Chef’s Table: Date Night at Flour

Old friends are the best.  Old friends, and good food…now that’s a great night!  My husband recently reconnected with a childhood friend (through a chance encounter I had with him during one of my cooking segment shoots).   They quickly caught up over the phone and decided to plan a night at the restaurant where he is a chef, Flour.  We scored the Chef’s Table on Saturday night so that we could chat up Brett and enjoy the incredible menu the place offers.  

Flour Salumi 

Seems only fitting in a restaurant labeled an “Italian Kitchen” that immediately after being seated, Brett greeted us with a stunning Salumi plate (complete with delectable selections like mortadella, coppa picante and salametto framani)

Flour cheese plate

And before we could even look at the menu, I was won over by the cheese plate that had fresh sliced turkey figs, Calabrian pecorino. langherino, humboldt fog and aged gouda.

Flour Allison and Andy

We had the pleasure of dining with another couple of old friends of the chef, Allison and Andy.  They too were ready to indulge in all that the menu offered, toast, taste and celebrate the success of their childhood buddy.

When I mentioned that we were coming to Flour, a friend who dines there often recommended one of the appetizers.

flour big a$$ meatball

“I have dreams about the Big A$$ Meatball at Flour,” she said

Didn’t take much to convince us.  We ordered a pair of these softball sized portions, which were placed on a rich whipped ricotta and topped with fried sage.  Heaven indeed.  We also tried the chorizo stuffed dates and a plate of mussels.

Flour Mussels

Since Brett is the self-proclaimed pizza master of the kitchen, we had to try one of the wood-fired pies that people rave about here.  Didn’t need to hem and haw about this choice…it was the potato carbonara for us and we were not disappointed.

Flour carbonara pizza

This killer pizza incorporates potatoes as part of the base beneath the aged provolone, egg and pancetta.  You’d think that was enough food…but once again our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we decided to order three entrees to share as well.  We went for the Mediterranean Branzini, a tagliatelle with a bolognese, and the show stopper, a lobster strozzapreti with pancetta, bone marrow and cream.

Flour Lobster Pasta

This was a noodle new to me, and worth every single calorie.  Just when we thought we were done, Brett brought out dessert, a cereal panna cotta, sweetened from Frosted Flakes!

We shared a couple bottles of wine, plenty of memories, more food than we should’ve eaten, and some good laughs.  That’s a good date night no matter what your taste in food, or friends!

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Pot Roast Dumplings

I was recently given a “Cheftovers Challenge” by a friend of mine: Do something interesting with leftover pot roast.  Challenge accepted.  She said most of the time she just breaks it up and loads it on a pile of egg noodles with the rest of the gravy for “round two.”  I call that unimaginative, and unexciting.  Gotta do better for your family and your guests. And I was ready to be adventurous and try something out of my comfort zone, Asian cuisine.  I was going to make dumplings with this!

leftover pot roast

This past week I made what was likely the most tender and flavorful pot roast I’ve ever prepared.  (Let me know if you want the recipe for that too)  It was very juicy and much too much for our family.  I blame it on the BOGO deal at the grocery story (only large ones left).  There was plenty left, that I tore apart easily with a pair of forks.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t ALWAYS have EVERYTHING I need to execute the ideas I have for my leftovers.  In the same way it “takes money to make money” sometimes it takes food to make food, so to speak.  I finally ventured into to the Asian Food Mart just a couple blocks from my house to get what I needed to make my dumplings, won ton wrappers.  They were $1.99 for a frozen block of them.

leek filling

Next, I surveyed the fridge for more things that would complete the filling for my Pot Roast Dumplings.  I uncovered some sauteed organic leeks I had remaining from the Sunday morning quiche I made.  Hate to have any organic produce go to waste.  I added those to a small food processor and slowly poured in some heavy cream until it became the thick (slightly sticky) and creamy consistency I was going for.

green onions

Then, for variety, I grabbed the beautiful green and purple organic green onions I also had, beckoning to be utilized in an Asian dish.  For this filling, I thought I’d try cream cheese, and I had some chive and green onion…perfect!  I used the same food processor to blend those ingredients until it was enough to bind to the leftover pot roast.

green onion filling

Now it was assembly time.  I did refer to a couple of other dumpling recipes to see if I was on the right track on portion size, filling and assembly/cooking instructions.  I placed a half dozen won ton wrappers on a large cutting board and put about a tablespoon of one of the fillings, then an equal amount of the shredded pot roast.  I had enough to make about two dozen dumplings.

filling pot roast dumplings

Then, I moistened the wrappers around the filling with water and a small pastry brush, gathered the edges and pinched them together.

assembling pot roast dumplings

I put about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan and placed the dumplings in batches in the hot oil to fry until the bottoms were brown.  Then I carefully added about 1/4-1/2 cup water in the frying pan and covered it until the dumplings were steamed and cooked through.

frying pot roast dumplings

For the dipping sauce, I first read through a handful of recipes, and worked on a soy ginger version, something that was hot and sweet.  I sauteed some garlic and ginger in a little vegetable oil.  Then I added soy sauce, brown sugar and a pinch of red pepper flakes until it thickened up.Now I was on to something!

beef pot roast dumplings

Challenge completed.  I’d taken some tasty pot roast, a few kitchen staples, some special organic produce, and a single “new buy” to make what was easily the best heavy appetizer/light dinner I’d made in a while.  My guests gobbled them up.  So, now that I’ve tackled pot roast, whatdayahave for me?  I’m ready for what you throw at me.  

Spinach and Artichoke Mac n Cheese

After a long work week, it’s tempting to just pick up the smart phone and order take out on a Friday night.  (especially during Lent when menu options are limited)  But I am trying to make smarter choices about where our food budget goes, and how far it goes.  And I’m always trying to develop new Cheftovers dishes.  So when I was trolling the fridge for dinner ideas, I decided to start with some excellent mac n cheese in a Bechamel sauce (a doggy bag from a previous dinner out).  

mac n cheese

And I knew just what direction I wanted to go with it.  Since I was craving “bar food,” I was going to turn this into Spinach and Artichoke Mac n Cheese.  

I gathered the elements I would need to “refresh” these leftovers and beef up the portion to make it enough for dinner for two.  I found a can of quartered artichoke hearts in my pantry, a bag of fresh spinach, and half a shallot and some garlic in the veggie drawer.  I also grabbed some heavy cream and Parmesan cheese (two staples I always keep around) and Monterrey Jack (leftover from a white chicken chili recipe I made-happy to have use for it.  Not something we eat much of regularly)

I started by chopping the shallots and garlic and tossing them in to a pan with some olive oil  Once they softened I added the artichokes and let them do the same for a few minutes.  Then I tossed in the spinach.  And while that wilted I grated the cheeses.

sauted artichokes and spinach

Once the veggies were cooked, and seasoned, I poured in some heavy cream and tossed in the cheese. I stirred it around and let it thicken up and get bubbly, but not burn, so I kept the heat on medium/low.  After tasting it, I remembered a spice that Italians like to put into some of their cream sauces…nutmeg.  It doesn’t seem like a natural addition, but trust me, it works.  I added a pinch of that and let the sauce thicken a tad.

spinach artichoke sauce

It was time to toss in the original mac n cheese.  I gave it a good stir with the supplemental sauce I made, to ensure it was totally coated.  Then I transferred the mixture to a greased baking dish.

baked spinach and artichoke mac n cheese

For a couple of final touches, I topped the mixture with buttered bread crumbs and drizzled some white truffle oil.  A little goes a long way, so use it sparingly if you have it.  I put the revamped mac n cheese in a 350* until the bread crumbs were golden brown, roughly 25 min.

The end result was a warm, satisfying main course made from what may’ve otherwise been thrown out, plus a few kitchen must-haves put to good use.  I will certainly add this to a my go-to Lenten dishes.  What are you making during Lent (besides a phone call to your local pizza shop?)

Snowbird Special

Now is the time of the year when my Snowbird parents leave the frosty mid-west for sunny California.  They close up their house for the winter and spend it in a much warmer climate.  Part of their annual process is emptying the fridge, freezer and cupboards…and our household is the lucky beneficiary of the contents.   Now, what to make with it all?

Among the items I had to work with, chicken sausage.  It’s not one of my favorite ingredients but it’s lighter and healthier than beef or pork.  I immediately start thinking about a pasta dish.  My parents freezer is never short of frozen varieties, and I found some ravioli…perfect for a cream sauce.  Let’s do this!

I put a pot of salted water on to cook the ravioli and got started on the sauce.  I chopped up some garlic and sauteed it in some olive oil, then reached for one of my go-to’s in my own cupboard, a can of crushed tomatoes.  I let those hang out together for a bit and seasoned it with salt, pepper, dried basil and oregano. (a pinch of crushed red pepper might be nice here too)  Then after a few minutes on the heat, I added some of the frozen spinach that had also come from my folks’ defrosting freezer.

I figured the chicken sausage would work well as the protein for this dish, as the ravioli were only cheese-filled, and the chicken sausage itself had some spinach in it.  So I sliced and browned those up while the sauce developed.  And lastly, I added a couple tablespoons of heavy cream to make this tomato sauce a tomato cream sauce.  Go as heavy or as light with it as you’d like.  Half and half, or whole milk would work here too.  I’d avoid skim milk or 1%, it won’t really have the effect you’re going for here.  I let the cream sauce sit on the heat (medium) until it thickened up.  When the consistency was where I wanted it, I tossed the browned sausage slices in with the sauce and poured in the cooked ravioli.

This Snowbird Special made great use of a seemingly disconnected collection of groceries, and it was a quick fix for a weeknight dinner.  What’s lingering in your freezer that needs to get eaten??

Black Friday Breakfast- Overnight French Toast

Since I work with leftovers, Thanksgiving is pretty much my Super Bowl.  (see previous posts on The Pilgrim Pocket, and 5 Better Things to do with Thanksgiving leftovers) And I know, I know….the last thing you want to do on the day after Thanksgiving is cook.  But as I’ve mentioned before, I hate wasting food…especially food that I, or someone from my family, have put so much time and love into.

I also have the unfortunate luck of working on Black Friday (no, I’m not in retail!) So I whipped together an overnight French Toast with some of the Thanksgiving Day remnants to help me get out the door quicker, fuller and help out my husband who has a special “daddy day” planned with his daughters.

My inspiration was a Ziploc bag full of leftover “Monkey Bread” we were sent home with after stop one on Thanksgiving.  If you’re not familiar, it’s a bundt pan of guilty pleasure made with biscuit dough, butter and sugar.  A friend of mine challenged me to make French Toast with it.  I recalled an overnight recipe I’d made before from the The Yummy Mummy Kitchen by Marina Delio.  Of course she uses fresh French bread, but I didn’t see why this couldn’t be adjusted.

I pulled apart the “monkey balls” and placed them in a single layer in a greased baking dish.  Then, I took some blackberries from my produce drawer and the remainder of the homemade cranberry sauce from the day’s feast and filled in the gaps.

making black friday breakfast

I whisked together a couple of eggs, some vanilla and added whole milk.  But here is where you could use some of the massive amount of half and half you bought for the coffee you served with pumpkin pie, or the rest of the heavy cream you purchased for your potato recipe.  Use what you’ve got!  (I also left out the syrup that the original recipe calls for, as there’s already so much sugar on the monkey bread) I poured the mixture over the bread/berries then covered it with plastic wrap and left it in the fridge overnight.  (if you’re in a hurry, try doing it without the “overnight” element…and let me know how it turns out! I’m curious myself)

Black Friday morning, I melted some butter, added brown sugar and some crushed walnuts and sprinkled that mixture on top.  Here’s another good place to use leftovers, like pecans you have from the pecan pie you made.  I placed in a 375 oven for about 40 minutes.  Top it with syrup, and enjoy!

What do you have leftover from Thanksgiving? I am looking for inspiration and another challenge!!