Tag Archives: panko

BOXED MACARONI DINNER INCOGNITO

Some time ago I wrote about James Kraft and his invention of Velveeta processed cheese food. His small company morphed into a giant food manufacturer that has been responsible for some of the inventions that have made American cuisine what it is. Those inventions include Miracle Whip salad dressing, Cheez Whiz, Parkay margarine,  and arguably the most famous of all, the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner that came into being in 1937.

Since then, there is probably not a single American child who has not had boxed macaroni and cheese. In fact, in our family it is a child’s favorite that is often preferred to Mom’s carefully crafted (no pun intended) macaroni and cheese made from the finest ingredients. The good news is that children’s tastes change as they grow older.

Recognizing the appeal of boxed macaroni and cheese dinners with kids, some time back when we were watching over some of our grandchildren for several days, I bought a box but wound up not using it. It came home with us and has been residing in our pantry for awhile (It is virtually indestructible and will probably last forever, along with my box of Velveeta). It has become a bit of an embarrassment, so when I was reorganizing the pantry a while back, I decided to use it with the sub-plot of disguising it so much that it would fool an adult.

Well, it turned out to be pretty well disguised, but sorry to say, you will not be fooled. Still it was a pleasant diversion and something that went ok with soy-sauce-and-lemon-vinaigrette-braised flounder.

 

RECIPE

Boxed Macaroni Dinner Incognito

Ingredients

  • 1 7.25-ounce package of Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner
  • 1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon Pernod (optional)
  • 5 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (doesn’t need to be EVOO)
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup panko
  • 1 ounce Parmesan, grated
  • butter to dot the top of the casserole

Method

  1. Prepare the macaroni and cheese dinner according to instructions on the box. Pour the finished dinner into a bowl and set aside.
  2. With your hands, squeeze as much water out of the thawed spinach as you can. Chop finely.
  3. Saute the mushrooms over medium heat in the olive oil. Drain.
  4. Combine the spinach and mushrooms with the prepared dinner. Stir in Pernod to your taste, but be careful as it can be overpowering if used too liberally)
  5. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper
  6. Top with panko and grated Parmesan. Dot with butter.
  7. Bake in the middle of a 350° F (177° C) oven for 40 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling. Serve.

 

 

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ASPARAGUS FRIES AND AIOLI

A few evenings ago, we went with our food-enthusiast friends to a relatively new Santa Fe restaurant, Arroyo Vino. We were excited about the visit, which was a ways out of town, because we had previously been big fans of the Executive Chef, Mark Connell, who had wowed us at a downtown place that is now history. The restaurant is only open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday so reservations can be dicey. But the added feature is that it is attached to a very complete wine shop that is open throughout the week, and with lots of good choices for fair prices. You can even buy a bottle for your dinner if nothing on the menu pleases your palate.

The menu changes frequently and tends to favor the current enthusiasm for the farm-to-market movement. Specials are posted on a blackboard, and they are worth considering in view of the restaurant philosophy.

Asparagus is in season, so you can get it prepared in one of several ways. I didn’t see asparagus ice cream, but the asparagus soup was a keeper, and to my taste the asparagus fries turned out to be a highlight of the evening

The dish was served in a beaker filled with plump asparagus spears lightly dusted with panko and fried just until the panko toasted but not enough to rob the asparagus of its green and crispness. It was lighter than tempura – if you want tempura you do batter – but it begged to be dipped in the accompanying Hollandaise.

When I got home I decided to emulate this very special dish. My effort didn’t come close to the real thing, but it was good enough that there was no asparagus left at the end of dinner. This recipe is also ingredient-efficient because I used egg whites to give the panko something to stick to and then the yolks to make a dipping aioli instead of Hollandaise. Making the aioli also gave me a chance to use one of my new gadgets.

Over the years, I have gone through countless garlic presses. Of course, the pros among you will say, “Don’t put it through a press, just mince it, or make a paste with the flat of a knife, or use a mortar and pestle.” All of those skills have escaped me, but garlic presses have also been a big disappointment. They break; the holes are hard to clean out; the press part doesn’t meet the plate of holes; the garlic doesn’t get extruded; etc. So my wife gave me a JosephJoseph garlic rocker, made by the British firm owned by the twin brothers Joseph and designed by Goodwin Hartshorn. It is a thing of beauty, made of lightly brushed metal with two wings and an indentation of a honeycomb of sharp-edged hexagonal holes. You place the rocker on some garlic, and rocking the wings back and forth, you force the garlic through the holes into the indentation. The garlic may not be as fine as you would like, so just press it through a second time. It works, it’s fun, and it’s easy to clean/dishwasher safe.

Our home meal was finished with corn-on-the-cob and twice-baked potato.

RECIPE

Asparagus Fries

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, preferably larger stalks
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup panko
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • peanut oil for deep-frying

Method

  1. Wash the asparagus and trim the woody stems so that the stalks are about the same length
  2. Whip the egg whites so that they are frothy and evenly mixed. Whip in the water and transfer to a shallow plate or pan.
  3. In another plate or pan, combine the panko, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Working a few stalks at a time, coat them with egg white and then coat them with the panko mixture. Set on a baking rack for a few minutes to dry until all of the stalks are coated.
  5. Heat a heavy pot with about 3 inches of peanut oil to 350° F. Adjust the heat to maintain temperature because the asparagus will cool of the oil rapidly, and the asparagus will become greasy if the temperature is too low.
  6. Working in batches, transfer the asparagus stalks to the hot oil. Fry for no more than a minute until the panko is lightly browned. Transfer to folded paper towels to drain, and keep warm until all of the asparagus is fried.
  7. Serve immediately with freshly made aioli. You can use the 2 leftover egg yolks for that.

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STUFFED BELL PEPPERS

The first touch of autumn is definitely here, and the bell peppers are abundant at the local farmers market. They come in the standard-issue green along with yellow, orange, red, and variegated colors. And they are big and just begging to be stuffed with your favorite filling. My mother always used her favorite meat loaf mix. That’s pretty much the traditional approach, but you can branch out with whatever filling pleases you, such as rice, mixed vegetables including fresh corn, or even shrimp or crab. Suit yourself, but enjoy one of the real treats of the fall season. This recipe is easy to make and uses Italian sausage to provide not only the protein but also aromatic Italian seasonings. Depending upon your preference, choose hot or sweet (mild) sausages.

Stuffed peppers ready to bake

RECIPE

Stuffed Bell Peppers
Ingredients
4 fresh bell peppers, free of blemishes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 large Italian sausages, casing removed
6 white mushrooms, washed and chopped
1 ½ Cups cooked brown rice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ Cup panko + more for the top
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
6 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
2 ounces Swiss cheese, grated and divided
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon butter

1. Prepare pepper casings by slicing off the top to form a cap. Reserve the caps. Remove the seeds and ribs of the peppers. Place in boiling salted water, return to the boil and boil for 10 minutes. Remove, drain, cool, and set aside.
2. In a medium skillet heat the oil on medium and combine the chopped onions. Sauté the onions until they are translucent but not browned. Add the sausage, stirring to break apart, and cook until well browned. Stir in the chopped mushrooms and sauté an additional 3 minutes. Cool
3. Transfer the sausage mixture to a medium bowl and combine the brown rice, eggs, panko, tomato paste, cream cheese, and half the Swiss cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir until well combined.
4. Spoon the stuffing mixture into each of the pepper casings. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining Swiss cheese and panko and dot with butter. Cover with the reserved caps and place in a baking dish sprayed with vegetable oil spray.
5. Bake in the middle of a preheated 350° oven for 45 minutes or until the peppers are slightly blistered and the cheese has melted. Serve while still warm

Ready to eat

Yield: Serves four

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