Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Beef Bourguignon

I got a new pot! After recently cooking Poule au Pot in a poor substitute for a something that works in stove-to-oven recipes, I have been keeping an eye out for an enameled cast iron pot at TJ Maxx, and pleased to see some options from Le Creuset, Chantal, Cuisinart and others. Then came the question on size. I really didn't want to own/store two of these, especially since I've survived this long without even one, so it made sense to get a big pot that would hold a whole chicken or cook a large pot of stew. I did my research on whether it is worth it to spring the hundreds of dollars for Le Creuset (it's not) and then pulled the trigger on a beautiful green 7 1/2 qt. Chantal from their Talavera collection.

So, the night I brought this home I decided to try it out right away with a beef bourguignon. Yes, I read Julie & Julia (and no, I'm not planning to read Julie Powell's new book) and was excited to try this classic recipe for the first time.

I was surprised to discover that it isn't truly a one pot meal, as the mushrooms and onions are cooked separately and then added in at the end. Or, in the case of our family, the onions are added in and the mushrooms are served to those who like them. And, I confess I was planning to take a shortcut and purchase frozen pearl onions, but when I couldn't find any at the grocery store, I ended up buying fresh ones instead. I'm not sure how the others would have compared, but these fresh ones tasted fantastic!

And, one more snag to best laid plans... our oven died! Instead of preheating, the oven just spun the fan for a little bit and then displayed an error code. Argh! But, I felt confident in the quality of this new pot purchase and was pleased to be able to finish cooking this for the remaining few hours on the stove without any issues. Results? I thought it was fantastic. Though, the kids weren't enamored. Perhaps, Jim suggested, the full bottle of wine was a bit much for their tastes. Ah well.

Beef Bourguignon
Inspired by Julia Child

1/4 pound bacon

1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
3 1/2 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 (750mL) bottle full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3-4 parsley stems
4" section of celery stalk
1 pound small white (boiler) onions
1 pound whole or halved fresh mushrooms

 Cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long) and simmer for 5 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In large Dutch oven, sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Remove and put aside with the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced carrots and sliced onion. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Allow flour to cook through.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon. Make a bouquet garni by nesting thyme sprigs, parsley stems and bay leaf in celery stalk and tie with kitchen twine. Add to the pot, and bring everything to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
 While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Fill a medium pot with water an bring to boil. Saute mushrooms in wide skillet with butter and allow each side to cook undistrubed for several minutes to brown nicely. Set them aside until needed. Add the boiler onions to the boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove from water and remove outer skins. After mushrooms have sauteed, place peeled boiler onions in the skillet with butter and sautee on all sides to carmelize.

When the meat is tender, remove the bouquet garni from the pot. Add sauteed mushrooms and pearl onions and stir gently to combine. Serve over egg noddles or potato.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Happy Hanukkah!! Last night I celebrated Hanukkah early in the evening by lighting candles with the kiddos and opening presents. After they went to bed, neighborhood friends from book group came over for discussion... and food! Since I was hosting the book group discussion this month during Hanukkah, I definitely wanted to share some traditional holiday goodies. It was so wonderful having friends who were eager to participate as well. Though, what's not to like about jelly donuts and thawed ruggelach baked last week!

Of course, a Hanukkah celebration would not be complete without latkes - potato pancakes. Like many Jewish recipes, there is no 'standard' (as my friend who tackled making a delicious sweet kugel discovered!) and when working with produce as the main ingredient the quantities and ratios aren't exactly set in stone.

Last year my latkes we pulsed so fine in the food processor and, although tasty, were a bit to creamy inside without much potato texture. This year, I made sure not to repeat that and only used the shredding blade on the food processor. As a result, this batch were awfully similar to hash browns, but still extremely tasty!

A new tip from my sister this year was to add the cut ends of the onion into the oil as it is heating up. The bonus is two-fold as you get onion flavor permeating the oil that the latkes will fry in, and the sizzle will let you know when it has reached the correct temperature to start cooking the latke so they will start frying immediately upon being placed in the oil. Brilliant.

I did my frying two days before book group to give the house time to air out from the smell. But, one big bummer was that our (new) oven died and last night I was forced to reheat them in the microwave instead, which unfortunately didn't allow them to be crispy. But, they still tasted awesome, and I think it was the only food item on our buffet table feast that disappeared completely. On the positive side, the dead oven is forcing me to sit around and wait for a service call at this moment in time, so I'm able to catch up on blogging.

The recipe below is a suggestion of amounts & ratios and can absolutely be modified

2 pounds of potatoes
2 eggs
1 onion
2 Tablespoons matzoh meal, or flour
salt & pepper
lots of oil

Peel potatoes and shred using a food processor. Switch to cutting blade and pulse a few times to break up the larger shreds. Transfer potatoes to a strainer inside of a bowl to allow excess liquid to drain.

Fill frypan or griddle with 1/2" of oil. Cut ends off onion and place in the oil as it heats up. Continue peeling onion and add chunks to the food processor. Pulse until finely chopped and added to draining potatoes. Mix together to help prevent browning and transfer drainer mixture to a bowl. Add beaten eggs, salt, pepper and matzoh meal and mix everything together.

Drop raw potato onion mixture into hot oil - size of latke depending on preference. Allow first side to brown for about five minutes, then flip and continue frying on the other side for 3-4 minutes. Remove and drain on wire racks. Serve immediately, or can be cooled and then frozen at this point. Re-crisp by placing in the oven on a wire rack over a baking sheet for a few minutes on each side.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Earlier this week, all of the neighbors (wives) on our street got together for a Christmas cookie exchange. Last year, our first December in this house, I brought one of my favorites - you know those nut ball cookies made solely out of ground pecans, powdered sugar and butter that just melt away in your mouth. But, so did my neighbor a few doors down. Oops. This year I wanted to make sure I wasn't stepping on any toes again. So I turned to a few of my favorite sources for inspiration on what they thought were some of the ultimate cookies to make for a party. After leafing through all of the recipes in the various December issue magazines at the house, I hadn't found anything that jumped out at me. Then, the answer came to me so obviously I could have smacked my own forehead (maybe I did?) I should make a Jewish cookie to bring to the exchange. Perfect.

Of course, there wasn't much competition for what it would be - ruggelach. Ruggelach (pronounced RUH-guh-lah) or 'ruggies' for short in our house growing up, have always been one of my favorites. They are a bit labor intensive, but always present for special occasions. When Spencer was born, there was a blizzard in NY and it was three more days before my mom caught a flight down to meet her first grandchild. When she arrived, her suitcase was filled with FIVE large plastic containers of sweets, two of which were all ruggleach. (OK, so the goodies were mainly for the bris - not because a first-time mom needs 10 dozen cookies in the freezer.)

Strangely, I'm pretty sure that I had never made them on my own before this week. I was pleased to see that a single recipe makes 64 cookies, which meant I could bring three dozen for the cookie exchange and still have plenty left over to stash in the freezer. Score.

I confess, I'm really not much of a baker. I'm too inexact in the kitchen - did you see my rolled 'circle' of dough above? But this actually isn't too complicated. The only requirement is starting this a day in advance so the dough can chill in the fridge overnight. Even with a simple recipe, I still managed to goof up a few times, but hey, they're cookies, so even the ones that aren't perfect still taste yummy.

Now that I've made these exactly once by myself, I feel that I am in a position of authority to impart tips to keep in mind when making these in the future.
1. MUST USE A SILPAT BAKING SHEET. I put this in all caps because it's really not optional. Without them, this is a miserable experience.
2. Place cookies on baking sheet with point tucked underneath to prevent it from opening up in the oven.
3. Transfer cookies from baking sheet while they are still warm. The ensures the leaked filling will remain on the baking sheet, instead of hardening as unattractive 'wings' on the edges of the cookies.
4. Put some in the freezer, otherwise they will all disappear very quickly.

Recipe from Sylvia Fayne (need to ask mom who this is, her name is written in the recipe book mom made for me after graduating college)

3 Cups flour
1/2 lb butter
8 oz container sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Apricot Jam or Preserves
Shredded coconut
Chopped walnuts


Use a food processor to cut cold flour into butter until pea-size crumbles form. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Ball and refrigerate overnight. Cut dough in fourths, and roll each ball into a 12" circle. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, roll one more time, then flip over. Cut dough into 16 section. Mix filling together in a bowl and place 1-2 teaspoons of filling 1/2" from the wide edge of each section of dough. Starting at the wide end, roll one section the dough towards the middle. Repeat for all section, and remaining balls of dough. Place rolled cookies on a baking sheet lined with Silpat and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350ºF or until slightly browned.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chicken Soup

Ah, Jewish penicillin, as they say. Nothing tastes better than home-made chicken soup when one is feeling under the weather. This crazy TX weather (snow on Friday!) has snuck up on us, and now my husband is sick, too. Plus, it seems I can't get enough soup these days since the weather turned cooler - as I look back and realize that I've made one, after another, after another.

Making chicken soup isn't very difficult at all, but it does take time, and a few tips make the difference. These I've learned from various sources over the years. Of course, starting with the boiler plate from my mom and grandma, and going from there.

Tip #1 - you must use chicken with bones. Any chef will tell you that bones have flavor, but equally important in the case of making soup, is that cooking the bones & cartilage releases the natural gelatin. Note: This also means that the soup will 'set' after it cools down in the frdige. You can either start with a whole chicken, and/or use parts that have a higher bone-meat ratio like legs and wings. Bonus - these parts are usually less costly than boneless breasts. I made this soup yesterday with a few pounds of organic drumsticks and only paid $6.

Tip #2 - throw everything in and worry about making it pretty later on. I picked up a tip a few years ago to use onions with the skin (I searched the web just now to try and give proper credit, but have no idea where this came from originally,) which helps impart a beautiful golden color. At the very end, use a strainer or chinois, with cheesecloth if you want a totally clear broth, but this is unnecessary in my opinion. I'm too frugal for this next tip, but I've seen recipes that discard everything used to make the broth after it is strained and add in new veggies, if desired. I was going to take a picture of the straining process, but the collection of bones and mushed veggies was wholly unappetizing.

Tip #3 - while the soup needs to cook on the stove for hours, the chicken meat will definitely be over-cooked if it remains in the pot that long. But, the bones need to remain in for hours in order to give up their goodness to create a flavorful broth. Solution - after an hour or so, remove the meat from the bones, set aside, and return the bones to the pot.

Tip #4 - if you are making chicken noodle soup, boil the noodles in a separate pot and add the cooked noodles in at the end. Putting uncooked noodles in the soup pot uses up good broth.

Chicken Soup
Inspired by mom and grandma

2-3 pounds of chicken, with lots of bones
2-3 large carrots, sliced in 1" rounds
2-3 stalks celery, cut in 3" sections
1 onion, cut in half
1-2 parsnips, cut in 3" sections
1 bunch dill
1 bunch parsley
salt (be generous) & pepper

Throw everything in the pot and add enough water to cover. Place a lid on the pot and simmer; try to avoid a rapid boil, as this will encourage scum to form on the surface. After an hour take the chicken pieces out, remove the meat and set aside, and return bones to the pot. Taste broth and add more salt and/or pepper if needed. Continue to simmer, covered, for another 2-3 hours.

When soup is done, remove carrots and set aside with chicken meat. You can also retrieve celery and parsnip, if desired. Pour all contents of the pot through a strainer or chinois (with cheesecloth, if desired.) Return broth to the pot, add in chicken meat and carrots. Serve with egg noodles (boiled in a separate pot) or matzoh balls.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Artichoke & Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

I really like soup. And it's actually cold here (30s!) which is all the inspiration needed to start making soup this week. A few days ago I made some beef vegetable barley soup. Yesterday I made a pot of this soup, and as I type, I'm having leftovers for breakfast. Soup for breakfast is the perfect way to start a chilly day! (Well, maybe not the beef vegetable barley first thing in the morning.)

I've made this soup several times before using only regular (globe) artichokes. But, I noticed that my favorite grocery store sells Jerusalem artichokes too, and I was so excited to make it with both! Actually, I had never purchased (or even eaten) Jerusalem artichokes, so I was anxious to see how it would be different that what I had made in the past.

Plus, it's always fun to use an immersion blender. Though, some words of advice when making this at home. Artichokes are very fibrous. Even after then are trimmed and sautéed and simmered. You will likely need to pause and clean the blades a few times when blending the soup.

And, even after it looks nice & smooth, it needs to be run through some kind of strainer or chinois to remove the rest of the fibers because having any of those remain in your finished soup is not good. Trust me. It's not a fun process, but the results are well worth it. Note: Do not use the inside of a salad spinner as shown above. This was not nearly fine enough and too many shreds of fibrous material made their way into the finished soup.

Artichoke & Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Adapted from Gourmet

1 lb Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes)
2 globe artichokes (or use 3-4 if not using Jerusalem artichokes)
1 lemon
1 onion
olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Cup white wine
2 1/2 Cups chicken broth

1. Prepare vegetables:
  • Jerusalem artichokes by peeling and cutting into large (1/2") dice/slices
  • Prepare globe artichokes by snapping back outer leaves until they break. Cut off the rest of the leaves, within 1" of the base. Peel the stem and trim off the end. Quarter the artichoke and remove the fuzzy choke with a grapefruit spoon. Split the section again to make eighths. Drop the cleaned & trimmed pieces into a large bowl of water with juice from one lemon squeezed in to prevent browning.
  • Dice one onion
2. Melt butter and olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot. Drain globe artichokes, and add them along with onion and Jerusalem artichokes to the pan. Sautee for 8-10 minutes until onions are translucent and veggies are crisp-tender. Add white wine and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add chicken broth, bring to boil then cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Turn off heat and allow soup to cool in the pot for 15 minutes or so. Use an immersion blender to puree the mix. Clean the blade frequently as it may become clogged with fibers. The soup can also be pureed in batches in a blender or food processor. Strain the pureed soup through a strainer or chinois. This will be a real workout on the arms pressing it through. Make sure to scrape down the goodness will adhere to the back of the strainer.

4. You can make this a cream soup by finishing with up to 1/2 Cup of heavy cream, but it's not required. And I'm not really sure it needs any garnish either, but am open to suggestions!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Seafood Paella

I just unloaded pictures off of the camera which was long overdue (600 photos - ack) and found a whole bunch of food pics that haven't yet been transformed into a blog entry. Though, I must skip ahead to last night's meal. Actually, this post was the motivation for (finally) unloading the camera.

Often times my inspiration for making a particular meal comes from watching Food Network, or cooking shows on PBS, or seeing glossy pics in a food magazine. But in this case it was very basic: it's the holiday season and lobsters are on sale. I was getting really excited to make this dish as I brought home four fresh lobster tails for $5, and tried not to think about how their freshness meant they had been separated from the rest of a live lobster body.

I didn't use any measuring devices when making this dish - just relied on 'standard' paella recipes for proportion (1:2 rice:liquid and as much seafood as you like!) even though I was using different kinds of rice with different cooking times. The finished product was much more brothy than I had anticipated, but that just meant there was more yummy flavor to sop up with bread along the way. (Note- next day all the 'extra' broth had been absorbed into the leftovers.) For vegetarians, definitely check out the most amazing tomato paella. This approach was loosely followed here, but it was entirely prepared on the stovetop.

Now, I know my little girl likes rice, and loves (loves!) seafood, but I was still a bit surprised to see how much she enjoyed this dish! "Pie-ey-yuh! Pie-ey-yuh!" I couldn't put it on her plate fast enough. To slow her down, I stopped doing the prep work on the seafood for her (I was hungry too and hadn't been able to take a bite yet!) Man, I wish I had my camera at the table last night to take a picture of her trying to get the good stuff out of the clams! I made sure to bring the camera in the kitchen when we had leftovers tonight!

Seafood Paella

1/2 pound fresh tomatoes (Campari are my favorite)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 Cups rice - I used a mix of risotto rice & short grain brown rice, but short grain white is traditional
pinch of saffron threads
1/2 Cup white wine
2 - 2 1/2 Cups chicken broth
3/4 Cup piquillo peppers (or roasted red peppers or pimento)
3/4 Cup green olives
1 1/2 Cups artichoke hearts (not marinated)
1 pound lobster tails (about 4) split in half lengthwise
1 dozen mussels, cleaned
1 1/2 dozen clams, cleaned
1 Cup frozen peas (no, it's not in any of my photos because I didn't have any, but this paella would have looked even more fabulous with some bright green dots throughout. Or parsley, also something not on hand last night.)

1. Cut tomatoes into wedges, sprinkle with kosher salt and set aside. Slice peppers into strip, quarter artichoke hearts,roughly chop olives and set those aside, together.

2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and minced garlic and sautee for 5 minutes. Add in rice and crushed saffron and stir to ensure rice is coated with oil.

3. Add white wine, wait until it is absorbed, then add 1 C chicken broth and cover. After liquid is absorbed, about 7-10 minutes, add another 1 C broth and cover again. After 7-10 minutes, when most of the liquid has been absorbed, add in remaining broth, tomatoes WITH any accumulated liquid on the plate, olives, peppers, artichokes and peas, then stir gently to combine. Arrange lobster tails in the pot with cut-side down and distribute clams and mussels. Replace cover and heat until seafood and rice have cooked through, another 5-7 mintues.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Roasted Kohlrabi with Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts

Does this even count as a 'dish' worthy of a blog entry? It's just roasted vegetables. Though, I confess, roasted veggies was something I only discovered within the last decade or so. I thought all vegetables like this could only be prepared by steaming. Which IS the only way I ever ate them growing up. Fast-forward to adult life and somewhere I stumbled upon roasting them instead. Ah ha! Asparagus tastes even more awesome. Cauliflower transforms from good to fantastic. Brussel sprouts - wow!

But, it was still German week when I was trying to figure out a vegetable side dish so I added kohlrabi into the equation for this meal. I'd never eaten kohlrabi (aka German turnip) before, but with our membership in a CSA this year I had plenty of chances to experiment with turnips. My sister laughed and educated me that "what to do with all those turnips?" was the proverbial question asked by all CSA members at some point.

This preparation is extremely straightforward. The only words of advice I can add when making this are "do not absent-mindedly leave the house with vegetables in the oven that have already been roasting for 1 1/4 hours." If you make this same error, you too will end up with an extremely 'carmelized' side dish. The bread crumb topping was partially inspired by this recipe, and partially to cover up the extremely dark color.

Roasted Kohlrabi with Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts
Inspired by Nicolé, Adapted from Food Network

3 medium kohlrabi
1 lb brussel sprouts
1 small head cauliflower
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 slice whole wheat bread

Heat oven to 400. Peel kohlrabi and dice into 3/4" pieces. Trim brussel sprouts by cutting off root end and removing outer layer of leaves. Cut in half, or quarter if extremely large. Trim cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Toss veggies with olive oil, salt & pepper and distribute in a single layer on a sheet pan. Bake for 1 1/4 hours.

While veggies are baking, put bread into food process to make crumbs. Spread on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 3-4 minutes until gold brown.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Frikadellen (German Meat Balls)

OK, I confess I didn't stumble across this on my own. With Jim still in Germany, I turned to help from German friends for suggestions on traditional dinners. All of the ideas had the same theme - cooked meats & potatoes. One interesting option jumped out at me was "frikadellen" though I had absolutely no idea what "frikadellen" are until I looked it up for myself. It seemed to be somewhere between a meatball, hamburger and a meatloaf. And, they are small, and small food is just cute. Especially when you are serving small children, which was my audience for the entire week.

My favorite trick that I've recently embraced for making any type of meatball/meatloaf/etc. is to be sure it includes a panade, which is a fancy word describing a mixture of bread and milk. From the science editor at America's Test Kitchen we learn that:
"Starches from the bread absorb liquid from the milk to form a gel that coats and lubricates the protein molecules in the meat, much in the same way as fat, keeping them moist and preventing them from linking together to form a tough matrix. Mixing the beef and panade in a food processor helps to ensure that the starch is well dispersed so that all the meat reaps its benefits."
This step ensure that the meat does not become tough when it is fully cooked through - important as no one likes rare meatball, especially ones that include pork. Unsafe, to say the least.

Frikadellen (or Frikadeller or Frickadelle)
Inspired by Nicolé and adapted from Live Like a German

1 pound of mixed ground meat (3/4 beef, 1/4 pork)
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
pepper and salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 egg
1 slice of bread
1-2 Tablespoons milk

Use a food processor to finely mince onion and garlic. Set aside. Add torn up bread to food processor and pulse a few times to make crumbs. Add milk and pulse a few more times to form the panade. Add meat, paprika, egg, salt & pepper and pulse a few times to incorporate. Do not over process. If necessary, remove from processor and finish mixing by hand.

Form into large golfball-size balls and flatten. Place on heated griddle. Cook for a few minutes on each side until cooked through. Serve with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wiener Schnitzel

Though our "German week" is officially done now that Jim has returned home (yay!) I'm finally getting some time back to write about what we ate while he was in country. One food that we both ate last week was wiener schnitzel. Just saying these two words is fun. The kids were rolling with laughter when I told them what we would be eating for dinner that night. Plus, we had two additional kids joining us that night as well. The gang repeated the words over and over, with escalated giggling each time.

Yes, if you show up for dinner during a theme week, you get the theme food. In my world, this IS kid food. It was served with spaetzle made the day before, and green beans just to add some color to the meal. Guess what? Not only did all four kids love saying the words, they all cleaned their plates and asked for more. Seriously.

While I've never served wiener schnitzel before, I've made Italian style piccata dishes plenty of times. So this really wasn't very different. In poking around for recipes to try and ensure authenticity, I stumbled upon one, authored by a German, which instructed to let the meat sit in some fresh lemon juice before proceeding with applying the coating. This was sooo excellent! Due in no small part to the fresh lemons that Katie gave to us from the lemon tree in her yard. I am definitely applying this technique for all future piccata recipes. Yum!

Wiener Schnitzel
Adapted from Hans Rockenwagner

3/4 pound veal cutlets, pounded thin
juice from 1 lemon
salt & pepper
1 Cup all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 1/2 Tablespoons water
1 pkg seasoned croutons, food processed into fine crumbs
3 Tablespoons butter
1 lemon, cut in wedges (optional)

Places pounded veal cutlets in lemon juice and set aside, at room temperature, for 30 minutes. Prepare stations for coating: flour, eggs wash, bread crumbs, and clean plates at the end of the line. One cutlet at a time, season with salt & pepper then dredge in flour and shake off excess. Place floured cutlet in egg wash, turning over carefully with a fork. After allowing excess egg to drain off, dredge in bread crumbs to cover both sides. Transfer to a clean plate and repeat process with remaining cutlets. Allow them to rest (on separate plates, do not stack) for additional 20 minutes to help the coating adhere to the meat.

Heat butter on medium heat in a large, flat skillet or griddle. When foaming has stopped, place cutlets in pan and cook for 4-6 minutes until golden brown. Flip to the other side, using spatula or something else that will not tear the coating, and cook for additional 4-6 minutes. Serve warm, with additional lemon wedges if desired.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Work travel is a fact of life in our house. The other day I (used bad judgement and) added up all the time my husband has been away from home in 2009 and discovered it was 15%. To try and maintain positive attitude through these times when the kids and I are home, we use his travel destinations as inspiration to connect virtually through our meals.

This week he is in Berlin (present for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, no less!) so we are looking to German cuisine for menu planning. I always thought making spaetzle sounded like fun. Really. I was presented with a perfect birthday gift of a Mark Bittman cookbook focusing on international cuisine which, of course, included a recipe for spaetzle.

Though, as I don't have a colander, or a hotel pan, I decided that a potato rice would be the ideal tool. It worked 'okay,' I think. Though, having a larger space between the holes might have helped. But, in fairness, I would definitely use it again. I modified the consistency of the batter by adding more milk part way through, but I can't decide if it made it better or not. Some of the batter reconnected with its extruded neighbors on the way into the water which made for some larger pieces, and some stayed small. At the end of the day, I think the variety was a good things and definitely gave this dish a home-made feel.

I don't think this is traditional, but during the quick sautee process following the boiling I included some diced onion and tossed everything together in the pan with butter. My husband enjoys his pierogis like this, and it seemed to be a good idea to apply this technique to the spaetzle as well. The kids confirmed that it was indeed yummy.

Adapted from The Best Recipes in the World

2 eggs
1/2 Cup milk
1 1/4 Cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt & pepper

2 Tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced

Mix eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, nutmeg, salt & pepper together in a bowl to create batter of pancake consisency. Put a large pot of salted water on the stove over high heat to boil. Ladel batter a colandar (or ricer) and press batter through holes into the boiling water. Cook for a few minutes until they float, then cook a few minutes longer. Transfer with a slotted spoon to ice water, then drain.

Melt butter in a wide-bottom skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sautee for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high and add cooked spaetzle. Cook until heated through and spaetzle have turned golden.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Vegetable Beef Barley Soup

I confess, when writing the title above, I had to spend some time thinking about in what order I should put the words. More often than not, I would make a soup that has a combination of two of the three: Beef Vegetable Soup, Vegetable/Mushroom Barley Soup, Beef Barley Soup, etc. This week, I didn't want to have to choose so I put everything in the pot together. Good move - it totally rocked!

The inspiration for making this soup came from a posting to our neighborhood message board that read "We purchased the side of a cow just under a year ago and have several parts that we will not use. This cow was grass fed with no hormones or antibiotics." Below, where there was a list of parts available for the taking, a few items above "9 packages of beef fat" was written "soup bones." Sign me up! Coincidentally, the vegetable co-op resumed delivery for the fall that same week so there were fresh veggies, green beans and corn, to add in the pot as well.

My mom tells the story about taking me to the pediatrician when I was a toddler, and being quizzed about what she fed me. She said he raised an eyebrow when she told him that she often gave me soup for dinner. A can of Campbell's wouldn't qualify, but a bowl of this soup definitely counts as a complete meal. Fresh veggies, barley, grass-fed beef (ok, not the leanest cut out there) but this is a very satisfying meal. Usually we would first eat a bowl of soup with just the veggies, and have the meat afterwards with horseradish. Mmmm.

Plus, making this soup and using the fresh corn gave me a opportunity to use the bundt pan for a different reason. I'm pretty sure that genius Alton Brown is probably the one who gets props to introducing me to this idea. It works really, really well. Even better if you can keep one hand on the cob, one on the knife and let someone else take the photo for you. Getting out the bundt pan made me want to have something sweet while the savory soup was simmering on the stove. Note to self: make more desserts for the blog!

Vegetable Beef Barley Soup
Inspired from my childhood

A few beef bones for soup (2-3 pounds)
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled & diced
2 ears of corn, kernels removed
1/2 lb fresh green beans, trimmed & cut into 3/4" length
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 32oz container beef broth (4C)
4 Cup water
3/4 Cup pearled barley, rinsed

Heat soup pot over medium-high heat, brown beef bones for about 5 minutes on each side then remove from pot. Add onions, celery and carrots and sautee for about 5 minutes. Add corn, green beans and tomatoes. Add all of the liquid - broth and water, the barley and stir to combine. Return beef to the pot, along with any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Cover the pot, reduce heat to maintain gentle simmer, and cook for three hours.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chili Con Carne

I have to confess, I think I'm a bit of a chili snob. I know that sounds dopey, as chili is pretty far from ever being considered snobby food. But, what I mean is, I only like MY chili. Sure, others are fine, but it seems that I always end up comparing them to the recipe I make at home. On the rare occasions I find myself eating another chili, my mind starts thinking "it should have more tomato," or "this spice combination isn't quite right," or "that flavor should not be in chili." Though, last year a friend's mom made a white chili with turkey and lime juice that was fantastic. I need to dig out that recipe and make it at home.

Since the cold weather, er, cool weather, season is so short here in Texas, I find myself making chili as soon as long sleeves might be appropriate. Which is still far warmer than I would have ever worn them up north. Nonetheless, we finally crossed that threshold here at the end of October. Yes, I know it is a week later that this recipe is finally being blogged.

A couple of thoughts about this chili recipe. Looking at the ingredients, there is a lot from the pantry. Some may eschew this, but I promise this combination works. And it works really, really well. It does not look like chili when everything first gets added to the pot, but time and temperature work their magic and everything blends together for the final product. Along those lines, I think canned tomatoes are superior than fresh for this dish because I love the tomato-y flavor, and more importantly, being able to bite into a piece of tomato. When you cook with fresh tomatoes, they completely break down and disappear. But canned tomatoes are packed with calcium chloride which preserves the cell walls so they retain structure during cooking. I think I have to give props to an episode of Good Eats for that nugget of trivia which stuck in my brain.

Final thought - growing up we only ate this as beef chili, but these days I make it with ground turkey about 80% of the time. After watching Food, Inc. I decided to try to avoid buying meats that were raised/processed at traditional compact animal farming operations. Our awesome grocery store carries organic ground beef but I hadn't seen any organic ground turkey before. After a quick question to the guy behind the meat counter, I was redirected to the meat freezer case where they stock organic ground turkey. Score.

Chili Con Carne
Adapted from my mom's recipe, origin unknown

1 Tablespoon oil (canola)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, mashed or pressed
1 lb lean ground beef (round) or ground turkey
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes (I know the picture of ingredients only shows 1 can)
1 10.5 oz can tomato soup
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon chili powder (if your haven't used yours in a long time, buy a fresh jar)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 15 oz can light red kidney beans (I know the pic shows a mix of beans, but after using this discovery a few times, I think I'm reverting back to standard recipe with kidney beans.)

Heat oil in a wide skillet (at least 12") over medium-high heat and add meat, green pepper, onion and garlic. When meat has browned, add all remaining ingredients, except kidney beans, and stir to combine. Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occassionally. Add kidney beans, with liquid, and heat thoroughly. Sometimes I add in the beans at the same time as everything else which is perfectly fine too. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mushroom Ragout

Sadly, my husband and I don't agree on a lot of our food choices. I understand that not everyone loves seafood. But I struggle to understand his dislike of most cheeses and cheesey dishes. For me, cheesey pasta dishes rank high on my list of favorite comfort foods. Just thinking about a big casserole dish of lasagna or moussaka makes me happy. (Note to self - make moussaka soon & blog about it here!) Mushrooms is also pretty high on the list of foods we disagree about. My friend Allison loves mushrooms, and her husband Dave told the story how he used to dislike them, but somehow 'came around' and now enjoys them as much as she does. I've stopped holding my breath that will happen in our house, but I don't stop cooking them for the rest of the family.

This 'ragout' is really just a creamy sautee of herbed mushrooms that can be put on top of any meat. Or, in the case of my mushroom-crazy kids, just eaten as a side. Sometimes I enjoy experimenting with different wild mushrooms for the flavor & texture combinations. Though, my sister's boyfriend's friend attended the CIA and shared 'all mushrooms can taste great' if you follow a simple rule to let them sit in the sautee pan, uncrowded and undisturbed, until they are nicely browned. Then flip and wait some more. It had been a few years since I switched from buying 'plain' white mushrooms to other varieties at the store. Thanks to this tip, I now also enjoy tasty mushroom dishes with inexpensive white mushrooms as well.

Really, this can be used for just about anything. Mushroom ragout is fantastic served on top of beef (filet) or a chicken breast. You could also add in some parmesean cheese and toss with farfalle or another short pasta. Can you imagine how happy that dinner would make my husband - mushrooms AND cheese. Probably (definitely) won't be serving that in our house anytime soon, so you should enjoy it at yours!

Mushroom Ragout
Adapted from Mushroom Ragout

1/2 lb white mushrooms, sliced
2 large shallots, minced
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (or leaves from 2-3 fresh thyme sprigs)
salt & pepper
1/3 C white wine
2-3T heavy cream

Melt butter in large, flat-bottom sautee pan over high heat. Add mushrooms in a single layer and let cook, undisturbed, for five minutes. Turn mushrooms over, add shallots, thyme and salt & pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add wine and mix to combine, scraping up browned bits from the pan. Add cream, bring to boil, stir and serve.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

Last week we had a brief tease of fall weather. I miss not having that season here in Houston. During these momentary cool temperatures I was inspired to make a 'classic autumn' recipe. Ironically, butternut squash soup was not something we ever ate growing up in NY, but it seemed like the right place to turn, and I bought a beautiful 2 1/2 pound squash on impulse at the grocery store.

After flipping around for recipe inspiration, I concluded that there aren't really radical differences. So, I closed the computer and made up my own by drawing on whatever information had remained in my brain. The ones that recommended roasting squash first definitely sounded tastier, so I started with that. And peeling a whole squash was something I'd never done so I thought it was be good to mark that off my culinary checklist. I would have simply roasted the halves, which some recipes recommended, and I'm sure would be just fine.

The amount of other veggies are simply based on what was on hand. I mean, seriously, does anyone ever measure out "1/2 Cup diced onion?" I never do. Just cut it up and throw it all in. Unless, it seems to be in gross excess, then I'll still chop up the whole onion and put half in the fridge for something else. Though, I must confess, this approach of 'use what you have' ended up bitting me in the rear. I had half of a (4 C) container of chicken broth in the fridge which I discovered was not enough for a proper vegetable:liquid ratio to yield what one would call a 'soup.' It was more like a vegetable puree. It still tasted amazing, even if it the consistency reminded me of something I spooned into Charlotte's mouth as a baby.

Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from an assortment of recipes

1 butternut squash (2 lbs)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage (or 1 Tablespoon fresh sage)
4 C chicken broth
salt & pepper
olive oil

1. Heat oven to 400. Peel squash and cut into 1" cubes. Toss with olive oil and roast for 30-40 minutes, until carmelized.

2. Sautee onion, carrot and celery in a pot on the stove over medium heat until softened, 8-10 minutes. Add roasted squash, sage, salt & pepper and stir. Add 3 C chicken broth and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Use immersion blender to puree until smooth. Adding additional 1C chicken broth as needed to yield desired consistency.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Arroz con Pollo

Seriously, who doesn't appreciate one-pot meals? Even in my attempts to feed the kids dinners that aren't typically labeled as 'kid food' I'm genuinely not looking to make my life harder. Though, I'm quite sure that my husband believes otherwise. Anytime I come across a dish with protein, vegetables & carbs all together I think "Whoo hoo!" Even though it's a rice dish, it is sticky enough for young Charlotte to practice using silverware without too much frustration. But, the best part about making a one-pot meal, even better than the reduction in dishes to be done that night, is the fact that this makes lots of leftover, which means far fewer dishes for at least two to three more nights!

When America's Test Kitchen said this dish gets thumbs up, I was on board. Despite their claim of always having the most perfect recipe (technique is always impeccable, if not a huge pain,) the base recipe for this dish is very much boiler plate, and I felt compelled to poke around and see what others had included in their versions. I came across one which advised me to use beer and capers - two more thumbs up. Further inspiration came from my favorite grocery store, which is amazingly only 1.0 miles from our house. A fact which makes me smile every time I think about it. When I saw piquillo peppers (a store brand, no less! I could hardly believe it either!) I knew they would find their way into my version too. I've never bought them before - heck I don't think I've ever eaten them before - but I was excited after seeing them make many appearances on Iron Chef America.

I must say, humbly, the house smelled amazing while this was cooking. And the taste? Well, let's just say that Charlotte used this inspiration to string together four words as she declared "yummy chickens! more please!" Cuteness!

Arroz con Pollo

Pollo (chicken)
4 cloves garlic, pressed or mashed
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt & pepper
4-5 chicken thighs (with bone & skin)
3-4 chicken breasts (with bone & skin)

Arroz (Rice)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 teaspoon pimenton (or regular paprika)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 bay leaf
1 pound chopped tomatoes
1 12 oz bottle beer
1 1/2 C chicken broth
2 C long grain white rice
1/2 C manzanilla (green olives) with pimento, halved
1/4 C capers
1/2 C piquillo peppers, roughly chopped

1. Combine ingredients for marinade, then add chicken pieces to coat. I'd prefer to use all thighs, but some folks in this house prefer white meat, so I use both for this recipe. Set aside (in the fridge) for half an hour or so.

2. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and green pepper and cook until softened. Move veggies to the side, increase heat to medium-high and add chicken in a single layer on the bottom.  Let cook, undisturbed for 3-4 minutes, then flip and leave for another 3-4 minutes. (I needed to do this in two batches because my pot is not wide enough.) Remove all chicken from pot.

3. Add pimenton, oregano, cumin and rice to the pot. Stir to combine so spices coat rice and vegetables. Add tomatoes, manzanillas, capers, piquillo peppers, beer and chicken broth. Return chicken to the pot and try to ensure it is covered by liquid. Add bay leaf, cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low.

4. After 20 minutes or so, remove chicken from the pot, (and the bay leaf if you can find it, if not don't forget to pull it out later.) If rice is too dry or sticky, add additional 1/4 C broth. Replace lid. Remove the skin from chicken, and remove chicken from bone by using two spoons to pull it apart into large, bite-sized pieces.

5. Return chicken to the pot and gently mix everything together. If rice is tender, turn off heat and let sit for five minutes before serving.