A Few Thoughts On Giant Burritos

I first discovered the world of giant burritos in college. Actually, I really first discovered Mexican food in general in college, but that’s a story for another day. Up to that point, I’d really only had Taco Bell. Then I discovered a place about 30 minutes away from school (which was kind of in the middle of nowhere, though there was a Taco Bell fairly close) called Chipotle. The idea with this place was that you could choose various kinds of meat, rice, beans, salsa and a few other things to throw on the tortilla, fold it up origami style and shove into your face. Thus my fascination with giant burritos was born.

We ate at Chipotle whenever we could in college, but then I moved back to Toledo where we didn’t have giant burritos (a Chipotle moved in right around the time I moved out). As you’d expect, it was a sad time. Then, a few months later, I got a job at Wizard, moved out to New York and wound up eating lunch about once a week in the big Palisades mall nearby. What did they have there? A Qdoba!

Qdoba is very similar to Chipotle, but they also throw in other options like Queso (covering it in melted cheese) or mole and a variety of other flavors and sauces. For the longest time I actually had trouble keeping them separate in my head — it didn’t help that I had easy access to both when I worked down in New York City. But, after heading down to eat lunch at a new Chipotle with my wife and some of her friends I realized something, I like Qdoba better. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Chipotle and I quite enjoyed my giant burrito (steak with pinto beans, regular salsa, sour cream and cheese), but I just prefer variety and Qdoba has more of it. Now all I need is for a Qdoba to open up near us as we are in the land of no giant burritos currently. Sigh.

Cooking Green Goddess Rice With Chicken

I’ve only seen a few episodes of Claire Robinson’s Food Network show 5 Ingredient Fix, but I almost always see something I want to try. One such thing was her recipe for Green Goddess Rice, a side dish that involves adding a basil, lemon and avocado sauce to rice. I made this once before as a side dish for something I can’t quite remember, but when I made it last week, I decided to add some grilled chicken and make it an entree.

The meal itself couldn’t be simpler. You throw the Green Goddess sauce ingredients into a blender or food processor after making your rice and then grilling up some chicken. I went a little heavy on the lemon this time around, but it wound up being a really good compliment to the avocado, basil, rice and chicken flavors.

For the chicken, I just spread on some good olive oil, salt and pepper then got to grilling. When it was done, I chopped it up and mixed everything together in a big bowl. I was so excited to eat that I forgot to take a picture of the chicken added in or my usual plated shot which should give you an idea of how great this recipe is.

Bonus Food Pics: Aroma Buffet Chinese Delights

We grabbed some food at the nearby Aroma Buffet this weekend and it was a pretty great experience. The place is fairly new and we’ve only been there twice because we’re usually not hungry enough for a full on buffet experience. Anyway, here’s a few pictures I snapped there. I was particularly fond of the rangoon and those stuffed mushroom caps.Our daughter really dug the rice and noodles as well as the nice people clearing dishes and getting drinks. I also had a small dish of vanilla ice cream, but figured it wasn’t worth taking a picture of even though it was good ice cream.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Pancetta, Egg & Leek Risotto

One of the problems I’ve found with being so adventurous in my cooking exploits (to a degree at least) is that I’m making food that I’ve never actually had before. That was the case when I made Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Bacon, Egg & Leek Risotto, I’d never had risotto before, but here I was making something that every cooking show I’d ever seen said was a very time intensive and easy to mess up dish. And, as you might expect, I messed it up, but just a tiny bit.

As you can see from the photos and the heading, I went with pancetta instead of bacon. This is not because I like the former more than the latter but because I honestly didn’t feel like chopping up a quarter of a slab of bacon and figuring out what to do with the rest. Our grocery store has perfectly portioned packages of pancetta for just such an occasion, so I went with that. Aside from that, though, I did everything else according to the recipe.

I browned the pancetta and removed it, then did the same with the leeks before doing the onions and adding the rice. I also had the stock warming on the stove the whole time and made sure it didn’t quite get to boiling (good thing we’ve got that simmer burner, which was perfect for this). At that point it was a matter of adding the warm stock a half cup at a time and stirring until it was absorbed. I tried to do this to the best of my ability but the end results wound up being a little undercooked.

Other than some slightly undercooked rice, though, this was a super duper tasty recipe. The great thing about risotto is that it winds up being kind of like a rice version of mac and cheese and you know I’m down with that. I’m still not sure how much I like leeks, but they were pretty good here if a little bitter at times. All in all, this will stay on the keep pile and surely come back into play when the weather gets a bit cooler. This was not a great dish to cook in the heat.

Bonus Food Pic: Mix N Mac’s Cheese Steak Mac & Cheese

Several months ago my wife and I were in the nearby city of Middletown. While leaving the big mall there, I saw a tiny political-type sign jabbed in the ground for a new place called Mix N Mac. In a rare moment of my memory doing well by me, I remembered the name and looked it up when we got home. We actually haven’t traveled out to Middletown in quite a while, but we did last week and decided to check the restaurant out.

Here’s the deal, you go in, choose a kind of mac and cheese (click the link and download the menu to see all the options, they also have weekly or monthly specials), the kind of noodles, cheese and then it goes into the oven. I went with the Cheese Steak kind while my wife checked out the Buffalo version. We even got our daughter a kid’s size regular. I’ve got to say, the food was amazing. I tried all three and was impressed with how different they all tasted. With something like this, it wouldn’t be out of the question if everything kind of tasted the same, so I was glad that each one was different.

There is a bit of a problem, though. Since they make everything to order, this can take a long time. When we got to the place there were two people working and maybe four customers in front of us, plus several carry out orders. It took a good deal of time to actually get our food. The fact that the sun was beating in through the windows and our daughter didn’t want to sit still made for something of a bad experience. But then we got the food and all was forgiven. So, if you feel like giving this place a shot — and I recommend doing so — call ahead and eat your food elsewhere.

Cooking Jeff Mauro’s Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich with Grilled Pineapple Relish

As I said back during the last season finale of Food Network Star, I was pretty happy that Jeff Mauro won. I dug his Sandwich King idea of taking regional sandwiches and giving them a spotlight while also turning recipes you wouldn’t usually put between bread and doing so. I even watch his show when I stumble upon it, which is something I can’t say about most Food Network shows. I happened to see an episode he did about making a few different kinds of barbecue and decided to give his recipe for Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich with Grilled Pineapple Relish.

This one was actually pretty simple, though you need time to get it done. The first step was making a dry rub out of brown sugar, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper and cinnamon. I rubbed the rub on the pork butt and then wrapped it up in plastic wrap for a few hours in the fridge. Two hours later, I popped it in my Dutch over and then put it, covered, in the oven for three hours.

With about an hour left in the oven cooking, I moved back into the kitchen and put the pineapple relish together. That involved slicing a pineapple and grilling it, chopping up some onions and ginger. I had already used my limes on another recipe, so instead I used orange juice which seemed to work out well. Oh, I also skipped the cilantro and the jalapeno for this because my wife hates the former and I’m not a huge fan of super heat.

After that, it was time to put the chili sauce together. Again, this one was pretty simple. The only changes I made were not crushing the red pepper flakes because I just couldn’t get them to grind with my mortar and pestle. What I did instead was actually strain the sauce as I poured it onto the pulled pork.

And it’s really that simple. I think not replacing the ingredients I left out of the relish might have negatively effected that flavor which wound up being a little more acidic than I think it was supposed to be. I also completely forgot to make or get red cabbage which bummed me out because I think the red cabbage I’ve made before and love would have been the perfect compliment to these flavors. I think that’s what seemed like it was missing from the flavors as they combined with this sandwich. That’s something to remember for next time.

Making Hummus

When getting everything together for my daughter’s first birthday party, I asked my wife and inlaws to pick up a few things for me when they ran out so I could put together a pasta salad (forgot to take pictures, but it turned out pretty good, I’m sure I’ll make it again this summer). I didn’t realize they were going to BJ’s and instead of the few cans of things I’d be needing, I’d get six of each. That’s alright, though, I can always used these things. In fact, having a few extra cans of chick peas inspired me to whip up some hummus. So, I went over to Food Network’s website and wound up settling on Dave Lieberman’s Hummus Dip recipe because it looked simple and I had everything in the house already.

And it was really simple. You basically drain and rinse the chick peas and throw them in a blender with the listed ingredients. I should say that I didn’t have everything listed because I was lacking lemons, so I decided to throw in a few limes to make up for it. This actually took away some citrus I needed for another recipe last week, but I’ll get to that one soon. Once it was good and blended, I put it in a jar and then into the fridge, bingo bango.

Anyway, I think using the lime might have goofed up some of the flavor, but overall, I thought it still turned out pretty hummus-y. I love how simple this was to put together and will use it to eat with some of the baby carrots they also picked up on their shopping excursion. Great for snacking.

Bonus Food Pic: The Betterman From Fiddlestix

Hey look, it’s another picture of food from Fiddlestix in Cornwall. It must seem like this is the only place we eat at and, well, that’s because it’s kind of true. I love this place because they do so many specials every single week. I’m a big fan of variety and they’ve got it, so I’m a big fan of Fiddlestix. I’m also a big, big fan of this sandwich, The Betterman, which was unfortunately a special. I say unfortunately because it was so face-slappingly amazing that I want to eat it all day every day. You’ve got sliced roast beef with caramelized onions and…well, I forget. There might have been blue cheese involved? I was so excited about putting this in my face, that I just dove right in and didn’t take any notes about what I was eating. I should also point out that Fiddlestix also changes their pasta salad on a regular basis. While there have been plenty of tasty versions, they went creamy with this one and I love that style. Great stuff, as always.

Cooking Sliced Steak Sensation & Sweet Tomato & Blue Cheese Salad With Basil Vinaigrette

This is one of those meals that sounds way fancier and more difficult than it really is. I found them while flipping through Rachel Ray’s 2, 4, 6, 8 cookbook and was easily drawn in by the Sliced Steak (page 160) and blue cheese tomato salad (page 161) because they both looked pretty easy to put together.

I started off with the salad because the steak was only supposed to take a few minutes to cook and prep. This was a pretty simple task. I made the vinaigrette first by combining shallots basil, parsley, mustard, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper in a blender and giving that whirl while adding olive oil. After that it was just a matter of cutting up the lettuce, cherry and yellow grape tomatoes and some onion, putting it in a bowl with the blue cheese and mixing in the dressing. Boom, done.

The steak also seemed easier on paper because you simply combined Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce (I went with green Tobasco because it’s my personal favorite), vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, put that on a piece of London Broil and toss that under the broiler for six minutes.

Here’s what I did, though. First off, I put it in a baking dish instead of a broiler pan which I think conducts heat differently. I also only just realized that the recipe calls for six minutes PER SIDE. I pulled the hunk of meat out after 6 minutes and it was still pretty pink inside so I tossed it on a big jelly roll-type pan and it went back in for another however many minutes (I lost count). Not wanting it to burn, I pulled the meat out and put it under some tin foil for a while, but it still came out pretty rare, but not raw, so I still ate it.

I’m not sure if I’d try the steak recipe again. It was alright, but I’m sure there’s better out there. If I do, though, I’ll definitely go with a smaller cut because that wound up being a lot of extra meat. I could have cut it up for tacos or something, but this was right before our daughter’s first birthday party and Memorial Day weekend, so it wound up sitting in the fridge for longer than my wife and I were comfortable with. I will definitely make this salad again, though. My wife turned me on to blue cheese when we were in college and I’ve been in love ever since. I actually didn’t have quite as many basil leaves as the recipe called for, so next time I hope my herb garden is back in action and I can really bang this one out of the park.