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Posts from the ‘Winter’ Category

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…?)

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.

 

 

Pheasant & Waffles


Every year should start with pheasant!

{or at least something that looks this delectable!}

and waffles…and herbs…and…all manner of delicious things, really!

Although this was not the first meal of 2012…it is worthy of the first post!  It all began back in November of 2011…actually, to really get to the beginning…we have to go back to July 21, 2006…

That’s the day I officially became a gun owner (having never in my life , thought that I would own a gun!)  The next day I got married…and soon(ish) I put that gun to use and became a (bird) hunter.  Let’s not get carried away here…I’m no Ted Nugent…however, I do believe that you should be honest about your relationship with food and be willing to (at least once) participate directly in acquiring meat  for you table that normally comes cleanly packaged with nary a hint of it’s life before Styrofoam, refrigeration and shipping.

While we are being honest…my husband was the hunter who shot the birds for this meal…and our dog is the one who joyfully retrieved them for us…I just cooked them up and took a lot of photos!

We visited family over the Thanksgiving break and spent some time near Heber, UT…the weather was brisk but certainly not cold!  Woody skipped out on a morning of thanksgiving prep and took Cleo (our Braque Français (French Pointer) bird-dog) out to the plains on the south-west side of Utah Valley to hunt for pheasant.  He returned smiling with a couple of birds.

Cleo rested in the sun-warmed truck while Woody took to ‘breasting’ the birds.  Essentially cutting the skin at the breast bone and exposing both breasts and cutting them out without having to pluck the bird as the feathers make it a very messy process.

I think feathers are one of nature’s great beauties…so intricate, light, complex and impressive!

Woody started with a hen.

Then moved on to the rooster pheasant – much more brightly colored.

Pheasants are stunning and happen to taste delicious as well!

This is Pippa very interested in the bird, but not quite sure what to do with it.

Now Golden Retrievers normally retrieve, but Molly, Pippa and Sam have not had opportunities to do so other than with their balls and toys…and that is more for the fun of it than for any real purpose.  Woody was attempting to coerce a retrieval out of at least one of the gold squadron…but it was not a show-stopping performance.  All dogs got very excited at the prospect of something being thrown…and would go right to it…and then sniff and look up confused as to what was supposed to happen next.  Urban retrievers…what are you going to do???…really!

Fast forward a day or so…after gorging ourselves with thanksgiving dinner and playing some cranium late into the evening, the cooking begins!

Start with sautéed onions (never a bad idea)!

Luckily, there were still odds and ends of unused vegetables from the turkey day feast!  Rough-chopped mushrooms – throw them in the pan as well…

Let those soften and cook down a bit, I think I de-glazed the pan with a bit of white wine and some water, and then go ahead and add the smattering of herbs!

Sage and thyme!

I added some heavy cream si it could be gin to thicken and reduce while the pheasant and the waffles get cooking.

The pheasants resulted in a wonderful little nuggets with a few larger breast pieces…which were kept wrapped in wax paper in an unsealed ziplock in the fridge in between being extracted from the birds and making to the hot pan.

Each piece was salted and peppered and coated in seasoned flour.

Knock off any excess flour and place in a hot pan with melted butter and a little oil to increase the smoke point.

Don’t crowd the pan…it’ll cool off to quickly and the breast won’t brown properly.

Continue to check on the ‘gravy’ to make sure it doesn’t thicken up too much.

Waffles were already on the menu for the morning…and the batter was nicely balanced – not too fluffy or sweet.  Start making waffles!

Here’s the kicker…start cooking a fried egg.  In butter.   (you’ll thank me later)

Check on gravy!

Here is where the fun really begins.

1.  Put crispy, toasty waffle on plate.

2.  Top with fried egg (yolk still soft).

3.  Place delicious pheasant breast on top of egg and waffle.

4.  Spoon herby, onion mushroom creamy gravy over the top.

5.  Top with sprigs of fresh herbs!

Voila!

{you know you want to eat this!} {now…right now!!!}

{drool}

2011 Meals in Review | part two


as promised…

2011 Meals in Review | part two

July

Gorgonzola Chicken Pasta Salad (a la D’Amico & Sons)

German Potato Salad

Summer Tomato Caprese Stacks

Bastille Day & a Little Liberté with Scallion and Chive Smoked Salmon Spread

 

August

Sour Cream Verde Enchiladas

 

September

Heirloom Tomatoes Bread Salad with Burratta

Zucchini, Summer Squash and Brown Rice Casserole

 

October

Tomato and Gruyere Tart

served with a little salad

Fresh Linguine with Mizithra Cheese and Lightly Dressed Arugula

Traditional Beef Empanadas (made mini!)

A little sampling of delicious items…cheese, olives, toasts, etc.

Niçoise Salad

 

November

Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti

Brioche French Toast

No-Knead Bread

Gougeres

Red Tea, Beef & Sweet Potato Stew

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

Excuse the phone photo…but that’s what’s left of a scrumptious braised rabbit with pappardelle from this place.

Chestnut Pancetta Stuffing for Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving plate…and no I didn’t overdo it!

Couldn’t be complete without a slice of pecan pie!

The morning after was no let-down with Pheasant and Waffles topped with a Fried Egg and Mushroom Thyme Gravy!!!

 

December

A weekend trip up north found us eating at the Culinary Institute of America’s restaurant in St. Helena.  The Tasting included 5 delectable bites to whet our appetites.

The polenta sitting under the magnificently cooked piece of beef was quite possibly the best thing on the table.

Duck Confit with a Poached Egg and Frisee

Krumkake Christmas Cookies

Christmas Eve bites including Cremenelli Salami – a little hometown pride!

Christmas Dinner – Tenderloin of Beef, Creamy Dill Carrots and Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Turkey Tetrazzini

The BEST use of leftover beef ever…sliced beef tenderloin topped with a cold Bernaise sauce

And last but not least, Short Ribs Italiano served over Pappardelle!

 

We’re making some artichoke dip and about to head over to friends to ring in the new year!  Tonight is for looking back and tomorrow, we start fresh.

A Whole New Year!

Happy New Year!

Welsh Rarebit


You may have never heard of such a dish, but Welsh Rarebit was a standard (although not super-frequent) dinner when I was growing up.  First, I thought the name was amusing and goofy…like when children eat pasghetti and meatballs for dinner…and on top of it…even if it was called Welsh Rabbit instead, it was very confusing because there is no rabbit or meat involved in the dish whatsoever.  It is a dinner version of the typical ploughman’s lunch of cheddar and chutney with bread.  And the best and simplest explanation is straight from Wikipedia…”It might also be understood as a slur against the Welsh: if a Welshman went rabbit hunting, this would be his supper.”  Ha!

Woody has been asking me to make Welsh Rarebit for quite a while now…and if I am being totally honest…it is not one of my favorite dishes.  I’ve tried and tried and it just isn’t friends with my taste buds.  But I knew it was a dish that Woody would adore!  We compared recipes, and Alton Brown’s is shockingly similar to my family recipe and we went with his version – thinking it would be much easier for all you readers to get your hands on, if you are so inspired.

Alton Brown’s Welsh Rarebit

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup porter beer
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces (approximately 1 1/2 cups) shredded Cheddar
  • 2 drops hot sauce
  • 4 slices toasted rye bread

Directions

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the flour. Whisk in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add beer and whisk to combine. Pour in cream and whisk until well combined and smooth.

Gradually add cheese, stirring constantly, until cheese melts and sauce is smooth; this will take 4 to 5 minutes. Add hot sauce.

Pour over toast and serve immediately.

Next time:  Buck Rarebit – same dish…but add a poached egg!

Pot Roast Ravioli with Pea Shoots


Day 1

Step one – make pot roast.

A lot of the flavor comes from all the little brown bits stuck to the pan after you sear the meat, known as the fond.  I season the roast well, and dust with flour and sear in a dutch oven on very high heat.

Next, toss in all the chunked up vegetables, I used onions, carrots, celery and parsnips. Give ‘em a little time on the heat just to get them going.  Depending on how much fat is in the pan, I might drizzle a little olive oil over the top.  Next, add in a few tablespoons of tomato paste, and one can of chopped tomatoes.  And, of course, don’t forget to season the vegetables as well.

Add the meat back into the pot along with your broth of choice.  Bring to a boil, cover the pot and put it in the oven at 350° F for at least 2½ hours…the longer the better.  Once it is done, I pull the meat out and let it rest for a bit covered with a piece of foil.  Then I remove about half of the vegetables and cooking liquid and purée it.  I like to use an immersion blender to save on dishes and hassle.  Add the purée back in with the rest of the vegetables and keep warm.  For the meat, I like to tear it apart a bit, while still leaving some big chunks.

Step two – enjoy pot roast with your starch of choice – it is as good over pasta as it is with creamy mashed potatoes.

Step three – put leftovers away in the fridge – very important step…pot roast just gets better and better as it sits.

Step four - reinvent the leftovers into a whole new meal!

Day two

Step one – make pasta (Recipe is from Jamie Oliver, and you can find it here)

Yet another reason I love my kitchenaid…the pasta attachment.  I have never made homemade ravioli before and was not totally sure how thin the pasta should be.  When rolling pasta, there are a few important things to remember – first, the dough should not be sticky, err on the dry side, and flour liberally if it begins to stick.  Second, try not to ruin a good thing, don’t get carried away with putting the dough through the roller.  I know.  It’s very satisfying…but important to know when to stop.  Third, make sure to begin with an oval shape and pass it through the thickest setting a couple of times, then fold in thirds, rotate 90º and pass through the thickest setting again, and then crank the setting down one notch at a time until you reach the desired thickness.

Although it held together, I think the pasta was a little thin.  I laid out the sheet of pasta and started plopping down small dollops of shredded pot roast mixed with a little of the puréed vegetables on half of the sheet.

With the filling in place, I folded the other half of the pasta back over the filling, but only after giving the pasta a spritz of water with a spray bottle.  *This is important.*  Why deal with moistening the border of each ravioli with a brush or your fingertip, when, in one fell swoop, you could use a spray bottle and moisten the entire sheet!  I chose spray bottle of course…and was quite pleased with the short cut.  I’ll try to remember it next time I make wontons or egg rolls!

Once the sheet is folded, carefully press down around the filling of each ravioli to make sure it is well sealed.  You’ll also want to see if you can squeeze out any air pockets, which can lead to exploded ravioli in your pot of water.  I cut the ravioli with a fluted cutter-wheel…kinda like a mini-pizza slicer.

Once sealed, I sprinkled a little semolina flour on them to prevent sticking.  Toss them into salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes.  While they are cooking, melt some salted butter in a sauté pan, and add in some sliced shallots to soften.  When the ravioli’s are just about done, toss is fresh pea shoots (so pleased to find these at Trader Joe’s!) and season with salt and pepper.  Add in the ravioli straight from the pot as well as a little bit of the pasta water.  Toss to coat, then plate them up and serve immediately.

Our ravioli were a little large and probably would have looked a little more elegant on a larger plate…but regardless, the end result was delicious.

Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza with Goat Cheese, Shallots, Bacon & Thyme


Dinner last week…

There is not one thing on this delicious piece of crust that was a disappointment.  The crust was great and even better on the next day when it rolled out thinner and crispier!

Woody’s Weeknight Hamburger Casserole


aka – gourmet homemade hamburger helper!

Dinner Last Week

Woody knows all the details…cause this was all him.  Here’s the cast of characters:

  • free range ground beef
  • onion
  • campanelle pasta
  • mascarpone
  • tomato sauce
  • and a little parmesan and mozzarella

Perfectly delicious, simple and homey! (note the melty stringy cheese – I’m telling you…it’s exactly what you want on a chilly night mid-winter!

 

Just Carrot Soup


Soups are simple.  Actually…soups can get very complicated…but most of the time it is unnecessary.  Soups are a peasant food…made with leftovers and bones and carcasses and bits and pieces.  Soups are what you make when you have a few things and you cook them up in a pot of water and add whatever aromatics you might have around.  Lastly, soups are perfect for fall…even California fall.

We had an abundance of carrots.  I suggested a Carrot Ginger soup…and W’s reaction was “…nothing sounds grosser”.  Ummm, really…?  Because it is actually quite a classic combination.  Carrots themselves are sweet and can end up a little like thin, bland baby food if not processed correctly…but okay…no carrot ginger!   Just carrot soup!

Start with carrots.  Lots of them.  Slice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices.  No points for prettiness…it will all be puréed in the end.

I start almost all of my soups with a basic mirepoix of the holy trinity – onions, celery and carrots.  Since it is carrot soup…I just upped the carrot percentage.  Of course garlic is great as well.  Heat a large pot, add some olive oil and a little butter and throw everybody in the pool.  I start with the heat on high to jumpstart the veggies and sauté for a few minutes until they are coated and beginning to warm.  Season with salt and pepper and any other herbs you would like to add.  Once the fragrance of all the wonderful things in the pot is wafting through the kitchen…then it is time to add stock, broth or water.  I put just enough to barely cover the vegetables.  Put the lid on and let cook for at least 15-20 minutes so the carrots are tender.

Check the vegetables for doneness, and now it is time to purée.  One of the most useful small appliances I have in my kitchen is my hand-blender.  It’s affordable (models ranging in price from $15.00 to $60.00), saves on dishes (you don’t have to transfer the hot veggies in batches into a blender and then back to the pot), small and compact (perfect for apartments and small kitchens), and is easy to clean.

Use your hand-blender or your counter-top blender (purée in batches), to blend the soup.  At this point you might need to add additional broth or water to get the soup to the proper thickness.  Make sure to correct for seasoning as well.  I typically add a touch of cream or half and half…but if you plan on freezing any of the soup, set that portion aside – the cream won’t freeze well, and you’ll be better off adding it to the soup once you’ve re-warmed it.

A lot of the fun you can have with soups is what you put in them or on them once they’re in your bowl.  Everything from seared scallops, fried herbs, sliced sausages, crumbled bacon, a splash of vinegar or cream, a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkle of cheese.  We went for simplicity…with a touch of cream, a single leaf of parsley and a few drops of really good Arbequina olive oil.

Serve immediately.  Soups make great leftovers as well…sometimes even better the second day.  Enjoy!

Pheasant, Partridge & Wild Rice Soup


This is Cleo – our French Pointer – a bird dog – she’s vicious…not really…she’ll lick your face off, nibble your nose and crawl in your lap.

Cleo

I know…why is our dog making an appearance on our ‘food blog’…because she is an important part of our lives…and important in the grand scheme of things.  I realize that whether she howls in the morning when I’m trying to put pants on is not affecting world peace…however…her role as a bird dog is important in participating in (as much as we can, as an urban LA couple) where our food and meat comes from.

I did not grow up hunting…in fact…I don’t recall seeing a real gun…never mind touching or shooting one, until college for a women’s studies class – a whole other story entirely.  Anyway, guns, hunting, bird dogs…all of these are a bit foreign to me.  But knowing where my food comes from, being capable of participating in the collection of food items (not just veggies…but the animals…and the meat they provide), and preparing them in all different manner; all of these things are very important to me, to us.  Don’t get me wrong…I had my vegetarian years, when my mother insisted I felt bad for the cows; and they may have coincided with my women’s studies years…but I do love me some bacon and it doesn’t get much better than duck fat, so I think I should know, actually I think we all should know, and have an appreciation for, not only where our food comes from but what it takes to get that food from the earth/farm/wilderness/etc. to our table.

Ready for Birds

Over the holidays, we visited my family in Utah and brought Cleo along, my parents cats were nonplussed.  Understanding that we live in LA county, Cleo does not get much of a chance to exercise her little bird-hunting brain very often…although Woody tries hard.  So we made sure to get a day of pheasant hunting in, even if it was a crazy snowy day with very cold and blustery winds; even if I forgot to pack my long underwear because I worked up until a few hours before we packed the car to drive to Utah, and even if, I was sick.

We headed out hoping to get some pheasant and Hungarian partridge…planning on using everything and anything we shot in a delicious soup adapted from a recipe from Woody’s dad, Dennis.  First off, Cleo needed no assistance in bringing in the first of the pheasant’s.  No shots were fired…I repeat, no shots were fired.

It went like this:  a pheasant flies out of a bush…continues to fly out into a field and land about 300 yards away (they don’t like to fly in bad weather…just like Delta’s pilots…they prefer to hunker down); Cleo watches this happen and as soon as the pheasant lands…takes off, bounding and leaping through 2-3 feet of deep snow.  At this particular moment, I was not sure a) what would happen when she got there; b) if she’d be too tired to get back to us; and c) what we were going to do with a live pheasant in Cleo’s mouth.  Oh, but not to worry…a) she pounced and nipped at the pheasant she had a good hold of it; b) Woody met her halfway as he pictured her passing out from exhaustion; and c) no need to worry about c) since Cleo rung the pheasant’s neck all by herself and the pheasant was as dead as a doornail.  So let’s recap – we went hunting with our bird dog who is supposed to POINT at birds she smells…then scare them up out of the bushes, so we can shoot them…and then retrieve them for us…and instead – we went hunting, didn’t fire a single shot, Cleo chased, killed, and retrieved a pheasant and we had at least 1 bird in the bag for our soup.  Luckily, Woody’s a good shot and with some help from Cleo we were able to get a few more…otherwise, it would have been ‘soup for one’…maybe two with small portions.  Here is our final take:  5 Pheasants and 3 Hungarian Partridge!

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Okay…on to the actual cooking part.  The birds were cleaned for us…is a shockingly quick manner, might I add (perhaps a little too graphic this early in the life of this blog…details to come).  All that was left to do was to give ‘em a quick rinse and once over to make sure we removed any shot that could be embedded in the meat.

please excuse the pink plastic cutting board...

We roasted the meat after seasoning it liberally with salt and pepper and giving it a few aromatic herbs.

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I cut up a standard french mirepoix of onions, carrots and celery.Then we cubed the pheasant and partridge, sweat all the veggies, cooked the wild rice in a separate pot until it was al dente…and then the soup really comes together.  I love this soup for many reasons.  It is a great creamy comforting dinner, it gets better the next day and even the day after…and 1 recipe makes a large quantity of soup…it’s like a never-ending soup bowl as the wild rice continues to soak up moisture, so when reheating, it is easy to heat on the stove and add broth to thin it back down to soup consistency.

Sweat the veggies, season, all the cubed partridge and pheasant, combine, season again, add broth and cooked wild rice…add a touch of cream…and Voila!

simple mirepoix, meat, broth and rice

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Puff Pastry and Kale Chips

Pheasant, Partridge and Wild Rice Soup

We topped it with a square of golden puff pastry and kale chips (aka oiled and salted kale leaves that have been roasted until crisp).

the final dish

and those who enjoyed it!

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