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.

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.

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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.

Creamy Pesto ….

I know I have never done this before but I think the idea is really solid.   I love pesto. I could eat it in a different way and on daily basis. And that includes breakfast.  On pasta which might just be my favorite, but I love pesto mixed with sun-dried tomatoes and spread between layers of cream cheese. And it is amazing yes, and stupidly good.  I just keep saying that, don’t I?

D&D_2020Basil – 2 bunches, stems removed
Garlic – 2 cloves or or more if you would like it
1 1/4 cups walnuts or there abouts – fear the pine nuts.*
1/4 cup really good olive oil
Whole milk ricotta

First mix the garlic in the food processor. Then add the walnuts and mix it up again   Do this before you add the basil. Because this is a good thing. It just seems to work so well. Then stream the olive oil in until you have it the consistency you want. Since I knew I would be adding ricotta, I opted for a little less olive oil than usual. Add about 1/4 cup of ricotta and see what you think. You might want a smidge more oil or a little more ricotta. If you want to go all crazy, toss in a few oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. Never a bad thing.

As always I add my Parmesan last and make sure I have extra for garnish.

I have to say that I’m glad I tried this the night I made it because after that the Boy ate the rest. Guess that’s a testament to the fact that it was good. Yep really good. Adding the ricotta did make the pesto a bit heavier, so it might be better if the fall, but I will be doing it again and I think the next time sun-dried tomatoes will be added.

Pesto – amazing 

pesto [pes-toh]

noun, Italian Cookery.
1. a sauce typically made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and grated Parmesan blended together and served hot or cold over pasta, fish, or meat.
In college, I made some great friends, and one of them was a girl named Karen T. (cannot believe I remembered her whole name, but somehow that makes me feel good, but won’t divulge).
She threw excellent (read: grown up) parties. If you said you would attend, you were actually expected to do so. She was a great cook – the first person I knew to make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. She totally rocked, and she also introduced me to pesto. I think it was her mom’s recipe, photocopied, and I remember this most clearly, the recipe was called “Pesto by the food processor method.” Hysterical now, but at the time a totally new thing for me.
D&D_1998
It is basically the “recipe” I still make today, except I substitute walnuts for pine nuts. I don’t notice a difference, so it works for me. And I always have walnuts in the freezer.
It’s great for pasta, for pasta salad, add some sun-dried tomatoes and it is excellent in my sun-dried tomato pesto torte. Have I not made that for you? Damn, will rectify that situation soon.

Basil – 2 bunches, stems removed mostly
Garlic – 2 cloves or or more if you would like it
1 1/4 cups walnuts or there abouts – fear the pine nuts.
1/4 cup really good olive oil
A good bit of freshly grated Parmesan – indeed.

First chop the garlic in the food processor. Then add the walnuts and mix it up again   Do this before you add the basil. Because this is a good thing. It just seems to work so well. Then stream the olive oil in and the when it is all done, add the Parmesan. And if you want to go crazy add some sun-dried tomatoes. Because that is amazing. Yep.

I was to go to Italy with Karen and Dierdre in the spring of 1993, but giving birth to the Boy put those plans into a stall. Never regret it. And he was eating pesto as a 3 years-old – he was that kind of boy. Sushi, sure. Pesto, yep. Mushroom pate – always. Kids will try anything if you don’t make a big deal of it.
Karen moved to New Jersey and we lost touch, but some things stick with you in an important way. And I miss them both.

Work Food Hacks

So I eat lunch at work quite often (most days). And I bring leftovers because I don’t care for cold sandwiches with one amazing exception*. So what to do to make it interesting and different and using the limited equipment we have at the office to make it work. In my case, that’s a microwave, a toaster, and a toaster oven, so it really is somewhat limited.

So this will be a recurring post with my terrible iPhone camera pictures. 

First up – Mushroom Fontina Toasts which is a play on Mushroom & Fontina Crostini 

D&D_1180

Yes, this picture is pretty much awful. But it was my lunch and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

So I brought some Italian bread into the office with some of the leftover mushroom shallot garlic mixture. Then I went to the Publix and got some thick sliced Fontina from the deli. So I heat the toaster oven while I toast the Italian bread in the toaster. Meanwhile I heated the mushroom mixture in the microwave just a bit. Not too much though.

So this is how you put it all together: with the toaster oven heated, on broil, top the toasted bread with the warm mushroom mixture, and then top with the thick sliced Fontina. Broil until the desired gooey-ness factor is achieved.

Then put it on your ugly paper plate and have a great lunch at work. 

Now here are some extra tips – have some lemons available, even at the office, oh and it never hurts to have a small bottle of Worcestershire sauce for they both are fresh flavors. 

* cheddar, mayonnaise, and homemade hummus, on Italian bread. Oh yes, this is now in my brain and I have to make it again. 

 

Artichoke Bread

This idea kind of combines a couple of other really good ideas. Cheese bread and artichoke dip with some garlic throw in for good measure. This just sounds like dinner to me. That being said, I am sure I could survive on bread and cheese – and maybe some apples and grapes and be a perfectly happy camper.dd_1810

For all the desserts that I bake, they just are not my favorite things. I do it to make the Boy happy and when I have extra to share, I take them to the office or to my local. I am going to make an effort to also start taking treats to the local sheriff’s department and the local fire departments. My only question there is – is that just weird? Will they be suspicious of it? I hope not. Cookies, and baking in general, are just good for me to do and I would like to share.

Last week was a pretty rough week for our LEOs  in Escambia County FL, Santa Rosa County Fl, and Escambia County AL. You probably didn’t hear, but a guy killed two women in Milton, another in Foley and stole her car, and shot a women in Pensacola and then stole her car too. She later died. It was a bit scary because he and his accomplice were seen not too terrible far from my office. I just don’t understand. Who does this? This seems really depressing, but it was that week. Let’s just say we were all hyper aware of our surroundings now.

I am sure artichoke bread will not fix the bad things in the world, but doing something comforting makes life a little better – at least it does for me.

14 ozs artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 scallions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
zest of one lemon
chopped chives
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half horizontally

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix artichokes, scallions, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest, and cheeses, reserving some cheese for the top. Or just add some more, because it is cheese after all

Hollow about 1/2 inch of bread out of both halves of the bread. Spread mixture in the hollow and top with reserved cheese.

Wrap bread loosely in foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese is melty and golden brown.

Source: Closet Cooking