Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Chirizo Verde Breakfast Burritos

Have you ever had Chorizo Verde?  Neither had I, but I am so glad I tried it!  Now I want you to do the same...
I found my Chorizo Verde at the Story City Locker and it is literally green.  Don't let this scare you, though - Chorizo Verde is given it's unique color by the addition of spinach puree and a flavorful spice blend.  So give it a try with my filling and famous breakfast burrito recipe!  
I love these burritos because the recipe is great for a crowd, can be easily modified to suit every one's tastes and the finished products can even be wrapped up and frozen for a quick breakfast later.  They can also be made with any sausage your prefer - spicy Chorizo, Chorizo Verde, breakfast sausage, even vegetarian sausage.  I like a combination on half Verde-half spicy Chorizo, but use whatever you can get your hands on.  I have found that 1 pound of ground sausage will make 8-10 burritos, but as I said, they can be frozen, so cook accordingly!

What You Need
1 lb Chorizo Verde
14 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
2-2 1/2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or pepper jack)
1/4 cup chopped ham, or deli ham torn into pieces
5 strips thick cut smoky bacon
salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
2 tbsp butter
2 1/2 cups hash browns (fresh or frozen)
8-10 soft flour tortillas (10")
1 jar of your favorite salsa
chopped fresh avocado and tomato
aluminum foil

Heat a large skillet on the stove over medium-high.  Add the Chorizo and break it apart as much as possible while it cooks.  Stir often until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  When chorizo is fully cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to a medium bowl lined with paper towels and set aside.  Carefully drain excess fat from the skillet.  Place skillet back over medium high heat.  Add bacon to the pan and cook until crisp, about 5-8 minutes, turning several times.  When bacon is cooked, carefully remove from skillet and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.  Once it is cool, roughly chop the bacon.
While bacon is cooking, crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl.  Add milk, 1/2 cup of the cheese, chopped ham, and about 1/2 tsp each of salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.  Scramble with a fork and set aside until bacon is finished.  When the bacon is out of the pan, reduce heat to medium-low and carefully drain some of the grease, leaving about 1 tbsp in the pan (you will now use this to cook the eggs).  
Pour the scrambled egg mixture into the pan and gently mix every few minutes until eggs are solid, but still moist, about 10 minutes.  When scrambled eggs get overcooked they begin to dry out, so keep an eye on them.  While eggs are cooking, add the 2 tbsp of butter to another skillet and heat to medium-high.  Once butter is hot, add the hash browns and spread them evenly in the pan.  Cook for about 5 minutes, the use a spatula to flip the hash browns.  Sprinkle with salt and press down with the spatula.  Continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until they have browned on both sides.
Once eggs and hash browns are cooked, you can put your burritos together.  I like to make and assembly line, building 4-5 burritos at once.  Tear off one square piece of foil for each burrito you are making.  To assemble your burrito, place one tortilla on top of one piece of foil.  Add a large scoop or two of eggs (about 1/4 cup or so) in a line along the center of the tortilla.  Do the same with a similar amount of Chorizo, placing it on top of the eggs.  Top sausage with a small handful of shredded cheese and roughly 1-2 tbsp salsa.  Place a small tsp or so of chopped bacon evenly along the salsa.  Add about 1/4 cup hash browns and if desired, chopped avocado and tomato.  
Fold one side of the tortilla over the filling (as if folding it in half), then, press down with your fingertips on the top edge of the tortilla, sliding it back toward the center to pull the filling into an even log shape in the middle.  Keep the tortilla folded over the filling while you fold in the ends.  Finish rolling up the burrito, then wrap it in foil.  Place in a hot oven for 10-20 minutes, or toaster oven for 5-10 minutes, then dig in and enjoy!
*If freezing, do not place in the oven.  Simply put all wrapped burritos to be frozen in a large Ziploc bag, suck out the air and place in the freezer.  To cook from the freezer, transfer burritos to the fridge the night before.  In the morning, remove from plastic bag, but keep foil intact.  Heat in oven for 20 minutes until heated through.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Steak Taco Salad with Grilled Corn Pico de gallo

 Living in central Iowa, I am blessed with many fresh, local resources for my cooking adventures.  Everything from farm fresh veggies, eggs and milk, to locally grown and processed meats, is at the most, a 15 minute drive from my kitchen.  It is because of this amazing access to fresh produce, that most Iowans will tell you their favorite time of year is July-September.  What's so special about these 3 months, you ask??  Two words: Sweet Corn.  

To anyone who has ever hand-picked corn straight from the stalk, or spent their summer days gravel traveling through endless fields of corn taller than their car, those little yellow and white kernels of deliciousness are like pure gold.  Come to pretty much any town in Iowa during the summer and you can buy fresh sweet corn from the beds of pick-up trucks on street corners...  I even remember my dad coming home one day when I was a teenager (he is a custom contractor) with the back of his van packed full of fresh ears of corn from a farmer client of his.  I could go on all day about this stuff...
My second favorite part of this recipe, is another special local product - the skirt steak.  If you are an Iowa resident and you have not purchased locally grown and processed beef, or pork, you are missing out on one of our state's finest resources.  The great people at the Story City Locker are doing wonderful things for central Iowa, providing our community with a source for meat that is grown and raised on small-production, local farms.  
As Iowa's first new meat locker to open in 12 years, SCL and it's staff strives to practice sustainable living and sustainable butchery to the best of their ability and that care and sensitivity is visible in their product.  As stated on their website, "Knowing our food and knowing where our food comes from is good for us"... and it is!!  If you are looking for fresh cuts of meat, so cleanly raised and processed that you can taste it, seek out a local butcher like the Story City Locker, or at the least, stop by your local farmers' market and find a family farm tent selling their product - you won't be sorry!
About the recipe... this dish can be a bit time-consuming, but it also has many components that can be prepared ahead of time.  I recommend prepping and marinating your steak anywhere from 6-24 hours ahead of time.  The Pico de gallo can also be made up to 24 hours ahead and the salad shells can be baked several days in advance as long as you store them in an air-tight container until you're ready to use them.  Enjoy!

What You Need:
(For the Marinade)
one 2 lb skirt steak, trimmed of fat
sea salt
black pepper
red pepper flakes
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
juice of 1 large orange
juice of 1 lime

(For the Pico de gallo)
4-5 ears fresh sweet corn, still in husks
1 large Anaheim pepper
1 large, ripe avocado
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 large, ripe tomatoes
handful of fresh cilantro, about 1/3 cup
1/2 red onion

(For the Salad Shells)
store-bought large flour tortillas, as many as needed to serve your family
1 shallow bowl, or rimmed platter, large enough so that you can lay tortillas flat inside one at a time
1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 empty 10-15oz food can
aluminum foil
cooking spray

(For the Salads)
sour cream
queso fresco
washed and torn lettuce
sauteed sweet peppers, other desired veggies

To prepare the skirt steak, trim any large pieces of fat and place the steak in a baking dish, or shallow bowl.
Rub with red pepper flakes (1-2 tsp), lime zest, and a generous amount of freshly cracked sea salt and black pepper.  After seasoning both sides, break apart the crushed garlic and rub on the top side of the steak.  Pour orange and lime juice over the top, cover baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until 30 minutes before grilling.

Begin the Pico by roughly chopping a peeled avocado.  Toss in a medium bowl with lime juice, zest and finely chopped cilantro, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.  To grill the corn, peel back the husks, leaving them attached to the ear so that they can be folded back over the corn.  Remove the silk, rub the corn with butter and salt.  Then fold the husks back up over the corn to "wrap" it.  Place wrapped ears onto a hot grill for about 10 minutes, turning them every 2-3 minutes.  Don't worry if the husks begin to blacken, or if some kernels are exposed.   At the same time, place the Anaheim pepper on the grill, and rotate to roast evenly.  After 10 minutes, carefully remove the corn from grill and allow to cool on a plate or baking sheet.  When the pepper has blackened a bit on all sides, remove from grill and immediately wrap in aluminum foil.  Turn off grill.  Set wrapped pepper aside for 30-40 minutes.
While corn is cooling and pepper is steaming, roughly chop the tomatoes and add to the avocado bowl.  The onion can be prepared as desired - I prefer raw onion to be finely minced, so I placed mine in the food processor after peeling, but if you don't mind bigger pieces, you can chop it by hand.  Either way, once prepped, add the onion to the avocado mixture.  When corn is cool enough to handle, remove the husks and carefully use a sharp knife to slice the corn off of the cob.  Add kernels to the bowl of fresh veggies.  Lastly, remove the pepper from it's foil, peel off the skin and pull out seeds.  *See my previous post on making your own roasted peppers!  Finely chop the pepper and gently toss it in with the rest of your Pico de gallo.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the salad shells, heat oven to 400 degrees.  While oven is heating, pour 1 tbsp oil into large bowl/platter, then add roughly 1/2 inch of cold water.  Completely remove the lid from the empty tin can, rinse out the inside and peel off any labels from the outside.  Place the can upside down on a cookie sheet.  Tear off a square piece of aluminum foil and use it to cover the can.  Do not cover tightly, or press foil around the bottom of the can.  You just
want to loosely pull the foil down around the can, making a mold for you tortillas.  Spray the foil "mold" with cooking spray.  Working with one at a time, place a tortilla in the oil/water mixture, pressing down gently to momentarily submerge the tortilla.  Flip the tortilla over and submerge again.  Remove tortilla from water, allowing excess water to drip off, then center the tortilla on top of your can/foil mold.  Gently fold down the sides of the tortilla, making 4-5 "waves" around the sides.  Place the tortilla, mold and cookie sheet in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until it begins to feel fairly stiff.  Remove everything from the oven, take the
tortilla shell off of the mold and flip the tortilla over.  Then place it back into the oven (tortilla only, directly on oven rack) for another 5 minutes.  When edges begin to turn golden, remove shells from oven and cool on a rack.  During that last 5 minutes, prep another tortilla using the water/oil and get it fitted onto the mold to begin baking.  Continue until you have enough salad shells baked to feed your family, or guests.

When you are actually ready to make your taco salads, bring your
grill to medium-high heat (around 500 degrees) and spray the grate with grill-style cooking spray.  Remove the skirt steak from the baking dish and marinade and place steak on the hot grill.  Cook the steak for about 10 minutes per side.  After the first 15 minutes, begin testing the inside temperature every 5 minutes with a meat thermometer.  Do so by inserting the thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the steak.  You will want the interior temperature to be medium-medium well, so when the steak registers between 155-165 degrees, remove it from the grill.  Place on a heat-proof cutting board/serving plate and allow to sit for 10 minutes before cutting.
Allow people to make their own taco salads by having everything laid out and ready to serve.  Everyone can start with a salad shell and build their salad, adding lettuce, sliced steak, crumbled queso, Pico, sour cream, etc... Everything can be saved for leftovers - extra steak can be chopped for nacho topping and the Pico is great as a fresh salsa for dipping chips!

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Smoked Bacon Ends... Nothing Better

Here is the only problem with the Story City Locker -
you will easily become spoiled with/addicted to their amazing products.  On a recent trip to the locker, I picked up a 1.15lb package of smoked bacon ends... 

Have you ever had bacon ends?  No?  Well, neither had I.  I wasn't
exactly sure what they would look like, or what I would do with them.  However, I used about 1/2lb of this package the first time I cooked it, and it was probably the best bacon I have ever eaten.  Between the amazing quality of the bacon itself, the perfect cut, and the strong, smooth, smoky flavor, I still cannot get enough.

I wanted to put these bacon ends on every dish and in every meal.  This particular package lasted my family for two meals.  Both of these recipes were easy and fun to prepare, so give them a try and enjoy!

BLT Pizza
What you need:

1 Pizza Crust 
1/2 lb Smoked Bacon Ends
1/2 cup Honey Mustard
1.5 tbsp Mayo
2/3 cup Shredded Cheese (white cheddar, medium cheddar or mozzarella)
1 handful of Button Mushrooms, quartered
Balsamic Vinegar
1/3-1/2 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Salt & Italian seasoning
1 handful Romain Lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
1/2 of a large ripe avocado
Pecorino Romano Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the bacon into 1/2", or 3/4" cubes.  In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, tossing often to cook evenly.  This will take about 5-10 minutes, do not allow bacon to become too crispy.  When bacon is done, use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper towel, leaving the grease in the pan over medium heat.  Set bacon aside.  Add the quartered mushrooms to the hot pan and saute for 1 minute.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and continue to saute for another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.
Combine the honey mustard and mayo in a small bowl, the spread evenly on the pizza crust, reserving 1-2 tbsp for topping later.  *I usually make my own pizza crusts from scratch, but you can use any kind you like.  Sprinkle with the shredded cheese.  Top with the browned bacon ends and sauteed mushrooms.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and begins to bubble.  Remove from oven and turn oven off.  
While pizza is baking, toss the halved cherry tomatoes with a generous sprinkling of sea salt and Italian seasoning.  Also, cut the avocado half into 1/4"-1/2" pieces.  When the pizza comes out of the oven, top it with the tomato, avocado, lettuce, and a little Pecorino Romano cheese.  Drizzle with reserved honey mustard and serve immediately.

Cirtus Chicken & Smoky Bacon Grillers w/ Chipotle-Tequila Glaze
What you need:

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-1.5" chunks
Juice of 1/2 a Lime
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
Juice of 1 Small Orange (or 1/2 large orange)
2 Cloves Garlic, miced
1/2 Anaheim Pepper, finely chopped
grill seasoning, such as Grilla Gorilla X (Saltlickers)
sweet & spicy seasoning mix, such as Cha Cha Lima (Saltlickers)
1/2 lb Smoked Bacon Ends cut into thick chunks
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
1 tsp Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove, finely chopped
1/3 cup Tequila
1/2 cup Fresh Orange Juice
1 tbsp Cornstarch
1-2 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Adobo Sauce
(optional) 1 small Chipotle Pepper, finely chopped
(optional) 1/2 tsp Sriracha Sauce
Zest of 1 Lime
1 tbsp fresh Lime Juice

Place the cut chicken into a shallow bowl and add the fresh fruit juices, minced garlic and finely chopped Anaheim pepper.  Sprinkle with roughly one teaspoon of each seasoning.  We love GGX from Saltlickers, but you can use whatever spicy grill seasoning you have on hand.  If you do not have any of Saltlickers' Cha Cha Lima, you can mix together a bit of sugar, lime zest and chili powder, OR you can visit www.salt-lickers.com and order a jar of Cha Cha, along with any of their other unique mixtures!  Toss everything just enough to coat the evenly with the marinade.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.  
Before grilling, remove chicken from fridge and bring to room temp.  Lightly brown the bacon ends in a skillet over medium heat with a light dusting of freshly cracked black pepper, for no more than 5 minutes.  Remove bacon from skillet and cool on a paper towel.
Start your grill and bring to medium-high temperature.  Thread the chicken and bacon chunks onto metal skewers in the following pattern:  chicken-chicken-bacon (then repeat).
Place skewers on the hot grill, in a position to cook as evenly as possible.  Cook on the grill for about 10-12 minutes, rotating each skewer 95 degrees every 2-3 minutes.  When the chicken is cooked through, carefully remove the skewers from the grill.
To make the glaze, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add miced garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add tequila.  Bring to a simmer, add orange juice and continue simmering for 5 minutes.  Whisk in cornstarch and brown sugar, then Adobo sauce, Chipotle pepper and Sriracha if using.  Continue simmering for a couple more minutes, whisking often.  Lastly, whisk in the lime zest and juice, then remove from heat.
Serve grillers drizzled with tequila glaze and a flavorful rice on the side - we had a cilantro lime rice, but you can make any kind you like.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Easy Baked Ziti w/ Spicy Sausage

Easy Baked Ziti with Spicy Sausage

My mother is Italian and I grew up eating a lot of pasta, so it's really no surprise that I cook a lot of pasta dishes for my family.  I love baked ziti because it has most of the flavors of lasagna with half of the work, it is great leftover, and it always reminds me of home.  My husband refers to it as my "default meal"... when I'm running out of dinner options, I can usually still make some ziti.
You don't have to use spicy sausage for this recipe, you can substitute any Italian sausage that you like.  However, if you want to give the spicy kind a try, this is a great dish for it, as the multiple cheeses help to balance out the heat of the sausage.
I got the sausage for this dish at the Story City Locker and it was delicious!  However, if you can't make it to Story City, you can use any good Italian sausage.  You also do not have to limit your pasta choice to only ziti - you can use radiatori, fusilli, penne, or anything you have on hand that will catch some cheese and sauce.  This is an awesome meal to make ahead and stick in the freezer for a lazy day!

What You Need;
 1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb spicy Italian sausage
1 box/bag uncooked ziti pasta
3 cups marinara sauce (I use my own sauce, but you can use your favorite brand)
1 tub (15 oz) whole milk or part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh mozzarella (mozz pearls or larger balls cut into cubes)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
fresh basil (for garnish)

Place a large pot of water over high heat on the stove.  When water boils, add a generous amount (1-2 tsp) of salt, then stir in pasta and cook according to package instructions.  *Make sure to check your pasta as it cooks and drain when it is al-dente.  Overcooked pasta is no good!  When pasta is drained, transfer it to a large baking dish and set aside.
While pasta cooks, heat olive oil over medium-high in a large skillet.  Add sausage and 2 tbsp marinara sauce.  As sausage cooks, stir often and break it apart into smaller chunks as much as possible. When the sausage is fully cooked, remove from heat.  Use a slotted spoon to drain any fat/grease from the sausage and transfer to the baking dish with cooked pasta.
To the baking dish, also add the cubed mozzarella and toss with the pasta and sausage.  Add the ricotta to the top in dollops with a tablespoon.  When you have added all of the ricotta, pour remaining sauce evenly over the top of your mixture and finish by sprinkling with the grated Romano cheese.
 At this point you can either cover the dish and place it in the fridge or freezer to bake later, or heat your oven and bake now.  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and allow ziti to come to room temperature before baking if it was refrigerated or frozen.  Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes until sauce is bubbly.  Serve hot, garnished with fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces and enjoy!

Classy Jucy Lucy

The Classy Jucy Lucy

It's time to grill, people, and who doesn't love a great burger?  With, or without cheese... on a bun, or off... meat, or meatless... it's all good in the summer time!  My personal favorite is pretty much anything with cheese, so I have always thought the Jucy Lucy was brilliant idea.  For those of you who are not familiar with this gooey concept, the Jucy Lucy/Juicy Lucy is somewhat of a double cheeseburger, only much more amazing.  The Jucy Lucy is two burger patties with cheese placed between them, sealed around the edges, cooked to create a melty, gooey center and topped with more cheese... Like I said - amazing!

For this recipe I've classed it up a bit with my favorite cheese, smoked Gouda, and a couple of other fun elements.  I made my burgers with local ground beef from the Story City Locker, and you probably think, "ground beef is ground beef."  Well it is, until you've tried the fresh, local stuff... then you may think differently, because, like many other foods, nothing compares to fresh and local.  Anyway, give this a try with whatever you have and prefer, whether that is local beef, ground pork, or even a homemade veggie burger mixture.

What You Need:
1 lb ground beef (or other desired burger component)
1-2 Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce
burger/grill seasoning
salt & pepper
3 slices of thick-cut smoked Gouda (or other smoky cheese)
6 slices of pepper cheese, such as Pepperjack, Habenero, or Hatch Pepper cheese
lettuce & tomato
3 burger buns

Place the ground beef in a bowl and break apart slightly with your hands.  Chop your Chipotle peppers and mix them, with 1 tbsp of the Adobo sauce, into the meat.  *Do not over work the meat - the more you mix, the more it loses it's natural tastes and textures.  
Divide the beef into three equal sections and, working one section at a time, make two thin burger patties out of each section, creating six patties total.  Use your fingers to make a slight well in center of each patty.  Place a thick piece of smoked Gouda in the center of three of the patties.  Place another patty on top of each of those and press down around the edges to seal the two patties together.  Sprinkle the top of each burger with salt, pepper and your favorite grill seasoning - I used Grilla Gorilla X from Saltlickers, because it's just so stinkin' good!  Gently pat your seasoning into the meat and set aside while you start your grill.
When you are ready to cook your Jucy Lucys, spray your hot grill with grill spray and place the burgers on the grate over medium-high heat.  Cook for 2 minutes, then use a metal spatula to turn each burger slightly to create diamond grill marks.  
Continue cooking for 2 more minutes, then flip the patties.  After flipping, top each burger with two pieces of pepper cheese and cover your grill.  Cook for 2 minutes, then turn slightly like before.  At this point you can also slice your burger buns (I actually used Asiago bagels this time) and place them around the edge of the grill to toast them slightly.  After 2 more minutes, remove the burgers and toasted buns from the grill and place on heat-proof plate.  Serve burgers topped with lettuce and tomato and enjoy!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Greek Stuffed Leg of Lamb

Greek Stuffed Leg of Lamb (boneless)

If you have never cooked a leg of lamb, you should probably give it a try.  This was a cut of meat that I had always wanted to tackle, but had never really had the occasion to do so.  So when I was visiting my friends at the Story City Locker and noticed the this amazing 6.5-pound boneless leg of lamb just hanging out in their freezer, I had to take it home with me!  
This is a great dish for a holiday meal or the next time you have a couple of extra guests joining you for dinner.  It's extremely easy and what I would call a "low-maintenance fancy" recipe.  It only takes about 20 minutes to put it all together and bakes in less than 3 hours with very little work in between.  This would also be delicious in sandwich form on fresh rolls if you have any on hand!

What You Need:

1 boneless leg of lamb (5-7 lbs)
2 small shallots
1.5-2 bulbs of garlic, depending on size
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 lemon
olive oil
baking twine
salt & pepper
red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Unwrap the lamb on a clean work surface and carefully trim any large sections of excess fat.  Cut the lamb so that it can be spread flat on your work surface as pictured.

Peel the garlic and shallots, cutting the shallots in half.  Set aside 2 large garlic cloves for later.   Place garlic, shallots, leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary, mint and tomatoes in a food processor with 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Pulse on puree setting until all ingredients are minced.  Place the feta cheese in a medium mixing bowl and add the ingredients from the food processor.  Combine all ingredients and set aside.

Place remaining rosemary leaves and reserved garlic cloves in the food processor with the parsley leaves and the juice of half the lemon.  Pulse on puree setting until ingredients are finely minced.  Remove from food processor, place in a small bowl and set aside.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  While oven is heating, evenly spread the feta cheese mixture over the lamb, stopping about 1
inch from the edges.  Begin at one of the narrow ends of the lamb and tightly roll everything up together (this should create a more narrow, thicker roll).  Using 3-4 pieces of baking twine, securely tie up the rolled lamb from all sides.  If any of the cheese-herb mixture falls out, just stuff it back in.  Drizzle the outside of the stuffed lamb with a generous amount of olive oil (3-4 tbsp) and a bit of lemon juice.  *If you have a lemon-infused olive oil, you can use that instead and skip the lemon juice!  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then rub the oil, salt and pepper onto the lamb to coat it.  Pat the parsley-herb mixture onto the lamb, evenly coating the sides and top.  
Place the stuffed lamb into a roasting pan, dutch oven, or other oven-safe pan.  Pour roughly 1/2 cup of red wine into the pan around the lamb.  Cover loosely with foil.  Place covered pan in preheated oven and cook for 1 hour.  After first hour, remove the foil and continue roasting for another hour.  After the second hour, carefully spoon some of the drippings/wine from the pan onto the top of the roast several times. Return lamb to the oven and continue roasting for another 30-60 minutes, until meat thermometer inserted into the lamb registers 135-145 degrees.  When lamb has reached your desired temperature, remove pan from the oven, place stuffed lamb on heat-proof cutting board and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before cutting.
While lamb is resting, make a gravy with the drippings/wine left in the pan.  If you are using a dutch oven, or other stove top-safe pot, you can place that on the stove and make the gravy in that pot.  If you cooked the lamb in a roasting pan, transfer the drippings to a stove top pot.   Turn burner on to medium heat.  To the dripping, whisk in a cup of chicken stock and 1/4 cup of flour.  Whisk constantly until gravy is bubbly.  Reduce heat to medium-low and continue whisking until mixture thickens (about 5 minutes).  Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.
Remove the cooking twine from the stuffed lamb and cut into slices.  Serve lamb and stuffing topped with gravy and enjoy!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Southwest Chorizo Mac & Cheese

Southwest Chorizo Mac & Cheese

Mac & cheese...  Seriously, is there any dish more versatile?  Is there anyone out there who doesn't like some form of it?  I'll tell you right now, the answer to both of these questions is no. I have personally spent a lot of time struggling to figure out the secret to making a creamy and gooey baked mac & cheese, but it was not until I purchased an actual mac & cheese cookbook that I learned what I was missing.  Bechamel sauce.  If you are not familiar with bechamel, it sounds fancy, but is super easy to make and only requires 3 base ingredients -
butter, flour and milk.
Bechamel is the key to any homemade Alfredo sauce, or gooey mac & cheese and I love using it because if you want your dish extra creamy, all you need to do is make some extra!
I had been wanting to make a meal with Chorizo (Spanish pork sausage) for a while, so the last time I was at the Story City Locker, I made sure to pick some up.  After putting this together, I really couldn't be happier about how this flavorful dish turned out!

What You Need:
1 lb bulk Chorizo Sausage
2 strips thick cut bacon
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2-3 cups cream, half & half, or milk (whole, or 2%)
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp each cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper
1 Chipotle pepper (chopped) w/ 1 tbsp Adobo sauce
3 cups shredded cheese (at least 2 types, cheddar being 1)
1 cup fire roasted corn
1/2 lb uncooked pasta (macaroni or shells are ideal)
1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

Place a large pan on the stove over medium-high heat.  Once pan is hot, add the Chorizo and break apart the sausage as it cooks.  While Chorizo is browning, start a pot of water on the stove for your pasta.  When water comes to a boil, add a generous amount of salt and the pasta.  Cook to al-dente according to package directions.  When pasta is cooked, drain the water and place the pasta in a large baking dish, cover and set aside.  Once Chorizo is fully cooked, lower heat to medium and use a slotted spoon to remove sausage from pan and place in a heat-proof bowl lined with paper towels.  Set sausage aside and place bacon in the pot pan.  Cook bacon over medium heat, turning often, until fully cooked.  Remove bacon from pan and place on paper towels - set aside.
Drain any collected sausage/bacon grease from the pan, leaving about 1 tbsp still in the pan.  Over medium heat, add the butter to the pan.  Melt the butter, mixing it in with the reserved fat.  When butter is melted, whisk in the flour.  This makes a rue - the base of your bechamel sauce.  Whisk in the milk/cream, about 1/2 cup at a time until it is all incorporated.  Add the cumin, paprika, cayenne and salt & pepper to taste.  Whisk in
chopped Chipotle pepper and Adobo sauce.  Turn off burner and add the cheeses all at once.  Stir up just enough to incorporate but not melt all of the cheese.
Chop the cooled bacon strips and add them to your pasta in the baking dish along with the Chorizo and the corn.  Pour hot cheese mixture over everything and lightly toss all ingredients together.  At this point you can either place your dish in a preheated oven, uncovered, at 375 degrees, or refrigerate for later baking.  
Bake for about 20 minutes, until cheese is hot and melty.
 Remove from oven and top mac & cheese with chopped fresh cilantro.  Serve immediately and enjoy!