Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mastering Paella

Mayan Riviera, Mexico is a popular vacation distination for my family and my Fiancé also. We always have paella and it's so delicious. One weekend night, when we had extra time to cook dinner, we decided to master Paella. Emeril has been a great help with Cajun recipes, so we went to him first (if you haven't figured out by now, I'm a big fan of FoodTV, the tv station and the website). A little tip about Emeril's recipes - the serving sizes are huge! We were eating on this paella for a whole week.

Tips for an easy paella:
  • Cut the recipe in half, or in third.
  • Find a big skillet with a lid.
  • Buy a roasted chicken, the meat is tender and it's so much easier than buying a 3-pound raw chicken and cutting it into small pieces. You can use the leftover bones to make chicken stock. Avoid the first step of searing the chicken.
  • Leave of saffron if you don't have it. It's pretty expensive.
  • Substitute Old Bay seasons (Lemon & Herb) for Creole seasoning.
  • Substitute crab legs for the lobster. I will probably leave out the crab legs because they're a little difficult to eat with paella all around it.
  • Mussels were delicious. Don't be afraid of cleaning them. If you squeeze them, they will begin to shut slowly. If they don't shut all the way, throw them out.
  • Peel the shrimp.
  • Watch the mussels and shrimp when they cook so they don't overcook.


Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What do I do with leftover chicken stock?

Make a beef stew! Ok, ok, there is really no connection here, just a little creativity of the mind. I had chicken stock left over and I knew it was going to go to waste. Since I was working from home today, I needed an easy recipe that could simmer on the stove for hours while I worked. Chicken or pork didn’t sound appealing. The apartment is still recovering from the sea bass my fiancé attempted to pan fry and burned, so fish was out. I love cooking soups because they’re so easy and there are some amazing recipes I have found. I decided to make something with beef. Of course, it had to be beef stew…what else would we enjoy during this cold winter weather.

A quick search of FoodTV’s website, mind you a very slow search since they redesigned their website. I came upon Giada’s recipe. Giada has fool-proof, easy, flavorful recipes and is usually my top pick when I’m looking for a specific recipe.

Alterations to the recipe:
  • 2 cups of wine instead of the whole bottle
  • 1 pound of stew beef instead of beef brisket
  • Left out pancetta, olives, and green beans
  • Added sliced herbs, chopped onion, and sugar to the marinade
  • Marinated for 1/2 hour on each side instead of 3 hours total
  • Added sliced mushrooms
  • Dredged the beef in some flour before browning
Fiancé: Absolutely delicious. He had two bowls for lunch!

Recipe: Chianti Marinated Beef Stew
Recipe courtesty Giada DeLaurentiis, 2008

My Cooking Philosophy

I would like to introduce myself through my cooking philosophy. I will update this periodically with some tips and tricks for making easy, wallet-friendly, delicious meals.

SECRET #1: I have a secret for wallet-friendly, creative recipes – my pantry! I stock up when sales and coupons come around, so I always have something in my pantry I can use. The fridge and freezer are also great resources. I stand in my pantry and look at what I already have. There are always ingredients in there that I can use to make a great meal. Start in your pantry!

Secret #1a: I have to give some credit to my mom here. Her pantry and fridge are stocked full even though it’s just her and my dad living at home. My mom makes soups and casseroles all the times. She says she just throws in whatever she has in the pantry or the fridge. You would never even know!

SECRET #2: During a trip to Greenbrier Hotel in WV, we got to experience a cooking lesson from one of the 50 professional chefs in the world. She told us that a recipe is just a guideline. Read it, absorb it, and make it your own. Obviously, when you’re baking, you need to be precise, so I suggest following recipes for baked goods. But for regular meals, whether you’re grilling, sautéing, braising, baking, or broiling, take the recipe as a guideline. A lot of times, I might leave out an ingredient or two if I don’t have them, or change the volume of something if I don’t have enough or have too much.