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Last class, we learned all about making the perfect burger. I hope you have impressed your friends and family with your ultimate burgers! This week, we are going to stray a little from our normal format and learn some tips for making delicious meals, fast.
I was thinking about how busy we all are (myself included) and how difficult it is to come home after a long day at work and cook a meal. This is why the fast food and fast casual restaurants are thriving. But you can cook a meal in less time than it takes to pick-up take-out food. In this glass I will give you several quick (15 minutes!), easy and delicious meal options. Please note all recipes to feed four people. So let’s get cooking.
The first meal is macaroni and cheese. Really, who doesn’t love this comforting combination of pasta and melting cheese? For this you will need: one pound elbow macaroni, one teaspoon granulated garlic, eight ounces cream cheese, ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, one cup chopped fresh spinach and ½ cup chopped roasted red peppers (jarred are fine).
First take the cream cheese out of the fridge. We want it to get a little warm so it will melt more easily into the pasta. Now fill a large pot with water and add about ¼ cup of Kosher salt. I know it seems like a lot, but this is the ONE chance you get to season that pasta. Let water come to a boil, while that is happening, put your oven on broil and chop your spinach and roasted red peppers, cut your cream cheese into one inch cubes and set aside. Cook pasta according to package, drain well and put back into the same pot.
Next, add in the cream cheese stirring constantly. If it is not melting well, go ahead and turn on the heat again, just make sure it is low; once the cream cheese is thoroughly melted stir in the peppers, spinach and granulated garlic. At this point taste and if it needs salt and pepper, please add it now. Transfer contents of pot into a sprayed or greased 9” x 11” baking pan. Top with the Parmesan cheese and broil until browned. That’s it!
The second meal is chicken and mushrooms. For this you will need four eight ounce chicken breasts (boneless and skinless), ½ cup all-purpose flour, six tablespoons canola oil, two cups sliced white mushrooms, juice of one lemon, ½ teaspoon granulated garlic, ¼ cup white wine and one tablespoon unsalted butter.
Before we start, a tip, do not wash your mushrooms. They will absorb the water and will come out mushy instead of caramelized. Instead, wipe clean w/ a damp cloth. Okay, let’s get started. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken breasts and then lightly flour. Put three tablespoons of canola oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat.
Once hot, add the chicken breasts. Cook uncovered, five minutes on first side and four minutes once you have flipped them. Remove from pan and put into oven. Cook in oven at least four minutes. While chicken is in oven, add two more tablespoons to the same pan in which cooked the chicken. Put the pan on medium-high heat and add the mushrooms. Do not clean the pan before adding the mushrooms. Those roasted bits on the bottom are full of flavor and called a fond. We want to continue building it for our pan sauce. Cook the mushrooms for five minutes, until they are caramelized.
Next, add to the pan the lemon juice, butter, garlic and white wine. The white wine will deglaze the pan. That simply means it will help remove that wonderful fond from the bottom of the pan and put it into our sauce. Stir well and salt and pepper to taste. Now spoon over your chicken breasts and enjoy!
The last meal is beef sliders. For this you will need one pound of 80/20 ground beef, I prefer chuck, but get your favorite, just make sure it is 80 percent fat to 20 percent lean. This will make the sliders nice and juicy. Can you use ground turkey? Yes. But know that if you don’t add some additional fat into the meat, like some canola oil, they will be slightly dry. You will also need eight small rolls; I like the King’s Hawaiian ones. Additionally you will need sixteen slices of your favorite cheese, I like smoked provolone.
First, form your ground beef into two ounce patties and then roll into balls. Flatten slightly and salt and pepper. You will want to use a large, non-stick sauté pan, sprayed generously with Pam. Put pan over medium-high heat and cook three minutes on each side. Once you have flipped the sliders, put two slices of cheese on each one. Now cover the pan and cook for about four more minutes. Covering the pan will allow the cheese to melt and will create steam, which will make your sliders extra juicy. The cheese is also why we used a non-stick pan, we don’t want any hard to clean up burnt cheese! When sliders are ready place on rolls and top with your favorite condiments and toppings.
There you have it, three different meals that you only take fifteen minutes to make. Remember, make these your own. Go ahead and add peas to the macaroni and cheese. Put the chicken and mushrooms over some rice. Make an Italian slider by adding herbs and garlic to the meat before forming into patties. Have fun! As with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what creates delicious.
Chef Ivan Flowers brings 25 years of fine cuisine experience to Top of The Market, San Diego. Prior to becoming Executive Chef at Top of The Market, Chef Flowers owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.