As you may be aware, one of us here at Foodie Lawyer is a big fan of football generally and the Pittsburgh Steelers in particular. We even got to see the Steelers play in the Super Bowl last year (note that I said “play,” and not “win.”) For this football season, we thought it would be fun to try out various “football foods” — dishes that are typically served at sports bars — but cook them ourselves at home, hopefully making them slightly more healthy yet just as tasty. Our first endeavor turned out really good, so we decided to tackle (get it?) potato skins next — typically one of the more unhealthy fried favorite sports bar foods. (Fun Fact: according to Wikipedia, the potato skins appetizer was created by T.G.I. Friday’s in 1963.) We baked ours instead of frying them and they turned out great. Not quite as crispy as the restaurant version, but crispy enough with a thin layer of creamy potato. These would be fun to serve at a football-watching party, with various toppings and dipping sauces to create your very own Potato Skins Bar.
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We’ve been to seafood-boil types of events before — my brother has an awesome crawfish boil almost every spring — but had never previously attempted this cooking technique at home. When we discovered king crab legs on super sale at our local grocery store, we decided to give it a shot. The resulting steamed crab meat was perfectly cooked with a hint of spice and unmistakable Old Bay seasoning, evocative of a day at the beach and seafood fresh from the ocean.
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The surprising part of this side dish is how amazing it tastes, especially considering how simple it is to make. Whenever we cook Tex-Mex at home, we struggle a bit with what kind of side dish to serve. This rice is a good one, but it’s a bit complicated and takes a little longer to cook. Same with this salad. Sliced avocado with chips and salsa is an easy favorite, but it gets a little old if we serve it every time. (Although, I love avocado so much that I could eat it every day.) Beans are a staple at most Tex-Mex restaurants, where they are served in a variety of ways: regular beans refried, black beans refried and borracho beans — just to name a few. We like black beans, but had never previously served them solo as a side dish at home. So we researched some recipes online and decided to experiment with our own version, incorporating Tex-Mex ingredients we know and like from other dishes (onion, garlic, cayenne pepper, Cotija cheese and cilantro.) We figured the result would be a pretty basic black bean side dish, but were pleasantly surprised by the rich and complex layers of flavor in the finished product. Move over avocado, there’s a new favorite Tex-Mex sidekick in town. . .
Update: We made these the other night and just happened to have a jalapeno and a couple slices of leftover (cooked) bacon. We sauteed the jalapeno with the onion and crumbled the bacon and added it when we put in the beans. The spice from the jalapeno and the bacon flavor made these beans taste even better!
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I’ve never been much of a fan of meat in loaf form — it’s a texture thing. But Dan knows me and my palate quirks well and created a meatloaf that I actually really like. He took the standard turkey meatloaf ingredients — ground turkey, milk, bread crumbs, egg and ketchup — and added cheese and Rotel tomatoes to turn bland and boring turkey meatloaf into something much more appetizing and special. The little pockets of melted cheese break up the texture and the Rotel adds a little spice and Tex-Mex flavor. This is not your typical turkey meatloaf, but it still has the comfort food aspect and is as easy to prepare as the more basic variety.
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Time for another Charcutepalooza challenge. This month’s challenge was “stretching” — as in branching out in the kitchen, extending the uses of the meat and lengthening the time that the food can be safely cooked and eaten. The Apprentice challenge was rillettes or confit, while the Charcutiere test was galantine or roulade. Our usual starting point for Charcutepalooza each month is to read Mrs. Wheelbarrow‘s always entertaining and instructive post detailing the challenge — primarily so we can figure out what a lot of these charcuterie terms that we’ve never heard of mean, then to decide which technique we want to try. This month, however, Dan knew right away that he wanted to make duck confit, after having read about it and tasted it in restaurants on occasion. I cannot adequately express my relief that we were not going to attempt the galantine, which The Yummy Mummy eloquently (and terrifyingly) explains: “requires you to flay the skin off the chicken – Spanish inquisition style – in one single piece, debone the whole chicken, make pate out of the forcemeat, fold the forcemeat over the partially-grilled breasts so they are a snug surprise in the middle of the roll, and force all of it back inside the skin – that you just took off the chicken – and poach it in broth.” Wait, what? Is this cooking, or a special episode of American Horror Story?!? Fortunately, duck confit turned out to be one of the easiest — and by far most delicious — Charcutepalooza challenges to date. It was so easy that we actually felt a little like we were cheating. And it was so delectable that we were almost mad at ourselves for never having made it before. (And so good that I actually used the word “delectable.”) Many thanks to Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy for creating Charcutepalooza and introducing us to this amazing delicacy that we can (and will!) so easily make at home.
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We discovered this salad when we found the barbecued swordfish recipe in Mario Batali’s cookbook, “Simple Italian Food.” While both recipes are indeed simple, with flavors that complement each other nicely, we decided to post them separately since they are both delicious on their own as well. The ingredients for the salad include cucumber, black olives, tomatoes and fresh oregano. The salad dressing ingredients include olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, chives and salt & pepper. (The extra ingredients pictured here are for the barbecue sauce for the swordfish.) If you like olives and cucumbers at all, you’ll love this salad. It’s a great side dish, but might also be good all on its own — add a little leftover grilled shrimp and some feta cheese and you’ve got a meal.
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One of the biggest challenges in our menu planning is trying to find fish dishes that Dan and I both enjoy. He’ll eat just about any type of fish, prepared in a variety of ways, but I’m picky about fish and usually only like it if it doesn’t taste like fish and has some sort of sauce or salsa to distract me from the fact that it is fish. (I’m easy like that.) We also try to make sure the sauce or other fish disguisers aren’t so unhealthy as to cancel out the health benefits of eating fish in the first place. We found this swordfish recipe in one of Mario Batali’s cookbooks and liked the flavor of the (relatively) simple barbecue sauce that complemented but didn’t overpower the swordfish. An added bonus is that Chef Batali included a recipe for a delicious olive and cucumber salad to accompany the fish and further mask any “too fishy” flavor. The salad was really good as a side dish (post coming soon!), but not necessary as a topping because the swordfish wasn’t fishy at all and had a subtle savory flavor from the barbecue sauce.
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