A Meatloaf for the Masses

Feeding a crowd? This mammoth Spicy Southwestern Meatloaf should fit the bill. Of course I did use 50% more bison than called for because the meat was packaged in 3/4-pound parcels and I bought two. In fact, if you’ve never tried bison before, this may be a good introduction to try the lean protein. Considered by many to be healthier than even grass-fed beef and richer in flavor (despite being lower in saturated fat), bison meat might soon become your favorite protein source.

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Bison are actually the largest indigenous animals native to North America. Like all cuts of meat, bison meat—nicknamed “the other red meat”—is a top protein food and supplies a variety of other essential nutrients: B vitamins, zinc and iron, just to name a few. But it might also be a step above beef and poultry when it comes to sustainability, heart health and even taste.

Just like with beef, chicken or turkey, the exact amount of nutrients you find in buffalo depends a lot on the specific cut of bison meat you get. Leaner cuts like top sirloin and the equivalent to London broil are all lower in calories and fat compared to other fattier cuts of the animal. In fact, the highest-quality parts of the bison (and usually most expensive too) are very close to roasted, skinless chicken breast or even fish.

Bison ranching can be more sustainable and environmentally friendly than some forms of cattle ranching. But it’s also likely true that on the whole, a random sampling of bison meat is probably more sustainable than a random sampling of beef. The positive elements are that bison are generally acknowledged to be the hardier species, without requiring shelter even in winter.

Cattle have over time been genetically tampered with to be “meat wagons.” The result is an animal that’s largely dependent on ranchers for survival and general health. Bison, on the other hand, are native to North America and genetically unchanged from the herds that roamed the West and Great Plains until the end of the 19th century. Because they have naturally adapted to the environment, they’re a much heartier animal that thrives with little, if any, assistance.

But I digress. What about that recipe? This Spicy Southwestern Meatloaf is zesty but not hot—the ingredients compliment each other for flavor that is layered and complex. Three kinds of chiles make this pork and bison meatloaf zing all over: fresh jalapeños and ancho chile powder in the mix, and chipotle chiles in the ketchup glaze.

About that glaze. We tripled the amount, and it barely covered the top, let alone drip down the sides. Oh, in case you don’t have cilantro on hand (I had finished mine up the previous evening), or don’t like the herb, use parsley instead.

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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. canola or olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup small-diced red bell pepper
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 oz. medium-coarse white bread, such as Italian or French, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 lb. ground bison
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped jalapeño pepper (seeded if you like)
  • 1 Tbs. mild chile powder, such as ancho
  • 2 lightly packed tsp. finely grated lime zest
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. ketchup mixed with 1 Tbs. pureed canned chipotle in adobo (we more than tripled this amount)

Directions

  1. Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onion, bell peppers, and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened and just beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool until warm.
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  2. In a shallow dish that holds it in a single layer, soak the bread in the milk, flipping once, until soggy but not falling apart, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the coarseness and freshness of the bread. Lightly squeeze a handful of bread at a time to remove some of the milk (it should be wet but not drenched). Finely chop and add to the bowl with the onion mixture.
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  3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
  4. Add the bison, pork and eggs to the onion mixture. Scatter the cilantro, jalapeño, chile powder, lime zest, and cumin over the meat, and then sprinkle with the Worcestershire, 2-1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Use your hands to gently mix all the ingredients until just combined; try not to compact the mixture as you do this.
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  5. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment. Transfer the meatloaf mixture to the baking pan and form into a 10×4-inch rectangular block (it becomes loaf-shaped as it cooks). Spread the chipotle ketchup over the top and lightly down the sides of the meatloaf to glaze it.
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  6. Bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F in the center of the meatloaf, 40 to 55 minutes.
  7. Let the meatloaf rest for 10 minutes. Lifting out using the sides of the parchment paper, transfer to a cutting board or serving platter and cut into 3/4- to 1-inch-thick slices.
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    This baby fed us for numerous lunches and dinners…

By Allison Ehri Kreitler

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Raising the Bar on Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata needs little introduction, for better or for worse. A truly good version—chicken breasts pounded thin, lightly dusted with flour, pan-seared, and bathed in a rich lemon-butter pan sauce, perhaps with scatterings of capers, garlic, shallot, and parsley—deserves nothing but mouth-watering praise. Yet piccata can also be excruciatingly bad, featuring dry, tough chicken drowning in a sauce that’s either boring or brash. Been there, right?

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A common approach is to flatten a whole breast with a meat pounder, which can tear the flesh. In the Cook’s Illustrated test kitchen, they take it to the next level. To mimic their success, halve each breast crosswise and then split the thick side horizontally to create three similar-size pieces that require only minimal pounding. Season the meat to help it retain moisture, toss the cutlets with salt and pepper and set them aside for 15 minutes.

At this point, the cutlets are normally dredged in flour and seared in batches. The flour helps with browning by absorbing surface moisture; the proteins and starch in the flour also brown. The problem is that in the short time the cutlets are in the pan, the flour doesn’t cook through, so the cutlets turn gummy on the surface once the sauce is poured on. Yeah, definitely not appealing.

So try this different approach—flour the cutlets (we used gluten-free), pan-sear them, and then transfer to a placeholder sauce to simmer. Problem solved, any uncooked flour sloughs off into the sauce, thickening it and leaving the coating thin and silky. Because the chicken is salted, the additional cooking doesn’t dry it out.

For the sauce, sauté garlic and shallot and then stir in chicken broth and a few tablespoons of lemon juice. After simmering the cutlets in the sauce, finish it with capers and butter. At this point, the sauce has nice body, but is still missing something; so what about adding whole lemon pieces to piccata? Brilliant! Quarter thin slices of lemon and simmer them in the sauce until they soften.

This company-worthy classic recipe resulted in a truly complex sauce featuring tartness from the juice, fruity aroma from the zest, and a subtle bitterness from the pith. BINGO! Ideally, serve with buttered pasta, white rice, potatoes, or crusty bread and a simple steamed vegetable.

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Ingredients

  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 large lemons
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons caper, drained
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Cut each chicken breast in half crosswise, then cut thick half in half again horizontally, creating 3 cutlets of similar thickness. Place cutlets between sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound to even ½-inch thickness.
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    Our 3 breasts were large and produced 9 big cutlets.
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  2. Place cutlets in bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  3. Halve 1 lemon lengthwise. Trim ends from 1 half, halve lengthwise again, then cut crosswise ¼-inch-thick slices; set aside. Juice remaining half and whole lemon and set aside 3 tablespoons juice.
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  4. Spread flour in shallow dish. Working with 1 cutlet at a time, dredge cutlets in flour, shaking gently to remove excess. Place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet.
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  5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Place 6 cutlets in skillet, reduce heat to medium, and cook until golden brown on 1 side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until golden brown on second side, 2 to 3 minutes. Return cutlets to wire rack. Repeat with 2 tablespoons oil and remaining 6 cutlets.
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    I could only do three cutlets at a time due to pan size and girth of chicken pieces.
  6. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil and shallot to skillet and cook until softened, 1 minute. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
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  7. Add broth, reserved lemon juice, and reserved lemon slices and bring to simmer, scraping up any browned bits.
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  8. Add cutlets to sauce and simmer for 4 minutes, flipping halfway through simmering.
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  9. Transfer cutlets to platter. Sauce should be thickened to consistency of heavy cream; if not, simmer 1 minute longer.
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  10. Off heat, whisk in butter. Stir in capers and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.
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We served our delicious piccata with a side of steamed broccolini seasoned with a Tuscan-herbed olive oil, lemon zest and a squeeze of fresh lemon; and pasta hit with a little grated parm and butter.

By Annie Petito from Cook’s Illustrated

The Perfect Stress-Free Appetizer

Not just another Winter holiday hors d’oeuvre, this Cranberry Pistachio Cheese Log should be on your go-to appetizer roadway to sanity and deliciousness all entertaining season long! It’s sophisticated and beautiful, yet almost absurdly simple to assemble. According to the website CarlsbadCravings.com where I found the recipe, “…it’s so crazy delicious everyone will crowd around until every last pistachio crumb has been licked off the plate.”

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And who doesn’t like pistachios?! “The Wonderful Nut” as they are known in the advertising world, are one of the lowest-fat, lowest-calorie nuts around. Yes indeed, this delicious, heart-healthy morsel is one lean, green protein machine. Not to mention the health benefits of cranberries which furnish high nutrient and antioxidant content, often referred to as a “super food.” Cranberries are high in vitamins A, C, and K, and contain only 25 calories in a half cup.

Here’s the kicker, the cheese log can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for several days until ready to serve—press that EASY button—because, when it comes to holidays, appetizers are all about simplicity, right?  When ready to serve, remove the Cranberry Cheese Log from the refrigerator about 15 minutes beforehand so it can soften and come to room temperature.

And that’s exactly what we did. I made the appetizer on a Friday, to take with us for a weekend trip to Nazareth, PA to visit long-time friend Merry Sue, who was born on Christmas Day in the little town of Bethlehem—kid you not! And, we were going to the annual Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem for some holiday shopping. After which we enjoyed cocktails with the festive cheese log, before heading out to dinner.

Just before you are ready to nosh, don’t forget to drizzle generously with honey to compliment the tangy cranberries and goat cheese. If you can find them, serve with some Crunchmaster crackers (I couldn’t locate them), which are oven-baked, cholesterol- and gluten-free, and low in sodium and saturated fat. Now sit back and enjoy…

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Ingredients

Cranberry Pistachio Coating
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
Cheese Log
  • 7-8 oz. goat cheese log or tub
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 tsp EACH ground ginger, ground cinnamon, salt, dried thyme, dried rosemary
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup Cranberry Pistachio Coating mixture (see above)
Garnish
  • honey

Directions

  1. Add cranberries and pistachios to your food processor and chop into small pieces.
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  2. Remove ½ cup and add it to a medium bowl. Add all remaining Goat Cheese Log ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine.
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    I ground the dried thyme and rosemary with a mortar and pestle for a finer grain.
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  3. Add this cheese mixture to a large piece of plastic wrap, and form into the shape of a log. Wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze for 20-30 minutes. You want the cheese log slightly firm so it holds its shape but is still soft enough for the coating to be pressed into it.
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  4. Line counter with a large piece of parchment paper. Add remaining coating ingredients to parchment and spread into a single layer square a little larger than the length of the cheese log.
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  5. Add cheese log to one long edge and roll in mixture until evenly coated, pressing coating into the cheese so it sticks. Make sure to cover both ends too. Serve immediately, or freeze until ready to serve.
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  6. When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator 15 minutes beforehand so it can soften. Drizzle generously with honey just before serving with crackers.

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The three of us loved this cheese log, and I plan on making again for an upcoming party…
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Russ’ Pork Fried Rice

This Pork Fried Rice dinner takes just minutes to make and is a great go-to on a busy night. Over the years, Russ has tampered with the ingredients a bit, but the following recipe is pretty much the mainstay. He calls it his “Asian Slumgullion.”

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It’s the perfect antidote to the dilemma of what to do with leftover pork, or for that matter, ham or chicken. Because pork tenderloin often comes packaged with two fillets, it’s not uncommon for us to have leftovers. And even if you don’t plan on making this within a few days, freeze the leftover cooked pork until the opportunity presents itself.

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The fresh ginger is chopped into a fine dice.

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Russ preps all of the ingredients ahead of time.

The key is to remember to make the steamed rice ahead of time so that it can completely cool down—so we often make the rice the night before and refrigerate it. Ideally you’ll need a large wok, and you want to make sure the oil is super hot when adding elements. And do yourself a favor and prep all ingredients before you start cooking because you won’t have time to chop once you start flipping the spatula.

Ingredients

  • 12-16 ounces pork tenderloin, pre-cooked and cut into a 1/4″ dice
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, or oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 4 cups steamed rice, precooked and cooled
  • 1 bunch finely sliced scallions, reserve some of the dark green parts for garnish

Directions

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut pork tenderloins into 1/4 inch cubes and set aside.
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  2. Heat half the oil in a hot wok until surface seems to shimmer slightly. Pour beaten eggs into wok and leave to cook on the base of the wok for 10 seconds before folding egg mixture over onto itself with a spatula and lightly scrambling for about 1 minute or until almost cooked through.
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  3. Carefully remove omelette from wok with a spatula. Slice up with two knives and set aside.
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  4. Heat remaining oil in hot wok and stir-fry onion and ginger for 1 minute.
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  5. Add pork and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds. Stir in soy sauces, sherry or rice vinegar, and sesame oil and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
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  6. Toss in rice and reserved eggs and stir-fry (use a spatula to break up the egg into smaller pieces if necessary) for 1 minute. Lastly, add scallions and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds or until well combined and rice is heated through.
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  7. Transfer rice to a platter, garnish with scallion greens and serve.
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Navarin Printanier

Banish those horrid memories of Dinty Moore Beef Stew from decades past, which in MHO was reminiscent of canned dog food—and we didn’t even have a dog when I was young! OK, now that we’ve cleansed our brains of the aversion, let’s reimagine stew as it should be: a classic, slowly braised dish that makes French cooking timelessly appealing.

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Adapted from (we increased some of the veggies) Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in “Around My French Table,” we spent a few hours one snowy Sunday afternoon concocting Navarin Printanier, a lovely lamb stew. The lamb is browned stovetop and then simmered gently with its vegetable medley companions: onions, turnips, small potatoes and carrots.

When the sauce is a burnished mahogany color and both the lamb and the vegetables are fork-tender, you finish the stew with a pop of color, throwing in green peas. You could make it without the peas, up to two days ahead, keeping it covered in the refrigerator. Just reheat the navarin in a 350-degree-oven for 30 minutes, then add the peas and let them cook a few minutes more.

It’s a complete meal in itself and needs nothing else, but perhaps a dusting of chopped parsley. Now you can replace the childhood memories of “Eew Stew” to a much more palatable “Ooooo Stew” and look forward to making it again…

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Since the supermarket wasn’t carrying boneless lamb shoulder, we had to get a large, bone-in leg of lamb and debone it. And because it was closer to 5-pounds, we sliced off a few steaks to freeze before cubing the meat.
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds lamb shoulder trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 12 small white onions, not peeled
  • 3 carrots sliced into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 2 medium turnips, trimmed, peeled, cut into 1/2″-thick wedges, wedges cut crosswise in half
  • 1 pound small red-skin new potatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 parsley sprigs, more chopped leaves for garnish
  • 1 bay leave, cut in half
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Pour 3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy dutch oven over moderate to high heat.
  2. When very hot add enough lamb pieces to brown them on all sides in a single layer. Turn to brown. You don’t want to crowd the meat so do this in two or three batches at about 5 minutes each.
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  3. When the lamb is all brown transfer to a plate and start the next batch.
  4. When done, empty pan and return lamb to dutch over.
  5. Sprinkle with flour and a generous pinch of slat and pepper and continue cooking for 3 minutes.
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  6. Add broth and tomato paste, garlic, thyme, parsley and bay leaf.
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  7. Stir everything a few times and bring to a boil.
  8. When boiling turn down flame to low and cover the pot to let it simmer for 45 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a boil, drop in the onions, and cook for just a minute. Drain the onions, slice off the root ends, and slip off their skins.
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  10. Set a large skillet over medium heat and melt the butter.
  11. When its hot and the carrots and turnips and cook for 2 minutes.
  12. Sprinkle sugar and continue cooking for 8 minutes or until root veggies are cooked and browned but not soft. (This step was closer to 20 minutes for us.)
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  13. Add boiled onions and cook for another 2 minutes to brown onions slightly.
  14. Put rack in center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
  15. Add sautéed veggies, potatoes, and simmer on stove for 15 minutes before putting dutch oven into the oven.
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  16. Braise for 40-45 minutes until lamb is fork-tender.
  17. Remove from oven and discard bay leaf and parsley stems, if you can find them!
  18. Add frozen peas to stew and let cook on stove top over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
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  19. Check seasonings, ladle into bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

IMG_1551Russ swore this was probably the best stew he ever had, and I had to concur!

A New Addition to the Family

Making decorated sugar cookies has been an annual tradition since I was a young child, especially at Christmas time. This year I had lots of fun by using the simple circle shape to create snowmen (and women) heads, adding them to my growing sugar cookie repertoire. But you don’t even need the cookie cutter if you don’t have one, just roll the dough into a ball and smash it down to an even thickness of about 1/8″.

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For some reason my tried-and-true cookie dough recipe was not baking properly so I increased the amount of flour and they are now coming out perfectly. (Don’t ask me why, it worked for decades!) The following recipe reflects the increase—and it is doubled because one small batch just does not cut it. Once the dough is finished, refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. When ready to cut out shapes, it helps to dip the cutters into flour so the dough doesn’t stick.

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My kitchen island makes a perfect assembly line for icing cookies.

When it comes to decorating I use the Royal Icing recipe, both thicker for outline piping, and thinned down for flooding. Also, because I’m frosting with several colors at once, I find it’s easiest to use the disposal pastry bags (such as Wilton’s brand.) Mind you, the entire process takes a few days, so plan ahead.

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Not content to create just the snowmen, I also made Santa hats and Christmas trees.

Cookie Dough

  1. In a stand mixer, beat on medium 1 1/3 cups softened, unsalted butter (room temperature) and 1 1/3up granulated sugar until thoroughly mixed and fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together 4 large eggs with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract; then add to butter mixture until it all comes together.
  3. Meanwhile, sift flour to measure 5 cups and sift in 1 tablespoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the sifted flour ingredients, once combined raise the speed to medium for several minutes.
  5. Divide dough in half; wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper; chill until firm—a minimum of 4 hours.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  7. On floured surface roll portions of the dough until an even 1/8″ thick; cut into shapes and transfer to ungreased baking sheet(s). You can mash together the leftover dough and repeat the process.
  8. Bake until just starting to get golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. (Some ovens bake quicker, so start checking the first batch at 8 and 9 minutes.) Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to racks to finish cooling.
  9. Once completely cooled, decorate to your hearts content!

Royal Icing

  1. In a stand mixer, beat 3 tablespoons meringue powder with 1/2 cup warm water. On low, beat in 1 pound confectioner’s sugar, then turn up the speed to high, beating the contents until thick, 5-7 minutes.
  2. Divide icing into separate bowls depending on the number of colors you will be using. Tint with food coloring until you get the desired shades.
  3. Add small circle nozzles to your pastry bags then insert some of the icing, reserving portions of each color for flooding.
  4. For the reserved portions, add about 1 teaspoon water to each color to thin, and put the icing into plastic squeeze bottles with thicker openings for flooding/glazing purposes.
  5. Pipe an outline for the desired base colors. I do many cookies at once. Then add the same color using the thinner icing to flood inside the piping. To spread it into the corners, use a toothpick or similar tool.
  6. When adding decorative details, like the faces, wait until the base coat is completely dry. You can change the tip to make fluffy trim such as that on the Santa hats.
  7. Once you are finished decorating, make sure all of the icing is completely dry before you pack them into airtight containers.

You can store the icing in the refrigerator for up to a week, just bring it to room temperature before icing cookies. You can also freeze the cookies for several months, which, when we were kids was great because Mom would bring them out weeks after the holidays and we’d get a treat all over again!

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

What’s a holiday meal without a fantastic dessert to finish? These appropriately seasonal Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars were the perfect finale to Thanksgiving dinner. A few weeks prior to the holiday, I noticed the recipe in the American Lifestyle magazine provided by my real estate friend Fran; and I knew I just had to make them. Hubby Russ was on board with the idea too, after all, his 3 kids were joining us this year and we wanted something that would appeal to all of them. Chocolate pretty much does that…

After letting the chocolate ganache set up in the fridge, it was all but impossible to slice through the hard chocolate. Next time I will slice the bars first, move them slightly apart and pour the ganache over the slices letting the chocolate drizzle down the edges. Russ even suggested omitting the butter and adding a bit of heavy cream when making the ganache to give a slightly softer consistency. Makes sense to me…

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And if you’re really in a festive mood, add some chocolate shavings as a garnish…

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. butter
  • cups chocolate crumbs (such as Famous Chocolate Wafers)
  • 2, 8-ounce packages cream cheese, full-fat
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • teaspoon ground ginger
  • teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • Milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate curls, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small pot over medium heat, melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) of the butter. Pour it over the chocolate crumbs in a medium mixing bowl and use a wooden spoon or spatula to combine and evenly coat the crumbs.
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    I ground up the chocolate wafers in a mini processor.
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  3. Press the chocolate crumbs firmly into a buttered 9×9-inch baking pan, lined with parchment paper that hangs over two sides to create the base and handles for lifting. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
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  4. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg, pumpkin, sugar, spices and salt. Beat again to combine until smooth. Scrape down the bowl at least once during the process.
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  5. Pour the batter over the cooled chocolate base and return it to the oven to bake another 30 minutes, or until the filling is firm to the touch.
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  6. Remove the bars from the oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, use the parchment handles to carefully lift the slab from the pan in one piece, and place on a platter.
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  7. Meanwhile, in a double boiler over medium heat, melt the chocolate chips and two tablespoons butter. (Here’s where I’ll omit the butter and add a bit of heavy cream next time.)
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  8. Pour the chocolate over the top of the cooled pumpkin layer and use a small offset spatula to help spread evenly. OR, slice the slab into 16 bars and move slightly apart. Then pour the chocolate ganache over them, letting it drizzle over the edges.
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  9. Place the platter in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes so the chocolate sets up. If not serving right away, wrap in plastic wrap, then cover with foil. Bring to room temperature before serving.
  10. OPTIONAL: To make small chocolate curls, carefully draw a vegetable peeler across the broad surface of a bar of semisweet or milk chocolate. This works best if the chocolate is at room temperature. For narrower curls, use the side of the bar.

To Make Ahead

Bake and chill cookies as directed; cut into bars. Place in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Do not freeze.

 

Soup to Soothe the Soul During Times of Much Excess

‘Tis the season for excessive overabundance, especially when it comes to all things food. Don’t get us wrong, we love all of the feasting around the holidays, but we also welcome the uncomplicated culinary moments such as the joy of a simple bowl of lentil soup.

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Healthy and hearty, spicy and straightforward, frugal and fragrant in equal measure, Curried Lentil, Tomato and Coconut Soup is the antidote to all of those rich meals and snacking in between. This is just the sort of soup that can be made without schlepping to the supermarket (unless of course you need coconut milk), or breaking the bank for pricey ingredients. Plus, when your capacity for preparing elaborate meals has lost it’s appeal, this soup even ticks off a lot of “free-from” boxes: meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, but most of all guilt-free.

Why not make a batch a few days before the parties begin again in earnest,? Then you’ll have some on hand to prepare for the upcoming indulgences or to soothe once you’ve reached the other side. Hint: it can be kept in the fridge for 3 days and can also be frozen. Nutty and earthy in flavor, lentils have a high nutritional value that anyone can benefit from by incorporating this healthy legume into their diet.

Of all legumes and nuts, lentils contain the third-highest levels of protein. Twenty-six percent of lentil’s calories are attributed to protein, which makes them a wonderful source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Although lentils include numerous beneficial nutrients like fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins, they are still low in calories and contain virtually no fat.

We tend to keep brown lentils on hand because they don’t break down as readily as the yellow or red varieties. Just be aware, they need to cook longer—in this case 45-50 minutes as opposed to 20-25 minutes as the directions indicate. This recipe calls for medium curry powder, but it’s flexible. If the one you have is mild or very spicy, adjust the heat level with more, or less, red pepper flakes. It definitely has a kick which is tempered by the swirl of coconut milk as a garnish.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 2½-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon medium curry powder (such as S&B)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¾ cup red lentils
  • 1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup finely chopped cilantro, plus leaves with tender stems for serving
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, shaken well
  • Lime wedges (for serving)

Directions

  • Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium. Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and golden brown, 8–10 minutes.
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  • Add garlic, ginger, curry powder, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add lentils and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
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  • Add tomatoes, ½ cup cilantro, a generous pinch of salt, and 2½ cups water; season with pepper. Set aside ¼ cup coconut milk for serving and add remaining coconut milk to saucepan.
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  • Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft but not mushy, 20–25 minutes. Season soup with more salt and pepper if needed.
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  • To serve, divide soup among bowls. Drizzle with reserved coconut milk and top with more cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Do Ahead: Soup (without toppings) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.

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Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, found in bon appétit magazine

Upping the Sizzle Factor

The holiday season was ramping up and we were hosting a couple for pre-dinner cocktails. Along with the libations, we wanted to munch on a festive appetizer before heading out for dinner. The day had been filled with a long to-do list which left us precious little time to get extravagant. Russ came to the rescue with a tried-and-true, simple yet elegant tapa, Sizzling Garlic Shrimp, or as the Spaniards would say “Gambas al Ajillo
.”

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Russ and house guests Francis and Jane Paixao enjoy the garlicky shrimp.

A miniscule, centuries-old dive tapas bar in Madrid, La Casa del Abuelo, serves sickly sweet jug wine and little else besides their house specialty—garlic shrimp. According to chef/author Anya von Bremzen, they slowly and patiently sizzle them in small earthenware cazuelas while customers watch. They are simmered so gently in olive oil that they come out just heated through rather than fried. Now we’re bringing this classic recipe to the other side of the Atlantic.

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It’s best to use an excellent quality olive oil because it is so suffused with garlic that you and your guests will huddle around the cazuela dunking fresh bread in what’s left long after the shrimp is gone. The problem was, our bread was gone too! So we’re saving the remaining oil to use with a future pasta dish.

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One of the beauties of this dish is the ability to adjust the spiciness—and knowing our guests had a much lower tolerance than us, we scaled back the hot chile aspect. So instead of incorporating the dried chile, Russ just added a few red pepper flakes to add a hint of heat.

IMG_1454Russ preps the garlic. 

One of Spain’s most popular tapas, this classic shrimp recipe is a total keeper. The shrimp are tender and flavorful, and mopping up the garlicky, herby oil with bread is a must.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds shelled and deveined large shrimp, tails intact
  • Coarse salt
 (Kosher or sea)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small dried hot red chile, seeded and crumbled
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Directions

  1. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 10- to 11-inch earthenware cazuela or enameled cast-iron skillet, combine the garlic and olive oil and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is very fragrant but not colored, 2 to 
3 minutes.
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  3. Add the chile and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring and turning the shrimp occasionally, until barely pink, about 3 minutes. (A bit longer for larger shrimp.)
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  5. Stir in the parsley and a generous pinch of salt and cook for a few seconds longer.
  6. Serve in the skillet, passing crusty bread at the table.

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Originally we bought a small baguette, but in hindsite, we should have gotten the large to mop up all of the flavorful oil left behind.

Lidia B’s

When in Rome… but we weren’t; not even in Italy. We were in the Steel City on a Saturday evening for a Sunday night Steelers football game. Our residence for two nights was at Homewood Suites by Hilton in the “Strip District” just two miles shy of Heinz Field. It was an extended stay hotel with a fully equipped kitchen, except that we didn’t bring any food. Next best thing? Make a res, of course.

We feared that might be a bit of an issue because the area was packed with excited fans of both Pittsburgh and the opposing Green Bay Packers teams, some of which were already donning their cheese heads! As Russ was scanning the Internet for possible eateries, I noticed the hotel had included a flyer promoting Lidia Bastianich’s restaurant, which was located conveniently right around the corner.

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Russ holding his coveted Steelers football tickets for great seats right near the 50-yard line!

Well, as not only Steelers fans, we are also fans of Lidia, so getting a coveted reservation at her esteemed establishment, was an additional coup for us. Luckily they were able to fit us in at the time slot we wanted, and we made the short walk in mere moments. And what an impressive place it is!

Lidia’s Pittsburgh opened in March of 2001, only two years after Lidia Bastianich and her son Joseph Bastianich opened the popular Lidia’s Kansas City, their first venture outside of Manhattan. Acclaimed New York architect David Rockwell designed the interior to reflect an open-warehouse atmosphere nestled in the heart of the strip district. Lidia’s Pittsburgh menu concept is a combination of the New York restaurants, Felidia and Becco.

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The environment is friendly enough to dine with family and kids, as well as quiet enough to have a lovely evening as a twosome. The classy Italian atmosphere is very warm and welcoming with a warehouse-modern decor. Soaring ceilings, a massive stone fireplace, huge baubled chandeliers, eye-catching stained glass circles, and a second story dining area all tie together for a stunning ambience.

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Our starter was the ANTIPASTI—Chef’s Selection of Salumi, Cheese, and Seasonal Vegetables. Not a fan of either salumi or paté, Russ got those all to himself, but I did enjoy the pickled onions, herbed olives, buffalo mozzarella and white truffle cheeses, and the smoked pork.

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Along with our shared appetizer, a bread basket appeared with a plate of house-made bean and basil pesto spread, an olive spread, and an olive oil for dipping. The spreads were creamy, well-seasoned, and delicious. And included with two types of freshly baked bread were the most amazingly delicious parmesan bread sticks! In fact, when our waitress packed up the leftovers, we asked her for the remaining breadsticks—of which, lucky for us, she tripled!

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Prior to entrées we each chose a salad, with Russ getting his usual Caesar, and me the Rucola consisting of arugula, gorgonzola, walnuts and pear slices. Russ is always thrilled when he can get whole anchovies. Mine was lightly dressed, which is how I prefer salad, and the large chunks of gorgonzola “peared” well with the other ingredients.

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Knowing Lidia hailed from northern Italy near Austria, Russ was drawn to the SARME—Beef and pork stuffed cabbage rolls braised in sauerkraut, and served with a large crock of mashed potatoes. He shared a taste of that luscious meat stuffing which was a savory, melt-in-your-mouth bite!

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I went with one of my usuals, the SALMONE—A perfectly cooked grilled salmon fillet, accompanied by roasted Yukon potatoes and string beans, all nestled in a delicate mustard sauce. The portion was more than ample and I remembered our full-sized refrigerator back at the hotel which would accommodate my doggie bag.

Along with an all-you-can-eat sampler of three different house-made pastas that change daily, the menu entrées are mostly very traditional with pastas like cannelloni and lasagna, and meat dishes such as chicken parmigiana and Osso Buco. If we ever get to the Strip District again, we’ll make a point to revisit Lidia’s.

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Lidia Bastianich is the chef/owner of four acclaimed New York City restaurants — Felidia, Becco, Esca & Del Posto, as well as Lidia’s Pittsburgh & Lidia’s Kansas City. Together with her son Joseph, she produces award-winning wines at their Bastianich Vineyards in Friuli. 2007 signified a true benchmark in Lidia’s career, as she had the esteem honor of cooking for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI during his travels to New York. In fall of 2010, Lidia released her first children’s book, soon to be a holiday classic, Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidia’s Christmas Kitchen. Perhaps the single most important quality that Lidia shares is her belief that it’s not only the food on the table that makes the meal, it’s the people who join around the table who bring the meal to life. Her signature line: “Tutti a tavola a mangiare!” means “Everybody to the table to eat!”

Salad You’ll Want to Eat—Even on a Cold Day

There may be periods when you probably munch on some (or a lot!) of not-so-good-for-the-diet meals and snacks. Don’t beat yourself up, just counter-balance that approach by dressing up cooked chicken breasts with bright Asian flavors. This Vietnamese-Style Chicken Salad is built off of a packaged coleslaw mix, enhanced with fresh mint and cilantro, crunchy peanuts, and a sweet-and-salty dressing of fish sauce and rice vinegar.

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Super fast, super easy and super tasty, the recipe provides a flipside to all of that rich food and is perfect for a working weeknight. It’s even more expedient if you use some leftover chicken or a store-bought rotisserie bird. Of course, instead of packaged coleslaw you could make your own from green Napa and purple cabbages and shredded carrots allowing more control over the amounts of each and overall color distribution.

It was a cold Winter’s night when I made this, so grilling chicken breasts outside was not an option I dared consider. (You may have an indoor grill option.) Alternatively, I seared the seasoned meat in a hot skillet for one-and-a-half minutes each side, then popped the entire oven-proof pan into a 400 degree preheated oven for another 12 minutes total.* After allowing them to cool for about 15 minutes, they were easy to pull apart with my fingers into long thin strips.

We loved the salad just the way it was. But next time we’ll probably include two jalapeños (without stripping the veins) to increase the spiciness more to our liking. But please don’t omit the fresh mint and cilantro as they contribute an added dimension of flavor and perk up the salad.

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Ingredients

  • 3 small shallots, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped (seed first if you want less heat)
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless, thin-sliced (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) chicken breast cutlets
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 oz. package coleslaw mix
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, torn if large
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

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Shallots, sugar and jalapeño are mashed in mortar and pestle to release the juices.

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I seared our chicken breasts in a hot skillet then finished them off in a 400 degree oven.

img_9380Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken along its natural grain with your hands.

Directions

  1. Prepare a medium grill fire. If you don’t have a grill, you can cook the chicken indoors on a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat for the same amount of time. *Or see my method above.
  2. With a mortar and pestle, pound the shallots, jalapeño, sugar, and 1/8 tsp. pepper until the shallots are very soft (but not pureed) and liquid is released. Transfer to a large serving bowl and stir in the vinegar and fish sauce.
  3. Season the chicken with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper and grill, turning once, until just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Let cool and then shred the chicken with your fingers into long thin strips, pulling the meat along its natural grain.
  4. Toss the coleslaw mix into the vinegar mixture. Add the chicken, mint, and cilantro and combine well. Top with the peanuts and serve at room temperature.

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by Lori Longbotham from Fine Cooking

Easily Turn a Side Into a Main

Lovely and colorful, this Southwestern Rice Pilaf side dish is a welcome change to regular rice and/or potatoes. While we didn’t consider this very spicy, it did have a kick to it. If you prefer low-spicy foods, leave out the diced jalapeño at the end.

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We served ours with a Pork Chops with Green Chiles and Onions entrée but this dish would also make a delicious accompaniment to steak or chicken fajitas. Or, to simplify things, simply shred a rotisserie chicken or some cooked sausage, fold into the rice, and Voila, a ready-made meal!

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Always a good idea to prep all ingredients prior to cooking.
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, medium diced (1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium poblano, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced (1/2 cup)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced (2 Tbs.)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt; more as needed
  • 2-1/2 cups chicken broth, preferably hoemmade
  • 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained well
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced

Directions

  1. In a heavy-based 3-qt. saucepan with a tight lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, poblano, and garlic, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
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  2. Add the chili powder and cumin and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and the spices are very fragrant, about 3 minutes.
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  3. Add the rice and salt, and stir well to coat each grain with oil. Toast for a full 5 minutes, stirring regularly to keep the grains separated and to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan (the rice may turn opaque before 5 minutes is up, but keep going). Reduce the heat to low if there are any signs of scorching.
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  4. Add the chicken broth and tomatoes, stir once, and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes.
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  5. Remove from the heat and let the pilaf sit, still covered, for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, finely grate 1 Tbs. zest from the lime, and then cut the lime into wedges.
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  6. Once the pilaf has rested, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Using the fork, gently fold in the cilantro, jalapeño, and lime zest. Season to taste with salt. Serve with the lime wedges for spritzing over the rice.
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Recipe by Ris Lacoste from Fine Cooking

Pork Chops with Green Chiles and Onions

It may be past time to dance to a new tune with pork chops… And if you like a little spice in your life, then you must try these Pork Chops with Green Chiles and Onions. A double dose of chile—canned and powder—adds pleasant heat to this quick skillet braise. The peppers’ light green hue fades slightly as they simmer, but their spicy essence intensifies into a delicious sauce.

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I always keep a jar of pickled jalapeños in the fridge for nacho toppings, so they came in handy for this recipe. These jalapeños are so much better than canned and do not contain preservatives or artificial colors. The mixture of vinegar and salt act as a natural preservative (no canning needed) and help keep the jalapeños good in the fridge for up to two months—although, I’ve had them last much longer. *See recipe below.

The directions indicate to cook the chops another 5 minutes once they’re nestled back into the onion mixture. Because ours were closer to 1 1/2″ thick, they took an additional 3-4 minutes. If perchance you plate them too soon and they seem a bit too pink, you can always zap them in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

Now kick up your heels and shake those maracas!

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Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. pure ancho chile powder or chili powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 center-cut boneless pork chops, about 1 inch thick (about 1-1/2 lb. total)
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth; more as needed
  • 1 4-oz. can chopped green chiles
  • 3 Tbs. chopped jarred jalapeños (from about 12 slices)
  • 1 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, chile powder, 1-1/4 tsp. salt and 3/4 tsp. pepper. Sprinkle on both sides of the pork and set aside.
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  2. In a blender or food processor, purée the chicken broth, green chiles (with their liquid), jalapeños, and vinegar until smooth.
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  3. Put the flour in a pie plate and dredge the pork chops, shaking to remove any excess. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Pour in 2 Tbs. of the oil and heat until shimmering hot, about 1 minute. Add the pork chops and cook, without moving, until they’re brown around the edges and release easily from the pan, 2 to 3 minutes.
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  4. Reduce the heat to medium, flip, and cook the other side until browned, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a large plate.
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  5. Over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and the onion to the skillet. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and golden, about 4 minutes.
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  6. Add the green chile mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens slightly and the onions are completely tender, 2 to 3 minutes more; add a splash of chicken broth if the mixture seems dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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  7. Return the chops to the pan, nestling them into the onions. Cover and simmer gently until the pork is fairly firm to the touch with just a little give, 3 to 5 minutes. With a paring knife, make a nick in a thicker chop to make sure it’s only just a little pink.
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  8. Serve the pork chops topped with the sauce.
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By Tony Rosenfeld from Fine Cooking

Pickled Jalapeños

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or less)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 7-8 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Combine the vinegar, water, garlic, sugar, and salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Add jalapeño slices, stir, and remove from heat.
  2. Let sit for at least 8 minutes then use tongs to remove the jalapeños from the pot to a jar; cover with the brining liquid to fill the jar.
  3. Store in the fridge for up to two months (sometimes longer.)
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Skirt Steak with Mushrooms and Shallots

The classic combination of steak and mushrooms (think beef Stroganoff) comes together quickly in this simple weeknight meal. Most of the working class crave a good dinner after a long day’s work but certainly don’t want to make MORE work for themselves at the end of the day. From Fine Cooking’s Make-It-Tonight series, this Skirt Steak with Mushrooms and Shallots is elegant yet requires little effort on your part.

Let’s dwell on those ‘shrooms for a moment, shall we? Cremini mushrooms (also spelled crimini) are a nutrition powerhouse with the potential to ward off disease. They are small, button-shaped, earthy tasting, rich brown mushrooms that are also called “baby bellas” because they are mini-Portabellas. An impressive group of minerals, vitamins and other ingredients are packed into each three- to four-calorie mushroom.

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Mushrooms are low in carbohydrates, calories, and sodium and are cholesterol- and fat-free. When you choose cremini mushrooms, you get all those dietary benefits plus more. Criemini mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium, which helps to fight cancer. Other minerals in cremini mushrooms are copper, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. Potassium is the mineral best known for bringing down your blood pressure and reducing your risk of stroke.

Cooking is where cremini mushrooms have an advantage over other types of mushrooms. They are the chef favorite because they provide a bolder, richer flavor and texture. Fresh cremini mushrooms have a slightly brown skin and should be used ideally within three days of purchase. You can boil, sauté, chop, and dice and slice these delicious foods to add to your favorite dishes, such as this one!

Back to the recipe.

Our steak was pretty thin in some parts and preferring medium-rare, I only cooked the meat in the cast-iron skillet for 4 1/2 minutes total. To keep the meal low-carb, we paired the meat and mushrooms with a side of roasted broccoli.

If you don’t happen to have a bottle of white wine on hand, go ahead and use a dry red, after all, it’s only a 1/4 cup’s worth. It’s main purpose is to deglaze the pan and make sure to dislodge and incorporate all of those luscious browned bits from the meat and mushrooms. Now go ahead and eat like royalty…

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Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 lb. skirt steak, trimmed and cut crosswise into 4 pieces
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 5 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3/4 lb. cremini mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 4-1/2 cups)
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1-1/4 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 2 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Directions

  • Pat the steaks dry and season with salt and pepper. In a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet (preferably cast iron), heat 2 Tbs. of the olive oil over high heat until shimmering hot.
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  • Cook the steaks in a single layer, flipping with tongs halfway through, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the steak registers 130°F for medium rare, 5 to 7 minutes total (if necessary, lower the heat to medium high to finish cooking the thicker pieces). Transfer to a plate and let rest, loosely covered with foil, while making the sauce.
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  • Heat 2 Tbs. of the olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spatula, until golden-brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.
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  • Lower the heat to medium, add the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil, the shallot, and thyme and cook, stirring, until the shallot is slightly browned, about 1 minute.
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  • Add the wine and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to dissolve any browned bits, until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 1 minute.
  • Add the chicken broth. Raise the heat to high and boil, adding any juice that has accumulated from the steak and mushrooms, until the sauce is reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 7 minutes.
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  • Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter. Stir in the mushrooms and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Thinly slice the steaks diagonally across the grain and serve topped with the mushroom sauce. Use a large serving spoon to drizzle the juices over each plate.
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We served ours with a side of roasted broccoli florets.

Recipe by Tasha DeSerio from Fine Cooking

Simple. Scrumptious. Shrimp.

If you’re a fan of shrimp that’s slightly spicy and you want it quick, this Sautéed Shrimp and Pancetta with Cheese Grits is for you. Russ double-starred this recipe it was so good. It all comes together in about 15 minutes—unless of course you have to behead, shell and devein the shrimp as I did. But we buy them whole on purpose so that we have the makings for seafood stock sometime in the future. Just bag the stuff and freeze until ready to make homemade stock—you won’t regret it.

If you can’t find quick-cooking grits, you can use quick-cooking polenta instead—just be sure to follow the package’s instructions for the correct cooking time and the amount of liquid needed. With an inclination for polenta over grits, that’s what we made. And since I had a few ounces of two different cheddars, I incorporated both a white and yellow cheese.

The one instruction that baffled us was cutting the pancetta into 1″ strips. First of all it doesn’t stay in strips and we think a more uniform dice would distribute the pork more evenly around the dish. Truly doesn’t matter, the taste is there…

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Serve with a side of collard greens or sautéed spinach.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 small leeks (white and light-green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced, and rinsed (1-1/2 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-1/2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 1 cup quick-cooking grits (not instant)
  • 4 oz. extra-sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 oz. 1/8-inch-thick sliced pancetta, cut into 1/8 x1-inch strips
  • 1-1/2 lb. jumbo shrimp (21 to 25 per lb.), peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced (3/4 cup)
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  • In a heavy-duty 4- to 5-quart pot, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and 1/4 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth and 1/2 tsp. salt, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.
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  • Whisk in the grits, return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook, partially covered, stirring frequently, until the broth has been absorbed and the grits are thick, about 5 minutes.
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  • Add the cheese and stir to melt. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, cover,  and keep warm.
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  • In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook the pancetta in the remaining 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and starting to crisp, about 5 minutes.
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  • Meanwhile, pat the shrimp dry and put them in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the cayenne and 1/4 tsp. black pepper and toss to combine.
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  • Add the green pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until pink and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.
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  • Stir in the parsley. Distribute the grits among 4 shallow bowls and serve the shrimp mixture over the grits.
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Recipe by Nadia Arumugam from Fine Cooking