Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Recipe: Date Night Made Easy - Crockpot Beef Stroganoff & Roasted Broccoli

I'm sure many of you are like me - work full days and rarely have time to cook up a weeknight dinner. To make it more impossible, I travel every week for work too. So whenever I get the rare chance of working from home, I like to take advantage of the opportunity to whip up a homecooked meal for my fiance.

One of his favorite dishes is Beef Stroganoff, and with the help of a crockpot, it takes 15 minutes to prepare this dish and your date will be thoroughly impressed. Make him think you slaved in the kitchen :) I found a recipe on Cooking Light so the meal was more guilt-free. To balance out the heavy dish, I served the stroganoff with a side of roasted garlic broccoli. It was the perfect accompaniment with its slightly charred tips and bits of garlic chips.

To start, throw all your ingredients into the crockpot.

Mix in the wet and dry ingredients and turn on the slow cooker. That's it. You can go back to working or watching TV.

For the side, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, then combine the cut-up broccoli crown with 6 cloves of smashed garlic and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the broccoli on a baking sheet (there is no need to grease the sheet as the oil from the broccoli mixture will suffice) and bake for 20 minutes, or until brown. It's that simple, the texture of the broccoli changes (it's ends are crispy), it tastes great and it's good for you too.

Beef Stroganoff
Recipe adapted from Cooking Light
1 (1-pound) top round steak (1 inch thick), trimmed (I used beef chuck)
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms (about 2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour or 2 tbspn
1 cup beef broth
1 (8-ounce) container low-fat sour cream
2 cups hot cooked medium egg noodles (about 4 ounces uncooked)

1. Cut steak diagonally across grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place steak and next 8 ingredients (though garlic) in a 3-quart electric slow cooker; stir well.

2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour in a small bowl; gradually add broth, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add broth mixture to slow cooker; stir well. Cover with lid; cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce to low-heat setting, and cook 7 to 8 hours or until steak is tender. Turn slow cooker off; remove lid. Let stroganoff stand 10 minutes. Stir in sour cream. Serve stroganoff over noodles.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

An Day in Pasadena: Haven Gastropub and 2012 Breeder's Cup

The Breeder's Cup (horse racing) is held annually, with the venue changing almost every year. In the last two years, it was held at Churchill Downs, home to the Kentucky Derby, but this year and next, it is held in Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Since it is somewhat in our backyard, we made the trek to the San Gabriel area for the race.

The race park sits at the foothill of the San Gabriel mountains, providing a beautiful backdrop.

You can get seats in the Grandstand (where there were attendees wearing dresses and fine hats) or you can get General Admission tickets for only $20 in the Infield (or the cheap seats as they are called). There is beer, wine, liquor and food sold in the infield but the booze quickly sold out. Pretty poor management on the organizers part, I must say.

I am not much of a gambler, but it seemed low risk as you can make bets for as little as $1. The fiance really did the betting for me but out of 6 races that I bet exacta on (based on "cute" horse names), I won half of them, essentially winning around $150 from a total of $36 in bets. Pretty fun stuff.

Before the race started, we stopped by our friend's place in Pasadena for some light snacks.

A selection of cured meat from a Pasadena neighborhood gem, Roma Italian Deli. Beef brescola, prosciutto, Italian salumi and coppa. Also served with gorgonzola, brie, Italian parmigiano and olives. The cured meat was outstanding, fresh. Apparently Roma Deli has been owned by the same Italian gentleman for over half a century, and he is great at giving recommendations if you need any.

My (Bulgarian) friend also introduced us to a interesting combination of Greek-styled caviar spread (caviar and cream) and a spicy Harissa spread. Loved the combination of cream, salty fish roe and the kick from the harissa spread which tasted like a slight relative of sambal chili.

After the races (and finally able to catch a cab after 2 hours), we met up with friends at Haven Gastropub in Old Town Pasadena. The gastropub first opened in Orange County and made its way to Pasadena late last year.

Haven has over 40 craft beers and tap and many in bottle.

Homemade potato chips ~  A nice starter. I really enjoyed the garlic aioli dipping sauce. The chips were supposedly soaked in beer but they didn't taste any different. Not a big deal as they still tasted good as they were not too oily and had just the right amount of seasoning.

Hand twisted pretzel ~ I am a huge pretzel fiend and always have to order it when it's on the menu. Unfortunately, this pretzel did not impress me. Yes it looked very promising, but it was a bit on the doughy side and a bit dense. The bacon fontina cheese had nice chunks of bacon to it but probably needed just a sprinkle of salt. The beer mustard sauce however was the favorite at the table. Sweet, tangy with a spice.

French onion soup ~  we really enjoyed this soup from the flavorful yet on overbearingly salty broth, to the melted gruyere atop a crostini. It just really hit the spot.

Beef tongue poutine ~ I really enjoyed this dish. What's there not to like? French fries (which still had a bit of a crunch under the topping), braised beef tongue which didn't really even taste like tongue or had the tough texture of tongue. In fact, the shredded meat was tender and had good salty flavors to it. The fries and meat were topped with round pieces of port salut which is a mild goat cheese. I liked that it wasn't completely melted and overly gooey, and had a nice caramelization on top.

Homemamde donuts ~ The donuts here were pretty good (fresh, soft and large in size). The nutella sauce was a favorite, however the Jameson caramel sauce was a bit too strong for everyone.

I really enjoyed my meal at Haven. Sometimes it's hard to find a place that satisfies the fiance (BEER, and casual setting) and mine (good food and blogworthy) so I thought Haven did a good job of balancing that out. Unfortunately we were not too hunger and as such, only ordered a couple appetizers to share. However based on what we tried, I can only imagine good things about the other dishes. Some that caught my eye were the porchetta, pork rillette and the whole roasted suckling pig dinner with 3 sides for only $45/person. Sounds like a delicious pork feast.

Haven Gastropub
42 South De Lacey Ave,
Pasadena, CA 91104
(626) 768-9555

Roma Italian Deli
918 N. Lake,
Pasadena, CA 91104
(626) 979-7748

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bottomless Mimosa Brunch at The Six Restaurant

Saturday Mimosa brunch is the thing that I look forward to most each week. More so if the mimosas are bottomless and reasonably priced. I had been to The Six restaurant on Pico Blvd by the Westside Pavillion when it first opened in 2010 and enjoyed my dinner thoroughly. The restaurant has been doing well since and even opened up another location in Studio City last year.

$10 bottomless mimosas, or you can opt for blood mary or Great White Brew (from Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, CA). What a great deal, and we got quite a hefty pour.

Waffle Sliders ~ This seemed to be a crowd favorite, in fact I saw a table of 4 ladies who each ordered this dish. I liked that the waffles were not huge (making it easier to eat) and that you got two. The fluffy-in-the- center waffles with a crunchy exterior sandwiched in a fried egg, cheddar and bacon. I liked the sprinkling of powdered sugar on the cutting board. Great presentation too.

The Six burrito ~ The burrito was stuffed with egg, potato, caramelized onions, bell pepper and bacon. Pretty simple but made with good quality, fresh ingredients. It was served with a side of lightly dressed spring salad.

The rest of the menu looks great including the lunch options such as fried chicken & waffles and beets with burrata. If you are starving, the Hay Stack (pile of fries, patty, fried egg) would do the trick. The only issue I saw was that our waitress didn't smile and looked annoyed to be there. Hungover perhaps? In any case, The Six has a solid menu and a great mimosa special.

The Six Restaurant
10668 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
the sixrestaurant.com