Weekly Winner:  A Perfectly Pressed Chicken Dinner

 There is really nothing better than a scrumptious roasted chicken with crispy skin.  To me, that’s the ultimate comfort food and a dish that screams “Sunday Supper”.  I’m also a huge fan of lentils – not just any lentils, but aromatic, creamy Puye lentils. Finding a recipe that combines all of these things set expectations mighty high.  This recipe, however, did not disappoint.  My photography, however did disappoint.  Big time.  The dish was delicious and definitely looked much better in person.

The chicken wasn’t overly messed with but it was weighted down with a cast iron skillet which helped flatten it and create a wonderfully crispy skin.

The lentils definitely were messed with and cooked with a whole bunch of balsamic vinegar.  At first I worried that it was too much and would result in an overly acidic dish.  But it actually mellowed a bunch during cooking.  And the addition of the walnuts added a wonderful crunch and richness.

All around this was a banner dish.  The recipe comes from Food and Wine magazine and while the total amount of time required may seem like a lot, the majority of it is “hands-off” cooking.  And as an added bonus, your house will smell fabulous!

Cast-Iron Roast Chicken with Lentils and Walnut Vinaigrette 

Serves 4



1/2 cup walnuts

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup Puye or Beluga lentils

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and pepper


2 tbsp olive oil

One 4-lb chicken, backbone removed, chicken halved

Kosher salt and pepper

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Walnut Vinaigrette

1/4 cup toasted walnut oil

2 Tbsp sherry vinegar

1 Tbsp chopped parsley

Kosher Salt and pepper


  1. Make the lentils – in a medium saucepan, toast the walnuts over moderate heat until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Chop the nuts and transfer to a small bowl.  In the same saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes.  Add the lentils, bay leaf, balsamic vinegar and 1-1/2 cups of water and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender, 15 minutes longer. Stir in the butter and mustard and season with salt and pepper.  Keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, make the chicken – preheat the oven to 400. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set breast side down in the skillet.  Cover with foil and another cast iron skillet.  Cook the chicken over moderate heat until golden, 8-to-10 minutes.  Flip the chicken halves and roast in the oven, uncovered until golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the inner thigh registers 165 degrees, about 30 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.  Whisk the butter into the pan juices and season with salt and pepper.  Strain the jus and keep warm.
  3. Make the vinaigrette – in a small bowl, whisk the walnut oil with the sherry vinegar and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Carve the chicken. Stir the toasted walnuts into the lentils and spoon onto plates. Top with chicken. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve the chicken jus on the side.

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: My Ten Mile Reward

As I noted in a previous post, a friend of mine has talked me into walking a half marathon in a little over a week.  Because of this, my Sundays have been dedicated to training.  This past Sunday was my 10-miler.  That’s right … my husband and I went out and walked 10 miles in two and a half hours.

As soon as I got home, I immediately started thinking about dinner.  What was going to be my reward for keeping up my pace for 10 miles in what turned out to be a cold, extremely windy morning?  Steak!  Steak and potatoes to be exact.  To be precise, it was Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom-Dill Sauce and oven-roasted fingerling potatoes.  I got the steak recipe from Fine Cooking Magazine and it was the perfect reward for a job well done (luckily the steak was not well done!).

Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom-Dill Sauce

Serves 4


3 Tbs. unsalted butter
12 oz. assorted fresh mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Kosher salt
1/2 cup minced shallot (about 1 large)
2 Tbs. Cognac
3/4 cup lower-salt beef broth
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
4 6-oz. beef tenderloin steaks (about 1 inch thick), preferably at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. sour cream
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbs. minced fresh dill


Melt the butter in a 12-inch heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season generously with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallot, and cook until softened, about 3 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully add the Cognac, stirring to deglaze the pan. Add the broth, bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 3 minutes. Cover the skillet, and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the steaks dry and season generously on both sides with salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot, add the steaks. Sear until a dark crust forms, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the steaks, and cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes more for medium rare. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the steaks to a platter, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes.

With a rubber spatula, scrape the mushroom mixture into the cast-iron skillet. Add the sour cream and mustard, stirring until heated through and well mixed. If necessary, return the skillet to the stovetop to heat the sauce. Stir in the dill.

Transfer the steaks to plates, spoon the sauce over, and serve.