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Friday, January 24, 2014

Oven Bacon

My boys ADORE bacon and it's a Sunday morning tradition. 

If you've found stove-top bacon to be a messy event, switch to the oven-cooked method and you'll NEVER look back! 

Not only will you keep all the mess in the oven, following these steps below will ensure that your bacon comes out in nice, crispy strips, instead of that "curled and shriveled" experience. 

Here's you go:

1.  Cover a large baking sheet (with sides) with bacon strips placed side-by-side, as closely as possible.

2.  Place bacon into a COLD oven. 

3.  Turn oven to 400 degrees F. Cook bacon for 15 minutes. Fip bacon and continue to cook an additional 5-10 minutes until it's browned and crisped to the degree you like it; transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool for a few minutes. 

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Monday, January 20, 2014

Oven Caramelized Onions

8-10 onions, sliced
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. dark brown sugar
splash of good balsamic vinegar
splash of white wine
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place onions into a greased 9 x 13 pan; drizzle with oil and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar.  Add balsamic vinegar and wine; season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover pan with foil and place into the oven for 40-45 minutes or until onions are softened and translucent.  Remove cover and continue to cook onions until nicely browned and caramelized, adding broth to pan if onions are beginning to become to dried out.  Cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Chef Alli's Loaded Nachos Grande

1-2 Tbs. canola oil
1 onion, diced, divided use
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 lbs. lean ground beef
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 can chili beans with liquid
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 -2 tsp. chipotle sauce

Tortilla chips
2-3 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar

6 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, diced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
juice and zest of 1 lime
kosher salt, to taste
1-2 avocados, pitted and diced
sour cream, for garnish

Click Here to Learn the 5 Laws of Loaded Nacho Platters

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add oil; when oil is hot, add half of diced onion and all spices; saute until onions are softened a bit, approx. 2-3 minutes.  

Add beef and cook until completely cooked and browned; drain fats rendered. Stir in beans, broth, and chipotle sauce; season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, create pico de gallo by combining remaining half of diced onion with tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro and lime zest and juice in a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To create nacho platter, place a layer of chips on a large baking sheet.  Top with a shallow layer of beef mixture, then top with cheese; place into oven for a few minutes, just until cheese melts, then repeat with a couple more layers.  

Sprinkle prepared nacho platter with prepared pico, avocado and dollops of sour cream.  SERVE AT ONCE!

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli 

P.S. Here's a few great tips for ensuring your nachos are outstanding! 

The 5 Laws of Loaded Nacho Platters

The Super Bowl is fast approaching.  I'm always enthused about watching the game on the big screen, but true excitement doesn't hit until I begin planning my nacho platter. 

Super bowl parties should ALWAYS be marked by a grand platter, piled high, of good, basic nachos, and here are the tried-and-true of laws of making the best ones:

1.  Never use pre-grated cheese.  Pre-grated cheese has lots of fillers and anti-caking agents included, so I always grate my cheese myself.  Make sure it's a fine grate so that you'll get nice, even melting.

2.  Don't overcrowd the layering of the nachos.  I am typically heating my nachos in the oven, so I always use a baking sheet where I can spread them all out evenly, building my layers.

3.  Speaking of layers, I melt my layers one at a time - here's how:  Put down your layer of chips, add meat topping, then a fine layer of cheese - into the oven they go, for a few minutes, until cheese is good and melted.  Repeat with a couple more layers.

4.  Always use nice, THICK, corn tortilla chips!  Or, for an extra special treat, cut flour tortillas into triangles and deep fry until golden brown.  These make a wonderful chip for nachos.

5.  KISS should be applied with creating nacho platters:  Keep It Simple, Silly.  Good nachos need only include the basics:  chips, beef/bean filling, cheese, salsa and (of course!) fresh pico de gallo! Keep the sour cream and guacamole for serving on the side.  


Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Shepherd's Pie

As seen as on Chef Alli's Farm Fresh Kitchen, Thursday, January 2, 2014, WIBW 13 News This Morning News Segment, Sponsored by Kansas Farm Bureau

1 recipe beef stew (recipe below)
1 batch mashed potatoes (recipe below)
Your favorite 12 inch cast iron skillet
Melted butter, for crisping potatoes
Freshly minced parsley, for garnish

Beef Stew
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. butter
2 lbs. beef stew meat
1 medium onion, diced
½ tsp. paprika
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
12-16 oz. bottle beer
4 -6 cups beef broth
2 tsp. sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 new potatoes, cubed
4 carrots, sliced
2 Tbs. flour

In large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat oil and butter over medium high heat ; when oil is shimmering, add beef and brown on all sides.  (Take care not to crowd beef in pan so that it sears nicely.)  Remove beef from pan and keep warm. 

Add onions and paprika to pot, reducing heat to medium; cook onions until softened, then add garlic and cook an additional minute.  Stir in tomato paste and Worcestershire and cook, stirring often, until tomato paste is nicely browned, adding beer as needed to keep mixture from sticking to the bottom of pan.  Pour in remaining beer, 4 cups broth, and sugar; season to taste with salt and pepper.  Return meat to pot and cover; simmer over low heat for approx. 2 hours, or until meat is tender, adding more broth as needed if liquid level gets too low. 

Add potatoes and carrots to the pot and continue simmer for an additional 30 minutes or until vegetables and meat are fork-tender.  To thicken stew, remove 1 cup cooking liquid and add four; whisk until smooth.  Pour flour mixture into the pot and simmer for additional 10 minutes, until stew thickens nicely.  Dish up and serve with warm, crusty bread.

Mashed Potatoes
6-8 large russet potatoes, peeled, cubed and cooked until very tender, drained
2 eggs, beaten
1-2 tsp. freshly grated horseradish
Milk, as needed
Salt and white pepper, to taste

Mash hot potatoes; add eggs and horseradish, and milk, a small amount at a time, until potatoes reach desired consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

To create Shepherd’s Pie, place prepared beef stew into your favorite cast iron skillet or deep casserole dish, leaving about and inch of head space.  Top warm beef stew with prepared mashed potatoes, then brush with melted butter and sprinkle with parsley.  Bake, uncovered, in 350 degree oven for approx. 25-30 minutes, or until hot throughout and top of pie is golden and crusty.  Serve at once! 

Now You’re Cookin’,
Chef Alli

Season Your Cast Iron Cookware in 4 Easy Steps

I love cooking with cast iron!  Let me tell you why:

Cast iron has very even distribution of heat, making it superior for cooking and baking; it does take longer to preheat than some materials, but this is what makes it such a reliable and steady servant in the kitchen. 

It’s versatile – going from the cook top directly into the oven is a plus. Cast iron is also great for serving from at the table because it keeps foods warm for an extended period of time.

And, yes, cast iron is heavy (probably the only down side), but that weight guarantees reliable temperature control and a super hot surface that ensures a good crispy sear on steaks and salmon fillets every time. 

Seasoning Cast Iron
Now days, most cast iron comes pre-seasoned from the manufacturer.  However, there may be times you will need to re-season your cast iron cookware or you may be starting out with an un-seasoned skillet.  Either way, you can follow these steps:
  1. Wash – Only use soap on your cast iron prior to seasoning it and NEVER again.  Rinse well with hot water, making sure to remove every bit of soap.  If you are re-seasoning the surface due to stuck-on fond or food particles, go ahead and use steel wool to create an even, clean surface.
  2. Dry – Place your skillet into a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or on a burner over medium heat for 10 minutes to thoroughly dry. 
  3. Season and Bake – Using canola oil and a paper towel, rub a thin layer of oil all over skillet, including the outside and the handle.  Place cookware into a cold oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Once oven is preheated, bake cookware for 1 hour, then turn oven off and let cookware cool down with the oven.  Once skillet has cooled to room temperature, store in a cool, dry place (I store mine in the oven.), and always coat cookware with cooking oil in between use to maintain seasoning layer. 
  4. To Clean After Use – Never put your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher!  Allow cookware to cool before rinsing with hot water.  If there are food particles that don’t want to come off the bottom and sides of the cast iron cookware, simply simmer some water in the pan for a few minutes until particles loosen and can be removed easily. 

Tips for Cooking with Cast Iron
  • The more you use it, the slicker the seasoned surface will become over time. 
  • Because the bottom of most cast iron skillets is uneven in nature, do not use it on a smooth-top stove.  Heat pockets can form between the bottom of the cook ware and the smooth-top that can cause damage to the cook top. 
  • Remember that cast iron handles become just as hot as the cookware.  Always use a good oven mitt when handling cast iron to prevent burns. 

Now You’re Cookin’ (With Cast Iron!),

Chef Alli