Special Dinner Date Night: Filet Mignon & Asparagus-Goat Cheese Souffles

Patrick and I had a nice relaxing Saturday a couple weekends back. We ran some errands around town, went to a friend's birthday party, and watched some basketball! With our free time we couldn't help but plan a nice, quiet dinner together. Here's what we came up with!

Asparagus-Goat Cheese Souffle & Filet Mignon!
Pan-Seared Filet Mignons
From The New Best Recipe

Heat oven to 450 degrees with rimmed baking sheet on lower-middle rack. Pat filets dry, and rub each side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in hot skillet and cook without moving until well browned, about 3 minutes. Turn steaks and do the same on the other side. Transfer to heated baking sheet and roast 2-4 min for very rare, 4-6 min for rare, 6-8 min for medium-rare, 8-10 min for medium. Transfer to large plate and tent loosely with foil for about 5 minutes.

Asparagus-Goat Cheese Souffles
From our April 2011 Eating Well magazine

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp coarse salt, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
pinch of ground nutmeg
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons truffle oil (optional)
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup crumbled or diced aged goat cheese or Manchego cheese

1. Fill a large skillet with 1 inch of hot water and bring to a boil. Add asparagus, partially cover and cook the asparagus until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain; refresh under cold water. Blot the asparagus dry with a clean kitchen towel, then cut into 1/2-inch slices.

2. Position the rack on lowest level of oven; preheat to 375F. Coat six 10-oz ramekins with nonstick cooking spray. (I used 4 16-oz dishes.) Place ramekins on a large rimmed baking sheet.
3. Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking often, for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and slowly whisk in hot milk. Return the heat and slowly whisk in hot milk. Return the heat to medium-low and continue whisking until the mixture is thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from the heat and whisk in 4 egg yolks, one at a time, and truffle oil, if using. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the asparagus and cheese.

4. Place 8 egg whites in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer, slowly increasing the speed until they begin to foam. Add the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and continue to beat until the whites hold their shape; do not overheat.
5. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir one-third of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites just until blended. Divide the souffle mixture among the prepared ramekins, filling them almost to the top.

6. Bake the souffles on the bottom rack until puffy and golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 145F, 20 to 25 minutes. Do not overcook--centers will look soft.

Don't let the post and the pretty pictures fool you about this dish; it is hard to make. And we're on amateurs. The souffle dish was a fun adventure for us and it didn't turn out quite perfect but it was still delicious.

Italian Potluck!

Dueling Lasagna night was such a hit when Christine was here in January we decided to go for another round of Italian Potluck. With this feast we had meatballs, pizza, lemon spaghetti, parmesan chicken, vegetables, and garlic bread. And can't forget some to-die-for (Italian) desserts. This post features the chefs themselves on how they made their fabulous dishes.

Dig in! (l > r) Chicken Parmesan, Meatballs, Vegetables, Lemon Spaghetti, Meat Pizza, Veggie Pizza, Garlic Bread.
Chicken Parmesan prepared by Chefs Romin & Mimi
"2 lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs (It's probably better to use chicken breasts, but the thighs were on sale that week at food lion so I figured I'd try them out.  If you're using the breasts I think the cook time might be shorter, so I'd keep a closer eye on that.)
Half a container of panko breadcrumbs (4 ounces? 8? Enough to coat your chicken)
Whole wheat flour - maybe 1/4 cup
Lite shredded mozzarella - 8 oz.
shredded parmesan - 2 oz.
2 eggs
Marinara sauce (jar of your favorite; I used Newman's Own organic tomato basil cause Mimi likes it)

1- Set up the breading station: a) flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and cayenne b) 2 beaten eggs with a dash of water c) panko bread crumbs
2- Clean and chop the chicken into fairly uniform pieces, about 2 ounces each
3- Transfer the chicken from the flour station, to the egg wash, and then bread crumbs last
4- Sear each piece of chicken on a well-oiled pan on medium-high heat until golden brown on both sides (approx. 1 minute each side)
5- Transfer chicken to oven and cook at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes
6- Remove chicken from oven, coat with a generous amount of marinara sauce, cover thoroughly with mozzarella cheese and return to the oven for another 10 minutes
7- Remove again and add shredded parmesan over the melted mozzarella and return to the oven for about 5 minutes or until chicken appears fully cooked and the cheese is melted

Meatballs prepared by Chefs Tim & Ryan
"http://teriskitchen.com/beef/minimeatballs.html Meatball recipe!!" 
Everyone loves a good food website. :-)

Vegetables prepared by Chef Holly
"I sauteed some onions in a pan, then added broccoli (it was already a little steamed when i added it to the skillet), sauteed this with olive oil and herbs du provence (best herb mix ever - check it out) then added cut up tomatoes for the last few seconds so they would be warm but not mushy."

Lemon Spaghetti prepared by Chef Patrick
Were you able to catch this recipe when it posted 3/8/11?? Well Patrick loved it so much he couldn't wait to try it again. If you missed it go check it out.

Pizzas prepared by Master Chef Richard
"The pizzas are pretty straight forward. You can buy dough from either a pizza shop or from the grocery store. I got mine from the latter, one of which was whole wheat, and the other of which was Pillsbury brand. The veggie pizza consisted of roma tomato slices, baby bell peppers, onions, basil, and mozzarella cheese. I put some olive oil as well. For the meat pizza, there was pizza sauce, pancetta, and an assortment of italian deli meats I found at Trader Joe's (not sure what they were... prosciutto was one, maybe a salami and another pork product...). I topped it with some left over onions and peppers and finished it with some mozzarella cheese. That's all I remember, haha." Bake until the cheese bubbles, I suppose?!

Garlic bread was my addition... unfortunately it was prepared by Harris Teeter. Although it was the take & bake kind!

Also we celebrated a birthday! Here's the birthday boy!

Our dessert consisted of the Chocolate Chip Cookie Coldstone Creamery cake and wonderful Tiramisu from Romin and Mimi. Double whammy especially since we don't usually have desserts on potluck night.

Swedish Meatballs

This is one of Granny's delicious meals and was the inspiration for the dish. Unfortunately I did not have her recipe so I had to improv a little. This is how it went down.

  Patrick and I were trying to figure out what we wanted for dinner... having no luck.
  I called Home just to say "hi." And Mom mentions they had Granny's meatballs for dinner and says "you know how she mixes up the meatballs and makes a gravy with onions and cream of mushroom soup" or something like that. So that's really all I was working with. At the time I didn't realize that would also be my supper or I would've asked for more details.
  Later I attempted to call Granny and Poppa for the real recipe but no answer! And guess who knows everything... google! I searched "swedish meatballs" and put a few things together. Here's what I came up with.

Swedish Meatballs inspired by Granny

For the meatballs
Combine 1 lb lean ground beef with 2-3 cloves minced garlic, some Italian breadcrumbs, 1 egg, and some fresh thyme. The main thing with the ingredients is to make sure your meatball sticks together! Then form meatballs (mine were ~1inch). Heat 1/4 vegetable oil in large skillet. Once warm place in meatballs. Brown on all sides until not pink in the middle.

For the gravy
Saute one sliced onion in another skillet in a little evoo. Once softened add 1 can of reduced sodium cream of mushroom soup. Add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk to the gravy as well. (I just filled the empty cream of mushroom soup with 1/2 water and 1/2 milk. Bring to a simmer and then add the meatballs!

Serve with brown rice! I think it was good enough Patrick would eat again.

Broiled Salmon with Herb Mustard Glaze

Salmon night again! Thanks to Google's new recipe search we found this lovely recipe from my fav--Giada!

Check out the recipe from the Food Network website here; you can also watch the video! Unfortunately the recipe and the video preparation aren't quite the same. I'll add my thoughts/notes here about what worked from the recipe and what we should've done from the video.

Broiled Salmon with Herb Mustard Glaze by Giada de Laurentiis
Serves 6

2 garlic cloves
3/4 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
3/4 tsp thyme, finely chopped
1 tbsp dry white wine
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp Dijon mustard*
2 tbsp whole-grain mustard* (*we used 4 tbsp Dijon mustard)
nonstick olive oil cooking spray
6 (6 to 8-oz) salmon fillets
salt and freshly ground pepper
6 lemon wedges

In a mini food processor, combine garlic, rosemary, thyme, wine, oil, Dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon of whole-grain mustard. Grind the mustard sauce until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of whole-grain mustard to the sauce and stir to combine. Set aside mustard sauce. *We incorporated all of the mustard (4 tbsp regular Dijon mustard) into the sauce in the processor.

Mid broil, after adding sauce to the salmon. Our squash and zucchini are sauteing in the pan.

Preheat the broiler. Line a heavy rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with nonstick spray. Arrange the salmon fillets on the baking sheet and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Broil for 2 minutes. Spoon the mustard sauce over the fillets. Continue broiling until the fillets are just cooked through and golden brown, about 5 minutes longer. *Next time I would broil longer before adding the mustard sauce.
Transfer the fillets to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

Citrus Chicken

I had tried this recipe a couple years ago from my Better Homes & Gardens Big Book of 30-Minute Dinners. It left such an impression that I wanted to share it with Patrick. It was even yummier than I remembered! This chicken dish was served with whole grain couscous.

Keys-Style Citrus Chicken (you'll feel like you're in the tropics)
Serves 4

4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I cut them up into bite-sized pieces)
2 or 3 gloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1 tsp finely shredded lime peel
2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1 orange
finely shredded orange peel (optional)

1. Rinse chicken; pat dry. In a large skillet cook chicken and garlic in hot butter or margarine over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink, turning chicken once and stirring garlic occasionally. 
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the lime peel, lime juice, ginger, and red pepper; set aside. Peel and slice orange, reserving juice. Cut orange slices into quarters. Add any reserved orange juice and the lime juice mixture to the skillet. 

Place orange slices on top of chicken. Cook, covered, for 1 to 2 minutes or until heated through. Spoon drippings over chicken to serve. If desired, garnish with shredded orange peel. 

Dinner's Ready!

Pork Chops with lots of sides!

On our last venture to Costco we added pork chops to our stock of freezer meat. Here's our first dish with the chops! They were a simple preparation in the skillet and then we added the fresh veggies and a grain for the sides. Special thanks to Granny for sharing the homegrown sweet potatoes! I also decided to try some barley for the first time. Patrick and I split up the meal and therefore we will both be authoring this post! I took the veggies and he took the meat! Since I started the post, I'll go first!

For the asparagus: Wash and prep asparagus by splitting off the tough end. Since we're such big fans of garlic green beans I decided to substitute the asparagus for the green beans. 
Warm evoo in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and let simmer for a minute then add the asparagus spears. They will be ready in 4-5 minutes!  

For the sweet potatoes: Peel and slice sweet potatoes; boil in water until tender (15ish minutes). Drain and add cream and nutmeg for creamed sweet potatoes. Feel free to add whatever spices. Then cream the potatoes with a fork, masher, or immersion blender!

For the barley: Interested in trying a hardy new grain? Go for barley! Patrick and I tried this for the first time with this meal. It may have gotten mixed reviews but I liked it enough to try again later. Prepare according to package directions. I had to let simmer for about an hour so be mindful of your time. We tossed the barley in some evoo before serving.

For the pork chops:
This recipe comes from the "Easy Pork Chops" in New Best Recipe. Of course, they thumb their noses at the use of boneless chops, but I think these turned out pretty well.

Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Rub with a small amount of oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one side evenly with 1/8 teaspoon sugar. Place chops sugared-side down in skillet, and press into pan. Set over medium heat and cook until lightly browned, 4 to 9 minutes. Flip chops, cover skillet, reduce heat to low, and cook until center of each chop registers 140 to 145 degrees, 3 to 6 minutes. Transfer chops to platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Add any juices accumulated on the platter to skillet. Set over high heat and simmer until reduced to about 3 tbsp, 30 to 90 seconds. Off heat, return chops to skillet and turn to coat in reduced juices. Serve immediately, browned-side up, pouring any remaining juices over them.

Reducing the juices
Everything together!

Birthday Cupcakes!!

With a new electric stand mixer how could I resist making super awesome birthday cupcakes?! This was Patrick's birthday gift to me and neither one of us could wait to test it out! This recipe is from his Cook's Illustrated New Best Recipe. We were a little too eager for our cupcakes and didn't quite let everything "soften" enough or quite get to "room temperature" so the batter wasn't as smooth as it should've been... can't wait to perfect the next batch! 

Birthday Cupcakes! aka Yellow Cupcakes with Simple Chocolate Frosting

1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the Frosting: Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan or in a microwave. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Let chocolate soften for a few minutes and then whisk the mixture until smooth, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cook and slightly firm, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Transfer the frosting to the bowl of a standing mixer. Whip the mixture at medium speed until it is fluffy and mousse-like and forms medium-stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

3. For the Cupcakes: Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position; heat the oven to 350F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
4. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the butter, sour cream, egg, yolks, and vanilla and beat the wet ingredients into the dry at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and stir by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.

Dry ingredients
Addition of the wet ingredients.
5. Divide the batter evenly among the cups of the prepared tin using a 2-ounce ice cream scoop or a spoon. Bake until the cupcake tops are pale gold and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. Use a skewer or paring knife to lift the cupcakes from the tin and transfer to a wire rack; cool the cupcakes to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

6. Spread 2 to 3 generous tablespoons of the frosting on top of each cooled cupcake; serve.

Here's our professional cake decorator:

Lemon Spaghetti with Scallops

Whitney received the wonderful gift of a Cook's Illustrated subscription from my sister and her husband for Christmas, and this recipe comes from the first issue we received. It was so delicious that I have been finding myself craving it long since the leftovers were finished, and can't wait to make it again.

Table salt
1 pound spaghetti
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
¼ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest and ¼ cup juice from 3 lemons
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about ½ cup), plus more for servings
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves

Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water; cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1¾ cups cooking water, drain pasta into colander, and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot and ½ teaspoon salt; cook until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1½ cups of reserved pasta cooking water and cream into pot; bring to simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat, return pasta, and stir until coated. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Cover and let pasta stand 2 minutes, tossing frequently and adjusting consistency with remaining ¼ cup reserved pasta water if necessary. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling individual portions with oil and sprinkling with cheese.

The sautéed scallops were a perfect addition from Whitney!

Manicotti with Tomato Sauce, Beef, and Cheese

With our last two boxes of manicotti shells, Whitney and I have alternated between a spinach and a meat preparation. The shells had been sitting for a while, so we decided it was finally time to finish the box, and keeping with tradition, to do it on Valentine's day.

Way back in the day, we watched a few episodes of Giuliana and Bill together, and in one episode she cooks cannelloni; it looked like fun, and was our original inspiration for trying manicotti. I found the (supposed) recipe online somewhere, and that's what we tried here. It was good, but not outstanding - I think I generally prefer the spinach version.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
½ cup finely chopped basil
1 ½ teaspoons salt divided
2 teaspoons ground black pepper divided
1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 (16-ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan Cheese, divided
1 (8-ounce) box cannelloni shells, cooked according to package directions.

In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until tender. Add tomatoes, basil, 1-teaspoon salt, 1-teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 3-½ quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine ground beef, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, remaining ½ teaspoon pepper, and 4 tablespoons of the sauce mixture. Stuff cannelloni with the meat mixture, and place in a single layer in prepared baking dish. Top with remaining sauce mixture. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese evenly over sauce. Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Stuffing shells is so much fun
Fresh out of the oven!
Plated on Whitney's beautiful new occupied Japan china
Because we didn't use the whole box of shells, we had some leftover sauce and filling that we threw together into a lasagna on another night. It was tasty but a little sloppy - guess the missing ingredient!

Breakfast Potluck

Here's our third installment of Wipeout Potluck night: BREAKFAST!! You knew this was coming, right?!

Out wonderful feast included pancakes, breakfast casserole, fruit, hash browns, and smoked salmon and cream cheese bites!

Chefs Tim & Ryan: They used Hungry Jack Complete Buttermilk mix; just add water! For the blueberry pancakes add fresh blueberries and a little cinnamon to the batter. For the chocolate chip pancakes add Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips and cook according to package directions.

Smoked Salmon Bites
Chef Richard: Directly from the cook himself: "I just got some smoked salmon from a package that's pre-sliced; I added some chopped dill, salt and pepper to some whipped cream cheese, and filled them into some mini phyllo dough shells."

Hashbrowns & Fruit
Chef Holly: Prepare frozen hashbrowns according to package directions and add butter! Fresh fruit includes apples, oranges, grapes, and melon.

Breakfast Casserole
Chefs Whitney & Patrick
1/2 lb grated cheese, 1 lb sausage, 6 slices stale bread, 4 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1/2 tsp mustard, salt to taste
Grease 9x13 inch pan. Brown sausage and drain. In a bowl, mix eggs, milk, mustard, and salt. In pan, layer bread, cheese, and sausage; repeat. Pour egg mixture on top. Refrigerate over night. Take out 15 minutes before baking. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

Our feast again and don't forget your mimosa!!

Meet our new guest of honor at Wipeout Potluck nights!! Helo! He's still working on staying awake during dinner.