A regularly-enjoyed Sunday ritual for The Hubs while preparing the evening meal is, experimenting with different cocktails. This time he met up with an “Old Pal.” Who was that you ask? Not “who,” but “what” was this pal?
By way of definition, the Old Pal is a cocktail originally made with rye whiskey, French vermouth, and Campari. It is similar to a Negroni, but with rye whiskey instead of gin and dry vermouth instead of sweet.
The classic Old Pal recipe is built with equal parts of each ingredient, just like the Negroni. However, some modern recipes increase the rye whiskey while decreasing both the Campari and dry vermouth. The latter formula is often made in a 2:1:1 ratio for a slightly boozier take on the original.
Now The Hubs ratio is even a bit different than that with a 2:1⁄2:1⁄2. By way of explanation he calculates that a coupe (martini) glass holds 3 ounces and therefore the 2:1:1 ratio would be too much liquid.
You should play with the recipe to see which combination floats your boat, but know that either option produces tasty, balanced cocktails that are the warm, whiskey-spiked equivalent of an old buddy…
Salivating for some fabulous potatoes with a lot of flavor? Look no further than these Portuguese Wine-Braised Potatoes with Garlic, Bay and Chilies that we first spotted in a recent issue of Milk Street magazine. Paired with another of their recipes of Madeiran Pork with Wine and Garlic, and some Fresh Peas with Lemon & Chives, it was a dinner to remember!
The traditional way of cooking potatoes with these classic Portuguese flavors is to slow-roast them in the oven or long-braise them on the stovetop alongside meat. But in “Authentic Portuguese Cooking,” author Ana Patuleia Ortins includes a quicker, meat-free version that yields a wonderfully delicious side.
Milk Street adapted her recipe, opting to use a mixture of wine and chicken broth for simmering (wine alone tends to toughen the exteriors of the potatoes) and substituting jarred crushed peppers—the type often smeared onto Italian hoagies—for the spicy Portuguese red pepper paste called massa de malagueta. If you cannot find crushed peppers, simply use ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes instead.
In Portugal it’s known as “batatas cozidas em vinho e alhos” and varies by region and family, but the heart of the recipe is consistent: potatoes, onions, garlic and olive oil. First the onions and garlic are cooked until jammy-sweet, then the potatoes are added and simmered in white wine to add wonderful acidity to balance the starchiness.
“The thing that people don’t understand about Portuguese cooking is that it’s flexible. The way they say it, it’s ‘com gusto.’ It’s how you like it.”
We knew it was going to be a winner so we increased the recipe by 50% right off the bat. And although the directions indicate it takes about 30 minutes for the potatoes to meet no resistance when pierced with a knife, ours took an additional 20 minutes—therefore be prepared to add extra time if needed.
Tip:Don’t stir the potatoes too vigorously or they’ll break apart and make the sauce gluey. Aim to keep the large pieces of potato as whole as possible. Also, don’t reduce the sauce too far; as the potatoes sit off heat, they’ll continue to absorb the sauce.
Portuguese Wine-Braised Potatoes with Garlic, Bay and Chilies
2 lbs. Yukon Gold or red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1- to 1½-inch chunks
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1½ tsp. jarred crushed peppers or ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1¼ tsp. smoked paprika
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
¾ cup dry white wine
¾ cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
¼ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
In a medium bowl, toss the potatoes with the garlic, bay, crushed peppers, paprika, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper.
In a large saucepan over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until fully softened, 7 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the potato mixture, then add the wine and broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the potatoes meets no resistance, about 30 minutes.
Uncover and cook over medium, now stirring more often and adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, until the liquid has thickened and lightly coats the potatoes, about 7 minutes.
Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay and stir in the parsley. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.
From a recent issue of Milk Street, we found out that Carne Vinha D’alhos, or pork with wine and garlic, is a traditional Christmas dish from the Portuguese island of Madeira and the precursor to the spicy Indian curry called vindaloo.
To make it, chunks of pork are marinated in a heady mixture of wine, vinegar, garlic and herbs for up to a few days before they’re cooked until tender. This version of Madeiran Pork with Wine and Garlic was streamlined using pork shoulder instead of leaner pork loin, and the meat can marinate anywhere from 1 to 48 hours. (Ours marinated for 24 hours.)
Pork shoulder is a cut that requires lengthy cooking to become tender, so this oven-braised for about 1½ hours. Next, you brown the meat after simmering to a develop rich, flavorful caramelization. The marinade is then reduced to a light glaze, and the pork is finished by coating it with the reduction.
In Madeira, the pork typically is piled onto crusty rolls to make sandwiches, but we paired ours with another recipe from Milk Street: Portuguese Wine-Braised Potatoes with Garlic and Chiles where a mixture of wine and chicken broth are used for simmering the spuds to render them soft and tender.
After simmering the pork, be sure to drain the pieces on a rack as directed. This helps ensure nice caramelization when the pork is browned in the skillet. Finally, when skimming the fat off the braising liquid, be sure to reserve it for browning the pork.
Tip: Don’t use an uncoated cast-iron Dutch oven. Enamel-coated cast-iron is fine, but in an uncoated cast-iron pot—even in one that is well seasoned—the acidity of the marinade may react with the iron, producing metallic “off” flavors. A stainless steel cooking surface is fine, too, but avoid aluminum unless it has been treated to make it nonreactive.
5 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1- to 1½-inch chunks
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup cider vinegar
10 bay leaves
6 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
6 whole cloves (optional)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 cup Madeira wine
¼ cup minced fresh oregano
In a large Dutch oven, stir together the pork, wine, vinegar, bay, garlic, dried oregano, pepper flakes, cloves (if using) and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 48 hours.
When you are ready to cook the pork, heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Set the pot, uncovered, over medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Re-cover, transfer to the oven and cook until a skewer inserted into the pork meets just a little resistance, about 1½ hours, stirring once about halfway through.
Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork and garlic to the rack, removing and discarding the bay and cloves (if used); set aside. Tilt the pot to pool the cooking liquid to one side, then use a wide spoon to skim off as much fat as possible; reserve the fat. Or use a fat separator.
Add the Madeira to the pot, bring to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has reduced to about 1 cup, 15 to 20 minutes; set aside. (We ended up with a LOT of liquid, so it took twice as long to reduce.) Remove and discard any large bits of fat on the exterior of the pieces of pork.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved pork fat until barely smoking. Add the pork and cook, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, until well browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat and add the reduced cooking liquid. Return to medium-high and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the pork is lightly glazed and begins to sizzle, 3 to 5 minutes.
Taste and season with salt and black pepper, then stir in the fresh oregano. Transfer to a serving dish.
This riff from Better Homes and Gardens on the popular Chinese Sichuan recipe features a spicy sauce, fresh vegetables, and ground pork. Black vinegar has a hint of fruitiness and gives this street food favorite a touch of umami richness.
As is typical, we did make some changes. The first included using broccoli rabe instead of Chinese broccoli. In doing so, we tossed it in the pot with the carrots and shallots due to a longer cooking time. The amounts of ground pork and lo mien noodles were about 25% more than called for, and an extra carrot was added. For even more depth of flavor, we used our home made chicken stock.
*Shopping Notes: Buy Szechuan peppercorns at Asian markets or spice stores. An Asian market is best for salty, garlicky black bean paste and leafy Chinese broccoli (aka gai lan). Black vinegar is occasionally at large supermarkets. A good sub for it is 1 Tbsp. each rice vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.
2 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns* or 4 dried Thai chile peppers
1 lb. ground pork
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
1 medium carrot, cut into thin, bite-size strips
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
8 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
2 Tbsp. black bean paste*
6 oz. dried lo mein noodles
2 cups trimmed and thinly sliced Chinese broccoli*, broccolini or broccoli rabe
1 cup fresh snow pea pods, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
2 Tbsp. black vinegar*
½ cup chopped, lightly salted cocktail peanuts
lime wedges for garnish (optional)
In a 5- to 6-qt. Dutch oven heat oil and peppercorns over medium 1 to 2 minutes or until peppercorns are fragrant, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Let stand 2 minutes. Remove and discard peppercorns, reserving oil.
Add ground pork, garlic, and five-spice powder to oil in Dutch oven. Cook over medium-high heat until meat is browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove meat.
Add carrot and shallots to drippings. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add broth and bean paste to Dutch oven. Bring to boiling. Add noodles; return to boiling. Cook according to noodle package directions until tender, stirring occasionally and adding broccoli the last 2 minutes.
Stir in cooked meat and pea pods; cook 2 minutes more. Stir in vinegar. Top servings with peanuts.
You will adore this lickety-split sauce of butter, green onion, and ginger, which adds an Asian-style final touch to this steak recipe. With its crisp pan-seared exterior and succulent juicy center, and quick cooking time, you’ll find you’ll want to make this recipe often. And you can mix it up by using filet tips like we did.
In the original version from Better Homes & Gardens, the recipe calls for four filet mignon steaks. But we had 14 ounces worth of filet tips in our freezer, which had thick and thin areas, so cooking them was a little tricky. Once the meat was medium-rare, they were plated and covered while the sauce was made; then thinly sliced and laid over a bed of steamed rice. This actually stretched the portions to three with less than a pound of meat!
The most-time consuming portion of this recipe is the wait. The meat has to be seasoned and refrigerated for 2 hours, then taken out to room temperature for another 30 minutes. The actual cooking time is only about 15 minutes. If you are serving rice too, make sure to time it correctly so that is ready when the sauce is.
Omitting any rice keeps the dish low-carb and keto-friendly.
Jasmine rice, cooked according to package directions (optional)
Season beef generously with salt and pepper. Place on a plate. Chill, uncovered, for 2 hours. Remove and let stand 30 minutes. Heat a heavy 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. To check when hot enough, add a large drop of water (1/8 teaspoon) to the skillet. When it rolls around the pan like a bead of mercury it is ready. This will take 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat; add oil. Swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Return to medium-high heat. Add beef. Cook for 5 minutes or until a crust forms (be patient; the beef will release when it’s ready to be turned). Turn and cook for 2 to 4 minutes more or until done at 135°F.
Remove beef from skillet to a clean plate; cover loosely. Remove skillet from heat. Carefully add wine, miso, and soy sauce (mixture will spatter).
Return to heat. Bring to boiling, stirring to scrape up browned bits and whisking to incorporate miso. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter, green onions, and ginger.
Spoon sauce over beef to serve. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Once again we found an interesting recipe from Milk Street with an odd combination of ingredients, this time for a turkey burger. Mayonnaise and plenty of herbs turn ground turkey into these moist, pillowy, flavorful patties. For the panade—a hydrating binding mixture of dairy and breadcrumbs—use creamy mayonnaise and crisp panko along with fresh mint, cilantro and scallions. Unusual, right?
For an extra layer of flavor, more herbs and mayonnaise are stirred together with lime juice for a simple topping. Spread the panade directly on the bun halves, not the burgers. The flavor and texture of these burgers are best when made with ground dark meat turkey, but if you prefer, ground breast meat works, too.
Parmesan cheese adds a salty-savory note. Now if you’re cutting back on carbs, you could serve the burgers sandwiched between bibb or Boston lettuce leaves spread with the herbed mayonnaise, in place of a bun.
For mine, I took it one step further and added a thin slice of heirloom tomato and a round of provolone cheese. I waited until the burgers came out of the pan and onto the grate, topped one of them with the cheese, and covered it with a rounded lid for the 5-minute resting period. The provolone was slightly melty, but not oozing off of the meat.
Oven-roasted rosemary fires made a nice accompaniment.
NOTE: Chilling helps the patties hold together during cooking, so don’t forget to refrigerate the burgers for at least 15 minutes beforehand.
6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts reserved separately
Kosher salt and ground white pepper
1 lb. ground dark meat turkey
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup)
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
4 hamburger buns, toasted
Line a plate with kitchen parchment and mist with cooking spray. In a food processor, combine the panko, 5 tablespoons of the mayonnaise, ¼ cup each of the mint and cilantro, the scallion whites, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl, then add the turkey, ¼ cup water and the cheese. Mix with your hands, form into four ½-inch-thick patties, then set on the prepared plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the remaining 5 tablespoons mayonnaise, the remaining ¼ cup each mint and cilantro, the scallion greens, the lime juice and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until beginning to smoke. Add the patties, reduce to medium and cook until well browned on the bottoms, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the second sides are well browned and the centers reach 165°F. Transfer to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and let rest for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, spread the cut sides of each bun with some of the mayonnaise mixture. Sandwich the burgers in the buns and serve with any remaining mayonnaise on the side.
Saganaki is a traditional Greek dish with sweet, briny shrimp covered with a garlic- and herb-accented tomato sauce, and topped with crumbles of creamy, salty feta cheese. This version hails from America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) “The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook.”
This recipe works equally well with jumbo (16 to 20 per pound) or extra-large (21 to 25 per pound) shrimp, but the cooking times in step 3 will vary slightly depending on which you use. The base for the sauce is provided by canned diced tomatoes along with sautéed onions and garlic. Dry white wine adds acidity, and ouzo brings welcome complexity with its slightly sweet anise flavor.
*Since ouzo is not in everyone’s liquor cabinet (it wasn’t in ours—but is now), here are two alternatives: Pernod—Though slightly sweeter than ouzo, this French anise-flavored liqueur is the next best thing. Or use a combo of Vodka + Anise Seed, with one tablespoon of vodka plus 1/8 teaspoon of anise seed to equal 1 tablespoon of ouzo.
Serve the shrimp with crusty bread or steamed white rice.
1 ½ lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on, if desired
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. ouzo (*see note above)
5 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 5 tsp.)
1 tsp. grated zest from 1 lemon
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 small onion, diced medium (about 3/4 cup)
1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced medium
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 28-oz. can diced tomato, drained, 1/3 cup juices reserved
¼ cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (about 1½ cups)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill leaves
Toss shrimp, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon ouzo, 1 teaspoon garlic, lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper in small bowl until well combined. Set aside while preparing sauce.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, red and green bell pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Cover skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables release their moisture, 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture cooks off and vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes longer.
Add remaining 4 teaspoons garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes and reserved juice, wine, and remaining 2 tablespoons ouzo; increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors have melded and sauce is slightly thickened (sauce should not be completely dry), 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add shrimp along with any accumulated liquid to pan; stir to coat and distribute evenly. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are opaque throughout, 6 to 9 minutes for extra-large or 7 to 11 minutes for jumbo, adjusting heat as needed to maintain bare simmer.
Remove pan from heat and sprinkle evenly with feta. Drizzle remaining tablespoon oil evenly over top and sprinkle with dill. Serve immediately.
One chop, two diners. That’s all you need when your two-inch thick pork chop weighs in at 1 1⁄4 pounds. For a thick, bone-in pork chop, pan-searing is a great cooking method. The high heat seals in the pork’s juices so you don’t have to suffer over dry, chewy meat. Then 10 minutes in a hot oven to render your chop perfectly cooked and succulent.
For a final touch, the mustard-shallot sauce is made in the same pan while the pork chop rests. We tend to like saucy, so if you prefer less of an embellishment, just cut the ingredients in half.
Season pork generously with salt and pepper. Place on a plate. Chill, uncovered, for 2 hours. Remove and let stand 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Heat a heavy, oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. To check when hot enough, add a large drop of water (1/8 teaspoon) to the skillet. When it rolls around the pan like a bead of mercury it is ready. This will take 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat; add oil. Swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Return to medium-high heat. Add pork chop. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until a crust forms (be patient; the pork will release when it’s ready to be turned). Turn and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Sear the end caps for a minute or two each.
Place pan directly into oven for 10 minutes or until pork reaches 145°F when tested with a instant-read thermometer.
Place meat on a plate; cover loosely and keep warm.
Carefully add wine and shallots to skillet. Return to heat. Bring to boiling, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Boil gently, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until reduced by about half and slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter and mustard.
Spoon sauce over pork to serve. Sprinkle with parsley.
Growing up in the Midwest, Pasta e Fagioli wasn’t anywhere on my culinary radar. When I moved East decades ago, I quickly learned it was quite common in this region of the country. Minestrone, is a similar type of soup but the main difference between it and pasta e fagioli is the variety of vegetables in minestrone. Fagioli (pronounced fazool) is mainly pasta and beans in a broth, although this version includes kale and herbs among other plant additives.
A traditional Italian soup, it started as a peasant dish, being composed of inexpensive ingredients.
The key to a soup with fully developed savory flavor starts with the soffritto—a mix of aromatic vegetables that are slowly cooked in the first stage of cooking. Take your time sweating down the vegetables until they are completely softened before letting them take on any color. You’ll be surprised by how much volume they lose and how much liquid they release and by how much unquantifiable richness they lend to the final dish, which is nothing more than a combination of humble ingredients.
To up the flavor quota, Russ used two smoked ham hocks and 1 quart of homemade ham stock and included fresh rosemary and thyme, all of which are noted in the list of ingredients below. This recipe is doubled from the original Bon Appétit version, so you can easily cut it in half if desired. Be prepared that this soup is time consuming, so you’ll want to schedule a long lazy afternoon to make it.
1 lb. dried medium white beans (such as cannellini), soaked overnight if possible*
8 carrots, scrubbed, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, coarsely chopped
12 garlic cloves
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzlingFreshly ground black pepper
2 smoked ham hocks
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 bunches Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
4 Parmesan rinds (optional)
4 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
3-3 1/2 qts. water and/or ham broth
1 lb. small pasta (such as ditalini)
Finely grated Parmesan, crushed red pepper flakes, and crusty bread (for serving)
*If you haven’t soaked the beans, do a power soak: Place beans in a large pot, cover with water by 1″, and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove pot from heat, stir in a palmful of salt, cover pot, and let beans sit 1 hour.
Pulse carrots, leek, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat ⅓ cup oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add chopped vegetables, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until vegetables start to sweat out some of their liquid, about 4 minutes. The goal at this stage is to slow cook the soffritto until the vegetables are very soft but have not taken on any color.
Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so and reducing heat if mixture starts to brown, until vegetables are softened and juicy, about 15 minutes.
Add ham hock and cook, uncovered, stirring and scraping bottom of pot every 5 minutes, until soffritto is starting to brown in places and has lost at least half of its volume, about 10 minutes more.
Add beans and their soaking liquid, tomatoes, and kale; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then add Parmesan rinds (if using) and bay leaves. Reduce heat to medium-low and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook soup with lid askew, adding water (or stock, if you have it) as needed to keep beans submerged by 1″, until beans are very tender, 1–3 hours, depending on size and age of beans.
Fish out and discard Parmesan rinds. Remove ham hock and use a fork to pull meat off the bone. Return meat to soup; discard bone and any large pieces of fat.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling well-salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions. Drain pasta and add to soup, then taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. (Do not try to skip a step by cooking the pasta in the soup. The noodles will absorb all the available liquid and the liquid will be thick and gummy.)
Divide soup among bowls. Top with Parmesan, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Serve with bread for dunking if desired.
Here, Molly Stevens combines mostly ordinary ingredients such as fish, spinach, tomatoes and shallots to create a dish far more elevated than the sum of its workaday parts. Your meal is folded up into a neat little packet of parchment that traps moisture so the fish steams in its own juices while the flavors mingle and intensify. And this method allows for super-easy clean up, woohoo!
The mild-tasting fish, whether it be cod, haddock or flounder fillets, are nestled onto baby spinach and topped with minced shallots, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a splash of white wine or vermouth, and a pat of butter or a drizzle of olive oil. (Our choices were dry vermouth and olive oil.)
Heart-healthy not only in appearance, but in ingredients too! For just the two of us we used two 8-ounce cod fillets, halved the quantity of spinach, but kept the same amount of tomatoes, shallots and parsley.
We were a little concerned that the fish and shallots wouldn’t be done in 14 minutes time, so we cooked for the full 18 minutes, and it was perfect. If using thin flounder fillets, make sure to fold them over into thirds, otherwise they will be overdone.
Three other tried-and-true riffs on fish packets from Molly are Flounder with Buttery Leeks; Salmon and Tomatoes, Capers and Chive Oil; and Sesame-Ginger Shrimp with Baby Bok Choy. We hope do blog on all of them in the future. A pat of butter or drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper are all the embellishments you really need, but incorporating vegetables and garnishes will turn these into complete meals.
Make Ahead: The packets can be assembled several hours before cooking. Refrigerate until ready to bake, and add 4 minutes to the roasting time.
Parchment Packets with Cod, Spinach, Tomatoes and Shallots
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the packets
5 oz. baby spinach
Freshly ground black pepper
4, 6-oz. cod, haddock or flounder fillets
2 Tbsp. finely minced shallots
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, chives or dill
1 pt. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with racks in the lower and upper thirds. Cut four 24-inch-long sheets of parchment paper. Fold each sheet in half, forming a 12-by-15-inch rectangle and, with a pencil, draw a half-heart shape on the paper, centering the heart on the folded edge and making the heart as large as you can. Using scissors, cut out the hearts. (The heart shape makes sealing easier.)
Open the heart shapes flat on your counter and lightly butter or oil the center of one side of each. Place a quarter of the spinach close to the crease on the buttered side of each piece of parchment paper. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Divide the fish fillets among the packets, placing them directly on the spinach. (If the fillets are less than 1-inch thick, fold or tuck them into compact bundles that are about 1 inch thick.) Season the fish with salt and pepper and top each with shallots, herbs and tomatoes. If using butter, cut it into smaller pats and place on top of the fillets. If using oil, drizzle a little over each fillet. Splash the wine over the top.
Fold the other half of the paper over to cover the fish. Then, starting at the top of the heart shape, working with about 2 inches of the edge at a time, fold over about 1/2 inch, pressing down and rubbing your thumb across the fold to make a crisp crease. Move a little way along the edge and fold over a couple more inches, so that your folds are overlapping and double-folded. Continue working your way around the edge of the packet, making overlapping folds, like pleats, always pressing firmly and creasing so that the folds hold. Don’t expect the folded edge to be perfectly even; it will be somewhat crooked — this is part of its charm. Go back around, making a second fold at any place that doesn’t appear tightly sealed. If there’s a slight “tail” when you reach the end, give it a twist to seal. (If you don’t quite master the seal, you can make a quick cheat by stapling or paper-clipping the edges in place.)
Arrange the packets on two large rimmed baking sheets so that they don’t touch. Bake for 14 minutes. (If the fish packets have been in the refrigerator, increase the time to 18 minutes.)
Either place the packets directly on dinner plates and provide scissors so that your guests can snip open their own packets at the table, or carefully cut open the packets in the kitchen and slide the contents out onto dinner plates or pasta bowls and serve right away.
As you may have surmised over the years through posts on this blog, The Hubs loves baby back ribs. You’ll find numerous recipes for different approaches to seasoning and cooking them—both adaptations and our own creations—but this one we hadn’t yet tried. If, like us, you embrace bold flavors, then these ribs are speaking to you.
Korean dwaeji kalbi are pork ribs seasoned with gochujang (a fermented chili paste), garlic, sugar and a few other high-impact ingredients. The ribs typically are grilled for only enough time to cook the pork through, not for hours on end to render the meat American-barbecue tender. However, this version from Milk Street, is a riff on Sohui Kim’s recipe from “Korean Home Cooking,” where they use the oven for convenience and cook the ribs to that ultra-tender state.
As luck would have it, we had one package of baby backs in the freezer, which would suffice in feeding just the two of us, so we cut the recipe in half. To accompany the ribs, we paired them with roasted acorn squash slices and an adaptation of an Asian Slaw recipe found in Men’s Health, details below.
Look for gochujang in the international aisle of the supermarket or in Asian grocery stores. When shopping for baby back ribs, try to select meaty racks of equal size so they cook at the same rate.
Tip: Don’t use regular foil, as it’s too thin and narrow to securely wrap the racks of ribs. Be sure to use extra-wide (18-inch) heavy-duty foil. When wrapping the ribs in foil, be sure to position the racks meaty side down and keep them that way when placing them on the rack before baking. This allows the meat to braise in the pork juices that collect in the foil.
Heat the oven to 300°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with extra-wide, heavy-duty foil, then set a wire rack in the baking sheet. In a medium bowl, whisk together the gochujang, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture, cover and refrigerate to use for glazing. Cut two 20-inch lengths of foil; set aside.
Turn each rack of ribs meaty side down. Using a paring knife, cut a slit about 1 inch long in the membrane between the bones without cutting through meat. Lay one foil sheet on the countertop and set one rib rack on top. Coat the ribs on all sides with half of the remaining gochujang mixture, rubbing it into the meat and into the cuts in the membrane. Turn the ribs meaty side down on the foil. Draw the long sides of the foil together to cover the ribs and fold to seal tightly, then fold up and seal the short sides, creating a well-sealed packet. Repeat with the remaining foil sheet, rib rack and gochujang mixture. Place the packets seam side up on the prepared rack and bake until a skewer inserted into the meaty area between the bones meets no resistance, 2½ to 2¾ hours.
Remove the ribs from the oven and let rest, still wrapped, for about 10 minutes. One packet at a time, carefully open one end of one of the foil and pour the liquid inside the packet into a 1-quart liquid measuring cup or medium bowl; you should have at least 2 cups. Unwrap the ribs and set them meaty side up directly on the rack; set aside while you prepare the glaze.
Heat the broiler. Using a spoon, skim off and discard the fat from the liquid, then pour the liquid into a 12-inch skillet. Bring to a boil over medium-high, reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced to about 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Whisk in the reserved ¾ cup gochujang mixture, return to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick enough that a spatula drawn through it leaves a trail, 5 to 7 minutes. Brush the surface and sides of the ribs with about half of the glaze.
Broil the ribs until the glaze begins to char, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush on the remaining glaze, then continue to broil until lightly charred, another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the sesame seeds (if using). Let rest for about 15 minutes. Transfer the rib racks to a cutting board. Separate the ribs by cutting between the bones, then transfer to a platter.
We were looking forward to making these enchiladas because Mexican cuisine is a fave, and a good green sauce can’t be beat. From Milk Street, we noticed right quick that we’d make some changes. Starting with a small rotisserie chicken, we picked off and chopped a little over two cups worth of meat, using the entire amount instead of just the 1 1/2 cups originally called for. In the same vein, we increased the whole-milk mozzarella cheese from 6 ounces to 8. Altogether it was the perfect amount of filling for eight tortillas.
In Step 2, the directions indicate to cook the veggies until well-browned and beginning to soften, 5 to 8 minutes. With all of that liquid in the pan, the veggies certainly softened, but did not brown, so we went ahead anyway. As an added pop of color, we topped the enchiladas with shredded Mexican cheese and placed the uncovered baking dish back into the hot oven for a final five minutes. All of our changes are included in the recipe below.
To make the filling for these enchiladas, use leftover roasted or grilled chicken or meat from a store-bought rotisserie bird (our choice this time around). You also can poach your own chicken. To do so, place 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a medium saucepan, cover with water or chicken broth, bring to a simmer over medium-high, then reduce to low, cover and cook until the thickest part of the meat registers 160°F, about 20 minutes. Let the chicken cool in the liquid until just warm to the touch, then finely chop the meat.
Of course poaching your own chicken will add time to the process. Speaking of which, Milk Street noted the entire start to finish was supposed to be 45 minutes. No way, José. It took us at least twice that amount of time! There is a lot of prep work which took a good thirty minutes in itself. Oh, but they were so worth it!
Tortilla Tip: Don’t skip the step of brushing the tortillas with oil and briefly warming them in the oven. If the tortillas are filled and rolled straight from the package, they will crack and tear. But take care not to overheat them, which will dry them out and make them too brittle to roll.
Green Enchiladas with Chicken and Cheese (Enchiladas Verdes)
3 medium poblano chilies (about 12 oz.), stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 lb. tomatillos, husked, cored and chopped
1 medium white onion, chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves and stems
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 cups finely chopped cooked chicken
8 oz. whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp. hot sauce (see note)
8 6-in. corn tortillas
4 oz. shredded Mexican cheese fr topping (optional)
Lime wedges, to serve
Heat the oven to 475°F with a rack in the middle position.
In a large pot over medium-high, combine 1 tablespoon of the oil, the poblanos, tomatillos, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are well-browned and beginning to soften, 5 to 8 minutes.
Stir in the cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the cilantro and continue to process until smooth, about 1 minute. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Spread 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish; set aside.
In a medium bowl, toss together the chicken, cheese, hot sauce, 1½ teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper; set aside.
Brush both sides of the tortillas with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, then arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet (its fine to overlap them slightly). Cover tightly with foil and warm in the oven just until soft and pliable, about 3 minutes.
Uncover the tortillas; reserve the foil. Lay the tortillas out on a large cutting board or clean counter. Divide the chicken mixture evenly among the tortillas (about 3 heaping tablespoons each), arranging and pressing the filling in a line along the bottom edge of each tortilla.
Working one at a time, roll up the tortillas to enclose the filling and place seam side down in a tight row down the center of the prepared baking dish. Spoon ½ cup of the sauce over the enchiladas. Cover tightly with the reserved foil and bake until the cheese begins to melt out of the ends, about 15 minutes.
Uncover and spread ½ cup of the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and top with the shredded Mexican cheese. Return to the oven for 5 minutes uncovered.
It was son David’s 29th birthday and he requested a Tres Leche Cake as his dessert choice. Well, neither of us had ever made one, but you know how we enjoy a culinary challenge—and boy, were we thrown a curve ball or two…
Since there were going to be only four of us for dinner (and one of us doesn’t eat dessert), the ability to easily halve the ingredients was a game changer—after all, the full recipe feeds up to 16!
So the half-cake batter was made exactly as noted in the directions and put in the preheated oven. After 25 minutes, it was no where near done. At 30 minutes, the center was still jiggly and The Hubs used a toothpick to test for doneness—still too wet. We added another 10 minutes which rendered the cake a light golden color, but also caused the middle to sink 😦
Several other reviewers mentioned that when they made the half version, they also experienced sunken centers. We think perhaps poking it for doneness caused it to deflate, maybe? The Hubs first inclination was to deep-six it and start over but that would have meant a trip to the grocery store for more ingredients. So after some quick rethinking, we decided to move forward.
The milk amounts were cut in half too, and most of the combination was poured over the cooled “forked” cake. Because of the inward slope, the liquid was drizzled around the top edges and the pan was tipped and turned to try and keep as much of the moisture near the top instead of all gathering in the sunken center. We used the majority of the milk mixture to fully saturate the cake, tossing the remainder. Into the fridge it went for a good nights rest.
The whipped topping would not suffice if we made only half of the amount because of that sunken middle, thus the decision to make the entire amount. Fiasco number two. The cream never got stiff, in fact, after switching from a hand held mixer to the mighty Kitchen Aid with whipping attachment, it only got more watery, so down the drain it went, and to the grocery store The Mister went.
Our next topping attempt was going to be an altogether different recipe found in Fine Cooking, which sounded like the perfect antidote. But of course, when The Hubs got to the store (the only one that happened to be open on Easter Sunday), they were completely out of heavy cream! Defeated, he just grabbed a can of ready whip and called it a day…
David commented that “It’s best to preface this blog by mentioning that Tres Leche is not a presentation-worthy cake, but it is a delicious one, with originality and authenticity.” (Maybe if you discount that canned whipped topping.) The Hubs said “I always used to have a glass of milk with cake. This was like pouring the milk on the cake and then eating it.” And girlfriend Vikki noted “It’s like cotton candy melting in your mouth—a little more cakey, but it’s better that way.”
No lying, the cake would not have won any medals in a bake-off, but all those that ate it, loved the taste. I’ve learned in life you can’t always have a win-win, but you can learn from mishaps and move on. The Hubs is determined to make it again—next time around with a few changes.
Notes: This recipe can be halved. If doing so, bake the cake in an ungreased 8- by 8-inch baking dish and reduce baking time to 25 to 30 minutes. (Although in our case, it took 40 minutes!) Be sure to thoroughly chill the cake prior to serving. You could even pop it in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes right beforehand.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.
Combine flour and baking powder in small bowl; set aside.
In bowl of stand mixer, beat egg whites and salt with whisk attachment on medium-low speed until whites begin to froth, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and beat whites until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. The mixture may look a bit thick.
Add egg yolks and beat just until combined. Decrease speed to low and add flour in three additions, alternating with the milk, scraping sides and bottom of bowl as necessary. Add vanilla and beat just until combined.
Scrape batter into an ungreased 13- by 9-inch baking dish (or 8- by 8-inch for a half cake). Bake until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer cake to cooling rack and cool completely in pan, 60 to 90 minutes.
Once cooled, poke cake all over with fork. Combine evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in large bowl. Pour mixture evenly all over cake. While cake soaks, make whipped cream.
In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to overbeat).
Spread whipped cream over cake and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours. Serve.
Pasta without tomato sauce or garlic?? According to Milk Street where we found this dish, they say don’t be fooled by the name. Ironically, it is not pasta with Genovese basil pesto, nor is it from Genoa. Rather, the sauce is an onion-based ragù and a classic in the Neapolitan culinary repertoire.
Some versions of pasta alla genovese are meat-free, others include a small amount of beef or veal as a flavoring, but never as a key ingredient. Taking a cue from A Cucina Ra Casa Mia in Naples, this recipe uses boneless beef short ribs. The beef is combined, cut into chunks, with carrots, celery and a mountain of onions in a Dutch oven. The pot goes into the oven, where the heat is slow and steady, until the meat is rendered tender enough to fall apart when prodded with a fork.
TIPS: Slicing 3 pounds of onions by hand is a good opportunity to hone your knife skills, but if you prefer, they can be sliced on a mandoline. The ragù can be made up to three days ahead, then reheated gently before tossing with just-cooked pasta.
Don’t be concerned that there’s so little liquid in the pot after adding the onions and beef. Warmed by the oven heat, the vegetables and meat will release moisture that becomes the braising liquid in the covered pot. But for the second half of cooking, please don’t forget to uncover the pot. This allows some of that liquid to evaporate for a richer, more concentrated flavor and consistency.
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
4 oz. pancetta, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium celery stalks, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
3 lbs. yellow onions, halved and sliced
1½ lbs. boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
¾ tsp. red pepper flakes
2-inch piece Parmesan rind, plus 2 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 lb. pasta such as rigatoni or penne rigati
½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heat the oven to 325°F with the rack in the lower-middle position. In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
Add the carrots and celery, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced by about half, about 3 minutes.
Add the onions, beef, pepper flakes, Parmesan rind, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper, then stir to combine. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 1½ hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and stir. Return to the oven, uncovered, and cook until stewy and the meat falls apart when pressed with a fork, about another 1½ hours. Tilt the pot to pool the cooking liquid to one side, then use a wide spoon to skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Remove and discard the Parmesan rind. Cover and set aside while you cook the pasta.
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
Add the pasta to the Dutch oven and toss to combine with the sauce, adding about ½ cup of reserved pasta water. Add the parsley and half the grated Parmesan, then toss again; add more reserved water as needed so the sauce coats the pasta. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. Serve with the remaining Parmesan.
This classic Middle Eastern za’atar recipe is a one pot meal. But what exactly is za’atar seasoning? And what goes in it? Well, the word za’atar (pronounced “zah-tahr”) literally translates to mean “wild thyme” in Arabic. But it’s better known as a seasoning blend, whose ingredients vary slightly from country to country across the Middle East.
Most home chefs won’t necessarily have za’atar seasoning on hand, nor did we, so The Hubs found a version on “Gimme Some Oven” website—now isn’t that a clever name! The three main ingredients are thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. It’s very versatile and can be used on anything from meat, fish, veggies, dips, salads, soups or even popcorn!
What’s nice about this dish if you have diners in your household who have different preferences regarding both white and dark meat, like us, it’s interchangeable. Even though the original recipe calls for only dark meat, we used a combination of 4 thighs, and 2 breast halves that were chopped into two pieces each (producing 8 pieces total, 2 more than the recipe calls for).
We only used 2 tablespoons of the za’atar seasoning to sprinkle on the chicken, which was more than plenty. The remaining one tablespoon was added to the pot after the onion and carrots were cooked down.
A little trick we learned when braising both white and dark meat, is to set the white meat on top of the thighs for a majority of the cooking time. This helps ensure the breast pieces will not overdone and rubbery. Then nestle them into the liquid for the last 15 minutes or so.
1 cup pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano, whole or halved
Fresh thyme sprigs
Preheat oven to 325°F. Season chicken with za’atar. In a deep oven-going skillet or 5-quart Dutch oven heat oil over medium-high. Add chicken; cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until brown. Transfer to a plate. Don’t crowd the pot, you may have to do this in two batches.
Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and carrots to pot. Cook 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute.
Stir in broth, lentils, and tomato paste. Return chicken and juices to pot. Bring to a simmer. Cover; braise in oven 45 to 55 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender (at least 175°F).
Transfer chicken to a platter; keep warm. Strain remaining mixture, reserving liquid.
Add lentils and vegetables to chicken on platter; cover.
Return liquid to pot. Boil over medium-high 10 to15 minutes or until reduced by half. Pour liquid over chicken and lentils.