Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Creativity with leftovers and buying the specials

Did you ever see something in the "reduced" section at the meat counter?  Have you ever found yourself after eating a meal with bits and pieces that barely would make a helping of anything or such random pieces of items that you have no idea how to make a cohesive meal from them?  I found myself in that position TWICE this week.  Like usual, I planned my meals for the week and went grocery shopping on Saturday.  But the Market Street by my house had some unplanned specials, so I ditched a few of the original ideas and went with the money-saving strategy of buying the clearanced items and building meals from that (thank you Melissa D'Arabian for that tip).  In Rachel Ray (5 meals in a day) style, I ended up getting part of three meals out of one package of sirloin steaks wrapped in bacon.  I also was able to turn over some leftover bits into a tasty meal as well.

Meal one was bacon-wrapped sirloin steaks, baked potatoes, and sauteed onions and mushrooms.  Sirloin is a very lean meat, so the bacon helps to keep it moist and add flavor.  Because it was frickin' freezin' outside, I opted for pan sauteeing in some olive oil.  The steaks were aggressively seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper and sauteed over medium-high heat to get a nice crust on the meat.  My favorite trick I did with the bacon was to UNWRAP it from the meat when the sirloin was done.  My pet peeve on bacon-wrapped meats is that the bacon never really crisps up well and it's just kind of gross texture.  So, while the meat rested, I went ahead and cooked up the bacon to a crisp texture (about 5 extra minutes). 

The onions and mushrooms are a take on a recipe from my mother.  We always ate onions and mushrooms with our steaks growing up.  Her version involved in heating up sliced onions and canned mushrooms witn lots of margarine or butter.  Tasty and rich.  Mine is slightly different.  I saute chopped onions in some butter and then add sliced mushrooms (fresh preferred) and brown them slightly.  I add some additional flavor with worcestershire sauce, which I think gives it a different dimension of flavor.

For the second use of the sirloins and bacon, I actually took the bacon off of the other two sirloins and cooked it until crisp.  I reserved the bacon fat and the crisp bacon.  For dinner the other night, I used the bacon fat to saute' some shallots and created a vinaigrette with mustard and balsamic vinegar and tossed that with cooked broccoli and the crisped bacon.  It was a zesty mix of sweet (balsamic), sour (mustard and vinegar), and rich (bacon) that I paired with a rigatoni pasta and vodka-tomato sauce.

The final use of the sirloins was tonight.  A meal that I made growing up involved Minute Rice, cream of mushroom soup, and ground round or sirloin.  Basically, the meat was browned, cream of mushroom and some water added, brought to a boil, and the rice added and simmered until cooked.  It was a STAPLE in college because it was quick and cheap.  To this day, it's a meal Ice requests and enjoys.  Well, with the ice and snow we have here, I wasn't willing to head out to the grocery store, and realized that I had something to work with in my own pantry - sirloin, arborio rice, onion, garlic, beef broth, mushrooms, and parmesan cheese.  Those ingredients put together a dish that reminded me of the classic one-pot staple of my youth and college, but with a sophisticated edge that I would serve to any friend of mine.  And now, you can serve it to yours:

Sirloin Beef Tips with Mushroom Risotto
2 - (4 oz) sirloin steaks
8 oz cremini (white) mushrooms, sliced or 1 can mushrooms, drained
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
2 cups beef broth, warmed
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

Slice the sirloin steaks against the grain into strips.  Salt and pepper the meat and set aside to come to room temperature.  Heat 1 Tbsp oil in saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 2 - 3 minutes.  Set to the side in the pan and add half of the beef strips to the pan.  Saute over medium-high heat until browned on one side, about 2 minutes.  Flip the strips over and saute on the other side another two minutes.  Remove from pan and repeat with remainder of beef adding more olive oil as needed (remaining Tbsp of oil).  Set aside. 

To same pan, add 1 Tbsp. butter and arborio rice; saute until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.  Add vermouth or wine and garlic.  Stir until liquid is almost absorbed.  Add mushrooms, 2/3 cup of the beef broth and stir, reducing heat to medium.  Continue stirring periodically until liquid is almost absorbed.  Continue adding liquid in 1/3 cup increments until liquid is almost absorbed after each addition.  After adding 1 1/3 cups of beef broth, taste the rice to see if it is cooked or needs additional liquid.  It will take about 1 2/3 cups (approx). for that amount of rice.  When rice is cooked, turn off the heat and add Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Add beef back to rice and stir to incorporate the beef and re-warm it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 3 - 4.

Well, that was $7.00 well spent - two meals and a side dish out of one package of 4 steaks - that is an amazing achievement, especially since it also saved me from having to open a whole package of bacon for the two slices I needed to make the broccoli.  More money in our pockets!  Since I ended up splurging on a wedge of Manchego cheese for a tapas-style Spanish meal on Sunday, I guess it basically evened out.

I recently bought a cookbook, "Fine Cooking Volume II" from Half Price Books.  I picked it up because over the summer Ice found a magazine devoted to grilling by the fine folks at "Fine Cooking" and we LOVED 95% of what we saw there.  For Ice to get excited about a cooking magazine meant it was a winner.  With that in mind, I had to buy the cookbook figuring if even 25 - 50% of it was that tasty, I was in for a treat.  The cookbook was well organized and had a section on appetizers.  In there was a series of Spanish-style appetizers (tapas).  Inspired and remembering our trip to Spain in 2009, I decided to make a series of tapas - sauteed mushrooms, roasted potatoes with tomato sauce (papas bravas), marinated manchego, and sauteed Spanish chorizo in red wine.  I won't detail those recipes here, but I had bits and pieces of all of these items left over.  When we were snowed in yesterday, I turned those into a tasty fritatta.

Fritattas are a great (and cheap) meal that you can literally add anything to.  If you would eat it in an omlette or for dinner, you can probably make it into a fritatta.  I like fritattas because they are so low maintenance.  Unlike an omlette, you don't have to flip them or do anything fancy.  Saute up the fillings, add the eggs (mixed like you would for scrambled eggs), cook on the stove and finish in the oven.  Voila!!  Here is my favorite fritatta recipe made with leftovers:

Leftovers Fritatta (serves 2 - 4)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

2 - 3 oz meat (I used sliced Spanish chorizo)
3/4 - 1 cup chopped cooked potatoes (I used leftover roasted potatoes and 1/2 of a leftover baked potato chopped into 1/2-inch pieces)
6 oz sauteed mushrooms (cremini mushrooms quartered and sauteed in olive oil)
4 eggs, slightly beaten with 1 Tbsp ice water
2 oz shredded cheese (I used leftover manchego)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat an oven-safe skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.  When olive oil is shimmering, add onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add chorizo and saute to render slightly, about 2 minutes.  Add potatoes and mushrooms to heat through and brown slightly, about 4 minutes. 

Distribute filling throughout saute pan and add eggs.  Turn the pan to distribute the eggs and cook about 3 minutes or until bottom is set (top will still be soupy).  Add shredded cheese to top and place in oven.  Bake 5 minutes or until eggs are set and top begins to brown.

Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes.  Cut into wedges and serve with a crisp green salad dressed with vinaigrette for a well-rounded meal.

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