01/6/14

Three Cheese Italian Style Meatballs

eOur friends at Johnsonville sent us some complimentary products for review awhile back, and one of those products was the Three Cheese Italian Style Meatballs.

(We also reviewed their Mild Italian Sausage Slices, check out the review and our recipe for Italian Sausage Potato Soup)

I will admit some skepticism, as someone who has suffered through more than his share of Big Box Store mystery-meat meatball dishes out of crock-pots and potlick casserole pans.  You know what I’m talking about…that “fake beef” flavor (1 part Worcester, 1 part beef bullion, 2 parts plastic-wrap)  In fact, I had decided that if I didn’t like them, I just wouldn’t post, as I don’t do negative reviews.

Once again, I was very pleasantly surprised. I’m telling, straight up…these meatballs taste like meatballs.

Really good meatballs!

Are they better than my Nona Perkins’ meatballs? Not a chance, but when I don’t have 14 hours to prepare Grandma’s recipe…I’d be happy to serve these.

As important as the favor, the consistency is right…it FEELS like meatball. None of that over-processed “soft-meat” mushiness, These feel like finely ground beef, firm and solid without being dry or mealy.

Pasta sauce with meatballs is a no-brainer, but I can’t wait to try these with my Meatball Pho, and Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches, as well!

However, for this test, I decided to earn a few brownie points and make one of my wife’s favorites, Sloppy Joes…

(One thing I really like about this recipe is that it’s less “sloppy” than the  traditional ground-meat Joes. If you’re in a big hurry, a canned “Thick & Chunky” sloppy joe sauce will work…but it’s not going to be as good as this!)

Oh, and my wife said these were the best sloppy joes she’s ever had. So there!

a

The Amazing Sloppy John(sonville)
1/2 bag of Johnsonville Three Cheese Italian Style Meatballs, thawed
4 soft pub rolls, split
4 tsp. butter, softened
1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese

For the sauce:
2 tsp. Better Than Bullion Beef Base
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 diced green bell pepper
3 cups hot water, divided
3/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon  each salt and ground black pepper

Slice meatballs into thirds, and brown in a pan with a little oil, until edges are crisp. Set aside.

f

Place 1 cup of the hot water, beef base and onions into a large skillet and put over medium heat. Cook stirring until the onions begin to brown and the broth is reduced by half.

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Add the garlic and green pepper; cook stirring for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula to dissolve any browned bits.

c

Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and last cup of water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been evaporated. Add the sliced meatballs, stir, top with cheese, and let rest 10 minutes (off heat) until thick, rich and tender.

While the meat and sauce are resting, butter the split pub rolls, and brown lightly in a hot, dry pan.

b

Assemble sandwiches and served with crispy fries and bread & butter pickle chips (optional)

Note: Double the sauce recipe (it freezes great) and make this dish in a flash, next time!

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry

11/26/13

My family’s favorite brined turkey recipe

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Even my Mother-In-Law said this was the best turkey she’d ever had.

High praise, indeed!

I gotta say, if given a choice I will never, NEVER serve another turkey (or chicken) that has not been brined. The improvement in moistness, flavor, and general “cook-ability” makes it a no-brainer.

The aromatics make a huge difference as well. My wife had made it clear that the testing is over, THIS is our Thanksgiving turkey recipe from now on, and no modifications are allowed!

Aromatic Brined Turkey

* 1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:
* 1 cup kosher salt
* 1 cup of honey
* 1 quart turkey stock
* 1 quart boiling water
* 2 tablespoon black pepper
* 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
* 1 gala apple, sliced
* 2 med Asian pears, sliced
* 1 orange, peeled and sliced
* 1 sweet onion, sliced
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 1 cup water
* 4 sprigs rosemary
* 6 leaves sage
* Canola oil

2 to 3 days before roasting:

  • Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
  • Combine the stock, water, salt, honey, and pepper in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil.
  • Remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you’d like to eat:

  • Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
  • Place the bird on roasting rack, breast up, inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Combine the apple, pears, orange, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
  • Roast the turkey, breast up, on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes, watching closely as it browns. Flip and insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 155 degrees F.
  • A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 hours of roasting.
  • Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for 30-45 minutes before carving.
11/22/13

Crazy Creamy Once-A-Year Mashed Potatoes

Creamy Whipped Potatoes

I like mashed potatoes.

I mean, okay…most people like mashed potatoes…but I sometimes like them to the exclusion of everything else on the plate.

In my not-so-humble opinion, the best mashed taters are smooth, creamy, savory, and can stand on their own without the need for gravy, extra butter, or sour cream.

Here’s the recipe that I’ve perfected after many, many (don’t ask) Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Oh, and I don’t what to hear a bunch of whining about calories and fat and blah blah blah…a reasonable portion, once or twice a year, ain’t gonna kill you.

If you’re still feeling guilty, skip that nasty marshmallow and yams dish instead.

Ugh.

Anyway…

Crazy Creamy Once-A-Year Mashed Potatoes

  • 3 ½ pounds russet potatoes
  • 4 ounces grated Asiago cheese
  • 16 fluid ounces (2 cups) half-and-half
  • 6 oz Sour Cream (preferably Mexican style)
  • 16 oz (2 cups) chicken broth*
  • ½ cube sweet cream butter, melted
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt & white pepper, to taste

Peel and dice potatoes, making sure all are relatively the same size. Place in a large saucepan, and cover with milk and broth (add more of each, in equal amounts to cover, if necessary.) Bring to just a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to maintain a simmer.

*I like to mix 3 teaspoons of Organic or Low Sodium “Better Than Bullion” Chicken base, with 2 cups of very hot water.

Cook until potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork, about 20 minutes

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Heat the butter and the garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat until the garlic has softened (do not brown). Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove the potatoes from the heat and drain off extra fluid, reserving. Whip with a hand or stand mixer and add the garlic-butter mixture, sour cream, and asiago cheese, add reserved fluid, if needed, to reach desired consistency.

Let stand for 5 minutes so that mixture thickens and then serve.

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry

09/18/13

Happy National Cheeseburger Day

This is my all-time favorite, over-the-top, wear-an-old-shirt cheeseburger!

We make these monsters every year (and you probably shouldn’t have them much more often that that) for our family camp-out, and they’re always a hit!

(Note: These are “thin burgers”, designed to maximize the char of the grill, while keeping the burger, and all the fixin’s, reasonably eatable within the limits of the normal mouth size.)

Fully Awesome Burger

THE Fully Awe-some Burger (serves 6)

The Patty
2lbs ground beef (15/85 fat)
1 lg sweet onion, diced fine
2 Tbs Montreal steak seasoning
2 Tbs fresh minced garlic
1 Tbs coarse sea salt
1 Tbs coarse black pepper

The Rest
6 Whole wheat burger buns (or your favorite)
1 cup simple guacamole (see below)
6 Tbs mayo
12 oz aged smoked white-cheddar cheese, grated or sliced
9 strips sliced bacon (I like maple) cooked and halved. (Kept warm)
Red onion, sliced
6 slices leaf lettuce

Simple Guacamole
3 medium Haas avocados, ripe. Peeled and diced.
1 Tbs lime juice
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste.

Directions
Mix all “patty” ingredients together, form into six equal balls and fridge 4 hours – or overnight, covered. Press into rounds slightly larger that the buns and chill for another 1-2 hours between maxed paper. You want to keep that fat as cold as possible. Here’s why.

Make simple guacamole (simply mix all ingredients) and keep chilled.

Start coals or gas grill and heat to high, lightly grill buns (cut side only) and remove, then throw a small handful of oak chips on the fire, if you have them.

Cook bacon in pan, drain on paper towels and wrap in foil. These can be set on the back of the grill to re-heat just before using.

When grill is hot, place patties evenly on surface and close the lid. Check occasionally for flare-up (these are high fat burgers) and perhaps have a spray bottle of water handy to keep the flames down. Cook 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep buns (see below.)

Flip burgers and place 2oz of grated or sliced cheese on top of each. Cover and cook 2 minutes. Check to see if cheese has melted, if so, place three half-strips of bacon on each patty and remove from grill.

Assembly
Spread 1 Tbs of mayo on each bottom bun, and 2 Tbs of guacamole on each top bun.

Place bacon cheese-burger patty between them, add onion and lettuce, and serve immediately. (Best if patties are taken directly from grill and placed on waiting buns.)

Notes
A simple coleslaw and some cubed, chilled watermelon go very nicely with this dish.

For big eaters, use the same about of meat to make 4 patties. Change ingredients to:

4 oversized burger buns (your favorite)
2/3 cup simple guacamole (see below)
4 Tbs mayo
8 ounces smoked white cheddar cheese, grated
6 strips thick sliced bacon (I like maple) cooked and halved. (Kept warm)
2 medium Haas avocados, ripe. Peeled and diced.
2 tsp lime juice
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste.

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FYI…Vic dubbed these, “Fully Awe-some Burgers”, as we were watching Bolt at the time, lol.

-Chef Perry