Posts tagged ‘thyme’

October 15, 2013

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

The way I get myself over the loss of something… in this case, the warm, comforting embrace of Summer… is to consider what I am looking forward to next.  Chilly days and cozy nights, pumpkins and squash, and the beautiful deep colors of the falling leaves that are echoed in the change in my wardrobe.  Lush sweaters, leather jackets, textured cords, hats, knits, scarfs and my favorite of all, boots!!   You never see me procrastinating to pull out the sweaters or prepare the house for fall.  The time for reflecting on the year and gearing up for a strong finish does not escape me.

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On a cool Thursday night, after weighing our dining options, my mom and I slide into one of the wooden banquettes of the local Italian eatery Pizza Antica.  A generous bowl of warm, salted focaccia with rich olive oil is set on our table as we relax into our booth and peruse the menu.  When I came across the warm Brussels sprout salad I didn’t need to keep reading. With the onset of cool, autumn weather brings us Brussels sprouts at the peak of their growing season.  By the end of summer I’m anxious to dig into fall’s harvest and at farmer’s markets the landscape shifts to display a new array of deep reds, yellows and creamy whites. Gone are the strawberries, corn and stone fruits of summer; in their place, root vegetables, squash and cold-weather tree fruit emerge. It’s an exciting time of transition, and also a delicious one.

This salad is a celebration of fall and combines all that is good in the world – bacon, Brussels spouts, garlic and homemade croutons for a variety of flavors and textures.  The nutty flavor of the pan-fried sprouts is complemented beautifully by the smoky bacon, creamy egg and chew of the toasted bread.  Everything is brought together with a light, garlic vinaigrette which compliments the tender sprouts without overwhelming the dish.  This recipe was inspired by Pizza Antica, and I encourage you to adapt it as you go.  Sometimes I throw in some toasted almonds for crunch or top it with finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

  • 1/2 slab bacon (9 slices of pre-cut bacon)
  • 4 tbsp. extra light extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tbsp. for croutons
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 slices sourdough bread, cut into 1/2″ squares
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Vinaigrette

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra light extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. First we’ll make the vinaigrette and set it aside for later.  To make the vinaigrette, soak the garlic, shallots, and thyme in vinegar for roughly 45 minutes.
  2. After soaking, slowly whisk in the oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and reserve covered.
  3. Preheat oven to 300°F for the croutons.
  4. Toss cubed bread with light extra-virgin olive oil and toast in the oven for 20-25 mins until golden brown and crispy.  Allow to cool to room temperature and set aside.
  5. Cut bacon into 1/2″ squares and cook over low to medium heat until almost crisp; drain off the fat and set aside.
  6. In the same pan you cooked the bacon, heat 2 tbsp. light extra-virgin olive oil.  If you have some remaining bacon fat leave it in the pan and just add any extra oil as needed.  The extra light olive oil has a higher smoking point so if you don’t have it, replace it with canola oil.
  7. Sauté sliced onions over medium-high heat until golden brown, two minutes before you remove it from the heat add the garlic; drain and set aside.
  8. In a small saucepan, cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a low boil.  Once boiling remove from heat and cover.  Let the eggs stand in hot water for 8-9 minutes.  Then run cold water over eggs to stop the cooking – this will give you hard-boiled eggs with a firm yolk.
  9. Peel eggs and dice finely (about the size of a small pea) and reserve covered in the refrigerator.
  10. Clean the sprouts by removing the first few dark leaves and discarding. Cut off the stem, and separate the leaves one by one. When you get to the light green center and can’t pull off the leaves, either slice the heart very thin or reserve for other uses.  Peeling the leaves is definitely the best way to make this salad, but if you are short on time you can also shred them in a Cuisinart.  It will save you at least 30 mins but you won’t get the same texture.
  11. In a large sauté pan, heat remaining extra-virgin olive oil until almost smoking and add sprouts leaves; toss until wilted (about 3 minutes), season with salt and pepper.
  12. Add reserved onions and bacon and warm until hot.
  13. When hot, add vinaigrette and toss to distribute evenly.
  14. Add croutons and chopped eggs and toss to incorporate.
  15. Serve!

Recipe sourced from http://www.pizzaantica.com/

 

July 22, 2013

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lasagna

Pasta carbonara, pizza Margherita, and a fresh panzanella salad.  I love classic Italian dishes, but sometimes I like to experiment.  I had to make a vegetarian dish for a dinner with friends, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to take a new look at lasagna, traditionally interweaving layers of pasta, ricotta, ragù, béchamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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But let’s take a step back. Many of you might be remembering that dire lasagna from church potlucks – soggy pasta and waterlogged ground beef.  I recall separating the pasta and pulling out clumps of tacky ricotta, while trying to remove the cracked fluted edges of noodle from the top layer.  Please, try not to associate frozen lasagna with a freshly made version – it’s not even comparable.

The key to this lasagna is the pasta, which lends a wonderful texture and coarseness to the dish.  Its chewy, dense consistency reminds me of traditional Italian pastas, perfectly al dente with a slight bite.  What I love about this dish is it’s combination textures from creamy ricotta, silky butternut squash, and an earthiness from the crimini mushrooms.  The luscious combination of ingredients can stand up to one another, and among all the flavors I can still pick out subtle hints of nutty parmesan.

This recipe is inspired by one I found in an old copy of Bon Appétit.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 14-ounce carton vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped and divided
  • 4 tablespoons fresh sage, sliced and divided
  • 3 15-ounce containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, grated and divided
  • 2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated and divided
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 9-ounce package lasagna noodles.  (My favorite brand is Rustichella d’Abruzzo Lasagne all’uovo These noodles need to be boiled before being layered into your lasagna.  The original recipe calls for no cook noodles if you want to take out a step)

Method

  1. Melt butter into a large skillet over medium-high heat.  I recommend using a skillet with high sides so you can use one pan for all your steps – heads up you’ll need to simmer your squash and noodles in vegetable broth so pick a larger pan than you might think.
  2. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Increase heat to high; add mushrooms and cook until tender, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and then transfer the mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside until you’re ready to assemble the pasta.
  5. In the same skillet, add squash, broth, 3 tablespoons thyme, and 3 tablespoons sage. Cover and simmer over medium heat until squash is just tender, about 6 minutes. Uncover and cook until squash is very soft but still retains shape, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Skim the squash from the skillet and set aside.  Don’t worry if it starts to fall apart a little, and discard the thyme and sage.  Keep any vegetable broth left over in the pan.
  7. Add 4 cups of water to the broth and bring to a low boil for your pasta sheets.
  8. While your broth comes to a boil, mix ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, spring onion, and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme and 1 tablespoon sage in large bowl.
  9. Mix in eggs and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Once your broth is at a low boil, place pasta in broth and let simmer for 3 min.  Once slightly softened, you can turn off the heat and begin to assemble your lasagna.
  11. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with oil. Spread 1 cup ricotta mixture over bottom. Arrange 3 – 4 noodles on top (I usually cut a few so I can cover the entire dish). Spread 13/4 cups ricotta mixture over noodles. Arrange 1 1/3 cups squash mixture over. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mushrooms and 1 cup mozzarella. Top with 3 noodles, then 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture, half of remaining squash, 1/2 cup mushrooms, and remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Repeat with noodles, 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture, remaining squash, and remaining mushrooms. Top with 3 noodles. Spread remaining ricotta mixture over; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.
  12. Cover with oiled foil.
  13. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake lasagna, covered, 35 minutes. Uncover; bake until heated through, about 25 minutes longer.
  14. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  15. Serve with a fresh arugula salad!
April 9, 2012

Dry Rubbed Seared Salmon

It’s officially springtime, and with Easter passing I’m beginning to go through my lighter dishes to go with the change of seasons.  I get giddy thinking about fresh grilled corn on the cob, summer salads full of fresh veggies, pears, apples and toasted nuts, and most of all the selection of fresh fish in the local market.  One of my all time favorites is salmon, however, one badly cooked salmon can turn me off for months, so I have to choose wisely when I dine out.  The dry, chalky taste of overcooked salmon is one of the most devastating things you can be met with at the dinner table.  Similar to a burnt cookie, overcooked pasta, or a hockey puck steak, overcooked salmon is a major offense in my book.  But when it’s done well, you’ll want to have it every day of the week.  The beauty of salmon is that it can pick up a variety of flavors, teriyaki, garlic, white wine and butter, and its meaty texture lends itself to a variety of cooking methods.  I don’t recommend cooking Dover sole on the BBQ, but a salmon can stand up to this summer time classic.

The delicate crispy, golden crust that forms on the outside is a perfect contrast to the juicy, meaty flesh.  It’s a symbol of summer and health, and gets you on the track to looking stunning in your new summer swimsuit.

Perfect pan-seared salmon demands on a very hot pan. Use a heavy cast-iron skillet, which heats evenly. Warm the pan before you add the oil – either extra light virgin olive oil or vegetable oil; this trick allows the pan to get it really hot without burning the oil. A preheated pan also requires less oil.  Once you master this method you’ll be able to whip up a gourmet dinner in less than 10 minutes – golden brown outside and tender inside.   I like to serve salmon with a fresh mixed green salad with a tangy vinaigrette, a refreshing contrast to the rich, yet delicate fish.

Ingredients

  • 2 6 oz. salmon fillets (skin on) one per person
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, coarse grind
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, seal, pepper, lemon pepper, and ginger.
  2. Brush the salmon with olive oil on all sides.
  3. Take the spice mixture and generously coat both sides of the salmon.
  4. Set a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. When a drop of water skitters on the surface, add the oil.
  5. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly and heat until the oil is almost smoking, about 30 seconds.
  6. Place the salmon skin side up in the cast iron skillet.
  7. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes.
  8. Turn the salmon and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes on the other side.
  9. Then lower heat to medium, place lid over skillet to trap heat and finish cooking an additional 2-3 minutes.
  10. With a minute to go, add a tbsp. of butter and let is melt in the pan, spoon it over the top of the salmon right before you turn off the heat.
  11. To check if the salmon in ready, stick a thin knife in the thickest part and gently look at the color inside.  It should be juicy and barely turning opaque.  If you over cook the fish it will be extremely dry and very white in color.
  12. When salmon is cooked enough to eat safely it will lose its translucency and become opaque. It should also flake easily when tested with a fork.
  13. Serve with a fresh salad and enjoy your very healthy yet tasty dinner!

February 12, 2012

Flip’s Spiced Chicken Sausage Soup

I came back from a business trip with a box of tissues, cough drops, and a sore throat that wouldn’t pass.  By day 4 I developed a hacking cough so I eventually gave in and went to the doctor.  Well, there I was, 2 ear infections and bronchitis and my other half had just left for New Zealand for 2 weeks.  I was miserable.  After a hot shower and a little dusting off, I decided to end my pity party and headed to the store for some key ingredients.

With all my congestion I wasn’t able to taste anything.  I know, my worst nightmare.  So, the traditional chicken noodle soup was going to need a little kick.  I made a twist on the original with a little heat and some Italian sausage.  It’s as if gumbo and chicken noodle soup had a child.  On day 1 I wasn’t really able to taste it, but it did have a great combination of textures from soft vegetables and tender meatballs swimming in a warm, silky broth.  I figured I’d let it stew overnight before adjusting the spice, in hopes my taste buds would make a quick recovery.  Thanks to some antibiotics, prescription strength cough syrup and decongestants, I woke the next morning to the fragrant bouquet of rosemary and Italian sausage seeping through the house.  Ok, I’ll admit it, I had it for breakfast.  I just couldn’t resist!!  The hint of spice and cumin, mixed with the expected aroma of thyme, rosemary and soft tender chicken was a welcome home.  By the end of day 2 I feel like a new person.  It has everything I needed in one bowl to fight back, who can ask for more than that?

I packed up my weeks worth of lunches, and as long as I stop sneaking into the refrigerator for another bowl it should last me until Tuesday.

Ingredients

Stock

  • 4lb. raw chicken
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. peppercorns
  • 1 bullion cube
  • 1 gallon cold water (enough to cover the chicken and all the contents)

Soup

  • Homemade stock (above)
  • Chicken from stock, shredded
  • 2 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 handfuls baby potatoes, quartered
  • 5 Italian sausages, casing removed
  • 1 bullion cube
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Method

  1. Wash raw chicken with cold water and remove giblets
  2. Place in large stockpot and add onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, thyme, rosemary, salt, peppercorns, and bullion cube.  Don’t worry about chopping anything nicely, this is just to flavor the stock and it will all be strained out when the stock is ready.
  3. Fill pot with water until chicken and all contents are fully covered
  4. Place on stove on high and bring to a boil
  5. Once boiling, bring heat to low and simmer for 2-2½  hours.  The longer to simmer the better the flavor.  You can always make the stock the night before and let it sit overnight in the fridge.  Then you can strain it in the morning and you’re ready to make your soup.
  6. Remove chicken and strain stock
  7. Place stock back on stove and turn off heat.  Let sit for 10 minutes and then skim some of the extra oil off the top.  No need to go crazy, just skim some of the extra.
  8. Let the chicken cool about 15 minutes. Carefully remove and discard skin and bones and shred chicken with a fork.
  9. Sprinkle shredded chicken with cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper.  Mix spices into chicken and return to stockpot.
  10. In a  sauté pan, cook onions and garlic in a tbsp. of olive oil.  Sauté on medium~high until slightly golden (about 7 mins).
  11. Add onions and garlic to stock along with celery, carrots, and potatoes.
  12. Use the same sauté pan for the sausage.  Remove sausage from casing and drop small bite size balls into pan and cook until slightly golden.
  13. Remove sausage from heat and add directly into stock.
  14. Add bullion cube and tomato paste, stir and let simmer.
  15. Let soup simmer on medium~low for 1 hour, taste and add salt/pepper if necessary.
  16. Serve and sprinkle with cilantro and Parmesan cheese.

I ran out of Parmesan so decided to try it with a little French feta crumbled on top.  Let me say, it’s worth trying!  The salty bite was perfectly balanced with the warm spice of the soup.

December 6, 2011

Thyme Couscous

Like pasta, couscous doesn’t have much of a flavor itself.  But that’s one of the best things about it; you can add a variety of flavors, textures and spices to make it fit any mood.  When I’m already busy putting together a main dish, couscous is the perfect addition when you have your hands full.  It only takes 5 minutes to create fluffy, delicate pillows of joy.

Since couscous is so delicate, you need to be careful with the spice level and what you use.  It will add a great deal of flavor; so if you add something spicy like cayenne that’s all you’ll be able to taste.  I also want to steer you away from using dried herbs, fresh ones are in a completely different category.  It’s like comparing a fresh, crisp Fuji apple to those chewy dried fruit slices better known to me as foamy rubber nothingness.  Couscous cooks in 5 minutes, so the dried herbs don’t have a chance to reconstitute and end up getting stuck in your teeth apart from anything else.  So have fun with fresh herbs, and enjoy these combinations.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Line baking sheet with foil and distribute pine nuts evenly
  3. Toast pine nuts for 10 mins.  Remove when they’re slightly golden around the edges and set aside to cool
  4. In medium saucepan, add couscous, water, butter, salt, fresh thyme and garlic powder. Stir with fork to distribute thyme.  I pinch the thyme with my fingers before adding it in as it helps release the oils and favor.
  5. Bring to a light boil, quickly stir with fork, remove from heat and cover
  6. Let stand 4-5 minutes
  7. Fluff with fork
  8. Add cooled, toasted pint nuts

Here are some of my other favorites!

Basil and Sun-dried Tomato Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (add it after the couscous has cooled or the leaves will turn dark brown)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp. black olives (optional)

Curry and Raisin Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp. fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. toasted ground peanuts

Cranberry & Feta Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup crumbles fresh feta
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey (with some extras)

There’s one meal I don’t like to mess with, and that’s Thanksgiving.  This is not a place where I tend to experiment.  I threw together some fun appetizers, like prosciutto wrapped dates with balsamic glaze, and homemade hummus, but the main meal was pretty traditional.  I have the rest of the year to play around and make up new combinations, but on the last Thursday of November I go back to my roots with mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, gravy, roast carrots, and of course succulent, juicy turkey.

Photographer: Zoltan Sylvester

I have lots to do on Thanksgiving, so the last thing I want to be doing is mollycoddling my turkey every half hour.  Basting, tenting, covering, uncovering.  I really don’t have time for that when I’m also trying to get 6 other dishes out at the same time, not to mention trying to be somewhat social while all this goes down.  I had many willing helpers in the kitchen, but I wanted people to enjoy themselves and relax so I commandeered the stove and told everyone else to beat it.  (With love of course).  Here’s my secret ingredient… bacon.  Tasty, salty, greasy, crispy, meaty, perfect-with-almost-anything bacon. The turkey doesn’t come out tasting like one big pork rind, rather it’s a natural baster keeping the turkey juicy, tender and amazingly moist.  You can leave it alone and let it cook in the oven and you’ll have perfect turkey every time, not to mention some crispy bacon on the side.  Who wouldn’t come back to your house for Thanksgiving after serving this?!?

Ingredients

  • 1 18 lb. fresh turkey (or 10, 12, 25… whatever size you need to feed all your friends and family, and leave extra’s for those lovely turkey sandwiches the following day)
  • Handful fresh rosemary
  • Handful fresh thyme
  • Handful fresh sage leaves
  • 2 large yellow onions, quartered
  • 3 whole garlic bulbs, halved
  • 1 large apple, quartered
  • 3 stalks celery, halved
  • 1 stick room temperature butter
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 packets thick cut bacon

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Unwrap turkey in a clean sink, remove giblets and rinse with cold water
  3. Pat dry with paper towel and pace breast side up in roasting pan (if you’re using disposable foil pans I recommend double lining it so it holds the weight of the turkey without buckling)
  4. Place onions, apple, herbs, garlic and celery inside the bird.  Put as much as you can fit inside, and any leftovers just scatter around the pan around the bird.
  5. Mix salt, pepper and butter in a small bowl
  6. Spread butter all over bird, making sure to put as much of the butter under the skin to keep the breast moist and juicy.  You may need more butter depending on the size of the bird, don’t be skimpy!
  7. Once massaged with butter, take bacon and lay slices over the entire turkey.  They should overlap slightly so that you cover the turkey.  Wrap legs and wings in bacon too so they don’t dry out
  8. Cover the breast loosely with foil, don’t cover the entire turkey, just lay a small piece about the size of a dinner plate over the breast to prevent the bacon from burning
  9. Place in oven and cook at 400°F for 1 hour
  10. Turn down to 350°F and continue to cook for 3 1/2 hours (plus or more depending on the size)
  11. Check bird with a meat thermometer, the turkey needs to reach 160°F, if it goes about 165°F remove immediately or it will start to over cook.
  12. No need to baste the turkey
  13. No need to re-foil it
  14. No need to remove foil
  15. No need to cover in water, stock, oil.  Just leave it alone.
  16. Check temperature and remove when it reaches 160°F and let rest for 30-40 minutes before slicing
  17. Enjoy the turkey and don’t forget a piece of crispy bacon; there should be plenty for everyone!

 

Roast Carrots with Fresh Rosemary

Brussels Sprouts Salad

 

November 2, 2011

Chicken and Dumplins

There comes a time in every couple’s relationship where one person says, “Oh, let’s have    insert dish here    for dinner” with a giddy, child-like smile… and the other person looks at them with a face like their trying to solve a very complex math problem.  Well, this happened to me when my boyfriend asked for “chicken and dumplins”.  Chicken and what?  My parents are British; I grew up eating pot roast, shepherds pie, sausage rolls and bubble and squeak.  I felt like I’d walked into an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.  I thought it might be something like Matzo ball soup, which is really isn’t, so I got my lesson in dumpling creation through unscripted directions from my boyfriend’s grandmother over the phone.  It was less than vague… something along the lines of “mix a little flour with some Crisco until it looks right”?!?  Regardless, I think I figured it out and I’ve been trying to master it ever since.

Chicken and dumplings, like most southern food, evolved out of necessity and practicality.  In the old days, chicken was a special treat and not readily available like we find today in our grocery stores.  When it was available, chickens were often scrawny little birds without a lot of meat, yet had the job of serving an entire family dinner and lunch the next day.  However, flour was in abundance and an affordable staple found in all household kitchens.  Flour could easily be used to stretch a meager meal so that an entire family would leave the table feeling full and satisfied by making biscuits, dumplings, bread or an assortment of other improvisational meal stretchers.   Today, chicken and dumplings has become an ultimate comfort food of creamy sauce, thick luscious dumplings, and shreds of moist chicken.  I like mine with lots of pepper so the sauce is speckled with little flakes of black and charcoal.

Now I’ll say up front this is a work in progress, I’ll keep you updated on my adjustments but overall this recipe delivered a very satisfying dinner.  I should also mention this is not a weeknight dinner.  It takes a bit of time so I recommend making it over the weekend, or if you decide to do it during the week, split it up into two nights and make the stock the first night and the dumplings the second.

Ingredients

Stock

  • 1 whole chicken (remove giblets)
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 large carrots, roughly chopped (or 2 handfuls of baby carrots if you have them around)
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Water (enough to thoroughly cover the chicken and have room for all the flavorings)

Dumplings

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (add more if mixture is too dry and won’t hold together)
  • 2 eggs (This was my first attempt with the eggs, it resulted in fluffier dumplings so if you like them more dense remove the eggs and add a little more milk)
  • 3/4 cup Crisco
  • Extra flour for dusting

Soup

  • Homemade stock (from above)
  • Shredded chicken, remove skin (from above)
  • 1 tbsp, freshly ground pepper
  • Strips of dumplings (from above)
  • 2 tbsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Method

Part 1

  1.  Get a large soup pot and fill half way with cold water
  2. Add chicken (whole chicken but no giblets), carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary salt, and peppercorns
  3. Top up with water if needed, the chicken should be completely covered and the vegetables should have enough room to float around
  4. Place on stove top on high and bring to a boil
  5. Once it begins boiling, lower heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours
  6. Enjoy your time off, and leave the stove to do all the work.  You don’t need to do a thing!

Part 2

  1. Remove pot from stove and remove chicken carefully
  2. Place chicken in a bowl and let cool for 20 minutes before shredding (or you’ll burn your fingers)
  3. While the chicken cools, take the stock and run it through a strainer.  Hopefully you have another large pot big enough to hold the stock, if not line up a few bowls
  4. I usually transfer the stock into a Dutch oven pot so I have more room to drop the dumplings later. I have one from target and I use it ALL THE TIME!  I highly recommend purchasing one of these, you won’t regret it. Kitchen Essentials® from Calphalon® Hard Anodized Nonstick 5-qt. Covered Dutch Oven.
  5. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off and discard the skin and bones.  Shred it with your hands and leave it on the side until the dumplings are ready.
  6. Return stock to the stove and bring to a low simmer.  I usually reserve some of the stock on the side, I don’t use it all and then I can make another soup later that week.
  7. Skim some of the oil off the top before you drop the dumplings, it helps your soup stay creamy and not oily.

Part 3 – It’s dumpling time!

  1. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl
  2. Cut in shortening using a pastry knife or a large fork.  Pastry makers mix in the shortening using their hands, this is my preferred method too – dip your hands in ice-cold water for a minute, then dry your hands; it helps to not melt the Crisco and the dough doesn’t stick to your hands as much.
  3. Add cold milk and beaten eggs, a few spoons at a time, mixing the dough from the outside in with fork until a soft dough forms (do not over mix – about 2 minutes total). You may need to add a small amount of milk or flour at the end to adjust the consistency of the dough.  Add milk if the dough is very dry and crumbly after it’s been mixed; add flour if the dough is very sticky.
  4. Sprinkle your work surface with flour to prevent the dough from sticking.
  5. Roll dough out thinly, about 1/8″ thick, then slice into strips, each about 2 inches in length.
  6. Lightly dust with flour and then gently drop the dumplings into the simmering chicken broth.
  7. Stir them gently to prevent sticking
  8. Add chicken and 1-2 tbsp of pepper and stir gently.  (Add more or less pepper depending on your taste)
  9. Let cook for 15 minutes
  10. Check consistency and then add 1-2 tbsp. corn starch to thicken the broth.  You want it to be nice and creamy!
  11. Let simmer another 30 minutes until dumplings are cooked through
  12. Add salt/pepper to taste
  13. Serve in a big bowl so you get plenty of tasty dumplings!
September 20, 2011

Braised Short Ribs in Red Wine

Time to switch up the usual Sunday pot roast for braised short ribs.  Similar to pot roast, this is a one pot meal that takes little time to prepare but yields unbelievable results.  I’m always amazed at the complexity of flavor that evolves without having to do anything but stick it in a pot, pop it in the oven and forget about it until dinner.

This would be great for a dinner party, since you can prep everything ahead of time and take it out of the oven when your guests arrive.  You could even make it the day before and then reheat it on the stove, my only recommendation would be to test the broth the second day to make sure it didn’t concentrate too much, if so, just add a little chicken or beef stock.  The depth of flavor develops as it braises, and it’s almost impossible to over cook.  Who doesn’t like fall off the bone ribs?  Pop in some carrots and potatoes after a few hours and they will cook in the meat juices… there you have it, a side dish!

I used this recipe as a starting point as this was my first time braising short ribs.  It was quite complex, so I decided to take a few shortcuts and modified the ingredients.   Slow-Braised Short Ribs, Lardons, and Baby Vegetables 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs. beef short ribs (mine were bone out, but bone in will help develop a richer flavor so that would be my recommendation if I make this again)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small jalapeno peppers, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1 quart chicken or beef stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 fresh rosemary sprigs, finely chopped
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 3 handfuls baby carrots (or 3 large carrots, diced)
  • 2 handfuls of small potatoes

Method

  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Make sure ribs are dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Heat oil in a wide 6-8 quart heavy pot over medium-high heat, then brown ribs on all sides.  I used tongs to turn them every 4-5 minutes and sear them on each side.  When done, remove from the pot and leave them on a plate until later.
  • In the same pan, reduce heat to medium and add onion, jalapeño, garlic and sprinkle with salt.  Cook about 6 minutes until the onions are translucent.
  • Stir in tomato paste, red wine, vinegar, stock and water and bring to a light boil for 5 minutes.
  • Add bullion cube, thyme, rosemary, sage and bay leaf and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add ribs back to the pot along with any juices.
  • Cover pot tightly and transfer to oven.
  • Braise ribs until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  • After 2 hours, add carrots and potatoes and continue to cook.
  • Remove from oven when meat is tender, stick a fork in it and twist, if it moves easily it’s done.
  • Let stand, uncovered, until fat rises to surface, about 15 minutes, then skim fat with a metal spoon.
  • Pull chunks off meat off with tongs and serve in a bowl.  Remember to grab some off the potatoes and carrots and spoon on lots of broth.

We had this over the weekend, and the meat was perfectly tender and had amazing flavor.  I served it on a plate with a side of potatoes, carrots and zucchini hash.  In the process of cleaning up I took a spoonful of broth to see how it tasted on it’s own and it was AMAZING!  I highly recommend serving this in a bowl (I put it on a plate so I didn’t get enough broth but will know better next time).  The broth is where all the wonderful flavor lies, you can taste the garlic, herbs, meat juices…. it’s divine.  I’d treat this more like a meaty stew so you get a good portion of brothy goodness to meaty ribs.

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