Welcome to the new and improved Carano's Cucina. I make a lot of kick ass food and go out to some amazing restaurants. Take a look around and make yourself at home :)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Friday Night Special

Over the years, Nick and I have gotten away from buying processed foods. We try anyway and for the most part have succeeded. I cannot break that boy of his Stouffer's French Bread Pizza habit though. He really loves it. And for me, the one thing I haven't adequately figured out how to recreate myself is Zatarain's Dirty Rice. Thankfully the Zatarain's people now have a reduced sodium version, which I like just as well.

Friday Night Special is Dirty Burritos (thanks for the name Elaine!). It's Friday night's special because we do our grocery shopping on Friday evenings and when we come home I need to make something quickly.

So to make the Zatarain's Dirty Rice, you need a pound of ground meat. I always use turkey. And brown it first. I have started using this method that I saw Rachael Ray use when crumbling ground meat... a potato masher! It really works.

Once the meat is browned, drain and then add two and half cups of water, bring to a boil and then add the Zatarain's.

I think the box says to take the meat out, and then add it back in when the water boils with the rice mix, but who cares. It's not that big a deal, it all comes out the same. Turn down to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While that is cooking, it's time to get your burrito accouterments ready. I'm a firm believer in the Manny's Fajita Style tortilla. They are stronger than regular tortilla's and don't come apart when you fill them up. Shredded lettuce, check. Chopped tomatoes, check. Shredded cheddar, check. Salsa, check. Sour cream, check.

If you like, you can even heat up some refried beans, as I did on this day. I had those kick ass La Preferida Refried Beans with Chorizo. I can't always find them, so when I do, I stock up!

When all is ready, it's time to build the perfect Dirty Burrito. In my world that starts with beans on the bottom, followed by a scoop of Zatarain's. From there it goes cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa and sour cream.

Good luck closing it! We do our best, but we always end up overfilling. I did succeed this time though! Serve with chips and salsa. I don't make Spanish rice with this because of the rice in the Zatarain's.

Comfort Food = Pot Roast

Winter dictates that pot roast must be made. Quite frankly, I get into a cooking rut in the winter because I don't have access to my grill or my smoker. Right about now, I'm really missing those two things and can't wait until we're out of the threat of more snow and I can get them out of hiding again. But until then, here's how I make pot roast. It's not one of my favorite things really, but I don't mind it once in awhile. I start with a chuck roast. Probably between two and three pounds. It goes in a casserole dish with four or five cloves of garlic. I don't even bother to peel them. The peels will just slide off when the roast is done. Or if you prefer, you can cut little slits into the roast and insert the garlic right into the meat. That's yummy too. To that I add two cups of beef broth. If you have homemade, awesome. If not, I think I've mentioned before that I generally use Kitchen Basics brand when I don't have any homemade stock.

I like to saute my veggies just a little bit. I use carrots and sweet onions. I think Mom uses celery in hers too, but I prefer not to. You can add anything you like though... celery, parsnips, whatever. It's all good.

When the veggies are just starting to get some color, take them off the heat and put them in the pot over the roast. When using canned broth, I do not add more salt, but will add some pepper. I have a nice pepper seasoning blend that I used, but for the life of me I can't remember what it's called.

Slap a lid on that bad boy and cook it at 350 for two hours. It comes out just lovely. The meat is tender and juicy, the veggies are flavorful. I serve it over egg noodles, but I think most people make potatoes with their roast. I would suggest you add your potatoes about an hour into the cooking time then. You don't want them to be too mushy.

Take out all the veggies and the meat and then pour the liquid into a pan to thicken for gravy. I'm a cornstarch/water thickener myself, so I was a little taken aback when Martha Stewart was on Top Chef a few weeks ago and she called one of the chefs out for her sauce tasting like it was thickened with corn starch. Martha! What's wrong with this method!? I'm sure thickening with a roux made of butter and flour makes the sauce more flavorful, but a corn starch/water slurry does not add any extra fat and makes the gravy look so perty!