Enchilada Sauce – Another Use for Green Tomatoes

By Iron Chef Leftovers

If you have green tomatoes, one of the best things to use them for is enchiladas. You can easily use the tomatoes to replace tomatillos in the sauce and get something that tastes about 100 times better than anything that will come out of a can.

The Software
3 lbs. green tomatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces, woody parts removed
¼ cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, diced, seeds removed
2 cups stock or water

The Recipe
In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until they begin to become translucent. Add garlic and cook for additional 30 seconds until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the tomatoes, pepper and liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes are tender. In several batches, take the contents of the pot and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once the sauce begins to boil, continue to cook until it thickens (5-10 minutes), stirring about every minute. Once the sauce has reached the desired consistency, add salt to taste and it is ready to use.

You can pretty much put this over anything – pasta, chicken, pork, veggies or enchiladas. If you like it hotter, add more peppers, or better yet, add some serrano peppers. If you like it less spicy, remove the pepper or reduce the amount. If you want a super kicked up version of this sauce, when you add the garlic, add 1 ½ teaspoons of the following: cumin, dried oregano, smoked paprika, adobo, garlic powder and black pepper. Follow the recipe as is otherwise.

Quick Chicken Parm

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Chicken Parm is one of my favorite things – how could it not be, breaded chicken, sauce and cheese. Recently, I had a family member have a health scare and it got me thinking, is there a healthier way to make chicken parm and still have it taste great. This is particularly useful if you don’t have any sauce on hand (and you would never buy sauce from a jar, right?) This is what I came up with.

The Software
3 chicken cutlets, 3 oz. each, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, patted dry
2 tablespoons, herb infused olive oil (see note below)
2 oz. mozzarella cheese, either sliced very thin or shredded
1 oz Parmigiano reggiano grated
1 tomato, sliced into 1/8 inch rounds (enough to cover the surface of your chicken)

The Recipe
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat until just starting to smoke. Add chicken and cook on the first side for 2 minutes and the second for 1-2 minutes until done. Remove excess oil with a paper towel. Heat your broiler. On a baking sheet covered with a sheet of foil, place the chicken, top with tomatoes and then top with cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Serve to happy guests.

Start to finish, you can have this on the table in 10 minutes. Notice I did not use salt – there is plenty in the cheese that you won’t need it. Check on your chicken constantly when under the broiler – it can go from bubbly to burn in a hurry. There is no need to preheat the broiler – you are just melting the cheese, not cooking the chicken. If using an electric oven, keep the door slightly ajar, the broiler will cycle off and on if you don’t and it will take a lot longer to melt the cheese. The recipe can be easily scaled and obviously you can add more tomato or cheese if you want. The key to this being a quick recipe is pounding the cutlets thin. If you don’t want to do it, buy your chicken at a butcher shop or megamart with a butcher counter and ask them to do it for you. They should have no problem with doing that.

Notes on Infused oil
To make the herb oil, you can either buy it or make it yourself. I like to throw a sprig of sage, rosemary, tarragon and thyme into about 1 cup of oil with 2 garlic cloves. Heat over medium heat for 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month. If you are feeling really lazy, just toss the herbs and garlic in the oil you are cooking the chicken in and leave them in the pot, following the directions for cooking the chicken in the recipe.

Farro – The Other Brown Grain

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Farro, or emmer as it is also known, is an ancient grain that is popular in Italian cooking and is starting to gain acceptance in the US because of its high nutritional value and diabetic friendly properties. I tend to use is as a substitute for rice and I love its nutty flavor and tend to cook it to an al dente consistency to give it some toothiness. It is a simple grain to cook and it is pretty much like cooking rice.

The Software
½ cup farro
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt

The Recipe
In a medium sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the farro and toss in the olive oil until coated. Cook over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Add the stock and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer covered for 30-40 minutes. Check the grain after about 25 minutes – you are looking for a consistency that is slightly chewy, but not crunchy. The farro may be cooked before it absorbs all of the liquid. If it is, drain the liquid and season as needed (a little salt and pepper usually are nice, maybe a couple of teaspoons of nice olive oil). This can be served either hot or cold.

You can replace the stock with water if you want – the stock adds flavor, but isn’t necessary. Use farro in place of brown rice as a side dish or put it cold on a salad for a nice, nutty crunch. It is also really good with some slivered almonds and dried cranberries as a side dish – just add those in once the liquid is drained and toss.

Grill Roasted Beef Tenderloin

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Mrs. Iron Chef and I recently entertained her aunt, uncle and a couple of cousins, who had been on a whirlwind tour of the Pacific Northwest, and I decided that they needed a good, home cooked meal. Since there were 6 of us and the weather was nice, I thought that the meal called for a nice grill-roasted beef tenderloin. It is easy to cook, always a crowd favorite and doesn’t require a ton of prep. The below recipe and technique was taken from Cook’s Illustrated magazine and modified a bit by yours truly.

The Software
1 – 2 ½ lb. beef tenderloin, silver skin removed
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Soaked wood chips for smoking (optional)

The Prep
Remove any silver skin that may be on the roast. Pat dry and sprinkle1 tablespoon of salt on all sides of the roast. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and return to the fridge for at least 4 hours (you can let it sit overnight if you want, it won’t hurt anything). When you are ready to fire up the grill, pull the meat out of the fridge and pat dry with paper towels. Rub with the oil and then sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper to get even distribution. Tie the roast with 5 pieces of butcher’s twine spaced at even intervals to make the roast as uniform as possible. Let rest until you are ready to put on the grill.


A whole beef tenderloin – the two “wings” are called the chain meat. You want to get your roast from that end of the muscle and remove the chain meat before cooking.

The Grill
Gas grill – turn all burners on high for 15 minutes to preheat the grill. Add wood chips to your smoking box at this time. Once grill is heated, clean the grill grates. Turn off all of your burners except for your primary burner. Leave that on – you are looking to maintain about 300-325 degrees in the grill. For my grill it means leaving the primary burner just above medium high.

Charcoal grill – prep 6 quarts of charcoal and heat until covered in ash. Add the charcoal to the far side of the grill, not exposing more than half of the grill grate to direct heat (you are going to cook the meat off of direct heat). Add wood for smoking directly to the charcoal. Heat the grate for 10 minutes with the grill covered.

The Roast
Gas grill – put the meat on the grill about 8” from the edge of the primary burner (you don’t want to put in directly on the heat from the primary burner). Roast for 25 minutes, and then flip the meat over. Continue roasting until the meat reaches 125 degrees on a meat thermometer (that is medium rare). Remove from the heat to a plate and cover with foil. Let rest 15-20 minutes before cutting.

Charcoal Grill – Put the meat over the direct heat of the charcoal for about 2 minutes on each side to get a crust to form. Move the meat to be about 8” from the direct heat and cook on the first side for about 15 – 20 minutes. Turn over and continue cooking until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees. Remove from the heat to a plate and cover with foil. Let rest 15-20 minutes before cutting.

If your fire starts to die down on a charcoal grill, add more charcoal. This recipe is easier on a gas grill (better temperature control), but tastes a ton better on a charcoal grill. I used a simple salt, garlic and pepper rub for this, but you can use any type of spice rub you would like. If you opt for tenderloin, you want to get a roast that is as uniform as possible and ask your butcher to remove the silver skin for you, it will save you 10 minutes of prep time. If you don’t want to use tenderloin, eye round also works in about the same amount of time. You could also easily substitute a boneless leg of lamb roast or a pork loin roast (not the tenderloin, it is too thin) and they will all cook in about the same amount of time. Tying the roast is essential to making it a uniform as possible – it will prevent some pieces from being more cooked than others. Serve with some roasted veggies and a nice chimichurri sauce.

A Burger with Heart

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I have been accused of being a food snob over the years because I tend to shun crappy, mass produced foods in favor of items that are freshly prepared on a small scale and because I will eat things that most Americans won’t, despite, in most of those cases, most of the rest of the world does eat it.

One case in point – beef heart. Before you go “yuck”, understand this – heart is a muscle that is no different from the steaks that you eat and it actually contains significantly less fat than most other cuts of beef. It also has an incredibly beefy flavor (not the metallic flavor that most people would assume it has since it is considered “organ meat”), much more so than just about any other cut off the cow. If you haven’t tried it, you should – it is cheaper than a steak and cooks incredibly quickly so it can be prepared for a weeknight meal.

All of this lead author Jennifer McLaglan to include a recipe for a heart burger in her Odd Bits cookbook. Before you say “yuck” again, be aware that if you are eating any commercially produced burger or using commercially produced ground beef, you probably have had heart already without knowing it. As she writes:

This is a great way to try heart for the first time…

I took this recipe and made it at home without telling Mrs. Iron Chef Leftovers what was in the burgers and she loved them. I suggest you try it for yourself before saying “yuck.”

The Software
¾ lbs. brisket, fat cap on, ground
¾ lbs. heart, fat on, cleaned and ground
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, beef drippings or bacon fat

The Recipe
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, except the oil, mixing gently until combined. Divide into 4 portions and form into patties about 1 inch thick. Place the patties on a large plate or sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Pre-heat a pan or grill over medium high heat and add oil. When the oil begins to smoke, add the burgers. Cook for 4-5 minutes until a nice brown crust forms and flip, reducing the heat to medium. Cook for another 4-5 minutes until the burgers reach your desired doneness, Server with your favorite burger toppings.

I would highly recommend sourcing your heart from a small grower and preferably from a grass fed animal. You will get a better quality product with better flavor. I usually get mine from Skagit River Ranch. You probably won’t be able to find either ground heart or ground brisket easily, so you can see if you purveyor will grind it for you, or better yet, grind it at home yourself. I also added about 2 strips of uncooked bacon to my meat mix before I formed the patties and it took these burgers over the top. This comes in especially handy if the brisket you use does not have much fat. I would not recommend cooking these burgers all the way to well-done; they will dry out as a result and won’t be particularly tasty. If you are grinding the meat yourself and you have a good source, you shouldn’t need to cook these beyond medium-rare to medium. If you don’t like beef, pork belly or lamb shoulder can be subsituted for the brisket and the heart of those respective animals can be used.

Chicken Salad Redux

By Iron Chef Leftovers

One of the very first posts to this blog was a recipe for chicken salad. It is a good recipe, but I am always looking to make things better. Recently I was at a friend’s place and we were hungry and there was leftover chicken, so I decided to whip something up with the ingredients on hand. It was good; possibly better than the original, but I will let you decide.

The Software
1 chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces
1 large carrot finely minced
1 large stalk celery, finely minced
2 tablespoon finely minced yellow onion
2 scallions minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon minced fresh dill
2 teaspoons minced fresh basil
1 1/2 tablespoons mayo (see note)
1 1/2 tablespoons tzatziki (see note)
2 teaspoon whole grain mustard (see note)

• Note – when I say tablespoon for the mayo and teaspoon for the mustard, I am not talking about the measurements, I am talking about the spoons you would find in your silverware drawer. I just take 1 1/2 big scoops each of mayo/taztziki and 2 big teaspoon of mustard. If I had to guess measurements, 1/4 cup each of mayo abd tzatzki, 1 1/2 tablespoons (the measurement) of mustard.

The Salad
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, carrot, celery, scallions and onion.

The Dressing
This is a salad, so you are making a salad dressing essentially. In a bowl, combine the mayo, tzatziki, mustard, herbs, garlic powder and balsamic vinegar. Mix until well incorporated. Taste it. Add any additional seasoning as needed.

The Final Product
Add the dressing and fold using a spatula. Taste it. There should be a subtle hint of heat from the onions and mustard. I usually will add a few grinds of black pepper and, if needed, some salt and fold that in. That is it, you are done. If for some reason you like more dressing, just make some more and add it in. This is pretty potent stuff and you are really looking more to coat everything rather than drown it.

To Serve
Serve it however you want – on a sandwich, salad, or my favorite, just out of the bowl with a spoon.

The Spicy Variation
Add 1 minced jalepeno and 2 tablespoons (or more) of siriacha to the dressing and combine.

Avocado Yogurt Dressing

By Iron Chef Leftovers

It is summer and it is hot out, so you probably don’t feel like cooking anything in the kitchen and you don’t always have veggies that can be grilled easily. I tend to eat a lot of salad in the summer – they are quick and easy, refreshing and tasty salad greens are easily found during the summer. Another summertime treat are avocados. Mrs. Iron Chef loves them and they are very versatile. They also make a great salad dressing that is so good that you can actually use it as an accompaniment to fish, chicken or pork (and probably beef, although I have never tried it). All you need is 5 minutes, a few simple ingredients and a blender.

The Software
½ of a ripe avocado, pitted, skin removed and roughly chopped
½ cup good quality yogurt
¼ cup cilantro
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup rice wine vinegar

The Recipe
Take all of the ingredients except the oil and add the blender. Pulse a few times to break up the avocado and then with the blender running, add the oil slowly until the dressing comes together. Add salt and pepper to taste and you are done. Toss with salad or serve as a sauce for meat or veggies.

A clove of garlic, a squeeze of lime or a small hot pepper would also be nice in this dressing. If you would like the dressing thinner, add some water slowly to dilute until you reach the ideal consistency. This makes about 1 cup of dressing, which is a lot of a salad, but it is so good you might not end up with leftovers anyway.

A Simple Spice Rub

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I like spice rubs, but I tend not to buy ones in the store since they are mostly salt and very expensive and you can actually make the same thing at home for a fraction of the price. I have a default spice rub that I use for chicken, fish or pork when I am not really sure what I am in the mood for. It is quick and easy to make a spice rub with the spices you have on hand and they will keep in an airtight container for 6 months (which is as long as you should be keeping spices around anyway), but I usually just make them on the fly since they take less than a minute to put together. For this recipe, I will give the ratios in parts and you can use whatever measuring device you want.

The Software
2 parts smoked paprika
2 parts powdered garlic
2 parts cumin
2 parts dried oregano
1 part ground adobe
1 part ground black pepper
1 part salt

The Recipe
Take all of the ingredients and add them to a container with a lid. Close the lid tight and shake until well combined. Spread on your protein or veggies of choice. Cook and you are done.

If the rub is not salty enough for you, add more salt. It is easier to add more than it is to remove it after you have put everything together. The ratios are really just suggestions, add and subtract whatever you would like and feel free to substitute sweet paprika for smoked and to take anything out. This recipe was developed with what I had on hand, you can pretty much make your own by combining spices and herbs and trying them out.

Gumbo File

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I love gumbo but it can be really hard to find one with a good balance of flavor and heat in a restaurant. Most of the ones that I have had around Seattle have been too soupy or bland, so I decided to make one recently that was basically a modification of Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats.

The biggest problem with making gumbo is getting the roux dark enough – the roux is the foundation for the flavor of the dish and traditionally it requires at least an hour of cooking on the stovetop with constant stirring. Alton Brown devised a short cut method, which does not reduce the cooking time, but it does reduce the need to stir it constantly by cooking the roux in the oven instead of on the stove top. The other thing I like about this recipe is that it uses file powder instead of okra. I am not a fan of okra, but you need it to thicken the dish. File powder does this.

The Software
* 4 ounces vegetable oil
* 4 ounces all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 pounds raw, unpeeled medium-sized (31-50 count) shrimp
* 2 quarts water
* 3 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in (Optional)
* 3/4 cup chicken stock (if not using the chicken in the dish)
* 1 cup diced onion
* 1/2 cup diced celery
* 1/2 cup diced green peppers
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomato
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and browned
* 1 tablespoon file powder

The Recipe

The Roux
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the vegetable oil and flour into a 5 to 6-quart Dutch oven and whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 1 1/2 hours, whisking 2 to 3 times throughout the cooking process. The roux will come out dark brown, almost brick red when it is done.

The Stock
While the roux is baking, de-head, peel and devein the shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl and set in the refrigerator. Place the heads and shells in a 4-quart saucepan along with the 2 quarts of water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until the liquid has reduced to 1-quart. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid into a container, discarding the solids.

If including the chicken – In a separate pot add 2 cups of cold water, a pinch of salt and the chicken. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-low and cover. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until very tender. Remove the chicken to a plate to let cool and de-fat the cooking liquid in a fat separator, reserving 3/4 cup. Removed the chicken and shred when it is cool enough to handle.

The Gumbo
Brown the sausage on both sides over medium-high heat and remove to a bowl. Add the shrimp and cook for about 1 on each side (don’t worry about cooking them completely, they will finish cooking in the gumbo). Deglaze the pan with the reserved cooking liquid from the chicken or the chicken stock, scraping up the brown bits. Once the brown bits are scrape up, add the liquid to the shrimp stock.

Once the roux is done, carefully remove it from the oven and set over medium-high heat. Gently add the onions, celery, green peppers and garlic and cook, moving constantly for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves and stir to combine. Gradually add the shrimp broth and chicken stock while whisking continually. Decrease the heat to low, cover and cook for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp, chicken and sausage and stir to combine. Add the file powder while stirring constantly. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes prior to serving. Serve over rice to a happy public.

If the gumbo is not thick enough for your liking, you can add additional file powder after serving.

The recipe is really hands off compared to most other ones I have seen. You can eliminate the chicken and chicken stock and replace it with vegetable stock if you are so inclined, but I am not sure if there is a way to make this vegetarian. The heat is pretty tame in this recipe, if you like more heat, increase the cayanne, or just add some hot sauce when serving. Traditionally this is served with rice, but would also work with pasta. You can also add more or less of the meats in it, depending on what your preferences are.

File powder can be found at any good spice shop and most mega marts.

Belgian Beef Carbonnade

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I really love things that are braised. Tender chunks of meat, rich unctuous sauces, loads of flavor, the ideal comfort food on a cold day. Braising’s dirty little secret is that you really should make it one day in advance and reheat it the next day. It gives the sauce a chance to infuse itself and increase the flavor.

One of my favorite braises is a classic Belgian dish, Beef Carbonnade. It uses an inexpensive cut of meat, a handful of ingredients and very little prep to produce what I think is the perfect example of what beef stew is. It also combines two of my favorite things – meat and beer. The below recipe was originally taken from Cook’s Illustrated and I have made a few modifications, most notably the amount of liquid used in the dish. My biggest problem with the recipe is that there was not enough sauce, so I took care of that. Also, the original recipe calls for equal parts of chicken stock and beef stock. I replaced that with only chicken stock and I think it actually turned out better. Then again, I was using my homemade stock, which is about 1000 times better than anything that you can get in a store.

Serve over rice, potatoes, pasta, frites or just in a bowl with some bread on the side. The leftovers will freeze nicely for 3-6 months.

The Software
3 1/2 pounds blade steaks, 1-inch-thick, trimmed of gristle and fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds yellow onions (about 3 medium), halved and sliced about 1/4-inch-thick (about 8 cups)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 cups Belgian brown beer
4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, tied with kitchen twine
2 bay leaves

The Recipe
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 300 degrees.
Dry beef thoroughly with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke; add about one-third of beef to pot.
Cook without moving pieces until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes; using tongs, turn each piece and continue cooking until second side is well browned, about 5 minutes longer.
Transfer browned beef to medium bowl.
Repeat with additional 2 teaspoons oil and half of remaining beef. (If drippings in bottom of pot are very dark, add about 1/2 cup of above-listed chicken or beef broth and scrape pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits; pour liquid into bowl with browned beef, then proceed.)
Repeat once more with 2 teaspoons oil and remaining beef.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty Dutch oven; reduce heat to medium-low.
Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and tomato paste; cook, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until onions have released some moisture, about 5 minutes.
Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes.
Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add flour and stir until onions are evenly coated and flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Stir in stock, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits;
Stir in beer, thyme, bay, browned beef with any accumulated juices.
Increase heat to medium-high and bring to full simmer, stirring occasionally; cover partially, then place pot in oven.
Cook until fork inserted into beef meets little resistance, about 2 – 3 hours.
Discard thyme and bay.
Remove about 2 1/2 cups of the sauce to a saucepan and reduce over medium heat by 1/2.
Add the reduced sauce back to the pot with the beef.
Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste and serve to a grateful public. (Can be cooled and refrigerated in airtight container for up to 4 days; reheat over medium-low heat.)

You can probably use any low hop beer for this recipe, but I prefer to use either the Belgian beer Duval (about $8 for a 750 ML bottle) or the Trader Joe’s Vintage Brown Ale (about $4.50 for a 750 ML bottle). The Belgian beers are malty and sweet and will really enhance the sauce. You won’t use the entire thing, so drink with the meal. I have been contemplating trying this recipe with skipping the searing step for 2/3 of the beef. The meat that is above the liquid will brown during the braise, so it might actually save some time that would be used for searing. I would still want to sear 1/3 of it to build the fond in the bottom of the pan (the browned bits), because there is a ton of flavor in that. The recipe also originally called for 1 teaspoon of cider vinegar. I removed it since I didn’t think it really added anything to the braise.