|
Middletown Transcript
  • After-Work Gourmet: Mini chefs can inspire big ideas

    • email print
      Comment
  • The best kitchen-tested recipes don’t have to come from the most-tested chefs. The next time you are looking for easy dishes to “steal,” don’t necessarily look to your favorite restaurant chef, cookbook author or TV cooking series host.
    Instead, make it a point to partake in the practice meals prepared by the budding kid cooks in your circle. As they learn, they’re usually searching the Internet, cookbooks and family members’ prized recipe boxes for examples that are simple, impressive and healthy.
    My 14-year-old nephew Daniel is a case in point. Considering becoming a chef or a restaurateur, a few months out of a week of culinary day camp, and with his holiday gift of a grill/panini maker nearby, he spent the day with his grandmother (my mom) shopping and preparing one of his now-famed four-course meals.
    After a mixed salad, the first poachable idea was one of the best green beans dishes I’ve ever tasted. He revealed it was his mom’s simple secret: a steamer basket full of fresh trimmed beans with dashes of salt and pepper that were then drizzled with fresh lemon juice just before serving. This gave a noticeable zing that pushed them over the top.
    The side and main dishes of Grandma’s Fluffy Golden Raisin Noodle Kugel and “Spagheteeny,” a beef and spaghetti casserole that had pleased palates since before the Depression and had been passed down to Grandma from her mother-in-law, stemming from a version from the early days of the Heinz food company, were eclectic, filling and outstanding.
    Especially worth emulating was Daniel’s idea to secure freshly ground sirloin at the butcher shop that was 90 percent lean. It made a noticeable gourmet improvement to what had always been a tasty, serviceable, quick-prep casserole.
    Lastly, a computer-printed copy of the recipe for his dessert choice of a special Apple Brown Betty from the Food Network chef Ree Drummond, famed “Pioneer Woman,” ended up in my pocket so I could later serve it at home.
    Innovatively and easily, hearty fiber-filled whole-wheat bread created the crust, which soaked in moderate amounts of butter and brown sugar while remaining perfectly crispy. The sweet and tangy Granny Smith apples then added further fiber and nutrients, along with their signature crunch. As Daniel said, “This is both a good-for-you and a good-tasting treat.”
    As Daniel sprinted around the kitchen with a clean dishrag in his hand swiping tiny sauce droplets off plates for perfect presentation, the meal, with its various courses, was flawlessly timed — as was he when he, without skipping a beat, later performed the entire cleanup.
    I hightailed it home not only blissfully bloated but with an armful of easy recipes that would lend to bragging not only about my talented nephew, but my own sly “stolen” skills as well.
    Page 2 of 2 - “SPAGHETEENY” CASSEROLE
    • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons safflower or canola oil, or enough to cover large skillet
    • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
    • 1 1/4 pounds freshly ground (preferably 90 percent lean) sirloin or chuck
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 (14 3/4-ounce) cans spaghetti with tomato-cheese sauce
    Yields 6 to 8 servings.
    Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease preferably a round 1 1/2-quart casserole dish. Set aside.
    In a large skillet, place oil, and over low-medium heat, saute onions about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Do not burn. Add ground beef, break it up and brown it until it loses its redness. Carefully remove from heat.
    To ground beef mixture, add salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and one can of spaghetti in tomato-cheese sauce at a time, breaking up spaghetti into one-inch pieces with a wooden spoon as ingredients are mixed well.
    Spoon into prepared casserole dish. Bake, uncovered, for 40 to 45 minutes, until bubbly. After removing from oven, if any fat is at top, carefully skim off fat only with a tablespoon and discard.
    WHOLE-WHEAT BROWN BETTY
    • 1 1/2 to 2 sticks salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing
    • 8 slices hearty wheat bread, diced
    • 3 apples, preferably Granny Smith, peeled, cored and diced
    • 1 1/2 packed cups brown sugar, plus more if needed
    Yields 8 to 10 servings.
    Preheat the oven to 375 F. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch rectangular baking dish.
    Place half the diced bread in the baking dish, and then sprinkle on half the diced apples, half the brown sugar and half the butter. Repeat with another layer of bread, apples, brown sugar and butter. End by sprinkling 1/2 cup water all over the surface, a spoonful at a time.
    Bake, covered in foil, until the apples are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes to brown.
    Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including “Mrs. Cubbison’s Best Stuffing Cookbook” and “The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook.”

        calendar