Weekly Winner: Sometimes, You’ve Got to Kick It Old School – including the iceberg!

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I like to save Sundays for my serious, extravagant cooking.  I have made it a point to bring back the Sunday Supper to this house.  That means a meal that possibly takes all day to prepare, fills the house with an incredible aroma, and to which one must seat oneself at a properly dressed table (even if you’re wearing jammies). And then there was THIS Sunday.

First of all the weather was totally chaotic here.  I am a stong believer of matching meals to weather.  Hot and Humid?  A nice cool entrée salad of some type.  Cold, drizzly and hopefully snowing? Definitely braises, soups, or stew weather. This Sunday….in Chicago….in mid-November…. we had close to 70 degree temps, 70 mile an hour winds, and tornado warnings.  Crazy!  So the day called for something equally unexpected for dinner.

Taco SaladThe result?  My Mom’s Taco Salad!  This is honestly a meal I have not had in perhaps eight years.  And I guarantee that the last time I had it, it was summer.  This just always seems like a summer dish to me.   However this past Sunday, here I was, in short sleeves watching torrential rains sheet across our living room windows craving Mom’s Taco Salad.  I actually have no idea where she got this recipe but it was a regular summer meal growing up.  Obviously the recipe is open to adaptation and perhaps substitutions, (I have even changed the original kidney beans to black beans to suit my preference) but I do think there are two absolutes in this recipe.  The cheddar has to be extra-sharp and cubed, and the onion has to be red, raw and thinly sliced.  Other than that — go crazy and have fun.  Without further ado, here is Mom’s Taco Salad straight from Beavercreek, Ohio.

Mom’s Taco Salad

Serves a bunch

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef

1 taco flavoring packet

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 bell pepper of any color

1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion

6 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese

2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

Catalina French salad dressing

Nacho Cheese flavored Doritos (as much as your conscience will allow), crushed

chopped iceberg lettuce

sour cream for garnish

Procedure:

Brown ground beef and add taco seasoning mix along with 1/4 -1/2 cup of water – simmer until liquid is absorbed.

In a large bowl, combine beans, tomatoes, peppers, onion, cheddar and slightly cooled ground beef.  Toss with enough Catalina dressing to generously coat.  Add crushed Doritos and stir again.

Serve on chopped iceberg lettuce with a dollop of sour cream.

Weekly Winner: Yet Another Chicken Dinner – No whining, but definitely winey!

Riesling chickenThis was no simple chicken dinner.  This was an “event” dinner — even if the “event” was only Sunday Supper at home, just the two of us.  It took quite a bit of time, but no serious work at all.

It is a great riff on Coq au Vin.  I love the taste of Coq au Vin which uses red wine, but I am not a big fan of the slight purple hue that the red wine imparts — at least when I make the dish.  I’m sure Julia Child’s famed dish was never purple, but mine always is.  The answer, I found, was to use white wine.  This was perfect, pure lusciousness!  The recipe comes from Food & Wine, as does the picture.  My picture just didn’t turn out this time — very beige.  But hey, at least it wasn’t purple!!

Coq au Riesling

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

4 pounds chicken legs, split

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

2 medium shallots, chopped

1 1/2 cups dry Riesling

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

4 thyme sprigs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound mixed mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup crème fraîche

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Finely chopped tarragon, for garnish

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large, enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil. Add half of the chicken and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned, 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Cook the remaining chicken, then pour off the fat and wipe out the casserole.
  2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil in the casserole. Add the onion, carrot, celery and shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 8 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for 1 minute, scraping up the browned bits from the pot. Add the chicken stock and thyme and bring to a boil.
  3. Nestle the chicken in the casserole; cover and braise in the oven for 1 hour, until tender.
  4. Meanwhile, in a very large skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat, without stirring, until well browned, 5 minutes. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes; transfer to a plate.
  5. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Strain the braising  liquid through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl, pressing on the solids; skim off the fat. Return the braising liquid to the casserole and boil until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the crème fraîche and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and chicken to the sauce and simmer for 3 minutes. Garnish with tarragon and serve.

Weekly Winner: Match Made in Heaven — Pig Heaven, that is!

Cider Pork I realize I’ve been rather pork-centric lately but dangit, pork is good!  No… pork is great! And what goes better with pork than apples?  It’s a very traditional pairing but this week’s winner takes that subtle combination and really amps it up.

The recipe is Cider-Braised Pork  Shoulder and it comes from Sunset Magazine.  I was truly surprised at how strong (in a good way) the cider flavor came through.  Not just in the pork, but in the carrots as well.   Because my beloved farmer’s market has closed for the season here in Chicago, I could not find rainbow carrots; but the plain ‘ole orange ones worked beautifully.  The recipe also calls for “mashed potatoes or other root vegetables” but seriously, making this recipe without mashed potatoes is just plain wrong!  It screams for mashed potatoes.  Please, for the love of all that is right and holy …. make the mashed potatoes.

Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 -1/2 to 3 lbs. boneless pork shoulder roast, tied
  • About 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • About 1 tsp. pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 medium regular carrots, plus 18 small, slender rainbow carrots, ends trimmed, scrubbed
  • 2 large celery stalks
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • About 2 cups fresh, unfiltered apple cider
  • About 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Mashed potatoes or other root vegetables

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 300°. Season roast with 1 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Heat oil in a 4- to 5-qt. dutch oven over high heat until very hot. Brown pork on all sides, turning as needed, about 10 minutes total.
  2. Meanwhile, cut onion, medium carrots, and celery into 2-in.chunks. Arrange around the browned roast with garlic. Pour in 2 cups cider and 1 cup broth, adding more of either if the liquid doesn’t completely cover meat. Bring to a boil. Cover with foil, pressing it down onto meat to eliminate any air gaps, then add the lid.
  3. Braise in oven 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until a fork slides right in.  Let cool, then chill overnight. (Or let sit until cool enough to handle.)
  4. Preheat oven to 375°. Spoon off fat from roast and discard. Transfer roast to a plate. Remove twine and break roast into 2-in. chunks with your fingers. Strain braising liquid and return to pot (discard vegetables).
  5. Reduce braising liquid to 2 cups over medium heat, 10 to 20 minutes. Return pork to pot. Taste and add more salt or pepper if you like. Cut rainbow carrots in half lengthwise and arrange over meat. Roast, uncovered, spooning juices over carrots a couple of times, until they begin to brown and are tender, about 50 minutes.
  6. Stir in thyme. Scatter parsley on top and serve with mashed potatoes.

Weekly Winner: Fabulous Five Spice Strikes Again

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I have become quite the fan of Chinese Five Spice Powder. It’s the easiest way to impart warm, cozy spice to anything without having to go through half of your spice cabinet or buy tons of fresh herbs and spices. And speaking of easy, what could be easier than dropping everything in a slow-cooker and walking away for half a day, only to come back to a wonderfully fragrant, cozy meal? OK, you do have to make some rice as you are getting ready to eat but really, it’s a small price to pay for such a great dish.

As with my previous ode to Chinese Five Spice, https://donnasquickqi.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/weekly-winner-not-only-5-spice-but-definitely-5-star-pork/, this one marries my new favorite spice with my all-time favorite meat – pork. Coincidence? I think not. They are a match made in culinary heaven.

The recipe comes from Fine Cooking Magazine, and it is fine indeed…. I’m just not sure you can actually call this “cooking”. It’s too easy.

Slow-Cooker Five-Spice Pork with Snap Peas

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine) or dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Asian chili sauce, such as Sriracha
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. sugar snap peas (fresh or frozen), trimmed

Procedure:

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the Shaoxing, soy sauce, brown sugar, chili sauce, garlic, ginger, five-spice powder, and 1/2 cup water.

Lightly season the pork with pepper. Add the pork to the slow cooker and stir to coat. Cook, covered, until fork-tender, 4 to 5 hours on high or 6 to 7 hours on low.

Add the sugar snap peas and cook until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Serve