Monday, October 11, 2010

Keep it simple...or not?

Sometimes the best meals are based on simple foundations with just a few complex components.  Lets take tonight's dinner for example - Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes.

When you think about it, there really isn't anything complex about it; you mold meat into a loaf, mash up some spuds and viola, dinner is served...but not in this house.  Personally, I think that if you are taking the time to make dinner, then you need to enjoy it - even if that means putting in a little extra work.

For tonight's meatloaf, I decided to go with a veal demi-glace gravy, which made such an insane impact on the flavor of this meatloaf. DE-LI-CI-OUS!  I basically made a roux with diced onions and a few table spoons of veal demi-glace.  Once the flour was cooked through, I added 2 cups of chicken stock, some herbs (rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper) and let it simmer and reduce to a thick, smoothe gravy. If you ever have the chance to taste or cook with demi-glace DO IT! you wont regret it, I promise you!

*Now, just in case your not familiar with demi-glace, here's the basic explanation:  Its pretty much a traditional French preparation.  It is created by slowly simmering stock (in this case veal), aromatics (herbs, oils, etc) and wine down to a super, super concentrated and flavorful glaze.  Because its so intense in flavor, its excellent for using it in sauces, stews, soups, risottos, etc.  There are all types or demi-glace, but the most popular versions are veal, chicken, beef, and mushroom.*

As for the potatoes, I went with a tried and true method; roasted black garlic and onions.  After boiling the potatoes, I passed them through a food mill (such a great creation - perfect for silky, smoothe potatoes) and added some butter, cream, salt, pepper and the roasted black garlic and onions...which reminds me, I need to go buy more black garlic.

All in all, tonight's meal was a home-run.  Comfort foods are always great, especially when you're able to find ways to improve upon them.  I can definitely say that I am excited to find and cook with the other versions of demi-glace and see what dishes I can come up with. I think that from this point on, demi-glace will be a mainstay in my home.

Meatloaf with Veal Demi-Glace Gravy & Black Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Friday, October 1, 2010

Viva Italiano!!

I'm one of those people that gets a craving and then tries to move mountains to fulfill it.  Its a gift and a curse - I know that as soon as I start glaring at the pantry, I'll eventually end up in the kitchen.  In this particular case, the result was Italian food.  I think that of all of the cultures of food out there, Italian is probably the one that I do best - and its also one of my favorites.  Its hearty, social, family oriented, and just plain GOOD.  You know good Italian food when you taste it.  Think about it, everybody can remember atleast one Italian dish that after the first bite, you had to close your eyes and really think about what you just ate and how happy you are that you have an entire plate of it in front of you.  For me its stuffed shells - my mom's stuffed shells to be more precise, but since I have to always put my spin on things, I've taken them to another level.

There are a few key ingredients that I use in my stuffed shells to amp them up a bit.  First, I use basil...and lots of it.  Basil is definitely my favorite herb to cook with, especially in Italian dishes.  It adds a bit of a minty/lemony taste but still clean at the same time.  In my personal opinion, nothing screams Italian food like basil.  My second addition is roasted or fire roasted tomatoes (you can roast them yourself or buy them by the can).  Its an INCREDIBLE flavor booster for any marinara sauce. My third addition is red pepper flakes.  The red pepper flakes give the sauce a nice little back heat - not too much, just subtle enough to feel/taste it as you finish your forkful of goodness. The last addition I add to my shells is alfredo sauce.

you read that right - alfredo sauce.
But I don't add this into the marinara, I layer it onto my shells before layering on the marinara sauce.  You wouldn't believe how much flavor this adds to the end result, but trust me, it is WELL worth the additional ingredients.

This is probably one of my best Italian recipes so I'll be HAPPY to share it with you if you would like to try it yourself, just hit me up and I'll toss the list of ingredients and the how-to list your way. Be warned, it is a labor intensive dish, but on the plus side - it is fantastic and it will easily feed 4-6 people or 2 people with plenty of left overs.


Stuffed Shells