03/28/14

Steak for a crowd, without breaking the bank.

Flank Steak & Pasta

SimplySmartDinnerPlans subscriber Nicole asks:

My high school daughter has a dance next weekend and her and her friends have decided to have a home dinner instead of going out.

They want Steak & pasta. Do you have any suggestions for a menu? There will be 10 of them. Me and one other mom will be putting this together and would like something fairly easy, not too pricey and teen friendly.

Any help would be appreciated

– Nicole

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Nicole,

Thank you for your email!

Okay, steak and pasta for 10, without breaking the bank…we can do this! To get the most bang for your buck, flavor-wise, I would go with skirt or flank steak. It’s fast and easy to pan fry, moderately priced, melts in your mouth, and brings HUGE steak flavor to the table, without needing to provide a huge serving of steak.

Keep in mind that for most of history (and still in much of the world), meat was used as a flavoring agent to enhance dishes, not a giant slab of protein served as the centerpiece of a meal. Not only is this a more economical eating style, but it’s healthier, too.

This is one of my favorite steak recipes, and I think it would be a perfect fit by adding some nice hot al dente fettuccine, tossed in the pan juices. Top with the thin-sliced flank steak, alongside a big salad and some steamed veggies, and you’ll have a winner!

If you REALLY want to rock it, sprinkle everything with some grated asiago cheese, just before serving!

flank-steakThe flank steak, also known as bavette, is a beef steak cut from the abdominal muscles of the cow. It is long, thin, and full of tough connective tissue.

It is usually marinated before being broiled or grilled whole. Because it is tough, you usually slice it thinly on a diagonal across the grain to sever the tough fibers and make the flavorful steak chewable.

I’ve found that if I cook it quickly, over the hottest heat I can manage, I don’t need a marinate, and get more the true beef flavor. For my money, this is one of the best tasting cuts on the cow.

Pan-Seared Flank Steak with Fettuccine
Serves 6

1 1/2 lbs. fettuccine pasta
2 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 1½-lb. piece flank steak, about ¾” thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch green onions, sliced (green and white parts)

Cook the fettuccine in salted water, until al dente. Keep warm. See our post: “5 Tips for Perfect Pasta” Reserve 1-2 cups of the pasta water.

Warm butter and garlic in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Discard garlic. Set butter aside in a warm place.

Pat steak dry with paper towels, then season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. When pan begins to smoke, coat with oil, then add steak (oil will spatter). For rare (or “properly cooked”), sear until almost black, about 4 minutes on each side.

Don’t move steak until ready to turn.

NoForksNote: Never, ever, ever turn a steak with a meat fork, a knife, or anything else that punctures the meat (and lets all of those amazing juices escape). Always turn your steaks (or chicken, or pork) with tongs.

Transfer the steak to a platter, and top with garlic butter. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm, and allow steak to rest for 15 minutes. Pour 1/2 of any juices that collect in the platter, back into the pan, reserve the other half.

While the steak is resting, bring the juices in the pan up to medium heat. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of pasta water and reduce by half. Using tongs, add your pasta to the pan and toss to coat evenly. Remove pasta from from hot pan immediately, and set aside. Keep warm.

Cut across flank steak the grain into ¼” slices and portion beside (or on top of) the noodles. Spoon the reserved juices over steak, and top with green onions and grated asiago cheese (optional).

Serve with a big green salad and steamed veggies.

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry

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Mother and Daughter Making a SaladAt SimplySmartDinnerPlans, we’re all about helping busy families get back to the dinner table and share delicious, nutritious meals together, by helping you with the research, planning, and list-making that takes so much time…time that most of us just don’t have.

We create and personally test “real food” recipes for every night of the month, provide an easy-to-follow itemized grocery list for every week of the month, and offer constant support and training through our weekly newsletter, interactive blog, and social media sites…all for just $5.00 a month!

Classic, lighter-side, diabetic-friendly, and gluten-free meal plans in 2, 4, & 6 servings, are available.

Click here to learn more!

 

05/22/13

Bow Tie Pasta with Zucchini Shallot Sauce

Bow Tie Pasta with Zuke Sauce

I love zucchini!

Raw in salads or with dip, sauteed in butter or pan juices, baked in bread…just about any way you cook it, I’ll come back for seconds!

This was my first experience is shredding and saucing zucchini, and it was  a BIG winner, adding a fresh, green, garden aroma and flavor to this simple sauce.

This is one of the recipes we’ve developed for our upcoming educational outreach program for extreme low-income families. This recipe is less than $1 per serving, in season.

Oh, and if you get a heap of zucchini from an overzealous farming friend this year, shred some and freeze it in individual baggies for use in sauces like this.

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

The effect that freezing had on the crispness won’t matter a stitch in a recipe like this one!

Enjoy!

Chef Perry
hautemealz.com

Bow Tie Pasta with Zucchini Sauce
Serves 4

2 cup bow-tie pasta
2 cloves garlic
2 medium zucchini
1 medium shallot, or small yellow onion.
1 Tablespoon grape-seed oil
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tsp. Better Than Bullion chicken base
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Cook pasta in salted water, according to package instructions. Prepare zucchini sauce while pasta cooks.

Peel and mince garlic, dice the shallot (or onion).

Rinse and grate zucchini.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and minced garlic, with a dash of salt, and saute until the onion are translucent. Add zucchini, and cook until mixture softens and zucchini yields some liquid, about 5 minutes.

Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid, and mix in chicken base (with the liquid) to create broth.

Add 1-2 teaspoons of the broth at a time to zucchini mixture. Add drained pasta. Stir, coating pasta evenly with sauce. Add more broth as needed (I used the whole 1/2 cup).

Transfer pasta to large bowl for serving. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

02/18/13

Secret #8: 5 Tips for Perfect Pasta

Okay, it’s Day 8 of our 20-Day/20-Part series of meal planning blog posts titled “Tips, Tricks, and Secrets of Professional Chefs”. Last post, we talked about how  Brown is Beautiful!

Today, we’re gonna get our Italiano on, and look at Secret #8: Perfect Pasta!

Cacio e Pepe con Pollo (recipe link below)

Cacio e Pepe con Pollo (recipe link below)

Continue reading

02/7/13

Happy National Fettuccine Alfredo Day!

Italian restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio created Fettuccine Alfredo in 1914 to help his wife regain her appetite after the birth of their first son, and it worked! Soon after he began serving it at his restaurant in Rome. Today, it’s one of the most popular pasta dishes in America, and the invention of the dish is commemorated on February 7 with National Fettuccine Alfredo Day.

Fettuccine Alfredo supposedly became popular in the United States when Hollywood stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks dined at Di Lelio’s restaurant while on their honeymoon. They spread the word when they returned to America.

And, of course…everything’s better with bacon, right?

If you don’t believe that…this recipe will convert you!

Guanciale (gwan-chalie), an Italian-style bacon made from hog jowl, is a prized gourmet delicacy in central Italy. Typically, it’s dry-cured, hand-coated with fresh cracked peppercorns, then smoked over smoldering hickory logs for nearly 24 hours. The result is a meat with a noticeably richer flavor than typical bacon, and is a popular addition to such classic dishes as spaghetti alla carbonara and pasta all’amatriciana.

Continue reading

01/31/13

Gluten Free Brown Rice Spaghetti (seriously)

 I’m not celiac, but when I saw “gluten-free brown rice spaghetti” in the bulk aisle at Winco (I was buying regularly spaghetti for some a ragu I was planning to reheat for lunch) I knew I had to do a taste test.

gluten free spaghetti

gluten free spaghetti

Frankly, I’m more than a little suspicious about a lot of “gluten-free” products (probably from being forced to try so many “diabetic-friendly” products, growing up), but I’ll keep this review short and sweet, and avoid gilding the lily as much as possible…

Worthy of note – I come from an Italian family, and three generations of chefs…I know pasta. My Nona’s Sunday gravy recipe is the best pasta sauce that has ever graced this lowly earth. So, I felt well positioned for a straight-up, non-biased taste test.

Here we go…

This stuff is great.

Great.

gluten free spaghetti

The brown rice pasta (bottom) is noticeably darker than it’s wheat cousin, but the general “raw” feel and snap are the same.

I cooked both in identically salted, simmering water. The generic pasta (right) took its typical 10 minutes; the brown-rice version (left) required 15 minutes.

gluten free spaghetti

The slightly longer cooking time produced a perfect al-dente pasta that, on the “plain pasta taste test” actually had a pleasantly mild, nutty flavor, similar to whole-wheat pasta, but without the chewy, gummy mouth-feel that I hate about those products.

Blindfolded, with my nose pinched, I’m not sure I could have told you, consistency-wise, which was which, and (and I can’t believe I’m saying this)…I actually liked the taste of the gluten-free stuff a little better than the regular spaghetti.

gluten free spaghetti

It added a more noticeable (in a good way) layer of flavor to the sauced dish, than the regular pasta does.

Now, I’m sure you noticed that the price on the GF label is a bit more than twice the price of the old stand-by, but let’s be realistic here, okay…we’re talking about a fraction more than an additional thirteen cents per serving.

As I’m sure most celiac shoppers will tell you…big whoop!

So, I gotta give brown-rice spaghetti two thumbs up. I was very pleasantly surprised, and won’t hesitate to recommend it in the future. If you’re trying to maintain a gluten-free lifestyle (and, if you are, be sure to check out our Gluten-Free & Easy Meal Plan)…this is a really good product to add to your shopping list.

‘Course, you could put my Nona’s pasta sauce on an old army boot, and it’s going to be awesome…just sayin’…

Chef Perry

09/7/12

Teaming up with Macaroni Grill and No Kid Hungry to help end Childhood Hunger! (Plus my favorite pasta recipe!)

Heyya Hauties…

If you’ve been around the hautemealz.com blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that childhood hunger is an issue that is near and dear to us. You wouldn’t tell it to look at me, but I have some very personal experience with this subject (I’ve made up for it since, lol) and we do our best to support charities, ministries, and organizations that are fighting to feed kids.

1 in 5 children are hungry in America. Yes, America. They live in Oregon, California, Dallas, New York, Colorado. From coast to coast there are millions of children who have no idea where their next meal is going to come from.

This is an astounding number ­ and it’s not going to change without awareness and funds. And it’s easy to help.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill, in partnership with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry, is doing something about the epidemic as they embark on a national campaign to share ONE MILLION meals with kids in need.

Macaroni Grill is enlisting the food blogger community to help end childhood hunger with a single post.

By simply tagging #macgrillgive to a recipe, message or photo of our favorite Italian meal on our blogs, Macaroni Grill will donate $50 to connect a child to up to 500 meals.

Yeah, pretty freakin’ awesome.

So, here’s my current favorite Italian dish, and one we recently featured on the hautemealz.com menuSpaghetti with Shrimp & Italian Herb Salad.

But first…if you’re not a food blogger, you can still take Macaroni Grill up on this amazingly generous offer. Here are three ways you can help:

GIVE

Throughout the entire month of September, Macaroni Grill diners can donate $2 to No Kid Hungry and receive $5 off their next visit.  Each donation can help connect a child in need to up to 20 meals.

SHARE

Every time a fan shares a photo from the Mac Grill Give Facebook Gallery, Macaroni Grill will donate $1 to help connect a kid to 10 meals.

TAG

Fans are invited to tag a Tweet or Instagram photo of their Macaroni Grill experience with #macgrillgive.  For every tag, Macaroni Grill will donate $1 to help connect a kid to 10 meals.

Okay, here’s the recipe…

Remember, hautemealz.com is a recipe for every night of the month, a grocery list for every week of the month, all for just $5 a month! Classic, Lighter-Side, Low-Carb/Diabetic-Friendly/ & Gluten-free menus available.

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry

Spaghetti with Shrimp
Yield: 2 servings Active Time: 15 min. Total Time: 15 min.

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deviened*
  • Salt, to taste 3 oz. spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp each. finely chopped fresh parsley, oregano, and basil.
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Black Pepper, freshly ground, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

While the water is heating up, add 1/2 of the oil in a 12in skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, chile flakes, and garlic; cook, stirring, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add wine; cook until reduced by half, about 6 minutes.

Add spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile add the shrimp to the skillet; cook, turning once, until just pink, about 3 minutes.

Using tongs or a pasta-fork, add pasta to the skillet along with the remaining oil, parsley, and lemon juice; cook, tossing, until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

*See our video post, How to peel and clean shrimp and prawns!

Italian Herb Salad
Yield: 2 servings Active Time: 20 min. Total Time: 20 min.

  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 tsp. honey
  • 1/3 tsp. salt, plus
  • Black Pepper, freshly ground, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/3 head romaine, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/3 Belgian endives, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 5 tbsp. pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Blend the lemon juice, lemon peel, honey, salt, and black pepper in a blender.

With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil.

Toss the lettuce, endive, olives, parsley, and basil in a large bowl with enough dressing to coat.

Season the salad with more salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.

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For more information, please visit: macaronigrill.com/macgrillgive, fan us: facebook.com/romanosmacaronigrillor follow us on twitter @macaronigrill

About Romano¹s Macaroni Grill®

Romano¹s Macaroni Grill is an Italian restaurant serving hand-crafted pastas and crave-able entrees in over 200 locations world-wide.  The restaurant blends 20 years of tradition, such as the honor system house wine, with progressive culinary inspiration from all regions of Italy and the U.S.  The casually-elegant atmosphere is comfortable for any occasion‹from celebrating birthdays to celebrating Tuesdays. For more information, visit http://www.macaronigrill.com.

 Share Our Strength¹s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry   

Share Our Strength¹s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry is a national fundraising event that brings together thousands of restaurants and millions of consumers to help make sure no child in America grows up hungry.

Every September, participating restaurants raise funds in a variety of ways to support the No Kid Hungry® campaign, Share Our Strength¹s® national movement to end childhood hunger in America. Through Share Our Strength¹s No Kid Hungry Campaign, $1 can help connect a child facing hunger to (10) meals. This amount is based on the individual experiences of Share Our Strength¹s grant recipients and is provided to illustrate how community investments can be used to help end childhood hunger.

Share Our Strength¹s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry is nationally sponsored by Sysco, American Express, Ecolab, ONEHOPE Wine, Food Network, Clear Channel and the National Restaurant Association. Visit DineOutForNoKidHungry.org.

Share Our Strength is a non-profit 501c3 organization.

For more information, visit nokidhungry.org.