Cream Bread

Sometimes you stumble upon something so unique that you immediately and without any hesitation need to try it.

That’s how it was one Saturday morning when I wandered into D’Amici’s bakery. “what’s that round loaf of bread all about?” I asked. ‘cream bread’ was the answer. Apparently made with cream instead of eggs?? I am no bread maker and my mind was already racing with possibilities. I just had one wrapped up for me and ran home, stopping off only at the store to pick up a few ingredients…I had the perfect sandwich in mind.

cream bread

The bread has a really even, dense but tender “crumb” and a mild flavor. It’s like a really good quality white sandwich loaf.

 

…please meet the BEST patty melt you ever had:

patty melt

 

Caramelized onions, griddled beef patty, swiss cheese, griddled bread….. I can’t go on…

I have to go recreate this meal again, NOW!

Show Me The Beef!

Sorry mom , but I love a good steak sandwich! And this one was made by my husband so I love it even more!

He started by marinating a London Broil cut overnight in one of those “flavor injector” packaged marinades. It must  a “guy thing” to use those, it just sounds masculine and impressive!

To prepare the sandwiches, he fired up the grill, cooked it perfectly, sliced it thin and added some grilled mushrooms as well before piling it all onto some toasted, cheesy-topped “scali” bread!

open face steak sandwich

The only way this sandwich could be better is with some juicy sliced garden tomatoes

Neighbors

Isn’t it amazing how great neighbors can make all the difference?

Not only can I depend on them for great conversation over the fence, help snow-blowing the driveway, great cupcakes or the comfort in the knowledge that they would call the fire department should they see smoke, but recently… dinner. And not just any dinner. Home-smoked sausage and kielbasa, with sautéed peppers, and rolls to put it all on!  All packaged and waiting for me after a long day at work!

neighbor dinner

Notice they even put up the flag on the box to alert us of our “special mail!”

My husband and I immediately assembled a sandwich and gobbled it down, forgetting to take another photo of the sandwich itself. But trust me, it was a looker!

THANK YOU GREAT NEIGHBORS!!

Be My Valentine

Some folks get flowers. Some get chocolates. Some just a card. Or maybe just something unexpected  - a dreaded task done for them around the house or maybe a nice dinner.

For me – it was a sandwich.

My husband knows the way to my heart is through my stomach and the best sandwich for me always involves beef and tomatoes! Of course it being February in New England – the tomatoes are fairly pathetic but any tomato is better than no tomato in my book.

Broiled Steaktips with tomatoes, spicy pepperoncini rings and crumbled feta

Broiled Steaktips with tomatoes, spicy pepperoncini rings and crumbled feta

For anybody following along…you might remember the last time I posted a love story about a very similar sandwich!

ok now you can bring on the chocolate……

Hot Sauce And Cereal

Sounds weird, but not what you think…

Corn-flake fried chicken tenders flavored with Frank’s® Buffalo Wing Sauce!

Served with homemade diner style mac-n-cheese and bleu cheese dressing for dipping.

SO YUMMY if I say so myself!

The whole thing started with a stroll thru the hot sauce aisle  – that started an immediate craving for wings. But being a bit lazy I decided that I didn’t want to deal with bones. So as I picked up some chicken tenders, I thought about how I would get a crisp exterior on them before tossing them in the tasty mix of hot sauce and margarine. (That’s tradition, don’t mess with tradition.)

As I was putting a box of corn flakes in the cart, I noticed on the back they had printed their recipe for “corn-flake” fried chicken. (If you haven’t tried this kind of fried chicken, try it.) So it was fate. I knew exactly how I would make my crisp chicken tenders. Buffalo-style.

I marinated my tenders in a mix of milk, hot sauce, salt and pepper. I think an hour is a minimum and longer would be better. Buttermilk would be good too, instead of milk, but who has that lying around?

Crush up plenty of corn flake cereal. It is good to have most of it pretty small, like bread crumbs, to get good coverage. But you also want some not as finely crushed so you have all the texture of the “crevices.” Now set up your stations: flour* – egg – crushed cereal. (standard breading technique, ya’ll) Tip: Let them rest on the rack for a few if you plan on shallow or deep-frying, so the coating can really adhere.

I was baking these – so I sprayed my pan and the rack I would be baking on with non-stick spray. Lay the tenders carefully on and now spray those with some “spray butter.” (This is a great – but – chemical- laden product that I keep on hand for “healthy” un-frying in the oven – you can lightly drizzle the tenders with some melted, organic, low-sodium, butter instead) It is important that the coating on the tenders have some kind of “fat” moisture so they will crisp up in the oven.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-40 mins depending on the size/thickness of your tenders. Watch carefully to be sure they don’t burn. Flip once if you dare – carefully – to crisp the other side. Drizzle with melted margarine-hot sauce mix and serve more on the side for dipping if you want.

The leftovers make spectacular sandwiches!!

Production Notes

The amounts I used…

2 lbs +/- boneless chicken tenders

1 cup milk

1/2 cup +/- hot sauce

*flour (or for gluten-free: use cornstarch or masa) for light dredging

1 egg

3 1/2 cups corn flake cereal (measured pre-crush)

Non-stick spray

“Spray butter”

For the sauce:

1 stick of margarine and 3/4 cup +/- hot sauce – melt together on low in sauce pan

Bruschetta Burgers

One night while on the way home from work in downtown Boston, I remembered that we had no buns for the burgers I was craving that night for dinner. What to do? I definitely didn’t feel like getting in the car after a long train/bus commute home to go to the store for just one item. In such a big city you think there would be a small grocery store or two, but no. Only one in the whole city and it was way across town.

So I improvised, popping into one of those sandwich places that are normally so crowded during the day but not at all at night as busy commuters rush home. I am not going to openly plug them but they make their own flat bread in brick ovens for the sandwiches and are famous for making custom salads too. I was excited to buy fresh, hot, tasty, flat bread for my burgers.

All the way home (Resisting the urge to immediately tear into the warm bread. ) I modified my burger plans to “fit” the bread. I decided to make the burgers thin; so two patties per bread. The bread is rectangular so this would work better. Than I remembered I had some provolone cheese so I knew I would reheat the bread and get the cheese all melt-y  before adding the burger patties.

But then I decided regular ketchup would never do. Too pedestrian for such a gourmet approach to a burger.
Since I had tons of fresh tomatoes still coming out of the garden I knew “fresh” was the way to go…

A classic “bruschetta” of chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, thin sliced red onions, olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

Add in as much as you like and enjoy a “bruschetta burger!”

The Sausage “Gal”

If you are ever in Boston and happened to catch a Red Sox game than of course you would have enjoyed a delicious sausage sandwich from The Sausage Guy! (well maybe not this year :()

For anybody who may be unaware of this delicacy (gasp!) – this is an Italian style sausage (hot or sweet) grilled “low and slow” with sliced peppers and onions, served on a soft Italian roll. Purists tend to not put on any condiments, but yellow mustard is acceptable. Anything else and you are clearly from out-of-town.

Sausage was a favorite of my father’s and I inherited the love for “encased meat.” I am sure my future cholesterol levels will reflect this someday but for now I will enjoy it while I still can.

Such an easy thing to recreate in your own kitchen, in fact even easier on the grill! Plus I “stepped” out a bit and actually put a little “char” on the peppers – they are usually cooked on a flat-top or pan.

I happened to use yellow/green bell peppers, but red and green are a bit more traditional. A little time directly on the grill and then into the pan with the onions to finish cooking.

Nothing brings the neighbors (and your husband) out of the house faster than recreating the smell of Yawkey Way!

So next time the game is on, fire up your grill and get the sausages on. Be sure to toast the rolls and personally I like a little cheese on mine…you know the kind that melts really well – nothing fancy.

And now the “beauty shot!”

No Pineapple? No Problem!

…Just break out a jar of “Hawaiian jam!”

What you don’t have any?  Unfortunately I used my last jar on these “Hawaiian burgers.”

Okay the truth is I have no idea what little country store, flea market, farm stand, etc that I purchased this random jar from. Dusty and forgotten in the dark corners of the cupboard – it would finally get it’s time to shine!

It all started out with me thinking that I would use a can of pineapple – crushed, rings or chunks – unless of course you used the last one up and never put it back onto the grocery list. Like me.

So when I had a craving to turn some ground pork into “Hawaiian teriyaki burgers” with grilled pineapple rings.  I had a problem. No Pineapple. That is really what puts the “Hawaiian” in Hawaiian teriyaki burgers.

I decided to simply mix the meat with 3 ingredients (soy sauce, ground ginger and some of the jam) along with salt and pepper. I formed the patties and grilled them. For some reason toasted English muffins just seemed like the right kind of vehicle for this burger. Maybe it was the “jam” aspect.

I was craving the acid bite that some nice grilled pineapple rings would add so I improvised with some “quick-pickled” red onions. You just slice them thin and let them hang out in some white vinegar until it’s time to add them to the burger.

I gave the jam double duty by using some as a spread on the burger.

The burgers were delish. At least I thought so. The jury is still out with my husband. He was hoping for pineapple.

P.S. Just for the record the burgers look a little dark ’cause the sugars “caramelized” and well okay maybe I left them on a whisker too long but they were not well-done as they appeared in this photo!

A Love Story

My story begins with a Ciabatta roll. Still warm from the local bakery.

Next a judicious amount of “submarine sandwich dressing” on both sides of the roll.

I like to put the delicious house-made roast beef from McKinnon’s against the dressed roll, so the spices and oil can blend with the meat.

Next up: Picante Provolone cheese. (I never skimp on the cheese!)

Shredded iceberg lettuce is the only way in my book. Take the time and you will be glad you made the effort. It allows the juices to circulate through the sandwich instead of acting as a shield!

Thinly sliced green bell peppers just really amp up the fresh flavor.

And of course the tomato. I have a problem I know, I am addicted to them.

For a little spicy, vinegar kick – my sandwich would not be complete without some Pepperoncini. If you have never had these little beauties than are not living right!

A little salt and pepper completes this affair for me. “Hey Sandwich King, eat your heart out!”

Now if you don’t mind I need to be alone with my lover.

It Only Takes A Little…

…steak to make a satisfying sandwich. A little inspiration from your own crisper drawer. And the best of all, a little early season oregano surprising you in the herb pot in the backyard!

Really, it all started with the tomato, green bell-pepper and some little cukes in the crisper drawer that were leftover from last week’s lunch fixings. All that just instantly screamed Greek salad at me. Which of course started a craving for feta cheese. (When don’t I crave any kind of cheese!) So the other night, I  strolled the meat department looking for the perfect sandwich meat and came upon a tiny (.68lbs) sirloin steak. For just a few bucks (3 to be exact) I could have a nice hearty Greek salad with steak on a sandwich. Now if only I had remembered to buy a red onion while I was at the store….

The Technique

I cut the little steak into small cubes (1/2″ or so) and marinated them in a little olive oil, red wine vinegar and plenty of oregano for a few hours. I got the fancy v-slicer out and sliced all the veggies really thin, except the tomato. I cubed the feta. I sprinkled long rolls with olive oil, broiled them until hot and then rubbed them liberally with a cut garlic clove while they were piping hot. After carefully drying the marinated cubes and discarding the marinade, I pan sautéed the steak cubes over a med-high heat to sear them. (They cooked in like 3 mins.) I piled all the items on the rolls and drizzled a freshly made mixture of the same olive oil, red wine vinegar, fresh chopped oregano and some salt/pepper over the top.

If I may say so myself, these were damn good sandwiches. Hearty, fresh and honestly I could have portioned out 3 servings. So it just proves that you don’t have to have a ton of expensive, diet-busting steak on your plate to feel satisfied.

Special thanks to the hubby for stopping off on the way home for that red onion.

Freezer Clean Out

Lately I have been using up the forgotten items from the freezer. After all, I gotta make space for this year’s harvest!

So the other night I when I spotted a lonely, tiny container of homemade pesto from last year’s Basil…I knew just what to do with it.

What would you do ?

Grind Your Own!

Yep- I grind my own burger.

For a wedding gift, my husband’s family was kind enough to give us a KitchenAid stand mixer. I can’t recall ever using it for dough, frosting or batter. But I promptly purchased the meat grinder attachment and started grinding my own meat.

I buy larger cuts of meat and grind them up into hamburgers, meatloaf etc.Shown below is 2 1/2 lbs of chuck roast and 3/4 lb of boneless short rib.

This time around I put the meat through the bigger grind attachment first. (This size is often referred to as the “chili grind”)

Than I put it through a second time on the finer grind.

Than it’s time to break out the trusty “patty maker.”

I have no idea where it came from or how it got into my kitchen.

Probably bought it at a yard sale or maybe a hand me down from some roommate’s mother.

All I know is the patties cook perfectly. No dimple needed.

After this, package them up for the freezer and you have patties ready to go anytime you want one!

Season opener below:

Burgers with avocado, Asiago cheese and a dash of horseradish cream – all served up on an onion-poppy bun.

(Full disclosure: Burgers a tiny bit overdone due to forgotten grilling skills over the long winter.)

Slop, Sloppy Joes

Thank you Adam Sandler.

Now whenever we make Sloppy Joes for dinner we sing a chorus or two from his song “Lunch Lady Land.”

This timeless classic seems to have fallen out of favor with the average household and who knows if they even serve it for hot lunch at school anymore. But we like it around this house and honestly it is a great way to use up and stretch ingredients.

We often have partial pounds of ground beef hanging around due to the fact that my husband likes to pinch off enough from a package to make a quick burger for lunch sometimes. Okay a lot of times. So that leaves odd amounts; like not quite a 1/2 lb.

That was the case recently one late night. I opened the fridge and saw the burger. Noticed we had some buns on the counter. Celery and onion in the crisper. And of course a can of my favorite brand of Sloppy Joe sauce in the pantry.

We were in business.

But then I saw the mushrooms and decided to chop up 4-5 of those rather large baby bellas. That would kinda stretch the burger with substance and flavor. Than I decided “why open that can when I have the stuff to make it from scratch.” I would rather keep that can of Sloppy Joe sauce on hand for an emergency batch of my favorite childhood recipe: American Chop Suey.

So I browned the beef, the peeled and diced celery, some diced onion and chopped mushrooms together. I added a hefty dose of smoky paprika, Emeril’s Essence, salt and pepper. I added in a 14.5 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and a wallop of ketchup for good measure and a little sweetness. I let that simmer and thicken while I toasted the buns with butter and garlic powder.

And of course…isn’t everything better with cheese?

After Class Snack

After a long day at work and an even longer evening in the classroom – does anyone feel like cooking? Not me. Since I don’t own a microwave – something quick AND hot just doesn’t happen.

So I have become the master of the broiler.

Here is what I whipped up one night this week.

1 English muffin, opened and “pre-toasted” once thru the toaster.

1 small red apple – preferably a tart-sweet juicy variety.

Slices of Cabot Pepper Jack cheese- as much as you want or don’t want.

Healthy shake of cumin powder.

Pinch of sea salt – optional.

Pile it all on top of the muffin and broil till cheese melted and bubbly.

Note: for the non-spice lovers

- use plain sharp cheddar and sprinkle with sage.

Too Hot For Stew!

Nothing like a heat wave to drive you into an air-conditioned supermarket in search of no cook meals! I was in line at the deli this weekend considering my hot-weather July 4th holiday menu and I saw the deli advertising a sale on their own homemade cold salads – chicken, tuna and ham. Chicken salad is delicious – in fact I often make it myself. Tuna salad I don’t eat it because I don’t like any fish – but I can appreciate it and often make it for my husband’s lunch.

Ham salad – now that is a different story.

Ham salad is right there in the weird deli food category for me. Along with pimento loaf. I have never tried ham salad. I am not sure why. I love, I mean LOVE ham. I would list ham (or really any pork product) in my top 5 fav foods! Why shouldn’t I love ham salad? Is it because it is minced meat? Considering I like bologna sandwiches and I never met a hot dog I didn’t like – this dislike of ham salad can’t be true. I discuss the situation with my husband. He reveals that his mom used to make deviled ham sandwiches. Sometimes that was dinner. (No doubt during a July heat wave when mom didn’t feel like firing up a stove!) I immediately quiz him – What was in it? How was it served? Did you like it?  He says it was chopped up cooked ham, mayo, pickle relish and of course a little salt/pepper. However she usually used the canned variety of deviled ham. Served on Sunbeam “batter-whipped” white bread and….WHAT?! He didn’t actually like it!  He tells me that whenever he saw his mother whipping this up – he would slide down to his Aunt Barb’s house to see what was for dinner. (If he was lucky, she was whipping up a pot of Johnny Marzetti!)

“Deviled ham salad” versus “ham salad”

So of course I am going to do a little research and taste-testing. After reading a few recipes and a bit of history on the web; I have to conclude that ham salad is a basic recipe of chopped or minced cooked ham, mayonnaise, relish, sometimes chopped celery and the chopped hard-boiled egg seems to be a black and white issue. You either like it or you don’t.

What makes “deviled ham salad” deviled? Well Underwood Deviled Ham Spread from B&G Brands is what makes deviled ham deviled! They claim the introduction of this product to America back in 1868. From my research I would say that “deviled ham” whether homemade or canned, contains more spice (read “heat”) in it.

The taste test.

I approached the supermarket with trepidation. What aisle would it be in? (With the canned tuna.) Would the ingredients be filled with many long words and chemical products? (It isn’t – in fact I was amazed at it’s mostly natural ingredients.) There it was in aisle 2, nestled in its paper wrapper, reminiscent of a fine Worcestershire sauce.

I whip up two versions – plain ham salad made with deli ham that I dice up and the canned deviled variety.

I consult eatyourbooks.com only to discover that I have 3 (three!!) ham salad recipes hiding among my 62 indexed cookbooks! (Yes that is a lot; but only a fraction of my collection!) James Beard, Irma and of course Better Homes and Garden all offer up similar versions that I have seen on the web. Of course Underwood offers a recipe online. Theirs seems a bit more like a dip or a spread – calling for cream cheese and pimento and such. I decide to compare apples to apples – I will make both using mayo, relish, salt and pepper. That is how my plain Irish-American husband likes things. That is how his mom made it.

I prepare each version. The cat comes running – not a good sign. I refrigerate them to chill before serving. Not being a huge fan of mayonnaise, both versions scare me. Check out the picture below. I tried to make the photo look appetizing – but you can probably tell which one is which.

The moment of truth.

We both try them. We like them! Not love, but definitely not as scary as I thought. The deviled ham definitely finished with a spicy kick. The plain ham salad texture seemed more appealing. I made both with a little too much mayo. I would suggest: mix either one 4.25 oz can or about a 1/4 lb diced deli ham with 2 tsp of sweet pickle relish and 1 tsp of mayonnaise along with salt and pepper to taste. If you want a wetter texture add more mayo.Chill and serve on white sandwich bread with crisp cold lettuce. In retrospect we both thought that the deviled ham would be good mixed with soft cream cheese, chopped pimentos and spread on saltines as a snack.

I will conclude with this thought….

Take some cold leftover cooked meat (ham, chicken) – add some form of dairy (mayo, cream cheese, sour cream) -  mix in a few items from your pantry (relish, spices) and spread it on what you have (bread, saltines). That sounds like a cabinet stew to me!

p.s. gotta go feed the cat!