Sunday, January 23, 2011

Connie's Favorite Butternut squash bisque from Southern Living

1  large butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
2  Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
2  large onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2  to 2 1/2 cup chicken broth
1  cup  fresh orange juice
2  teaspoons  grated orange rind
2  teaspoons  curry powder
1  teaspoon  salt
1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1  cup  whipping cream
1/2  cup  milk
Marmalade Cream (Mix together 1 cup sour cream, 2 tbl orange marmalade, 1/2 tsp curry powder, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg)
Cut squash in half, and remove seeds. Place squash halves, apple wedges, and onions on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet, cut sides down.

Bake at 400° for 45 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove from oven; cool. Scoop out squash pulp, discarding shells.

Combine pulp, roasted apples and onions, broth, and next 5 ingredients in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring often, 5 minutes. Remove mixture from heat; cool.

Process squash mixture, 1 cup at a time, in a food processor until smooth. Return purée to Dutch oven, and chill 8 hours, if desired.

Heat soup in Dutch oven over low heat. Slowly add whipping cream and milk, stirring constantly until thoroughly heated and smooth. Remove from heat, and top with Marmalade Cream. Serve immediately.


This is a very Italian lasagna, using Lidia's Bolognese sauce and a bechamel (white sauce) instead of ricotta.  You can use what ever sauce you like.  I sometimes make this with the Spaghetti sauce with Italian sausage. Whenever I make spaghetti sauce, I always make extra and freeze it. If the sauce is already made, then this recipe is a snap. Do not be tempted to substitute cheap cheese for the Parmigiano Reggiano. The lasagna will not be nearly as good.

For 6-8 people
1 box Barilla no cook lasagna noodles
1/2 recipe of Lidia's Bolognese sauce
1-1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano 
3 cups bechamel sauce

For the bechamel

4 tbl butter
6 tbl flour
3 cups milk
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour.  Cook, whisking without browning, for 3 minutes.  Add 1 cup of the milk,stirring vigorously until it thickens and all the lumps have disappeared.  Add the remaining milk, slowly, stirring. Bring back up to the boil, stirring continuously.  If it gets to thick, add some more milk until it's the consistencly of slightly thickened cream.  You want it to flow off your spoon, not plop and glop. You can make this ahead and spray the top with Pam so it won't form a skin.  You will need to rewarm it before assembling the lasagna, and you'll probably need to add some more milk.

Preheat oven to 350

Since you're using no-cook lasagna noodles.  Thin the bolognese sauce with some water before beginning.

Spray an ovenproof casserole dish with Pam and add a little Bolognese to the dish. Top with a layer of noodles. Add more meat sauce, then white sauce, then cheese.  Repeat until you run out of ingredients or room in your casserole dish. Cover with Release aluminum foil. This can be done ahead and refrigerated.  Take out of the fridge for about an hour before baking. Bake at 350 covered for 45 minutes.  Remove foil and bake 15 minutes more.  Remove from oven and let sit 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Lidia's Bolognese Sauce

This is right from Lidia's website, and it is FANTASTIC! I made 1/2 a recipe, with the milk, and used the sauce for a phenomenal lasagna, but this would be incredible over paparadelle with peas, as well.  Here's the link to the recipe and other fantastic recipes.

For the Pestata, Vegetables, and Meat
2 pounds ground beef, (15% fat content)
2 pounds ground pork, (15% fat content)
2 cups dry white wine
6 ounces bacon, or pancetta
⅓ cup garlic cloves, (about 6 fat cloves)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 large celery stalks, minced or chopped
1 carrot, shredded

Long-Cooking Ingredients For the Ricetta Antica
6 tablespoons tomato paste
8 cups milk, very hot
nutmeg, for grating (to make 1/2 teaspoon)
2 cups turkey broth or vegetable broth, hot
freshly ground black pepper

Food Processor;
Preparing the Meat and Pestata

Put all 4 pounds of ground meat in a large mixing bowl. With your fingers, crumble and loosen it all up; then toss and crumble the beef and pork together. Pour over the white wine and work all the meat through your fingers again so it's evenly moistened.

To make the pestata, cut the bacon or pancetta slices into 1-inch pieces and put them in the bowl of a food processor with the peeled garlic. Process them into a fine paste.
Cooking The Sauce Base

Pour the olive oil into the heavy sauce pan and scrape in all of the pestata. Set the pan over medium-high heat and break up the pestata and stir it around the pan bottom to start rendering the fat. Cook for 3 minutes or more, stirring often, until the bacon and garlic are sizzling and aromatic and there's a good deal of fat in the pan.

Stir the minced onions into the fat and cook for a couple of minutes until sizzling and starting to sweat. Stir in the celery and carrot and cook the vegetables until wilted and golden, stirring frequently and thoroughly over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes or more.

Turn the heat up a notch, push the vegetables off to the side and plop all the meat into the pan; sprinkle the salt on. Give the meat on the pan bottom a few moments to brown then stir, spread, and toss with a sturdy spoon mixing it in the vegetables too and making sure every bit of meat browns and begins releasing fat and juices. Soon the meat liquid will almost cover the meat itself. Cook at high heat, stirring often, until all that liquid has disappeared, even in the bottom of the pan. This will take 1/2-hour to 45 minutes, depending on the heat and width of the pan. Stir occasionally and as the liquid level diminishes, lower the heat too, so the meat doesn't burn.

Heat up slowly the cooking liquids for either the Ricetta Antica (milk) or the Ricetta Tradizionale (broth), whichever version you are making. The procedures for each are different so I am giving them in separate sections.
Long Cooking Bolognese Ricetta Antica With Milk

When all the meat liquid has been cooked off, drop the 6 tablespoons of tomato paste into a clear space on the pan bottom. Toast it for a minute in the hot spot, then stir to blend it with the meat and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

Pour in 2 cups of the hot milk and stir into the meat; add more milk if needed to bring the level just over the top of the meat. Grate the nutmeg right above the pan, dropping in at least 1/2 teaspoon, or more if you love it. Stir it in well; also carefully clear the pan bottom of any caramelized bits, meat or vegetable, as milk will stick in these spots and scorch.

Bring the sauce liquid to an active simmer, cover the pan and adjust the heat to maintain slow steady cooking, with small bubbles perking all over the surface of the sauce.

From this point, the Bolognese should cook for 3 hours. Check the pot every 20 minutes and add hot milk as needed to cover the meat. The liquid level should be reducing by 1-1/2 to 2 cups between additions, so you'll need to have warm broth or water ready to replenish the sauce after all the milk has been added.

If the sauce level is falling much faster, and it takes more than 2 cups to cover the meat, lower the heat to slow the evaporation. If the sauce level drops slowly or not at all, raise the heat and set the cover ajar to speed its concentration. Stir well at every addition (and in between) and make sure nothing's sticking to the bottom.

For the final stage, see Finishing the Sauce, below.
Both The Ragu Bolognese: Finishing The Sauce And Final Steps

During the final interval of cooking, you want to reduce the level of the liquid-once milk or broth but now a highly developed sauce. At the end, the meat should no longer be covered but appear suspended in a thick, flowing medium. If the meat is still submerged by a lot of liquid, remove the cover completely to cook off moisture quickly.

A few minutes before the end of cooking, taste a bit of meat and sauce and add salt if you want. Grind 1 teaspoon of black pepper right into the sauce, stir it in and cook about 5 minutes before removing the pan from the heat.

If you'll be using the sauce right away, spoon off the fat from the surface, or stir it in as is done traditionally. Otherwise, let the sauce cool, then chill it thoroughly and lift off the solidified fat. Store the sauce for several days in the refrigerator or freeze it (in measured amounts for different dishes) for use within a few months.

Julia Child's Pears Poached in Red Wine

This recipe is for Mary Beth. I made for dessert last night after a main course of rich lasagne, and she really liked it. I thought that they were delicious, too--cool, refreshing, and, best of all, do ahead. Rather than serve individual plates, I served them in 1 large low dish, so that everyone could help themselves to 1 or 2 (or 3). The pears are from Julia Child's Kitchen. The garnishes were my idea.

For 4

3 or more pears, firm and ripe, but not too ripe (Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc, Comice)
1 qt water with 2 tbl lemon juice in a big bowl

2 cups red wine in a 3 qt pan
The zest of 1 lemon
2 tbl lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick of cinnamon

Peel, halve, and cord the pears, dropping them into the the bowl of water with lemon. Meanwhile, simmer the wine with all othee ingredients for about 5 minutes. Transfer pears to wine mixture and bring just to a simmer. If pears aren't covered by liquid, add more wine or water and sugar; proportions are 6 tbl sugar to 1 cup of liquid. Lower heat and maintain at not quite simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with a knife. Let cool in syrup at least 20 minutes.

Remove the pears and most of the syrup to another container, leaving about a cup of syrup in the pan. Refrigerate the pears. Add a 3 tbl more sugar to the syrup, bring to a boil and reduce until thick. Remove the thickened syrup to another container and refrigerate.

1/3 cup mascarpone, or cream cheese, softened
grated lemon rind of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tsp sugar or to taste
1/4 tsp vanilla
a little milk or cream if mixture is to thick

Mix all together.

Fresh blueberries
chocolate syrup 

To serve place about a teaspoonful or so of the cheese mixture in the hollow of each pear and drizzle with glaze. Serve with fresh blueberries as a garnish. Pass chocolate syrup for people to add if desired..

Super easy tortilla soup

My friend, Kathleen, gave me this recipe, along with a sample of the soup. It's amazing how flavorful this is for so little effort.

1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 packet taco seasoning
1 large container chicken broth
2 cans Rotel with chilis
1 can corn, or 1 pck frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained

Mix seasonings into 1/2 cup of broth and add all to a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15-30 minutes, or until thouroughly heated. Serve with shredded cheese and tortilla chips. (I'm going to skip the cheese and serve this with lime wedges and chopped cilantro.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Crock Pot or Not Coq au Vin Blanc (Chicken in White Wine)

Really good, super easy! If you don't have a crock pot, cook this in your oven at 325 for 2 hours or on top of the stove at a bare simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. If you do have a crock pot, you could do all of this the night before, put it in the fridge, and then cook it the next day.

2-3 tbl Extra virgin olive oil
4 chicken thighs
1/4 lb pancetta, diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup brandy
1 cup white wine or dry vermouth
1 bay leaf
Several stalks of fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp of dry thyme
Salt & pepper

Salt & pepper the chicken. Saute chicken thighs in some olive oil in a skillet or dutch oven if you don't have a crock pot. When brown, remove to the crock pot and discard the grease. Add a tbl of fresh olive oil to the pan and saute the pancetta until it begins to brown.  Add the celery, carrot, and onion and saute until onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and saute a minute more.  Add brandy and wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits.  Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add all to the crock pot or put chicken back in if you aren't using a crock pot.  Make a bouquet garni of the bay leaf and thyme, by wrapping a length of kitchen twine around it several times and tying a knot.  Cook on low 4 hours or more.

The Best Shrimp Scampi

I made this last night for the family. It turned out delicious; the best shrimp scampi that I've made. If you want to make it ahead, you can do everything up to adding the shrimp ahead of time. Just make sure that you start your linguine before you add the shrimp. The linguine, once it has come to the boil, will take about 8 minutes.  Since the shrimp are small they will only take about 5 minutes to cook.

Serves 3-4

To marinate shrimp
1 lb medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
several grindings of black pepper
2-3 tbl extra virgin olive oil
4-5 green onions, chopped

Place shrimp in bowl with garlic, olive oil, and pepper flakes.  Cover and refrigerate. Mine marinated for 3-4 hours, but more or less won't matter too much.

3/4 box of linguine, cooked

2 tbl extra virgin olive oil
2 tbl butter

1/4 brandy
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth with 1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in it
1/4 cup chopped canned tomatoes,drained, or one fresh Roma tomato, chopped
1-2 tbl capers
1-2 tbl fresh oregano
Juice of 1 fresh lemon

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

Melt olive oil and butter in a large skillet and saute over low heat for 15-20 seconds. Add shrimp with its marinade and saute for 1 minute on 1 side, turn and saute another minute.  Add the brandy, wine, and tomatoes and cook, stirring until shrimp or opaque, about 4 more minutes. Don't overcook--they'll continue to cook after you turn off the stove.  Add capers, oregano, and lemon juice. Add the linguine to the shrimp mixture and toss to coat. Serve the plates and top with cheese.