Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cheddar Chicken Chowder

While we're discussing the restorative powers of soup, here is another really good recipe. This one combines two favorites - corn chowder and chicken soup. So good for the soul - warming you inside and out. Chock full of chicken chunks, corn and vegetables, it is guaranteed to please on a cold winter day.

Cheddar Chicken Chowder

3 bacon slices
1 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup onion, finely diced
1 cup red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth (Swanson's brand is good)
2 cups red potato, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
2 1/4 cups frozen corn
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole or 2% milk
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
s & p to taste

Cook bacon in stock pot over medium high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble and put aside. Add the chicken, onion, red pepper, and garlic to the drippings in pan and saute 5 minutes. Add the broth potato, and bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until potato is tender. Add corn and stir well. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level off. Place flour in a bowl, and gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add to the soup. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Stir in the cheddar cheese, s & p, and mix well until cheese melts. Serve in bowls and top with the crumbled bacon. Yum!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Minestrone With Sausage and Tortellini

A hearty bowl of soup on a cold winter day is so soothing and nuturing. I love making soup. I love the way it makes my house smell. I love the anticipation of sitting down to a steaming bowl with just a loaf of warm, crusty bread to accompany it. Sigh...
Here is a recipe that fits the bill. This soup is a meal in a bowl, satisfying and filling. Perfect for Super Bowl or anytime. Two important tips for this recipe: be sure to purchase good quality sweet Italian sausage, preferably house made from your butcher, and be sure to include the Parmesan rind. Either buy a wedge and cut off the rind yourself or ask your deli guy to cut one for you - they just throw them away when they pre-package grated cheese. I doubt they'll even charge you - mine doesn't.

Minestrone With Sweet Sausage and Tortellini

1/3 cup good quality olive oil
1 large yellow onion, halved and cut into thin slices
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices
1 small fennel bulb, diced (optional if you don't like fennel)
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 green pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into small chunks
3 medium zucchini, diced
1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, sliced diagonally
2 cups green cabbage, shredded (optional)
5 cups beef or chicken stock (Swanson's brand is good)
5 cups water
1 35 oz. can of Italian plum tomatoes, crushed
2 Tbls. dried oregano
1 Tbls. dried basil
s & p to taste
Outer rind of a 2 inch (doesn't have to be exact) chunk of Parmesan
1 1/2 cups canned cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained
1 package cheese stuffed tortellini - cooked and drained
1 1/2 lbs. sweet Italian sausage, pan fried, drained, and sliced into bite size pieces
Freshly grated Fontina cheese (or Parmesan)

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 10 - 15 minutes. Stir in the carrots and saute for 3 -4 minutes, tossing occasionally
One at a time, add the fennel, potatoes, green pepper, zucchini, and green beans, sauteing each vegetable 2 -3 minutes before adding the next. When all the vegetables have been added to the pot, stir in the cabbage and cook 5 minutes more.
Add the stock, water, tomatoes with their juices, oregano, basil,and salt & pepper to taste. Bury the Parmesan rind in the middle of the soup. Heat just to boiling, cover, reduce heat to a low simmer, and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The soup will be very thick (add additional broth if you like - I don't). Ten minutes before serving, stir in the cannellini beans, cooked tortellini, and sausage to heat. Ladle the minestrone into shallow pasta bowls and top with the grated Fontina or Parmesan. Enjoy!

P.S. Feel free to fool around - if you don't like a particular vegetable, substitute another one or increase the amount of one of the vegetables you like the most. As with most recipes, this one is not written in stone - fine tune it to your liking...that's what I did :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

12 Hour Roast Pork

Pork Shoulder...have you ever made one? Up until I tried this recipe I hadn't. Now I am a disciple. Tender, juicy, flavorful, yum! This is an adaptation of a Suzanne Summers recipe that my friend Rhonda gave me. I know... Suzanne doesn't look like she would be making or eating a recipe like this. But...she has and does. It's one of her favorite recipes for a crowd and that is why I'm including it in my Super Bowl recipes. You can shred it and serve it with as many condiments as you can think of. I'll get you started: warm, flour tortillas, guacamole, chopped onions, black beans, shredded mexican cheese, sour cream, salsa. The list is endless. This roast can cook anywhere from 12 hours to 18 hours. It roasts all night while you are sleeping and just falls apart it's so tender. You can not believe how good your house smells when you wake up in the morning. If you get up during the night to go potty, you might not be able to go back to'll just be dying to take a peek and a taste!

12 Hour Pork Roast

1 whole pork shoulder with skin (6 - 8 lbs.) *You need to order this in advance from your butcher - most places don't carry pork shoulder with the skin on...and trust me, you want the skin on.
12 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1.6 oz. bottle of fennel seeds (love fennel!)
salt and pepper
8 small dried red chilies - I've also used 2 large dried ancho chili peppers
juice of 3 lemons
4 Tbls. olive oil

Pan Drippings (optional)

1 14 oz. can chicken broth
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 450*.
Score the entire skin of the pork shoulder (as you would a ham) by slicing deeply through the skin into the meat. Place the garlic, fennel seeds, s & p to taste, and the chilies in a food processor. Pulse until all the seasonings are coarsely ground. Rub this mixture all over the skin of the pork and into the cut areas to cover all surfaces of the meat.

Place the shoulder on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes, or until the skin begins to crackle and brown. Combine the lemon juice and the olive oil in a glass measuring cup and pour half of this over the roast.

Turn the oven temp. down to 250* for 12 hours or 225* for 12 - 18 hours. and roast the pork. The pork becomes almost shredded, crispy on the outside and moist from the juices inside. It's ready when it is completely soft under the crisp skin. You can tell by pushing with your finger; the meat will give and might even fall off the bone. Baste occasionally with the remaining lemon juice/olive oil.

For delicious pan drippings, remove the meat from the pan. Pour off most of the fat, leaving 2 - 3 Tbls. in the pan. Place the roasting pan with all the bits of meat stuck to the bottom on the stove over medium heat. Scrape the bits as the pan heats up. When the pan is hot, add the can of chicken broth and the lemon juice. Deglaze the pan. Let the broth and juices reduce for about 5 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the meat if desired.

Now you can serve as I suggested above for Super Bowl, or you can serve it with mashed potatoes, a vegetable, and sauteed apples. Let me know how you like it...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Italian Fennel Sausage and Peppers

Italian sausage and peppers is a great side dish to serve with the macaroni and cheese recipe in the previous post. I also like to serve it with a pasta marinara. Anyway you choose to serve it, it is colorful, flavorful and satisfying. Be sure to purchase good quality Italian sausage, preferably house made from your butcher. I like to use mild or spicy fennel sausage or a combination of the two. Your choice.

Italian Sausage and Peppers

2-3 lbs. of good quality Italian sausage
4 large green peppers, cut into strips
4 large red peppers, cut into strips
4 large yellow peppers, cut into strips
good quality olive oil

Preheat oven to 425*

Cut sausage into 6-7 inch pieces. Rub each link lightly with olive oil. Place in one layer on large, rimmed baking sheet. Prick each link with a fork. Roast in oven for about 45 minutes or until lightly browned on both sides. Turn once during roasting time.

In a large bowl toss pepper strips with olive oil and kosher salt and pepper. Spread out on 2 large, rimmed baking sheets and roast in oven for 1 - 1 1/2 hours until glazed and slightly browned.

Place sausage in a large casserole dish. Pile peppers on top. At this point you can either serve, or reheat in a 350* oven later in the day. I like doing it earlier in the day, that way I can have the mess cleaned up before my guests arrive. Then I can reheat it and serve. So delicious!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Not Your Average Macaroni and Cheese

For those of you who love macaroni and cheese...get ready! This is it! Uber macaroni and cheese on steroids! Three different kinds of cheese, a bechamel sauce, rigatoni noodles, sigh, need I say more? When this dish comes out of the oven in all of it's golden, crusty brown, cheesy gloriousness (is that a word?) just stand back and gasp! I promise you, if your team doesn't win the Super Bowl, you can drown your sorrows in this dish! To make it even more perfect you can prepare it a day ahead and bake it on the day.

Uber Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb. sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (use good quality)
1 lb. Mozzarella Cheese, shredded (use good quality)
3 cups whole milk
7 Tbls. unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
*2 or more tsps. Tabasco sauce (or similar hot sauce)
1/3 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 lb. rigatoni noodles (the ribbed kind - not smooth)
*3/4 tsp. chili powder
3/4 cup whole milk

* This is not spicy or hot. The Tabasco and chili powder enhance the cheddar flavor without adding heat.

Cook rigatoni in boiling, lightly salted water until al dente (5-6 minutes). Thoroughly drain in colander.

Mix the shredded cheddar and mozzarella together in a large mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk until near boiling (don't boil). Take it off the heat. Melt butter in a large, heavy pot. When foam subsides, remove from heat, add flour, and whisk until combined. Return to medium low heat, simmer for 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly to cook, but not brown, the flour. Gradually pour in hot milk, and continue whisking until mixture is smooth and thick - about 4 - 5 minutes. Take off heat and add parmesan or romano. Whisk until smooth. Add Tabasco and pepper and blend. Add drained rigatoni, and with a rubber spatula, fold into the bechamel, coating all the noodles.

Layer half of the noodle mixture in a buttered 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with half the cheese mixture. Press down with rubber spatula. Cover with remaining noodle mixture and top with rest of cheese mixture. Press down. Sprinkle the chili powder evenly over the top. If not using now, let cool then cover tightly with Saran wrap and refrigerate.

Take out of refrigerator 1 hour before baking.

When ready to bake - preheat oven to 375*. Drizzle the 3/4 cup milk over the top of the casserole. Bake approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours. The dish should be bubbling and rusty brown on top. Check for doneness by inserting a knife into the center of the dish - it should come out hot to the touch. If the top is browning too quickly, lightly cover with foil for part of the cooking time.

Now, take your bubbling, cheesy, masterpiece out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Take your first bite...and enjoy the ultimate in comfort food.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Super Bowl On The Way...

Now that the Holidays are behind us, and we've hopefully recovered from our food comas, Super Bowl is approaching! Another excuse to party! Yay! I thought I would post several crowd pleasing recipes to try out on your family and friends. In one of my earlier posts I wrote about one of my favorite chili recipes. Now I'm going to give you a white chili recipe for those of you who prefer not to eat beef. I love this recipe. It can be prepared ahead and reheated when serving. Feel free to provide condiments of your choice in small bowls for your guests to choose from. Some ideas would include: shredded cheese, chopped onion, sliced avacodo, oyster crackers, etc. You could accompany it with warm cornbread or garlic cheese bread, and viola! You're ready for half time dining.

White Chili

4 whole chicken breasts, or 2 whole chickens
1 lb. bag of Great Northern white beans (dry)
2 quarts of water (or enough to generously cover chicken)
1 medium sized whole onion
3 stalks of celery
3 carrots
2 bay leaves
2 Tbls. butter or oil
2 medium onions finely minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 3 1/2 oz. cans green chilies, diced
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp. oregano
3 Tbls. chili powder (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the beans and soak overnight in enough water to cover them.
Drain beans.
Prepare chicken stock by simmering chicken in 2 or more quarts of water, adding the whole onion, celery, carrots, and bay leaves. Simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours until chicken is tender. Remove chicken to platter and cool. Remove skin and bones and dice meat. Strain broth and skim off any fat. Add beans to chicken broth and simmer covered until tender - about 1 1/2 hours. Heat butter in skillet and saute chopped onions and garlic until golden and tender. Add this mixture and remaining ingredients to beans. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add chicken and simmer 15 minutes longer. Serves 8-10

I hope the team you're rooting for wins! Isn't that diplomatic of me?

Monday, December 21, 2009

English Toffee Pudding

Once upon a time there was a little cafe in Winnetka, Il. called "The Pretty Good Cafe". This was a comfy, cozy neighborhood cafe with the most wonderful homemade food and desserts. The owner, Gail, ran it with the help of her son and a few friendly staff. It was a frequent meeting place for breakfast or lunch for me and my friends. I can't tell you how many times I went in there for the English Toffee Pudding alone. Each time I would beg Gail for the recipe, and if she was in the mood she'd give me a hint, but never the recipe. Eventually, due to unfortunate circumstances, Gail closed the doors on the Pretty Good Cafe. But...not before she did the most wonderful thing! She printed a cookbook containing all of the recipes she served in the cafe for all of her loyal customers to enjoy! O.M.G.!!! I now had the recipe for the E.T.P. I adored. But wait...was that a good thing?? I could now whip up a batch whenever I felt like it. This, of course, led to a diet once the novelty wore off. But I am forever thankful to her for this warm, homey, amazing recipe. I have tried several others, but trust me, this one is the best.

English Toffee Pudding

3 1/2 cups boiling water
1 Tbls. baking soda
12 oz. pitted dates, chopped
3 Tbls. flour
1 1/2 sticks of butter
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour, sifted
1 Tbl. baking powder

Bring water to boil in a saucepan. Chop the dates with the 3 Tbls. flour in the food processor. They need to be chopped fine or they will show up as pieces in the final product.
When the water is boiling, turn off the heat, add the baking soda and the date mixture. Stir to combine and set aside to cool to room temperature (you can refrigerate to speed the process).

In a large mixing bowl or mixer, cream butter, sugar and eggs, beating well. In a separate bowl sift flour with baking powder.

When date mixture is at room temperature (not before or you will ruin the pudding) add to egg mixture, alternating with the flour mixture until both have been incorporated.

Pour into a 9x13 greased pan and bake at 375* until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean - about 1 hour.

Toffee Topping

6 Tbls. butter
2/3 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup + 1 Tbls. whipping cream

Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until combined and bubbling. Remove from heat.
Poke holes in the top of the warm cake with a the handle of a wooden spoon. Spread toffee mixture over the cake as evenly as possible, making sure it gets into all the holes. Place the pan under the broiler for about 1 minute until the top is bubbly - keeping watch so it doesn't burn. Remove and cool or serve immediately. This also freezes well. If you freeze it, defrost and then reheat in the oven until warm. You can then slice it or scoop it out into bowls and serve with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche. Thank you Gail!

Note: If you have never had English Toffee Pudding, it is really a cake, not what we think of as a pudding. It is rich, dense and caramelly. And, oh, so delicious!