Monthly Archives: January 2017

Heaven on a Plate

There is just nothing better on a cold Winter’s day than dining on a sumptuous braised chicken dish. Enter Molly Stevens, one of our all-time favorite cookbook authors. This recipe, Whole Chicken Braised with Pears and Rosemary, is from her All About Braising cookbook, practically a bible in our kitchen.

It’s a lovely alternative to roast chicken. Even better, in fact, because the chicken makes its own pear-and-rosemary-scented sauce as it braises. The secret is stuffing a quartered pear and a few branches of rosemary into the cavity before braising. As the chicken simmers to tenderness, the pear juices flow into the meat, embellishing it with a subtle sweetness.

The pear-enriched chicken drippings mingle with the braising liquid to create a complex sauce with a hint of fruit and a whiff of rosemary. You will be drooling before the meal is even plated. Russ made the comment “The sauce is so good I could drink it straight!”

Yes, it is a bit prep-intensive and the braising time is 1 1/4 hours, then you have to finish the sauce, so it’s not a quick weeknight meal, but oh my, your family will be thanking you for having served them heaven on a plate!

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Russ cut off the wings so that it would be easier to brown all over.

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After the chicken is seasoned with salt and pepper inside and out, stuff the cavity with pears and rosemary.

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The stuffed bird is now trussed according to directions.

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Once the bird is all tied up it’s ready to be seared in the braising pot.

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Start searing the bird on it’s breast side for 4 minutes.

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Turn the chicken every four minutes or so to get a nice brown color on all sides.

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After the bird is seared, remove it to a plate and sear the wings, gizzard and neck.

Whole Chicken Braised with Pears and Rosemary

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

The Braise

  • One 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 pound chicken
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 just-ripe Bosc pear
  • 3 leafy fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cups finely chopped leek, white and pale green parts only
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (2 medium)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

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Peel and core 2 ripe, but firm bosc pears; quarter and slice into 1/2″ thick pieces.

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The pears cook in butter in a sauté pan then sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper are added.

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The pears are checked for doneness with a sharp knife.

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Once the pears are caramelized, add the balsamic vinegar.

The Pear Garnish

  • 2 just-ripe Bosc pears
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

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Dice the shallots and leeks.

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Add more butter to the pot and toss in the leeks and shallots.

img_0176A rosemary sprig is also added to the sautéing veggies.

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Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, breast side up, and pour in any juices that seeped onto the plate where it rested.

Directions

  1. Heat the over to 300 degrees.
  2. Rinse inside and out with cool water and dry completely. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Cut the pear (unpeeled and uncored) into quarters and stuff into the cavity. Slide two rosemary springs alongside the pear.
  3. Truss the chicken with kitchen string: Loop the middle of the string around the ends of the two drumsticks to pull them together. Next, bring the ends of the string back alone the sides of the chicken, running the string between the leg and the breast on both sides, then turn the chicken over and snag the string over the base of the neck. Knot the string securely and trim off the string close to the knot.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil in a medium Dutch oven. Pat the surface of the chicken dry again (the drier it is, the better it will brown and not stick to the surface.) Gently lover the chicken, breast side down into the hot pan.
  5. Brown the chicken without disturbing it for about 4 minutes, then nudge one side with a wooden spoon and peek to see whether the skin has developed a deep brown color. When it has, maneuver the chicken onto one side and continue cooking on each side until all four sides are are an appealing roasted brown color, 12 to 18 minutes total. Lift the chicken and set it aside on a large plate.
  6. Pour off all the fat from the pot and discard. With a damp paper towel, wipe out any burnt specks from the bottom of the pan, being careful to leave behind all the delicious caramelized bits. Return the pot to medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of butter.
  7. Add the leek, shallots, and remaining rosemary sprig, season with salt and pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for about 7 minutes. Pour in the wine, raise the heat to medium-high, and boil, stirring until the wine is reduced by half, about 1-2 minutes. Add the stock and white wine vinegar, and boil for 2 more minutes to meld the flavors.
  8. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, breast side up, and pour in any juices that seeped onto the plate where it rested. Set a tight-fitting lid in place. Slide the pot into the lower third of the oven. Braise, basting every 20 minutes with a large spoon, until an instant read thermometer reads 170 degrees when inserted between the breast and the thigh, about and hour and fifteen minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, prepare the pear garnish. Peel the pears, cut them into quarters, remove the cores, and then cut each quarter crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices. Heat the butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add the pears and toss to coat with the butter.
  10. Add the sugar, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Saute briskly, shaking the skillet and turning the pears frequently, until they begin to caramelize on all surfaces, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and continue to shake and stir until the vinegar has reduced to a glaze that coats the pears, barely 30 seconds. Transfer to a large plate, spreading them out so they will stop cooking and do not steam and become mushy while you finish the sauce.
  11. Remove the chicken from the pot by spearing a meat fork into the cavity, tipping the chicken toward you so that the juices run back into the pot, and lifting gently, and set the chicken on a carving board. Tent with foil to keep warm.
  12. Strain the braising liquid into a small saucepan, pressing down lightly on the vegetables, to extract as much liquid as you can. Discard the vegetables. Using a wide metal spoon, skim the clear surface fat from the sauce. Set the sauce over medium-high heat and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer the sauce to concentrate the flavor and give it some body, about 6 minutes. The sauce should be the consistency of a thick vinaigrette. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the pear garnish to the sauce to warm through.
  13. Carve the chicken and spoon some sauce and pears over each serving.

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Remove the chicken from the pot by spearing a meat fork into the cavity, tipping the chicken toward you so that the juices run back into the pot.

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Strain the braising liquid into a small saucepan, pressing down lightly on the vegetables.

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Discard the vegetables. Set the sauce over medium-high heat and bring to a gentle boil.

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Carve the chicken and spoon some sauce and pears over each serving, and plate with your favorite sides.

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Confetti Stuffed Peppers

Loaded with a lot of good-for-ya veggies, these Confetti Stuffed Peppers pack a tasty punch. Over the years, I’ve made all kinds of stuffed peppers. Sometimes I’d cut the pepper in half and mound the raw meat and rice mixture directly into the shell without precooking the ingredients. But that approach can be hit or miss when it comes to perfectly cooking the rice.

A bit of back story. I planned having a night off from cooking because we’d purchased some promising looking pre-made stuffed peppers at Costco the previous Saturday. Apparently the Food Gods had other ideas though, because on Sunday morning when I went downstairs, what do you think I found sitting atop the china closet?? Seems hubby put the package up there “temporarily” while he opened the basement door to tote groceries to the downstairs fridge, then totally forgot about them. Urrrgghh….

Believe me, we had some discussion about the feasibility of still serving them for dinner, but realizing they’d been sitting out for over 16 hours, we grudgingly came to our senses. With thoughts of agonizing stomach torture, or even a possible trip to the ER, our health meant a lot more than saving $15! (Did we really even give it a second thought?) So out in the trash they went, and onto the grocery list went the ingredients to make them from scratch.

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Let’s face it, there are as many ways to make stuffed peppers as there are to make meatloaf. But if, like us, you try to get in as many vegetables when preparing a meal, this recipe checks a lot of boxes.

Then there’s the debate about which rice to use, white or brown? There are pluses and minuses to each. The upside is, brown rice, unlike white rice, still has the side hull and bran. Other facts:

The Good—

  • Brown rice has more micronutrients: magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It also has a lot of manganese, selenium, and copper.
  • Brown rice has a lower glycemic index than white rice.
  • The fiber content of brown rice keeps bowel function at it’s peak since it makes digestion that much easier.

The Bad—

  • Brown rice has 43 more calories per cup than white rice.
  • Brown rice has 7g more carbohydrates per cup than white rice.

The Ugly—

  • That would only pertain to those who have a rice allergy…

Alright, the rice choice is totally up to you and those who will be eating the stuffed peppers.

To make the meal more weeknight-friendly, I made the recipe on a Sunday afternoon up to the first line of Step 7, and then refrigerated them over night. It sure made for an easy dinner prep the next day. And because I had 1 1/2 cups of tomato puree leftover from another dinner, I mixed it with a small 8 ounce can of tomato sauce. Waste not, want not, right?

We did have nearly one cup of the meat mixture leftover after stuffing the peppers, so we just divvied it up between the two of us as a little snack while we were preparing other meals. Keep in mind, if you can’t buy large peppers, purchase 5 or 6 medium to small ones, otherwise you’ll have a lot of stuffing with no where to put it!

Enjoy!

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
  • 4 large bell peppers, a mix of colors
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium zucchini or summer squash, finely diced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown or white long grain rice
  • 2 cups tomato sauce, more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups grated pepper Jack cheese

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Slice off the top of the peppers and remove the stem. Finely dice the tops.

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Place peppers in a pot that is high enough and roomy enough to fit them snugly.

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After your ground meat is browned, place onto a paper towel-lined plate to remove any excess fat.

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Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining olive oil. Add the onions and chopped peppers and cook until beginning to soften.

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Next, add the garlic and zucchini/squash and cook for another minute.

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Next toss in the diced tomatoes and season with salt and red pepper flakes. Cook until everything is heated through.

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In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked veggies, meat and rice, and stir in 1 cup of the cheese.

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Pack the mixture into the pepper shells and mound the top.

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Before you top with tomato sauce and put back in the oven, siphon the moisture out of the bottom of the pot.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut the tops off the peppers. Remove and discard the stems, then finely chop the tops; set aside. Scoop out the seeds and as much of the membrane as you can. In a baking dish large enough to hold them upright, place the peppers in cut-side up.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat, season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking up the lumps, until it is cooked through and just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove as much fat from the pan, then transfer the meat to a paper towel-lined plate to get rid of the remaining fat.
  4. Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and chopped peppers and cook until beginning to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and zucchini/squash and cook for another minute.
  5. Add the diced tomatoes and season with salt and red pepper flakes. Cook until everything is heated through.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked veggies, then stir in the meat and rice. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Stir in 1 cup of the cheese.
  7. Fill the peppers with the rice mixture. Pour a small amount of water into the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. (If you refrigerated overnight, cook for 45 minutes.)
  8. Uncover, siphon out the moisture from the bottom of the pot, pour tomato sauce over the peppers and cook for another 15 minutes, then top each with a sprinkle of the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until the peppers are soft and the cheese is melted and lightly browned, another 10 minutes or so.
  9. Serve in shallow bowls and top with more tomato sauce from the bottom of the pot, if desired.

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After placing a pepper in the bowl, top with more tomato sauce.

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Sliced open, the meat and veggie mixture falls out with the oozy cheese.

The Brick is Back? Not Sure…

Originally built in 1763, The Brick Hotel is a beautiful restaurant, bar, and 15-room quaint inn with a Victorian era ambience. The main dining areas are encircled with a glass enclosed porch with very desirable seating as it wraps around and overlooks historic Newtown and their garden, where diners can sit and enjoy the outdoor view. Very charming—at least at one point in time.

Once a popular destination, The Brick denigrated down to a Trip Advisor’s rating of only 2.5. And we can attest to that. In October 2014, Russ, his son Daniel and I went for a Sunday brunch which is supposed to last until 2:00. We arrived at 12:30 and the offerings were all but gone and were not replenished for the duration of the brunch! At $27 per head, it was inexcusable. It was obvious, the aging inn was struggling to maintain the polish for which it was once revered.

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The cold buffet offerings are spread out on the bar…

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…while the hot food is across the way. You can see there were pretty slim pickins.

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A sample of the hot offerings that were scraped together.

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And morsels from the cold buffet.

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Daniel and Russ even found room for dessert.

In November 2015, infamous British culinary and hospitality expert Gordon Ramsay took on The Brick in Fox TV’s Hotel Hell. After revamping the menu and addressing hygiene issues, he and his team gave the walls and furniture a sleek remodeling with a palette of classy shades of grey. Now renovated with a trendy entrance area, The Brick still has many features from the seventeen hundreds still intact, such as the first-floor staircase.

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Gordon Ramsay instructs the waitstaff on the new menu.

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The foyer with the famous revamped staircase.

But our first visit back in quite some time, even before the brunch episode, was the Thursday evening before Labor Day weekend 2014. We made it just in time for the end of their happy hour. The fact that hardly anyone was around, either inside or out, was an indication of the Brick’s slow demise—although we didn’t know it at the time.

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Our view from the garden during happy hour back in August 2014. It’s apparent that there were few, if any, other patrons. Our much younger waitress kept calling us “you’s lovebirds.”

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We shared the dinner menu appetizer Black & Blue grilled flatbread with blackened steak, crumbled bleu cheese and caramelized onions. 

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We also shared a Happy Hour Special called Buffalo Shrimp with a trio of battered crispy tiger shrimp, garlic buffalo sauce, bleu cheese slaw and remoulade. 

Even though recent Trip Advisor reviews are still complaining about the shabby hotel accommodations, we were ready to give it another chance, this time for dinner on a Saturday night. Let’s just say it wasn’t a promising start! Entering into that large revamped foyer, no one was manning the hostess station, so Russ ventured into the bar area, but again nobody there…

He finally caught sight of someone in the kitchen and got her attention (although Russ swore she was trying to vanish). She asked us if we had reservations—are you kidding me??—there were only two other occupied tables on the wrap around porch, and no one else in sight! Finally seated and with menus in hand, we selected a bottle of wine then set about deciding what to order—if not a bit fearfully.

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Russ reviews the menu in the all-but-empty wraparound porch.

The Sherry Infused Wild Mushroom Soup appealed to both of us as a starter, and it was delicious! Russ chose the New York Strip, medium rare, drizzled wth a demi-glaze that came plated over a mound of risotto and wilted spinach. He had no complaints.

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The not very exciting to look at mushroom soup, that tasted superb.

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Russ’s New York strip came pre-sliced.

My entree, Center Cut Pork Chops (something I usually never order when I’m out, so I don’t know what possessed me) arrived over a bed of roasted baby potatoes, sautéd brussels sprouts, and sweet and spicy apples. The accompaniments were probably some of the best I’ve ever eaten, so moist, tender and full of flavor. The chops on the other hand, were dry and overdone, a real disappointment.

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Lynn’s pork chop dish looked great, but the meat was dry and overdone.

In the past couple of years, we have had their bar menu in the garden; their Sunday brunch and Saturday dinner, both on the wrap-around porch. It hasn’t exactly been “three strikes your out” but I imagine if things don’t improve and patron traffic increase, The Brick Hotel will definitely be history—literally…

Brussels Sprouts with Oranges and Bacon

Vegetable Side Dish Blog #3—
A final wrap-up to veggie side dishes for a spell…

Wondering what veggie dish to accompany our leg of lamb dinner, I recalled a Brussels sprouts side dish that Russ made years ago with orange juice and shallots. In his search to find that recipe, he came across this intriguing version from Martha Stewart. And the beauty of it was we had some blood oranges on hand, and you know how I adore blood oranges!

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When we buy brussels sprouts, we tend to get them still on the stalk if possible. This way we can cut off what we want, and the remaining sprouts stay fresher until we need more. Our latest stalk carried ginormous, almost baseball-size sprouts on the lower end!

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This stalk had nearly baseball size sprouts at one end!

However, there’s a BIG BUT here. A quick glance at the directions and one could see that roasting 1/2 inch pieces of bacon in a 425 degree oven for about 45 minutes, and thin slices of orange for over an hour—would result in a charred black mess! C’mon Martha, you can do better than that.

Actually, it was probably the editor’s who mistakenly left out the fact that you have to REMOVE the oranges and the bacon after so many minutes and then return them to the pan near the end. Our directions will reflect this.

I must admit, the combination of sweet orange, lightly smoky bacon, and caramelized brussels sprouts is absolutely addictive, if they’re cooked properly. So follow our updated instructions. Note, you can eat the orange rinds, which have a bit of a bitter taste. I personally like them, but you may not, so just cut the flesh away from the rind. Make sure to start with thin-skinned oranges.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 small, thin-skinned oranges (blood oranges if you can get them), cut in half, then into 1⁄2-inch slices
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 to 4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into 1⁄4-inch pieces (1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

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Add oranges, in a single layer, on an oil rubbed rimed baking sheet, turning the slices to coat. Season with salt and drizzle with more oil.

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After 15 minutes or so when the slices start to char, transfer the oranges from the oven to a plate or bowl.

img_0032Next, roast the bacon on the same baking sheet for about 12 minutes then transfer to the plate with oranges.

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Toss Brussels sprout halves with the remaining oil, and season with salt.

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All of the ingredients are roasted together for a final 5 minutes.

Directions (see our comments above)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush a rimmed baking sheet generously with oil. Add oranges, in a single layer, turning to coat. Season with salt and drizzle with one tablespoon oil; roast 15-18 minutes. Remove the slices to a plate.

  2. Add bacon and roast until crisp, about 12 minutes. Remove the bacon to the plate with the oranges.

  3. Toss brussels sprouts with remaining 4 tablespoons oil; season with salt. Add to baking sheet; toss to combine. Roast, tossing once, until sprouts are tender and browning at edges.

  4. Add back the oranges and bacon with the sprouts and roast another 5 minutes.

According to Martha, if you take the time to separate a few of the sprouts into leaves, you will be rewarded with crunchy, almost burnt bits along with the softer caramelized sprouts. You may find you want to make a whole tray of them.

img_0040The colors alone make you eat with your eyes.

Two Simple Sumptuous Sides

Vegetable Side Dish Blog #2—
While I’m on the topic of veggie side dishes, I’m going to continue blogging in that vein for a couple of postings. In this particular post you’re getting a twofer (aka two-for-one.)

Roasting slender carrots whole gives this easy side dish—Roasted Carrots with Blood Orange and Rosemary—a dressy feel, as does using blood oranges, one of my all-time favorite citrus fruits. We recently served it with Steak Diane and Creamy Mashed Cauliflower.

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Our carrots were on the heftier side of slender so I roasted them covered in foil for 25 minutes, and after removing the foil, I drizzled the maple syrup all over and cooked for another 25 minutes. Perfect! Although this amount of time may knock it out of contender status for a weeknight.

The savory cauliflower puree (recipe follows) makes a perfect low-carb stand-in for mashed potatoes. It gets its fabulous flavor from garlic, buttermilk and a touch of butter and, best of all, it has about one-quarter of the calories of typical mashed potatoes. Next time I will not add the additional olive oil at the end, as I believe it made the dish just a bit too soupy.

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My bad however, was not steaming the garlic cloves with the cauliflower. In my defense, I actually looked at the recipe several times wondering when the garlic was supposed to be added. I saw it mentioned in Step 2, but actually thought it would make more sense to be steamed with the veggie—and of course that was exactly what was supposed to happen. So our mash had a very green garlic intensity instead of the soft mellow taste had it been steamed. Now you have no excuse…

Roasted Carrots with Blood Orange and Rosemary

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Buy fresh slender carrots with their greens.

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Zest and juice a blood orange.

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The color of blood orange juice is so vibrant!

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lb. slender carrots, peeled and trimmed, leaving a smidge of greens at the top if possible
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 medium blood orange or regular orange; zest finely grated and juice squeezed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbs. fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 Tbs. pure maple syrup

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Arrange the peeled carrots in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.

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In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, mustard, and orange zest.

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Roll the carrots in the mustard mixture, season with salt and pepper, then pour the orange juice around the carrots.

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After 20 minutes roasting covered with foil, uncover, drizzle with maple syrup and roast, uncovered, until tender and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Arrange the carrots in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, mustard, and orange zest. Pour over the carrots and toss to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the orange juice around the carrots. Top with the rosemary. Cover tightly with foil and roast until the carrots are nearly tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Uncover, drizzle with the maple syrup, and roast, uncovered, until tender and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Gently toss, season to taste with salt, and serve.

Carrot recipe by Laraine Perri from Fine Cooking

Creamy Mashed Cauliflower

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Ingredients

  • 8 cups bite-size cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • ⅓ cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Snipped fresh chives for garnish

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Place the cooked cauliflower and garlic in a food processor. Add buttermilk, oil, butter, salt, pepper, and process until smooth and creamy.

Directions

  1. Place cauliflower florets and garlic in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover and steam until very tender, 12 to 15 minutes. (Alternatively, place florets and garlic in a microwave-safe bowl with ¼ cup water, cover and microwave on High for 3 to 5 minutes.)
  2. Place the cooked cauliflower and garlic in a food processor. Add buttermilk, two teaspoons oil, butter, salt and pepper; pulse several times, then process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil (I would omit this step) and garnish with chives, if desired. Serve hot.

Recipe found on EatingWell.com

Healthy Winter Side Dish

Looking for some inspiration when it comes to your vegetable accompaniments? A side of broccoli rabe makes a good counterpoint to rich hearty dishes in the Winter. And with leeks, you can never go wrong, so make sure to get this Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Leeks on your radar for an upcoming meal. Here, bitter broccoli rabe is mellowed by the softened leeks and empowered by a hit of garlic and red pepper.

A limited number of ingredients and little in the way of prep or cooking, make this an ideal weeknight side dish. Initially what may seem like a lot of greens, actually cooks down to only about four servings so don’t cut back. The evening I made it, it was paired with two thick, bone-in pork chops that were sprinkled with adobo seasoning, pan-seared and finished in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

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Add the sliced leeks and some red pepper in hot oil until softened.

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It took closer to 7 minutes for the leeks to soften and begin to brown.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large, or 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, very thinly sliced and thoroughly rinsed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 14 cups), rinsed and left slightly damp
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • Kosher salt to taste

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After the broccoli rabe leaves have started to wilt, add the garlic and remaining red pepper, then cover and cook for another 15 minutes.

Directions

  1. In an 8-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the leek and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the leek is tender and beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the broccoli rabe, toss, and cook until the leaves have wilted, about 1 minute.
  4. Reduce the heat to low, and add the garlic and remaining pepper.
  5. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stalks are tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
  6. Stir in the butter until melted, season with salt to taste, and serve.

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Dusting Off an Oldie but a Goodie!

I’m gonna save you a few bucks here—you can thank me later. Classically made with filet mignon, this version of Steak Diane uses less pricey flank steak. The beefier nature of the cut holds its own against a bold sauce featuring sherry, Cognac, Worcestershire sauce, and herbs. What’s not to like here?

It’s been widely agreed that New York City appears to be the source of Steak Diane’s genesis. But when and where it actually evolved has as many viewpoints as it does recipe variations. One thing is for sure, in it’s infancy, Steak Diane was flambéed table-side making it all the rage at NYC high-style establishments in the 50’s and early 60’s; but went out of fashion and was considered a has-been by the 1980’s.

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Steak Diane is similar to steak au poivre, because it is either cut thinly, or pounded thin so that it cooks rapidly with seasonings, then sautéed in butter. A sauce is prepared from the pan juices. The ingredients vary from recipe to recipe but may include butter, mushrooms, mustard, shallots, cream, truffles (another pricey item), meat stock, and Worcestershire sauce. Another money-saving step is to use brandy in place of the more expensive Cognac.

I’ve always thought it odd that when you’re cooking a beef dish, the ingredients list chicken broth rather than beef. What I learned was, even if your dish calls for beef broth, you’ll get a much better flavor if you use chicken broth instead. This is because, despite the fact that there is no minimum protein requirement set by the USDA, most boxed or canned chicken broth contains around 60 parts liquid to 1 part protein, twice as much as in beef broth. Homemade beef broth is plenty flavorful, so this only pertains to the store-bought variety.

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One accompaniment was Roasted Carrots with Blood Orange and Rosemary.

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Our other low-carb side was a cauliflower mash garnished with chives.

This easy meal was not only fabulous tasting, it was also all around low-carb because our accompaniments were Roasted Carrots with Blood Orange and Rosemary, and Cauliflower Mash (both shown above and both of which I will be posting soon.)

While there is no show-stopping flambéing going on with this version of Steak Diane, it is an ideal dinner for two—romantically luxurious and indulgent. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner… just sayin’…

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Ingredients

  • 1 1-1/2-lb. flank steak
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbs. finely chopped shallot
  • 3 Tbs. medium sherry, such as amontillado
  • 2 Tbs. Cognac
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbs. lower-salt chicken broth
  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, more to taste

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Our flank steak weighed in at two pounds and almost didn’t fit the carbon steel skillet.

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After 7 minutes in the 400 degree oven, the steak then rests for 10 minutes before cutting into.

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There was no fat to wipe out before we added the shallots, sherry, Cognac, and Worcestershire sauce to the pan.

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Pat the steak dry and season generously with salt and pepper. In an ovenproof heavy-duty 12-inch skillet (preferably cast iron or carbon steel), heat the oil over high heat until shimmering hot, about 2 minutes.
  3. Brown the steak on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Transfer the skillet to the oven and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat reads 135°F, about 5 minutes. Transfer the steak to a platter, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, pour off the fat in the skillet (be careful of the hot handle). Set the skillet over medium heat, add the shallot, sherry, Cognac, and Worcestershire sauce.
  5. Simmer, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula to release any browned bits, until the sauce is reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Lower the heat to low, add the chicken broth, butter, chives, and parsley and whisk, swirling the pan occasionally, to emulsify the butter; the sauce should look creamy.
  7. Remove from the heat, whisk in the lemon juice and season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice.
  8. Cut the steak in half with the grain, then slice the meat on the diagonal across the grain into 1/8-inch slices. Serve with the sauce.

Steak recipe by Arlene Jacobs from Fine Cooking

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Lower the heat to low, add the chicken broth, butter, chives, and parsley.

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Whisk the sauce, swirling the pan occasionally to emulsify the butter.

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Remove from the heat, whisk in the lemon juice and season to taste with salt, pepper.

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Cut the steak in half with the grain, then slice the meat on the diagonal across the grain into 1/8-inch slices.

img_9955Arrange the meat on a platter, pour over the juices from the carving board and then spoon on some of the shallot mixture.

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Put the remaining shallot mixture in a small bowl for diners to add more if desired.

Umbrian-Style Chicken alla Cacciatora

Chicken alla cacciatora, or hunter’s style, can be found all over Italy—but tomatoes were scarce for quite some time. Most Americans, including us, are more familiar with the southern Italian version with tomatoes, but this one is from Umbria, in the country’s center, and it’s made savory with lemon, vinegar, olives and rosemary instead of tomatoes. It’s lovely served with steamed greens dressed with a fruity olive oil, over homemade mashed potatoes or polenta. You really have to try it!

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This meal is comfort food all the way!

We can’t say enough about this fabulous dish! Absolutely divine, with so much flavor we kept oohing and ahhing all through dinner. The cooking vehicle of choice was our smaller Le Creuset pan “Baby Blue,” which was just the right size to hold all of the ingredients. Our sides included creamy garlicky mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach in olive oil and roasted garlic paste—thank goodness we’re both fans of garlic. Upon completion, there is enough luscious sauce to spoon over every item on your plate if desired—and desire we did!

Step 1 instructs you to remove the browned chicken pieces and wipe the pan clean before returning the chicken and adding the sliced onions. Why in heck would you do that? Those browned bits contain a lot of seasoning and will flavor the onions as you caramelize them. And buy brined olives with the pits because they also lend another layer of flavor, and the meat almost melts off the pit into your mouth.

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While you can buy already cut-up chicken parts, we purchased a 5-pounder because Russ likes to hack up the chicken with his heavy-duty meat cleaver to get the extra bony parts for making stock. I secretly think it’s his inner Neanderthal making an appearance…

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Umbrian-Style Chicken alla Cacciatora

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into serving pieces, or use bone-in, skin-on thighs and drumsticks
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 cup good-quality brine-cured olives, black or green, with pits (we used a 1/2 cup)
  • 1 large sprig rosemary
  • 1 handful sage leaves, rough chop if leaves are large
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

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Chicken pieces are heated in olive oil in a large braising pan and seared over medium heat until golden on all sides, about 15 minutes.

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Turn heat to low, add the onions and stir frequently until caramelized.

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The onions caramelize with the chicken in about 20 minutes.

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After the onions have caramelized, add minced garlic, capers, olives, rosemary sprig and sage leaves.

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When everything smells fragrant, add the wine, cover and simmer very slowly until the chicken is tender and cooked through, only about another 15 to 20 minutes.

Directions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick pan. Add chicken pieces and sear over medium heat until golden on all sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and wipe the pan clean before proceeding. (We absolutely did NOT wipe the pan clean!)
  2. Turn heat to low, add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, and return the chicken to the pan. Add onions and stir frequently until caramelized, about 18 minutes. Add minced garlic, capers, olives, rosemary sprig and sage leaves. Season with just a sprinkle of salt and black pepper.
  3. After a couple of minutes, when everything smells fragrant, add wine. Cover and simmer very slowly until the chicken is tender and cooked through (165 degrees). Start checking the temperature of the chicken after 15 minutes to avoid overcooking. Add some water if the sauce gets too dry while simmering.
  4. When ready to serve, reheat if necessary, then add lemon juice and zest and balsamic vinegar. Taste and add more lemon if desired. Remove the rosemary sprig and serve.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Recipe by Letizia Mattiacci, author of the cookbook “A Kitchen with a View“

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There is no doubt we will be repeating this dinner over and over!

 

Lemony Carrot and Cauliflower Soup

Here’s the perfect antidote to brighten up a short, cold, Winter’s Day. Most Sunday’s when we have the opportunity, Russ likes to throw together a soup that incorporates any one of our homemade stocks. When we came upon this Lemony Carrot and Cauliflower Soup by New York Times chef/author Melissa Clark, we knew it was “the one” for the upcoming week.

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Russ chops parts of a whole chicken, the bony parts of which he’ll add to his collection of other chicken parts to make stock. The main chicken parts we used in our Umbrian-Style Chicken dinner…

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The finished stock cools in the pressure cooker.

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The stock is strained into a colander lined with cheese cloth.

Since we were out of chicken stock, it prompted us to make another batch, now quite simple and less time consuming since we own a pressure cooker. While the stock was cooking, we prepped the soup ingredients, knowing that we’d include 4 cups of the homemade stock in place of water.

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Even though there’s not a drop of dairy, it is super creamy and luscious! The addition of miso paste and crushed coriander to the broth zips things up without negating the comfort factor. The flavors all come together in the end with the final lemon juice, sea salt, cilantro, and smoky chili powder, so I highly recommend you don’t omit these ingredients.

The beauty of a soup like this—other than its bone-warming properties—is that you don’t need a recipe. You can pretty much simmer together any combination of vegetables with a little water or broth, purée it, top it with good olive oil and salt, and end up with something good to eat.

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While the stock was cooking, we prepped the soup ingredients.

Lemony Carrot Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and diced (2 cups)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 medium carrots (1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons white miso
  • 1 small (or half of a large) head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste
  • Smoky chile powder, for serving
  • Coarse sea salt, for serving
  • Cilantro leaves, for serving

Directions

  1. In a large, dry pot over medium heat, toast coriander seeds until fragrant and dark golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and coarsely crush.
  2. Return the pot to medium heat. Add the oil and heat until warm. Stir in onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly colored, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute.
  3. Add carrots, crushed coriander, salt and 6 cups water to the pot (we used 4 cups stock and 2 cups water). Stir in the miso until it dissolves. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. Stir in cauliflower and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the soup from the heat. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth. (Alternatively, you can let soup cool slightly then purée it in batches in a food processor or blender.) If necessary, return the puréed soup to the heat to warm through. Stir in the lemon zest and juice just before serving. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with chile, sea salt and cilantro leaves.

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In a large, dry pot over medium heat, toast coriander seeds until fragrant and dark golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

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Add the carrots and crushed coriander to the pot of cooked onions and garlic.

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Five minutes after the broth is added, stir in cauliflower and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.

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Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth.

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As a topper, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with chile, sea salt and cilantro leaves.

 

Choose Your Weapon: The Tortoise or The Hare

I’m sure you’ve heard the old Aesop’s fable “The Tortoise and The Hare,” an account of a race between unequal partners. It’s a common folktale theme in which ingenuity and trickery are employed to overcome a stronger opponent. Well, in this recipe of slow versus fast, there is no clear winner.

Salmon with Lentil Hash and Bacon turns out great whether you take it slow with a hands-off approach or hit the fast-forward button and crank it out in mere minutes. How’s that? Choose to utilize a slow cooker versus a pressure cooker, but end up with the same luscious results.

In the January 2017 Better Homes & Gardens Magazine, there was an article “Slow vs. Fast” that highlighted several meals that could be cooked using either method, and this intrigued me. Keep in mind the techniques are not the same, and the instructions matter.

I would have initially chosen the pressure cooker if it had been a work night. But since I was off between the Winter holidays, I had time on my hands and decided to use our slow cooker. With this method you slow cook the lentils and vegetables on low for 5 to 6 hours (or 2 1/2 to 3 hours on high) and then place the salmon on top for another 25 minutes on high.

If using the pressure cooker, the salmon, spiced lentils, potatoes and cauliflower literally cook in 60 seconds of high pressure to give you a one-pot, one-step wonder in a snap! Next time we plan to use the fast method and see if there are any differences… stay tuned…

“Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for slow and steady won the race!” Not so in this case… for both methods you’ll want to embrace!

Makes: 4 servings
Total Time—includes hands on prep
Slow Cook:
 5 hrs 45 mins to 6 hrs 45 mins (low); or 3 hr 15 min to 3 hr 45 min (high)
Pressure Cook: 21 min, plus time to build and release pressure

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Ingredients

  • cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
  • pound baby yellow potatoes, quartered
  • small head cauliflower (1 1/2 pounds), cut into large florets
  • cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • large onion, cut into quarters
  • cloves garlic, minced
  • tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 pound salmon fillet, skinned
  • slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained, and crumbled
  • Fresh mint leaves

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Fry up the bacon and when cool, crumble and set aside.

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In a slow cooker, stir together the broth, potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, onion, garlic, curry powder, salt, the cumin, coriander, and cayenne.

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After the requisite amount of time for the veggies to cook, open the lid for the salmon.

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Cut salmon fillet in half crosswise; season with salt and black pepper.

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Place salmon on top of vegetable mixture and cover.

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Cook about 25 minutes more, then divide salmon and vegetable mixture among serving bowls.

Directions

  1. SLOW COOKER: In a 6-qt. slow cooker stir together the broth, potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, onion, garlic, curry powder, salt, the cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Cover; cook on low 5 to 6 hours or high 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  2. Cut salmon fillet in half crosswise; season with salt and black pepper. Place salmon on top of vegetable mixture. If cooking on low, turn to high.
  3. Cover and cook about 25 minutes more or until salmon just flakes when tested with a fork. Divide salmon and vegetable mixture among four serving bowls. Top with crumbled bacon and fresh mint.
  1. PRESSURE COOKER: In a 6-qt. electric or stove-top pressure cooker stir together the broth, potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, onion, garlic, curry powder, salt, the cumin, coriander, and cayenne.
  2. Cut the salmon fillet in half crosswise and place on top of the lentil mixture; season with some salt and black pepper. Lock the lid in place. Set electric cooker on high pressure to cook 1 minute to start the cooker.
  3. When cooker reaches that pressure, immediately release the pressure according to manufacturer’s directions. For stove-top pressure cooker, bring up to pressure over medium-high heat according to manufacturer’s directions.
  4. Remove from heat once it reaches that pressure. Quickly release the pressure according to the manufacturer’s directions. Open lid carefully.
  5. Divide the salmon and vegetable mixture among four serving bowls. Top with crumbled bacon and fresh mint.

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Top with crumbled bacon and fresh mint.

Dinner: It’s A Wrap

Need something to pick you up and dust you off during the January Winter doldrums? This brightly colored meal option wraps it up and delivers.

Lettuce wraps have been a “thing” for a few years now, popular at Asian restaurants as well as other ethnic establishments, including American. And I have to say, we love ’em not only because they are low-carb, but they’re very versatile, so tasty, and so fun to assemble (just make sure to have a few extra napkins on hand.) The zesty flavors in these Korean-Style Spicy Steak Lettuce Wraps make them a standout—at least in our humble opinion.

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Place as much, or as little, of each ingredient in the lettuce leaf, then roll and eat.

Most high-end supermarkets will now carry gochujang, which can be found in the ethnic food aisle. It is a savory, spicy, and pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. Now that may not sound too appealing to some of you, but we really like it. The finished product is a dark, reddish paste with a rich, piquant flavor.

Think of gochujang as similar to miso paste — a little goes a long way, and it’s just as versatile. It can be used in marinades for meat dishes like Korean bulgogi (another favorite of ours), stirred into dipping sauces, or used to punch up stews or soups. And like miso, once opened, it should be stored in the refrigerator, with just as a long shelf life. Best of all, gochujang is considered a diet-friendly superfood because it’s rich in protein, antioxidants and vitamins, but low in fat and calorie content.

Kimchi on the other hand will be located in the refrigerated section of a grocery store or Asian market. The reddish fermented cabbage (and sometimes radish) dish, is made with a mix of garlic, salt, vinegar, chile peppers, and other spices. It is another superfood chockfull of many health benefits. I’ve read that Koreans eat so much of this super-spicy condiment (40 pounds of it per person each year) that natives say “kimchi” instead of “cheese” when getting their pictures taken.

We were definitely smiling after eating these fun and tasty wraps!

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Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lb. skirt steak
  • 1/4 cup gochujang (Korean red chile-bean sauce)
  • 2 Tbs. Asian sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 4 medium scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 large head Boston or butter lettuce, leaves separated
  • 1-1/4 cups prepared cabbage kimchi, coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt

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Mix gochujang, sesame oil, soy sauce and minced garlic to create a paste.

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Rub the paste all over both sides of the skirt steak and let sit for 10-30 minutes before broiling.

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After broiling, the meat rests for 5 minutes before slicing.

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Cut thin slices against the grain, collect the juices and pour into the remaining paste mixture.

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There are usually large chunks of cabbage in the kimchi, so give it a coarse chop.

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Plate all of the ingredients and let each diner assemble their own. You can add the gochujang mixture to the pile of meat, or let each person add some directly to their wraps—or both.

Directions

  1. Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Line a large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan with foil and put the steak on it.
  2. Whisk the gochujang, sesame oil, soy sauce, and garlic in a small bowl. Rub 3 tablespoons of the mixture all over the steak and let marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes. Whisk the vinegar into the remaining gochujang mixture and set aside in a small serving bowl.
  3. Arrange the scallions, carrots, and lettuce on a large serving platter in individual mounds. Place the kimchi in a serving bowl.
  4. Broil the steak, flipping once, until medium rare (125°F), 3 to 4 minutes per side. Let rest for 5 minutes, then slice thinly against the grain. Season to taste with salt and mound on the serving platter. Bring all the components to the table for everyone to assemble their wraps as they like.

By Ivy Manning from Fine Cooking

French Onion Roast Chicken

Are you kidding me?? This was my initial reaction when I saw how easy this French Onion Roast Chicken recipe was. Just a few ingredients, with just as few steps, and the rest is literally hands off! I must admit, few dishes are as simple to make as this one—juicy roast chicken with caramelized onions made right in the roasting pan.

It seemed almost too simple, so I was half tempted to rub some olive oil over the bird and/or into the roaster and insert some herbs in it’s cavity, but I refrained because I wanted to see if the meal would come out as spectacular as advertised—and by jove, it did. Look at that perfectly browned crispy skin!

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Cooking-wise, our 4-pound chicken took the full hour, and probably because I sliced up three large onions as opposed to two medium, they weren’t as caramelized as they should have been when the chicken was done. So I moved the chicken to a cutting board, tented with foil, then stirred the onions and put them back in the oven for another 20 minutes—which did the trick.

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A bed of sliced onions line the bottom of the roasting pan.

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The onions took longer to caramelize once I removed the chicken, probably because I sliced three large as opposed to two medium onions. But as you can see, they shrink quite a bit.

A lot of juices released from the bird while it was being carved, so I poured those into the roasting pan with the onions and added the minced herbs, stirring it all together before plating. Wowser, they were heavenly, I’m so glad I made more than called for.

The rest of the meal was a breeze too because I just reheated a cheesy potato gratin and roasted a medley of brussels sprouts, butternut squash chunks and parsnip pieces tossed in oil, salt and pepper. Meal done!

NOTE: For a wine pairing, try a white Burgundy because both French onion soup and roast chicken are classic with Chardonnay, the same grape used in white Burgundy.

Ingredients

  • 1, 4 to 5 lb. whole chicken, giblets removed, patted dry inside and out
  • 2 medium yellow onions (I used 3 large onions)
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, tarragon or parsley

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The onions are sliced in half through the root end; then each half is thinly sliced crosswise.

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Place the seasoned chicken, breast side up, on top of the sliced onions.

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After about 30 minutes, stir the onions. As you can see, neither the bird nor the onions are very brown at this point.

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After the chicken rested, Russ started carving it on a cutting board with a moat to catch the released juices.

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We poured those pan juices, along with the minced herbs, into the caramelized onions before plating. 

Directions

  1. Position a rack  in the center of the oven and heat to 425 degrees.
  2. Season the chicken inside and out with 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  3. Slice the onions in half through the root, then thinly slice crosswise. Transfer to a roasting pan, toss with a 1/4 teaspoon salt, and spread evenly in the pan.
  4. Put the chicken, breast side up, on the onions. Roast, stirring the onions halfway through, until the meaty part of the thighs registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 45-60 minutes.
  5. Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Remove the onions from the roasting pan (they will range in color from light to dark brown) and toss with the herbs if using.
  7. Carve the chicken and serve with the onions.

Found in Fine Cooking Magazine

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Not usually one to eat the skin, it was so crispy and tasty, I couldn’t help myself.

Soup with Gut-Healing Benefits

Turkey and Vegetable Soup calls for “riced” cauliflower, which just means finely grated until the cauliflower is in pieces basically the size of rice. It gives the soup a nice hearty texture—a great trick for any vegetable-based soup that needs to be a little more filling. And many grocery stores sell it already packaged in the produce section so you don’t have to spend time ricing it yourself.

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Depending on what vegetables you have lying around, this dish can absorb almost anything. Throw in whatever’s in the fridge, and if it starts getting too dense, well, just add more stock! And you know how I always sing the praises of homemade stock (which can be done in a pressure cooker for fast gratification.) Our last batch came compliments of a huge turkey carcass (with quite a bit of meat left on it) from our good friends Rosanne and Gary. Thanks guys!

They removed it from their freezer where it had been residing since Thanksgiving. Several weeks later we were the lucky recipients and we threw it into our freezer until such time it was convenient to make the stock—which happened to be in early January. And a week after that, Russ got around to making the soup. If you don’t have access to an entire carcass, get some bony turkey parts: necks, backs, and/or wings. You can usually ask a butcher to save them for you, or try purchasing them at a local Asian market.

Homemade turkey stock adds flavor—and other good stuff—to the broth, and also ekes every last bit of flavor out of the bird bones. The gut-healing benefits of the stock also make this one a great option if your holiday feasting was a little bit hard on your digestion. Cooking the vegetables provides most of the nutrients in a form that’s easier on the stomach, and soup in general is a nice light meal to follow up a day of impressive eating—and makes for great workday lunches too!

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Soup Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover turkey, chopped;
  • 1 onion, diced;
  • 3 to 4 carrots, diced;
  • 2 parsnips, diced;
  • 2 celery stalks, diced;
  • 1 cup cauliflower, riced;
  • 1 ½ cups cabbage, shredded;
  • 2 bay leaves;
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced;
  • 2 tsp. ground sage;
  • 1 tsp. thyme;
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper;
  • Turkey stock

Stock Ingredients

  • 1 turkey carcass or 5 lbs. turkey parts (preferably bony parts, like necks and backs);
  • 2 yellow onions, quartered;
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into big chunks;
  • 2 carrots, cut into big chunks;
  • 4 garlic cloves;
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme;
  • 1 bay leave;
  • 4 quarts cold water;
  • Freshly ground black pepper

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Directions

  1. Place the turkey carcass or parts in a saucepan, add all the remaining ingredients for the stock, and season to taste with pepper.
  2. Fill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
  3. Lower heat to a light simmer, and simmer 4 to 8 hours. (adding water if necessary).
  4. Strain the stock with a fine mesh sieve, throwing away all the remaining ingredients. Set aside the stock for now.
  5. Pick through the carcass. Remove any meat you find, and add it to the meat for the soup.
  6. Add all the ingredients for the soup in a large saucepan. Fill the pan with the turkey stock, and season to taste.
  7. Bring to a simmer, and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Recipe adapted from PaleoLeap.com

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Party Hearty with Luscious Lasagna

Mother Nature threw one of her curve balls the day of our intended party for members of Russ’s “Men’s Group” and their spouses. What was supposed to be a dusting of snow in our area turned into 4 or 5 inches (laughable by Michigan standards), and with the temps hovering in the teens to low 20’s, hazardous roads were a given.

Understandably, several of the attendees called to say they didn’t want to be out driving at night in those conditions; and with that Russ made an executive decision to postpone until the following day. Isn’t it amazing how in our 20’s, we wouldn’t have even thought about NOT going to a party over a little snow? Yes, I guess maturity and wisdom are the voice of reason in our later years…

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Here’s the “dusting” of snow—and a few more inches fell after this!

Since we were hosting, we decided to make a large lasagna, however I was halfway through the prep when I learned the party was postponed. No biggie, I just finished assembling it, covered with foil and into the downstairs fridge it went. (The question then became, what were we going to do about dinner that night?)

Back to the lasagna. We wanted to use our gluten-free, no-boil noodles to eliminate the process of boiling and draining. Russ found just the ticket on Cook’s Illustrated’s website. The 12-minute tomato meat sauce is cooked using onions, garlic, and meatloaf mixture (ground beef, pork, and veal) and then adding cream and tomatoes. That was new to me—cream in the meat sauce?

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To create a classic cheese layer quickly, we incorporated ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, fresh basil, and an egg to help thicken and bind the mixture. Covering the lasagna with foil before baking helped soften the noodles; removing the foil during the last 25 minutes of baking allowed the cheeses to brown properly. Of course, since ours was refrigerated over night, we put it on the kitchen counter about an hour before sliding into the preheated oven, and then also extended the cooking time.

If you can’t find meatloaf mixture for the sauce, or if you choose not to eat veal, substitute 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, for the meatloaf mixture.

The assembled, unbaked lasagna, if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and then in foil, will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. To bake, defrost it in the refrigerator for a day or two and bake as directed, extending the baking time by about 5 minutes.

Our lasagna casserole dish is somewhat larger than most so we increased the amounts of meat and cheeses, and cooked 15 minutes longer to compensate—but the recipe below is the original.

Ingredients

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TOMATO-MEAT SAUCE

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press or minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 pound meatloaf mix or ⅓ pound each ground beef chuck, ground veal, and ground pork
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

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This old fashioned Italian ricotta was so light and tasty, it’s a winner if you can find it.

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Fresh basil leaves are waiting to be chopped up.

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Parmesan, ricotta, egg, basil, salt and pepper are all put into a mixing bowl.

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The mixture is stirred with a fork until well-combined and creamy.

RICOTTA, MOZZARELLA, AND PASTA LAYERS

  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese (whole milk or part skim, 1 ¾ cups)
  • 2 ½ ounces grated Parmesan cheese (1 ¼ cups)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8- or 9-ounce package
  • 16 ounces whole milk mozzarella, shredded (4 cups)

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Smear the entire bottom of your baking dish with 1/4 cup meat sauce.

img_9732No-cook lasagna noodles are placed on top of the bottom meat sauce.

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Drop 3 tablespoons ricotta mixture down the center of each noodle, then level by pressing flat with back of measuring spoon. 

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For the top layer, sprinkle with remaining cup mozzarella, then with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add ground meats, salt, and pepper; cook, breaking meat into small pieces with wooden spoon, until meat loses its raw color but has not browned, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and only fat remains, about 4 minutes. Add pureed and drained diced tomatoes and bring to simmer; reduce heat to low and simmer slowly until flavors are blended, about 3 minutes; set sauce aside. (Sauce can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days; reheat before assembling lasagna.)
  5. Mix ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, basil, egg, salt, and pepper in medium bowl with fork until well-combined and creamy; set aside.
  6. Smear entire bottom of 9- by 13-inch baking dish with 1/4 cup meat sauce. Place 3 noodles on top of sauce. Drop 3 tablespoons ricotta mixture down center of each noodle. Level by pressing flat with back of measuring spoon. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup shredded mozzarella. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce evenly over cheese.
  7. Repeat layering of noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and sauce two more times.
  8. Place 3 remaining noodles on top of sauce, spread remaining sauce over noodles, sprinkle with remaining cup mozzarella, then with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Lightly spray a large sheet of foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover lasagna.
  9. Bake 15 minutes, then remove foil. Return lasagna to oven and continue to bake until cheese is spotty brown and sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes longer.
  10. Cool lasagna about 10 minutes; cut into pieces and serve.

img_9786An edible work of art!

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The “Men’s Group” has been together for 30 years! Some of the members from left: Steve, Joe, Charlie, Pete, Bill and Russ.

Meatballs with an Asian Profile

Asian flavors are a particular favorite of ours, and this recipe was calling our names. For Ginger-Chicken Meatballs with Chinese Broccoli, we used ground chicken which is leaner than other meats. But less fat doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor—these meatballs are loaded with aromatics like scallions, ginger and garlic, and served intertwined with delicious Chinese broccoli.

chinese-broccoli

Chinese broccoli, shown above, is a leafy green vegetable closely related to thick-stemmed broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. It has flat leaves, thick stems, and tiny florets with a slightly bitter and earthy taste. It may prove tough to find Chinese broccoli in large grocery stores, so check your local Asian market, which is more likely to carry it. But in a pinch, you can use broccoli, broccolini (our fallback) or broccoli rabe. Do keep in mind that you may have to adjust the cooking time to account for the swap.

I recently blogged about meatballs with different ethnic origins (Italian Wedding Soup and Swedish Meatballs) in two previous posts, and in them I advise about keeping your hands moist so that the meat mixture doesn’t stick to them. I made this recipe prior to the other two, and as you can decipher by my misshapen balls—some almost triangular in shape—I neglected to incorporate this step into the process, luckily it didn’t affect the taste!

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The meat mixture was very sticky and hard to form round balls. If you keep your hands moist with water, it will be easier.

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 bunch Chinese broccoli, chopped (broccolini)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

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Turn the meatballs as they start to brown.

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When browned on all sides, place meatballs on paper towels. Mine obviously didn’t stay round because they weren’t in ball shapes from the start.

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Combine broccoli and red pepper flakes in same skillet after meatballs are removed.

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After the broccoli cooks for 5 minutes, add meatballs and remaining 1½ cups broth.

Directions

  1. Using your hands or a rubber spatula, gently mix garlic, chicken, soy sauce, ginger, 4 scallions, and ½ cup broth in a medium bowl just to combine. Scooping out by the tablespoonful, form mixture into 1”-diameter meatballs. (As mentioned, keep your hands moist between rolling the meatballs.)
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown all over, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Combine broccoli and red pepper flakes in same skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat until broccoli is bright green and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add meatballs and remaining 1½ cups broth.
  4. Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through and broccoli is tender, 5–8 minutes. Serve sprinkled with more scallions.

Recipe by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

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Ladle into shallow bowls and top with sliced scallions.