Beef Stroganoff

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Baby, it’s cold outside! We just blew past those fall-like temps into the frigid winter of Gulf Coast Texas.  For a couple days at least 😉

While our winters may not be as brutal as our Northern friends, or last as long, the chilly outside still calls for warm dinners inside. In our house, that typically means either a slow-cooking something on the stove or a quick, warm, filling dinner before dark falls. This one fits the latter.

This recipe is adapted from one a friend shared with me years ago – back when we were just college babies learning to fend for ourselves. We didn’t add mushrooms and if we had there surely wouldn’t have been good wine to flavor them with! This beef stroganoff is time-tested and one I’ll happily make, good wine in hand and fond memories of friends in mind, for many years to come.

Here’s to you, Becca!

What recipe have you held on to for years?  Tell me about them!


Beef Stroganoff

  • 12 oz egg noodles
  • 6 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Worcestershire
  • 4 T flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • salt & pepper black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Salt the water fairly generously and cook the egg noodles until al dente.  Set aside.

Let’s talk mushrooms for a minute:

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To start, mushroom storage.  If you purchase prepackaged mushrooms, leave them in their packaging and place them in the fridge.  If you purchase bulk mushrooms, don’t worry about cleaning them first, just place them in a paper bag and stick them in the fridge.  This allows them to breathe a bit and stay firmer longer – plastic grocery bags can cause them to fade quicker.

To clean your mushrooms, avoid running them under water. Mushrooms retain moisture like a sponge, giving them more will prevent the mushrooms from browning nicely and give more of a chewy texture to them once cooked. Instead, use a damp paper towel and brush off any excess dirt.  Slice or chop them in similar sizes so that they cook up evenly.

Finally, don’t crowd the mushrooms in your pan and wait a bit before salting them.  Give your fungi some room to groove as they cook so that they saute and brown rather than steam.  Salt will bring out the moisture in the mushrooms, which is true for any veggie.  With mushrooms though, you want them to retain the moisture for a bit so that, again, they brown rather than steam. I’m willing to be that those that don’t care for mushrooms have had ones that lean more towards the steamed, flavorless side of cooking.  Let’s avoid that!  Mushrooms are like a sponge, right?  They’ll take on some of whatever flavor you give them but you want to give them a chance to develop their unique nutty, earthy flavors first.

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If you have a mushroom-loving family, you can most certainly start the mushrooms in a larger skillet and once they are beginning to brown, add the ground beef and cook it all together in the same skillet.  Just remember, you want to give the mushrooms a little time to brown up before salting them. I live in a house divided – one of us says they do not like mushrooms.  It’s okay, we can’t all be perfect 😉 I’m willing to go with it on this one though – I kind of like the presentation of having the sauteed mushrooms on top of the stroganoff rather than all mixed together.

Back to the recipe! In a medium skillet, cook the mushrooms in just a touch of olive oil or butter. Once the mushrooms begin to brown and release their liquid, season them with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and let the mushrooms continue to cook as you move on to the beef. I may be biased… but a splash of hearty red wine never hurts here.  You know the rule though – make sure it’s a wine you would drink as the flavor intensifies as it cooks. Worcestershire sauce is also a nice addition to the earthy veggies.

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Saute the onions, garlic and ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the meat begins to brown and the veggies soften, season the pan with Worcestershire, salt and pepper to your liking.

If your ground beef was fairly lean, add a tablespoon or so of butter to the pan. Add the flour and stir to absorb the fat and cook the flour a bit. Stir in the beef broth and cook until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes.

Stir in the sour cream and check your seasoning, adding salt and pepper as you like. Let the stroganoff simmer until heated all the way through.

Spoon the stroganoff over the egg noodles and top with mushrooms.  Enjoy!

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Full Recipe

Beef Stroganoff

  • 12 oz egg noodles
  • 6 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Worcestershire
  • 4 T flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • salt & pepper black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Cook egg noodles in boiling water until done; drain.

In a medium skillet, cook mushrooms in just a little olive oil.

Once the mushrooms release their liquid and begin to brown, season with salt and pepper.

Saute the ground beef, garlic and onions in a large skillet over medium heat until the meat begins to brown and the veggies soften.

Season the meat with Worcestershire sauce.

If the beef was fairly lean, add a couple tablespoons butter to the skillet.

Add the flour and stir to absorb the fat and cook the flour.

Stir in beef broth and cook until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes.

Stir in the sour cream,  season to taste with salt and pepper.

Continue cooking until sauce is hot all the way through.

Serve sauce over egg noodles and top with mushrooms.

Braised Chicken Thighs

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This recipe is definitely not complicated but instead re-introduces the concept of braising. Loosely defined, braising is “frying or searing meat to then slowly stew in broth or other liquid”. The result? Tender, juicy, flavorful meat! Chicken thighs are a great protein to try braising on as they are easy to work with and fairly forgiving. (Not to mention they are frequently a bargain purchase at our local grocery store) The vinegary braise packs a flavorful punch and you can play around with the veggies you use in this recipe.

We’ve explored this a little bit with the Osso Bucco previously and it’s a technique I enjoy. What’s your opinion? Do you have a favorite braising recipe?


Braised Chicken Thighs

  • 4-6 chicken thighs (or quarters)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3-4 carrots, diced
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 T butter

Preheat the oven to 375.

You are going to want to use a large, heavy, oven-safe pot or Dutch oven for this recipe.  I like using our enamel-coated cast iron for this job as it is easy to take from stove to oven and back again.  Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in your pot of choice.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to the pot, skin side down to start.  Let the chicken brown on the skin side, then flip over and brown the other side. You want a nice dark brown sear, the chicken will finish cooking as it braises in the oven.   When browned, transfer the chicken to a plate or tray.

Spoon off all but about 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot. Add the carrots, celery, garlic and onion and cook over medium heat until the veggies are softened.

Add the flour and stir for a minute, cooking the flour a bit.  Add the cider vinegar and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot and avoiding lumps from the flour.  Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, thyme, season with a little salt and pepper and bring the sauce back up to a boil.  Nestle the chicken thighs into the sauce, skin side up.  It doesn’t matter if the chicken is completely covered, you just want to make sure that all the chicken is tucked into the pot.  Put a lid, or foil, on the pot and transfer it to the oven.  Braise the chicken for 40-45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the pot from the oven.

Optional step:  if you want a crispy skin, transfer the chicken skin side up to a sheet tray and set the oven to broil. Broil the chicken until the skin is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.

Ladle a cup or two of the braising liquid into a small pot. Simmer the sauce over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce is as thick as you like it.  When it’s just about done, add the butter and taste for seasoning.

When serving this dish, I like to strain some of the veggies from the braising liquid and plate those on top of the chicken thighs.  I then drizzle some of the thickened sauce across the top of the chicken and serve typically with mashed potatoes and a green side.

Try this one out and let me know what you think!


Full Recipe

Braised Chicken Thighs

  • 4-6 chicken thighs (or quarters)
  • 2 T olive
  • 3-4 carrots, diced
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 T butter

Preheat oven to 375.  

In a large oven-safe pot, heat oil over medium-high heat.

Season chicken thighs with s&p and add to pot, skin side down.

Cook in batches, turning once, until golden brown.

Transfer chicken to plate/tray.

Spoon off all but about 2 T of fat in pot.

Add carrots, celery, garlic and onion.

Cook over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add flour and stir for 1 minute.

Add cider vinegar and stir, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of the pot.

Bring sauce to a boil and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Add broth, thyme and season with s&p; bring to a boil.

Nestle the chicken in the sauce, skin side up.

Cover and transfer the pot to the oven and braise chicken for 40-45 min, until cooked through.

Remove pot from oven and preheat to broil.

Transfer chicken to a baking sheet, skin side up.  

Broil on middle rack of the oven until skin is golden and crisp, about 5 min.

Ladle a cup or two of the braising liquid into a small pot.

Simmer sauce over moderate heat until reduced to your desired thickness.

Stir in butter and taste for seasoning.

Serve chicken with veggies strained from braising liquid and sauce drizzled over the top of each piece.

RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta

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You know those days when it’s time to make dinner and you got nothin’? You open the fridge… nothing.  You open the pantry… nothing. You even open the freezer hoping that in some moment of brilliance you made extra of something else and… nothing.  This recipe is a result of one of those days.

It’s like a “Chopped” Challenge – how do you take the odds and ends of what is in your kitchen and make a dinner? The initial prep went something along these lines:  the ground beef was already defrosting in the sink.  I see enough pasta in the pantry for a dinner, and that can of RoTel is calling to me.  Cheese, of course, makes everything better so we can work with that.

The first attempt was okay, not stellar, but I wrote it down and we played with the portions and flavors a bit until we had it – RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta.

And wouldn’t you know it?  It’s become a family favorite!


RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ box linguine, spaghetti, or any pasta
  • 1 can RoTel Tomatoes
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 T chopped pickled jalapeno 
  • handful cilantro, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a pot of salted water up to a boil and cook the pasta until just shy of al dente, about 6-7 minutes.  You want it to have a pretty decent bite to it still, a healthy “chew”, as it will continue to cook in the sauce as it bakes and you don’t want it to become gummy as it bakes.  I like the linguine for this dish, the flat noodles hold the sauce really well.  However, you can use spaghetti, or really any pasta shape you like.  Drain the pasta well and set it aside when it is ready.

Brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic.

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When the veggies begin to soften, add the RoTel tomatoes and continue to cook to thicken and evaporate the extra juices.

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As the meat cooks, melt the butter in a saucepan.  Whisk in the flour to form a paste and then slowly add in the milk, whisking continuously to avoid lumps.

Whisk until the sauce is thickened then add the cheese.  Continue to stir until the cheese is melted into a smooth sauce.

Combine the ground beef, cooked pasta and cheese sauce together – I just remove the beef skillet from the heat and work it all together in the pan.

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Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.  Add the cilantro, if using, and chopped jalapenos. Cilantro is one of those things, right?  You either love it or hate it? I’m firm in the “love” category and think that it adds a little brightness to the dish.  If you don’t care for it, or just don’t have any on hand tonight, simply skip it.  Chopped green onions or chives would be nice here as well.  If you happen to have a spicy can of RoTel tonight, you may skip the chopped jalapenos – this part is totally to your liking.

Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

This is a great place to stop and either chill or freeze.  You can stick this casserole in the fridge to cook within the next 24 hours or so, or let it cool and freeze the dish for future baking.

Bake the casserole for 20 minutes, or until it starts to bubble and brown.  From chilled, you’ll bake the dish for about 40 minutes.

Let the dish sit a few minutes before serving.

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What’s your throw-together dish that’s become a family favorite?


Full Recipe

RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ box linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 can RoTel Tomatoes
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 T chopped pickled jalapeno
  • handful cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a 9×13 casserole dish.

Cook the pasta until just shy of al dente, about 6 minutes – it will finish cooking when it is baked.

Rinse well in a strainer.

Brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic.

Add the tomatoes.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.

Whisk in the flour.

Slowly add the milk and whisk until thickened.

Add the cheese and stir until melted.

Combine the ground beef, pasta and cheese sauce together.

Add the cilantro and jalapenos.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour mixture into the prepared casserole dish.

**At this point, you can cool down the dish and refrigerate until cooking or freeze for future baking**

Bake for 20 minutes until it starts to bubble and brown.

**From chilled – bake for 40 minutes**

Mexican Pesto Pasta with Shrimp

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I love a good pesto.  They are packed with bold flavor, easy to pull together and completely customizable to any recipe theme.

A basic pesto is basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan and olive oil.  You can’t go wrong with the classic, but why stay there? You could swap the basil for parsley, kale, spinach, collard greens or cilantro as we have here. Pine nuts can be pricey and a little more difficult to locate than their more common counterpart – walnuts, always a good substitute in a pesto. I’ve played around with a few different versions, I’m sure  you’ll see more recipes sneak in on this blog, but this one has quickly held it’s place at the top of my list.  The pepitas and cilantro play together nicely for a light summer dinner when paired with the angel hair pasta and shrimp tossed in cumin and lime.

Have you ever played with pesto? What’s your go-to combination or favorite flavor find?


Mexican Pesto Pasta with Shrimp

  • 1 cup raw pepitas
  • ½ cup raw pecans
  • 2 bunches cilantro
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • EVOO
  • ¼ – ½ cup half and half
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1 lime, zest reserved
  • Angel hair pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup white wine

Start by making the pesto.

*First a note about the nuts used in this pesto: Pepitas are just pumpkin seeds. I was able to locate them, both raw and roasted & salted, in the bulk section of my local grocery store.  If you can’t locate pepitas, this pesto is just as tasty with all pecans or a mix of pecans and walnuts.

You want to toast the pepitas and pecans to develop their nuttiness a little and make for a more flavorful pesto.  Starting with raw nuts that haven’t been toasted or salted yet helps you to control those elements as you cook. To toast the nuts, simply place them in a dry skillet over medium heat.  Stir the nuts every few minutes, keeping close by – you’ll know the nuts are ready to pull when you can smell them!  Don’t leave them too long after you catch their aroma, they can quickly go too far and taste burnt.

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Place the toasted nuts in a food processor and add the cilantro, garlic and parmesan.

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Stream in the olive oil (EVOO) with the food processor on low until the pesto is a paste to the consistency of your liking.  I prefer the pesto to be well-chopped and more on the thick side than a normal thinner pesto before adding the half-and-half.  Taste the pesto and add salt, freshly ground pepper and parmesan, as needed.  If you want to kick it up a bit, this would be a good time to add in red pepper flakes.  With or without the red pepper flakes, a touch of granulated sugar, up to about a teaspoon,  will help balance flavors and bring your pesto together.  Play with the flavors a bit until you get what you are looking for!

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Place the pesto in a bowl.  Stir in the half-and-half and check the seasoning again,  adjusting if necessary.  Set the pesto aside as you prep the shrimp and cook the pasta.

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add a healthy amount of salt to the water – this is your chance to flavor the pasta itself.  Cook the angel hair pasta to al dente.

Season the prepared shrimp with the cumin, salt, pepper and lime zest.  If you are not quite ready to cook the shrimp, hold off on adding the lime juice until right before they are ready to hit the pan.  Citrus juice will ‘cook’ seafood as it sits together (think: ceviche) and this is not quite what we are going for here.  We want the lime juice to flavor the shrimp as it sears instead.

Saute the shrimp in the butter, a couple minutes per side. When cooked, remove the shrimp to plate and set aside.

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Deglaze your pan with the white wine.  You can use any white wine here… just remember this one rule:  cook with wine you would drink.  Reducing the wine intensifies the flavor, so if you wouldn’t drink it, you shouldn’t eat it 😉  Tonight, I’m drinking/eating Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc – I tend to enjoy any varietal from the Joel Gott family and they are reasonably priced and easy to find in my grocery store.

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Once the wine has reduced a bit and you have stirred up all those tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan, add the cooked and drained pasta to the skillet.  Toss it around to coat the pasta with the pan sauce.

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Turn off the heat source and stir in the creamy pesto, a little at a time, until the pasta is coated and to your desired consistency.  I typically work in 1 1/2 – 2 cups of the pesto.

*Storage tip for leftover pesto: To store any remaining pesto in the fridge, place the pesto in a sealable container and smooth over the top.  Cover the entire top of the pesto with EVOO, place the lid on the container and store in the fridge for 3-4 days.  You can also freeze the pesto at this point.  The EVOO protects the pesto from browning, leaving it that vibrant green for your next cooking adventure.

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Top the pesto pasta with the cooked shrimp.  Sprinkle on extra parmesan and chopped cilantro, if desired, and enjoy!

*To change it up and enjoy your grill in the summer:  a nice update to this recipe would be to grill the shrimp for an added char to the shrimp.  Cut back a little on the garlic in making the pesto and then saute some fresh, chopped garlic in the 1-2 tablespoons of  butter in a skillet.  When toasted, add the wine to deglaze and follow the original recipe from there!

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Full Recipe

Mexican Pesto Pasta with Shrimp

  • 1 cup pepitas
  • ½ cup pecans
  • 2 bunches cilantro
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • EVOO
  • ¼ – ½ cup half and half
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1 lime, zest reserved
  • Angel hair pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup white wine

Make the pesto:

Toast the nuts in a dry skillet.

Place the toasted nuts in a food processor and add the cilantro, garlic cloves and parmesan.

Stream in EVOO as you pulse until the pesto forms a paste to the consistency of your liking.

Season with salt, pepper and more parmesan, if desired. (adding a little sugar will balance out the blend)

Transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the half and half to desired texture and check for seasoning again.

Make the pasta:

Boil pasta in salted water to al dente.

Prepare the shrimp:

Season the prepared shrimp with cumin, salt, pepper, lime and lime zest.

Saute in butter, a couple minutes each side.

Remove shrimp from pan, set aside.

Deglaze the pan with white wine.

Toss the pasta in the pan to coat with sauce.

Remove the skillet from the heat.

Add the creamy pesto, slowly to desired thickness, and toss.

Top with cooked shrimp and serve.

Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

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In case you didn’t already know… Will and I love food.  We love to stay at home and cook and we love to go out.  We find new restaurants to try, we hit up our favorite places multiple times, we are on a mission with another food-loving couple to go to as many of the Houston’s Top 100 restaurants as we can, we indulge in both Houston and Galveston Restaurant Weeks every year… basically, we love food.

In trying new places we try many new dishes.  Sometimes you just gotta try what the restaurant boasts as their specialty, right?  However, every now and then it’s all about the basics.  I mean, if the restaurant is good their roast chicken should be pretty darn good , right…?  I like to test this theory sometimes.

Will and I had the opportunity to travel to Colorado in the summer of 2016.  We stayed with a fabulous friend in the mountains for a few days and planned an anniversary dinner at Acorn in Denver our last night of the trip.  We shared a couple small plates to start but then landed on the their oak roasted chicken with a savory bread pudding, seasonal vegetables and whipped potatoes.  It was amazing – the whole meal was!  When we got home, I played with a recipe until I got what I am sharing today – Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts.  Any one of the three recipes is a stand-alone stunner.  But together, they will always remind me of a special anniversary dinner we shared at a cozy spot on a wonderful vacation.

To me, recipes and memories make the best souvenirs. And a signed menu, of course 😉

Acorn dinner


Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

*For this recipe we are brining the chicken. We typically let a whole chicken sit in the brine overnight.  If you are using bone-in chicken pieces, let the pieces sit in the brine 3-4 hours.

For the chicken:

  • ½ cup Turbinado or raw sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup pink Himalayan salt
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • bundle of fresh rosemary
  • bundle of fresh thyme
  • bundle of fresh oregano
  • Tea kettle of boiling water
  • 4-5 lb whole chicken, innards removed
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1-2 lemons

For the bread pudding:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 stalks leeks, or 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 c cubed, day-old bread (Challah, Brioche, French)
  • 3 c Gruyère (or Swiss) cheese, shredded
  • ⅓ c chives, chopped
  • ⅓ c parsley, chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T scallions, chopped
  • kitchen twine

For the brussel sprouts:

  • 3-4 strips bacon, chopped
  • Brussel sprouts
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar

Start with brining the chicken.  A basic brine is 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of salt and 1 gallon of water.  We’ve tweaked this one a bit with some more flavor.  (see note about brining a little further down)

Mix the sugars, salts, peppercorns and 4-5 stems each of the fresh herbs together in a large container.  For a whole chicken, we use a plastic 8-qt container with lid.  Don’t have raw sugar?  Sub in some brown sugar.  Don’t have pink Himalayan salt?  Well, you just aren’t living right.  Just kidding – double up on the kosher salt.

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Pour the boiling water carefully over your mixture and stir to combine and melt sugar/salt.  Set it aside to cool or add some ice to bring the temperature back down before adding the chicken.

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When the brine has cooled, submerge the chicken.  You may need to add more water to the brine as you want the entire chicken to be covered.  Before placing the lid on the container, we used a coffee cup under the lid to hold the bird down a little.

Cover and chill overnight, or 3-4 hours for bone-in chicken pieces.  When ready, remove the chicken from the liquid and discard all leftover brine.

So – can you roast a chicken without brining it?  Definitely.  You can simply start here in the recipe for a flavorful chicken.  Will swears by brining though and I’d have to agree – he’s made some killer chicken and smoked turkey in many a cookoff.  Soaking poultry in a brine not only seasons the meat itself but keeps the bird moist as it roasts/cooks.  Try it at least once!

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and set aside.

Finely chop 3-4 stems of each fresh herb.  In a food processor, mix the room temperature butter, the chopped herbs and a pinch of salt until it is all evenly combined.

Work the butter under the skin of the chicken, all around the bird.  Use your fingers to gently loosen pockets around the breast, legs and wings then massage the skin to move the butter all around.  Get the butter all over the chicken until you have used the entire stick and a half.

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Quarter the lemon(s) and fill the cavity of the chicken with the lemon and any remaining fresh herbs.  Since we are using leeks later in the bread pudding, we also stuffed an extra stalk of leeks in here, you could also use quartered onion here.

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Truss the chicken to keep the wings and legs tight against the body.  Don’t be scared – that basically means use some kitchen twine to tie the legs together and to pin the wings to the breast so they don’t flap around or hang out while cooking. We may not truss the same way every time… but it gets done.  Here’s a good tutorial if you’d like to check it out.

This past Thanksgiving we moved our family time out to Sargent beach and took a Big Easy oil-less fryer with us for turkey-cooking.  We fell in love with it!  It produced a juicy, delicious turkey on Thursday, followed by a wonderful prime rib on Friday.  Since then, it’s been a go-to for roasting/”frying” meat.  We use it here but you can certainly oven-roast your chicken nicely.

We placed the buttered & trussed chicken in the basket of the Big Easy and roasted for about an hour and fifteen minutes before checking the internal temperature of the bird.

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To oven roast your chicken, place the bird on a rack over a sheet tray to catch the drippings. (Bonus: if you have any potatoes, carrots, root vegetables etc, you can place those under the rack to catch all the drippings or use them as the ‘rack’ itself!  Pile the veggies up and place the chicken right on top.  You just want some air to be able to get to the bottom of the chicken so that all sides crisp up while cooking).  Roast the chicken at 425 for an hour and 15-30 minutes, checking the internal temperature in the last 15 minutes.

**Food safety by definition means that chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees to be considered safe to eat.** Will usually pulls chicken closer to 145-150 and gives it some resting time before cutting into it.

Remove the chicken from the cooker/oven and let it rest a few minutes before carving.

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While the chicken is cooking, get the bread pudding and brussel sprouts going.  To plan ahead, both have about a 15 minute prep time and will bake for a total of 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the bread pudding, place the day-old cubed-up bread in a large bowl.  You don’t have to be precise about cubing the bread – you can even just tear it up with your hands.  The size and shape of the bread is up to you!

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In a medium skillet heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the leeks (or sweet onion), the red onion and the garlic until soft.  Remove from heat.

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*Leeks can be fairly gritty.  To easily clean them, chop off the dark green tops and discard (you can use them for making stock, but they are too tough to eat).  Cut off the root end and then slice the stalk lengthwise.  Chop the stalks down to your desired size, then swish the chopped leeks in a bowl or sink of cool, clean water.  The grit will sink to the bottom leaving the clean leeks at the top to strain and dry*

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, stock, cream, salt, and pepper.  

With the bread cubes, combine the Gruyère, chives, parsley, and cooked onion mixture. Stir it all around, it’s okay if the cheese starts to melt a little bit.

Pour egg mixture over bread mixture. Using the back of a spoon, press bread to soak up liquid.  Let the mix sit 8 – 10 minutes or until bread has absorbed all liquid.

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For the brussel sprouts, rinse the sprouts and cut them in half lengthwise.  Smash and peel the garlic cloves, leaving large pieces to roast.

 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and dump the veggies on top. Drizzle the veggies with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste, mixing well.  

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Butter a 3-quart casserole dish, or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer the bread pudding mixture to the casserole dish and cover with foil.

Place the bread pudding and the tray of brussel sprouts in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Toss the sprouts a bit about halfway through.

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While those are cooking, saute the bacon for the brussel sprouts until cooked about ⅔ done – think chewy bacon, not crispy.  

After 30 minutes, add the cooked bacon to the sheet of sprouts and stir.  Remove the foil from the bread pudding and cook both dishes another 15-20 minutes.  The bread pudding should be nice and brown across the top.

During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the balsamic vinegar to a small pot. Over medium-low heat, reduce the vinegar by about half, until it is thick and sweet, about 10 minutes.

Let the bread pudding rest and set a few minutes after coming out of the oven, then sprinkle on scallions before serving. Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar on top of the roasted sprouts before serving.

Look at this lovely meal!

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Play with the flavors of butter for the chicken – you can use any combination of herbs, any citrus or onions for stuffing.  You can roast a combination of veggies as a side and change up the cheese and onions in the bread pudding for different flavors.  This meal is a classic by nature but so very comforting and brings back a couple of my favorite travel memories.

What’s your favorite food souvenir?


Full Recipe

Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Roast Chicken:

  • ½ cup turbinado (raw) sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup pink himalayan salt
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • bundle of fresh rosemary
  • bundle of fresh thyme
  • bundle of fresh oregano
  • Tea kettle of boiling water
  • 4-5 lb whole chicken, innards removed
  • 1 ½ sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1-2 lemons
  • Kitchen twine

 

Mix sugars, salts, peppercorns and 4-5 stems of each herb in a large container.

Cover with boiling water and stir to mix, set aside to cool to room temperature or add ice to drop the brine temperature.

When cooled, place chicken in brine.

Cover with enough cool water to submerge chicken completely.

Cover and chill overnight (3-4 hours for pieces of chicken)

Remove chicken from brine and pat dry; discard brine.

Finely chop 3-4 stems of each fresh herb.

In a food processor, mix the butter, herbs and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.

Work the butter under the skin of the chicken, all around the bird.

Quarter the lemon(s) and fill the cavity with the lemon and any remaining fresh herbs.

Truss the chicken to keep the wings and legs tight against the body.

Using the Big Easy oil-less fryer – 1 ½ hours; oven roast 425 for 1 ½ hours

Let rest, serve.


Gruyère Bread Pudding:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 stalks leeks, or 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 c cubed, day-old bread (Challah, Brioche, French)
  • 3 c Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • ⅓ c chives, chopped
  • ⅓ c parsley, chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T scallions, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil.

Add leeks, onion(s) and garlic and cook until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool a while.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, stock, cream, salt, and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine bread, Gruyère, chives, parsley, and reserved onions.

Pour egg mixture over bread mixture.

Using the back of a spoon, press bread to soak up liquid.

Let sit 8 to 10 minutes or until bread has absorbed all liquid.

Butter a 3-quart casserole dish, or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Transfer bread mixture to the casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and bake until hot and browned on top, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Let rest 15 minutes, then sprinkle on scallions before serving.


Roasted Brussel Sprouts:

  • 3-4 strips bacon, chopped
  • Brussel sprouts
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350

Rinse and half the sprouts.

Smash and peel garlic, leaving large pieces to roast.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and dump the veggies on top.

Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste, mixing well.

Roast 30 min, tossing halfway through.

While the sprouts are roasting, saute the bacon until cooked about ⅔ done.

After the first 30 minutes of roasting, add the cooked bacon to the sheet and stir.

Roast another 15 min.

Add the balsamic vinegar to a small pot.

Over medium-low heat, reduce the vinegar by about half, until it is thick and sweet, about 10 minutes.

Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar on top of the roasted sprouts and serve.

Osso Bucco

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Will and I have had several “food adventures” together while travelling, trying new restaurants or in our own kitchen. We’re both pretty adventurous eaters, but there are a few things I won’t give in to (looking at you, soft shell crab) or that Will digs his heels in on (loves corn, won’t do hominy).  Every now and then one of us gets to introduce something new to the other.  A while back, Will introduced me to oxtails.

Oxtail is, quite literally, the culinary name for the tail of cattle.  It’s bony, gelatin-rich and typically either used for soups and stocks or in braised dishes. I picked these up at Greak’s Smokehouse, located at Froberg’s Farm in Alvin, but you can also catch them at your local meat market. We’re going the braised route today in Osso Bucco. The oxtails make for a rich, fatty base that is so scrumptious and special. Pair it with a simple side like rice, mashed potatoes or polenta to balance out some of the richness.

Osso Bucco itself is one of my favorite slow-cooked dishes.  It is traditionally made with veal, more commonly made with pork shank, but can most definitely be made with oxtails, beef ribs or beef shank.  It’s a pretty forgiving dish and a great one for Sunday afternoons when it can cook and develop the flavors for a few hours.  This is our take on Osso Bucco.  It’s a little less traditional and skips the tomatoes/tomato paste found in more modern versions.  We use red wine in the base so break out that bottle from the fridge that has just about a cup left in it. (That’s a thing, right?  An unfinished bottle of wine?)

Try this one out and let me know what you think!  What would be your meat of choice?


Osso Bucco

  • 1 lb oxtails, veal, beef ribs, or beef/pork shank
  • Olive oil
  • ¼ – ½ lb pancetta, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 T flour
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3-4 cups beef broth
  • 2-3 stems fresh rosemary
  • 2-3 stems fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 350.

Coat the bottom of an oven-safe pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

Saute the pancetta until browned then remove from the pot, reserving the grease.

A quick note about pancetta:  we love it.  Basically because it is fancy bacon.  It is cured pork belly and has a slightly smoky taste, adding more depth of flavor to the Osso Bucco.  If you have ever ordered Carbonara at an Italian restaurant, you have most likely tried pancetta.  We get this pancetta at the deli counter at our local HEB, requesting about a quarter-inch thickness on the slices.  In most grocery stores you can also find some pre-diced packages of pancetta near your deli/cheese selections.  If you aren’t feeling the pancetta, or can’t get your hands on some, thick-cut bacon works just as well.

Here’s a before pic of the oxtails.  Looking lovely!

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Season the oxtails with salt and pepper then lightly coat each one with flour.

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Brown the oxtails for a couple minutes on each side in the reserved pancetta grease, adding a little olive oil if the pot is looking too dry to brown. Remove the oxtails from the pot and set aside.

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Toss the cooked pancetta, carrots, onion, shallot and garlic into the pot, adding a little more olive oil again if the pan is looking a little dry.  Saute the veggies until they begin to soften and brown.

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Add the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pot with your silicone or wooden spoon/spatula to loosen all the brown, delicious bits from the bottom of the pot.

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Let the wine cook down about halfway.  Place the browned oxtails back in the pot, nestling them in with the veggies.  Pour the beef broth in the pot until it covers about 2/3 of the meat.

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Tie the stems of fresh herbs together with some cooking twine.  This allows you to easily fish out the stems after they do their job of seasoning the broth.  You can also make a little pouch for the herbs out of cheesecloth.  Or, in a pinch, remove the leaves from both the rosemary and thyme stems, mince the leaves up and toss them directly into the pot without worrying about removing them later.

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Add the herbs to the pot.  Cover the pot and place it in the oven.

Bake for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

Remove from the oven and discard the herb bundle.

Let rest a few minutes and enjoy!

Pictured below are two plating options: one shows a quick flour-based gravy made out of the pot juices and the other is straight from the pot.  Either way… doesn’t it look tasty?!


Full Recipe

Osso Bucco

  • 1 lb oxtails, veal, beef ribs, or beef/pork shank
  • Olive oil
  • ¼ – ½ lb pancetta, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 T flour
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3-4 cups beef broth
  • 2-3 stems fresh rosemary
  • 2-3 stems fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 350

Coat the bottom of an oven-safe pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

Saute the pancetta until browned.

Remove the pancetta, reserving the grease in the pot.

Season the oxtails with salt and pepper.

Lightly coat the oxtails with flour.

Brown the oxtails for a couple minutes on each side.

Remove the oxtails from the pot, set aside.

Add the cooked pancetta and chopped veggies to the pot.

Saute, adding extra olive oil if necessary, until veggies begin to soften.

Add the red wine, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Let the wine reduce by about half , then place the oxtails back in the pot, nestling in the veggies.

Pour the beef broth in the pot until it covers about ⅔ of the meat.

Tie the stems of fresh herbs together with cooking twine, or secure in cheesecloth.

Add the herbs to the pot.

Cover the pot and place in oven.

Bake 2 ½ – 3 hours.

Remove from the oven and discard the herb bundle.

Serve with mashed potatoes, polenta or rice.