Spoon Bread

Can I be honest here? The name of this recipe confused me. A lot.

At first, I thought it meant you mixed it with a  spoon. Except you use a whisk for the preparation.

Then, I thought it meant you ate it with a spoon. Except you cut it into squares. 

 What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Thank you, Shakespeare, for identifying the fact that the name of this bread doesn’t reflect what it really is.

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Spoon Bread – adapted from Rebecca Rather

More pudding-like than bread-like, it reminds me of a very soft cornbread. We all loved it though,  and leftovers are wonderful warmed up and served with a side of jam.

3 1/2 cups milk
2 tbs. unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking dish. Heat the milk and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low and slowly sprinkle in the cornmeal, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the baking powder, then the eggs, one at a time, beating until the batter is smooth and the eggs are thoroughly incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until golden and puffy. Cut into squares, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Chicken Chile Verde

Last week, I was standing in our local market, looking in the produce department for inspiration as to what to make for dinner. I ran through the usual list of suspects – cauliflower (just made a fabulous souffle that I haven’t posted yet), collard greens (made those recently too), eggplant (hmmm, haven’t made eggplant parmigiana lately), and then, I spotted the tomatillos. I thought to myself, someday I’ll make something with those, since I’ve never prepared them before. I’ve encountered more than a few recipes for them (especially here in Texas), but have never taken the leap and actually bought them.

Until now. As luck (or fate, whichever you prefer) would have it, the current issue of Food and Wine showed up in my mailbox that very same day, and the recipe for Chicken Chile Verde practically jumped off the page at me. It was sign from the tomatillo gods, I was sure of it. I went back to the market that afternoon, grabbed a pound of the paper-covered green orbs, and set about making this chile. I did come home first, I didn’t actually start cooking right then and there, but I think that’s kind of a given, isn’t it? Although I’m sure my popularity would have increased dramatically if I had cooked in the middle of the market….

Anyway, this recipe gets extra props for being exceptionally simple to prepare and extremely good. In fact, the leftovers were turned into Chile Verde enchiladas, which the posse will enjoy this evening – while J and I dine with the Queen Mother (and Dad!) for her birthday. Something about crab legs for her (that’s crab with a “c”, not a “k”…) and copious amounts of pasta, chicken parmigiana and wine.

Disclaimer: The first part of the last sentence is true, the second part of the sentence may be what I’m hoping for ….

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Chicken Chile Verde – adapted from Food and Wine

  • 2 poblano chiles
  • 1 pound tomatillos—husked, rinsed and quartered
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large jalapeño, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 white onion, minced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Steamed rice, chopped avocado and sour cream, for serving

Roast the poblanos and jalapeño directly over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning, until charred all over. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Peel, stem and seed the poblanos and jalapeño, then cut into 1/2-inch dice.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, and sauce until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatillos, water,  poblanos, jalapeño, garlic and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

In a blender, combine the boiled vegetables with the cilantro and reserved cooking liquid and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining onion and the poblanos and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the sauce and bring to a boil, then simmer over moderate heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve the chile verde with steamed rice, avocado and sour cream.

Beef Bourguignonne Pot Pie

Sometimes, in life, one must give credit where credit is due. And this, my friends, is that time. Right here, right now.

Can I be honest with you? …..like I would lie.… Seriously, I totally nailed this pot pie. I mean, it was perfect. Like I impressed myself “perfect”. And as we all know, we do tend to be our own worst critic. But not the other night, and not with this. Lest you think that I might break my arm patting myself on the back, the other three members of the house wholeheartedly agreed with me on this one.

It was “absolutely delicious, honey”, “really good, Mom, and “wow, Mom, your pie-crust making skills have really improved”.

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An A+ dinner, and one for the record books.

Beef Bourguignonne Pot Pie – adapted from Bon Appetit

The only major change I made to the recipe was to use my new favorite pie crust, instead of the puff pastry originally called for. Oh, and I used wine instead of broth. Because I think it tastes better :)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbs. all-purpose flour
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  •  pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2″ pieces
  • slices bacon cut into ¼” pieces
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, finely chopped
  • garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbs. brandy
  • 4 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • cups red wine
  • 5 tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 8 ounces pearl onions, peeled (I used frozen) 
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (two 14-oz. packages or one 17.3-oz. package), thawed
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

Position a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400°. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high. Season ½ cup flour with pepper. Add beef and toss to coat; shake off excess. Working in batches as needed to avoid steaming meat, cook beef, turning often, until browned all over, 8–10 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Cook bacon in same pot, stirring often, until brown and crisp. Add ¼ cup wine and cook, scraping up browned bits, then add onion, leek, and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and parsley and return beef to pot. Add brandy and simmer until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add thyme leaves, bay leaf, and wine and season with pepper; bring to a simmer. Mix 1 tbs. flour and 1 tbs. butter in a small bowl until smooth; stir into meat mixture. Cover pot and braise in oven until beef is very tender, 1–1½ hours.

Melt remaining 4 tbs. butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and pearl onions and cook, stirring, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Season with pepper. Add mushrooms and onions to stew, cover pot, and return to oven. Cook until onions are very tender, 25–30 minutes. Let stew cool.

Meanwhile, working with one at a time, roll out pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface until about 4” larger than baking dish (use a 2-qt. oval or an 8” square). Place 1 sheet on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill. Transfer remaining sheet to baking dish. Lift up edge and let dough slump down into dish. Trim, leaving about 1” overhang. Transfer stew to baking dish. Brush edge of pastry with egg.

Using a cutter, punch out a circle in the center of chilled pastry. Drape pastry over filling and trim to a 1” overhang. Press edges of dough together to seal and fold overhang under. Crimp edge, then brush top of pastry with egg. Bake until crust is deep golden brown, 30–35 minutes. Let pie cool slightly.

Cock-A-Leekie Pie

Here’s the pie I made for dinner that caused a few raised eyebrows and snickers the other evening:

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It took one bite for me to come to the conclusion that this is simply a glorified chicken pot pie - which is hugely popular in this house – and twice as delicious since it has a top and bottom crust.

All about the carbs around here. 

But wait….. can we take a moment to appreciate how nice the crust looks? I’ve been practicing and perfecting my ability to make pie dough for about three weeks now, and it’s nice to see my hard work paying off. I changed crust recipes and the one below is my newest favorite. The other recipe that I usually use is more cookie-like, which is perfect for desserts, but not so much for savory dishes.

However, I think the family might be secretly plotting to take away my rolling pin and pie pans, since pie has been the featured dessert more than they might have cared for in the past few weeks……

Anyway, I’m pleased with the outcome of the crust AND the pie filling – this was very simple to make and I can definitely say I will be making it again.

Cock-A-Leekie Pie – adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 6 tbs. unsalted butter, divided
  • slices bacon cut into ¼” pieces
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
  •  cup all-purpose flour, plus more
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup milk
2 disks of pie dough (recipe below)
Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 375°. Melt 2 tbs.. butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook bacon, stirring often, until crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Season chicken with pepper and cook in same skillet until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add leeks to skillet, season with pepper, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl. Shred chicken and add to leeks along with thyme leaves.
Melt remaining 4 tbs. butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in ⅓ cup flour and cook, whisking constantly, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Whisk in milk and wine, adding a little at a time, until smooth. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5–7 minutes. Mix sauce into leek mixture; season with pepper. Let cool.
Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to a 14” round. Transfer to a 10” cast-iron skillet or a 9½”-diameter deep pie dish. Lift up edge and let dough slump down into dish. Trim, leaving a 1” overhang. Spoon filling into skillet. Roll out second disk of dough to 11” round. Drape over filling and trim to a 1” overhang. Fold overhang under; crimp with a fork. Cut a few vents in top; brush with egg. Bake until crust is golden brown, 50–60 minutes. Let pie cool slightly.

My New Favorite Pie Crust – adapted from Add  A Pinch

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4-5 tablespoons ice water

Butter a 9-inch pie plate or skillet and set aside.

Pour the flour into a large bowl. Cut in the shortening and butter with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, or use your hands (my preferred method!).

Gradually add enough ice water to the mixture while mixing with a fork until a ball of dough is formed.

Pour the dough onto a lightly floured sheet of plastic wrap and form into a disc. Lightly flour the top of the pie dough and place another sheet of plastic wrap on top. Rolling from the center, roll until the dough is about a ⅛-inch thickness. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap, fold the dough over and lay across the pie plate and remove the bottom piece of plastic wrap. Press the pie dough lightly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Cover the pie plate with a piece of the plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to overnight.

 

Pork and Poblano Pepper Tamale Pie

Now that the posse are back in school and life has resumed a bit of normalcy, I have found the time to get back into my exercise groove. Let’s be honest here, I just didn’t make the time over the past 6 weeks.

Honestly.

After completing my 30 day workout challenge to myself (and succeeding!), I took a break and enjoyed myself immensely over the holidays. Now, however, with a wedding to plan (sweet!), a house to build (yay for a spacious abode!), and three (count’em, THREE!) epic birthdays coming up in less than 6 months, I need want must have my exercise time to sort everything out in my head and plan accordingly.

And while I might not be able to micro-plan every event, I can at least figure out dinners a bit ahead of time.

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Pork and Poblano Tamale Pie – adapted from Epicurious

  • 2 ounces fresh poblano chiles* (about 4 large)
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen corn kernels, thawed (or 1 15 oz can, drained)
  • 2 tbs. vegetable oil or olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds trimmed boneless country-style pork ribs, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups chopped white onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup purchased salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Cornbread topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream

For pie filling:  

Char poblano chiles and bell pepper directly over flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Transfer chiles and bell pepper to large bowl; cover and let steam 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop chiles and bell pepper.

Coarsely puree corn kernels in processor and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with pepper. Working in batches, add pork to pot and sauté until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to medium bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pot, then add chopped onions and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add ground spices, garlic, and oregano; stir 1 minute. Return pork and any accumulated juices to pot. Add salsa verde and bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover partially and simmer 30 minutes. Add chopped chiles, chopped bell pepper, and corn puree to pork mixture; cover partially and simmer until pork is very tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 15 minutes longer. Season pie filling to taste with coarse salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Pie filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm pie filling, stirring over medium heat, before continuing.Transfer pie filling to 10-inch-diameter 2 1/2-inch-deep ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron). Stir in chopped cilantro.

For cornbread topping:  

Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk flour, yellow cornmeal, baking powder, and chili powder in large bowl to blend. Whisk milk, melted butter, and egg in medium bowl to blend.  Stir in shredded cheese and drop cornbread batter by large spoonfuls atop pie filling. Spread cornbread batter evenly to cover pie filling completely.

Bake tamale pie until cornbread topping is deep golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve tamale pie hot, passing sour cream alongside.

Spinach Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese

This project is proving to be a bit more challenging than I previously imagined. Challenging is a much shorter term than oh-lord-I-really-need-to-put-more-brainpower-into-this. You might think I’m referencing my goal of taking better pictures this year. Well, yes……… and no.

Yes that’s a goal, but not here, not today, not this minute.

What I’m actually referring to is the design on the Ranch house. J and I spent some time yesterday to redo  the kitchen and utility room layout. Holy smokes – ‘redo’ is an understatement – ‘completely redesigned’ is more like it. As I may have mentioned before, being in this rental house for the past 8 months was probably one of the best ideas we’ve had, because now we have a clear understanding of how we work together in the kitchen (exceptionally well!) and what we need/want to have at the Ranch. And we have determined that we need a lot more counter space, storage space, and (for him) workshop space.

And J has come up with a design for the posse’s bedrooms that is simply genius. That’s why he’s the brains of this operation :)

So while it’s safe to say that my photography skills have not improved thus far, we are only two days into the new year, and that means there’s plenty of time for improvement.

Seriously though, this was one of those recipes that was so good, and so easy – and based on the fact that there weren’t any leftovers, I do believe that it is a keeper.

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Spinach Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese – adapted from Food Network

12 oz pasta
4 tbs. unsalted butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 tbs. all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
3 cups lightly packed shredded white cheddar cheese
1 generous cup shredded mozzarella cheese
One 10 -ounce bag baby spinach
One 15 oz can artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Position an oven rack at the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta half of the recommended cooking time. Drain and set the pasta aside.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, and whisk constantly until it begins to toast, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, and stir constantly until the mixture is thick like gravy, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar cheese. Once the cheese has melted, add the spinach, and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the artichoke hearts, pasta, and pepper. Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish.

Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the pasta. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce

Christmas Eve is two weeks away.

Two weeks!

I don’t know ’bout y’all, but I’m sitting here drinking wine, perusing the latest Sur La Table catalog and making lists for our Christmas holiday feast. And I’m in a bit of a quandary…… so perhaps you can help. Do I stay with the “it’s the holidays and I should make the traditional dishes”? Or…. branch out into something new and different?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to serve this beef stew for Christmas Dinner, as wonderful as that sounds. I’m thinking more along the lines of our usual Italian favorites for Christmas Eve, and then venture into the English territory for Prime Rib with popovers on Christmas Day.

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Well, I guess I just answered my own question….

In all seriousness though, I do have a few new ideas on the agenda, most notably the Kouigns Amann from this book (which I gave myself as an early Christmas present)… and the Creme Brûlée tart from this book. Aside from that, I think it’s going to be the traditional route all the way!

Oh…. one more thing…. this stew? Definitely on the menu when Mom and Dad arrive. They will love it. Although I served it over polenta for us, I’m thinking they’ll appreciate it on a bed of mashed potatoes a bit more.

A bed of mashed potatoes sounds quite nice right about now……

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce – adapted from Jacques Pepin

  • 1 tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds trimmed beef flatiron steak or chuck, cut into 8 pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbs. all-purpose flour
  • One 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 8 slices thick cut bacon
  • 15 pearl or small cipollini onions, peeled
  • 15 cremini mushrooms
  • 15 baby carrots, peeled
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Arrange the meat in the casserole in a single layer and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 8 minutes. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the meat with it. Add the wine, bay leaves and thyme, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

Cover the casserole and transfer it to the oven. Cook the stew for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is flavorful.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Add the pearl onions, mushrooms and carrots. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and cook over high heat, tossing, until the vegetables are tender and nicely browned, about 4 minutes.

To serve, stir some of the vegetables into the stew and scatter the rest on top as a garnish. Top with a little chopped parsley and serve.