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Friday, March 6, 2015

What's Your Signature Dish?

One of my favorite ways to save money is to cook at home. Those of you who know me know that cooking isn't my favorite sport, but I've found ways to make it tolerable.

It's always more enjoyable if you have company. Even if Greg just stands there, it's nice to have someone hand you the spices, or stir the pot. (Better than having him watch tv while I'm muttering about whether his parents were married.)

Never piss off the cook. You don't want to eat food from someone who's been mad at you all day. Just sayin'.


The other thing we do to spice up our menu is recreate our favorite restaurant dishes. Our biggest sin is eating out. To curb the tendency, we started replicating the meals we liked best.

There are entire web sites dedicated to copying famous recipes, from fast food to gourmet restaurants. Here are a few of my favorites:

Six Sisters Stuff 
Recipe Link
Culinary Arts College

Do a Google search for your favorite dish and you might just find the recipe. 

Quite often our version is even better than the restaurant so don't be surprised if you prefer your own to the national brand.

Who knows? You might come up with a signature dish. 

I know Greg's has to be his deep dish pizza. It is amazing! I don't know if I have a signature dish but people like my Mexican fajitas. I also make a mean lemon salmon with orzo.

Spicy sausage with bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes
The sausage and peppers dish I make came from something we had once at a state fair. Ours of course has more meat. :)

What's your signature dish? Have you ever tried to duplicate a restaurant meal?


LD Masterson said...

Now you've got me thinking. I'm not sure I have a signature dish. Perhaps my banana meat loaf. But I know Stan's. When we get together with friends in the summer for a cook out, everyone wants Stan to bring the baked beans.

And I totally agree about not pissing off the cook. You can get some nasty surprises in your food that way.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Yum! those look great.

I don't think I have a signature dish either - unless "everything into the pot, I'm not washing extra dishes" counts? :)

I do like making chicken soup from scratch, when I have time. That is, starting by making the stock, saving the meat off the bones, adding it to the end product. Delish, but time-consuming.

Jackie Burris said...

Signature dish in our house would have to be my pot of chili and beans, it has less meat but lots of beans with diced tomatoes and chilis in them. For my husband if it is cold outside that is his first request, heck even if over 100 in the summer he wants it cooked!

Maria want recipe for your spicy sausage with Bell Peppers, Onions and Tomatoes if you have time to email me a copy some time soon.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Signature dish? Is that one I made up or one I make using a cookbook? Everyone here loves my meatloaf (but I have Betty Crocker to thank for that). I like my goulash. I sort of used a microwave recipe, but it didn't have enough "stuff" in it, so I improvised. I also cheated. I use spaghetti sauce instead of tomato sauce and spices. Add cooked ground beef w/onions, canned corn (drained), and cooked macaroni. Put it all together in a Corning ware container and microwave. Makes a lot, but yummy and SUPER easy. Great leftovers, too!

Diane Carlisle said...

My signature dish is lasagna. :)

Secret ingredient? ...sour cream! Yep.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: Banana meatloaf? Now I'm curious.

I haven't made a meatloaf in ages. I used to have a cookbook with a hundred different ways to make meatloaf. I must've tried them all--but I never saw banana meatloaf. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: Homemade chicken soup. That's worth getting sick just to have some comfort food.

I save the broth whenever I boil chicken for the dogs, but I can't say I've ever made a really good chicken soup. That was my mom's specialty.

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: Now that's a true signature dish if you get asked for it regardless of the season.

Let me figure out the recipe for the sausage and peppers. I just throw things together until it tastes like I like it. But I'll send you what I think is the right proportions before the weekend is over.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: That goulash sounds like a stick-to-your-ribs comfort food.

I love comfort food. No matter how bad your day is, if you can end it with a little comfort food, it's not all bad.

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: Ahh! I make a passable lasagna, but I always felt it was missing something. I'm going to try your sour cream tip the next time I make it.


Raelyn Barclay said...

Hmm...signature dish? I have a few I fall back on but something I'm "famous" for? I must think upon that :)

I have recreated a number of dishes, and drinks, from restaurants. You're right, my recreations are better than the restaurant. However, the not cooking...

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

I wish my wife didn't have such a meat and potato mentality. I would love to mix it up. The spiciest thing I get away with is an Italian sausage pasta dish with four cheese Alfredo sauce. My fav

Anonymous said...

I suspect my signature dish is my dad's spaghetti sauce. Everyone LOVES it! Of course it's also his mother's sauce and so on back through the Italian ages. Probably the current version is quite different, as I really learned how to make it from my mother, who learned it from my father and his mother. I never met my Italian grandmother and did not get to grow up with my father around, so who knows?

I do like to recreate restaurant meals, and I love it when I can find actual recipes. I have a cookbook from the Cheeseboard, a bakery/pizza store in Berkeley. And I once found a recipe online for Zachary's Pizza. That was awesome!

Mike Keyton said...

Boboutie. I gave you the recipe once, I think.

Darke Conteur said...

We have a signature dish; baked beans. I saw a recipe on televison and made it, but it used pre-made canned beans. In the summer we made baked beans from scratch, and now that I understand the process, I can experiment. I think that's the best part about cooking at home - experimenting.

You should try my French Toast. I'm still working on that recipe too. :D

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: I would be okay with robots in the house if they did the cooking and cleaning. :)

I think the reason our home versions taste better is because we don't cut corners.

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: You could always volunteer to cook one night a week and try a new recipe.

Greg likes to cook--not so much clean-- but that's okay by me.

Maria Zannini said...

Marlene: That's how Greg learned to make his spaghetti sauce. On Sundays, his dad would take over the kitchen and make sauce.

I guess we all take little things we learned from our parents and grandparents and infuse them into our cooking.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: I remember that. Question is, do you still make it for the family?

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: I've never made baked beans before, but I tried a national brand that is pretty darn good. (Bush's Best Beans).

You've inspired me to try to make my own though. Bush's Beans are more expensive than all the other brands, so I only buy it when it's on sale.

Mike Keyton said...

When we have guests or when my daughter comes home

Rebekah Loper said...

I have a couple of dishes that might qualify for my 'signature' dishes! My chicken soup is rapidly becoming my signature dish, I think, as I keep refining it and finding what I like to do best with it.

My pizza would be the other one - I make the crust and the sauce from scratch, and while hubby sometimes whines that it's just not the same as 'restaurant' pizza (and it's NOT, because it's healthy!) I think it's a delicious substitute.

Maria Zannini said...

Rebekah: I wish I could make chicken soup the way my mother did. It was truly a comfort food.

Re: pizza
There's nothing like homemade crust and sauce! I can testify.