Sloppy Joe Sliders

sloppy joe slider

On my drive south from the mountains to my favorite little creek in Lower Alabama a couple of days ago,  I  entertained myself listening to podcasts via my Stitcher app. Two of the podcasts, including this Bon Appetit piece on retro comfort foods, talked about our nostalgia for the foods we grew up eating.  Our favorites. Dishes served for special occasions. Mom’s or Dad’s specialty. The podcast offered updated versions of meatloaf (I will be adding the bacon braid to mine),  grilled cheese sandwiches (I tried the mayo and grated cheese tricks today and loved the outcome), and tuna casserole (I’ll probably still pass), among others.  At my house it was fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  I suspect that each of my three sisters would answer the same.  That, and the oatmeal cake topped with coconut, brown sugar and pecans which I still beg my mom to make for my birthdays.

I’m not sure what my boys will ultimately pick as their nostalgia foods…  probably my slaw. Maybe Chicken Parmesan, maybe pan-fried catfish, maybe these Sloppy Joe Sliders…

Sloppy Joe Sliders

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 pounds ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed to remove excess moisture
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (and yeah, it needs to be Heinz)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 table spoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme plus extra for garnish
  • 8 slider buns
Directions:
  1. Brown the ground meat or turkey in a large skillet over medium high heat, using a spatula to break it up. When you are sure the meat is thoroughly browned, dump it in a colander to drain the extra fat.
  2. Wipe out the skillet, and heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the onions, celery and carrots until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini to the pan and saute until any moisture has cooked off, then add the garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the meat back to the pan, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Then, stir in the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce and thyme.
  5. Stir in 1/2 cup water and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  7. Toast the slider buns, top each bottom bun with the meat and garnish each plate with a sprig of thyme.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
I must have a fresh bag of crispy potato chips with my sloppy joe — a little extra salt, a bit of crunch for a contrasting texture. If you are looking for something healthier, a little lightly dressed broccoli slaw works well too.

BON APPÉTIT

Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese

smoked-gouda-mac-and-cheese

Winter in the mountains is long and cold and requires copious amounts of comfort food. We are having spring-like weather this week, a lovely treat, but I know better than to think we won’t have another blizzard or two before it really warms up. This time of year though, I do start thinking about favorite winter comfort foods that I have not yet made this season.  This recipe for Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese is one of those. Not to say that the dish wouldn’t make a great side for 4th of July BBQ or a Thanksgiving potluck.

This recipe is inspired by the smoked gouda mac and cheese served at Crave, a now defunct tapas place here in Boone that was once our spot for family celebrations.  My version is based on one that I found in a Special Collector’s Edition of All-Time Best Recipes, published by Cook’s Illustrated.  Their suggestion that you cook the mac and cheese on the stove, then just put it under the broiler to brown the bread crumbs is right on if you want crunchy topping, tender pasta and creamy sauce.
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound Cavatappi pasta
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 8 ounces Smoked Gouda cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup Panko
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil in a dutch oven over high heat.  Stir in the pasta and tablespoon of salt.  Cook according to package directions (about 8 minutes) until just past al dente so that it is a bit tender.
  2. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  3. Return the dutch oven to medium heat.  Melt the butter, then whisk in the flour.  Cook the flour for about 1 minute, making a blond roux.
  4. Slowly whisk in one cup of milk, stirring constantly until all the lumps are dissolved.
  5. Whisk in the remaining milk, dry mustard, cayenne, and hot sauce.
  6. Turn up the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly and bringing to a gentle boil so it will thicken properly.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and reduces to a heavy cream.
  8. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheeses, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and black pepper.
  9. Add the pasta back to the pot, stirring gently to combine.
  10. Return the pot to medium low heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until hot.
  11. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the broiler.
  12.  Spray a 9 X 13 glass or ceramic baking dish (or 10 ramekins) with olive oil cooking spray.
  13. Mix together the Panko and olive oil.
  14. Pour the macaroni and cheese into the pan and sprinkle evenly with the bread crumbs.
  15. Broil until the topping is deep golden brown, 3-5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary so that the bread crumbs brown evenly.
Yield: 10-12 side servings
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
 
The Smoked Gouda adds big flavor to the mac and cheese while the Monterey Jack adds a creaminess you can’t get from using the Smoked Gouda alone. I used Cavatappi pasta rather than ordinary macaroni because I wanted to make it a little fancier.  I’ve given up trying to make the dish with the Barilla-plus pasta I usually use.  It may have more protein, fiber and Omega-3s, but the texture just doesn’t work for mac and cheese. 

Bon Appétit

Indian-spiced Grilled Chicken with Fresh Tomato Chutney

Indian-Spiced Grilled Chicken with Fresh Tomato Chutney

When grilling chicken, low and slow is the way to go…

Springtime for me means that it’s time for ripe tomatoes, fresh herbs, grilling and dining alfresco.  We’ve had warm, sunny days but chilly nights for weeks now. Nice enough to grill some nights, but too cool to eat on the deck. This past weekend, I took a chance and planted my herb garden.  And last night, we dined al fresco for the first time this season.

This recipe for bone-in grilled chicken uses a yogurt-based marinade to both flavor and tenderize the chicken.  Lots of do-ahead options: put the chicken on to marinate in the morning or at any point during the day, make the chutney earlier in the day or a day ahead, cover and refrigerate, then gently warm it while the chicken grills.

I like to keep the rest of the meal simple — Basmati rice and fresh sliced mango. Or maybe just some good naan with cilantro chutney.

Indian-spiced Grilled Chicken with Fresh Tomato Chutney

Ingredients:

For the Indian-spiced Grilled Chicken:

  • 2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoon spicy curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 bone-in chicken breasts (I always try to find the smallest ones)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

For the Fresh Tomato Chutney:

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 minced seeded Serrano chile
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic clove
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped seeded tomato
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Prepare the marinade for the chicken. Heat a small heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat. Add the coriander, curry, cumin, and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the spices release their aroma.
  2. Combine the yogurt with the lemon juice and spices in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts evenly with the salt and put them in a large zip-lock bag.  Pour in the marinade and squish the contents around until the breasts are thoroughly coated. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. A couple of hours in the fridge would be even better.
  3. Prepare the chutney. Heat the olive oil in a medium heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and the Serrano chile. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic to the skillet. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the tomato, vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds and salt, then bring to a boil. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the chutney for 10-15 minutes. Uncover and simmer for about another 5 minutes or until the chutney thickens a bit. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Prep a gas grill by preheating on high with the top down for about 15 minutes. Clean the grill thoroughly then carefully spray the grates lightly with cooking spray.
  7. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking it to let the excess drip back into the dish.
  8. Use tongs to place the chicken breasts on the hottest part of the grill, browning them for 4-6 minutes or so on each side. Keep a close watch so they doesn’t get torched.
  9. Move the chicken, skin side down, to the cooler part of grill, with the thicker side facing the hotter part of the grill.  If your grill is super hot, you may want to turn off the side burners and put the chicken there.  Low and slow is the way to go at this point.
  10. Grill for around another 20-25 minutes longer, turning the chicken occasionally until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees. Pull it off the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes, during which time the temp will rise to 165 degrees.
  11. Top the chicken with the tomato chutney and garnish with cilantro.

Yield: 4 servings

Equipment: Gas grill, meat thermometer

Prep time: 65 minutes (including one hour of marinating)

Cook time: 40 minutes

Bon Appétit!

Chicken Meatballs with Pasta al Pomodoro

Image

Chicken Meatballs with Pasta al Pomodoro

My boys are both in high school now, and both are running cross-country.  My older son is driving now so the two of them leave the house around 7:45 in the morning and are gone until 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening.  I am hearing faint whisperings of an empty nest. At first I felt a bit at loose ends, but then I remembered how much I relish time home alone.  And in the past few weeks, several tasks that have lingered on my to-do list for an absurdly long time have finally gotten done.  I had hoped that if I ignored that stuff long enough it might go away but apparently the IRS had no interest in cooperating.

Family dinner is more important than ever.  Warren Buffett is constantly begging to watch New Girl during dinner but I resist.  We talk about school, all the crazy politics these days, Warren Buffett’s latest plan to make a million dollars. I tell them goofy stories about my students, correct their table manners and insist they eat their vegetables.  They make me laugh.  They make each other laugh. And then we watch New Girl.

This recipe for chicken meatballs with pasta and a pomodoro sauce served with a green salad is a perfect family dinner — lots of carbs and protein for the athletes. The meatballs can be a do-ahead or a chance to drag the kids into the kitchen and put them to work.  It is a versatile  meal– skip the meatballs and go vegetarian or skip the pasta and go low carb.  Make a double batch of the chicken meatballs to use  in meatball subs for a later meal.  I freeze them before baking, but you could also bake and freeze, then rewarm in the sauce.

Chicken Meatballs with Pasta al Pomodoro

Ingredients:

For the Chicken Meatballs:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup minced onion
  • 2 ounces fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • olive oil cooking spray

For the Pasta al Pomodoro:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon  Gourmet Garden Basil Herb Blend or basil pesto
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (divided)
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  3. Warm the olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes until it softens and begins to brown.
  4. Add the spinach to the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes until it is wilted and any water has evaporated.
  5. Add the garlic and cook another 1-3 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and let the vegetables cool.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, bread crumbs, cheese, egg, tomato paste, salt and pepper.  When cool, add the vegetables and stir to combine.  Stir in the milk, adding it sparingly.
  7. Spray a rimmed cookie sheet with olive oil cooking spray
  8. Roll the chicken mixture into 12 golf ball-sized meatballs and place them on the cookie sheet.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees.
  10. Wipe out the non-stick skillet and heat the 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Add the minced onion and cook for about 10 minutes until it softens and begins to brown.  Add the garlic and cook for 1-3 minutes.
  11. Increase the heat to medium and add the crushed red pepper flakes, tomatoes, basil puree, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it thickens, about 20 minutes.
  12. Add the 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pot of boiling water then drop in the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions until it is not quite tender (about 2 minutes less than the prescribed cooking time).  Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  13. Turn the heat up to medium high and stir the pasta water into the sauce to loosen it.  Bring the sauce to a boil and stir in the drained pasta, continuing to stir until the sauce coats the pasta and the pasta is al dente.
  14. Serve the pasta in shallow bowls.  Top each with 3 meatballs and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano and parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep time: 50 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Teaching Teens to Cook: Turkey Sloppy Joe Sliders

sloppy joe sliderFor a couple of summers now, I’ve suggested that my boys (now 17 and almost 15) start learning how to cook.  This summer, out of necessity, I’ve given them no choice.  Over the past year, when I’ve been too busy or tired to make dinner, I’ve summoned them to the kitchen and insisted they stay until dinner was on the table.  Ice-T, my older son, is learning how to grill.  With the help of a meat thermometer, he can cook a flank steak to medium rare perfection.  He can make french toast, rice, waffles and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Warren Buffet, my younger son, understands the basic composition of salad dressings and marinades, fries bacon and makes guacamole,  blueberry pancakes with orange honey butter, and brownies.aus-ginger-tube-new-lge  All those years of watching Top Chef are clearly paying off!

Over the past couple of months, there have been several nights when I was busy with freelance projects and had absolutely no time to cook.  I had planned and shopped though, and saw no reason to order pizza (not that any places deliver to my address anyway). Their first joint cooking project was a chicken and asparagus stir fry served over rice.  I keep Gourmet Garden tubes of garlic, ginger and a couple of herbs on hand for times when I am trying to throw together a dressing, marinade or stew in a hurry.  This cut down on the kind of chopping that might make me nervous.  The asparagus was easy to slice,.  The guys received extensive instructions on the proper handing of chicken (during which they announced that their dad and my mother each thought I was a little neurotic on this topic).  Dinner turned out really well.

Whenever one kid is gone and one is home, I tend to scale back on cooking,  While Ice-T was in the mid-west sailing and having a great time at engineering camp earlier this month, I was super busy teaching a course while updating my teaching materials, spending time on research, and working on freelance projects daily.  Warren Buffet was thrust into the role of chef and, more or less, rose to the occasion.  One night, he mixed up a marinade for chicken breasts, put together a Greek salad including the dressing, and made tzaziki sauce with me providing instructions from the next room.  Another night, he made his blueberry pancakes with cinnamon-maple syrup and orange-honey butter and bacon with little maternal guidance.  His third dinner that week was these sloppy joe sliders, made with ground turkey and loaded with vegetables.

Turkey Sloppy Joe Sliders
Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 pounds ground turkey (I prefer 85/15% fat)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion (1/2′ dice)
  • 2/3 cup diced celery (1/2′ dice)
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, excess moisture removed*
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 table spoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (plus sprigs for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 8 slider buns

* After you grate the zucchini, wrap in a paper or kitchen towel and squeeze out any excess fluid.

Directions:

  1. Brown the meat in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat, using a spatula to break it up. When you are sure the meat is thoroughly browned, dump it in a colander to drain the extra fat.
  2. Wipe out the skillet, and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions, celery and carrots until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini to the skillet and saute until any moisture has cooked off, then add the garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Dump the meat back into the skillet, add the salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Then, add the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce and thyme. Stir to combine.
  5. Stir in 1/2 cup beef broth and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  7. Toast the slider buns. Top each bottom bun with the meat and top bun.

Yield: 4 servings     Prep time: 30 minutes     Cook time: 30 minutes

This is a great dish for teens to learn to make. It’s filling, nutritious, comfort food and way better for them than processed frozen stuff.  It is inexpensive and can easily be doubled or tripled and frozen.  The leftovers always get eaten!

I don’t have a nutritional analysis of a serving of these sloppy joes, but I tell myself that each diner is surely getting at least a cup of vegetables so that a side dish is not absolutely necessary.   If you’re not buying it or want a fresh side with a contrasting texture, try my broccoli- apple slaw or crunchy broccoli salad.  Or you could just have some potato chips.

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