Friday, March 27, 2015

French-style Cheese Omelette - Video Recipe

I have to give it up to Chef Ludo Lefebvre for this luscious French-style Cheese Omelette recipe, that my own version is based on. He trained and cooked in France until making Los Angeles his home.

You may know camera-ready Chef Ludo from his cooking stints on the Food Network and as a chef/mentor of NBC's The Taste.

I'm used to American diner-style omelets that are cooked well done and dry, except for the soft melted cheesy interiors. I always liked my omelets that way, until I watched his own recipe video of how to make the perfect French omelet, his way, and then tried it out for myself. Click here to see what I mean.

Ludo, you have opened my eyes and changed my taste for a simple omelette -- hey, I'll even give you props for changing the way I'll now spell the word, from omelet (sic) to omelette!!

What's different is the way his omelette is cooked. Mainly, you soft scramble the well-mixed eggs, add the cheese while the egg is slightly damp, then gently roll it up. Of course, Americans taste blanched at runny eggs. But the egg is cooked and warmed through, just slightly damp, and this makes all the difference.

But if you insist, you can continue to cook the omelette to your desired doneness.

Chef Ludo also cooks the omelette in lots of butter. And he uses a soft French cheese called Boursin (similar in texture to cream cheese.) For my recipe, I just used easy-to-get Italian shredded mozzarella. You can use any soft cheese you like. I think the main thing is how lightly the omelette is cooked.

He finishes the omelette with a smear of butter and tops it with chopped chives. For my recipe, I skipped the butter finish (gilding the Lilly, methinks) and used a little chopped parsley, instead of chives, as a topping.

Eggs are still priced reasonably. I can buy a half dozen-size container at my local Dollar Tree store, sometimes. I always find small packages of cheese cheaply.

This omelette is versatile. You can also add some sauteed spinach or mushrooms. If you have any favorite omelette ingredients, then try them out, too.

Any way you spell it, omelette or omelet, this recipe is one you can take to the bank! A buttery soft scramble with cheese makes a luscious breakfast.

And, here's my Americancheap$kate video recipe below. Once you try my version of Chef Ludo's French-style Cheese Omelette you will cry sacre bleu! And bon app├ętit from this Internet Chef.

French-style Cheese Omelette  - VIDEO

 Play it here, video runs 2 minutes, 27 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Ingredients (one omelet) 
3 eggs - I used medium size eggs.
1/4 cup soft cheese -  Add more or less to taste. Any favorite is fine. I used shredded mozzarella.
1 tablespoon salted butter - If you use unsalted, then add a little salt to the egg. Okay to use a butter substitute, or just plain cooking oil. But, butter does add a lot of flavor.
Pepper to taste - I left out salt. I find the cheese and salted butter is enough.
A few chopped sprigs of parsley or chives - optional. Sprinkle on the omelet when serving.

For this recipe, it's best to use a non-stick frying pan, (8-inch diameter.)  For a regular pan, you can use more butter (or cooking oil) as needed to keep the cooking eggs from sticking.

Crack open eggs and add to a bowl. Whisk the egg for a minute to mix completely. Add pepper to taste to blended eggs. If you are using unsalted butter, then you can add a pinch of salt.

Add a tablespoon of salted butter to a medium-hot pan. Reduce heat a little, when the butter melts. You want a pan that's not too hot, so you can watch the eggs form a soft scramble.

The trick is to gently stir the heating eggs, but keep a solid layer of egg to add the cheese onto.

The egg is heated through, but not cooked all the way, yet. Add the cheese when the egg is still slightly damp.

Now you just gently roll up the omelet. Just lift the edge of the cooked egg and fold it partway. Keep rolling to cover the cheese. When the omelet is rolled to the other side of the pan, it's ready to serve. I like my omelette slightly damp and creamy inside.

If you like your omelette well done, then keep cooking it for another 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. You can flip the omelette over to cook thoroughly. Check for desired doneness by slicing into the thickest part of omelette.

Finally, top with a little chopped parsley or chives (optional.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rice Bowl with Chicken & Veggies

For all my university dorm room dwelling visitors I have a cheap and quickie meal for you. And it's even nutritious! So get out the hot plate and cook up my steamed Rice Bowl with Chicken & Veggies recipe. This tasty meal is cheap too.

And it's a one pot meal that only takes the time to cook a cup of rice. And as for vegetables, I add a frozen veggie mix. There are a lot of different types, so you can use any favorite, like: Oriental Stir Fry, California Blend, and Cauliflower, Broccoli, Peas, Corn and Carrots. You can even combine almost any other veggies you find in your local grocery frozen case.

For protein I add a small can of cooked chicken. It's about the size of a can of tuna. If you prefer cooked roasted chicken from your neighborhood grocery, then use some of that.

If you want to kick the meal up a notch, then top it all with a fried egg. Many Eastern cultures top an entree with a fried egg. Mix in a creamy yolk with the Rice Bowl and you'll see and taste why.

One pound packages of frozen veggies are cheap at any grocery store or Dollar Tree. You know how inexpensive rice is. As for chicken I get small cans of it from my local 99c only Store.

If chicken is too expensive then top the cooked veggies and rice with a fried or scrambled egg. Of course, you can keep this meal vegetarian and leave out the chicken and egg.

You can drizzle on my Rice Bowl with Chicken & Veggies a favorite condiment, like soy sauce, chili sauce, sweet and sour sauce, hot sauce, or anything you have on hand.

So just dump in those cheap ingredients into a pot and and get to cooking. You and your dorm roommate can devote your new found time to studying (yeah, right) while my simple and tasty recipe cooks away.

Ingredients (about 2 servings) 
1 cup of rice - white or brown rice.
1 package of frozen veggies - about 1 pound. Okay to use any favorite type, like:  Oriental Stir Fry, California Blend, and Cauliflower, Broccoli, Peas and Carrots. You can combine any you have in the freezer.
1 small can of cooked chicken - I used a 5 ounce can. Okay to use any leftover cooked chicken, included roasted chicken from your local grocery deli department.
1 1/2cups of water - for cooking rice. Normally it's 2 cups of water, but frozen veggies also provide liquid, so less water makes for less mushy rice.
Pepper to taste - I leave out salt, as the canned chicken has enough salt for me, but you can add some if you like.
Optional - Add a fried egg on top of finished rice bowl.

 In a pot or rice cooker add water, rice, chicken and frozen veggies. You can add the liquid from the canned chicken too.

Cook according to rice package directions. Usually, bring water to a boil. Cover pot and reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Let the rice rest covered for 5 minutes more.

For extra protein, while the rice is resting, fry an egg to top your Rice Bowl with Chicken & Veggies.

You could use raw chicken, but cut it into small bite-size pieces, so it cooks all the way through. And mix chicken into the rice and water. When done, cut into largest piece of chicken to make sure there is no pink color.

To fry an egg, like they do for a Japanese rice bowl, just add a tablespoon of oil to your egg pan over a medium heat. Crack an egg and add it to pan, careful not to break the yellow yolk. Now just let it cook until the white is cooked solid and the yolk is still soft. No need to turn the egg. When egg is done gently scrape it loose from the pan. Place the fried egg on the Rice Bowl when serving.

This meal is easy to reheat in the microwave the next day, too.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Warm Artichoke Dip

This Mad Man era party dip is best served accompanied with a cool dry martini. Surround this bowl of warm creaminess with your favorite chips, crackers or fresh cut veggies. Almost anything goes with this classic party appetizer, Warm Artichoke Dip.

There's nothing to it. Just drain a can of artichoke hearts or bottoms, and add it to some room temperature cream cheese, dried parmesan, garlic powder, mayo and chopped green onion. Mix well and finally pop it in the hot oven for about half an hour.

Plus it's easy to reheat in the microwave, so go ahead and make my Warm Artichoke Dip way ahead of time. Store the Dip in the refrigerator until ready to heat up, and serve.

You can keep it fairly low calorie with reduced fat cream cheese and mayo. I usually find cans of artichoke hearts or bottoms at my local 99 cent Only store. Now, they also sell jars of marinated artichoke hearts, but don't use those as the vinegar and oil marinade is quite strong and too sour for my taste. (Marinated ones are best used in a pasta sauce or salad, or on a plate of dried meats, olives and cheeses.)

Artichoke hearts from the can are tender, although the small leaves have a little texture; while artichoke bottoms are more tender, as soft as room-temperature cream cheese.

If you are looking for a tasty party dip, look no farther, give my old school Warm Artichoke Dip a go.

Ingredients (enough appetizer for a small party)
  • 15.5 ounce can of artichokes - I used "bottoms," but it's okay to use artichoke "hearts." Don't use marinated artichokes (usually in a small jar.) The vinegar in marinade is too sour.
  • 8 ounces cream cheese - I used low calorie. Okay to add even more, if you like.
  • 1 cup mayo - I used light mayonaise. Okay to use your favorite kind.
  • 4 tablespoons of parmesan - I used dried, but you can also use fresh grated. Save one tablespoon to sprinkle on finished dip just before you put it in the oven.
  • 1 teaspoon dried garlic - powder or granulated.
  • 1 teaspoon  Worchestershire sauce - optional.
(No salt needed as cheeses and canned artichoke have plenty.)

Chop one green onion into small pieces, green stem included.

Bring cream cheese to room temperature. Put it into a large bowl. Also add 1 cup of mayo.

Drain can of artichokes, either hearts or bottoms. They will be soft so you only need to roughly chop them. Add artichoke to cheese and mayo.

Finally mix in chopped green onion, garlic powder, and Worchestershire Sauce.

Take a fork or spoon and mix all ingredients together. If cream cheese is room temperature it will mix fairly easily. No need to overmix it, just do it for 15 seconds or so. It will all melt together once it's baking.

Set oven to 350 degrees. Add Artichoke Dip to a baking dish. Sprinkle on a tablespoon of parmesan cheese.

You want the dish small enough so the Dip will be about 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep. If the dish is too big then the Dip will spread out too much and may overcook and dry out.

Bake Artichoke Dip uncovered for about 30 minutes. Check every once in a while to make sure the cheese doesn't burn.

 Remove Artichoke Dip from the oven and let it cool down enough to eat warm, about 2-4 minutes.

You can prep chopped veggies or crackers while the Dip bakes.

My Artichoke Dip heats up fine in the microwave, so you can tote it to a party and share.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pozole Recipe Video - Pork, Red Chiles & Hominy Stew

They say this is the cure for a hangover. Well, my Pozole video recipe is a cure for anything! Made with rehydrated pungent dried chili pods this deep red hued Mexican stew is loaded with flavor.

Pozole, in one form or another, has been a part of Latin American cuisine for centuries.

The heart of the recipe is hominy and chili pods. Hominy are dried corn kernels that are treated and soaked until tender. I get large cans of it from my local 99c only Store. Hominy has a slight nutty flavor, quite different than sweet fresh boiled corn. I compare Hominy to a starch, like rice.

The texture is a bit mealy, but it still holds up well for this recipe. I guess it's serves the same purpose as pasta or rice - more to absorb the main chile and meat flavors.

I made this Pozole with more expensive chunks of pork stew meat, and pork that's cut especially for Pozole (it has bones and some fat) from my local Latin market.

The cheapest pork is from a whole pork shoulder. I get mine for around a dollar per pound - hey, that's why I'm called The 99 Cent Chef. They come in at about 5-9 pounds per shank. There is a lot of skin to remove, along with the center bone. Even with a 6 pound pork shoulder, you can expect about 3-4 pounds of usable meat.

Next to pork shoulder, I like to use thick, country-style pork ribs when they come on sale. These ribs are mainly all meat with a thin bone part. It's easy to add to the pot with little preparation (okay to remove some of the more fatty parts.)

You can also do a cheapie poultry version with chicken breast, legs and/or thighs. It's all good.

The trick is to get some dried chili pods and rehydrate them. It's easy, really. Tear off the stem, scoop out and discard the seeds - that is where most of the heat lies. Then let the chiles set in hot water for 10 minutes. When the water and chiles cool down some, finally blender it all, and add it to the stew pot.

And as a bonus, rehydrated and blended chili make a fine fiery Chili Salsa, my recipe is here.

I used dried California and Ancho Chiles. It's okay to use any large red dried chilies. (For an easy substitution go with a couple cans of red chili or enchilada sauce.) Other chilies are New Mexico and Guajillo.

Click on photos to see larger.

Each chili has a slightly different flavor. Ancho chiles are darker and more pungent than the rest, while Guajillo is slightly hotter. California and New Mexico chiles are mild. Do stay away from the tiny red chili peppers, they are too fiery hot. (Most of the heat from dried chilies come from the seeds, so make sure to remove them.)

You then add enough water to cover the meat and add some sauteed onion and garlic with plenty of dried oregano. Cook the meat until tender then finally add a large drained can of hominy. Let it all cook for a few more minutes, while you get some fresh toppings ready.

Pozole is quite intense on it's own, so traditionally it's topped with fresh chopped onion, cilantro, and sliced greens like cabbage or lettuce. You can even add a slice or two of avocado, and finish it all up with a squeeze of refreshing lime juice.

This one-pot Mexican meal also freezes well, so you can come back to it another day, when you may really have a hangover that needs curing!

Pozole  - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 4 minutes, 2 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Ingredients (about 4 - 6 servings)
3 pounds pork - pork butt, shoulder, stew meat or country-style ribs (the extra meaty type.) A cheaper substitution are your favorite chicken pieces, like thighs and legs.
1 large 29 ounce can hominy - drained. Any type will do, just make sure it's the cooked type (usually located by canned beans in the grocery shelves.) I used Mexican hominy.
6 dried red chiles - remove stem and seeds. I used California and Ancho Chili. Okay to use any type of dried red chilies, except for the very small fiery ones. Other dried red chiles are New Mexico and Guajillo. For an easy substitution use a couple cans of red chile or enchilada sauce.
5 cups water - for the stew.
2 cups water - to hydrate the dried chiles.
1 onion - chopped. Yellow or white, I used yellow.
1 tablespoon garlic - chopped. Okay to use garlic powder, flakes, or from a jar.
1 tablespoon dried oregano - okay to use fresh oregano.
Salt and pepper to taste.

* When served, Pozole is often topped with any combination of the following: sliced radish, chopped onion, slices of avocado, cilantro, some more oregano, greens like cabbage and lettuce, and a squeeze of lime.

Get the dried chilies ready, rinse them off if necessary. Bring 2 cups of water to boil. While the water heats up, prep the chiles.

Remove the stem and seeds. Just cut or tear open the dried chili and remove seeds and light colored membranes. Don't worry if the chili falls apart, you will just blend it later.

The seeds are not as hot as a jalapeno, but still don't rub your eyes. Make sure to wash off your hands with soap after handling them, especially if you are sensitive to spicy things. 

Once the water is boiling add the dried chiles and submerge them. Cover the pot and turn off the heat. They need to soak and soften for about 10 - 15 minutes.

Roughly chop one onion, and about 3-5 cloves of garlic (or about one tablespoon.) Okay to used dried garlic or garlic from a jar.

Depending on the pork you get, cube it into about 2 inch pieces, if necessary. For country-style ribs you can cook them whole and separate the meat off the bone later (same for chicken - cook the pieces whole.) Okay to remove any excess fat from pork pieces, but leave a small amount for extra flavor.

In a large pot, over a medium heat, add a few pieces of fatty pork. This will provide the oil to saute the onion in. If the pork is lean, then just go right to sauteing the chopped onion in a tablespoon of cooking oil. Leave out the pork, you don't need to brown it. Saute and stir onion until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and saute for another minute.

By this time the chiles should be soft, and the water will not be too hot for a blender. Add the chiles and chili water to a blender or food processor.

Blend until chiles are pulverized. It should only take a minute or so. It will be a soupy mix. There will be some very small pieces floating around (like red chili flakes) and that's okay. You don't need to turn every bit into sauce. Some recipes call for straining, but I don't go that far. Further cooking will smooth it all out.

Now time to bring it all together. Pour in 5 cups of water into pot of sauteed onions and garlic, and mix well. Add all the pork. Finally add the pureed chiles into the pork stew. Sprinkle in the dried or fresh oregano. Salt and pepper to taste.

Bring it all to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Simmer for about 45 minutes.

Now time to add the hominy. Since it's already cooked, you just need to heat it up in the stew and allow the hominy to absorb some chili flavor.

Open a large can of hominy and drain it. Remove pot cover add the drained hominy to the pork and chili broth. Stir to mix.

Continue low simmering for another 15-20 minutes to reduce the broth a little bit, and heat the hominy all the way through. This will also intensify the flavors. If the liquid cooks down too much then add half cup of water at a time.

Take out a larger piece of meat to check for tenderness; just see if it cuts easily, to your satisfaction. Usually an hour total of simmering is enough, depending on the size of meat pieces. If the meat is not tender enough, then just cover the pot, continue simmering, and check back every 10 minutes or so.

Pozole is very intense, so I like to add some fresh chopped or sliced veggie topping when serving. Mainly, I use a little chopped onion. You can also add sliced radish and avocado, cilantro, some more oregano, and a squeeze of lime. Some recipes call for chopped cabbage (white and red) or lettuce. You can top the Pozole with any favorite chopped greens like kale or spinach, too.

If you have a favorite salsa then use that. Click here for links to my homemade salsas. You can also serve Pozole with fresh heated flour and corn tortillas, or tortilla chips.

You can soften and blend the dried chiles ahead of time - store in the refrigerator until ready to use. When you remove the chili seeds you have reduced the spicy heat. There is a little bit of spice left, though relatively mild.

(And, by the way, the softened and blended chiles are a rich homemade salsa! Just blend-in half a raw onion and a clove of garlic for extra flavor.)

If you don't want to deal with dried chilies then use a large can of enchilada sauce instead (a 29 ounce can or 2 fifteen ouncers).

Depending on the fattiness of pork pieces, you can skim off some oil before serving Pozole. I leave some for lusciousness.

As I mentioned earlier, the cheapest pork is a large pork shoulder. They come with skin and a large center bone. So even a 6 pound pork shoulder may only have 3 to 4 pounds of meat to cook with. It's a little messy to work with, but with a sharp knife you can slice off the meat without much trouble.

Easiest to use stew pork meat, it's more expensive though. I also like to cook with country-style pork ribs, they're meaty and cost somewhere between pork shoulder and stew meat.

Some Mexican groceries sell cuts of pork (with some bone attached) that's especially used for Pozole, just go to the meat counter to see if it's there. I saw it for $1.69 per pound, while whole pork shoulder is often on sale for about 99 cents per pound (usually comes as a twin pack.)

Of course, you can always add as much meat as you want. You may want to add a couple more cups of water, three more chilies, and one more can of hominy, to double this recipe.

You can leave the pork in larger pieces (but cook it longer) and break it down later.

This Pozole recipe works well with chicken. If legs are on sale then use them - don't even worry about removing the meat from the bone. Use any favorite chicken pieces you like.
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