Packaged food that doesn’t suck!

macaronigrill1Being a foodie type of guy I’m not supposed to like stuff that comes out of a package because it’s not artisanal, small farm, organicaly grown eats. Well I had a surprise last night. My lovely wife had been sent free samples of Romano’s Macaroni Grill Chicken Picatta and we just happened to have our noon argument about what we would have for dinner and in the end we decided to give it a try.

Now being Italian I know Italian food. I was figuring this might be passable and most likely better than hamburger helper which I refuse to allow in my house for a second. This really surprised me though. First off they thought about the ingredients and used good ingredients that you can taste the difference in. Plus, you have to add your own chicken and actually cook it on the stove first so not being a stick in the microwave and walk away wasn’t in the picture. It’s basically the pasta and sauce and coating for the chicken. I made it in about 20 minutes which also gave me some time to steam some fresh Italian green beans from the local farmers market (small farm, organicaly grown so there’s the snooty foodie part) while my wife made a salad.

When it was ready and we plated it up I did notice there was sauce in the pan that the box didn’t say anything about pouring over the pasta, so I took it upon myself to sauce up the pasta with it. It was great and it was easy to make and I didn’t have to act like Emeril Lagasse and make all of the ingredients by hand while raising the chickens. The box also suggests that you could use shrimp instead of chicken, but this would go well with just about any kind of meat you wanted to throw at it (venison picatta anyone?) For the ease and price ($4.99) this was a dish that you could tell people was homemade and they wouldn’t know the difference. It’s nice to have on hand and the four different flavors give you good variations to riff on when you’ve got some meat, but don’t know what to make with it.

Flat Iron Steak…the ultimate piece of meat

mmm mmm good!

I had tried this many years ago when an old acquaintance of mine Chef Bruce Hill was the head chef at Oritalia. It’s a funny piece of meat that butchers loved, but they didn’t sell it to the general public because of a fat line of gristle that runs lengthwise through the meat.

Now apparently it’s showing up in stores at around $2.99 a pound. This is a good thing in our current economy since it makes meat more affordable than most cheeses. The trick with this meat is to tenderize it and marinade it. I sprinkle on some Adolph’s meat tenderizer and use my little meat torture implement that has several spikes in it to cut in and loosen up the meat. Then I’ll choose a good marinade from the store to let it soak in for a few hours if not over night.

Keep in mind that this is an easy, inexpensive piece of meat to work with, yet it’s showing up at some of the top restaurants in Las Vegas with top dollar prices. I suppose this might be because restaurants are finding a good piece of meat no one knows about that costs less than flank or skirt steak.

Now this meat is well marbled so the fat will melt out when you drop it on the grill, and I highly recommend you do grill it. I usually do 5 minutes per side with about a 5 minute rest period after. Slice it on an angle (you might hear some people call this a bias cut) and you can serve 4 people for 2 days on a $5-6 piece of meat. I like to use my chimichuri sauce as a final dressing (note my picture), but you can just serve it plain and be happy. It’s very tender like a filet mignon, but meaty in flavor and it works great if you’re having a big grill party since it won’t drain your pocket.

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