Thursday, October 22, 2009

Au Gratin Potatoes

While we're talking about yummy potatoes, I have to include my all time favorite, although I have never met a potato I didn't like! But, these are special - tender, cheesy, crusty brown top...sigh. Complete comfort food. The friend who gave me this recipe was as crazy about potatoes as I am. We used to joke and say we were going to have a seven course potato dinner party and we would be the only two guests. Fun!! Now don't faint when I tell you the ingredients. You won't be making them every week (I hope) just when you want something special and completely nuturing. Again, this is a recipe I will have to walk you through - it's simple (only 3 ingredients) but the procedure needs to be precise. So here goes...

Au Gratin Potatoes

3-4 large Idaho baking potatoes; thinly sliced
1 large carton of whipping cream (!!) don't worry - you're not going to use it all
3-4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
s & p

Preheat oven to 325*

Layer thinly sliced potatoes in a shallow (rather than deep - you want lots of crusty brown me) baking dish alternating with shredded cheese. So in other words... a layer of overlapping potatoe slices, lightly salt and pepper them, cover liberally with shredded cheddar cheese and repeat until you have used all the potato slices. You should have 3 layers maybe more. Then slowly pour the whipping cream over the potatoes. Give the cream time to settle. Ideally the cream should settle in at 3/4 of the way up the baking dish. You don't want the potatoes submerged.

Put the casserole in the preheated oven on the middle rack. This is the important part...check to see how they are doing after 15 minutes. The cream should just be slowly plopping, not rapidly bubbling - if it is, turn the oven down to 300* and check again in 15 minutes. The reason for this is simple...the cheese and cream will end up curdling, which you don't want. Now, it will take 1 1/2 - 2 hours for the potatoes to absorb the cream and become browned and crusty, so plan accordingly. I know it seems like a long time to wait, but you will be well rewarded for your patience. Wait til you see them..gorgeous! Wait til you taste them..delicious! I feel like running into the kitchen and whipping up a batch right now!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roasted Potatoes and Onions

You can serve these potatoes with almost any main course. They are so flavorful! I think they go especially well with the Parmesan chicken breasts in the previous post. They couldn't be easier to prepare, but remember...allow them about an hour and 45 minutes to roast. So start them an hour before you put the chicken breasts in.

Roasted Potatoes and Onions

6 large Idaho baking potatoes; washed, dried, cut into small chunks
2 large onions, quartered and sliced
good quality olive oil
s & p to taste
**note: the potatoes and onions cook down - so you don't end up with as much as it looks before roasting

Preheat oven to 400*

In a large bowl, combine potatoes and onions. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and toss to coat.
Spread evenly across a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 1 hr. 45 minutes or until tender and browned. Both the potatoes and onions are crispy and carmelized. Heaven!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chicken Breasts - Not the Usual Yawn

These chicken breasts are so yum and easy. I used to make them often when my kids were growing up, and they were a fave. Since this is all about the chicken, I recommend going to Harrison's Poultry in Glenview. They have the freshest most wonderful poultry around. If you are not inclined to seek out Harrison's due to distance proximity, at least go to your local butcher and buy good quality - they may even carry Harrison's as they supply many shops and restaurants in the Chicago area. Quality is important. I don't care what you put on it or in it, if you have tough, stringy chicken...well, what's the point of wasting your other ingredients?

Chicken Breasts - Breaded and Baked

4 -5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved - rinsed and dried
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 cup Durkee fried onions - crumbled
1 stick of butter (or oil if you don't want to use butter - but, ya know? butter's better!)

Melt butter and place in a shallow bowl. In a plastic zip lock bag, add the parmesan, bread crumbs, and crumbled onions. Shake up to distribute evenly. Take each breast, roll in melted butter, and shake in crumb mixture. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet, sprayed with cooking spray, or in a shallow casserole dish large enough to hold all of them. Drizzle any remaining butter over all. Sprinkle with paprika for color. Bake at 400* for 40 minutes, or until cooked through and browned. Carefully turn once during baking time. I serve them with roasted potatoes and onions or au gratin potatoes (recipe in future post).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sweet and Sour Beef and Cabbage Soup

Now that Fall is rapidly approaching Winter, my thoughts are turning to comfort foods. Dishes warm and nuturing to satisfy our souls on cold, dreary days. This recipe for beef and cabbage soup meets that criteria. It's a meal in a pot - very hearty and satisfying. All you need to add is some warm, crusty bread, and you're good to go.

Sweet and Sour Beef and Cabbage Soup

2 Tbls. butter or vegetable oil
2 lbs. lean beef stew meat, well trimmed
1 small head of green cabbage
2 cups coarsly grated carrots
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp. caraway seeds
salt and pepper, to taste
1 large can tomato sauce or puree
1 Tbls. tomato paste
3 Tbls. dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. sour salt (citric acid)
7 cups of water

Melt butter or oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add meat and brown. Add onions, saute briefly until soft. Add water, bring to a boil, skim any foam off top. Add tomato sauce and paste, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add rest of vegetables, caraway seeds, s & p, brown sugar, and sour salt, cover and simmer 1 hour. Enjoy!