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The Stew Song

Some days when I pick up the kids from daycare, there’s a mom who compliments the green winter coat I’m wearing.  Last week we joked that I should enjoy it, because spring arrives this Wednesday and I won’t wear it much after that until next year.  Apparently we laughed too soon as Lane is currently shoveling snow and slush from the driveway.  The good news is, I don’t have to put away that fantastic green coat just yet :D .  Considering that the kids only have one more day that they can legally hold school before they have to go on legal holidays (like Memorial Day), I’m pretty glad it was only a 90 minute delay for them this morning.  They were appropriately disappointed when they found out school wasn’t cancelled.  We all remember those days when we were too young to understand that every cancelled school day in the winter means one more day of wilting at your desk in June.  Admittedly though, there is something extra fun about a snow day.  We should know, we’ve had plenty of them this winter.  I’d love to say this is the last of it, but this is New England, and we did have the April Fool’s Day Blizzard in 1997.

Last year, it was seventy-five degrees outside and I was grilling steak.  This year, even though Lane has excitedly assembled a new charcoal grill, we are still focused on indoor meals.  This stew is pretty tasty, so I’m definitely not going to complain about being inside with a bowl of this for dinner.  Starting by giving the chicken broth a much deeper flavor quickly by adding a few things and using it to poach the chicken, you have a hearty and flavorful stew in under an hour that tastes like you simmered it all day.

chicken chorizo stew

Chicken Chorizo Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 C. chicken broth 
  • 2 C. water
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 12 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 6 oz. chopped Spanish chorizo
  • 3 C. cubed red potato
  • 1 1/2 C. chopped onion
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the chicken broth, water, bunch of parsley, halved garlic, quartered onion, and carrot.

Add the chicken to the saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 14 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken and reserve the cooking liquid.

Using two forks, shred the chicken.

Strain the cooking liquid through a mesh strainer or fine sieve over a bowl.  Reserve liquids, discard the solids that have collected in the strainer.

Wipe the saucepan with a paper towel.

Saute the chorizo over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.

Add the potato, chopped onion, and bell pepper to the saucepan and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the minced garlic, cumin, and salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the reserved cooking liquid, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 12 minutes.

Add the shredded chicken and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in vinegar, and serve hot.

Makes 4 (roughly 1 C. each) servings.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light January 2012

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Academy Award

The 85th Academy Awards air tonight from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood and before I settle in to catch all of the red carpet action, I want to share a round-up of the film-inspired recipes I’ve shared over the previous twelve days.  It wouldn’t be a round-up without some Oscar trivia:

Nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) is the youngest actress ever nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role, taking the distinction from actress Keisha Castle-Hughes who was nominated at thirteen for her role in Whale Rider.  She competes against Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), who at eighty-five is the oldest nominee in the category.

The youngest actor ever nominated is Justin Henry, who at eight years old was nominated for his role as Billy Kramer in the 1979 film Kramer vs. Kramer.

Silver Linings Playbook is the first film since the 1981 film Reds to earn nominations in all four acting categories as well as Best Director and Best Picture.

Les Miserables is the first musical nominated for Best Picture since Chicago in 2002, and prior to Chicago no musical had been nominated in the Best Picture category since Oliver! in 1969.

Composer John Williams, nominated this year for his work on Lincoln, still holds the record for the living person with the most nominations at forty-eight.  Next in line is Woody Allen with twenty-three.

Three of this year’s Best Actor nominees: Bradley Cooper, Denzel Washington, and Hugh Jackman, have previously been named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.

For this year’s 12 Days of Oscar feature, I selected four movies that have been nominated for but did not win Oscars, four films that have won at least one Oscar, and four films hoping to win an Oscar this year.

salisbury steak

Pleasantville, Salisbury Steak

ihop sweet crepes

I Am Sam, Crepes

chef salad

When Harry Met Sally, Chef Salad (with oil and vinegar on the side!)

roasted chicken salad

My Week With Marilyn, Roasted Chicken Salad

banana ripple ice cream

The Aviator, Banana Ripple Ice Cream

cream puff

Marie Antoinette, Cream Puffs

chicago deep dish

Chicago, Deep Dish Pizza

chicken lyonnaise

Titanic, Chicken Lyonnaise

lemon butter pollock

Moonrise Kingdom, Lemon Butter Pollock

french bread

Les Miserables, French Bread

crabby snacks

Silver Linings Playbook, Crabby Snacks

mary lincoln apple bread pudding

Lincoln, Mary Lincoln’s Apple Bread Pudding

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When You’re Good to Mama

The first musical to win a Best Picture Oscar since Oliver! in 1969, the seventh film in the 12 Days of Oscar series is the 2002 film Chicago.  Taking place in 1920’s era Chicago, the film focuses on Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger), who are both on death row for committing separate murders.  Velma is a famous vaudevillian and Roxie is a housewife desperate for a famous vaudeville act.  With the help of lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) Roxie manages to become the newest celebrity of the prison, which disgusts Velma and thrills Mama Morton (Queen Latifah).  Roxie’s trial becomes a media circus and after it ends, Roxie and Velma find themselves working together despite their mutual hatred.  Chicago was nominated for thirteen Oscars, and won six.  In addition to Best Picture, the film won in the following categories: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Best Art Direction- Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound.

chicago velma and roxie

The city of Chicago is known for many foods, including the Italian beef sandwich and Chicago hot dog but the food possibly most often associated with Chicago is the deep dish pizza.  If you’re not familiar with deep dish pizza, instead of having a flat crust, it is baked in a pan that resembles a cake pan (I use a springform) giving the crust sides that are filled in with sauce, cheese and toppings.  The sauce is chunkier than a traditional pizza sauce, because it is made from whole or chopped tomatoes and goes on the pizza without being cooked.  I did break with tradition and add more mozzarella cheese on top, then more toppings.  I did it this way because the kiddos will eat just about anything on a pizza if it is covered in cheese, and because I made two of these at the same time and wanted to keep track of which toppings went into which pizza.  To top this one, I used cooked Italian sausage, thinly sliced red onion, and sliced mushrooms.  You can use whatever toppings you like, and about three cups of toppings are sufficient to fill the crust.  I used a 12″ springform pan to make one pizza.  If you don’t have a springform pan (or one that large), two nine-inch cake pans will work just as well.   The crust is buttery perfection and even if Lane calls this “pizza casserole” (I blame it on him being a New Yorker), it was a huge hit.

chicago deep dish

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Ingredients:

for the crust:

  • 4 C. all- purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. yellow cornmeal
  • 1 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 3/4 tsp. 
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil or salad oil
  • 1 C. + 2 Tbsp. lukewarm water

for the filling and toppings:

  • 3 C. toppings of your choice (sautéed vegetables, cooked sausage, or pepperoni suggested)
  • 3/4 lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 28 oz. can plum tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 C. freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

Directions:

Combine the dough ingredients and knead by hand or using the a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until smooth, about 7 minutes if using the stand mixer on medium-low speed.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough into it, then turn to coat the dough with oil.

Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Prepare the pan by spraying it with non-stick cooking spray, then drizzle in 3 Tbsp. of olive oil and tilt the pan so the oil coats the bottom of the pan and partway up the sides.

When the dough has risen for 1 hour, use your hands to stretch the dough out into as large of a circle as you can (it should be much larger than the diameter of the baking pan), or roll it out on a lightly floured surface.

Lay the dough in the pan, and press it to cover the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Cover, and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Start preheating the oven to 425 degrees while the dough rests.

Check to ensure that the dough covers the bottom and sides of the pan, and press into place if needed.

Let the crust continue to rest until the oven reaches 425 degrees.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until it’s set and just barely beginning to brown.

While the crust bakes, start preparing the filling by mixing the drained tomatoes with the basil, oregano, sugar, and garlic.  Add salt to taste if necessary.

Remove the crust from the oven and cover the bottom of the crust with the sliced mozzarella.

Add your toppings of choice on top of the mozzarella.

Top with the tomato mixture.

Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese (you can add additional mozzarella here like I did, but that’s completely optional).

Drizzle the top of the pizza with the remaining 1 Tbsp. of olive oil.

Bake for 25 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the top is golden brown.

Remove the pizza from the oven and carefully lift it out of the pan (if you’re using a springform, release the collar and carefully slide the pizza off of the base) onto a wire rack.

Allow the pizza to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Makes 12 servings

Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour

chicago deep dish slice

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Stromboli

Plenty of pizza shops and Italian restaurants offer stuffed breads with various fillings, known commonly as stromboli.  It makes me chuckle that it’s considered to be an authentic Italian food when by most accounts, it originates from just outside of Philadelphia.  Wherever it comes from, stromboli is great with a salad as a meal, or sliced up as a snack or appetizer on its own.  The filling can vary as much as you want, based on what you have on hand.  The only thing that’s super consistent with the stromboli I make is that I always use mozzarella or provolone cheese, as they seem to melt up just right to “glue” the whole thing together.  Growing up, we always called it “pepperoni bread,” and my mother always kept her variations simple.  I refer to it as stromboli, because the filling for this isn’t at all limited to pepperoni.  This is a great way to use up leftover meats and vegetables you have hanging around.  For this one I chopped up some ham and some meatballs, then layered them on top of mozzarella and sauce.

Any time I bring this to or serve this at parties, people ask me how I make it.  It’s embarrassingly easy, especially if you already have pizza dough. If you don’t already have pizza dough you can buy it pre-made at most grocery stores (just be sure to buy it thawed, not frozen) and some local pizza shops will even sell you their dough if you ask.  Making your own isn’t difficult if you choose that route.  For the one below, I used pre-made pizza dough that I had leftover from a make your own pizza party.  Whatever method you use to obtain the dough, let it come to room temperature and rise before rolling it out.  As far as fillings, the sky is the limit except where volume is concerned.  I try to use about 6-8 ounces of shredded or sliced cheese, and then not more than two cups of toppings not including a thin layer of sauce if I’m adding any.  Otherwise, I find it difficult to roll this neatly and tightly and maintain a good seal.  The kids devoured this, but then again I’m not sure who wouldn’t.

stromboli

Stromboli

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pizza dough, risen and at room temperature
  • 6-8 oz. sliced or shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese (can use other cheeses, these work best for me)
  • 1 C. pizza sauce (optional)
  • up to 2 C. toppings such as: ham, chopped meatballs, chopped broccoli, olives, mushrooms, etc.
  • olive oil

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush the parchment paper with olive oil.  Alternately, you can use a large pizza stone if the final 14 inch stromboli will fit.

Stretch or roll dough out on a floured surface to a 10×14 inch rectangle.

Sprinkle the cheese evenly across the rolled out dough.

Spread the sauce, if using, evenly across the cheese (the cheese goes first to avoid having the sauce seep through the bread making the stromboli soggy).

Sprinkle the toppings evenly over the sauce and cheese.

Roll the dough tightly, folding the long edge in on itself and repeating until the dough is tightly and completely rolled up into a 14 inch long log.

Press the ends to seal in the toppings and check to make sure there are no open tears in the dough.  If there are tears, press the dough together to seal the tears so that the sauce and cheese don’t bubble out of the bread.

Place the stromboli onto the prepared baking sheet or onto the pizza stone.

Brush the top of the stromboli with olive oil.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the dough is cooked through.

Slice into 1 inch slices and serve hot.

Makes: approximately 14 one-inch servings.

Source: Diana Dishes original

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Biscuits and Gravy

Usually I like Christmas morning breakfast to be something sweet and something I wouldn’t likely make often (or at all) during the year.  My family has a dish that’s between a casserole and a quiche that has only made an appearance at Christmas and a few other special occasions, and it’s to die for.  In years past, I’ve also made an easy pastry with crescent rolls and almond paste that could easily double as a dessert (hey, it’s a holiday- eat dessert first, right?).  This year I changed it up a little and made biscuits with sausage gravy, so much more comforting and classic (and not at all like dessert).

It seems that everyone I know who ever makes sausage gravy has their own way of doing it, and of course their way is the best way.  In a lot of cases, they learned from their grandmother, who learned from their grandmother.  I can safely say none of my grandmothers ever once made sausage gravy in my presence.  After putting in some research time, it seems there is some disagreement among sausage gravy enthusiasts as to whether one should make a roux by adding flour to the sausage drippings or leave the browned sausage in the skillet with the drippings.  I’ve done it both ways and I prefer removing the browned sausage and adding the flour to just the drippings to make a roux.  I find that the gravy thickens up better that way, but I admit that could be all in my head as it does thicken up fine with the sausage still in the skillet with the drippings.  I’ve also gone through many a biscuit recipe to find a biscuit that isn’t hard and dry.  I like to use all butter, though you could use a mixture of vegetable shortening and butter as long as it all adds up to 8 Tablespoons.  When cutting in the butter (or shortening), work quickly- the key to light biscuits is minimal handling and keeping the fats from melting during mixing.  These biscuits hold up really well to the gravy as well, they don’t get soggy and provide a nice contrast in texture.

biscuits and sausage gravy

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Ingredients:

for the biscuits:

  • 2 ½ C. self-rising flour (plus extra for flouring your surface)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 8 Tbsp. chilled butter
  • 1 C. chilled buttermilk (plus 1-2 tbsp more, if needed)
  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter (Optional: to brush on top of biscuits after baking)

for the gravy:

  • 1 lb ground pork sausage
  • 6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 4 C. whole milk
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black peper
  • 1-2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prepare a floured surface for shaping the biscuit dough and have an ungreased baking sheet lined with silicone baking mats or parchment paper ready.

Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

Using a fork or a pastry blender quickly cut in the butter, the mixture should be crumbly.

Make a well in the flour mixture, and pour in the buttermilk.

Stir with a spoon and mix just until the liquid is absorbed and the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Add 1-2 tbsp more buttermilk if the dough is dry.

Do not over mix-  the dough will be tacky, neither wet nor dry.

With lightly floured hands, turn out the dough onto a lightly-floured surface and gently fold it over on itself 2 or 3 times.

Shape into a 3/4” thick round using floured hands or a floured rolling pin.

Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out the biscuits, dipping the cutter in flour in between cuttings to keep the dough from sticking.

Press straight down and do not twist the cutter in the dough as this keeps the biscuits from rising.

Place biscuits on the baking sheet so that they just touch (for crunchy sides, leave space in between).

Reshape scrap dough and continue cutting, remembering to handle the dough as little as possible.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top.

Turn the baking sheet around halfway through baking.

Optional: Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter.

To make the sausage gravy, heat a 4 quart saucepan over medium-high heat.

Crumble the sausage into the pan and let it brown for 1-2 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium.

Cook the sausage, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or a potato masher until no pink remains.

Remove the sausage from the skillet with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pan.

If you have less than 3 Tbsp. of drippings, add some butter or bacon grease to equal 3 Tbsp. of drippings.

Sprinkle the flour over the drippings and whisk over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk for an additional minute.

Add the milk to the skillet, whisking constantly.

Cook the milk mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until thickened.

Add the cooked sausage back into the skillet and cook, stirring, until the mixture is heated through.

Split the biscuits in half and top with sausage gravy.

Makes 10-12 servings

Source: adapted from Simply Recipes

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Operation Chorizo

If you’re looking for an easy appetizer for any get-together, stop here.  This dip was beyond amazing.  I’m not usually a huge fan of serving dip, since it usually returns to the kitchen half eaten when it’s time to serve the meal.  That didn’t happen here.  With several appetizer choices and a huge dinner on the horizon, I had guests asking if there was any more of this chorizo dip.  I’ll admit, it’s got a little more grease to it than I thought it should at first.  Draining the chorizo after I cooked it didn’t minimize the grease factor, unfortunately.  I almost didn’t serve this because I was convinced it was a greasy, inedible mess.  It smelled so good that I had to at least try it before I cast it aside and I’m so glad I did.  Once I scooped some up with a chip, it had just the right ratio of oily to creamy and didn’t seem greasy at all.  Once my guests got to it, there wasn’t much time to ponder the ration of oily to creamy anyhow- they all had their mouths full of this chorizo dip and it’s rude to speak with your mouth full.  I can’t wait for a reason to make this again.  Like Friday, Friday is a reason, right? Or Tuesday?

chorizo dip

 

Chorizo and “Caramelized”* Onion Dip

Ingredients:

  • 2 C. onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
  • 6 oz. chorizo sausage
  • 8 oz. package of cream cheese
  • ¼ C. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 C. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ C. chopped chives or green onions

Directions:

Remove the chorizo from its casing and roughly dice it.

Cook in a medium skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, drain the grease and set aside.

In another skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion.

Add the thyme and lower the heat to medium-low and cook the onion for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions become soft and deep golden brown.

In a medium bowl add cream cheese and mayonnaise and mix well until smooth.

Add mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions, green onions to the cream cheese mixture and mix well.

Gently fold in the chorizo.

Pour into a 2 cup baking dish.

Place onto a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until dip is golden and bubbly.

Garnish with additional green onion and serve with baguette slices or tortilla chips.

Makes 2 cups.

Source: adapted from Foodie Crush

*If you’re wondering why the “caramelized” is in quotation marks, it’s because the onions in this really aren’t caramelized.  Proper caramelization of onions takes about forty-five minutes from slicing to caramelized onion heaven, and these onions take about twenty.  I know it seems like I’m splitting hairs here,  but caramelized onions are a deep brown and taste sort of sweet and buttery whereas onions that have been sautéed for twenty minutes have a nice golden brown color but still taste very much like onions.  It takes about forty-five minutes (depending on onion type) for onions to release that much of their sugars and be truly caramelized.  For this dip, you definitely want your onion to be a nice golden brown and have an onion flavor so it’s not a problem that they aren’t truly caramelized.

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