Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Andouille Sausage and White Bean Soup - Soup Weather Part Deux

There are as many incarnations of this soup recipe as there are variations on a basic red pasta sauce. The only thing on which the various versions can concur is that the creamy, nutty taste of white beans and their broth is a perfect marriage with the earthy taste of leafy greens and the lusciously fatty, zingy taste of Cajun style pork sausages. This variation on the recipe calls for a bouquet garni, a small bundle of herbs that is typically used in stocks and soups and is traditionally wrapped in a leek (use a leaf from the discarded dark green outer leaves).

Because of its thick, creamy broth this is a hearty soup to have as a meal. I recommend serving it with some toast brushed with a crushed garlic clove and a salad with your favorite dressing.

Andouille Sausage and White Bean Soup

Makes 6 - 8 servings

2 - 4 Andouille sausages, roughly diced (the more sausage you use, the spicier the soup will be)
1 Leek, cleaned and all but one dark green leaf discarded (the leaf is saved for your bouquet garni) and sliced into 1/2" pieces
3 Medium carrots, cut lengthwise and sliced into 1/2" pieces
2 Cans white northern or navy beans (15 oz cans)
1 bunch of kale, chopped small
3 sprigs of thyme
1 bayleaf
1 clove of garlic, gently crushed
6 Peppercorns
6 cups low sodium organic chicken broth
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons cooking sherry
4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
(Optional) salt, to taste
(Optional) 1/2 lb. orzo or a small tubular pasta such as canneroni or mezzi rigatoni (or you can even go for something as fun as stars or alphabet noodles), cooked according to the package directions with 1/2 cup of the cooking water reserved

1. Place thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns and garlic inside outer leek leaf and fold edges over both vertically and horizontally. Secure bouquet garni with kitchen twine as if you are putting ribbon on a wrapped gift. Set aside and, in a soup pot warmed to medium heat, add olive oil. Add sausage to pot and cook until just browned, about 10 - 15 minutes.
2. Toss in sherry and vinegar, and cook 3 - 5 minutes to pick up the fat from the bottom of the pot.
3. Add leeks, carrots and kale and saute until tender, about 8 minutes.
4. Add beans, bouquet garni, stock, water and bring to a boil briefly, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, until broth starts to get creamy with bean broth.
5. Stir in the cooking water from your optional pasta, if you've made it--it will give the soup a sweet, starchy boost, and cook for an additional 5 minutes to incorporate.
6. Serve each bowl with roughly 3 heaping tablespoons full of cooked pasta (optional).

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rugelach 3 Ways with Citrus Zest

This evening's post includes a recipe that is based closely on my mom's Rugelach recipe. Rugelach are a Jewish celebratory sweet--halfway between pastry and cookie, with cream cheese in the dough. My mother's Orthodox friends in her local Chabad community tell a story about this cookie being made as a jubilant confection when Yudit (Judith) slew Holofernes, as he was an enemy General of foreign occupiers who forbade the Jews from carrying on their religious traditions. I do enjoy the odd grisly anecdote, but not necessarily with dessert and so my favorite things about these cookies are that they bake up soft and biscuit-y, no matter how much you work the dough, and also the fact that a single batch of dough can easily make up to four different flavors of Rugelach. The crescent shapes can seem intimidating, but are actually no more difficult to get the hang of than canned crescent rolls. For this recipe I've separated my dough into 3 sections so that I can make orange zest/chocolate chip cookies, lime zest/raspberry jam cookies and lemon zest/sugar cookies (to which you can add any type of chopped nuts you'd like, if you're so moved; even pistachios), and each of those three sections can be divided in two, rolled out into a circle and cut into 12 wedges. My favorite raspberry jam to use is Bonne Maman (available at most stores or online), because it's sweetened with real sugar and I've been eating their jams for so long I now know whether additional sugar is necessary to make the jam palatable in a given recipe (in this case, it's not). The only snag I hit was that it is full of raspberry seeds, so you'll want to warm the jam to loosen its consistency and force it through a sieve before using it. The dough can be made up to three days before and kept in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in plastic cling wrap, and is also fine to keep in the freezer for a cookie craving day.

Citrus Zest Rugelach
Makes 6 dozen

2 sticks unsalted organic butter (1 cup total), softened
1 package of organic or rbg3-free cream cheese (8oz.), softened
1/4 cup sugar (I use evaporated cane juice sugar that I find at Trader Joe's)
2 cups all purpose flour
*1/3 teaspoon each zest of an orange, lime and lemon

For the fillings:

1/3 c. raspberry jam, strained for seeds if necessary
1/3 c. quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (I live near SF, where Ghirardelli is readily available, but I've seen it in supermarkets across the country)
1/4 c. sugar

*They'll go in the dough after you've portioned it into 3 equal pieces (one for each fruit).

1. Cream together butter, cream cheese and sugar. Fold in flour.
2. Separate dough into 3 equal pieces and add fruit zest (one type of fruit per piece). Work thoroughly into dough.
3. If dough is too soft to roll out, refrigerate, covered tightly in plastic cling wrap, for 20 - 30 minutes. Otherwise, flour a clean work surface and roll out the first piece into a circular shape with a 9" radius. You can roll this cookie dough rather thin, as it puffs when it bakes life puff pastry.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
4. Cover dough evenly and liberally with corresponding fillings (chocolate chips for the orange zest portion, sugar for the lemon zest portion and raspberry jam for the lime zest portion). Cut circle into wedges as though you are slicing a pizza.
5. Starting from the base of each wedge, roll the cookie up until it resembles a crescent roll, with the tip of the wedge on the outside; roll as tightly as possible and pinch the skinny (outside) end of the dough into the cookie to help them keep their shape.
6. Lay on greased cookie sheet, with the outside point of the cookie (tip of the triangle) underneath the cookie. Baste with a little melted butter and sprinkle with a light dusting of sugar. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, or until tops start to get golden.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken with New Potatoes

One of the best things about doing this blog is the food smell after each new kitchen experiment; it often lingers. Sometimes up to 24 hours. The only thing I enjoy as much as a lovely lingering smell is an easy, 1-dish dinner. This roast chicken, relying on classic techniques, such as placing a fork-pierced lemon inside the cavity and rubbing the skin with butter, so that it mixes with the chicken fat lemon and fresh herbs to form a luscious roasting sauce for the baby potatoes and onions, is more delicious than words can describe! I guarantee this will make your house smell heavenly! I like to serve this with my favorite greens mix, dressed in vinaigrette.

As a bonus, the chicken carcass makes a great base for homemade chicken stock.

Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken with New Potatoes

1 lemon
1 clove of garlic, gently crushed
1 large sprig of rosemary
3 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 onion, quartered
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons butter
Salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 lbs. medium sized new potatoes, any type (yukons are great with this), washed and quartered
1 onion, quartered

1. Preheat oven 400 degrees. Rinse the chicken with water inside and out and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels (the drier it is, the crispier the skin).

2. Season the cavity with salt and pepper.

3. Roll the lemon back and forth on a clean countertop, pushing down with the heel of your palm, to help release the juices. Going around the lemon, pierce the fruit from top to bottom with a fork every 1 or so inches, so it has rows of piercings. Rub butter all over the outside of the chicken, then place lemon, garlic, bayleaf, thyme and rosemary inside the bird's cavity. Season the chicken skin with salt and pepper. sprinkle the remaining butter all around the chicken in the pan.

4. Add to greased roasting pan, breast side up, and tuck the wings in. Tie the drumsticks together, to help the chicken hold its shape. If you can use a single long piece of twine and also wrap it around the breasts, keeping the wings tucked in, this will further help its shape.

5. Toss the onions and potatoes in a bowl with 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Add to roasting pan and roast at 400 degrees for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours, making sure to baste the bird occasionally and turn the bird over after 40 minutes and test the potatoes--they are done, or maybe need 5 minutes more to reach the desired tenderness. Carve and serve with the potatoes.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Shepherd's Pie w/ Beer Gravy

A couple of years ago I did prep for an Irish Pub in So Cal. The owners of the place owned several other eateries in the area, and while the menu mainly consisted of standard bar/comfort food, there were a few staples of Irish Pub food, such as Corned Beef and Cabbage and Shepherd's Pie. I enjoyed the latter so much that I came up with my own version. I need hardly extoll the fabulous taste of this dish, except to say the gravy, veggies, beef and homemade mashed potatoes just work together.

If you'd like to make a vegetarian version of this recipe you can substitute the beef for 1 pound of Texturized Vegetable Protein soaked in mushroom stock for 20 minutes on a 1:1 ratio, and one large sprig of rosemary, or if you prefer you could poach 1 lb. of Tempeh in low sodium vegetable stock and when it has softened (about 15 - 20 minutes) fluff it apart with a fork.

I like to serve my Shepherd's Pie with a bag of prewashed Arugula (sometimes called Rocket), dressed very simply with the juice of 1/2 a small lemon, a small glug of Olive Oil (less than 1 Tablespoon) and a pinch of salt. The peppery greens are a light and zesty compliment to the rich and meaty taste of the pie. If your supermarket doesn't stock arugula (as you can see from the picture my nearby one didn't; that's butter lettuce posing beside the Shepherd's Pie), use the greens of your choice and add a small dash of freshly ground pepper, to compliment the acidity of fresh lemon.

Shepherd's Pie
Makes 6 - 8 servings

Pie filling:
1 lb. ground beef (the best fat to lean ratio to use is 10fat/90lean)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Medium onion, diced
2/3 Cup carrots, shredded (you can buy it this way from the store), or diced
1/2 Cup frozen shelled petite peas
2/3 of a 12 oz. bottle of a darker ale, such as an IPA or Porter (1 cup)
1 1/2 Cup milk, anything with more fat than skim
1 1/2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
Salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Optional: a pinch each of any or all of the following fresh herbs: Thyme, Rosemary and Sage

Mashed potatoes:
6 Medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Cup of milk, or more to taste
2 Quarts (8 cups) water

1. Add water, salt and potatoes to pot and bring to a boil. Cook until soft (they can be easily pierced with a fork), about 12-15 minutes. Reserve 1/4 of a cup of the cooking water to add to the potatoes, then drain. Add butter, cooking water and milk to potatoes as you mash them, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. When there are no lumps and your potatoes are creamy, cover to keep warm and set aside.

2. In a smaller pot, blanch the carrots and peas in boiling water seasoned with a small pinch of salt (about 3 minutes), then drain and set aside.

3. In a saucepan combine 2 Tablespoons butter and onions. Cook on medium until onions are translucent (about 3 minutes). If you have fresh herbs, now would be the time to toss them in. Add beef and some salt and pepper and cook until browned (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently.
4. Add beer and simmer about 15 minutes, until the carbonation has been cooked out and some of the alcohol as well.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

6. Add milk and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes. Slowly add flour, 1/2 Tablespoon at a time, to thicken gravy.

7. Add carrots and peas, stir to combine and transfer to an ungreased baking pan.

8. Using a rubber spatula or similarly shaped utensil, cover the pie filling in an even layer of mashed potatoes and bake for 15 minutes so the ingredients can set together.

9. Serve alongside dressed arugula and enjoy.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Cook's note: pictures to follow.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Soup Weather: Potato Leek

Winter isn't half over, and for many of us that means months to go of extreme weather conditions and bitingly cold temperatures. This is the time of year you'll hear the phrase "soup weather," spoken plaintively and sincerely. Indeed, warm liquids--particularly more hearty and nourishing fare like soup--are excellent balms to chapped hands and cold toes in this harsher season.

For me it was as much convenience as a desire to beat the cold that had me concocting a recipe for Potato Leek soup--one batch makes up to 10 servings, and I made this dish on the last day of the year, knowing I might not be in a mood to cook the next day. I cannot overlook that there were other factors that put me in mind of this particular soup, namely childhood nostalgia, and a love of the wild onion-y flavor of leeks, paired with the sweet, earthy starch of potatoes.

If you decide to puree your soup and are so inclined you could top your soup with a dollop of dill creme fraiche (mix 1 part chopped fresh dill to 3 parts creme fraiche).

Potato Leek Soup
Makes 8 - 10 servings

5 medium - large leeks, cleaned with the dark green parts discarded, sliced 1/2" thick
6 medium yukon gold potatoes, cut into roughly 1" cubes
1 small onion, julienned
1 quart organic vegetable or chicken broth
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced or put through a press
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, woody stems stripped off
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Teaspoon Salt, or more to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup cooking sherry
1 quart (4 cups) water
1 cup cream

1. Put your soup pot on the burner and turn it to medium, add butter and when the butter is melted, add leeks, onions, garlic, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and some pepper. Saute on medium heat until leeks are translucent, about 15 minutes.
2. Add cooking sherry and let cook for another 10 minutes.
3. Add potatoes, water and stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for roughly 45 minutes, until the potatoes are soft enough to break apart with a nudge. Adjust for salt and pepper
4.Using a handheld mixer on low speed, or (once it's cooled down enough to handle) a food processor, puree the soup. If you'd rather go low-tech you can also force it through a fine mesh sieve instead. Add the cream, stir to incorporate and serve, garnished with a tiny pinch of thyme leaves.*

*Cook's note: I prefer mine not to be pureed, since I love the mouthfeel of the occasional soft potato and silky leek. For presentation's sake, you should know that if you choose not to puree your soup you may want to leave out the cream (this was my mother's method, growing up), as it will separate and look strange; however, it will still taste delicious, particularly if you stir the soup up before portioning it out. That being said the dill creme fraiche is quite strange as a condiment in non-pureed soup.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!