Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Gnocchi & Tomato Sauce

I’ve made gnocchi before and really liked the results, even though it can be a somewhat time consuming process. So, when I saw what looked like an even easier recipe on Smitten Kitchen’s website called Gnocchi & Tomato Broth, I was game. In addition to the difference in taste, I was also interested in noting the difference between this recipe and the previous one I worked off of. For one thing, it makes a lot less gnocchi which is good for me because I had a rough time trying to thaw out the dough I had frozen. You also prep the potato portion of the dish differently, instead of boiling them, you poke a bunch of holes in your potatoes and throw them in the oven, which I think it actually a lot simpler.

While the potatoes baked, I got to work on the sauce. You’ll note I said “sauce” instead of “broth” because instead of straining everything out like the recipe suggests, I took to it with a hand blender and made myself more of a sauce. Why? Well, it’s been cold and I wanted something thicker. If I made this in warmer months, though, I’d try the broth method to see how that works.

Once the sauce was done, I went back to making the gnocchi dough which involved mixing the ingredients up in our Kitchenaide. From there, I divided up the dough, rolled out some lines and chopped them up with my dough cutter/scooper. While working on this part, I set a pot of water on the stove to boil. When I was done with the dough pieces and the water was boiling, I started dropping them in and waiting for them to rise.

Again, the process can be somewhat laborious and time consuming, but there are days when all I want to do is go into the kitchen and not come out for a few hours with something really good and even a little primal that I made with my hands. This gave me that feeling without taking up too much of the day, so I’m adding it to the greatest hits.

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Cooking Homesick Texan Carnitas With Avocado Dressing & Asian Carrot Slaw

It seems like I just can’t recreate the success I had the first time I made Smitten Kitchen’s Homesick Texas Carnitas. It’s a super simple recipe that involves a few ingredients and a bunch of time, but the last time I did it I accidentally bought beef instead of pork and then this time I didn’t chop it up ahead of time. Both times the results were pretty good, I just want to nail the procedure again, you know?

Anyway, I’ve already talked about making that dish, so I want to write about a few of the accouterments I made to go along with it. For whatever reason I had a brain fart when planning the menu that week and didn’t plan on serving the carnitas with anything other than a tortilla. Scrambling, I used what I had at hand to make Paula Deen’s Avocado Dressing and Martha Stewart’s Asian Carrot Slaw. The latter might seem like kind of a strange choice, but the only veggies I had in the house were carrots and I thought the Asian flavorings would bring something interesting to the table.

The Avocado Dressing was alright, but it being a Paula Deen recipe, there’s a good deal of mayo in there which I thought threw the flavor off a little. Since then I’ve made an Avocado Crema that I’ll write about eventually that actually had no dairy or condiments involved and tasted a lot more avocado-y which is what I wanted. Still, it was an okay addition that worked well with everything else on the plate.

The Asian Carrot Slaw actually wound up working really well with the carnitas. I kind of figured this would be the case when I saw that lime was a main ingredient, which is also in the carnitas, of course. I liked the tang that the sesame seeds and vinegar brought to the table and think I might be onto a cool flavor combination here. Anyone want to start a food truck?

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ White Bean & Chicken Chili

I’ve made a lot of different kinds of chili and even though I really enjoyed Pat Neelys the first time I made it, there’s always more variations to try out there in the world. While looking through many a Giada De Laurentiis recipe on Food Network’s website (many of which I wrote about last week), I came across her White Bean & Chicken Chili which is so different from what I’ve tried in the past, I just had to give it a shot. In fact, I’ve actually cooked this dish twice since stumbling across it and it’s been a hit both times.

As will be the case for the foreseeable future, I started this recipe by freezing the meat for about an hour, then trimming and cubing it and running the pieces through my meat grinder. I still haven’t looked at the numbers to see if this is cheaper than buying store-ground meat, but it makes me feel better knowing that I did it myself. Plus, my grocery store tends to run pretty good sales on chicken breasts that I take advantage of whenever it makes sense.

From there, this recipe is pretty simple. You cut up some onion and garlic, gather a small pile of spices, drain and rinse off your beans and prepare the Swiss chard. I went with white both times I made it, though I don’t see why red wouldn’t work just as well.

The results after 50 or so minutes of simmering is a dish that tastes both new and familiar. The ground chicken and chard bring their unique flavors into the mix while the corn and spice combination reminds you of the chilies you’ve had and loved in the past. I’d actually be interested in experimenting with ways that make this even more Italian-tasting. Maybe mix up some of the spices and herbs and incorporate some tomatoes. Could be fun to play with.

Revisiting Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta With Onion Butter Red Sauce & Turkey

revisiting smitten's onion butter pasta One of the few recipes that I cook on a regular basis is Smitten Kitchen’s Tomato Sauce With Onion & Butter. In fact, it’s one of the first dishes I ever wrote about online. It’s so good and only requires four ingredients: pasta, canned tomatoes, butter and onion. I double the recipe to get a lot more sauce because I’m that big of a fan.

One thing that’s always bugged me about the recipe, though, is that you toss the onions after cooking for 45 minutes. I still did it, but I wondered if there might be something else to do with it. Then, after making Nigella Lawson’s Turkey Meatballs In Tomato Sauce and I decided to take one of her techniques and use it with this recipe.

Lawson called for celery, carrots and onion to be tossed in the food processor and given a whirl, I figured I’d take that idea and use it with this recipe (I used two onions, two carrots and two celery stalks. Yes, it ups the ingredient list from four things to six, but I’m sure you would have just as much success just whirring the onions instead of all three veggies. When I first tasted the results, I was worried because it tasted very onion-y, but after simmering for the requisite 45 minutes, that flavor mellowed out and combined well with the other ingredients. I think I might have actually made a great recipe even better!

Cooking Alton Brown’s Curry Chicken Pot Pie

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ll write down the ingredients for a recipe without really processing them beyond the yes/no “do we have this in the house” stage. That was kind of the case when I decided to make Alton Brown’s recipe for Curry Chicken Pot Pie which I came across in Good Eats Volume 1 (page 380), but is also available on Food Network’s website. It’s not that there was anything wrong with this particular recipe, in fact the results were quite good, but I realized while thawing out both puff pastries and a vegetable medley that the intent for this dish probably wasn’t making from ingredients you purposefully bought for this dish, but instead of things you had around the house either partially or in full. Why else would a fresh food proponent like Brown suggest such a recipe?

Anyway, like I said, I still walked away with a wonderful dinner to feed my family, but I’m sure there was a fresher alternative — maybe that’s what his Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie is supposed to be, now that I think about it, there’s no reason you couldn’t throw some curry in that dish.

I followed the recipe as written, but also had to cook a few bone-in chicken breasts which made for a bit more work than I originally thought. Aside from that, though, this dish requires some prep and then lots of throwing the next batch of ingredients in the pot before putting everything in a baking dish, topping with puff pastry and cooking in the oven.

The curry really makes this dish something special, turing the pot pie-esque dish of poultry, veggies and gravy into something that feels a little exotic and deeper tasting.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Fusilli With Sausage, Artichokes & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

After seeing Giada De Laurentiis’ Chicken Saltimbocca, I decided to stick with a theme and look around at some of her other recipes on Food Network. I also came upon a nice sounding pasta called Fusilli With Sausage, Artichokes & Sun-Dried Tomatoes that I tried and knocked out of the park. The only change I made to the ingredient list, aside from a few measurements that didn’t quite match up, was switching the sausage from hot Italian to sweet Italian, one that better suited our tastes.

As you can see, the recipe is actually pretty simple, just tossing the ingredients into the pot at different times and letting them do their thing. I always try to consolidate the number of plates or dishes on my counter while cooking, which meant I combined the sun dried tomatoes, chicken broth and wine in one measuring cup. I’d like to think that, in addition to being more efficient, this also makes the flavors more intense and mingled, but I have no idea.

By adding the mozzarella at the very end you go from a really great sausage and artichoke pasta dish to one that almost has a mac and cheese feel to it. Everything’s so warm and gooey and sweet and and tangy that it really is a party in your mouth, one I hope to have again soon.

Making Nigella Lawson’s Toad In A Hole

How can you not at least stop and read a recipe called Toad In The Hole? That’s what happened to me while looking through Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Kitchen and landed on page 452 (you can also check it out on her website here). I saw the picture of an overflowing bread-thing, then read the name and was already in even before I discovered the main protein in the dish is sausage!

The beauty of this recipe is how simple it is. You mix up the batter ingredients and then cook the sausage. Instead of getting sausage in cases, removing them from the cases and then making patties, I simply bought the loose variety and cooked it without forming in the pan. Once that was all done, the batter got poured in and the whole pan went into the oven. Bingo bango.

While that cooked, I whipped up an onion gravy the recipe of which was on the same page but doesn’t seem to be on her site. All you need to do for this is cook two finely sliced onions in oil for 10 minutes before adding two teaspoons of sugar and letting cook for another 3 minutes. At that point, add in four teaspoons of flour, two cups of beef broth and a few glugs of red wine (I had merlot).

As Lawson says in the intro to the recipe, this makes for a perfect weekend meal because it doesn’t take too much work and it’s super filling, rich and tasty. I liked how the loose sausage really integrated into the entire bread aspect of the dish and would recommend going for that if you’re trying the recipe. I like sausage patties for breakfast, but if you want the best distribution, try loose.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’s Chicken Saltimbocca

My two favorite words when writing about food are “simple” and “delicious.” Don’t get me wrong, I love spending a good part of a day crafting a dish, but that’s so rarely feasible. I would easily label Giada De Laurentiis’ Chicken Saltimbocca with both, plus lots of smiley faces and thumbs up.

I’d never heard of Chicken Saltimbocca before and just stumbled across it while looking around on Food Network’s website a while back. I was sold, though, when I saw that it was basically a chicken, spinach, prosciutto and Parmesan cheese roll up. And the recipe is really that simple. You flatten out some chicken breasts, then add a piece of prosciutto, then some spinach, a sprinkle of cheese and then roll it up and run through with a tooth pick. Once you’ve got all your roll-ups prepared, you cooking them in some olive oil until all sides are browned. At that point you don’t take the pinwheels out, instead you add chicken stock and lemon juice and simmer for 1o minutes which really gets that lemony goodness into the dish.

When the chicken is finally done, you cook the remaining stock down into a sauce and serve over the chicken. I also threw some asparagus in the stove with a little olive oil, salt and lemon pepper and cooked for about 10 minutes which offered a simple side that carried over some of the citrus elements.

I still seem to struggle every week when attempting to put together a meal, but I think this meal will start appearing more regularly because it’s just so damn delicious. And simple.

Making Burgers With Home-Ground Beef

With a meat grinder on hand, I just had to make burgers sooner or later. It wound up being sooner rather than later, though I’m just getting to the post now because of all kinds of business. From the pictures it looks like I forgot to snap a picture of the cut of meat I used to make the burgers, but I believe it was a tenderloin. I read a tip in one of my newer books that suggested freezing the meat for an hour or so before grinding which allows for it to be cubed easier and also grind a little better. I’ve done this with every grind I’ve done and the results have been great.

The ground beef went into the bowl with some chopped onion, grated Asiago cheese and a mixture of seasoning that I pulled from the pantry. I don’t usually plan these things ahead of time and tend to wing it, but I did actually write down what I used this time which means I’m learning at least a little bit as I continue to write about cooking. This time around, I went with an interesting mixture of salt, pepper, steak seasoning, dried mint and Garam Masala. That last one is an Indian spice that I have left over from a recipe I didn’t write about.

Once the patties were formed, they went into two of the cast iron pots we have. I remember seeing a show about burgers on Food Network or Travel Channel and they showed cooks covering their burgers with lids to really get the cheese melted on there. I’ve tried that the last few times I’ve made burgers and you definitely get a much better cheese melt. The rest of the dish just involved getting things prepped: slicing some tomato, cutting lettuce and getting the condiments ready.

I would love to tell you that I could instantly taste the difference between these home-ground burgers and ones made with the store-ground stuff, but I can’t. It’s not that these burgers weren’t good, I just don’t know if I have the kind of palette memory that allows for such comparisons. I do know that these were good burgers. Maybe I’ll even try this combination again next time!

Drinking Breakfast Has Never Been So Colorful

morning shake I hate writing this every few months or so, but sorry about the lack of posts lately. If you read my Photo Diary posts over on Pop Poppa, you’ll know that I’ve been swamped with work this week and then just didn’t get my head around writing about food again until today. Since it’s morning, I figured it would make thematic sense to talk about what I’ve been having for breakfast the past week or so: breakfast shakes!

My parents visit the week before my birthday and my mom was making herself shakes with frozen strawberries and a few other ingredients. It reminded me of the time I did much the same thing for myself for breakfast. I’ve been wanting to make sure to get the proper amount of fruits and vegetables back in my diet these days and I’m terrible at remembering breakfast, so I started a new routine that will kill two birds with one stone.

Like with the burgers you’ll see later today, I like to mix things up when I make them. I think I’d go a little crazy making the same shake every morning, so each day offers a different combination of the following basic ingredients: Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, fresh fruit, milk and sometimes a vegetable or two.

Hannaford just started carrying their own bran of Greek yogurt which is cheaper than the major brand name stuff. I also use the store’s frozen berry mix for that portion of the beverage. For fresh fruit, I always use a banana and then whatever else we have around like mango or Lu’s half cut pears or apples from the day before. Vegetable-wise, I just started adding a carrot to the proceedings. Everything goes into the blender along with some milk which helps give the frozen stuff a medium to get all chopped up in.

Here’s a note for those of you who made and froze food for your babies: you can use leftovers in breakfast shakes! Now that Lu’s on to eating whatever we eat for lunch and dinner we’ve got a few bags of frozen concoctions still hanging out in our freezer. I went through the strawberries and banana first and just finished up an apple/blueberry combination that went into the shake pictured above. I actually want to figure out that recipe because it made for some really good liquid breakfast!

I’ve thought about adding some protein powder or maybe another kind of dietary supplement to the shakes, but still haven’t decided if I want to take that next step. I already take a multivitamin and fish oil capsules, so I don’t know if that would serve me well, but I might give it a shot, even if that means I’ll have a chalkier drink in the mornings.