Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini

Mmm….it’s Saturday again and we’re hungry. You know what that means…. Saturday afternoon lunch, ba-by! And on the board this time is a crispy, gooey, cordon bleu panini. Let’s do this.

Chicken Cordon Blue Panini

Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini

Ingredients (per sandwich)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2  thin-cut chicken breast (at the deli, asked for a thin cut or find pre-packaged that is labeled thin cut)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 thick slices french bread per serving (from the bakery)
  • Butter or yogurt butter spread
  • 1 slice alpine lace swiss cheese (from the deli counter)
  • 1 slice black forest ham (from the deli counter)
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Mayo (optional)

Prep

  • Slice your thin cut chicken breast into strips and then cut in half. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a small pan, heat your olive oil over a medium flame and toss the chicken strips in there. Stir a few times to get a little sear and then cover the pan with a lid. Heat through about 3-4 minutes. Turn off the flame and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.
  • Butter bread slices and place one slice in a pan or on a cast-iron griddle, buttered-side down. Layer with swiss cheese, then ham, then chicken. Top with bread slice.
  • Heat the first side until you get nice grill marks, light brown or black, depending on how much crisp you want on your crust.
  • Flip over and heat the second slice until grilled and cheese is starting to melt.
  • Transfer to a plate or cutting board and remove the bread slice that doesn’t have cheese melted to it. Add either a tbsp of mayo, dijon mustard, or a tsp of each. Add back to your sandwich.

This is a dense and flavorful sandwich so you can just eat the hell out that on its own. Pair with pickles, salt and pepper dusted tomatoes, or even a little salad if eating a sandwich with no side freaks you out.

~Nom On

The Verde Burger

This weekend I went on a salsa-making rampage. This led to the need to use it and thus The Verde Burger was born. I call it The Verde because it is full of tasty green things – a thick turkey patty stuffed with avocado and diced jalapeño and drenched in freshly made salsa verde, which, of course, gets its color from the tomatillos and Serrano peppers used to make it. Add slices of Monterey jack cheese and juicy beefsteak tomato, and you got yourself a party.

Verde Turkey Burgers

The Verde Burger

Ingredients

For the patties…

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 large, ripe avocado, cut into small chunks
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the rest..

  • 4 Onion hamburger buns (Orowheat has nice ones if your grocery store bakery doesn’t have any)
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, cut into 4 thick slices
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde, prepared in advance

Optional:

  • 4 leafs of romaine or other leafy, dark green lettuce
  •  Thin slices of red onion
  • Roasted pasilla pepper fillets

Prep

  • Heat up your grill – cast iron griddle, George Forman electric grill, or outdoor grills all work just fine.
  • Combine all the ingredients for the patties and form into 4, thick burgers.
  • Grill the burger patties.
  • Layer the bun with a slice of tomato, the patty, and smother in salsa. You can add your optional garnishes next, if using.

How do I get the perfect burger?

  • Flip the patties only once so each side gets browned.
  • DON’T PRESS on the patties or otherwise fiddle with them beyond the one flip. You will lose all the juices.
  • Don’t overcook. 155 – 160 degrees internal temp is enough. They will finish cooking as they rest.
  • Add your cheese slices right before you remove the patties from the grill. They will melt from the internal heat and not become rubbery or overly melted this way.

I dedicate this burger to Kermit the Frog. It’s not easy being green, but at least he’s got color- coordinated eats.

~Nom On

Chile Rellenos: Fried batter goodness

Another Saturday afternoon, another meal to figure out for lunch that doesn’t feel like a week day. Am I weird that I want my lunches on Saturday to be a little more interesting than the left overs or two pieces of bread and slab of deli meat I usually eat for lunch? Anyway, enter the chile rellenos. Super yummy and a great vehicle for salsa to get im ma mouf.

Chile Relleno

Chile Relleno

Ingredients

  • 12 Pasilla or Anaheim peppers
  • 1 pd block of jack or pepper jack cheese
    (*Don’t be cheap alert! If you have a smoked cheese, this is the time to use it. Some basic grocery stores sell habanero pepper jack and farmers markets often have cheese merchants that sell some bomb-ass smoked cheeses. The picture above has a smoked hot house pepper jack I picked up from my farmers market. Umm…yummy!!!)
  • Grapeseed (recommended as its flavor-neutral) or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt

Prep

  • Roast chili peppers

There are a few ways to do this. You can either brush the peppers with olive oil and roast them under the broiler, you can put them in a cast iron skillet or on a cast iron griddle, or you can put them right on the burner. The goal is to char the skins and get the peppers soft and flaccid. ( He, he, she said flaccid.)

Roasted Peppers

When the chiles are done roasting, put them in a plastic bag to steam for a few minutes. If you don’t have time to finish the project you can actually leave the peppers in the bag until you are ready to make your rellenos.

Steamed Chiles

  • Slice a small opening into the chiles and scoop out the seeds. Using a paper towel and over the sink with the facet trickling, scrap the chard skins off the peppers.
  • Cut the 1 pound of cheese into 12 strips of equal size.
  • Stuff each pepper with a slice of cheese and close them up.
  • Mix the egg, flour, milk, baking soda and powder, salt and pepper and whisk with a fork. Sprinkle flour on your cutting board or prep surface.
  • Pour a fair amount of oil into your skillet, up to 1 inch and heat over a medium-high flame. (Personally, I don’t like cooking with that deep an oil bath because it splatters like crazy and is wasteful. I don’t cook with cheap oil, so I pour enough in to make about 1/4 inch bath and it browns the batter just fine.)
  • Now comes the tricky part. With your skillet oil slightly smoking, take a stuffed pepper and roll it in flour, than dip into the batter. Place the gooey, dripping mess into the oil and fry. Using tongs. each side only needs a minute or less, so roll as gently as you can to brown all sides of your relleno.
  • Once all the batter is fried, use tongs and transfer to a plate. Repeat that exact process with each of your peppers.
  • Once you have all your peppers fried, you may need to pop them in the microwave for just a few seconds to make sure that cheese is melted inside. This will depend on how thick the slices of cheese were that you stuffed the peppers with and how deep an oil bath you used.

How do I garnish and serve the rellenos?

Ok, this dish is popular all over north and south america and garnish styles do vary. If you are used to eating your rellenos served drenched in a mild ranchera sauce, you can certainly do that. I have had them that way, sometimes baked with a little cheese on top of the sauce. I have had rellenos served almost as a soup, the tomato sauce more a delicate broth than a sauce.  However, there are some communities that serve the dish plain and offer salsa roja or salsa verde and maybe a little sour cream to garnish as you see fit. I recommend you try it WITHOUT a sauce bath at least once because they are amaze-balls.

Try to eat your fill of rellenos BEFORE you look over at the disgusting, oil-splatter, batter-drip-covered nightmare your kitchen has become. It will bolster your spirits for the clean up job ahead. Or, if you have kids of chore-doing age, make those little punks deal with the mess while you take a nap and really give all that cheese and batter carte blanche access to your thighs.

~Nom On

Perfect BLT

The perfect BLT: Bacon loves tomato

I don’t know what it is about a BLT that just screams perfection, but they can do. You see it on the menu or realize you have some tomato in your veggie drawer about to go to wasted veggie heaven so you think BLT…. and it’s super lackluster. The promise of simple greatness is there, your current sandwich stinks though. Like all simple dishes, it comes down to ingredients and prep. Let me show you the way; bacon loves tomato.

Perfect BLT

Ingredients

  • Onion hamburger buns or onion deli rolls – the fatter and fluffier, the better
  • Thick cut bacon – if a package has more than 9 slices, its false advertising
  • Ripe beefsteak tomatoes – squishy and ready to explode from the farmers market is best
  • Leafy green lettuce – Iceberg is watery and flavorless, so use it only if you can’t get romaine or any other dark green, leafy lettuce
  • Mayo or miracle whip

Prep

  • Either pan-fry or bake your bacon to about 155 – 160 degrees. Let rest.
    Note: Generally there are instructions on the package if you want to bake and I follow those, but reduce the time by a minute or two. You NEVER cook bacon to a full 165 degrees because it continues to cook through its internal heat and will ruin the flavor and texture. 
  • Slice your tomato to resemble a hamburger patty; thick and juicy. Dust each slice with salt and pepper. Tomato loves salt and soaks it up, so be liberal.
  • Rinse and tear your lettuce in large, ragged chunks.
  • Lightly toast the buns, face down to get a little texture to absorb the mayo.
  • Add mayo liberally to top and bottom bun. If it oozes out a little with each bite, that’s about right.
  • Layer bottom bun with lettuce, bacon, tomato, then top bun.

What stuff should I not add to my BLT?

  • cheese
  • avocado
  • mustard, ketchup, or hot sauce (ewww…)
  • fried egg or egg salad
  • tuna or chicken salad
  • deli meat

Look, I appreciate the desire to garnish. I have made my BLT with many of these things and realized I now have an egg  salad sandwich with bacon. Or a turkey club. If you start adding the stuff listed above, it’s not a BLT. You’ll be missing the point.

Serve with pickles and the usual picnic lunch sides. While chewing, raise hand in whatever hail Mary, peace and love, praise Jesus, party on, or namaste salute you feel is appropriate as your BLT craving is thus satisfied.

~Nom On

Quesadilla Flight

Quesadilla flight: The cure to the Saturday lunch doldrums

Oh lord, It’s Saturday afternoon again. The whole family is milling around, wanting lunch and a stack of sandwiches just sounds so….weekday sad. The errands are run and maybe you have a little more time to cook than usual. You look in the fridge and see a bunch of random, almost used up stuff like chicken breast, deli meat, and a couple chuncks of cheese. I keep a stack of corn tortillas handy to handle the Saturday afternoon, because nothing uses up leftovers and delights the palate like the quesadilla flight!

Quesadilla Flight

The Quesadilla Flight

Ingredients

  • Shredded cheese – any kind, seriously. You can use cream cheese, too. I find jack or mozzerlla to be the most-kid friendly, so if you have that, use it.
  • Filling – empty your fridge of things like the tomato and avocado that are close to spoiling, the almost empty tub of deli meat, that lone left over chicken breast, the ubiqutous 1/2 onion … you get the idea. These all sound obvious but you can use up squash and that 1/4 jar of spaghetti sauce, too. Corn tortillas are one of the most versatile canvases ever, so don’t assume your flight has to only offer the more classic Mexican cuisine flavors.
  • Corn tortillas – they are healthier, tastier, and less caloric than flour. They are also smaller in size and maximize your number of canvases to make your combos. You’ll see.
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Prep

  • Thinly slice veggies or finely dice whole pieces of meat such as chicken breast or pork tenderloin. Thinly sliced or finely diced ingredients cook better in quesadillas.
  • Shred your various cheeses and, depending on how compatible the flavors of the cheese, either keep them seperate or blend them. For examle, jack, cheddar, and mozzerella can be blended. Gouda usually can’t pair unless you have another nutty or smokey cheese like gruyere left over also. If you really want to up the diversity of your flights, don’t combine cheeses.
  • Let the crazy begin! I just go with flavors and pairings that I know to go well together based on what I have to work with. Cheddar, ham, and tomato slices. Pepper jack, turkey, and avocado slices. Cream cheese with tomato and olives. Jack with shredded chicken, diced onion, and cilantro. If I have nutty or smokey cheeses to use up, I add thin apple slices and some sauteed onions. Some cheeses pair well with pesto or berry jams, and of course if you have left overs from spaghetti night, just do a thin smear of tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, and olives.
  • To cook the quesadillas, just put your pan over a medium-low flame and add a litte EVOO. Place the tortilla into the pan and rub around to coat. If using sauce, spreads or jams, spread that first. Then, sprinkle the cheese and then layer meat and then veggies. I let the cheese melt a little and then fold the tortilla over. You just want to cook each side to lightly brown and get the cheese gooey.
  • Repeat with various combos, based on your ingredients. I generally end up with quite a variety, even in I just omit an ingredient here or there or sub another. The goal is to make a flight, so they shouldn’t all taste just the same.
  • Serve with dips, lime or lemon wedges, or extra tomato slices dusted with salt and pepper. A little side salad if you have it handy.

Note: These guys get cold fast, so I am basically a short order cook. Serve as batches are ready and encourage your peeps to dig in. As chef, you should be nomming as you cook. For this reason, I don’t make the same quesadilla twice in a row or your batches won’t be ‘flights.’

Dips to serve with my flights?

I am a dips, salsas, and sauces freak. As far as I am concerned, the food I eat is just a vehicle for the real flavor payload. So why not offer some with your quesadilla flight? Quick prep or left over salsa is obvious, but here are a few others I whip up.

Guac and Spiced Sour Cream

No Chiles On-Hand Guacamole Dip

Ingredients

  • 2-3 very ripe avocados, cubed
  • 1 or 2 small, ripe tomatos, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 to 3 fresh garlic cloves, roughly diced
  • Fresh squeezed juice from 1 to 1 1/2 limes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Ground cayenne, to taste
  • Cilantro, ripped or roughly chopped

Prep

  • With a fork, mash and stir the avocado. You can leave it a little chunky; it’ll get smooth as you mix in your spices.
  • Fold in the tomato, onion, diced garlic and stir.
  • Squeeze in the lime juice and stir.
  • Add in about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp black pepper. Stir and taste.
  • Add in a few shakes of cayenne. Stir and taste.
  • If your quac seems bland, you can add in a little more salt or cayenne, but don’t go to crazy. Ground spices are more potent than freshly chopped peppers so the taste changes quickly.
  • Cover with plastic or seal with a lid if you prepped in tupperware. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or so. Perfect to prep this right before you start the quesadillas. Ground spices need way less time to soak and marinate than fresh ingredients.
  • When you serve, sprinkle a little cilantro on top. It’s more colorful and less overpowering this way than when you mix in with the other spices to marinate.

Spiced Sour Cream Dip

  • When you are ready to serve the first batch of quesadillas, add a healthy dollop of sour cream to each plate. Dust each with black and/or cayenne pepper.
  • Dash some olive oil into your hot pan and pop a handful of diced onions in there. Stir and lightly sauté.
  • Add a tablespoon of the onions to each dollop of sour cream and serve.

I don’t know about you, but at this point, I am ready to ~Nom On.