Philadelphia Cheese Steak Sandwich

Who knew it could be so easy to make a Philadelphia Cheese Steak Sandwich at home? I always thought it was too complicated until J found this scrumptious recipe. The hardest part was slicing the meat!

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced as thin as possible and rings separated (we didn’t keep them in rings)
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (canned is fine! We used the little can)
2 green peppers, sliced
12 ounces chipped steak (very thin-sliced eye of round, ribeye, or sirloin tip roast cut into 1-inch slices) We used boneless ribeye.
Salt and coarsely-ground black pepper
Provolone cheese slices
4 hoagie rolls (we got them from the bakery section of our favorite grocer)
Dill pickle spears (side)
Peperoncini (side)

Directions:
In a large frying pan over high heat, add olive oil and heat so that a drop of water will sizzle when you drop it in the oil; lower heat to medium. Add onions and mushrooms, stir and cook until mushrooms darken and onions start to look transparent. Add steak slices and cook for approximately 3 minutes or until meat is lightly browned.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Slice bread lengthwise. Using a spatula, scoop 1/4 the meat mixture on to the bread. Top with 2 slices of Provolone cheese for each sandwich. Put in a warm oven on low broil. Monitor the sandwiches.

When the cheese is melted into the sandwich and the bread is starting to brown, remove from the oven.

My opinion:
So good. So filling. Next time we’ll caramelize the onions a little longer and toast the hoagies before adding the filling.

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon


If you’ve seen Julie and Julia, then you know Beef Bourguignon can be so much more than just Beef Bourguignon. I can assure you, this dish is worth it. It is not a weeknight dish. It is not a leave it on the stove and forget it dish, but it is unfathomably delicious. Make this on a rainy day weekend, it is perfect for fall. Since I’m not lucky enough to have the Julia Child cookbook, My sister adapted this recipe from ABC’s Good Morning America. She’s the one who slaved over the stove for several hours and deserves all the credit.

Ingredients:
One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon (since no local grocer carries  this, we just used regular thick cut bacon)
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes  (or go with the already cut stew meat from your favorite butcher)
1 carrot, sliced (we used a mandolin at 1/4 setting)
1 onion, sliced (we used a mandolin at 1/4 setting)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy. HyVee, our go to wine retailer was out of these, so we went with their recommendation, which was a Bordeaux)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock (we used the box variety)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 white onions, small (the pearl onions worked fine for us)
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered (we cheated and used pre-sliced button mushrooms)
1 pound (bag) of egg noodles
Directions: Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long).Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Since we were using bacon we skipped the steps above and went right to sauteeing the bacon in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly (we used a cast iron skillet). Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust). Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees (this is when we moved everything to a casserole dish, seems our casserole pan is only oven safe to 400 degrees). Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan (We just used a mesh strainer). Wash out the casserole (we skipped this to leave all the delicious crusty bits) and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

My opinion:
Over egg noodles this dish is just divine. There are no additional words to describe it.

Perfected Pizza Margherita and Homemade Imos


We finally perfected our homemade pizza recipe! J has recreated his favorite Imos pizza. While the pizza Margherita I so loved from Florence is completely out of reach, this version is close enough I don’t mind. Buon appetito!

Margherita Ingredients:
pizza dough (store brand thick or thin is up to you)
Olive oil
garlic, minced
whole milk mozzarella, shredded (put it in the freezer for a few minutes before shredding, it helps.)
Roma tomato, sliced (or cherry sliced up if you’re in a pinch like we were)
fresh basil, Chiffonade

Margherita Directions:
Preheat oven according to package directions. For us, this was 400 degrees. Roll out the dough on a pizza stone. Place in oven for four to six minutes or until the dough starts to brown. remove from oven. Brush with olive oil. About a quarter cup should be plenty. Sprinkle evenly with the minced garlic. Put the sliced tomatoes on top of the olive oil. Then sprinkle with the mozzarella, covering the entire pizza evenly. Add the Chiffonade basil. Bake for the remaining time on the package. Keep an eye on it. When you think it’s done, give it two to three more minutes. This will ensure the dough is all the way cooked through.


Imos Ingredients:
pizza dough (store brand thin)
pizza sauce of your choice (we prefer Mid’s Pizza Sauce)
shredded provel cheese
mozzarella
pepperoni
small can of mushrooms, drained

Imos Directions
Preheat oven according to package directions. For us, this was 400 degrees. Roll out the dough on a pizza stone. Place in oven for four to six minutes or until the dough starts to brown. While waiting, microwave the pepperoni. Blot with paper towels (this keeps it from making your pizza too greasy.) Remove from oven. Brush with pizza sauce. About a quarter to half cup should be plenty. Sprinkle evenly with the provel and mozzarella. Put the pepperoni and the mushrooms on top. Bake for the remaining time on the package. Keep an eye on it. When you think it’s done, give it two to three more minutes. This will ensure the dough is all the way cooked through.

My opinion:
This has totally replaced delivery in our house. In fact, it takes less time than waiting for one to arrive at our door!

Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta


If you told me 10 years ago, I’d be eating squash, I would never believe you. But I am! And I’m loving it! I had no idea these fall vegetables could taste so lovely! I’m always looking for new recipes and when a friend recommended this Self Magazine butternut squash recipe, I jumped at the chance to try it. It was super easy (once I figured out how to cut the squash) and very filling.

Ingredients:
8 oz whole-wheat penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 fresh sage leaves (Do not substitute dried, it doesn’t taste the same!)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lb), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (it’s ok to omit this, but it does enhance the flavors)

Directions:
Cook penne as directed on package (we used spaghetti because we were out of penne, it worked just as well!). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry sage, turning once, until crisp on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel. Add onion and garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, about 3 minutes. Add squash, 3/4 cup water, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash softens, 5 to 7 minutes (this took about 10 minutes for us). Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Return pasta to pot and add squash mixture; stir over low heat, adding some reserved cooking water if necessary, until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Serve, garnished with cheese and sage.

My Opinion:
I didn’t expect this simple dish to be as flavorful and wonderful as it was. The only two changes I’ll make are to add more onion and garlic. A great late fall early winter dish. Not to mention a wonderful introduction to the world of butternut squash. What new vegetable should we try next? Parsnips?

Pumpkin Soup (Round 2) and Gruyère Toast

We wound up with a couple of cans of left over pumpkin and in the quest for the perfect pumpkin soup, wanted to try a different version. This one is modified from the Mayo Clinic.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 can (8 ounces) pumpkin puree
1 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup fat-free milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
5 green onion, green top only, chopped

Directions:
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.

Add the remaining pumpkin, broth, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk and cook until hot. Don’t boil.

Ladle into warmed individual bowls and garnish with white pepper and green onion tops. Serve immediately.

My opinion:
The happy medium lies in the combination of the last recipe and this one. This was a bit too pumpkin pie in soup form for me.

Now for the best part. The Gruyère Toast. I could eat just this for dinner on a regular basis. Yum!

Ingredients:
french bread loaf, cut into about 3/4 inch slices
Olive oil
Your favorite Gruyère (we like the apple wood smoked), sliced

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees or 450 degrees. brush bread with olive oil. Put in oven until just starting to brown on the top. Take out of oven, flip and add Gruyère. Put back in oven until Gruyère is melted and bread is fully toasted. (Hint: the toasting will take much less time on this side. Try to keep it from burning.)

My opinion:
Like I stated above, I love this toast. It’s great with tomato soup, chicken noodle and just by itself. It will be one of our go to dishes this winter!