Weekly Winner: A Better Idea than Chicken in a Blender!

Chicken-Cordon-Bleu-Soup_EXPS_THN18_128604_E06_06_6b-696x696The first round of holidays are over (hence the delay in my posting) and I am back on the soup bandwagon.  Big Time.  There is nothing like a bowl of creamy, cheesy, luscious soup to give you the courage and sustenance to face the rest of the holiday chores and obligations.

I love the idea of taking an entrée or specific dish and transforming it either into a pizza or a soup.  I’ve done this with chicken tikka masala (into a pizza – fabulous), loaded baked potatoes (into a soup – super yummy), and BLT’s (into both a pizza and a soup at various times).  You get the idea.  So, when I came across this recipe from A Taste of Home for Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup I knew I was going to have to try it.  It did not disappoint.  And while, yes…. having ham, chicken, swiss cheese  and half-and-half does make it a bit rich (which is a good thing), having the base of the soup be pureed cauliflower adds thickness without additional heft.  And, your getting a vegetable which does not exist in the original form of Chicken Cordon Bleu — bonus!  It’s healthy-ish! Yeah, not really but it is super duper tasty!

A quick word about this fabulous picture.  It’s not mine.  I took it directly from the magazine.  I did take a picture of my soup but it just didn’t quite make the cut.  Here it is: cordon bleu soupSee?  Not quite the same.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 1 cup finely cubed fully cooked ham
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

Procedure:

  • In a large saucepan, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower and onion; cook and stir until crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  • Stir in flour until blended; gradually whisk in broth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until cauliflower is tender, 12-15 minutes.
  • Puree soup using an immersion blender. Or, cool soup slightly and puree in batches in a blender; return to pan.
  • Stir in chicken, cream, ham, mustard, salt and pepper; heat through. Stir in cheese until melted.
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Weekly Winner: Changing Up Beef Stew – Chinese-Style

beef stewI’m not a huge fan of typical beef stew.  Cubes of beef with veggies in a broth is just not that exciting to me.  Pot roast is a bit better … succulent beef that falls apart or shreds at the lightest touch… better but not perfect.  Spicy shredded beef on noodles (and not just any noodles, but toothsome, slippery Udon noodles) – now you’re talking beef perfection!!!

Slow-Cooker Chinese Beef Stew with Noodles might just become my new favorite comfort food.  This is fancy enough for company but also perfect for cozying up on the couch in your jammies with.  To top it all off, it’s made in the slow cooker!  Hands-off comfort food.  You just can’t beat that!  I got this winner from Food Network Magazine.  It couldn’t be easier to prepare or tastier to eat.   I did change up the recipe one little bit:  it called for watercress as it’s “greenery”.  Hubby doesn’t care for watercress and I already had a combination of spinach and arugula so I used that.

Slow-Cooker Chinese Beef Stew with Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 pounds beef chuck roast

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce

1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger

1 pod star anise

1 9.5-ounce package dried udon noodles

1/2 bunch watercress, leaves picked (about 3 cups baby arugula and spinach combination)

Sliced scallions and balsamic vinegar, for topping

Procedure:

  1. Put the beef in a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker and season lightly with salt and pepper. Whisk the flour and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl until smooth, then whisk in the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, tomato paste, chili-garlic sauce and ginger. Pour into the slow cooker and turn the beef to coat. Add the star anise. Cover and cook on low until the beef is tender, 7 to 8 hours.
  2. Discard the star anise and transfer the meat to a plate. Shred into bite-size pieces, removing any large pieces of fat. Skim off any excess fat from the liquid in the slow cooker. Return the meat to the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook as the label directs; drain. Divide the noodles and beef stew among bowls. Top with the spinach/arugula, scallions and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Weekly Winner: Pancetta-Pasta-Pecorino Perfection

pancetpastaI am well aware of the fact that I have been sorely lacking in the posting department lately, and I apologize for that.  Life has indeed gotten in the way.  The good news with all that is that I now have quite a backlog of recipes to feature!  Hopefully that means November will be chock-full of tastiness.

I will start with this 5-ingredient winner of a pasta dish.  Yep, that’s right — only FIVE make this amazing dish.  How is this possible you ask?  Well, two out of the five ingredients are absolute powerhouses of flavor:  Pancetta and Pecorino Romano.  You don’t need much else if you’re starting with those two!

Pasta Alla Gricia or Rigatoni with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano apparently comes from Rome.  This particular recipe for the dish; however, comes from Cook’s Illustrated.

Five ingredients and 30 minutes, people — there really is no excuse for not making this.

Pasta Alla Gricia (Rigatoni with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano)

Ingredients:

8 ounces pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound rigatoni

1 tsp coarsely ground pepper, plus extra for serving

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated fine (1 cup), plus extra for serving.

Procedure:

  1. Slice each round of pancetta into rectangular pieces that measure about 1/2 inch by 1 inch.
  2. Heat pancetta and oil in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fat is rendered and pancetta is deep golden brown but still has slight pinkish hue, 8 to 10 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to keep pancetta from browning too quickly.  Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to bowl; set aside.  Pour fat from pot into liquid measuring cup (you should have 1/4 to 1/3 cup fat; discard any extra). Return fat to Dutch oven.
  3. While pancetta cooks, set colander in large bowl..  Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in large pot.  Add pasta and cook, stirring often, until al dente.  Drain pasta in prepared colander, reserving cooking water.
  4. Add pepper and 2 cups reserved cooking water to Dutch oven with fat and bring to boil over high heat.  Boil mixture rapidly, scraping up any browned bits, until emulsified and reduced to 1-1/2 cups, about 5 minutes.  (If you’ve reduced it too far, add more reserved cooking water to equal 1-1/2 cups)
  5. Reduce heat to low, add pasta and pancetta, and stir to evenly coat.  Add Pecorino and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Of heat, adjust sauce consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed.  Transfer pasta to platter and serve immediately, passing extra pepper and extra Pecorino separately.