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.

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.

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.

Aged Gouda Orzo

I have become a huge fan of orzo. Thanks to Cutting Edge of Ordinary’s Everyday Orzo. This was just such an enlightening experience as I have mentioned many (many) times. But I liked the concept, so here is a version that I tried based on the cheese in the fridge. I expect I will try this multiple times with multiple cheeses. Not surprising really. I do love about all cheeses.  Well, I cannot think of any cheese I do not like, nope.

D&D_2064

2 Tbs unsalted butter
Small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ozs orzo
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock, warmed (microwave works)
8 ozs aged Gouda shredded

Melt the butter in a saute pan and add the onion and let it soften, then add garlic and stir in for about a minute. Add the orzo and stir until coated in the butter mixture. Add the vegetable stock and bring the heat up to a boil. Then turn down the heat to a simmer and cover the pan – leave it covered for 25 minutes. If you lift the lid you will mess this up.  You are letting the orzo steam and then you shall add the cheese. And it will be a glorious mess of orzo, alliums, and cheese. Which to me is just breakfast on a work day.

I seasoned with a good bit of freshly ground black pepper, because I am me.

Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato & Cantal

Another no-recipe recipe – some night cooking, which is something I do quite often, for work lunches for the week. I would have liked to have some cream for this, but to be honest, I managed pretty well with out it. Although, some mascarpone might have been excellent. D&D_2073

I was just trying to make something that I would like with what I had on hand and here is how it went. Again not going to the grocery store at this point in the evening – which was about 11pm, or so.

8 ozs penne pasta – one of my favorite pasta shapes – always use this for mac n cheese*
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced (or a shallot?)
8.5 ozs sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, but drained (save the oil!)
8 ozs Cantal cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grated
zest of lemon
Parmesan, finely grated

In a big pot, heat water to boiling with a really big handful of kosher salt. Cook penne until al dente.

In a sauce pan, heat butter over medium heat and add onions and saute until soft, but not browned in any way.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes and simmer for a bit, just to make sure they are really soft – this is key.

Add the cooked pasta and blend together. Remove from heat and add the Cantal, a semi-hard cheese from France that is slightly similar to a Cheddar. Specifically from Auvergne region of central France. Fancy French Cheese – always good.

Once the cheese is all melty, serve in a bowl with a bit of lemon zest (always a good thing with a cheesy pasta in my opinion) and a little bit of fresh Parmesan for that salty goodness.  The ratios are yours to decide.

This made great leftover lunches for about a week. And the Boy made a strange version of it for dinner one night – with eggs. I’m still not sure I understand that at all.

*no elbows for me.

Manchego Crackers

So I had Manchego and had to figure out something to do with it. I buy cheese like that – buy it and then figure something out. Improvisation or some such. Manchego is sheeps’ milk cheese from Spain – from the La Mancha region. I guess this is the sheep milk cheese cracker. I am a big fan of sheeps’ milk cheeses, and goats’ milk cheese, and cows’ milk cheese. Well you get the idea. Fan of cheese is all possible variations.

This is a new recipe to me – so here we go.

D&D_2057

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne
2 ounces Manchego cheese, finely grated

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse just until a dough forms. Do not overwork dough, or crackers will be tough.

Roll dough into a log about 1.5 inches in diameter (is that the right word for round-ish? – don’t know). Refrigerate. I usually just refrigerate overnight just to be safe and it seems to work well.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Slice dough into rounds about 1/4 inch thick and place on baking sheet lined with parchment. Dock the crackers with a fork. Bake in middle of oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Allow crackers to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer them directly to a cooling rack to cool.

Store crackers layered between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days.

Adapted from Epicurious. Via http://lifecurrents.dw2.net/manchego-crackers/

~Original directions: Gather dough into a ball, and flatten into a 5-inch disk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and chill dough, until firm, about 30 minutes. The dough can be made ahead and chilled like this for up to 2 days.

Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until about 1/8-inch thick, roughly 14-inch round.

Working quickly, cut out rounds with a 1 ¾ to 2-inch floured biscuit cutter, and arrange the rounds ½-inch apart on a silpat or parchment paper covered baking sheet. Re-roll scraps (but only once or they will get tough; chill first if soft), and cut out more rounds. Prick each round 2 or 3 times with a fork.

If your kitchen is warm, roll out dough between 2 sheets of wax paper.

~ Notes: I really hate rolling out crackers, or cookies for that matter. Let’s just keep it simple. I did the same thing with Scottish Sharp Cheddar Shortbread just last week. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. At least, I’m two for two right now and I shall just keep going. I guess my exception is my favorite sugar cookies. I am not sure how they could be made any other way – but that does not mean I am not open to trying something new.

Scottish Sharp Cheddar Shortbread

You know me – any chance at a cheese cracker, especially a cheddar cracker, and I am all in. This was a new recipe to me, but it seemed like it had all the things I like about a cheese cracker – with one glaring exception – you had to roll the damn dough out. Ugh. I just hate that beyond words. I will roll out sugar cookies. I will roll out pie dough, but why should I have to roll out crackers. It just seems unnecessary when you can roll cracker dough into a log – chill – slice – and bake and make perfectly good crackers.

D&D_2055

So I decided to buck the recipe and go for what made the most sense to me. Guess what? It totally worked and has made me be a little more critical of all future cracker recipes. Make it easier – why not; it also fits into my favorite way to bake – make the dough one day and bake a day (or two) later. Fits my work week baking plan to a T.

8 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper – 1/4 tsp at a minimum
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Using electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat together butter, salt, black pepper, and cayenne at low speed just until blended. Add Cheddar and flour and mix at low speed just until smooth, Do not over-mix because that makes crappy crackers.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake shortbread until lightly golden and beginning to brown on edges, about 13 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Source: Epicurious

Original Directions: Shape dough into disk, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and chill 30 minutes. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4- to 1/8-inch-thick round. Using 1 1/2- to 2-inch round cutter, cut out rounds and arrange 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Reroll scraps if desired (rerolled scraps will be tougher).

This is why rolling out crackers is just annoying. I think I have figured out the best way to do it. Out of laziness. Yep, that is me.