 cup grated parmesan ( not fresh grated; San Georgio or Kraft)
16 oz. shredded mild cheddar cheese
8 oz. monterey jack block cheese block, cubed
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese block, cubed
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
dash of cayenne (optional)
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar (optional)

Cook macaroni in boiling water for 6 minutes, then drain and run cold water over macaroni to stop cooking. Set aside.

Heat milk in a saucepot until warm. Do not scorch. In a heavy bottomed pot ( 4 qt.) melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and mix with wire whisk until all lumps of flour are gone, about 3 or 4 minutes.

**do not allow butter/flour mixture to brown. You will have to start over if it does** If mixture gets too hot, lower heat.

Add milk all at once to roux and stir until well blended. Continue to stir until edges of milk start to bubble. Lower heat to lowest setting.

**The next steps are important. If this sauce burns or breaks (separates), you will have to start over. Follow to the letter.

Add one handful of shredded mild cheddar cheese to milk mixture. Whisk in with wire whisk until completely melted. Add another handful of cheese and repeat. Do this until all of the mild cheese is in the sauce. Repeat with the Parmesan cheese. Add white pepper, cayenne pepper and taste. Add a little salt if needed, but no more than 1/2 teaspoon.

Put cooked macaroni and cubed cheese in a large bowl. Toss with cheese sauce until all pasta is coated. Butter a 10 x 12 dish and add macaroni mixture. Top with shredded sharp cheese, cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven until bubbly ( about 45 minutes). Uncover and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes or until brown.

Let rest for at least 20 minutes, then serve.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Chicken Enchiladas: It’s what for dinner!

7 Jan
Chicken Enchiladas

Mmmm! Ole`

Recently I lamented about  my lack of finding something good to eat. I just wasn’t feeling it, guys.  Usually when I feel this way, I sit in front of my pantry and work through my block. I had an idea, but I needed to do a bit of research, so I asked a few friends and read a bunch of recipes. This is what I came up with based on what I had available to me, and a taste for something spicy, cheesy and warm on a frigid night.

Chicken Enchiladas
Serves 4 to 8 people
( 1 – 2 enchiladas per person)

3 cups cooked chicken, Or
3  boneless, skinless chicken breasts with 1 cup water
Eight 6-inch corn tortillas ( warmed)
1 cup refried beans, optional
¼ cup taco sauce
1 cup pasta sauce
½ cup diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup Goya Sofrito*
¼ cup banana peppers, diced**
½ cup banana pepper juice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
1/2  tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
2 tbl. chopped fresh cilantro
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper

Garnishes: Thinly-sliced red onion, green onions, chopped green or black olives, sour cream, additional shredded cheese.

If using cooked chicken, clean chicken from all bones and skin. Measure 3 cups and skip to preparing sauce.

Prepare chicken: Heat oven to 325
In an oven-proof pan ( glass, metal, iron) , place chicken breasts and the cup of water; covered,  in an oven and cook breasts until done, about 3-40 minutes. Remove from oven, place chicken on plate to cool and discard liquid, or freeze for sauces later. When chicken is cold, shred breasts, by either pulling apart into tiny bite-size pieces, or pull apart using the tines of two forks.

While chicken is cooling, Prepare Sauce: Combine taco sauce, sofrito, pasta sauce, banana peppers and the juice. Whisk until combined and add ½ tablespoon of the cilantro to the sauce. Set aside.

Make filling: Mix cumin, chili powder, ¼ cup of sauce, ½ cup of the shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses and toss with the cooled, shredded chicken.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking pan with cooking spray, and place ¼ cup of the prepared sauce in bottom of pan and coat.

Assemble enchiladas: Spoon 1 tablespoon refried beans on the warmed tortilla. Place a bit of the chicken filling in the tortilla and roll. Place filled tortilla seam side down in baking dish. Repeat and place filled tortilla next to one another. Take remaining sauce and pour evenly over the enchiladas. Top with remaining shredded cheese and cilantro. Bake uncovered for 25-35 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.

Top with garnishes of your choice and serve one with a side salad as a light lunch, or two for a filling and hearty meal.

*Goya Sofrito is a sauce base containing tomatoes, garlic, peppers, onions and spices. It is available in most markets in the international isle.

** I had sliced banana peppers in the jar, so I used that. If you want to use fresh peppers, do so and add the juice of a  fresh lime.

There are various ways to warm the tortillas. You can either saute them in a bit of olive oil for 1-2 minutes on each side until pliable. Drain on paper towels.

(2) You can wrap them in foil and warm them in the oven for 10 minutes or so.

(3) You can turn the gas burner on you stove and place the tortilla, one at a time on the burner and turn over the open flame 2 seconds on each side until soft.

You must warm the tortillas. There is no way around it. But don’t be a lazy ass and throw them in the microwave! It will make the tortillas tough.

Culinary Chick

Dinner for One: Sauteed Chicken Breast with Bacon and Tomatoes

29 May
Sauteed Chicken Breast with Bacon and Tomatoes

Sauteed Chicken Breast with Bacon and Tomatoes

As a single ( and now working) woman, I’ve forgotton how hard it is to get a meal on the table.

This dish has some steps to it, and the level of difficulty from a scale of one to ten is a five, but if you have a bit of time, you can get this on the table in 30 minutes ( please don’t say “Yum-O or any of her sayings!).

This came from looking around in the fridge for something to eat, and this is what I came up with.

It was pretty damn good, too!

Serves One ( two if you add an extra breast)

1 ea. skinless, boneless chicken breast

2 strips bacon, diced

1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato

1/3 cup sliced onion

1 tsp. chopped garlic

1/2  cup chicken stock or white wine

1 tbl. fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbl. fresh basil, chopped

4 tbl.  flour

2 tbl.  butter, cold and cut in cubes

1/4 tsp. lemon zest

salt and pepper to taste

Take the chicken breast and place it between two generous sheets of plastic wrap and flatten with either a iron skillet or rolling pin.  Season breast with salt and pepper, then lightly dust with two of the four tablespoons of flour. Set aside. In a skillet or saute pan, cook chopped bacon over meduim heat until crispy. Drain bacon on paper towels and set aside. Pour all but one tablespoon of bacon fat off and brown off the chicken breast. Set aside.

Place olive oil in pan and saute off the onions, tomatoes and garlic. Return the chicken breast to the pan and add the wine or stock. Bring to a boil and cover pan. Turn heat to low and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and remove breast from pan. Turn heat up and bring juices to a boil, and reduce until half of the juice remains. Roll butter lightly  in the remaining two tablespoons of flour and add the coated butter to juices in pan. Remove pan from heat and stir butter into sauce until butter is completely melted.  Add bacon, herbs and zest.  Cover chicken with the sauce and serve with pasta, or rice.

Have you ever tried Poutine?

18 May

A relative informed me of her intent to vacation in Montreal in July.  She asked me if I wanted her to bring me a souvenir and before I could answer, she told me she couldn’t bring me any poutine.

“What is that?” I asked her, She replied that poutine is a version of french fries and gravy. But way better. Way.

photo courtesy of exurbanpedestrian.wordpress.com

photo courtesy of exurbanpedestrian.wordpress.com

Poutine is a dish made with french fries. The french fries are fresh not frozen, and are topped with fresh cheese curds ( ya hear that, Wisconsin?) and topped with a rich brown sauce ( maybe a demi-glace?).   You have to be legally dead not to be intrigued by the prospect of trying this.

I’m not dead. I’m dying to try this out, but I am on a restricted diet so it is up to you guys to try to make this at home.


Normally I wouldn’t advocate using any substitutions in a recipe, but you may have to in this case. I haven’t the foggiest idea where you could buy cheese curds; I used to work a bit with fresh mozzarella curd in restaurants, and apparently it is a regional ingredient. I would generally say if you cannot find fresh cheese curds, use fresh mozzarella cheese.

**If you are a poutine-eater, don’t get mad at my suggestion, suggest a better alternative**

Cut and fry your own fries, and  make a brown gravy to top the dish. If you have a picture of your finished product, send it on in and tell me how it tasted!

Win a $25 gift card from Shop-Rite

24 Apr

shopritelogo Culinary Chick and the kind folks from Shop-Rite grocery stores are giving away $25  Shop-Rite gift cards to two lucky readers of this blog. All you have to do is post an answer to this question:

In these lean times, how do you maintain a gourmet touch in the meals you prepare for yourself, or your family?

A gourmet touch could be anything from using a simple garnish like a parsley sprig,  to breaking out that extra virgin olive oil, to splurging on seafood or a special cut of meat. I will choose the  best five entries; and you, the readers will choose the best two.  The two winners will receive the $25 gift card, courtesy of Shop-Rite.

Contest entries must be in by midnight, May 10.  Voting will end on midnight, May 17. The winner will be announced on May 19, 2009.

Contest Rules:

1) No substitutions will be given in lieu of gift cards.

2) Shop-Rite gift cards can only be used at Shop-Rite stores.

3) Contest entries must be in by midnight, May 10.  Voting will end on midnight, May 17. The winner will be announced on May 19, 2009.

4) All posts must be limited to 50 words or less.

5) All entries must have a valid e-mail address

6) Only one entry per valid e-mail address

7) Please refrain from using racist, sexist or pornographic comments. Entries which contain theses elements will be disqualified.

Have Fun!

Braised Lamb Shanks with Espagnole Sauce

24 Mar
Braised lamb Shank with Espagnole sauce

Braised lamb Shank with Espagnole sauce

Sunday, I made Lamb Shanks.

And you can too! This isn’t exactly a warm-weather meal, but since spring hasn’t warmed up the planet in the Northeastern U.S., you still have time to make this. And do yourself a favor–make these next year instead of tired, old corned beef and cabbage. Although easy, this treatment requires some advanced preparation ( for you slowpokes), and some time in the old oven.  I imagine this could work in a slow cooker, but I haven’t tried it; so do it at your own risk. I found the lamb shanks in the meat counter at Safeway;  the shanks are packaged two to a container.

For those of you not familiar with braising, it is a method used for cooking tougher cuts of meat. It involves browning the cut of meat first, then simmering in liquid in low heat. Some form of acidity is involved; either wine and/or tomatoes work together with the heat to break down connective tissue and tenderize the meat. Often, the cooking liquid is used in its natural state as au jus, or thickened to make a sauce. We will do the latter here.

Ingredients ( Serves two):

2 to 3 lbs lamb shanks, rinsed and patted dry

2 cups  peeled rough cut carrots

2 cups peeled rough cut onions

1 1/2 cups peeled rough cut celery

1 head fresh garlic, peeled

3 TBL tomato paste

1/4 cup olive oil

2  1/2 cups chicken stock or broth

2  1/2 cups beef stock or broth

2 cups red or white wine ( I used a leftover chardonnay)

2 tsp. coarse grind pepper

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs rosemary

1/2 pkg. fresh thyme

cotton twine ( optional)

Coarse grind black pepper

Sea Salt or Kosher Salt

3 TBL. unsalted butter

5 TBL. flour


Below is an example of how the lamb shanks are packaged for retail sale:

frozen lamb shanks

frozen lamb shanks

Remove the lamb from its package, and wash them thoroughly. Pat dry, and with the tip of a sharp knife, score the shanks in a criss-cross pattern (taking care to cut through the tough, silvery membrane, but not too deep int the meat. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Lamb shanks; washed, dried, scored and seasoned

Lamb shanks; washed, dried, scored and seasoned

Prepare all of the vegetables and herbs, and set aside. Measure out the wine, stock , the  two teaspoons of black pepper and tomato paste and reserve. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and gather all the vegetables, stock, wine, herbs and tomato paste.

Ingredients for braised lamb

Ingredients for braised lamb

If you have cotton twine, tie the thyme and rosemary together  in a bunch and set aside, if not; don’t sweat it.  Over medium heat, and in a 8 qt. heavy-bottomed ovenproof stock pot, heat up the olive oil.  Brown lamb shanks on all sides until evenly browned, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. In the same pan, saute all of the vegetables, cooking until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. If you find the pan is starting to brown too much, add the wine and stir, scraping the bit off the bottom. Add the tomato paste, stock and herbs, then add the shanks. The shanks should be completely submerged into the liquid.

Braise is ready for the oven

Braise is ready for the oven

( The red things in the broth are some leftover cherry tomatoes I had in the fridge, so I threw them in the braise)

Cover pot with oven proof lid and place into the oven. Cook for three hours.  Remove from oven and check for doneness by inserting the tip of the knife into a shank. If  the knife slides easily into the shank, it is done. If shank offers any resistance at all, place shanks back in oven and cook for an additional 30-45 minutes, and test again for doneness.

Remove shanks from oven and braising liquid with a slotted spoon, then strain the braising liquid of all vegetables using a mesh strainer, discarding the vegetables, but keeping the liquid.

Shanks and reserved stock

Shanks and reserved stock

Wash out stock pot and set aside.  Using a spoon, skim off any fat that accumulated on top of the stock.

skimming fat off the reserved stock

skimming fat off the reserved stock

Return stock pot to stove and over medium heat, add the butter and heat until melted. Add flour all at once and with a wire whisk, whisk vigorously.

Flour and butter

Flour and butter

Cook flour and butter over medium heat until flour turns tan, about 6-8 minutes, stirring constantly. Add stock and continue to whisk until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.

A sauce is born!

A sauce is born!

Turn heat down to low and cook sauce for 10-15 minutes. The sauce is ready when it coats the back of a spoon.

coating the back of a spoon

coating the back of a spoon

Restrain sauce with a mesh strainer, and hold for service.  Serve lamb shanks on a bed of mashed potatoes ( I have Yukon gold horseradish scented mash here).

Damn Skippy!!

Damn Skippy!!

Side note– I would appreciate some feedback on the photo tutorial.  If I need to be a bit more detailed, please let me know!

Irish Whiskey Brown Sauce

11 Mar

I want you guys to try something different for St. Patrick’s Day.  Instead of eating the usual New England Boiled Dinner  (that’s Corned Beef and Cabbage in layman’s terms, and I will promise a anecdote about this later), try grilling lamb chops or braised lamb shanks with this deep-brown savory sauce.  No need to go all out and use Jameson’s or Bushmills; John Powers will do just fine. The bonus is that this is good with chicken as well as beef.


1/2 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced onions

1/4 cup diced celery

4 Tbl. butter

4 Tbl. flour

1 bay leaf

1 Tbl. tomato paste

2 cups beef broth ( or stock), hot

1/2 cup John Powers Irish Whiskey

salt and black pepper to taste

1 Tbl. unsalted butter, chilled (optional)

In a heavy bottomed 3-4 quart saucepan, melt the four tablespoons of flour over medium heat. Add carrots, onion and celery and saute for about six or seven minutes, stirring constantly until vegetables are caramelized.  Add the four tablespoons  of  flour and cook for four minutes stirring constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan to release some of the bits on the bottom. Be careful not to burn the pan at this stage.

Mix 1 cup of  hot stock with the whiskey in a separate container, then add to the pot of vegetables and flour.  With a wire whisk, whisk the sauce together until smooth, then add the remaining stock, tomato paste, bay leaf and rosemary sprig. Turn the heat down to simmer, then allow sauce to cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add salt and pepper as desired, and remove from heat. Strain off sauce through a fine mesh sieve. Press vegetables gently to release any juices and discard. Vigorously whisk in optional tablespoon of butter until melted and serve with gusto.