Weekly Winner – Viva La France Comfort Food!

Wow, it’s been awhile.  I know I’ve slacked off at this for a bit but to make it up, hopefully I will get two posts in this week.  This first one was actually prepared two weeks ago but due to my work and travel schedule, has not been posted yet.

I adore all things French.  I would like to say it is in my genetic make-up but alas, I do not believe I have a drop of French blood in me.  German, sure.  I touch of Irish, absolutely… but French?  Non.   For whatever reason, perhaps a former life, I love French food.   Not necessarily the fussy high-end cuisine found in US French restaurants (although I see nothing wrong with that either) but French country fare.  Everyday French food found in bistros and prepared using simple ingredients in a soul-satisfying way.

This dish fits the bill perfectly.  Lentil and Garlic Sausage Cassoulet.  I found the recipe in Bon Appetit and while it is a bit time-consuming, there is nothing difficult with this recipe.  The results are sheer cozy goodness.  Make it all.  Regardless of how few people you are serving because the leftovers are just as tasty.

Lentil and Garlic Sausage Cassoulet

Ingredients

  • 1 -pound piece of 1 -1/2 inch-thick piece smoked skin-on slab bacon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium onions, 1 whole, 1 minced
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 cups French green lentils
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons  coarsely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme
  • 12 ounces good-quality kielbasa sausage or other smoked garlic sausage,  cut on a diagonal into 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs made from day-old white country bread
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh chives
  • Dijon mustard (optional)
  • Cornichons (optional)

Preparation

Bring bacon and 8 cups water to boil in a large pot (bacon should be submerged). Attach bay leaf to whole onion by piercing it with cloves; add to pot. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer bacon, turning occasionally, until tender, about 1 hour. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Skim off fat from surface and discard.

Combine strained broth and lentils in a large saucepan. If necessary, add more water to cover lentils by 1/2 inch. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are just tender but not mushy, 18–20 minutes. Drain lentils, reserving broth. Transfer lentils to a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 375°. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced onion, carrots, celery, and cayenne; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly colored, 7–8 minutes. Add garlic, sage, and thyme; stir for 1 minute. Transfer to bowl with lentils.

Cut skin from cooled bacon; discard skin. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Add to lentils; toss mixture gently until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 3-qt. baking dish.

Distribute sausage evenly over lentil mixture, gently pushing into lentils. Moisten lentils with reserved broth to barely cover (2–2 1/2 cups; add water if needed).

Combine breadcrumbs with butter in a medium bowl; season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Sprinkle evenly over lentil mixture; cover dish tightly with foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake cassoulet for 45 minutes. Remove foil; bake until breadcrumbs are golden and juices are simmering, 25–30 minutes. Let cassoulet rest for 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley and chives; serve with Dijon mustard and cornichons, if desired.

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Weekly Winner – or in this case, Weekly Dinner!

This has been a very busy, hectic week.  Hubby was traveling all week and I had crazy long work hours.   I really didn’t cook anything during the week but relied on all of my past efforts that were safely tucked away in the freezer for just such a week.

Finally, Friday came along and I had time to cook.  Hubby was flying home and would arrive around dinnertime.  I asked him what sounded good.  His response: “Meat and potatoes”.

As it turned out, this reply coincided nicely with my once-every-three-years hankering for meatloaf.  I found two recipes, one from Martha Stewart and one from Ina Garten.  I texted hubby and simply asked “Martha or Ina?”  His response? “It’s been a long week —Ina!”

So here it, the only thing I made this week.  Luckily, it was amazingly good and worthy of a Weekly Winner post even if it had faced any competition!

The recipe came from Food Network Magazine.  Please do not skimp on the garlic sauce or decide it doesn’t need it.  It is incredible and actually quite mild considering the amount of garlic.  Even though I halved the recipe for the meatloaf I made all of the sauce.  It made an amazing gravy for the mashed potatoes.

 

1770 House Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped Spanish onion (1 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups small-diced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups panko
  • Garlic Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent but not browned. Set aside to cool slightly.

Place the beef, veal, pork, parsley, thyme, chives, eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Put the panko in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the panko is finely ground.

Add the onion mixture and the panko to the meat mixture. With clean hands, gently toss the mixture together, making sure it’s combined but not compacted.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Pat the meat into a flat rectangle and then press the sides in until it forms a cylinder down the middle of the pan (this will ensure no air pockets). Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a thermometer inserted in the middle reads 155 degrees F to 160 degrees F. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve hot with the Garlic Sauce.

Garlic Sauce

3/4 cup good olive oil

10 garlic cloves, peeled

2 cups chicken stock

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the oil and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Be careful not to burn the garlic or it will be bitter. Remove the garlic from the oil and set aside.

Combine the chicken stock, butter and cooked garlic in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook at a full boil for 35 to 40 minutes, until slightly thickened. Mash the garlic with a fork, whisk in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and taste for seasonings. Spoon the warm sauce over the meatloaf.

Weekly Winner: Great, Green Goodness

I adore soups.  I particularly adore creamy soups.  Nothing makes me happier than when the weather gets a bit chilly and I know its time to start rifling through all my wonderful soup recipes.  I also love spinach.  And while I have plenty of soups that include some spinach, and I have loads of “cream of (something)” soups, I noticed I didn’t have a spinach soup recipe where spinach was the main attraction.  Until now.  And a creamy spinach soup?  Now you’re talking!  This was a luscious, flavorful, soul satisfying soup that could definitely be considered healthy and was relatively low in calories.  Bonus!  I believe I got this recipe from a recent issue of Cuisine at Home Magazine but I’m not entirely sure.  I am sure that it is a definite Weekly Winner.  Here it is: Creamy Spinach Soup.

Creamy Spinach Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 cup diced onion

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups half-and-half

2 cups chicken broth

12 cups baby spinach, divided (7.5 oz)

1 Tbsp minced lemon zest

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Store-bought croutons

Procedure:

Sauté onion in oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until softened, 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.  Stir in flour and cook 2-3 minutes.

Whisk half-and-half and broth into flour mixture.  Bring soup to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Add 8 cups (5 oz) spinach and cook until tender, 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low.

Puree soup with a handheld blender until smooth.

Stir in remaining 4 cups (2.5 oz) spinach (chopped) zest, lemon juice, and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper.  Serve soup with croutons.