Friday, May 22, 2009

Spanish Rice

So, I have to admit - when I'm in a pinch and need to make a side dish, I will often fall back on good old Near East rice or couscous. The truth is, their mixes are really good, so why would anyone want to make anything but that? (some people don't...) Of them all though, their Spanish rice mix is the king. I've always wondered what's in the spice packet they include with them, but never bothered to really try and figure it out.

Well, until recently, that is. I was determined to either replicate Near East's mix or top it. When done right, Spanish rice is extremely flavorful and I often cannot stop myself from several more helpings. So, I set out to do it - but the challenge to myself was, I would not look at the ingredients or any other recipes for Spanish rice for this. This time, I was on my own.

You'll notice there aren't any particularly authentic Spanish ingredients (such as adobo, sofrito, etc.). That's mainly because I don't have them in my kitchen. But also, I was curious to see how close I could come with only basic kitchen supplies.

In the end, this rice does taste different from the Near East version - but I still think it's a great homemade version of Spanish rice, and it was definitely a delicious challenger to the classic standard. As expected, I could not keep myself from having several servings.

A homemade variation on the classically boxed dish

Spanish Rice

2 cups white basmati rice
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 can corn kernels, drained
3 tsp smoky Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp onion powder
1-2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp cumin
2 heavy pinches salt
Pepper to taste
2 cups water
1-2 tbsp. oil for sauteing.

1. Pour oil into a pot and coat the rice with it. Saute the rice for a couple of minutes.

2. Add tomatoes and corn to pot and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add spices, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly till well coated. Add water, and bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 20 min.

Serves 6-8. Unless you are serving me. Then it probably serves 2 or 3.

Skirt Steak with Asian-Whiskey Glaze

I'm baaack! I know, I've taken quite a long hiatus from my blog - I assure you, it has nothing to do with you! I've still been cooking, I just haven't had time to sit down and focus on writing entries for everything I've made. But fear not! I still have pictures and notes of what I've been up to. Hopefully, I'll be able to dump a slew of these recipes up here within the next few days.

Anyway, let's talk steak. I love steak. I haven't had it very much since being on Weight Watchers. In college, I discovered that my favorite steak cut is skirt steak. I had it grilled one time with NOTHING - no salt, no sauce, nothing - and it was quite possibly the most flavorful steak I had tasted up till that point. Well, why mess with perfection then you ask? Because I can.

I wanted to make a really nice main entree for a special Friday night dinner - just for two. I decided that steak was the best choice. A few months back, I went to Wolf & Lamb steakhouse for my birthday and ordered a Jack Daniels steak - a nice ribeye with a whiskey sauce. I combined this with an idea from Quick & Kosher for Asian-style steak and with Cook's Illustrated's May 2009 issue's recipe for Beef Teriyaki, along with their "Guide to Marinating" and voila! my skirt steak recipe was born.

Marinating is very good for skirt steak, because it is a thin cut. According to Cook's Illustrated, marinating only penetrates up to 1/2 inch through meat's surface - which is great, because skirt steak is usually not much more than an inch thick - so lots of flavor abound! Make sure you don't use up all the marinade! You will be sorely missing out if you don't have extra reserved for the glaze.

This is also great for summer barbecues - you can make the glaze on the side!

Skirt Steak with Asian-Whiskey Glaze

1 lb. skirt steak
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp whiskey
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp white wine
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp. flour
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. water
Chopped scallions, for garnish

1. Combine all soy sauce, oil, wine, whiskey, shallot, garlic, brown sugar and dry mustard in a bowl or measuring cup and whisk well together - this should make about 3/4 cup.

2. Place skirt steak in a ziploc bag, and pour 1/3 to 1/2 of marinade into bag (depends how much you need to coat meat). Press the air out of the bag and seal it well. Refrigerate for at least half hour, but more is fine.

4. When ready, preheat a cast-iron skillet (strongly recommended - if not, use a pan without non-stick coating - or a grill!) to screaming hot. Sear meat for 3-4 min on both sides. Remove and let rest on a plate for 10 min.

5. In the meantime, lower the heat on the pan. Mix flour and 1 tbsp water together in a bowl to form a slurry (to prevent flour clumping). Pour slurry, and remaining water into the remaining marinade, and pour into skillet (careful - this will boil very fast in a hot skillet!). This will let you deglaze the pan and scrape up any of the fond (yummy brown bits) at the bottom of the pan. Mix very well (and fast) until sauce comes to a glaze consistency.

6. Spoon glaze over steak and serve. Garnish with scallions.

Serves 4 (or more, depending how you cut your steak).