Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cooking lessons with Jennifer

My brother-in-law (aka Bubba)'s girlfriend doesn't know how to cook, but she wants to learn how. We were all at the ILs hanging out the other day (grandfather-in-law, GFIL) is in town and we were visiting. Well Mother-in-Law (MIL) and Father-in-law (FIL) took GFIL out to dinner but told us that we could make whatever we wanted at their house. Well, as you all may know it is much harder to cook in someone else's kitchen than it is your own. So, I went to my house and got a few ingredients for something that I had created in my head and wanted to try because I thought it would be a good basic lesson for the girlfriend. Here's what we made:

Basic white sauce turned cheese sauce:
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon (or a big pinch) pepper
1 1/2 cups whole milk (do not cheat and used reduced fat or skim or your sauce will taste like a combination of dog poo and wallpaper paste-you have been warned)
1/2 cup heavy cream (we all have to cheat now and again)
one golf ball size portion of Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1. Combine flour, salt & pepper in a bowl and set aside.

2. Melt butter over medium heat, stirring contantly. When butter is melted remove pan from heat.

3. Gradually add flour mixture and stir until smooth.

4. Combine the whole milk and heavy cream in a liquid measuring cup with a spout. Slowly wisk into the butter and flour mixture.

5. Place back onto burner over medium heat and wisk constantly until boiling. Boil for two minutes.

6. Remove from heat. Grate in pamesan cheese and stir until melted.

7. Pat yourself on the back, you have just made a white sauce and then a cheese sauce. You also made a roux (combining the butter and flour and cooking the flour- although we used the heat of the pan to cook it), which is the basis for soups and other yummy goodness.

Red sauce a la Jennifer

1/4 pound panchetta cubed
1/2 cup onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 large bell pepper (could be green, red, yellow, etc- use what you have or what you like)
1 cup spinach, chiffonade
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes

1. Place a stainless steel frying pan over medium high heat and allow the pan to heat up.

2. Add in panchetta. Cook on both sides until browned and slightly crispy. Remove from pan, leave behind the fat (which should not be much).

3. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion to pan and cook until translucent. Add in garlic and cook slightly. Do not burn garlic, cook for only 1-2 minutes.

4. Deglaze pan with wine. Scrape up all the "goodies" on the bottom of the pan. Allow the alchohol to cook out.

5. Add bell pepper and panchetta back to pan. Allow to cook for about a minute.

6. Add spinach, diced tomatoes and sundried tomatoes. Allow to heat through and to slightly reduce.

7. Pat yourself on the back, you just made red sauce.

I served this with grilled chicken breasts that I cooked in my grill pan. I seasoned them with my Italian spices spice grinder (dried spice) and some salt & pepper. I seared them over high heat on both sides and then finished cooking in the oven. I just placed the grill pan into the oven.

I served the sauces over whole wheat rotini pasta. I cooked the pasta and then drained it. I added a laddle of the red sauce on top and then a small amount of cheese sauce on top of that. Mixed together they made a rich, creamy tomato sauce.

Everyone raved about how great the meal was and having a soux chef in the kitchen definately helped.

Oh, I almost forgot the appetizer. I made crustini with brushetta.

We sliced a baguette on the bias to create larger slices of bread. We brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Then we placed them under the broiler until the edges of the bread were browned and the bread was nice and crispy.


Roma tomatoes, deseeded and diced
basil, torn into small pieces
onion finely chopped
garlic powder (because you do not want to bite into raw garlic)
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

I used about 6 roma tomatoes and about 1/2 of a very large onion. I used about 1/4 cup of basil leaves, a really big four finger pinch of garlic powder, about 1/4 tsp of salt and about 1/2 tsp of pepper. I used about 2 tablespoons each of the olive oil and balasmic vinegar.

You should really make this recipe to taste. You can add more or less of everything to make a brushetta that you really like. There are many things that you can add to this. A local restaurant makes their brushetta with basically the same ingredients I do but then they add in some olive tapenade for some added flair.

What I hope that you take away from the blog entry today is to have fun and experiment in your kitchen. Read cookbooks for ideas but then really make the recipes your own by going into your kitchen and adding the things that you really like.

Oh, and my non-vegetable eating husband ate the red sauce and said that it was very good and did not taste like vegetables. :)

p.s. sorry there are no pictures, still working on that.