weekly menu – 8/2/10

Can you believe it’s already August?! I can’t. Eight months of the year are gone. Phoenix is currently in the midst of what some call summer. I call it hell on earth. Anyway… this post isn’t about horrible summer temperatures. This is about food! My favorite topic. Specifically, this is about Sean’s and my weekly menu from this past week. So without further ado…

Monday – Chicken Quesadillas
So, remember how I was talking last week about how Sean’s on second shift now and how I’ve got to put meals together even on my nights when I get home from yoga at 8pm? Welcome to another one of my super quick meals that I love to fix, quesadillas! There is absolutely nothing fancy about these guys.
I cut up whatever meat I’m putting into them into relatively small chunks and season it with Penzey’s Fajita Seasoning. I then slice up and saute an onion and bell pepper with a little salt and black pepper. Once the veggies are sauteed, I put them aside in a bowl and saute the chicken until well cooked. Setting that aside, I clean out my pan and drop the temperature on the stove down to medium low.
To actually assemble the quesadilla, I put a little olive oil into the bottom of my skillet. After that’s heated up a little bit, I put a burrito-sized tortilla into the skillet and rub it around so that the olive oil gets distributed across the bottom of the tortilla. Cheese goes on to half of the tortilla (it will get folded over later) first as a binder. I like a combination of Tillamook cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, although whatever standard cheese you have on hand will work. Then, a layer of peppers and onions followed by a layer of the chicken go on. Finally, sprinkle a little more cheese on the top to hold the quesadilla together and fold the tortilla in half. Let the quesadilla brown a little bit, flipping once so that both sides get a chance to brown. Remove to a cutting board and cut into thirds. Serve up with a little sour cream and salsa and you’re good to go. This takes me about 20 minutes to prep up and have ready at the table.

Tuesday – Skillet Lasagna
This is a recipe that Sean and I discovered on America’s Test Kitchen several years ago when we still had cable. This is a great TV show on PBS done by the same people who write Cooks Illustrated, which is also a phenomenal cooking magazine. Unfortunately, this recipe is now only available on their website if you have a super-duper premium subscription. I have a subscription and don’t mind paying for it with how often I use their site to find a recipe, but I do mind all of a sudden making some recipes “premium” and even paying customers have to pay more. So, here’s another location that you can find this recipe from. The dish is super simple, takes about 30 minutes to make and easily serves 4 (which for Sean and me means at least 2 leftover meals).

Wednesday – Shrimp and Rosemary Bacon Grits
Mmmm…. Comfort food. Even better, this is quick comfort food. I love grits. I know that everyone from the South doesn’t necessarily like them, but I love them. I always have. I love how my great-aunt would make grits with milk so that they would taste creamier. I take it one step further now and make them with milk and then add cheese to make cheese grits. This meal, though, is an enhancement on one that Sean found a little while back. The recipe is for the Rosemary Bacon Grits. I take it one step further and season up some shrimp with Savory’s Creole Seasoning and then saute them up and put them on top of the grits. Life just doesn’t get better (well, maybe a glass of strong sweet tea could make it better).

Thursday – Omelette
I don’t think I can say this enough, omelettes are not a breakfast item. At least they aren’t in my house. Omelettes are a great way to use up leftover foods in your fridge. I pull out whatever veggies are about to go bad, dice them up and then saute them. Reheat a meat leftover from a previous meal and then toss all of that in an omelette with whatever cheese I have on hand. This week’s was leftover chicken and peppers and onions from Monday’s quesadillas. There was also some spinach that was about to go bad, so that got cooked up. I finished it off with cheddar and cotija (a crumbly Mexican cheese that’s kind of like feta) cheeses.

Friday – Chicken Pot Pie
I love chicken pot pie. I do not, though, love the pot pies of today where the “crust” is a piece of puff pastry placed on the top of the pie. I’m old fashioned. I want a true pie with a nice flaky crust wrapped around the creamy filling. I start off with Joy of Cooking’s flour paste pie crust. Half of this gets rolled out to be my bottom crust and the other half is saved for the top. The bottom crust is blind baked and then allowed to cool while I prep the filling. I use this recipe from Bon Appetit for the filling. Once the filling’s in the crust, I roll out the top of the dough, crimp and seal and the pie’s in the oven until the top is nice and golden.

One thing that I like to do with this recipe is split this recipe across 4 medium sized ramekins that I have. It essentially creates little mini pies that are easier to serve up. These take a bit more time to do, but they also are a nice presentation for chicken pot pie.

Saturday – Metro Brasserie
Sean found a Groupon for a winery up in Scottsdale. It was two wine flights (5 tastings) and an appetizer for some ridiculously good price. We decided to forgot whatever my original plan for this day was (I think it was Polenta Gratin) and instead have a nice evening out. We had some nice wines at Su Vino Winery in the Old Town Scottsdale area and afterward decided to finally try a restaurant that I’d read good reviews on called Metro Brasserie. The restaurant is meant to make you feel like you’re in France at a local little brasserie. Not having been to France, I can’t vouch for that part, but it was a very nice atmosphere. Our waitress was very friendly. We chose a special that they offer. Dinner for Two for $42. What does that entail? 500mL of your choice of their house red or white wine, a choice of beef burgundy or cassoulet as your entree and then 6 beignets for dessert. We chose the house red and the beef burgundy. The wine was pleasant. Not too strong, but nothing weak and worthless to drink either. The beef burgundy was served in a cast iron pot with large chunks of meat that had been braised to perfection and then served with braised onions, carrots, potatoes and turnips. This is twice now that I’ve found a recipe where I will gladly eat a turnip. They were delicious. The whole dish was delicious. I only stopped because I knew I had to save at least a small amount of room in my stomach for dessert. I was glad I did. These beignets were tender rounds of dough fried to perfection, filled with a vanilla cream and rolled in confectioner’s sugar. They were served along with three sauces, Nutella sauce, a creme anglaise and raspberry coulis. Sean and I were both in heaven. Our waitress was kind enough to offer that if we couldn’t finish them ourselves that she would be glad to finish them for us. I think Sean almost growled at her. Definitely a restaurant we will return to.

Sunday – Salsa Verde Braised Pork
Sunday “dinners” for us have become just a late lunch. This way, Sean gets a nice freshly prepared meal before heading off to work for the evening. It also means I’m not preparing anything fancy just to be consumed fresh by me. This recipe is super simple and while it takes about 3 hours to cook, you spend about 5 minutes in the kitchen. The rest of the time, it just sits and braises away on the stove top. We serve this with tortillas, cotijo cheese, freshly chopped cilantro and sour cream. Sean even admits that this competes with his smoked pork shoulder that he prepares.

A note for anyone who wants to try this. The recipe calls for a 3.5 pound pork butt. The smallest I ever see in the grocery is between 7 – 8 pounds. If you ask your grocer, though, they’re usually very nice about cutting a pork butt in half. Take both halves home and freeze the part you don’t need for another use (like trying this recipe again).

I hope you guys are once more inspired to try some new recipes at home!