Okay, so I know I just posted about green beans, but given that thanksgiving has just come and gone, I ended up having a Turkey leg left over and thought it would be such a shame to waste such a good piece of meat! So I thought I would try out stewed green beans with turkey meat this time around, because when I was working on my own, a few of the recipes that claimed full authenticity mentioned turkey meat over bacon.
I have to say that I’m not the biggest fan. It felt too heavy/oily, which completely shocked me, and honestly, the turkey TOTALLY overpowered the beans. Bacon I think is a better meat to use in general because it lends itself so well to other flavors and profiles so nicely without overpowering it. Bacon adds just the right amount of richness and meat, but lets the green beans still stand on its own. I’m still glad I tried it, but I don’t think I will be using turkey again in the future.
On another note, I made a Catalina Chicken the other night, and it was pretty darn good, but I did halve the amount of sugar and honey that the sauce asked for. It was already pretty strong as is, but for me, I really just don’t like super sweet sauces on my meats, but the added roasted cherry tomatoes—I used multi-colored because I think they look prettier on a plate in general—really added a nice tartness to cut through the thickness of the sauce! Another note I think I should mention is that I would use chicken breasts for this recipe over thighs. I know, I know, thighs are more flavorful, and I don’t doubt or argue that, but I think the thighs just got way too overpowered by the sauce, where as a chicken breast would greatly welcome a large amount of flavor. If you’re going to use thighs, they should also shine, and I think the sauce was what took the cake for this recipe, and I’d like the chicken to shine a little too.
Lastly, I totally could have made my own mashed potatoes, but I happened to have thrown my back out of whack and could only stand up for 15 minutes at a time with a heat pack permanently affixed to my lower back—thankfully the chicken was very much a throw chicken in a pan, let it brown, flip & add tomatoes, let it finish cooking, serve—and mashed potatoes, like really good mashed potatoes, take a little more time and effort to make, which I physically couldn’t do at the time I made this. SO, instead, I happily cut a corner and picked up a Bob Evan’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes because 1) it’s delicious and a great alternative to the real deal when you’re in a time pinch, and 2) I’m very distantly related to the Bob Evan’s franchise through my maternal grandfather, whose mother was an Evans! And frankly, while I try to make most everything I plate from scratch, sometimes there isn’t enough time or you’re just not feeling it—which if you work full time and are the primary cook for your family, sometimes there’s only so much homecrafted cooking you can do—there is absolutely nothing wrong with cutting corners here and there, and mashed potatoes is one of my main corner cutting that I do from time to time. I can’t recall the other corners I’ve cut, but as I think of them, or use them, I will make a note! But this was a great weekday meal choice for sure and will be kept in the weeknight meal roster! Happy Eating! – Cooking Maggie
I know we all just got done stuffing our faces and bellies with delicious Thanksgiving food (#allthegravy), but I recently shared this recipe with a coworker, and she loved it, so I thought, okay, we’re already getting overly full, so what’s another filling recipe for those post-feast days, or for whenever something gooey and messy is needed at the end of a long work week (or work day as I’m sure we all have those every once in a while)!
A few notes though. 1) I LOVE Worcestershire sauce, so I am VERY heavy-handed with it in this recipe. I think its peppery tang helps cut the heaviness of the meat, BUT if you prefer the tomato-y flavor, just simply halve the amount that I’ve included. OR, if you’re like me and you can’t get enough Worcestershire, add the amount I’ve listed, taste, and then add more if you think it could be more pronounced, which I have also done. I do think the amount I’ve given is a good starting point for those who embrace the tang, but again, halve if it’s too abrasive a flavor for you, or add more if you want it to stand at the forefront!
2) Buns. Everyone is different in how they’ve eaten their Sloppy Joes, but I think it’s fun to try different buns to see what works best for your messy masterpiece. If you prefer more of a meaty mixture, then I think a hamburger bun is going to work in your favor, but if you’re more focused on developing the flavors of the sauce (which means a runnier/messier Slop), then I feel a hamburger bun is more likely to disintegrate before you finish your sammich! But others love that, so again, it’s totally up to you and your preference, but if you’d like to try something a little more substantial that can stand up to just about any kind of mess you can imagine, I really like pretzel buns OR Kaiser buns! In both instances, they are soft & salty enough to stand up to a runny sauce and a lot of meat!
And for all those who are Manwhich lovers, trust me, making the sauce from scratch really does make a difference, not to mention that this recipe is super easy to make, flavor-packed, and one of the most enjoyable meals where getting messy is required and napkins are completely useless. If you’re ready to get your hands (and face) dirty, then this sloppy concoction is right up your alley! — Cooking Maggie
1 1/4 lb ground beef
1 bell pepper (red or green), diced
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups pureed tomatoes (or canned tomato sauce when in a pinch)
…but then became Stewed Green Beans with a side of spicy pepper shrimp because you went to the 4th Mac & Cheese Fest and ate WAY too much pasta & cheese and the thought of eating more made you a little nauseous. And while I didn’t want to eat anything with cheese in it, I still had a small bushel of green beans ready to go for stewed green beans, so that’s what I went with (along with cooking up the shrimp I also had bought, quickly whipping up a spicy paprika shrimp to help cut the subtle richness of the green beans.
I have always loved stewed green beans, and as a little girl, when playing with your food was still acceptable, I would split the bean open and suck out the little pea pod inside before munching on the beans themselves. It is still one of my favorite sides to eat with barbeque, but today, it was the comfort I needed coming out of my mac n cheese coma! As for authenticity, I don’t know if I can claim that this recipe is in fact very close to the real deal, especially with my addition of chicken stock (or broth) instead of water. But I think my own variation has all the depths of flavors that this dish boasts naturally, and will absolutely smell up your home in the best way possible (I mean, how could you not be salivating at the very first sizzle of bacon in a pan).
Cooking Maggie’s Stewed Green Beans
4 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion
1 lb. green beans, longer beans snapped in half
6 strips of bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
Salt & Pepper, to taste
4 cups of Chicken Broth/Stock
Instructions: Heat butter in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add green beans, turkey leg, and 4 cups water. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. When boiling, reduce heat, and let simmer until green beans are very tender, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
For Paprika Shrimp: Add a little olive oil (about 1 tsp) to a skillet, and add 1 lb of shrimp (devein & remove the shells, but leave the tail). Saute for about three minutes, and sprinkle salt, pepper, and about 1 tsp paprika & 1 tsp chili powder. Saute until cooked through. Top with chives for a little freshness.
This has to be one of my favorite creations for the Fall/Winter season! AND THERE’S BEER IN IT! So how can it not be good right?! And the greatest thing is that the amount of beer you include is TOTALLY up to you, so if you’re not the biggest beer-in-food fan, then only adding a 1/2 cup instead of the entire bottle will be right up your alley to get that bitter/hoppiness to just cut through the richness of the meat and fillers. Oh, and you absolutely don’t have to have Oktoberfest beer to make this dish, especially if you don’t even like Oktoberfest beer in general! I’ve used different kinds of beer like Budweiser, Yuengling, and 312 before, but I would recommend using a beer that is smooth, rather than overly bitter as it will add a stronger depth of flavor to the dish without making it too tart, so I would stick with a wheat or ale style beer. But this dish is great for the weekdays because it isn’t fussy, it doesn’t take a whole lot of time to make, and it’ll warm your whole body in no time! — Cooking Maggie
Cooking Maggie’s Oktoberfest Stew
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (14 ounce) package smoked sausage, cut into bite-size slices (you can use beef, pork, bratwurst, or chicken sausage)
1 onion, sliced into thin semi-circles
1/2 head small cabbage, halved again, cored and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon whole caraway seeds
1 cup-1 bottle German-style lager beer (Oktoberfest variety or any beer that is smooth – think wheat or ale)
2 russet potatoes, cubed to bite-size pieces
2 1/2 cups hot chicken stock
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon flour (stew thickener)
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Place a medium pot over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil.
Once the oil is hot, add in the sliced smoked sausage, and allow the slices to caramelize and brown in the oil, for about 5-6 minutes.
When the sausage is browned, add in the sliced onions, stirring occasionally until golden-brown and softened (almost caramelized).
Once onions are caramelized, add in the sliced cabbage, stir to combine, and allow the cabbage to soften, about 4-5 minutes.
Once the cabbage is softened and golden, add in the black pepper, caraway seeds, garlic, and a pinch of salt, stirring to combine well.
Add in the cup/bottle of beer, and stir the mixture to combine. Slightly reduce beer for about 3 minutes, then add in the cubed potatoes and the hot chicken stock. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, and place a lid, slightly askew to allow just a little steam to escape) and leave it be for about 40 minutes.
When stew is at desired thickness, turn the heat off, and finish the stew by stirring in the apple cider vinegar and the chopped parsley (add more salt if necessary, too). If the stew is not thick enough, add in a teaspoon of flour and stir in completely. Add flour one teaspoon at a time until desired thickness is achieved (I like my stews really thick, so I add about 2 teaspoons max.)
AND WE’RE OFF!! I got this cookbook in THE DAY I finished writing up her Chicken & Dumplings recipe, and sure enough, I IMMEDIATELY picked a recipe (or two, or three) to try! First on the list, Brussels and Three Cheese Pasta Bake!
Now, this was a risk because a certain future husband of mine is not a fan of brussels sprouts—which I happen to LOVE raw, shaved, or roasted with a little olive oil & salt (get it really nice and crisp, with a translucent glow to it—and for his palate (because all tastes are different per person), Parmesan is really overpowering flavor that he doesn’t like. This dish had both of those questionable ingredients in it, but I chose not to say anything just to see if he would even notice, and I also took a liberty in adding a leek to it too because it was in my fridge and I didn’t want to waste a perfectly good lookin’ veggie.
Sure enough, he did notice, but not until after a few bites! Wanna know what else? HE HAD TWO HELPINGS OF IT! He even thought there was a little chicken in it, but nada, no meat whatsoever! He was astounded, if not a little shocked at my indiscretion about the ingredients I included, but if anything, this is a VICTORY! I finally found a dish that he’ll eat brussels and parm, and for me, that’s enough! Naturally, I won’t be subjecting him to brussels again any time soon, but it was a GREAT way to start off my adventure through the cookbook!
The next thing I tried was smitten’s favorite kale caesar salad (minus the eggs because, well, I’m that weird cook who just can’t eat cooked eggs…I’m still working on it, but it hasn’t been easy and I still have a long way to go), and I gotta say, the dressing is BALLER! I will NEVER buy Cesar dressing again when this recipe is SO easy to whip together! The kale though, it’s not my favorite, and I think it’s just too abrasive for my palate, so I think I’m going to turn back to my romaine/frisée/butter lettuce combo! But the toasted panko breadcrumbs with garlic and lemon zest was a genius way to reinvent the crouton! This dish is definitely one I will be returning to in the future (perhaps even pairing it with my own blackened chicken recipe for a blackened chicken caesar salad) and I think, if you like adding a little extra citrus or pop to your salads, throw in some diced heirloom tomatoes for a soft, buttery texture! Oh, and top with a little of my secret salt (obviously)! Sorry for the lack of photos, but stay tuned! This cooking Maggie has a Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad recipe that’ll really take your salad up to the next level! And stay tuned for more recipe obsessions from Smitten’s new book! — Cooking Maggie
Last weekend, Carly and I decided to venture downtown and take part in this year’s Mac & Cheese Fest, which, let’s be honest, sounded like the best thing in the world! I mean, WHO DOESN’T LOVE MAC N’ CHEESE?! So far, I have yet to meet that individual who doesn’t enjoy a dish of mac n’ cheese every so often, but that being said, the main point of discussion—or argument, depending on how heated said discussion gets—that I have found myself having with my friends and fellow partakers of mac n’ cheese is what the best KIND of mac n’ cheese is.
Let’s take Kraft Mac for example, an inherent staple in most childhoods. I liked (and still do like) my Kraft to be more on the buttery/soupy side, so I’ll add an extra tablespoon of butter, and a little more milk than others who like their mac to be on the thicker/chunkier side (like Frankie does). And then we can take this example and take it one step further with what we add to our Kraft when we are feeling lazy, like ground beef or hot sauce. Now, I’m pretty much a purist when it comes to my Kraft Mac, but if I’m doing Hamburger Helper (boxed or from scratch), absolutely, throw in the ground beef, but I’m not a hot sauce on my mac kind of chick, whereas Frankie loves to add Crystal Hot Sauce (or Tabasco when we have it, though Cholula has become our new favorite go-to hot sauce) and ground beef in most Macs (except my homemade “THE Mac n Cheese” because that’s just good as it).
But that’s what’s so beautiful about Mac! It’s such a blank canvas and can have a million different interpretations! And if you’re new to cooking, or looking to experiment a little more with what you already know, I highly recommend you take your favorite Mac recipe and toy around with the kinds of cheese, the amount of liquid, the kinds of pasta (shell v elbow v gemelli v fusilli v rotini v cavatappi etc.), and your fillers! That kind of spontaneity and fun is one of the main things I love about cooking! But I could talk about Mac all day long, but that’s not what this is about! This is about the fest and all the pasta Carly & I indulged in, and I ate SO MUCH Mac that night, like basically my weight in mac, BUT I HAVE NO REGRETS! So worth it for the price! With a discount code, the General entry ticket was $60 (not including taxes and whatnot, so about $70 when all said and done) and that included ALL YOU CAN EAT MAC SAMPLES from 26 local Chicago eateries, each with their own unique take on mac n’ cheese with the mission of winning the Golden Noodle! Oh, and did I mention you also got 5 drink tickets for your basic soft drink selection, or the evening’s signature cocktail of Apple Cider Vodka courtesy of Tito’s, or a glass of beer, or a glass of wine, or even a cider! Water, thankfully, was completely free as I think it should be at any and all events that involve food and drinking.
But then we got to the Mac n Cheese samples, and they weren’t all served in the same vessel or with the same utensils, WHICH I had some serious problems with, because if the spoon you give me only holds one shell in it, and very precariously at that, I’m going to be really annoyed eating it. I think it wouldn’t have been easier/better if all vessels and eating utensils were the same so that a) you could fit more on your plate at one time, which invariably would move lines along more smoothly in waves, and b) the vendors who gave you a ton more were basically taking advantage of your stomach, preventing you from trying all of them, which as an attendee is your own personal mission! How else would you know which Mac was the best?! Well, we understood the mission, and I’ll just say, we succeeded in trying ALL of the mac’s except for one, which I’ve included a photo of for reference of size, because, holy smokes was it enormous and in no way possible to eat so far into our task.
Please note, the following reviews are short, sweet, and very, VERY honest because, well, if I don’t like the mac, I don’t like it. What else can I be? The notes below are grouped in order of what we ate, and are written as follow: Restaurant (with link) | Chef/Team (if given) | Offering Name (if given, which a lot weren’t or were different that what was on the event website, so I added them in my actual comments below): My comments. ENJOY!
Whisk | Chef David Rodriguez | BBQ Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese: Meat was so good, sweet and tender, but not overpowering. Not very cheesy though.
Weber Grill Restaurant | Chef Erik M | Smoked Bacon & White Cheddar Mac N Cheese: Bacon was underwhelming, more like a garnish than an ingredient. Horrible spoon to eat with.
Son of a Butcher | Chef Rick Rodriguez | Cauliflower Mac n Cheese: could be cheesier, or more seasoned, but tender cauliflower! Yummy!!
Rack House Kitchen & Tavern | Chef Bryant Anderson | Rack Mac Attack: brisket SO good, tender, and the pickled jalapeño broke up the richness of the meat and perfectly tart, not too spicy, good kick, SUPER CHEESY!!! Would love the jalapeno to be diced and more of it. We got seconds!!!
World of Beer – Evanston | Chef Crystal Y | WOB Mac & Cheese: pepperjack m&c, not good, stupid spoon, dropped a shell in my beer and made it taste better. If you’re a beer place, I think it better have beer in it. Not cheesy and was cold. Cauliflower Mac was better.
Rockit Bar & Grill | Chef Michael Sheerin | Cheeseburger Mac: gross! Mac was mustardy and that meatball was bland…not appealing. Not the winner.
Chuck’s Southern Comforts Cafe | Chef Chuck Pine: Shrimp Mac daddy, shrimp and andouille sausage, with candied andouille on top. STILL HOT!! And yummy! Didn’t notice the shrimp, but candied andoullie was yummy! Wouldn’t get seconds, but didn’t hate it.
Bohemian House | Chef Andrew Kappa | Käsespätzle: alright, but just one note. Forgettable.
Bakin & Eggs | Chef Bob & Gina Hartwig | Jalapeno Bacon Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese: great kick, Cheese, perfectly cooked Mac. Heat does overpower a little, but only subtle. No complaints I’d eat it again. Good brunch spot too!
** Note the SECOND serving of Rack House’s Mac! SO GOOD!!!
ConeCepts | Chef Turn Cummings | Beer Braised Brisket Mac & Cheese: The plate is WAY too big! If it doesn’t fit on my plate, it’s a hinderance! Gross and watery. No brisket no beer. Bland!! Yuck!!!
Amazing Edibles Catering | Chef Matt Ryan | Amazing Portuguese Mac’ N Cheese – 2016 GOLDEN NOODLE WINNER & 2015 1st Runner-Up: goat cheese based, lighter, so pretty presentation wise, interesting for sure, but didn’t blow me away.
Famous Dave’s BBQ | Chef Shelly Marek | Dave’s Cheesy Jalapeno Mac & Cheese*: five cheeses, nope. Watery, no jalapeño flavor.
Round 5 & 6
720 Bar at The Hilton Chicago | Chef Mario Garcia & Chef Robert McKenzie: REALLY YUMMY!! The mostarda’s sweetness was unexpected but delightful, unique and different in the best way!! Buttery dry flavored pumpernickel was outstanding!!!!
Mastro’s | The Ultimate Chicago Style Mac & Cheese: cheesy pasta not Mac and cheese, but gardinera was a nice note.
Mago Grill & Cantina | Chef Ric Munoz & Chef Juan Gonzalez | Revolucion Mac & Cheese: interesting with the fried onions and chorizo! Not bad!!
FTW Chicago | Mammas Mac & Cheese: not for the win. It was cold and it tasted like velvetta…WHERE IS MY REAL CHEESE AT?!
Calzone & Macaroni Co. | Chef Nic Lindsey: actually pretty yummy! Tasted like a cannoli for sure and didnt notice the pasta all that much!
XO Marshmallow | S’More Some Sugar on Brie: Marshmallow was yummy but too sweet with the pasta.
**WE DID NOT TRY THE FOLLOWING**: Carlucci Restaurant | Chef Jonathan Harootunian | “Jonny Mac”: did not try this one only, it was bucatini and it was an enormous portion!
Best Booth Presentation: Mago’s
Most Creative Use of Ingredients: XO Marshmallow
2nd Runner Up Best Mac n Cheese: Mago’s
1st Runner Up Best Mac n Cheese: For The Win (FTW)
Golden Noodle (Best Mac n Cheese): Rack House
Rack House won SO deservedly, and boy OH BOY was their Mac ever delicious! I mean, we even went back for seconds I think that was the third mac we had tried!! But I will say that, since attending this deliciously filling fest, Carly & I have the correct approach down pat for anyone reading this who wants to attend next year! As Carly told me afterwards, while we were both nursing our full bellies in our respective beds where we immediately moved ourselves to afterwards, “sampling Mac and Cheese is like trying wine…you have to go in an order, like starting with the whites and moving to reds – sweet to dry – and with the mac we start with the heavy and end with the light.” Couldn’t agree more with that logic, and when you basically have about three hours to eat your heart out, why rush it? Take a sample lap, write down (BRING A PEN!) all the ones you think you should start, then have at it! We also believed that we should have shared all the samples from the start, so that we might enjoy our favorites solo later on, which we would have had more room for to enjoy this year’s winner! SERIOUSLY SO GOOD!!!
For more information on this year’s event, click here. I’ll try to post an update on next year’s event, which of course, I’ll now be attending annually if I’m around! YUM YUM YUM! — Cooking Maggie