Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Christy's Awesome Hot Ham and Cheese, Loaded

Ham and Cheese Sandwich loaded with leafy lettuce, fresh tomato and pickle slices, with Oven-Baked Fries

Since I had Christy's Awesome Hot Ham and Cheese, I wanted to have it again.  But, Christy's original was missing things that I enjoyed.  Lettuce and tomato to list the minimum.

A slice of Swiss on one of two slices of buttered-side down SunFlour Nine Grain bread in a hot skillet.

The bread slice with melted Swiss was topped with lettuce leaves, slices tomato, and pickle slices.

The other bread slice was spread with a thin layer of mayo and whole-grain mustard before ham, four thin slices, were placed on top.

The resulting sandwich. Looks lonely, doesn't it?

Thankfully, I'd prepared some Oven-Baked Fries to accompany.

I am completely and totally obsessed with these fries!  If you haven't tried them, you really owe yourself the favor.  You'll never want another's fries every again. 

Oh yeah, sandwich, good. Fries, good. Sandwich and fries, really good. I really like the mayo-mustard combo with the ham and swiss.  The veggies don't mask those flavors, but merely enhance the experience.

Cost: Let's say it was an extra dollar for veggies and extra two slices of ham, making the sandwich $2.25. Totally worth it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Andy's Spicy Green Chile Pork

Might look like a mess, but that there is some tender-as-hell pork shoulder, pleasantly spiced with salsa verde.

After coming across this recipe while browsing All Recipes, I decided to give it a go for a few reasons: it looked exceptionally easy, inexpensive, not at all labor-intensive, would be a nice change from the food I'd been eating lately, and would freeze well.

I put the dish together while the lasagna meat sauce was simmering, planning to turn the Crock Pot on the following morning so a spicy pork dinner would be ready after work.

Andy's Spicy Green Chile Pork
from allrecipes.com

1 white onion, chopped
2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder roast
1 (16-oz) jar green salsa
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro
2 serrano chile peppers, or to taste

Here's my pork shoulder butt roast, all 2.48 pounds of it, in it's original packaging with silly pop-up timer* included.

*Do you know how these things work? There is an adhesive inside that keeps the timer from popping up until the adhesive melting temperature is reached, about 180°F. Once the melting temperature is achieved, the timer pops-up, ensuring an over-done piece of meat. Other than when you're using a Crock Pot, please use a real thermometer.

Once removed from the packaging, I removed and threw away the pop-timer and commenced to salting and peppering the pork on both sides.

The onions were placed in the bottom of the Crock Pot insert, followed by the seasoned pork (fat side up).

An entire 16-oz jar of Herdez brand salsa verde was poured over the pork. Chopped cilantro and serrano peppers soon followed.

The Crock Pot insert was covered with plastic wrap and stowed in the fridge until morning.

This morning, it looked pretty much just as it did last night: the cilantro even looked freshly chopped.

While I'd intended on this dish cooking for about 10 hours on low, it went for 15 hours. Looks like charcoal, eh?

Taking two forks to shred the pork, I realized -- again-- the wonder of Crock Pot cooking. The pork was just as soft as a baby's bottom, easily shredded and quite juicy with just the right amount of fatty-moisture.

Then I warmed a flour tortilla in a large skillet, tossed in some of Andy's Spicy Green Chile Pork, topped it with fresh shredded lettuce and coarsely chopped tomato.

Making a wonderful taco the size of a small burrito.

This recipe is tip-top! I loved it. Just as I'd anticipated, easy, simple, flavorful, and inexpensive. I will say that I was a little too generous with the salting as my pork turned out too salty for my preference. Next time, I'll omit the salt altogether but will go for more pepper. I'm not sure if the whole serrano's did anything.  Maybe next time, I'll split them in half and then add them just to jumpstart the spice-factor.

Originally, I was planning on having some Mexican Rice and beans to accompany, but as it took me so long to even open the Crock Pot, I ate just the taco. Next time though, I'll be hookin' it up!

  • pork shoulder butt roast: $4.94
  • Herdes salsa verde: $1.99
  • cilantro: $0.39/bunch
  • serano peppers: $0.08
Total: $7.40, or about $0.93 for each of 8 servings.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Number 1 Best Lasagna Recipe

Too hot to slice but sliced anyway Number One Best Lasagna! And damn, if it wasn't the best!

A month ago, I made a lasagna for the first time in a long time, remembering back to when I was single even before I went to university and would prepare and freeze lasagna portions for subsequent easy meals. Two weeks later, I thought it would be a genious idea to make two lasagnas in one week to get a jump on this wonderful idea. A week later, I was sick of lasagna, and postponed making the second lasagna of the week.

Here it is, time to make yet another lasagna. The one I was going to make last week, but didn't. As I had the majority of the stuff to brew this batch, I took one for the pocket-book team.

I found this recipe simply by Googling "lasagna". The first hit was for a lasagna web-site, proclaiming -- in the title of the recipe even, the Number 1 Best Lasagna Recipe. Now, that's a ballsy statement, so after checking the ingredients and finding nothing illogical, decided to give it a go.

Number One Best Lasagna Recipe
adapted from My Lasagna Recipe

1 lb of fresh sweet hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 lb of ground beef
1/2 c onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 (28-oz) can of crushed tomatoes
1 (15-oz) can of tomato sauce
2 (6-oz) cans of tomato paste
1/2 c water
2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Italian Seasoning dry marjoram
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp fresh basil, chopped
4 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped, divided
23 oz of ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp fresh grated ground nutmeg
1 egg
1 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded
2.5 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
12 dry lasagna noodles

Place sausages, beef, onions and garlic in Dutch oven or large saucepan and brown over medium-low heat until cooked through, breaking up the meat while stirring. Drain the resulting grease.

I didn't drain the grease and later wished I had.

Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and water* to the meat and combine.

*I do a trick I've seen my mom do plenty of times: measure the water and transfer it to one or more of the empty tomato cans to get all of the tomato juice/paste out of the cans

Gently stir in sugar, fennel seed, salt, marjoram, pepper, basil, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Cover sauce and allow it to simmer over low heat for 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally.

When sauce is nearly finished, place lasagna noodles in hot water to soak for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the cheese filling by combining the ricotta and nutmeg with egg and 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Drain noodles in colander.

Spread 2 cups of sauce over the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish and layer noodles over the sauce, staggering noodles to reach across the entire 13" length.

Carefully spread half of the cheese mixture over the noodles, sprinkle 1/3 lb of the mozzerella and half the parmesan before topping with additional 2 cups of sauce.

I forgot the mozzarella and Parmesan here!

Layer the remaining 6 lasagna noodles over the sauce, spread with remaining ricotta mixture, 1/3 lb of mozzarella and remaining Parmesan.

Spread additional 2 cups of sauce over the cheese and sprinkle remaining 1/3 lb of mozzarella over the sauce.

I had 2 cups of sauce left!

If you look closely, you can see little pools of red meat fat on the surface. Should've drained the beef and pork after browning.

Cover lasagna with foil (greased with oil!) and bake the lasagna for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes or until cheese is brown and gooey.

I forgot to lube my foil.

Let lasagna stand 20 minutes before slicing and serving. I couldn't wait and my slice was an ooey-gooey sloppy disheveled mess.

This lasagna was named well. It is by far, the best lasagna I've had yet. The flavors are excellent and the noodles -- the noodle texture was perfectly al dente, simply superb! Now I'm kicking myself for having made those earlier lasagnas, the silly ones with the no-boil lasagna noodles. In comparison to these noodles, they just plain suck. And I vow now to never, ever, pre-cook noodles in boiling water before lasagna assembly ever again. Soaking in hot water for 15 minutes, while the finger-feel was weird, is a fantastic idea.

I'm not sure that the sauce has to simmer for nearly two hours, but it was worth the time. (I prepared a Crock-Pot meal for the following day in that down-time). In the future, I'll be sure to incorporate more basil as it is very mild and I can't think of one time where I've ever thought to myself, "Hmm, that's way too much basil." I'll be sure to try Lasagna's suggestion of preparing the sauce one day and assembling the lasagna the next. Lasagna says the sauce is even better the next day!

While I did slice the lasagna prematurely (it was still quite hot), I think the layers would stay together better if an additional egg was used in the cheese mixture. 23 ounces of ricotta is a lot for one egg to bind.

  • sausage: $2.50
  • beef: $2
  • onions: $0.27
  • garlic: $0.10
  • crushed tomatoes: $1.29
  • tomato sauce: $1
  • tomato paste: $0.84
  • 4 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped, divided, $0.39/bunch
  • ricotta cheese: $4
  • egg: $0.14
  • mozzarella cheese: $3.49
  • Parmesan cheese: $1.40
  • lasagna noodles: $1

TOTAL: $18.42 or $1.84 per each of 10 servings. Less expensive and better-tasting than the Sausage, Cheese and Basil Lasagna!