Monday, January 16, 2012

Bake Potato Soup

I live in Utah at about 6,500 elevation. It is January. There is NO snow. It is starting to piss me off. Typically, at this time of the year I would be inviting all my friends and family over for a fabulous sledding party.  I would be stoking up the fire, cranking up the hot chocolate machine, and whipping up some warm and hearty soup for everyone to enjoy as they stare out the window, watching the big flakes pile up.  We would hear the children squealing in delight as the zoom down the hill just of the deck of our house.  Alas, there is no snow, the mountains had more snow that this on the 4th of July!  Although I can not control mother nature, I can still make some fantastic soup, and hold out hope for a huge storm.

This soup, of my own invention, truly tastes like a loaded baked potato.  Don't throw away those potato skins, because they will make perfect potato skins to accompany the soup.

Baked Potato Soup

4 large already baked, and cooled Russet Potatoes
1 small onion, fine diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 T butter
1/4 c flour
2 cups Chicken Stock (you only use homemade right?)
1 c sour cream
2 c shredded medium cheddar cheese
3 c milk
1 T fresh chives, diced
salt and pepper to taste

bacon, fried onions, and sour cream for garnish

After you have added and cooked the butter and flour.
Step 1:
Saute the onions in a little olive oil, add garlic.  Sauté till fragrant.

Step 2:
Add butter and flour and saute for a few minutes.  Season lightly with salt and fresh pepper.
After the chicken stock has thickened

Step 3:

Add the chicken stock.  Scoop the inside of one of the potatoes and mix well into the stock mix. Let this simmer and allow to thicken.

After the cheese and sour cream are added

Step 4:

Add the sour cream and the cheese.

Step 5:

Add the milk.  Whisk well, and allow thickened. Scoop the remaining potato guts into the mix and stir well with a wire whisk.  Continue to simmer till thickened.  Give it a taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper. It most likely will.  Lastly, add the fresh chives. Let your guest garnish their own soup with bacon, more sour cream, fried onions, chives, and anything else you think would be fabulous!

That is not all!  Quickly turn the skins into some great appetizers to go with the soup. Cut the skins into quarters.  Season them with salt and fresh pepper.  Top them with cheese and pop them in the oven for about 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Instead of sour cream, top them with ranch dip.  Next add plenty of bacon and some chives.  They will be a huge hit.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sunday Dinner Roast Beef

 Sunday dinner is a big deal for our family.  It is the biggest meal of the week, and Sunday dinner isn't just defined by the day the dinner falls on.  Sunday dinner doesn't have to be on Sunday, and it doesn't have to be at dinner (its almost always lunch!)  Sunday dinner is when lots of family comes over and we have Roast Beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, green vegetable, yellow vegetable, corn, fresh greens, fresh fruits and a dessert.  That's how my mom did it, and that is how I do it.  Every week.  My parents come, my grandma, and my sister and her family.  They don't even wait for an invite.  They just come.  Often times I have a brother or two call and invite themselves.   We get home from church and before I even kick off my heels, I get the water boiling for the potatoes, and divide out the work for the kids.  Of course, the Roast Beef has already been braising in the oven for hours, its the first thing you smell when you come in from the garage.  It is the signal that Sunday Dinner is near!
Table for two by the fire please! Alta and Lilli make their Sunday dinner special.

The most wonderful part of Roast Beef is that the leftovers ( if there ever is any) can be used for so many other great meals!  I always make two, not only to feed the potential last second guests but to have some leftover meat for a another meal later in the week!  The possibilities are endless.  Stay tuned for more ideas.

A good roast beef is first browned, then cooked low and slow so it is tender, moist and just falls apart.  Because you cook it slow, you can use a less expensive cut of beef.  Look for a chuck roast, or a top sirlion roast, top round roast, or any roast that is under 4.00$ a pound.  An expensive cut of beef, like rib eye roast, tenderloin roast, or prime rib should never be cooked low and slow,  that would be a waste! They should be cooked rare!

Every year I buy a half a cow and store it in my freezer.  I STRONGLY encourage this.  First, you will save money. Generally speaking, will get all the cuts of beef (steaks, roasts, etc) for the price of ground beef.  Second, you can get grass feed beef which is 10X HEALTHIER for you than corn fed cow.  Third, you are supporting local farmers, and eating grass fed cows is better for the environment.  Even though the farm I get my cow from isn't organic certified, these cows are pretty dang organic they are just eating the grass I am driving by every day on the way home. I even get to say to my kids, "look, there is dinner!"

Give yourself a minimum of 4 hours to cook a thawed out roast.  If it is frozen, give yourself 6.  I usually cook my thawed out roasts for 6 hours. Here is where many people say, "what about a crock pot?"  I say that crock pots are fine, but not my first choice.  Here is why, crock pots don't brown food. Even if you brown it before you put it in the crock pot, it won't continue to brown in the slow cooker.  One of my biggest rules is COLOR IS FLAVOR! 

How to Cook a Sunday Dinner Roast Beef:

Step 1:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place the roast fat side down in a heavy pot that has a lid. (I think a professional chef would say fat side up, but I like the meat to get brown, not the fat, plus the fat will melt and be in the braising liquid). Salt and pepper the heck out of it. Salt it like it is snowing, don't be shy.  Place in the hot oven to brown for about 45-60 minutes.

Step : 2

Once the meat is nice and brown and there are dark drippings at the bottom, remove from the oven.

Best beef base ever! Costco baby!
Step 3:

Now add to the pot;

A coarsely chopped onion
5-7 bay leaves
4-6 smashed garlic cloves
a big spoonful of beef base (pictured below)
Enough hot water to cover the meat half way.

Ready to go back in the oven

Step 6: 

Cover the pot with a lid and return to the oven.  Reduce the heat. For a 3 hr cook time, reduce to 325 degrees.  4 hour cook time--300 degrees.  5-6 hour cook time-- 275 degrees.  I have even cooked a roast for 12 + hours at 180 degrees.  The time can pretty forgiving. The more it cooks, the more tender it becomes.

Just out of the oven

Now you have all this lovely braising liquid to make gravy. You can watch my YouTube video to learn how to make easy gravy. Please like the video, these dislikes are cramping my style! How could you not like it? :)