Weekly Winner: A Curry Like No Other — at least that I’ve had!

2015/01/img_1547.jpg I don’t pretend to be an expert on Indian food, just an ardent admirer. I find that I am drawn to any dish with the word “curry” in it … whether or not curry powder is actually used. I know so many people who claim not to like Indian food or curry because they “can’t stand the smell of curry powder”. What I’ve come to learn is that “curry” is basically a dish made with a complex combination of spices (which may or may not include said curry powder) but which almost always includes some sort of chile pepper. See? Cooking and eating can be educational too!

So, regardless of your take on curry powder, if you like seriously spiced food (not spicy-hot) but a gradual, slow-building warmth as you eat, than do I have a dish for you. It’s Smoky Indonesian-Style Chicken Curry and I got this jewel from Fine Cooking Magazine. The magazine suggests serving it with rice; however since it has potatoes in it, I didn’t think that was necessary. It’s actually perfect just the way it is.  The only change I made was to use boneless, skinless thighs since the recipe called for taking the skin off anyway.

Smoky Indonesian-Style Chicken Curry

Serves 4


5 dried pasilla or New Mexican chiles, stemmed and seeded

1 small shallot, quartered

2 Tbsp thinly sliced lemongrass

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 Tbsp sweet smoked paprika

1 Tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger

1 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar

1 Tbsp sambal oelek

1-1/2 tsp ground cumin

1-1/2 tsp ground coriander

Kosher salt

6 Tbsp chicken broth

8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed

Freshly ground black pepper

1-1/4 lb waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3-1/2 cups)

½ lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2/3 cup thawed frozen peas


Put the chiles in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water; set aside to soften for 20 minutes. Drain, then transfer the chiles to a blender. Add the shallot, lemongrass, tomato paste, smoked paprika, ginger, brown sugar, sambal oelek, cumin, coriander, and 2 tsp salt. Blend the mixture until smooth, drizzling the broth through the hole in the lid and stopping occasionally to scrape down the inside of the jar.

Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper and spread evenly with the chile mixture. Layer the potatoes in the bottom of a 5- to 6- quart slow cooker and arrange the chicken in an even layer on top. Cover and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender and the chicken is tender but not falling off the bone, 2 to 3 hours on high and 6 hours on low.

About 30 minutes before serving, turn the slow cooker to low and sprinkle the green beans evenly over the top, cover and cook until crisp-tender. Add the peas and cook until heated through, about 10 minutes. Stir to combine, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.




Weekly Winner: Cobbler – It’s not just for dessert anymore

2015/01/img_1530-0.jpg I am not really a dessert person. I prefer to use vital stomach space for savory food. Not to say I’d turn down a piece of chocolate or a bowl of good ice cream, but on the whole I am all about the main course.

At the same time, I’ve always been drawn to any kind of pot pie, dumpling or biscuit dish — if it has some kind of bready, crumbly, pastry-type topping, I’m generally a fan — as long as what’s underneath is savory.

So imagine my delight when I found this recipe for Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Cobbler in Cuisine at Home Magazine. Now this is a cobbler that speaks my language!  Forget some wimpy berries or fussy stone fruit — we’re talking pork!!

I made it for our Sunday Supper and it was a total hit. It’s basically a one-pot wonder and makes an incredible homey, cosy meal that’s even company-worthy.

The dish is a great combination of sausage, beans, butternut squash and broccoli rabe all tucked up under a wonderful buttermilk-parmesan biscuit. The recipe calls it “dumplings”, but it is actually more of a biscuit which is where I’m sure they got the whole “cobbler” theme. Whatever you call it, it will be happening here for dinner …. frequently.

Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Cobbler
Serves 6

For the filling:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb link Italian sausage
2 cups diced onions
2 cups diced butternut squash
1 cup diced red bell peppers
2 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt , black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 lb), trimmed and chopped

For the dumplings (aka biscuits):
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup each yellow cornmeal and grated parmesan
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp each baking soda and table salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400F with rack in center position.

For the filling – heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, covered, 5 minutes per side; transfer to a plate. When cool, slice sausage on the bias into 1 inch pieces. Add onions, squash, and bell peppers to skillet; cook 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomato paste; cook 1 minute.

Deglaze pan with wine, scraping up any brown bits, and reduce until nearly evaporated. Stir in beans, Italian seasoning, and sausage; season with salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes. Whisk together broth and cornstarch and add to skillet; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, 5 minutes. Sir in broccoli rabe.

For the dumplings, combine flour, cornmeal, parmesan, sage, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, butter and egg; stir into the flour mixture just until combined. Spoon dumplings over filling in the skillet and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of dumplings comes out clean, 30 minutes. Remove cobbler from oven; let rest 10-15 minutes before serving.


Weekly Winner: The Perfect Answer to “Polar Vortex 2 – The Sequel” in Chiberia

2015/01/img_1524-0.jpgThis is the type of soup I would usually save for a dinner, possibly even a Sunday Supper. However, within the past three days here in Chicago the daytime temps have hovered around zero and we won’t even discuss the windchill – minus 20 to 30 have been the norm with howling winds. You need something substantial to keep you going through that kind of weather. You need soup. But not some wimpy, pureed, vegetable-based soup. You need meat!

Having said all that, it is also January which means my annual attempt to eat healthier and lighter has also kicked in. What a conundrum! How will I satisfy my need for hearty sustenance with my desire for more veggies and healthy stuff? The answer: Beef and Farro Soup. Yes, it has beef. But it also is loaded with carrots, celery, tomatoes, KALE, and my new favorite grain, farro.

I got the recipe from a recent issue of Food & Wine and while it does take quite a while to prepare, it is super easy to make. And an added bonus is while you are hunkered down in the house waiting for the temps outside to inch into the double-digits (which I’m still waiting for, by the way), the house smells amazing!

Beef-and-Farro Soup

Serves 6


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 9 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 head of garlic, pierced all over with a knife
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 leek, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 3 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 small bunch Tuscan kale, chopped (3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika


  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil.  Season the meat with salt and pepper.  Add half to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate.  Repeat with the remaining meat.
  2. Pour off all of the oil from the casserole.  Add 1 cup of the stock and stir, scraping up any browned bits.  Add the remaining 8 cups of stock along with the meat, garlic, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  3. Stir in the farro and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook over moderate heat until the farro is almost tender, 20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, leek, celery, carrots, kale, miso and paprika.  Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the garlic and herb sprigs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls.  Garnish with cheese and serve.