Apricot, Ham, Cheddar, and Chicken Sandwich

I cannot remember when I started making this open-faced sandwich but it was an immediate favorite in this house. It seems odd at first, but it really works when you think about all the flavors mixed together. A little tart from the vinegar, some mustard, apricot jam for sweetness, then ham (pork is never bad in any form) and a sharp cheddar. It is a very special combination. And heats up well as a left over in the oven – or in my case in the toaster oven at the office – work lunch hack – woo hoo. If I can get it – usually the MotH and the Boy do not let me get much in the way of leftovers. But I guess that just means they like it  – a lot. And so do I.

D&D_21211/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 French bread, split horizontally, then cut in a half
1/4 cup apricot preserves – way more than that.
1/3 pound thinly sliced tavern ham, yes, specify tavern ham – I’ve tried others and this is the best.
1/2 pound sharp cheddar, deli sliced

Between two pieces of plastic wrap or inside a gallon plastic zip-top bag, pound the chicken slightly until it is more even. It does not need to be super thin, just a little more even. Makes for easier (quicker) marinade and more even cooking. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a resealable plastic bag, add vinegar, mustard, and chicken. I don’t even measure at this point any more. Once you do this enough, and once you taste it you will, you will get the hang of it.  You can also add a mashed garlic clove, but I have given up on that little bit trouble – not necessary in the taste department, to us anyway. Let marinade several hours or over night in the refrigerator. Over night is best, but not much longer than that.

Heat broiler on low and line a baking sheet with foil. Remove chicken from marinade (discard marinade) and place on the baking sheet, broil,  turning at least once until opaque throughout. Check by cutting into chicken to see if it cooked through. Transfer chicken to work surface and discard foil. Reline the baking sheet with new foil.

Place baguette on baking sheet, cut side up (duh). Spread each piece with apricot preserves, layer with chicken, ham and cheese. Broil until cheese is melted.

Source: Martha Stewart with my modifications.

Au Peche Mignon – a little sin …

The best name for a French pastry shop I have ever heard. This is the one thing that makes going to Tallahassee, or through Tallahassee on the way to Orlando for work, or through Tallahassee on the way to Jacksonville tolerable. Thankfully we do not have to make the long (boring) drive to Jax on I-10 anymore. Just Pine trees – sigh.

This shop opened up the year we moved to Tallahassee and I am not entirely sure how I found it, might be because it near a great sushi restaurant – Kitcho, but Au Peche Mignon quickly became a favorite of mine. I could not afford it as a student very often, but it was a total splurge for me. Even one pain au chocolate was worth it – what a total pleasure.

D&D_2126This time I am ordering ahead of time to make sure I get the things that I want. As mentioned many (many) times, I am not a huge fan of chocolates, but Au Peche Mignon makes a bit of a liar of me – it is always the Noisette – a whole caramelized hazelnut (I want to know how to do that) covered in gianduja (which is odd because I do not like nutella), encased in dark chocolate. This is just the most amazing chocolate for someone who really does not care for chocolate in the grand scheme of things. I would like to just intern there and learn how to do things – that would make me really happy. Unfortunately these chocolates are a Christmas treat that I will not get in September. Sigh.

So here is the rest of the order for our way home from Orlando through Tallahassee.*

2 Croissants
4 Pain au chocolates
8 pieces of chocolate – it is so worth the $15.00
1 key lime tart – my first time with this.

I am going to spend way too much money, but I only do it twice a year at best. You have to eat the pastries fast, but the chocolates can last in the fridge for quite some time. Yep, spent $40, but it made me stupidly happy.

*Hopkins’ Eatery is another Tallahassee favorite – some of the best sandwiches ever – see: The Spin.

Cheesy Artichoke Rice

I hate the way when you look up “cheesy rice” and you get “minute rice” and non-cheese cheese slices. Ugh. That is just not right. And that is also not cheese either.  Who does this?  I ran out of orzo and thought to make a rice recipe that would work for my lunches at work. I prefer home-made lunch to restaurants, with some exceptions.  You know, things I just don’t make (Indian food) and that I know other people do a much better job than me. But pasta dishes, rice dishes, when lots of cheese or mushrooms are involved – I think I got this. No, I know I do. D&D_2081

So my thoughts on this are:

I need lunch for tomorrow.
I have no vegetable or chicken stock (unreal!) and I’m not going to the grocery store at 8:30pm. Nope.
I have lots of rice.
I have quite the variety of cheeses.
I have scallions that are mostly okay.~
Always have onions and garlic.
Lemon zest

With all that in mind, I’m going to figure out what to make tonight and here is what I did.
2 cups H2O
1 cup long grain rice
lots of salt

Cook like you always make rice – if you need a tutorial this is how it goes: Thank you The Kitchn.

Once you remove it from the heat, add 3 Tbs of unsalted butter while it steams on the back burner — important: lid on, heat off.

Unsalted butter
Olive oil
Small yellow onion, diced
3 good sized cloves of garlic, minced
artichoke hearts, drained & quartered (not marinated)
~ the scallions were past there “best buy” date at this point – too bad. But the onions and garlic made up for it.

In a saute pan, melt 2 Tbs unsalted butter and one small yellow onion diced and a good pinch of kosher salt. Saute on low-ish heat until soft. Then add three cloves (less or more as you prefer) minced and let them sit on the top of the onions  – you don’t want them to burn. Stir them in a bit and then remove from heat.

Now, here is where things get interesting – I opened a can of artichoke hearts and quartered them and added them to the onion mixture with a little glug of olive oil and let everything simmer until it was a cohesive mix of veg that was soft – that seems to be key.

D&D_iPhone_image1As mentioned – I have cheese options – so I pulled out all the cheese that had already been opened. Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Manchego  – so the decision is which one or which combination to use. I used some Manchego because it is melty but it grates like a cheddar, but just a little softer and the Dog (Hood) really likes it. And then the Pecorino – for that salty flavor – a great sheep’s milk hard cheese. Not too different, really from Parmigiano, but not the same either. Manchego is another sheeps’ milk cheese from Spain – from the La Mancha region. So I guess this is the Spanish sheep milk cheese recipe.

I have to say cheese, for me, matters not if it from a cow, a goat, or a sheep. I just love cheese in a stupid sort of way. That is probably obvious by now.

But when I do it again, I will put some sharp cheddar in the mix. This time I added lemon zest at home and took that lemon to work for the juice for my lunch leftover hacks. Excellent.

I think that just might be the key to a great lunch hack at work. I always have a fresh lemon and a bit of grated Pecorino or Parmigiano in the fridge there – it really makes all the difference in the world. From boring leftovers to something special.

My refrigerator… and ham salad.

So I didn’t go to the grocery store like I should have today, and now I feel like making something but I have to make do with what’s in my refrigerator. And here is what I have to work with: Boursin, chutney (not homemade, boo), puff pastry, dates, bleu cheese dressing, a lemon, eggs, butter, bleu cheese, Parmesan, Pecorino, Brie, Kerry Gold Reserve Cheddar, and Hormel ham steak.

What should I make? What can I make? It is a weekend and I will get to the Publix at some point and then I have a whole other list of things to make for my work week lunches.

So here is what we are going to try and make work – we shall see how it goes. I feel confident that it will not be a disappointment. At least I hope not. We shall see.

Another no recipe recipe. That is not a bad thing when you get right down to it. D&D_2093

8 oz smoked ham steak, trimmed that weird stuff that is around the outside edge (what is that?), and cube it. Into the food processor it goes for 8-10 pulses.

3 Tbs sweet relish, drained like you would do for deviled eggs.  Totally subjective – add more or less to your taste, but do make sure you drain it. I like relish in my ham salad.

Yellow or Vidalia Onion – yikes there are lots of options here, but I think I will start simply. Yellow onion grated on the large holes of a box grater and make sure you get all the onion juice – that is really important. Or if you are like me, you can use the food processor for this too – no need to clean it since the ham and onions are going in together.

Freshly ground black pepper. A great spice in my opinion. But it must be freshly ground – I think that goes without saying.

Duke’s Mayo* – just enough to hold it together, but not go overboard. This might be subjective but as my mom would say, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Guess that’s why I will add this last. 2-3 Tbs seems to work, though to be honest, I don’t measure, I just wing it.

This must site for at least a day or two. Same thing with chicken salad – do not try to eat it the day you make it – it just do not work. ~

*No substitutions, I mean, if you live in the South anyways. Not sure what the rest of you do for Mayo – sad to say.

~The same thing can be said for hummus too. The flavors need to come together to really work.

Emmentaler Rice or, maybe Elemental Rice?

Another late-night cook for my lunch. I seem to be on a orzo / rice thing lately with lots of cheese and a few onions/scallions/shallots/garlic involved.

So this was my night last night –

2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups vegetable stock
6 ozs of Emmentaler, grated, and divided

Over medium heat, heat butter in a sauce pan and add onion and sauté for a few minutes until soft. Add garlic and sauté for 30D&D_2087 seconds. Add rice and stir until coated by butter. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cover and cook until rice is cooked through.

Once rice is cooked move it off the burner and make sure it is covered so it will steam to finish. Add half the Emmental and stir to combine. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

This shall now be your lunch for the next day. Just take the rest of the Emmental and add it if needed to the rice you carefully heat in the microwave.

31 August 2017 – almost September after all.

 

D&D_1219_Emmentaler Cheese

I love Emmi’s imported Emmentaler Swiss cheese. Almost as good as the Swiss I had in Amsterdam, but carried by my local Publix. Sweet.

I have a weakness for candy …

… but not chocolate. Just cheap suggary candy that I have loved since I was a kid of 10 or so. I have heard there are two types of sweet thing you can favor. One is chocolate which happens when you are older, or if you are like me, you keep that sugar tooth – the one that never grows up. So, if you are like me, you can give chocolate, the big whatever, but you still want all that sugary candy you grew up with and in my case that is amazingly true. And sad at the same time. Very sad.

The things I love in the candy department are truly weird. Let us just start with Swedish Fish – which are not Swedish or Fish, but when I was young I was very allergic to seafood my father said “I just brought you some fish” – ha ha I thought – and then there were Swedish Fish from a department store and I was happier than you can imagine. Every time I eat a Swedish Fish or two it makes me think of my father. Especially now that the come in more “flavors” than red. Not sure what that is flavor that is supposed to be, but i kind of like the lemon and the lime ones the best.

I also love sweet tarts, jelly beans, licorice (black only – the red kind is, so, not licorice), lemon drops, life savers (if they are the flavors I like), Juju Bees (don’t think I am spelling that correctly), Ju Ju Fruit – yes, a very immature palette.

D&D_2099But one of my favorite candies is Zotz – but only the grape ones. Oh, lord this is such a long story, but since it is amazing late, I will save it for a day or two later.

But I do have a grape Zot* now and it is just pretty much amazing.

Just realized I am writing this while Elvis Costello is singing “So Like Candy.” Irony much from Mighty Like the Rose (1991.)

* Do not have the singular and/or the plural of this candy figured out at all. Maybe I am over thinking once again.

M & M Cookies – the best ever.

Okay – best M & M cookies ever. My mom always made these for Christmas, I am not sure why, but I tend to make them year round. I guess it just one of those things I make to make the Boy happy at anytime of the year – and, yes, it really does seem to work. I think I need picture of him eating them, but do not expect he will allow that at all.

D&D_20831 cup Crisco
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
1 1/2 cups M & M’s, plain or peanut, but no – do not do peanut – just saying

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together Crisco and both sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix to combine. Add vanilla. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in 2 batches, scraping down the mixing bowl as needed. Add M & M’s and stir to combine.  Use a #30 disher to scoop dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 10 minutes or until golden – turning half way through.

D&D_iPhone_image6I am not sure what else there is to say about this recipe that I have not said before. I keep Crisco in the fridge just for this recipe because I love it so much. Maybe it is just a reminder of my mom, but at the same time it is a really good cookie recipe too.

I am guessing it is a bit of both. Yep, it is.