Archive for ‘Sauces’

April 25, 2011

Un-Traditional Easter Dinner

Since our family had to postpone Easter dinner until next weekend, I decided to make Braciole for Easter. It’s a dish I attempted and failed at before so it was time for another try.

Braciole is an Italian dish made with steak (sirloin pounded into think strips, or flank steak pounded to about a 1/4’”) stuffed with bread crumbs, cheese, and herbs, then stewed in a tomato sauce.

Technique: Braising. Braising and stewing begin with searing meats to lock in the moisture and create a good crust on the meat. Another great side effect of Braising is the sauce. Braising uses a small amount of liquid so by the end of the cooking process the sauce has reduced and developed deeper flavors.

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I begin with the tomato sauce since it should simmer for 30-minutes, then I use that time to make the stuffing and prepare the steak.

Tomato Sauce

2 cloves of garlic

1 onion, finely diced

8oz mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup white wine

crushed red pepper

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

4-5 basil leaves

salt and pepper

In an oven safe pot saute the onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper in olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the mushrooms until they are softened. Deglaze the pan with the wine and allow to cook about 3 minutes.

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Stir in the tomatoes, salt and pepper and let the sauce cook for about 30 minutes on medium-low heat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

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After 30 minutes add the torn basil leaves to the tomato mixture and stir.

Steak

1 flank steak

1/2 c bread crumbs

2 eggs

1/4 c parmesan cheese

1/2 bunch of parsley

1 clove garlic

salt and pepper

NOTE: Add other ingredients to the stuffing such as, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, green onion, spinach, mushrooms, etc…

(Next time I am going to try spinach, provolone and sun dried tomatoes, and I won’t process it in the food processor).

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Place all the stuffing ingredients in a food processor and process until it’s paste-like.

Lay the steak out on a cutting board and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Spread the stuffing over the steak, then roll it up starting with the narrow end.

Tie the ends and middle with kitchen twine. Sear the steak on all sides until it is brown, then add it to the tomato sauce. Cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. The longer you cook it the more tender the meat.

I served the Braciole with roasted asparagus and basil butter orzo.

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February 25, 2011

Slow-Cooker Lasagna

Okay people, this is a super easy recipe for Lasagna and it’s AMAZING to me that the noodles go in uncooked. What!? you say? Yes no pre-cooking necessary! Cooking the noodles is the biggest pain in the butt, to me.  Bringing water to a boil, cooking noodles in batches and then working with hot noodles…ugh it sucks and takes the most time!

The most amazing part about this recipe? Are you ready for this because I think it’s a shocker! I made LASAGNA the day before I moved to a new house – with 95% of my kitchen packed in boxes! YES! It is THAT easy!

The slow cooker to the rescue! Most of the work of lasagna can be done all at once – cook your noodles and make a homemade sauce that develops deep flavor with minimal effort. (seriously whoever invented the slow cooker is GENIUS!) If you are like me I like to use homemade marinara or tomato sauce for my lasagna and it takes hours to cook. Then you still have to cook the noodles, and then assemble the whole thing.  The prep time in this recipe is significantly less! (Note: I love white lasagna and am not sure how well the white sauce will hold up in the crockpot, I’ll let you know when I try it).

Alter this recipe using ingredients you like. The sauce below is just a simple sauce I use for weekenights and is not the good tomato sauce I always use, but I was moving so didn’t have any sauce pans out. Don’t hesitate to use your favorite store-bought sauce too. Mix it up a bit and use different meat – or no meat. I used sausage because that is my favorite.

2-28oz cans crushed tomatoes (I used diced but think crushed would work better)
2 teaspoons herbs de provence (or basil, oregano, thyme mixture)
1 clove garlic, smashed  (or 1-2 teaspoons garlic powder)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 cranks of fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 large container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 cup mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper
1 large package of spinach
1 pound ground beef, chicken, pork, sausage (optional)
1 box of regular lasagna noodles (not the no cook kind)

Brown the meat and set aside.

If you use your own homemade sauce – start it like you would normally and once it is completely assembled and to the point in  your recipe that all it needs to do is simmer, it is ready to be used in the slow cooker lasagna (remember it’ll cook for 3-4 hours in the slow cooker.

Mix the first 7 ingredients together in one bowl.

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In another bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella and salt and pepper, set aside.

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Assemble:

1.   Put a little sauce in the bottom of the slow cooker;
2.  top with uncooked lasagna noodles. You may have to break the noodles into pieces to make sure you cover the bottom of the slow cooker (don’t hold back make sure you fully cover each layer with noodles even if they are little pieces, nobody will know!);
3.   add two cups of spinach (it looks like a lot but it will cook down);
4.   add 1 cup or so of sauce;
5.   dollop 1 cup or so of the ricotta mixture, then smooth it around;
6.   top with a layer of noodles;
7.   repeat another layer or two (or until you run out of ingredients;
8.   end with sauce and top with mozzarella cheese.

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Cover and turn the slow cooker on low for 3-4 hours, or until the noodles (in the center) are tender.

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February 6, 2011

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meyer lemons are one of my favorites fruits, sweeter than traditional store-bought lemons with a floral smell to them. As my daughter explained, they smell like a flower. Fortunately, for me, my friend Charlie had some Meyer Lemons to share with me. Thank you Charlie! (Your marmalade is on it’s way!)

This recipe is from Simply Recipes. This is my first attempt at marmalade – mind you, I have never made jam or jelly before. Going into it I knew making marmalade would be a process and during the process I wished I had taken one of Linda’s canning/jam classes to boost my confidence. Nonetheless, here I am winging it on my own, recipe in hand, and pruned fingers (from preparing the lemons). Preparing the fruit took a lot longer than I anticipated. Throughout the whole process I was feeling a little unsure of my skills – and I was hoping I didn’t just waste 2 1/2 pounds of Meyer lemons.

  • 2 1/2 lbs of Meyer lemons (about 9 lemons)
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cups granulated sugar

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You will need to go through the long process of cutting the lemons in half, then quarter each half. Peel off any of the membrane that is easy to get to, cut off the pith from the middle of the lemon, and remove any seeds setting all this aside to use to make pectin. Once you clean out the membranes, pith and seeds, slice the quarters into thin pieces of lemon (think how big of a piece of fruit you would want to eat). (Note: the portion of lemon segments to water to sugar is 1:1:1 so weigh your lemons)

FIRST STAGE OF COOKING

Place the seeds, pith, and membranes in a double layer of cheese cloth, tie it up into a bag to become pectin. Place the lemons, water, and pectin bag in a pot.

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This is the first stage of cooking. Bring the water to a boil on medium high heat. Cook the lemons until they are softened. 25-35 minutes. Test one of the lemons make sure they are soft and not the least bit chewy. Any chewiness and you need to cook them a bit longer.

Remove the pot from the heat, and remove the pectin bag to a bowl to cool until it is cool enough to touch. Squeeze the pectin from the bag and add it to the lemon mixture.

SECOND STAGE OF COOKING

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This is is the second and final stage of cooking – add the sugar to the lemon mixture and turn the heat back on to about medium-high and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. This is the stage where you have to be very careful not to have the heat up too high so the fruit doesn’t burn. Also, be careful not to over cook the marmalade otherwise you get a gooey marmalade instead of a jelly one – that is how mine came out – more gooey than I wanted.

The marmalade may take anywhere between 20-35 minutes at this point. After about 15 minutes start checking it often. I put 3 or 4 spoons in the freezer and had them read to check.

If you put the jelly mixture on the spoon and it spreads out and thins immediately it is not done yet. If it holds it shape when it hits the spoon and then wrinkles a little when you push it with your finger that means you are good to go! Remove the pan from the heat.

CANNING

Make sure you have some glass canning jars.

I washed all my lids and jars in the dishwasher and when they were done washing I put the jars on the cookie sheet and put them in a 200°F oven while my marmalade was in the second stage of cooking. (they should be in there at least 10 minutes before using).

Using a ladle (to ensure you have evenly dispersed lemons) pour the marmalade into the jars, leaving about 1/4” head space in the jar for a vacuum seal. Making sure your lids are dry and you wipe the rim of the jar clean with a towel or wet paper towel. Place the lids on your marmalade and let sit out on the counter overnight.

You will hear “pop” sounds as the vacuum seal is created.

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Makes 6-8 half-pint jars.

In the end, some were impressed but I did not like the marmalade as much as I hoped I would. A friend had some Blue Chair Jam, Lemon Marmalade that I tried and I did not much like that one either. There is a particular taste that I do not care for that I tasted in both my and the Blue Chair version– but you may love this! It sure does look pretty though!

November 1, 2010

Pan Dripping Turkey Gravy

This recipe is a traditional type pan dripping gravy, with a twist. The turkey stock is made with roasted turkey wings to add depth to the stock. This gravy recipe is a collaboration of difference sources. I was watching Tyler Florence on Food Network one year and Tyler made gravy with a roasted turkey wing stock and I have made my stock for gravy with a roasted turkey wing stock ever since. Roasting wings is much easier than making an enitire roasted turkey or chicken. The wings have a lot of flavor so you will not miss out on using the entire bird. The base for my gravy I learned from my mom, which she learned from my grandmother. The milk idea I picked up from a friend one Thanksgiving and the brown gravy mix I have heard numerous people say they add to their gravy for added depth. So this recipe is a melting pot of tips and tricks I have picked up over the years. Enjoy!

Serves 6-8

Turkey Stock:

  • 2 Turkey Wings
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 sprigs thyme
  • water
  • salt and pepper

Gravy:

  • pan drippings from roasted turkey
  • butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups turkey stock (see above)
  • 1 packet brown gravy mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. Roast wings for 2 ½ hours.
  3. Chop onion, celery, carrots and sauté in butter.
  4. Add thyme bay leaf and wings (with drippings from the roasting pan). Cover with water and bring to a boil. Skim any foam and reduce the heat and simmer for 1 ½ – 2 hours until the water reduces.
  5. Strain off the solids and cool the stock if you will freeze it, or use it right away.

Turkey Stock

  1. GRAVY:Once you remove your roasted turkey from the pan, place the whole roasting pan over the med-low heat on the stovetop (my roasting pan takes up two burners so I turn both on med-low heat). Or transfer the pan drippings to a pot.
  2. Once the pan drippings are bubbly add enough butter to make about ½ cup of fat. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring frequently about 2 minutes.
  3. Once the roux is golden brown whisk in the turkey stock, milk and gravy mix packet, salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. (I add the milk to help cut the greasiness from the turkey drippings but keep the flavor of the drippings).
  4. Simmer until the gravy has thickened to your likeness, about 10 minutes.
I submitted this recipe for a contest with Food52 which all winners will be added to the Food 52 cookbook that results from the year of contests. As well as the chance to win some money to Williams Sonoma, and other gift packages from Viking cookeware, and OXO. Wish me luck! Hope you try this gravy this holiday season, it’s super good! I will be making my wing stock shortly!
October 3, 2010

Vodka Sauce

My weekend “relaxing at home” usually consists of turning on Food Network or the Cooking Channel and writing up my weekly menu plan and playing in my kitchen cooking up some recipe on my mind.

This particular weekend I was watching the Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten (who by the way has provided so much inspiration to me, as a woman who started out working at the White House on the nuclear energy policy, decided one day she was going to quit her job and do something so completely opposite and open a specialty food store – and she became crazy successful!). This episode Ina had a guest chef who was sharing a recipe from his restaurant.  Apparently the recipe was one which the owners of the restaurant was able to learn from a chef on a trip to Italy. So this is an authentic dish from Italy!   

  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

    In and oven safe pot (I used my brand new Le Cruset cast iron dutch oven) Over medium heat saute the onion in the olive oil until it becomes translucent, add the garlic and sautee until the onion becomes a little carmelized. (Don’t burn the onion or garlic otherwise you will get a very bitter flavor in your sauce).

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    Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute.  Then add the vodka and allow it to reduce a little.  Now you want to add the tomatoes, crush each whole tomato in your hand before you add it to the pan, then add the liquid and stir. Add salt and pepper. I would add at least 1/2 tablespoon of salt, the tomatoes are not very salty.

    Cover the pot and place in the oven for for 1 1/2 hours.

    Remove the sauce from the oven and cool.  At this point you can place the sauce in a jar and put it in the fridge and finish for another day. Or cool it enough to place the sauce in a blender and puree.

    Next put the sauce back in the pan and add resh oregano, heavy cream and some more salt and pepper. Cook aout 10 minutes.

    Serve over pasta with grated parmesan cheese. (pictured here with my Meatballs)