Adventures of an unfussy foodie.

October 02, 2014

Favorite Slow-Cooker French Dip Sandwiches

There is something about a French Dip sandwich that is comforting in a deeply satisfying way. I love a good meatless meal, but sometimes beef is the answer. Drip beef. All tender and flavorful, on a crusty bun, with melty cheese, maybe some caramelized onions... Then you take all of that and dunk it in a savory broth...

Are you salivating yet?
I am!

And with your slow cooker, this is just about the easiest dinner ever. All it takes is a roast, 2 packets of seasoning, and some water. Just let it cook all day, until the meat falls apart. If you're home during the day, it will tease you with its aroma until you can't take it any more and you have to have dinner early! But it's worth the wait, so restrain yourself.

I won't tell you that it's particularly healthy. It's not. But it's so yummy! Save up your calories to splurge on this one!

Easy Crockpot French Dip

3-4 lb. beef chuck roast
1 packet Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix
1 packet onion soup mix

good sandwich rolls
sliced provolone cheese
caramelized onions (optional)

Place the roast in the crockpot, and sprinkle with both packets of seasoning. Add water to almost cover the roast. (The amount or water will vary depending on the size of your crockpot and the size of your roast.) Cook on low for 8 hours, or until meat falls apart. Remove meat from the crock pot, reserving the cooking liquid.

Shred the meat, and pile it on split sandwich rolls. To make things extra amazing, toast the rolls in the oven (I put them under the broiler for a minute or two), and let the provolone melt onto the top part before assembling your sandwiches. Top with caramelized onions, if desired.

Ladle reserved liquid (jus) into ramekins and serve alongside sandwiches.
**I highly recommend that you spoon off the fat before serving the jus. (I use my nifty fat separator, which makes it a very simple task.)

September 05, 2014

Super Simple Pots de Créme

It is still hot here in Portland. This summer has been ridiculous and it looks like it's sticking around for a bit longer. Sigh. So while I'm waiting for cooler weather, here's a favorite treat!

I love baking, but in the summer it’s just too hot sometimes. That’s when I rely on no-cook recipes, like this one, to get my dessert fix. These pots de crème are so dreamy, creamy, heavenly. And easy.

It’s also ridiculously versatile. I’ve given the basic recipe here, but there are a million ways to vary the flavor. A summery hint of coconut couldn’t go amiss. Orange, raspberry, or even hazelnut extract or liqueur. A splash of peppermint extract would make it perfect for Christmastime. I could go on, but I’ll let you come up with some ideas of your own.

Just don’t tell anyone how simple they were. A magician never reveals his tricks. :D

For best results, be sure that the eggs are at room temperature. If you need to bring refrigerated eggs up to temperature quickly, place them in a bowl and cover with hot tap water. Let sit for 5 minutes or so. Also, be sure that your liquid is HOT. Don’t let it cool much before adding it as directed.

Super Simple Pots de Créme

12 oz. bittersweet to dark chocolate, chopped (chocolate chips work great!)
4 eggs, at room temperature***
2 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 c. HOT liquid -- water, milk, cream, coconut milk (that's what I used for the ones pictured here) If you're a coffee drinker, hot coffee works, too.
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Place chocolate, eggs, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of your blender or food processor.
Pulse together several times to break up the chocolate bits and incorporate the eggs a bit.
Then turn on the blender / food processor.
Remove the small section from the center of the lid, allowing you to stream in the hot liquid. Stream it in slowly and steadily.
The heat will melt the chocolate and the mixture will become smooth, as well as rise and expand some. Keep running the blender until the mixture is smooth (if it's not already).
Divide mixture among serving dishes. I like to do 4 ramekins, but it is extremely rich and could make a satisfying dessert in a shot glass or other small vessel.
Chill in refrigerator until cooled through and set.
While it's chilling, whip the cream together with powdered sugar and vanilla to stiff peaks.

***A word about raw eggs: This recipe has them. The hot liquid used will gently cook the eggs to some extent, but certainly not completely. This does not bother me. I'm a committed raw brownie batter/cookie dough snitcher and it's never made me sick. Some locations have pasteurized eggs available for purchase. If you take issue with eating raw eggs, I recommend that you see if you can find some -- or look for a classic version of this recipe, which will likely include a double boiler, among other complications. To me, the simplicity and amazing result more than outweigh the risk.

August 15, 2014

Pixar-esque Ratatouille & Ratatouille Subs

Before we really get started, I have to mention that this is an eggplant-free zone. I don't like it, and nothing you can say to me or do to it will change my mind. Sorry.

That said, I love ratatouille! Provided that you omit the eggplant.
You could easily add eggplant into this recipe, if it's non-negotiable for you. Find a long, skinny one, about the same circumference as the squash you use.

I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one completely enchanted by Pixar's tian-style interpretation of this classic French dish. When I saw this version on Smitten Kitchen, and again later in her awesome cookbook, I knew it would be happening in a kitchen near me. Soon.

I've done ratatouille in the crockpot, and with stuffed shells, but this might be my favorite way to enjoy it. The presentation is wonderful for a Sunday supper or for when company will be joining you. It's lovely.

I use my mandolin slicer to get  uniformly-thick slices of zucchini and yellow squash. Then it's just a matter of layering things to make them pretty. And, honestly, it's not as much trouble as you might think.

Serve it over couscous or egg noodles and you've got dinner.

But even better than that, when it's layered this way, it holds together perfectly as the filling for a completely delicious vegetarian sub sandwich! Just pile it onto your favorite kind of roll, toasted, naturally. I like to add the zing of fresh tomato to round out the roastiness of the ratatouille filling. And, of course, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. You could spread your bun with goat cheese, instead, if that's appealing to you.
(This might or might not also be a goat-cheese-free zone... But that's the great thing about cooking at home, you get to decide what to include!)

Pixar-esque Ratatouille
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. tomato puree (such as Pomi)
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
a few sprigs fresh thyme or summer savory, stripped from stems and finely chopped
Salt and pepper
drizzle of olive oil
Parmesan cheese for serving

In a small bowl, combine the onion, garlic, tomato puree, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread in the bottom of a 2 quart greased oval baking pan (mine's Corningware). On top of this mixture, start layering your veggies: zucchini slice, yellow squash slice, red pepper slice, repeat.

For prettiest presentation, follow the curve of the baking dish, making kind of a spiral. It would also be pretty in straight rows, alternating the direction of the layers on each row. Sprinkle with chopped thyme or savory, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and place in the oven.

Bake uncovered at 375º for 45 - 50 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, but not so long that they become mushy.

At this point, you have some options. You could serve this as is over couscous or pasta with a sprinkle of Parmesan, or you could take it one awesome step further: make it into the filling for a fantastic sub sandwich. It is hardly any more effort and it is so truly satisfying.

Ratatouille Subs

Extra Ingredients:
1 fresh tomato (I like a good beefsteak), sliced however thickly you like them for sandwiches
4 hoagie rolls or other buns of your choice, split and toasted (a baguette would even work nicely, if you can manage all that crustiness)
Parmesan cheese or goat cheese

Open up your bun and scoop some of the ratatouille into it. Sprinkle on some Parmesan, and top with slices of fresh tomato. Add the top of your bun, and enjoy! If you prefer, you could also spread the top bun with a smattering of tangy goat cheese instead of the Parm.

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