Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

Well, well, well… (remember me?)


This poor little blog has been neglected the last couple of months by yours truly.  Blame my new job!  I’ve been traveling like crazy and have hardly been home to cook.  So to talk you into sticking around…here’s as much of a post as I can get out there.

Let’s start with the most recent addition to our kitchen…

For my birthday, Woody gave me a baking steel, from Modernist Cuisine. Which is very cute and thoughtful…he really knows the way to my heart.  It’s through Pizza!  And a couple of nights ago…the first time, we’ve both been in town at the same time in weeks, we made one of these…

…actually we made two…and left only crumbs!

This is the closest we have come to making Neapolitan style pizzeria pizza, with a blistered crust, fresh buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil.  I can’t wait to have it again!

I recently taught a 10 day course in Chico, CA and during a free afternoon, found myself touring the Sierra Nevada Brewery, which of course finishes with a tasting.  The hoppier the beer the better!  I loved the Hoptimum – it has an IBU (International Bitterness Unit) 100.  And their dry hop cold storage room smelled amazing!

Their operation is impressive, even more so because of their emphasis on being green! (Large solar array, hydrogen fuel cells, water treatment plant, etc.)  I really enjoyed Chico…quite a fun little town.  Of particular note is Chico Chai, Avocado Peach Margaritas at this place, and breakfast at Cafe Coda.

Feeling like something on the lighter side…

I experimented with a cold Soba noodle salad with seared tofu, sautéed mushrooms, steamed broccoli and fresh snow peas with a carrot, ginger miso dressing.  It needs a little tweaking, but certainly filled our bellies!

In early May, I had a craving for Chicken Tortilla Soup and whipped this up!

Those are house-fried tortilla strips on top, and the bowl is not ready until you’ve squeezed some fresh lime juice over the top and added fresh avocado as well!

Woody ordered some chile powders from New Mexico and was intrigued by this Blue Corn Pancake Mix.  We threw a batch together one morning, and can now speak from experience…it’s delicious!

Reaching way back (like late April), we made this awesome salad with roasted golden beets, fresh hazelnuts from Oregon, bacon and goat cheese!

I’m about to hit the road again tomorrow and I’ll be gone until the end of June.  I’m SOOOOO looking forward to July, summer produce at the farmer’s market, time to cook, patio sitting and a few slow weeks!

Until July…

Cheers!

 

DLW: Ditalini Pasta & White Beans with Garlic Rosemary Oil


I have been obsessed with white beans as of late.  No explanation…I just want them, all the time.  Also, tuna.  No idea why.

Luckily, Smitten Kitchen delivered and we whipped up this dish for dinner last week.  She mentioned that it makes enough to feed a couple starving armies…so we halved the recipe and still had plenty of leftovers for lunches during the week!

Ditalini Pasta & White Beans with Garlic Rosemary Oil

½ medium onion, cut into big chunks
½ medium carrot, in big chunks
½ celery stalk, in big chunks
3 garlic cloves, 2 left whole, 1 finely chopped
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
¼ cup olive oil, divided
Coarse or kosh salt
1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 15-ounce can small white beans (such as Great Northern or Cannelini), rinsed
½ pound short tube pasta we used Ditalini
½ tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Pulse onion, carrot, celery, whole garlic cloves, parsley, and red pepper flakes (to taste) in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat 4 tbsp. oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and add vegetable mixture to pot. (Quickly rinse, but no need to fully wash, food processor as you’ll use it again shortly.) Season generously with salt. Cook, stirring from time to time, until vegetables take on a bit of color, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook it into the vegetables for another minute. Add 1 cup water and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the pot. Let simmer until liquid has almost disappeared, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add beans and 2 more cups of water to the pot and simmer until the flavors meld, about another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, or still a little firm inside.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water from your drained pasta.

Transfer one cup of the bean mixture to your rinsed food processor and purée it until smooth, then stir it back into the sauce to thicken it. Add drained pasta and 1/2 cup cooking liquid to bean sauce and cook the mixture together, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until the sauce coats the pasta, about 1 to 2 more minutes.

To serve: Heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a tiny saucepan over medium-low heat with garlic and rosemary, until sizzling stops. Divide pasta between serving bowls and drizzle garlic-rosemary oil over each.

Next time we make this, we will wait until the very end to add in most of the beans as we found that we liked them a bit toothier and less mushy.  And please, don’t underestimate how critical the garlic rosemary oil is at the end.  I would even recommend making more of the oil for leftovers and dredging some crusty bread through it.

This is a great vegetarian hearty and filling dish despite looking a little bland.  Who knows, next time I might go crazy and throw some lightly dressed arugula on top!

Spanish Pea Soup with Crispy Ham


Oh, March…you don’t really belong to winter…and yet you’re not a full-fledged spring month either.  Sigh…

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I start craving all things spring.  Ramps, fiddleheads, greens, onions and asparagus, but there is one vegetable in particular that I look forward to the most.  Spring peas.  I think my devotion to the fresh-from-the-garden-spring-peas comes from disliking all peas that were placed in front of me before sometime in my mid-twenties…and is most likely related to the fact that 99% of those were of the frozen or canned variety.

Here’s a revelation.  This Spring Pea soup can be enjoyed any time of year.  Let me say that again, you can enjoy the delightful crisp and sweet taste of spring peas any time you feel like it.  Herein lies the genius of this Spanish Pea Soup with crispy ham and the Barefoot Contessa!  So even if it is still dumping snow in your neck of the woods…it can be springtime in your mouth!

Spanish Pea Soup with Crispy Ham

Good olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots (2 large shallots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 pounds frozen peas, such as Bird’s Eye Sweet Garden
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 thin slices Spanish Serrano ham or Italian prosciutto

In a deep (8 x 5-inch) heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chicken stock, frozen peas, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until coarsely pureed, season to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the ham in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 5 to 8 minutes, until crisp.

Reheat the soup and serve in shallow bowls with a slice of crispy ham on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve hot.

The ham is an integral part of this dish…a nice salty and crunchy complement to the sweet peas.  We opted to serve some crusty bread alongside and we couldn’t resist yet another Barefoot Contessa recipe for Garlic Roasted Cauliflower to make the dinner a bit heartier.

This is so simple, quick and fresh that it makes a perfect weeknight meal, and leftovers are wonderful, even served cold for lunch with a dollop of creme fraiche and of course the drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt!

What is your favorite spring craving?

 

 

Italian Meatballs & Cavatappi


With record-breaking snowstorms back east, and some 35ºF mornings here…I’ve been in the mood for comfort food.  Spaghetti and meatballs has not been a go-to meal for me…probably because I don’t like spaghetti.  This, in and of itself seems silly…since pasta is pasta…but shapes make a rather large difference.

My problems with spaghetti start with the messy factor…I would like the sauce in my mouth and not splattered on my chin.  Also…I think the pasta shape should mirror the shape of whatever else is in the dish…and meatballs do not look like spaghetti.  Then there’s the fork issue…it seems like eating spaghetti with a fork should come with instructions like using chopsticks in a japanese restaurant – step 1: take a deep breath and prepare to stab your fork into the pile of innocent long thin noodles; step 2: Twist fork in circles with tines braced against the bottom of the dish until an appropriate bite-size amount of noodles are twirled around; step 3: Lift fork without noodles sliding, falling or unraveling off of the fork and insert into mouth; step 4: chew spaghetti and meatball bite and savor each delicious morsel…oh wait…you forgot the meatball.  See?  It’s complicated.

Let me simplify.  Don’t use spaghetti when you are making spaghetti and meatballs!

I based this recipe loosely on Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs & Spaghetti from her Family Style cookbook.  I halved the recipe for the meatballs as I only had 1 lb. of ground beef in the house, but made the full recipe for the sauce.  I deem it a very successful recipe and know that it will become a favorite!  (just my humble opinion)  :)

Italian Meatballs & Cavatappi

Makes 10 golf-ball-size meatballs

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1½-2 tbsp of whole milk
¼ cup of minced onion
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 heavy tsp. of ketchup
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup of warm water
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 large shallot, chopped
1½ tsp. minced garlic
½ cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. of dried Italian herbs (like Penzey’s)
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsps. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Put the beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, parmesan, onion, garlic, ketchup into a bowl together.  Beat the egg and add the 1/4 cup of water and beat together a bit more.

Pour the egg/water mixture over the top of the beef et al., and mix together with your hands.  Mix gently and not for very long.  Overworking the mixture will cause the meatballs to be tough.  Once I get a sense of the consistency of the meat mixture, here’s where I decide how much of the milk I will add.  I used about 2 tablespoons of whole milk.  It’s a judgement call…not enough moisture or fat…and the meatballs will be dry…too much and they can fall apart or end up spongy.  Roll the mixture into balls…size is up to you…I went with golf-ball size…assuming two meatballs per person for portion size.

Heat olive and vegetable oil together in a pan on the stove top and place the meatballs in gently, making sure to not crowd them.  It’s better to cook them in batches than to squeeze them all in.  You want the meatballs to brown, not to steam.

Place the pan in the 400° oven for 25 minutes (less if they are smaller).  After 25 minutes, pull them out and give each meatball a turn, turn the oven up to 450° and then put them back in to brown a bit more for about 5 minutes.

Once browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.  Place the pan back on a burner…being highly aware that the pan is hotter than the sun…so don’t touch the handle!  I like to rest a hotpad on the handle as a reminder since I have a (small) history of burning myself when I ought to know better!

Now that you’ve got your pan back on the heat, pour in the tablespoon of olive oil and heat a bit before adding the chopped shallot and onion.  Cook until the onion and shallot are translucent, probably about 5 minutes.

Add in the minced garlic and cook for another minute or so.  While the onions were sautéing, I prepped my tomatoes.  I had a can of whole peeled tomatoes and I wanted them chopped…so I pull them out, gave them a rough chop, making sure not to lose any of their juice and put them back in the can, ready for use.

Next pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up all the delicious bits stuck on the pan from the meatballs and the onions.

Now it’s time to add the tomatoes and all of their liquid.

And it’s also time to add in the parsley, italian seasoning, salt and pepper and the dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Let the sauce come together for 10 minutes or so, before adding the meatballs back in and cooking for another 10-20 minutes.  The timing really depends on how quickly you want dinner on the table…as long as the meatballs are cooked through and warmed back up…you are good to go!

Serve over freshly cooked al dente cavatappi (we used De Cecco brand) and top with a sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan and some minced parsley.  This goes amazingly well with a buttery slice of garlic bread! Just saying!

Buon Appetito!

(but seriously…am I alone in my lack of love for spaghetti…?)

Apple Tart with Salted Caramel


My January was packed and I am just now getting a chance to feel that urge to get organized and start the new year off on the right foot!  I cleared out my entire email inbox yesterday.  I’m going to repeat that!  I CLEARED OUT MY ENTIRE INBOX!  The last time that happened was two years ago.  So now, my inbox is nearly empty (less than 15 emails sitting in there just waiting to be archived), but it seems as though I’ve got some photos to sort through (yikes)!  In my sorting and organizing, there are a couple of dishes that were ignored and never made it into a post, so this is a Throwback Dish - as in I cooked it sometime in the last year…and am just now getting around to posting it!

Deb over at Smitten Kitchen posted this last fall while I was visiting my brother and his family in Portland, OR…it was too much to resist!  (disclosure – cell phone pics – please excuse!)

Mosaic Apple Tart with Salted Caramel

Tart base
14-ounce package puff pastry, defrosted in fridge overnight
3 large or 4 medium apples (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small bits

Salted caramel glaze
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or half as much table salt)
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Heat the oven to 400°F.  Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and roll out your puff pastry dough to about the size of your sheet pan, use flour to prevent the pasty from sticking to your counter.

Peel your apples, core them and cut them in half.  Slice the apple halves thinly…a mandoline makes quick work of this…or slice thinly with a knife.  Now…the puzzle begins.  Starting on the outer edge, lay the apples around the border slightly overlapping each other, spiraling inward until you reach the center.  We  didn’t fit every apple slice in after circling in, so we went around and tucked in the extra slices wherever the tart needed them.  Sprinkle the apples with 2 tablespoons of butter and then dot with the butter.

Bake for 30 minutes, the edges of the tart should have started to brown a bit.  The tart will look dry – don’t worry…you’re fixing this problem with the salted caramel!  

About 10 minutes before the tart comes out of the oven, start the caramel.  In a saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of sugar over medium high heat, continue cooking it until it is coppery in color.  

 Off the heat, add the sea salt and butter and stir until the butter melts and is incorporated. Add the heavy cream and return to the stove over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until you have a lovely, bronzed caramel syrup, just another minute, two, tops. Set aside until needed. You may need to briefly rewarm it to thin the caramel before brushing it over the tart.

After the tart has baked, transfer it to a cooling rack, but leave the oven on. Using very short, gentle strokes, and brushing in the direction that the apples fan to mess up their design as little as possible, brush the entire tart, including the exposed pastry, with the salted caramel glaze. 

Return the apple tart to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the caramel glaze bubbles. You should let the tart cool completely before serving…but I won’t tell!  Serve it up plain or give it a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.  

Very delicious right after it came out of the oven topped with the salted caramel sauce…but equally good the next day, and the day after as well.  I may have had a slice whenever I walked through the kitchen.  It also tasted even sweeter since I had some little hands helping me lay out all the apples thanks to my niece!

Ina’s Winter Minestrone with Garlic Bruschetta


A few weeks ago, I proclaimed this soup one of the best (especially for a brothy soup) soups I’d ever put in my mouth.  I am not joking.  I almost licked the Tupperware clean a week later after I ate my 7th lunch of reheated soup.  The photos are not my finest work – straight from the iPhone as we had company over when I made it and I didn’t stop and take photos before serving.  However, the recipe was too good to just post as a ‘Dinner Last Week’ photo post.

When it comes to soup…I tend towards the creamy or puréed ones.  Also, I don’t think I’ve ever had a minestrone that I had any interest in eating again.  I actually surprised myself AND Woody when I mentioned this was one of the recipes I wanted to make first out of my latest Barefoot Contessa cookbook – Foolproof.  The mixture of pasta, white beans, spinach added at the last second, a dollop of pesto, the richness of parmesan and the butternut squash is so savory and flavorful and perfect for a winter evening…even a mild California winter evening.

I made the recipe exactly as written and the only thing I might change is to add a bit more pancetta.  I thought for sure that the leftovers would be good…but expected the pasta to be blown out from continuing to soak up liquid and the wilted spinach to turn to mush…surprisingly, it held very well.  My mouth still waters thinking about this soup…I’d be surprised if I can wait another month to make it again.

Winter Minestrone with Garlic Bruschetta

from Ina Garten’s “Foolproof Barefoot Contessa”

Good olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, ½-inch-diced
1½ cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups (½-inch) diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups (½-inch) diced celery (3 stalks)
2½ cups (½-inch) diced peeled butternut squash
1½ tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
26 ounces canned or boxed chopped tomatoes, such as Pomi
6 to 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade 
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti (see note)
8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
½ cup good dry white wine
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
Garlic Bruschetta (recipe follows)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the chicken stock, the bay leaf, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 ½ teaspoons pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick, add more chicken stock. Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the spinach, and toss with 2 big spoons (like tossing a salad). Cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto. Depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock, add another teaspoon or two of salt to taste.

Serve large shallow bowls of soup with a bruschetta on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and serve hot.

Garlic Bruschetta

1 baguette
Good olive oil
1 garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Slice the baguette at a 45-degree angle in inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and bake for 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Take the slices out of the oven and rub the surface of each one with the cut clove of garlic.

 

ps:  This recipe is all over the internet, pinterest, etc.  Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks it is absolutely delicious.

 

 

Sous Vide Turkey Breast (or Thanksgiving…Round Two!)


We had a wonderful thanksgiving…including our four cranberry sauces…with 15 friends at 3 different houses.  The evening was wonderful and the food delectable including two different turkeys (one smoked) and incredible sides and of course dessert!  Apparently, that just wasn’t enough for us.  Since we had quite a bit of cranberry sauce left…we decided to do Round Two (downsized a bit!) on Sunday.

First…let’s give credit where credit is due…

This is our official Thanksgiving feast.  Complete with turkey, brussels sprouts, beets, green beans, salad, two gravies, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, four cranberry sauces and of course, stuffing.  My plate looked like this…

I may have overdone it…but that is what thanksgiving is for!

Now for round two!

We purchased a (fairly) reasonably sized bone-in, skin-on turkey breast to sous vide.

We dried it off, seasoned it well with salt and pepper, placed it in a vacuum bag, added a few pats of butter and a bunch of fresh thyme, and sealed it up.

Before getting started, we turned on our thermal-immersion circulator to get it up to the temperature that we wanted – 149º F.  Once it was ready, we dropped the turkey in and set a timer for 2 hours and 30 minutes.

We were so taken by the stuffing that our friend Paul made…we just had to remake it.  I may have mentioned in the past my issue with soggy foods – and stuffing generally falls into this category…however, I had trouble resisting this one…it has green olives!  Let me repeat…it has GREEN OLIVES!  What’s not to love!  We had  no trouble finding the recipe since it was in one of the recent Bon Appétit and is all over the internet!  Since we followed the recipe exactly (making only a half batch), I won’t write out the entire recipe here…all you need to know is that it’s called Italian Mother-in-Law Dressing and is very good!

I cooked up some chard, then onions, dried out some bread, chopped some olives, toasted some pine nuts and tossed it altogether with some rosemary and thyme!

We had one lonely sweet potato on hand, so I diced it up, steamed it a bit and then added some butter and fresh thyme.

The stuffing went into a buttered casserole dish and had the final broth and egg mixture drizzled over the top before getting covered and placed into the oven.

Cleo tends to be very interested in what we’re doing in the kitchen and has become quite bold as of late and thinks this perch on the couch is just perfect for her.  I’m not sure I agree!

Apparently I did not take any photos…but we also had some mashed potatoes cooking.  Rather than mashing, we used a food mill that was handed down from my parents.  I’ll be honest, it has been a while since I have made mashed potatoes that good!  They were so smooth and of course, it doesn’t hurt that they are really just a vessel for butter, cream and salt!

Two and a half hours later, we pulled the turkey out of the water bath.

Once you open the bag, discard the thyme and remove the skin (we saved this and cooked it up a day or two later…it crisped up nicely!).  Once the breast was removed from the bone, I cut slices and drooled a bit.

We set the table and opened a lovely rosé from Frog’s Leap that we purchased on a visit in April to Napa.

And then it was time to plate it up…oh, we also had gravy…and don’t worry…all four cranberry sauces were on the table ready to be enjoyed!

The turkey was very moist, tender and flavorful.  Until we are serving more than just two of us at our house…the sous vide option is just too easy and dependable to not do.  This is definitely just the first of many sous vided turkey options!

Oh…I almost forgot.  Let’s discuss cranberry sauces!  I personally loved the chutney.  I think it has found a way into my recipe box for future thanksgivings…it is savory and a little different while still maintaining that tart flavor that you want from your cranberry sauce.

At our feast, the chutney and the raw orange relish (a Connelly family recipe) were the favorites.  The standard cranberry sauce (another Connelly family recipe – Thanks Dad!) also had its followers.   But I have to say, I know the Mama Stamberg’s recipe is beloved by many an NPR listener, but it was just not a hit.  Perhaps there were too many options!

I hope you all enjoyed an abundant Thanksgiving and were surrounded by friends and family.  Anyone else have more than one thanksgiving?

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good


No…really…this is nothing more and nothing less than a small pumpkin stuffed with everything good!  As it is the first day (FINALLY) of fall weather here (actual rain is falling as I type), I will take a brief break from my tomato and corn obsession.

I am not the first to plaster this recipe on a blog…and I certainly won’t be the last.  This is surely a recipe that will span the test of time…and on the interwebs, that is not something to take lightly.  Take Pinterest for example; it is chock-full of seasonal sweets that utilize cookie dough, a popular candy bar and for good measure, some marshmallow fluff (examples found here, here and here).  Admittedly, my sweet tooth prefers understated, almost savory desserts (I’m not calling myself objective here!) and while these recipes have a purpose (bake-sales, holiday parties, novelty, etc.), our grandmothers would not recognize them from their recipe repertoire.  They are trends.  They may, in fact, even taste good…but they are not staples and certainly not classics.  I’m sure many out there disagree with me and that is fine…as I firmly believe that it takes all kinds.  This recipe is a classic for so many reasons – it is more an idea than a recipe, it is flexible, it is seasonal and does not waste any bits, it can be made up of leftovers and pantry items or each ingredient bought for its specific purpose, it is cheap and can serve a crowd.  For these reasons and many more, it has a place in my recipe box.  A quick google search will prove this true for many others.

The recipe is available all over the web, however I’ve posted it here is taken directly from Dorie Greenspan‘s book Around My French Table.  This dish epitomizes a perfect change of seasons dish…still emphasizing the freshness of squash while the filling is casserole and stuffing all wrapped into one.  Serve it with a crisp salad lightly dressed earlier in the fall or with some seared chicken sausages when a chill in the air is familiar and calls for heartier meals.

  • 1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
  • About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • About 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment.

Cut the top off of the pumpkin and scrape any seeds and strings from the lid, do the same to the inside of the pumpkin.  Once it is cleaned to your satisfaction, liberally season the inside of the pumpkin with kosher salt and pepper, you can also drizzle a little bit of olive oil in there as well, but it doesn’t absolutely need it.  Place it on the parchment on the baking sheet.

Toss all the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl (bread, cheese, garlic, onion, bacon, and herbs).  I had some kale on hand, so I chopped it up and tossed that in as well.  Season the mixtures with fresh ground pepper and some additional salt being careful not to over-salt as the cheese and bacon are already a bit salty.

Pack the mixture into the pumpkin…make sure it is filled!  We ended up with enough stuffing for an entire additional casserole dish which we buttered before adding the stuffing.

Mix the cream together with the nutmeg and of course, season with salt and pepper and then pour it over the stuffing into the pumpkin.

The cream provides the majority of the moisture for the stuffing, so don’t skimp…but your stuffing should not be swimming in the cream either.

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife.  It was so cute, I could hardly stand it!

 

Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully—it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.

I cut wedges and plated it with a lightly dressed salad the included some microgreens from Trader Joe’s.

The stuffing itself is delicious, but with a scoop of the tender pumpkin flesh, it is *literally* a perfect fall dinner.  I’ve got so many ideas of what to stuff a little pumpkin with…sausage, wild rice, apples, linguiza, chestnuts, the list is endless!  What would you stuff your pumpkin with?

It is wonderfully chilly outside now, but I need to temper my excitement for fall as the forecast is calling for 90′s next week.  Look for yet another post containing corn or tomatoes…or both.

 

 

Hybrid Enchiladas with Green Chiles & Cheese


I am currently jealous of any person currently living in an area where the daily high temperatures are not rising above 70º.  Here in southern California…we’re still in the thick of the heat.  Today we had a major dip and the high was only 84º!  Last week, husband and I were enjoying a late summer vacation around the Teton region in Wyoming and Idaho and although it was certainly cooler…it was still ridiculously hot for this late in September.  Wild fires still abound and our days were filled with smoky haze.  However the brisk early mornings and waning light left me hungry for fall weather.  Casserole weather.

I love enchiladas as they tend to include cheese (love), corn tortillas (love) and they beg to be topped with the quintessential Tex-Mex garnish of sliced canned black olives.

No, these hybrid enchiladas will not get you more miles to the gallon…but they are a mixture of enchilada preparation styles from both my family and my husband’s family.

Woody likes his enchiladas on the spicy-side and I prefer it a bit milder so I tried to maximize the flavor of the sauce while not creating a volcanic sauce that would ruin the fun of my dinner.  Truly…I winged it.

In its most basic form, enchilada sauce is tomato sauce that has been flavored with chilies, onions and spices.  There are plenty of recipes out there to use as a starting point.  You’ll also notice from the above photo, that I used a portion of prepared enchilada sauce in making my sauce.  I tend to not love the sauces straight from the can, but they can enhance the depth of your sauce and make things a bit more complex.

Enchiladas can be made with flour or corn tortillas.  I like both, but they are very different, with corn being more authentic.  To use corn tortillas and make them malleable, you need to soften each one in a bit of hot vegetable or canola oil first.  Heat a shallow fry pan that is at least the size of your tortillas with ¼” of oil in the bottom.  You are not trying to make crispy tortillas…rather they should soak up a bit of oil which will make them easy to roll without tearing and ripping.  Using tongs, slip each tortilla into the warm oil for no more than 5-15 seconds per side and stack warm on a plate.  It’s best to do more than you think you will need so you don’t have to go back and repeat this step.  When the oil gets low, just add a bit more and let it heat back up.  If the oil is spitting, it is probably too hot.

I filled these enchiladas with jack cheese and Ortega green chiles.  Cut the cheese into ¼ to 1/3 inch logs and slice the canned whole green chiles into lengthwise slices.  Place one of each onto a tortilla and roll tightly and place the seam side down into a baking dish.  Continue until you have filled the pan and squished in as many as possible.

While I was building the enchiladas, my sauce was bubbling away on the stove.  When the pan is filled, it is time to lade the sauce over the enchiladas.

I started the sauce with sautéing a thinly sliced onion which is why it looks a bit chunky and stringy.

Smooth sauce over the top, letting it settle into the nooks and crannies.  Tope with shredded cheese and (of course) sliced black olives.

Now it’s time to bake this delicious pan of cheesy goodness.  You can also wrap it with foil and freeze it at this point – I had enough to feed an army…so I froze a whole second pan for sometime in November!  Bake at 350º for 20-30 minutes (from frozen it will probably need more like 45-60 minutes – and you can put it directly in a cold oven, and that way you can avoid the risk of your dish breaking from temperature shock as it will heat up with the oven).  If it is browning too quickly, cover with a piece of foil.

Let it stand for a few minutes once you remove it from the oven and then serve it up with your favorite sides.  We went with beans and a little garnish of fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream (which didn’t make it into the photo).

Side note:  I out-spiced myself with this particular dish.  In my attempt to satisfy my husband’s need for some heat…I went a bit far with the chiles, cayenne and chile powder.  Oops!  At least one of us loved it!  The sour cream helped me cool down the dish for my pathetic pallet.  

What are you cooking now that the weather has turned (in most places)?

 

 

Chicken Piccata


This is pure comfort food for me.

Chicken Piccata was a standard in our household when I was growing up.  Although for a while it was referred to Tonkatsu Chicken as my brothers and I preferred to dip our chicken in Tonkatsu sauce (basically a Japanese Worcestershire sauce) rather than squeezing fresh lemon over the top.  

I digress.  This is such a simple dish…and very easy to make on a weeknight as well.  Although I don’t have a crowd to feed…it was always a crowd-pleaser.  The chicken breasts I used were humongous…I probably should have cut each one in half once I had pounded them and saved half of the meat for another meal.  But it did make for some great leftovers, so I can’t complain.

Chicken Piccata

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1-2 cups of breadcrumbs (panko or regular)
2 lemons (1 sliced and 1 juiced with seeds removed)
1-2 tbsp. capers
1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
2-4 tbsp. of butter
½ cup of white wine

First, place 1 chicken breast in a gallon size ziplock bag and using a meat pounder or rolling-pin, pound each breast until it is about ¼ to ½ inch thick.  This helps tenderize the meat and will help it to cook evenly and much faster.  Next, open a bottle of wine…pour yourself a glass and leave some to help deglaze the pan.

Next, ready your breading set-up.  Shallow bowls or plates with a lip on them, or even cake pans can work really well for this.

I was gifted these a few years ago and LOVE them.  They link together so you avoid the drippy egg all over the counter and they help maximize your workspace as they fit together tightly unlike round plates or bowls would.  When breading, remember wet sticks to dry and dry sticks to wet.  So start with the flour, the next pan should have the eggs lightly beaten and the last pan is for the breadcrumbs and don’t forget to season at each step.  I heavily season the chicken breast before the flour dredge and I usually season the egg with salt and pepper as well.

Next, put your pan on the heat and add some olive oil and a pat of butter…the oil has a higher smoke point and the butter helps things to brown nicely.  Once the pan is hot, gently lay the first chicken breast down.  I turn the heat up a bit at this point because as soon as you add your chicken, the pan will cool quite a bit.  If there’s room (don’t crowd the pan), add in the second chicken breast.  I turn the oven on warm (150-180º F) so I’ve got a warm place to hold the chicken while I make the sauce.

Turn the chicken breasts once the bottom side is browned handling them gently as you want to breading to stay on the chicken.  Remove the chicken from the pan once it is cooked through and the second side is browned as well – place on a plate in the oven.

Now it’s time for the sauce.  If there is a ton of oil in the pan, run a paper towel around to remove some of it without wiping up the little brown bits.  Next, throw in half of your lemon slices and some of the capers, and cook a bit as you want them to break down.  Remove the pan from the heat, and add the white wine to deglaze the pan and use a wooden spoon to get all the delicious browned bits up and incorporated into the sauce.  Add in the juice from 1 lemon, a dash of salt and pepper let all the liquids combine.  Before two much of the sauce has evaporated, add small and very cold chunks of butter to the pan and stir them in completely before adding the next chunk.  This is called mounting the sauce with butter.  The cold butter emulsifies and thickens the sauce.  Just before serving add in the rest of the capers, another few slices of lemon and the chopped parsley.  Plate the chicken, top with lemon and drizzle the sauce over and serve it with rice.

C’est Parfait!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,025 other followers

%d bloggers like this: