Saturday, December 24, 2011

Skillet Carrots with Sage

Another delightful dish from my dog-eared copy of The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, this works wonderfully with many entrees, is very easy to make, cheap, and quick to cook. Try it if you find yourself looking for a quick side dish at the last minute.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1/2 red onion sliced into half moon pieces
several large fresh sage leaves
black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken/vegetable broth

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the carrots, onion, and sage about 10 minutes to brown the onions and carrots seasoning with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Pour in the wine and broth, reduce heat to low, cover and allow the contents of the pan to braise for about 10-15 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

Remove the cover and allow the liquid to reduce to a syrup. Be cautious to not completely dry out the pan as the liquid will reduce quite quickly - keep an eye on it! Taste for seasoning, remove from heat and serve.

I told you it was easy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chicken Salad with Potato Salad

Leftover chicken is always a likely ingredient in our house as we regularly roast a whole chicken for a dinner and can only get through a wing and a leg for a meal. Once we have the second wing and leg for a subsequent weeknight dinner, the breasts remain. Sometimes I'll make a chicken hash if we also have potatoes, other times I make a chicken salad to use as weeknight sandwiches for dinner. This time was a salad which I paired with a homemade mayonnaise potato salad. There's a fair overlap on these two dishes, at least the recipes I used for this dinner but worth noting nonetheless as either one would suffice as a component for a light meal.
Although we usually go to Acme for bread, we really prefer the sourdough panini bread from Semifreddi for sandwiches and used it here. 
Here are the recipes I used; feel free to riff off of what you like for yourself if you use any of either.

Chicken Salad

ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
3-4 cups chopped cooked chicken breasts
1 celery stalk diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup salted cashews
two sandwich loafs
mayonnaise and mustard for spreading on the bread
lettuce and tomato (optional)

In one bowl, combine mayonnaise, black pepper, garlic powder, celery seeds and salt into a dressing. 
In a second bowl combine the chopped chicken, celery, cranberries, and cashews. Pour the mayo mix over the contents of the bowl with the chicken and combine well. Use for the sandwiches with optional lettuce, tomato, and spreads. I like to toast the bread first, my wife does not; works great either way.

Potato Salad

1 pound fingerling potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper crushed
3 hard-boiled eggs (chopped)
1 cup diced celery
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cornichons
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Boil potatoes in their jackets. Drain and let the potatoes cool. Peel and cut potatoes in small pieces. Season potatoes well with salt and white pepper. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Chill for about a half-hour.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011


Cassoulet! I've had this several times over the years but the most recent time that I had it in a restaurant, it was so good that I had to meet the challenge to make one at home. All I needed to spur me on was a crowd large enough to make it worthwhile the time and effort. As this was my first attempt I did get a fairly common task wrong but in the end the meal was still a success. (I'll make up for it next time!)

I looked around for a likely recipe and this one that I found on seemed closest to the approach I would typically take.  

1 pound dried great northern beans
10 tablespoons duck fat or olive oil
16 cloves garlic, smashed
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 large smoked ham hocks
1 pound pork shoulder, cut into 1" cubes
1⁄2 pound pancetta, cubed
4 sprigs oregano
4 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
1 cup whole peeled canned tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
4 confit duck legs (optional)
1 pound pork sausages
2 cups bread crumbs

A couple of notes on the ingredients I used. I had about a cup duck fat left over from a dinner I made several weeks ago in the freezer. I purchased the duck legs, pancetta and pork from Marin Sun Farms in Oakland from free range ducks and heritage pork. I pulsed Acme whole wheat bread to make the bread crumbs. The oregano and thyme were straight from my garden. And the chicken broth was frozen from a batch I made a few weeks ago. I find that getting the best ingredients make for the best flavor and satisfaction from the meal.

Duck confit:
There are plenty of good recipes to check out if you want to use the duck legs. I just put the legs into a small baking dish with raised sides, filled to the top with melted duck fat and baked in a 225˚ oven for about 2 hours to prepare them.

Beans and ham hocks:
Soak beans in a 4-qt. bowl in 7 1⁄2 cups water overnight. Heat 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 6 quart pot over medium-high heat. Of the prepared garlic, onions and carrots, add half to the pot and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add ham hocks along with beans and their water and boil. Reduce heat and simmer beans until tender, about 1 1⁄2 hours.
Transfer ham hocks to a plate; let cool. Pull off meat; discard skin, bone, and gristle. Chop meat; add to beans. Set aside.

Pork and soffrito:
Heat 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 5-qt. dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown for 8 minutes. Add pancetta; cook for 5 minutes. Add remaining garlic, onions, and carrots; cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Tie together oregano, thyme, and bay leaves with twine; add to pan with tomatoes; cook until liquid thickens, 8–10 minutes. Add wine; reduce by half. Add broth; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, about 1 hour. Discard herbs; set dutch oven aside.

Duck legs and sausage:
Meanwhile, sear duck confit legs in 2 tbsp. duck fat in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat for 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Brown sausages in the fat, about 8 minutes. Cut sausages into 1⁄2" slices. Pull duck meat off bones. Discard fat and bones. Stir duck and sausages into pork stew.

Final bake:
Heat oven to 300˚. Mix beans and pork stew in a 4-qt. earthenware casserole. Cover with bread crumbs; drizzle with remaining duck fat. Bake, 

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