Monday, October 17, 2011

"Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals Get Together" by Rachel Ray - TV Dinner for 2

Date I made this recipe: October 16, 2011

Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals Get Togethers
by Rachel Ray
Published by: Lake Isle Press
ISBN: 1-891105-11-6
Recipe: TV Dinner for 2: Salisbury Steak with Wild Mushroom Gravy, Smashed Potatoes with Garlic & Herb cheese and Chives, and Creamed Spinach – page 118-119

Today, for one brief shinning moment (“that was known as Camelot”) I became Rachel Ray in the kitchen.

Okay, small white lie: I tried to become Rachel Ray in the kitchen but failed.

Well, is failed the right word? Perhaps I’m being overly hard on myself. Here’s what she is that I am not: I am not overly perky, I do not make up new food words like “EVOO” (around here, we call it olive oil), “stoup” (soup and stew) or “Yummo.”

Last time I checked, I did not have a talk show although let me just say that if I did, I would be damned funny. Ask anybody. Ask me—I don’t lie!

And I do not have a staff of people to spin food plates in the air because without “people,” I honestly don’t know how she can make three different things to eat at the same time without burning them. Not that I did that, but I came close.

Frankly, any recipe that starts with the word “meanwhile,” as these did, should be eyeballed carefully. I do not do “meanwhile”—as in “meanwhile, while the steak is cooking, start the potatoes.” Or “meanwhile, while those two things are cooking, start the spinach.”

No. Just say no.

Today’s “TV dinner for 2” was a delicious dinner of Salisbury steak, potatoes and creamed spinach. But ala Rachel, one had to start one recipe, then another and then another until voila—the entire meal was done at the same time.

To this I say “This is why God invented the microwave.” A little plate touchup at 30 seconds and you are ready to go. And this means you can take your time and do things right, because people, there were a few landmines in this recipe.

Let’s start with the steak. On its face, the recipe was easy enough. Mix the meat and condiments together, pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into the pan, cook for 6 minutes on each side and you’re done.

In practice, I put the olive oil in the pan, then the meat and about three minutes in, a cloud of greasy smoke (not a kitchen fire smoke, but just a meat-singing smoke) erupted over my stove. So I turned on our kitchen fan, a/k/a “turbo prop,” opened a window, and one day later, I am here to tell you that our kitchen still smells like greasy burgers.

I am happy to report though, that the steaks did not turn into hockey pucks. And they tasted good. But the pan was something else again. Let’s just say it had a good soak.

So my advice to you is to use more than one tablespoon olive oil, to lower the heat from medium-high to medium and to be ready to air-condition your house in an instant.

As to the gravy, all was well until I put the flour into the pan and then for one, brief shinning moment I almost had a glue ball.

Now I’ve told you readers that I follow recipes to the letter so I dutifully readied my tablespoon of flour to add to the mushrooms. But then Rachel said “add a sprinkle of flour.” So did this mean don’t use the entire thing or use the entire thing? This was unclear. And so I added the entire tablespoon, got the glue ball but then saved the day by adding the broth. But let me tell you folks, it was touch and go for a minute there.

Next, we have the potatoes. Rachel suggests cooking them for 8-10 minutes. I went with 11 and a half minutes and thought they were just a bit underdone. The Boursin cheese was a yummy (not to be confused with Rachel’s term,“Yummo”) addition such that I probably used a little more than suggested but no harm, no foul. And to clarify, I did the meat, then made the potatoes in their entirety and then moved on to the spinach.

Now, I don’t want to call Rachel a liar (because there’d go my chances for my own show), but a quarter cup of cream (or half and half) was way too stingy for the creamed spinach. For one thing, it started to evaporate before I even had a chance to add the spinach to the pan. So I added more and more until what do you know—I finished off the container. And yet it still seemed a little dry (as opposed to creamy). And it was a little flat in the taste department although that can probably be perked up by the addition of some onion or even nutmeg. If Rachel was here, she’d know what to do but since I am not Rachel, I just forged ahead with her recipe, almost as written.

But I do believe I nailed one thing of Rachel’s and that is the thirty-minute meal. Or okay, maybe 40 minutes but even Rachel has said that 30 minutes is a challenge. But I came darned close. And “close” for a home cook is almost as good as nailing it all together.

As to the TV dinner theme, I blogged a few years ago about my love for TV dinners and when I saw this dinner for two, I just had to have it. What is not to love about a three- or four-part meal (depends on whether you get dessert or not), in a tin-foil tray wrapped in tin foil? And you get to watch it in front of, wait for it, a TV set! Isn’t it great that these dinners were invented specifically for this purpose?

Tray tables anyone?

Recipe: TV Dinner for 2: Salisbury Steak with Wild Mushroom Gravy, Smashed Potatoes with Garlic & Herb cheese and Chives, and Creamed Spinach

1 pound russet potatoes (2 large potatoes), peeled and chunked
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup half-and-half or cream (eyeball it)
3 ounces (1/3 cup or half of one small container), garlic and herb cheese, such as Boursin
2 tablespoons chopped chives (6 blades), or 1 scallion, thinly sliced

Meat and gravy
¾ pound ground beef sirloin
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (eyeball it)
½ small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon steak seasoning blend, such as Montreal Seasoning by McCormick, or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil (evoo), 3 tablespoons (3 times around the pan—but Ann’s note: not all at once!)
1 tablespoon butter
6 crimini or baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
6 shiitake mushrooms, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to state
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup beef stock

1 box (10 ounces) chopped spinach, defrosted in microwave
1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup half-and-half or heavy cream (Ann’s note: I suggest adding a lot more than this)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Ann’s Note: I’m going to list the steps to make each dish separately from start to finish: if you want to emulate Rachel, go to page 119 of her book

To make the potatoes

Place them in a pot with water. Cover pot, bring to a boil and lightly salt. Leave uncovered and simmer at rolling boil until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to hot pot. Smash potatoes with a little half-and-half or cream and garlic herb cheese. Smash and incorporate chives. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To make the steak and gravy
Combine the meat, Worcestershire, onion and steak seasoning or salt and pepper. Form 2 large, oval patties, 1 inch thick.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of evoo and meat patties to hot pan. Cook 6 minutes on each side until meat is evenly carmelized on the outside and juices run clear. Remove meat and cover with loose aluminum foil to keep warm.

Add 1 more tablespoon evoo and the butter to the pan, then the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add a sprinkle of flour to the pan and cook 2 minutes more. Whisk in stock and thicken 1 minute

To make the spinach
To a small skillet, add butter and cream and heat to bubble over moderate heat. Add the defrosted and “dried” spinach and salt and pepper. Cook until spinach thickens with cream, 3 to 5 minutes.

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