Today's word is: Hurry-up
....as in company is coming or my family is hungry and I am sick to death of serving the same old, same old....I need something new but it's gotta be something quick (and delish!)......
'Tis the season when there's always a ham or a roast beef or a vat of sausage or big old turkey or a huge bowl of ravioli or a tray of cheese and pepperoni and crackers or a crock of hot artichoke dip or a platter of shrimp with cocktail sauce or....well....you fill in the blank....
Maybe that's just on the party circuit I travel.
Great food for sure but after a few nights of eating at the traditional holiday dinners and parties and buffets--I'm usually so done with it all.
And, so is my family.
As much as we look forward to all those traditional holiday foods, we find ourselves pretty tired of them after a few parties, a few meals and a few midnight raidings of the fridge.
When the holiday food misery sets in--and we all know it will--I try to be equipped with a few different ideas.
I'm always trying to come up with something just a little bit different to serve.....especially on those days between Christmas and New Year's when the kids are home full time, there's visitors at the door at all hours and I have to go to work.....
Let me repeat.....and I have to go to work.
It would be great if I could just put out all the leftovers and call it a day.
But, like I said---everyone (even our visitors) is pretty tired of ham and turkey and beef and sausage and ravioli.....you know what I'm talking about.....
I don't want to see another cheese platter.....please!!
When I was planning out my menus for next week--knowing I'd have to go to work and that I'd be exhausted from all the holiday hoopla and there would be company coming and going, I made a concerted effort to think a little differently when it came to evening meals as well as delicious fare for drop-in guests.
Here's a few things that I came up with......
First, a tried and true chicken recipe that I've made many times but I decided to turn it into a finger food for next week. We could eat it in front of the TV or serve it to guests along with some chips and dips. It's easy to make ahead of time and throw in the freezer and take it out when you need it. It goes good with a hoppy beer as well as it goes with an oakey Chardonnay.
Here it is....excuse the fact that there are no exact measurements.....I do this by memory....
Better than Fried Chicken
Thin sliced, boneless chicken breasts.....cut into strips
Coat chicken with mayonaisse flavored with some black pepper and a mixture of parmesean and romano cheese (cover them well with the mayo mixture)
Dredge and press mayo covered chicken into a mixture of Italian flavored breadcrumbs, more romano and parm cheese and Panko.
Place chicken strips on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 375/400 for about 15-20 minutes.
(If you want to freeze them now--cool them a bit before doing so)
Serve with your favorite dipping sauces--I will be using a good quality jarred marinara sauce (DeCecco is a good choice), either a jarred or powdered and mixed-up ranch dressing and a jarred barbeque sauce.
This next recipe is one that my caterer girlfriend serves in lieu of the usual shrimp platter.....
it's truly amazing, has an air of elegance about it, it's super easy and quick and it makes everyone happy and is enchanting in your mouth when you serve it with a lush and smooth Sauvignon Blanc.....
(serve at room temp)
3 pounds shrimp (I use the frozen jumbo shrimp from Aldi's--thaw it before putting in oven....its great!)
A few table spoons of good quality olive oil
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of coarse black pepper
On cooking sheet--coat all the shrimp with oil, salt and pepper very well
Roast at 400 for about 8-10 minutes
Cool and serve with lemon zest grated on top and scampi dipping sauce (saute some garlic in olive oil---when cooled add a splash of lemon juice, a bit of parmesean cheese, a little bit of dry white wine and lots of black pepper)
And, now for one of the best comfort foods around---Macaroni and Cheese.
Who doesn't love that?
Below is Alton Brown's recipe....it really is the best....a few thousand people have said so!
The only thing I do a little different is that I have to add some good quality romano cheese to the topping.....I can't help myself...I have to Italian everything up a little!
Take this up a notch and serve it on your good china and pour some happy Prosecco to accompany it!
Won't you be the IT GIRL.....?!?!
Macaroni and Cheese
- 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
- 3 cups milk
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 large egg
- 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh black pepper
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs + a few sprinklings of romano cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.
Just in case you have a hankering for a little Mexican......you might want to try this quickie and tastey rendition of pizza. It goes great with a lively Sangria so you won't have to figure out what kind of booze to wash it down with.....
Crust: Large, oversized whole wheat tortilla shell or 3 whole wheat tortilla shells
- 1 can (14 Ounce) black beans
- 1 teaspoon taco seasoning (Penzey's Bold Taco Seasoning is fab!)
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar
- 1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
- 1 head green leaf lettuce--shredded very thin (I buy the bagged variety)
- 2 whole ripe tomatoes, diced
- ½ cups cilantro leaves
- ¼ cups sour cream
- 3 tablespoons of Frank's hot sauce (or more!)
- Pour black beans into a saucepan. Add seasonings to taste and heat up beans over medium-low heat. Use a potato masher to mash the beans to desired texture. Continue cooking/heating beans over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until no longer runny (should be the texture of refried beans). Set aside.
Spread layer of refried beans all over crust (tortilla). Sprinkle mixed grated cheeses over the top. Place pan in the oven (in the bottom half of the oven) and bake for 9 to 12 minutes. Watch it to make sure crust doesn’t burn.
Remove pizza from oven. Sprinkle on shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and cilantro leaves.
Mix together sour cream and hot sauce, adding enough hot sauce to make the mixture pourable. With a spoon drizzle mixture over finished pizza. Serve with jarred salsa.
And, let's not forget about dragging out the crock pot. This past year, my sister bought me one of those buffet server crock pots that has 3 separate crock pots in it! She said I was the only person she knew that might really use it. So, I figured I'd prove her right. I did a little research on an entire meal--several courses--using my 3 crock pots. Whalla--a perfect meal to serve to your husband's boss and his wife on a busy work night during the busy holiday season. Turn on the crock pot, go to work, pick up a few bottles of wine, a decent champagne and a good bread on the way home, throw a salad together (using artisan bagged greens and simple bottled balsamic dressing, adding a handful of dried cranberries and some fancy nuts) when you get home and you're the queen of of the kitchen!
--1/4 cup each of cheeses. I chose goat, grated/shredded gruyere, and grateds/shredded swiss (Trader Joe's has a bag of shredded gruyere and swiss that works great)
--1/4 cup white wine
--1/2 tsp nutmeg
Put the shredded cheese in crock pot. Add the goat cheese. Pour in the white wine and sprinkle the nutmeg on top. No need to stir---it will melt together.
Cook on the lowest possible setting for 5-6 hours.
Serve with bread, croutons, crackers, or your favorite dipping vegetables.
Veal Osso Bucco
Six-Eight 1-1/2- to 2-inch-thick veal shanks (about 4 lbs)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
One 14-1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 red onion, chopped (2 cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
6sprigs fresh thyme
4 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
2 large cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
The night before.....
Put the flour in a wide, shallow dish. Season the veal shanks all over with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour; shake off the excess flour.
Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the butter, and when it foams, add the shanks to the skillet. Cook until golden, turning once, about 10 minutes. Transfer the shanks to a covered dish and refrigerate.
Add the wine to the skillet. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet and pour the contents into a separate covered container and refrigerate.
The next morning....
Put the veal shanks and the wine in the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes and their juices, chicken broth, onion, carrot, celery, and thyme. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours—the meat will be very tender and almost falling off the bone.
Before serving--sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the parsley, lemon zest, and garlic to make a gremolata. Serve the veal shanks topped with the sauce and the gremolata.
Wine Braised Pears
What are you gonna cook in between Christmas and New Year's?
Tell me quick..... HURRY-UP!!!