Archive for March, 2010

Dear Mom and Willie,

I love sausages, but I usually cook them the same way: I like to grill or saute them so they have a nice crispness. So I wanted to try something different, and when I stumbled across a sausage stew online I thought it sounded great. I didn’t follow that recipe exactly, but I loved the idea of stewing whole sausages. I seasoned the sauce with hot paprika, a little bit of cayenne and lots of aromatic vegetables. The sausages were delicious – soft and tender – I didn’t miss the little bit of rust at all. In fact, they seemed even juicier and more flavorful than I was used to.  Best of all – it was all made it one pot!!!

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1 head fennel, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp brown mustard
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups tomatoes, finely diced
2 tsp paprika
pinch cayenne pepper
6 chicken sausages

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, pepper, and fennel and saute until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Stir in the ketchup, mustard, and cider vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir in the paprika and cayenne. Add the sausages, and toss to cover them in sauce. Simmer the sausages over medium heat until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with rice or pasta, if you like!


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Dear Mom and Willie,

I’ve been so busy with photo shoots at work that it was hard to think about what to make – my head was swarming with the dishes that I’d already seen prepared during the week. Luckily, we did have a few bean-based dishes which helped inspire me.  I love white beans because they are almost creamy in texture – I thought I might use them as a substitute for pasta, by stewing them with some herbs and tomatoes. The result was great as a side dish, and the addition of some bacon, sausage, or grilled chicken would make it an awesome entree as well.  I often use canned beans to save time, but a dish like this is really better if you soak and cook the beans yourself – lots more flavor!

Here’s what you’ll need:

(Makes enough to serve four as a side)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups white beans, cooked (soak the beans overnight, then cook them in water or broth until tender)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup broccoli, roughly chopped (you can blanch it briefly in boiling water: 2-3 minutes)
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary

-Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Deglaze with the tomato paste. Stir in the beans, season with salt and pepper. Let the mixture simmer until the flavor blends, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomatoes, broccolini, and rosemary and stew until it has good flavor, about 4-5 minutes more.

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Dear Willie and Erin, 

     It is so much fun to see how creative you both are in the kitchen!  When Willie was quite young we used to watch The Frugal Gourmet and Willie would often make us get pencil and paper to write down the recipe if it appealed to him.  He watched the show quite intently with as much dedication as Saturday morning cartoons.  Erin and a neighborhood friend often played “cooking show” in our kitchen on River Heights Road.  I guess we are a family that is pretty immersed in eating, cooking, thinking about, talking about, and even watching others cook food.  I went for family tradition this week with chicken paprikash which brings back many childhood memories of Grandma Nagy and our Hungarian heritage.  There is nothing difficult about this dish and by using store-bought gnocchi instead of homemade dumplings, it was a quick and comforting meal.  It was made extra special though because I used the Hungarian paprika that Erin brought us back from Hungary when she visited there last summer; that was quite a treat for me!!  On the side we had some steamed cabbage made special with the addition browned butter and shallots.  This would easily serve six:

For the Chicken Paprikash

  • 1 chicken, cut up
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 2 onions
  • oil for browning meat and onions
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • gnocchi, noodles, or pasta cooked according to package directions

Season the chicken well with salt, pepper, and some of the paprika; brown on all sides, remove from pan and set aside.  Add the onions to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and transluscent.  Add the garlic and the paprika to the onions and cook for about 1 minute stirring constantly.  Lower the heat if necessary so that you don’t burn the paprika.  Add about 1 cup of broth to the paprika/onion mixture and then return the chicken to the pan.  Simmer chicken in paprika broth for ten minutes, then turn all the chicken pieces and continue cooking for ten more minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pan.  Add the rest of the broth to the pan and continue heating.  Meanwhile, combine the flour and the sour cream, whisking until smooth.  Add the sour cream mixture to the heated (but not boiling) broth and stir with a whisk until smooth.  Return the chicken to the pan with any juices and heat on very low heat for 5-10 minutes.  While the chicken is simmering, heat a large pot with boiling salted water and cook your gnocchi, noodles, or pasta according to package directions.  When the pasta is done, combine it with the chicken and sour cream sauce and serve.

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Dear Mom and Erin,
This weekend I roasted a chicken and have been using the meat to make the dishes from this Cheap Healthy Good post.  I got very excited about it when I started reading the post but my excitement faded when I actually saw the first dish, picadillo. I remember mom making picadillo occasionally when I was younger and being baffled why there were sweet raisins mixed with my meat.  It was bad enough when she would ruin the gravy by adding raisins, but at least that could be omitted from the meat. I still thought roasting a chicken was a good idea and thought I would just find something to replace the picadillo. 
The more I thought about it, the more it acctually started to sound appealing.  I could see the sweetness of the raisins really adding something to the dish.  Somehow I knew instantly that now if I had it I would absolutely love it.  It suddenly became the dish I was the most excited for this week.  I knew then I had another Valentino’s moment.
It turned out wonderfully.  I didn’t actually grind up the chicken (probably rendering it not technically picadillo given its linguistic origins). Instead I shredded it.  We served it with rice and black beans.


Chicken Picadillo

  • 1  pound  skinless, boneless roasted chicken
  • 2  teaspoons  olive oil
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  ground cumin
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 4  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  cup  bottled salsa
  • 1/3  cup  golden raisins
  • 1/4  cup  slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh cilantro, more for garnish

Shred chicken fine.  Heat oil and cook onions.   Add cumin, cinnamon, salt and garlic and cook a bit longer.  Add chicken, salsa, raisins and cook till warmed through.  Take off heat and add almonds and cilantro.

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Dear Willie and Mom,

When I’m not sure what to cook for dinner, I usually grab ground meat. The same can be said for Matt – if he’s in charge of the shopping, he often comes home with it (usually a hint to make one of his favorites – meatballs or meatloaf). So this week’s chicken challenge made me want to bring out my favorite – giant chicken meatballs filled with onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes and doused in good tomato sauce. I often sear my meatballs first, but occasionally when I’m short on time or looking for convenience, I bake the meatballs in the sauce, which always turns out delicious.

We had this as a lazy day off lunch – with pasta and sauteed mushrooms (yum). You could also make these meatballs smaller (one pound of meat made about 5 meatballs for us – ha!), and serve them as an appetizer or as traditional spaghetti and meatballs.

For us – this is comfort food, and it was just delicious.

Here’s what you’ll need to make these Spicy Chicken Meatballs:

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
one 15 oz can, drained, reserve the juice (or 5-6 raw tomatoes, seeds removed and reserved, chopped)
salt and pepper as needed
3 Tbsp fresh chopped basil

-In a small pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. To the remaining onion mixture, add the tomato paste. Stir to combine, then add the tomatoes. No need to chop the canned tomatoes, just break them up slightly with your wooden spoon while you mix. This will create a chunky sauce. Turn the heat up to medium high, and allow the mixture to come to a boil – continue to boil until the liquid has reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the basil.

1 lb ground chicken
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
3 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp fresh chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, and parsley)
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs
red pepper flakes, as needed
salt and pepper, as needed

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and form the mixture into balls. Spoon some tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9″ x 9″ casserole dish, and place the meatballs on top. Spoon remaining sauce over the meatballs, and garnish with mozzarella cheese. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the sauce bubbles, the cheese is melted, and the meatballs are cooked through (this will depend on their size, mine took about 25 minutes). Serve with pasta.

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Pork Posole

Dear Willie and Erin,
     I could call this pantry pork posole because everytime I make posole it is a bit different than the time before because I use whatever pantry and frig staples that I happen to have on hand.  I did not have my own chicken stock this time but I added a cup of concentrated chicken goodness to enrich my broth  that I had saved from the last time I roasted chicken — I deglaze my roasting pan with a bit of water or broth and freeze it to add a punch of flavor to another dish later.  Willie was  talking about the difficulty of using up a large piece of pork shoulder which I can relate to because I had frozen about 4 cups of shredded pork shoulder, leftover from the last time I roasted a large pork shoulder, and this is what I used to make my posole.   Because the meat was leftover and the remaining items came from the pantry, this dish came together (cheaply) in less than 30 minutes.  Some chopped radish and green onion, leftover cilantro and lime plus an avacado added some crunchy freshness to this hearty stew, you can certainly vary your fresh garnish to use up vegies that you happen to have.   I used  ground ancho chili to flavor my broth although any chili powder would work; the ancho chile imparts a slightly smokey,  mildly spicy flavor and is robust enough to add deep flavor to the pork and hominy.  This recipe makes a huge pot….
2 onions, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons ancho chili powder (or to taste)
1 large carton chicken broth
1 cup leftover concentrated chicken stock (optional)
2 30 ounce cans of hominy, rinsed and drained
2 7 ounce cans of diced green chilies
4 cups chopped cooked pork
6 radishes, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves
lime wedges
Slowly saute the onion in a little oil until soft but not browned; add the chili powder and stirring constantly, saute until the chili is warmed and fragrant.  Add the minced garlic and cook briefly.  Add the broth, hominy, green chilies, and pork.  Simmer for about 30 minutes until stew is heated through and flavors are blended.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.  Garnish with radish, green onion, cilantro, avacado and a squeeze of lime.
Pork Posole


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Dear Mom and Erin,   

After a repeated disappointing attempts at a sausage and warm potato salad dish, I just couldn’t get excited to write-up anything about it.  For my pork dish this week I went back to my Everyday Harumi cookbook and made yaki soba. 

For this recipe Harumi says to use pork shoulder- but only uses 7oz.  That is definitely a strange and frightening concept at the meat department of my local mega mart.  3lbs is the minimum size for pork shoulder around here.  I do use more than Harumi’s 7ozs when I made this dish, but even then the thought of buying a 3lb pork shoulder and dividing it up between several dishes might be a little too much for me.  Particularly because I’d be tempted to just make a bunch of pulled pork with the rest.  So I ended up using about 1lb of boneless pork ribs. 

Harumi’s recipe also calls for bean sprouts and pickled ginger as garnishes- both of which I ended up forgetting to buy so I just omitted. I also had some trouble getting my bullion cube to dissolve in the katsu and oyster sauce so I’m guessing she uses a bullion powder.  I splashed a little of the hot pasta water in with my sauce to dry and get it to dissolve better.  When I added the pasta to fry, it seemed like way too much relative to the pork and cabbage even though I used more than Harumi suggested for both. But when I went to plate it up it ended up seeming just about right.  Overall I’d say it turned out great and I’m certainly going to make it again.

1 lb boneless pork ribs
1/2 head of green cabbage
5 tablespoons katsu sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon chicken bullion
1 lb cooked, rinsed and cooled spaghetti
1 tablespoon oil
shredded nori to garnish
Cut the pork into bite sized pieces.  Shred the cabbage.  Mix katsu sauce, oyster sauce, and bullion.  Heat oil in frying pan and cook pork.  Add cabbage and cook quickly at high heat.  Add pasta and sauce.  When pasta is warm it’s ready to serve.  Top with shredded nori.

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