Archive for April 2011

Turkey Bacon Sandwich

Tonight’s sandwich:

  • Turkey
  • Bacon
  • Cheddar
  • Mayo
  • Spicy mustard
  • Spinach
  • Tomato

…and that’s all I have to say about that.

Thinking outside the crust

National Grilled cheese month is winding down, and I’ve been trying to think of another way to celebrate.  That’s when it came to me – quesadillas.  I know what you’re thinking, “That’s not a grilled cheese.  It’s just a tortilla with cheese on it.”  Let’s look at the definition.

A quesadilla (Spanish pronunciation: [kesaˈðiʎa]) is a flour or corn tortilla filled with a savory mixture containing cheese and other ingredients, then folded in half to form a half-moon shape. (Thanks Wikipedia)

I see three main ingredients:

  • Bread
  • Cheese
  • Stuff

This basically defines a grilled cheese, am I wrong?  I do believe we’ve stumbled upon the Mexican grilled cheese.  So how many of you enjoy quesadillas on a regular basis?  If you don’t, you really should start.  Here are a few tips.

Tortillas:

When buying tortillas there are two main types, corn and flour.  Personally I’m a big fan of the flour tortilla, but whatever floats your boat, man.  I’d suggest trying both and seeing what you like best.  The other factor is size.  You can get anything from 4-6″ up to 12-14″.  You might also see them labeled/sized as “taco” or “burrito.”

Ingredients:

The obvious ingredient here is cheese, but you can add pretty much anything you want.  Vegetables are a good idea along with beans, meat, or whatever else you think would taste good.  I would follow the same guidelines for pairing cheeses with the tastes and flavors of your ingredients.  Don’t be afraid to try something new, and let us know if you find something particularly awesome.

Cooking:

When cooking your quesadilla you have a few more options than with the standard grilled cheese.  Most cook them in the oven or a toaster oven, but you could still use a pan on the stove.  The hard part could be getting a pan big enough to fit your tortilla.  If you do go this route, you’ll probably want something in there to help with burnination.  I wouldn’t butter the tortillas, but some cooking spray would probably do the trick.  Just be careful of the heat and flipping.  Those will most likely be your two worst enemies.

So there you have it – Mexican grilled cheese.  I actually made one before sitting down to write this, and then forgot to take pictures.  It was just too tasty.  Let us know what kind of quesadillas you like to make.

Dardevil Burger

I feel like I’ve been posting only about food lately, but is that really a bad thing?  Today, by no design of my own, I ended up at Rocky’s for lunch with Mike, Marquis and Amanda.  It was one of those spur of the moment decisions which I wholeheartedly agreed to.  If you’re not familiar with this burger establishment, feast your eyes on this – http://www.rockysfamousburgers.com/.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve been there, but I know I have consumed the following menu items:

  • The London
  • The Mule
  • The California
  • The Big Mac n Cheese
  • The Lexi
  • The Daredevil
  • Fries
  • Sweet Potato Fries

I have a few more items to try, but I think I have a modest list of achievement.  Each burger on the menu can come with a beef, bison, chicken, or veggie patty.  You can also build your own, or get The Rocky Jr. and add anything you want.  Today I tried the Daredevil.

The description of The Daredevil is as follows: “You pick the patty. We pick the toppings! Try at your own risk.”  I’ve heard stories about breakfast items, random meats, and what have you, but I wasn’t prepared for the plate of awesome that was brought out to me.

Daredevil1Daredevil2Daredevil3

I apologize for the quality of the images.  I used my cell phone.  What we have here is a Taco Burger, I think.  Here are the ingredients:

  • Burger
  • Cheese
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Onions
  • Jalapeño chilies
  • Salsa
  • A taco shell with meat inside (The Taco)

Snake jawsThe Daredevil was very large and in charge.  Luckily my superior smashing and jaw-unhinging skills came in handy at the restaurant.  If you haven’t been to Rocky’s before, you should know the burgers are often 5″ tall or more.  I’ve heard some people are unable to finish a Rocky’s burger and I feel sorry for them.

One thing to notice about the Rocky’s menu, other than the burgers, are the toppings.  Do you know anywhere else that charges 25 cents for cheese?  If you go to Burger King and ask for cheese on your Whopper I think it costs 60 cents or so.  Last I checked, you couldn’t ask for pepper jack or blue cheese crumbles there.  I think next time I go I’m going to get a large fry and load them up with toppings.  I could do blue cheese and bacon, or cheddar, nacho, onions, pico de gallo, and guacamole to make “nachos.”  The possibilities are almost endless.

Roast beef-muenster-pepper jack grilled cheese

Grilled Cheese

Tonight I figured I might as well continue celebrating National Grilled Cheese month.  I had some thinly sliced roast beef in the fridge that needed eating and plenty of pepper jack left.  Sounds to me like the start of a great grilled cheese.

I grabbed some of the same high fiber 12 grain bread from before.  This time I grabbed my bottle of French’s Spicy Brown Mustard.  If you haven’t tried mustard on a grilled cheese yet, there’s no time like the present.  It adds some amazing flavor.  After the mustard came a layer of muenster, followed by the roast beef, and then pepper jack.  Since it’s hard to butter one side of the bread and add mustard on the other, I went ahead and applied the French’s on top of the cheese.

Grilled cheeseGrilled Cheese

The sandwich turned out amazingly awesome.  I know I was going to have someone else score for me, but that’s always an afterthought while swallowing the last bite.

Taste: 9 (Yes, it was better than the Pepper jack-pepperoni-parmesan grilled cheese)
Originality: 3
Plating: 2

Tim C. Lofton informed me I was a little too harsh on plating so I upped my score by one.  The mustard really highlighted the cheese and roast beef flavors in the sandwich which earned me another point as well.  All in all, another successful sandwich.

Grilled CheeseGrilled Cheese

If you’re having trouble coming up with grilled cheese creations to try, I’d like to suggest you visit http://grilledcheeseacademy.com/.

Pepper jack-pepperoni-parmesan grilled cheese

After my last post, April: National Grilled Cheese Month, I had to make a grilled cheese tonight.  I took stock of what I had and decided to go with pepper jack cheese.  That reminded me of the best pizza place in the Quad Cities, Harris Pizza, where my favorite pizza is pepper jack with either sausage or pepperoni.  To top it all off, I grabbed the parmesan to round out the pizza theme.

I grabbed some high fiber 12 grain bread, laid down a layer of cheese, applied a few pepperonis and then shook on some parmesan.  I also decided to put a nice parm-crust on top and bottom, and it turned out pretty well.

The best way to convey the taste of this sandwich would be through Iron Chef style scoring.  Ten points for flavor, five points for originality, and another five points for plating and presentation.  Here is my scorecard:

Taste:  8
Originality:  3
Plating:  1

The taste was pretty darn good.  And while some people may have never thought to put pepperoni on a grilled cheese sandwich, it’s not that crazy.  I also gave myself one point for plating due to that lovely “GC” in ketchup for Grilled Cheese Month.  Was I fair in my scoring?  Anyone have something to best me?  I’d totally be up for an Iron Chef showdown.

April: National Grilled Cheese Month

April 12, 2011 – A day that will live in infamy.  The day I was too busy traveling to a work conference and missed National Grilled Cheese Day.

Some of you might think I sound melodramatic or even a little ridiculous.  I’m going to have to assume you think the same thing about vets on Veteran’s Day, mothers on Mothers Day, or secretaries on Administrative Professionals Day.  Obviously you don’t care about what really matters.

So back to the fact it’s April and National Grilled Cheese Month.  A lot has happened since the first man ever took some bread and cheese, then grilled it.  I wish we knew who this first man was so we could honor him with a medal.  Or was it a woman?  Now that I think about it, probably was a woman.  Mothers are so great about fixing amazing food for their children.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the standard white bread and American cheese sandwich.  It’s basic and classic, but I’d like to challenge you to try something different this month.  Live a little and see what you can create.  There are a few basic elements to a grilled cheese sandwich we should go over first.

1. Bread

Bread is the first of two main ingredients.  Plain, standard white bread is ok, but there are many other choices out there.  This also plays a factor in cooking time.  I prefer larger slices of bread which always results in a larger sandwich.  Nothing wrong with that.  You might also check out some high fiber, whole grain, whole wheat, rye, artisan, etc.

2. Cheese

Just as with plain white bread, there is the standard processed American cheese.  Processed cheese melts well and comes in handy pre-made slices, but what about cheddar, provalone, muenster, mozzarella, monterey jack, havarti, bleu, brick, asiago, parmesan, gouda, and anything else you can find?  I enjoy mixing and combining cheeses.  Feel free to experiment with two or three.  Some even cook shredded cheese into the outside of the bread for a nice crust.

3. Extras

Here’s where you can get fancy by adding sauces, vegetables, fruits, and meats.  Some add tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, apples, salami, ham, pickles, mustards – anything that tastes good.  You might find yourself treading into the territory of other pre-defined sandwiches and that’s ok because we all know from Geometry class that a square is really a special type of rectangle.

4. Cooking

Here’s the part where you finalize your creation by melting that cheese.  I used to use an electric skillet.  I enjoyed this because I knew exactly what the temperature was.  I figured out how long and at what temperature I needed to cook each grilled cheese based on how dense the bread was and what kind of cheese I was cooking.  Denser breads require more heat to melt the cheese.  Denser cheeses take longer to heat.  What I’m really trying to say is if your heat is too high, you’ll burn the bread and not melt the cheese, and while some like food burned, this would not be the preferred outcome.

If you use an electric stove or a gas stove, you should also experiment to see what works best.  Gas stoves have immediate heat while electric stoves take time to get hot.  An easy mistake to make is to turn on an electric stove too high, and then once side 1 is cooked, side 2 is burned as the heat continues to rise.  An easy way to avoid this mistake is to let your pan pre-heat, just like you’d do for something cooked in the oven, so your heat is more stable before making your sandwich.  And last but not least, don’t forget the butter.  Generously apply it to the outer sides of your bread to help protect it from burning.  One last tip is to match your bread slices the same way you took them out of the bag.  This will help to ensure a better cheese seal and you shouldn’t lose much oozing out into the pan.

So that’s all I have for now.  How do you cook your grilled cheese?  What do you put in it?  What bread do you use?  Do you add any extras?  Please share.  It’s National Grilled Cheese month and no one likes a humbug.

Mexican-chili-spaghetti

Tonight I was thinking of firing up some grilled cheese in honor of April, National Grilled Cheese Month, but wanted to try and use up some nacho cheese/cheese dip I made a few days ago.  I checked the cupboard and only had a partial box of macaroni-ish (cavatapi) noodles so I had to top and think about what I could do.  I noticed a full box of thin spaghetti and decided to make mexican-chili-spaghetti.

I often cook more traditional types of food, but I equally often make something to eat out of whatever I can find in the kitchen.  Here’s what I had today:

  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 box thin spaghetti
  • Left over cheese dip
    • 1 box velveeta
    • 1lb Jimmy Dean ground sausage
    • 2 cans Rotel (diced tomatoes and green chilies)
    • Black pepper
    • Oregano
    • Chili powder
    • Ground jalapeño chilies (Anthony Spices)
    • Ground hatch chilies (Anthony Spices)
    • Maybe something else I’m forgetting
  • Black pepper
  • Sea salt (“regular” salt is fine)
  • Onion powder

Step 1: I started a big pot of boiling water with some sea salt, black pepper and onion powder in it.  After I had a decent boil started I dropped in the whole box of spaghetti and let it cook for about five or 6 minutes.

Step 2: I then turned the heat down to 4/10 and dumped the noodles in a colander.  I then opened and dumped the cans of tomatoes and beans into the pot, followed by the drained noodles, and placed the pot back onto the stove.  The cans beans and tomatoes had enough juices in them to allow my new mixture to heat without sticking or burning.  It was a little tricky, but I somewhat mixed the whole thing up with a wooden spoon.

Step 3: This is where I added some of that cheese dip into the mix.  I put about half of my container into the pot, tried to do some more mixing and decided to let it simmer.  I placed a lid on top and the mixture cooked for almost 20 minutes.  This was almost too long, 10-15 minutes would be better.  Things were starting to stick.

Step 4: By now the noodles were pretty soft, yet still very long.  I took a metal spatula and chopped everything up a bit.  The I was using is teflon coated, so I was careful not to scratch or scrape the bottom.  Then I added the rest of the cheese dip, recovered and let the whole thing simmer another 15 minutes.

Here are a couple pictures I took.

Big Mac n Cheese burger

Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar, well, he eats you

In Newmarket there’s a restaurant called Rocky’s Famous Burgers.  They do all kinds of amazing food combinations to come up with some of the more unique specialty burgers around.  This week I had to try their Big Mac n Cheese.  It had been off the menu for a while and I’ve been waiting for it to reappear.

  • 1 hand-crafted, delicious burger
  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • sliced onion
  • mac n cheese
  • nacho cheese
  • bacon
  • ketchup (my own addition)

This amazing lunch was no match for Asthma Boy.  Did I mention they also sell Pepsi products?  I was able to score a Mt Dew to wash it all down.  Next time I’m trying The Daredevil.  You pick the patty and they pick the toppings.