It is ridiculous how much I enjoy watching other people cook. I should probably amend that to say that it's ridiculous how much I enjoy watching other people cook on television. Watching average people cook is actually pretty boring. Maybe if average people talked more about the ingredients they were using and could chop stuff really fast, it'd be more fun to watch.
I've enjoyed cooking most of my adult life. Watching so much Food Network has just made me love it even more.
It's also made me kind of a cooking nerd. I bought a long, skinny bottle for my olive oil. I bought a big covered bowl for my salt. I bought a pepper grinder. I bought a really good knife. So now I have all the little accoutrements the pros have. Too bad the tools don't do the work for you. Or guarantee anything's gonna taste good.
I also enjoy cooking because it's something my girlfriend and I can do together. She hadn't done much cooking prior to dating me - a stray casserole here or there - but in the two years we've been together, she's gotten really good at throwing stuff together. I don't take credit for that, though. She's a naturally fast learner and, well, every time she's over at my place the Food Network's on, so she's gonna pick something up eventually.
A few months ago, I started a blog online where my girlfriend and I post recipes (www.patchdrury.com/recipes). Most of them are recipes we see on television and then adapt to suit our taste, but every once in a while we'll create something out of thin air, or try and backwards-engineer some dish we had out somewhere.
Back when I used to live in Florida, there was this Mexican restaurant that served baked potatoes stuffed with strips of steak, peppers and onions, covered in cheese. They were awesome. I can't remember what they were called, and I've never seen them served in any other restaurant.
Sara and I have, over the past few months, tried to recreate this dish based only on my memories and descriptions of it. After a handful of attempts, I think we finally got it, so now I'm going do something I used to see in my hometown newspaper when I was growing up. I'm gonna hand out a recipe!
Like I said, I have no idea what this dish was called in the restaurant I used to go to, but I'm gonna call it Southwestern Steak-Stuffed Potatoes. Not very original, I know, but sometimes a product should do just what it says on the side of the can.
1 pound of sliced or chunked steak (like used in stir fry or stews. I know the stewing meat isn't always the best cut, but it worked really well last night.)
-- 4 large baking potatoes
-- 2 cups of shredded Mexican blend cheese
-- 1/2 can of black beans (drained)
-- 1 garlic bulb
-- 1 shallot bulb
-- 1/2 of a jalapeno
-- 1 tablespoon of cilantro
-- 1/4 stick of butter
-- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
-- 1/4 cup of milk
-- Red pepper flakes
First, we microwaved all four potatoes for 32 minutes. You don't have to microwave them. You could bake them in the oven, but be prepared to cook them a lot longer than 30 minutes.
While those are cooking, get your garlic, shallot, jalapeno and cilantro chopped and set them aside. You can also go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
When your potatoes have about six minutes left to cook, heat up your olive oil in a skillet and add your beef, chopped vegetables and spices. Cook until brown, then drain and set aside.
Once the potatoes are done, give them a few minutes to cool. Once you can handle them without burning yourself, cut a line down the center of each potato, then gently push inward on both ends of said tubers. This should cause the potatoes to pop open, if they've cooked long enough. Once your potatoes are open, start scooping the inside into a mixing bowl. Be careful, though - you're going to be re-stuffing them in a minute, so try not to tear them up.
Once all your potatoes have been - I don't know, emptied? - add your milk and butter to the potato scoopings and hand-mash them a bit. You want them to be blended but a bit chunky still. Then add your beef, black beans and cheese to the mixture and mix it all together.
Once your mixture is nicely blended, start spooning it back into your empty potato skins.You'll probably have some left over, but really go ahead and stuff the things as full as you can without destroying them. Once that's finished, sprinkle them with more cheese and put them in the oven for five minutes.
That's it! You're done.
This meal is super good but super filling. If you try it and you like it, e-mail me and let me know.
If you try it and it's not very good, please keep it to yourself. I'm extremely fragile.
Patrick Drury can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com. Patrick recently published his first book, "PatchWorks Volume One," a collection of his columns. To purchase the book, visit http://www.cafepress.com/patchworks.54813581