Monthly Archives: October 2011

Meat Loaf with Creamy Onion Gravy

My dad is a sucker for meatloaf.  It is usually my go-to meal for him if he’s coming over…or if he did something really awesome for me like help me with a fix-it project around the house that is beyond the hubs and I’s skill set (which is often).  I normally go the traditional tomato/bbq base meatloaf, but I had just happened to get in the mail the new Food and Wine and they had this recipe in it.  Figured it was as good as time as any to try out a new approach – with just a couple very minor changes as we halved the recipe and went without cheese in our loaf. We also served ours with mashed potatoes and  sauteed Swiss chard.

I'd like to reference a Will Ferrell quote from Wedding Crashers here, but it's a bit inappropriate as it utilizes the F bomb.

Meat Loaf with Creamy Onion Gravy

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/ 4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 pound ground pork

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a very large bowl and let cool. Add the panko, eggs, mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper and stir to form a paste. Using your hands, work in the ground meats.

Line a large roasting pan with parchment paper or put in a deep Pyrex dish. Firmly pat the meat mixture into a loaf, about 10 inches long. Cook in oven until lightly browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaves registers 150°, about 35 minutes. Let the meat loaves rest for 15 minutes, then cut into thick slices and serve with the Creamy Onion Gravy.

Creamy Onion Gravy

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onions, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, melt the butter in the olive oil.  Add the onions and stir to coat.  Cook over medium heat until the onions are soft, about  10-12 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and cook, whisking frequently, until the gravy is thick, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the heavy cream and simmer gravy for about 5 more minutes.

Transfer the onion gravy to a blender and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper and place back to pot on stove and let simmer about 5 more minutes.


White Chip Chocolate Cookies

This recipe comes practically directly off the back of the bag of Nestle white chips.  Technically,these “morsels”, as they are called by Nestle, are not actually white chocolate as they don’t contain cocoa butter, a derivative of cocoa (instead they use an cheap substitute of hydrogenated vegetable oils such as palm kernel which are in these and they also don’t have any of the “good” qualities of chocolate like antioxidants), but, oh well, they are still tasty.  I did add a bit of cinnamon to the recipe in addition to Craisins.

White Chip Chocolate Cookies

  • 2 and 1/4 cups AP (all-purpose) flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup  baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups white morsels (like Nestle)
  • 1 cup Craisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, cinnamon, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a mall bowl.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in large mixer bowl until creamy.  Add eggs, one at  a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in morsels and Craisins.  Drop by well-rounded teaspoons onto an ungreased cookies sheet.

Bake 9-11 minutes or until centers are set.  Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, and then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Our St. George Island, FL Vacation

So, if you could not tell by my influx of seafood recipes as of late, I was lucky enough to spend a vacation recently lazing on the beach for a week in Florida  – St. George Island to be exact.  It’s in the panhandle, kind of in between Panama City and Tallahassee.  The weather was warm and luckily the ocean water was still warm, too.  Days usually included a nice walk or bike ride in the morning, followed by the beach and reading for several hours, and then some good, local seafood in the evening (which often included oysters, shrimp, and grouper).

The lighthouse on the island

St. George Island is only about 28 miles long and 2 miles wide and located about 4 miles right off the mainland.  Though on one end is a very exclusive, gated community with its own airstrip, the rest of the island is very laid back and practically the opposite of exclusive.  Down-home beach bum might be a better description.  There are many areas that are not developed still, and no building can be taller than 3 stories.  There are only about 5 restaurants/bars on the island, and it is a VERY dog friendly area.  Dogs are allowed on the beach and in most all of the restaurants – which was good because between my parents, myself, and my husband, we brought 4 dogs with us.  I’m not sure what we were thinking…

But, it turned out amazing!  Our beach house for the week was just right, we bought tons of great seafood from these little trailers that would show up each day with seafood that had just been caught, and were able to spend the week in total relaxation.  Some of our highlights:

First, Eddie Teach’s – a great dive bar.  Open for lunch, dinner, and late-night, open-air, and all dogs welcome.  They have a “happy hour” Monday – Friday at 3:30 – 4:30 of half price for a dozen oysters.  I think the hubs and I went up 3 days just for that.  Plus, they have a really good list of draft and bottled beers.

Eddie Teach's - where we spent lots of our time eating oysters and playing pinball

Our first evening on the Island, we went to Eddie Teach’s and stuffed ourselves.  2 dozen oysters baked with spinach, garlic, and Parmesan, 2 dozen raw, a pound of steam shrimp, and an order of their smoked fish spread.  We sat outside (and, admittedly, at first getting eaten alive by mosquitos until we found some repellant…or maybe I’d had enough beers by that time to just not notice as much) and enjoyed the live band and the company of the other vacationers.  Plus, they had a pinball machine!

Part of our giant seafood spread at Eddie Teach's

Harry A’s is another good place on St. George.  We went there on Sunday because my husband and step-dad needed their fill of football.  But, they had awesome fried oysters and a grilled grouper sandwich.  And, it was our lucky day – karaoke on the outside deck!

Harry A's - dog friendly and karaoke every Sunday. What else do you need?

The town on the mainland before you head out on the bridge for St. George is called Apalachicola and it is very cute  – a smaller coast town with more of the “Old Florida” feel.  Laid back,  seafood restaurants, some good history spots, an awesome local bookstore – and, you can watch all the fishing boats come in.

Fishing boats in Apalachicola

We went there on our last night, and found Veranda’s, a restaurant with a fantastic wine list, and a table on the 2nd story balcony that offered a great view of Apalachicola’s downtown.  Our dinner included shrimp and roasted red pepper polenta and flounder with a shrimp and artichoke mustard cream sauce.  A perfect evening to end our trip.

Veranda's on 2nd Floor - we were sitting on the balcony right in the corner watching the sun set

The good news, however, is my parents have reserved a house again for next year!  I’m already counting the days…

Our beach house - The Moon Ray

We stayed at the Moon Ray, and it was my parent’s 3 year there.  Just right for 4 people and 4 dogs, and only about a 2 minute walk to the beach.  Plus a bike/walking path right outside that goes around much of the island!

View towards the beach from the deck of the Moon Ray

Clam, Grouper, and Oyster Bouillabaisse (or, at least, my version of it)

This is one of my favorite go-to seafood recipes when I want something super flavorful and fulfilling, but relatively quick and easy. (Is it even a bouillabaisse?  Or more of just a seafood stew?)  Regardless, I like it and its versatile.  Use whatever fresh seafood is available, and sometimes I even like to add sausage to it.  Fennel can be a nice addition, too.

Clam, Grouper, and Oyster Bouillabaisse

Serves 4

  • 1/2 pound oysters
  • 1/2 pound grouper, cut into chunks
  • Clams (I don’t know the pound, but I know we bought it as a bag of about 50 clams)
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine + 1 other cup of white wine
  • 1 cup broth/stock (veggie, chicken, fish, whatever you have) + 1 more cups broth/stock
  • 1/2 pound small/new potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Handful of chopped fresh mixed herbs if you have them

Cook potatoes in a pot of salted boiling water until just cooked through, about 8 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

In a large pot (I use an enameled cast iron pot), sweat the onions, peppers, and garlic  with the butter and olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Add white wine and let reduce by about half.  Add 1 cup of stock/broth and add oysters and fish.  Season with salt and pepper. Let cook about 3 minutes minutes and add potatoes and let cook another minute longer.

In meantime (like while peppers are sweating), get clams started. Combine one cup wine and one cup broth in large pot with clams over medium high heat.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Let cook for about 4-6 minutes until clams open.  (If you have a steamer insert for the pan, use that for the clams – it makes transferring them to the big stew much easier.)  As clams open, transfer them to big pot of stew.  Some clams will take longer than others to open, but discard any that don’t open at all.

Steamy, delicious stew

Add about 1-2 cups of the clam’s broth to the stew.  Add herbs if using and season with any extra salt and pepper.  Serve in big bowls with good crusty bread to sop up all the juices.

Bay Scallop Ceviche

I made this ceviche one day on vacation before heading out to the beach.  It needs 3-5 hours to marinate, so it was ready for my afternoon snack when I got off the beach.  Perfect!

Bay Scallop Ceviche

  • 1/2 pound bay scallops (or sea scallops if you have those)
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced small
  • 1/2 red onion, diced small
  • 2-3 limes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Tortilla Chips

Combine scallops, red pepper, and red onion in a bowl.  Add the juice of both limes, and give it all a good stir.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let marinate in fridge for 3-5 hours.  (Marinating it any longer can cause  the scallops to “over-marinate” and break down the protein too much and cause it to get rubbery).  Add cilantro and avocado and taste to see if any more salt and pepper is needed.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Our Florida Surf and Turf

On our Florida vacation, our beach house had a grill outside.  We found a nice meat market and picked up a large beef tenderloin, portioned it up, grilled it, and served it with some very garlicky shrimp and a side of potato and brussel sprout hash.  After a day on the beach coupled with this big meal and a couple bottles of red wine, we were all done for after eating!

Beef Filets with Butter Garlic Shrimp

Serves 4

  • 4 portions of beef filets
  • 1 pound large-ish shrimp, shelled, de-veined, tails removed
  • 4  cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 more tablespoons butter,  cut into smaller chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine

Generously season both sides of steaks with salt and pepper.  Grill over hot grill about 4-5 minutes per side (depending on thickness) for medium rare.

White steaks are resting, make shrimp.  Heat cast iron pan over medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil.  Add garlic and slowly cook until bubbly and just starting to brown, about 2 minutes (don’t burn!).  Add shrimp, season well, and cook about 2 minutes. Add white wine and let reduce by about half, about 2 minutes.  Once reduced, turn heat off and slowly start stirring in butter chunks, about one at a time.  Taste for any final seasoning and serve over steaks with lots of garlicky sauce.

Potato and Brussel Sprout Hash

  • About 3/4 pounds small potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • About 3/4 pounds brussel sprouts, ends cut off, sliced in half
  • 1 medium white onion, cut into dice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons  butter

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until just about cooked through, about 9 minutes.  Drain thoroughly.

Blanch brussel sprouts in boiling salted water until just cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Drain thoroughly.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive in cast iron pan over medium high heat.  Cook onions until cooked through and starting to brown in areas. Season and stir in butter and mix until melted.  Add to a large serving bowl. Tent with foil to keep warm.

Do the same with the potatoes and brussel sprouts, separately in two batches:  Heat a cast iron pan with the oil medium high heat, add the vegggies and season, cook until starting to brown in spots, and melt in the tablespoon of butter.  Add to serving bowl.  Once all veggies are done, give it all a good mix and serve with steaks and shrimp.

Our dinner table at the Beach House

BBQ Grouper

I recently went on a week long vacation to Florida (more specific details in an upcoming post), but we rented a beach house and were able to cook several meals at home, which was great because there is so mush fresh seafood there.  Grouper, snapper, oysters, clams, crab, shrimp. I was in heaven! I think I probably ate over a hundred oysters while there, and, sadly, I’m not kidding.  So, the next few posts will feature lots of that seafood!  Oh – and the plates we had at the beach house are pretty flashy, so just bear with it.

The below recipe is pretty basic – seared grouper with some bbq sauce slathered on, grits, and sauteed spinach with garlic.  Normally, I would like to make my own BBQ sauce (like here), but you have limited means in a unfamiliar kitchen with only so many pantry supplies, so we went with store bought.  As for the grits, just use my recipe here (yes, mine is with yellow cornmeal, but I could not find white corn meal that was more coarse ground).  I did do some improvising because we did not have any Parmesan, but we did have cream cheese so I threw some of that in.

Fish and Grits - the perfect combo!

BBQ Grouper with Grits and Spinach

Serves 4

  • About 2 pounds grouper (or a little less will be fine, as our portions were quite large)
  • About 1/2 cup BBQ sauce, preferable homemade, but go with store bought in a pinch (like I did)
  • 2 cloves garlic, VERY thinly sliced
  • 1 big bag baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large cast iron pan, heat some olive oil or vegetable oil (about 2 TBS) over medium high heat.  Season fish  with salt and fresh cracked pepper on both sides.  Once pan and oil is hot, add fish to pan.  My cast iron is fairly big so I was able to fit all portions into one pan. If yours is small, do it in 2 batches.  Sear fish on one side about 2-3 minutes.  Turn and sear another couple minutes.  Brush top side of each piece of fish liberally with bbq sauce.  Place in oven and cook another 3-5 minutes depending on how thick/large you grouper portions are.

Look at this gorgeous, giant piece of fresh grouper!

While fish is cooking in oven, melt butter over medium heat in medium sized skillet.  Once butter starts to get foamy and turn brown (but not burned!  It will smell kind of nutty when ready), add garlic slices.  Let cook for 1-2 minutes until garlic browns (but not burns! Adjust heat if necessary). Add spinach to pan, toss with butter and garlic and cook until wilted all down, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve with fish and grits.