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Friday, October 30, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

Hey All, I'm posting some pics that I thought were lost forever in the sea of broken cameras. Holy cow, is this little Nikon Cool Pix tough! It survived an assault by an almost toddler. Just took a few hours of R&R to recover.
 I began making this soup at 0930 (a.m.).  I was also looking after my 10 month old grandson, Miles. ( Just trying to give you a little background).
0915: Peeled 2 butternut squash with the "Miracle peeler". (See "Bargains").Worked really well.
0925: Scooped out seeds with a melon baller.
0930: Chopped up squash into (about) 2" chunks.
0940: Placed squash on to 2 sheet trays, sprayed with No-Stick.
0945: Spread 1 stick melted butter over squash.
 0946: Season squash with salt, pepper and brown sugar. (You must season liberally, as squash needs salt, pepper, and sugar to develop flavors.

0950: Place squash in 425 degree oven for 40 minutes. Take picture.
0955: Chop 2 onions and 2 leeks.  Place halved leeks in clean water. Get rid of the dirt and sand. Rinse again. Take picture.

Leeks are very sandy. Chop off dark green stalks.
Slice in half.

Put the leeks in a clean sink full of cold water. Shussh them about a bit. Get all the sand out.

1010: Slice leeks. Take picture.

1020: Carry baby. Remove squash from oven. Take picture.

1030: Put olive oil in enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Take picture.

1032: Baby not happy. Heat off Dutch oven. Remote control in baby's mouth.

11:00: Heat to medium under Dutch oven. Put 2 chopped onions and 2 chopped leeks, and 2 cinnamon sticks in Dutch oven with 2 Tbls olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stir. Take picture.

Add 2 chopped carrots. Slice vertically down the center.

Slice vertically again.

Slice horizontally.

Add them to the pot with the leeks and onions. Stir every few minutes.

11:05: Baby hungry. Ate chicken, broccoli, roasted butternut squash. Drank 1/3 bottle breast milk.
11:15: Baby sleeping in Pea Pod.
11:20: Take whole nutmeg nuts. Grate one half of one nut on a microplane over squash. Take picture. (A very bad picture).

11:21: Sprinkle  1 Tbls Chili powder, 2 Tbls Cumin, 1 shake liquid smoke, juice of one half an orange, over squash. Add roasted squash to soup pot.
Add 1 cup white wine. Simmer. After about 10 minutes, add 1 quart chicken stock.
12:00: Baby up. Diaper change.
Play time: Baby emptied all drawers and cabinets of contents within baby's reach. Successfully grabbed camera while Nan (me) stirring soup. Camera thrown to floor. Camera now has a black screen. Will not take a picture. Will not access either the "menu" or "mode" modalities. Camera appears to be dead. He looks innocent, doesn't he? There are no more pics of this soup.

1400: Nan needs a nap. Nan &baby recline on couch. Nan attempts to put baby in peapod. No success. Baby wants to recline on Nan's chest. And so it is.
1600: Kelsey arrives. Miles ecstatic. Wants nothing to do with Nan. Nan now free to finish soup.
1615: Tasted soup. Not good. Added 2 Tbls butter, 1 Tbls salt, 1 cup heavy cream, and 1 additional quart chicken broth.
1700: Soup tastes good. Buzzed it up with the immersion blender. (Could also use a blender or food processor to get a creamy, silky texture). Whip 1 cup heavy cream with 1 Tbls cinnamon. Put in fridge. Serve a dollop on top of soup.
1715: Toast 1 cup walnuts in a skillet with chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, brown sugar. Adjust to taste. Serve soup, followed by cinnamon cream, topped with spiced walnuts.
1800: Ladle soup into jars for family to take home. Advised to serve with Whipped cream and spiced walnuts.
1801: Hugs and kisses from all 3 kids. That's a good day!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chicken Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Sunday. Snow. Football. Gumbo. There are laws of nature over which mere mortals have no control. Gravity. Solar system rotation. Menu options for a snowy football Sunday. Soup of any kind is allowed. A big pot roast, or maybe a slow cooked marinara on top of the stove. In any case it must be a dish that makes the house smell absolutely wonderful, makes you want to put on your sweats, sit in front of the fire, and eat in front of the big screen. Yesterday, we made Gumbo. Hang on to your hats, folks. We're taking a trip down south to the Big Easy. All you purists out there, you may want to log on to a Paul Prudhomme site, 'cause I had to go a non-traditional route. 4 hours is just too long to wait. The natives get restless. This is one yummy bowl of deliciousness.

Here's what we need to make this: 6 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 2 onions, 2 red peppers, (Traditionally, green peppers are used, but I don't like them). 4 stalks celery, 3 links Andouille sausage, 1 - 2 bags frozen sliced okra (to your liking), (1) 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, 5 garlic cloves, a bunch of parsley, vegetable oil, flour, home made chicken stock (if you have it), a wee bit of white wine, cayenne pepper, Kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, a few bay leaves, and rice.

The key to good Gumbo is a good Roux. In order to make a good roux, you must pay attention to it. That said, we'll make our roux after prepping everything else. Clean up the chicken thighs by cutting off all the fat. Dice them up and season them with salt and pepper. Set aside. Then, chop up the onions, celery, red peppers, and garlic. Then slice up the Andouille sausage. (I didn't really do all of the chopping. O.K. I admit it, I did none of the chopping, as Hubby H did it all. What a great guy!). Get out the chicken stock, and put everything next to the stove.  Get out a giant empty bowl and put it next to the stove, as well.
Start by swirling some vegetable oil in a giant Dutch oven. We'll make the whole shootin' match in this one pot, except for the rice. Heat it up on medium high heat. Carefully add the chopped up chicken to the pot. It will splatter.

Leave it alone for a few minutes. What we're doing here is browning the chicken to create more flavor. After the chicken is browned all over, take it out of the pot and put it in the giant empty bowl. Now, add the celery to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.

See the dark brown crusty stuff stuck to the sides of the pot? That's fond, which is another word for flavor. So, brown up the celery for a few minutes. If it starts to stick, add a little more oil. Take it out of the pot and put it in the giant bowl. Now, throw in the onions, red pepper and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Notice there's a theme here? Season every step of the way. If you wait till the dish is done, it just tastes salty, not seasoned. Saute it for a few minutes, the put it in the giant bowl.

Now's the time to get all of the yummy flavor stuck to the side of the pot. Add about 3/4 cup white wine to deglaze the pot. Take a whisk and scrape the sides of the pot like there's no tomorrow. You'll have to tilt the pot in order to get the wine up to the sides to scrape off all the yumminess up on the sides. You can use some chicken broth to deglaze, but it doesn't have the acidity of wine, so it won't work quite as well.

See all that beautiful brown liquid? That's nothing but flavor. Add it to the giant bowl.
Now it's time to make our Roux. If you have something else to do in the next 30 minutes, do it now, before you start. Burned roux cannot be salvaged.
For the love of all that is holy, do not clean out the pot!
Start by adding equal parts vegetable oil and all purpose white flour to the pot over medium heat. (About 1 and 1/4 cups each)

Bad picture! Please forgive the horrendous photography. I have to stand on my tippy toes and raise the camera over my head to get the stove shots. I'll consider standing on a stool in the future. Whisk it together. It will look (and taste) at this point, like paste. Keep stirring with the whisk.
Note the time.

Keep stirring. It will begin to look like peanut butter. Keep stirring.

20 minutes later, the roux is done. It should look like melted dark chocolate.

Now, turn the heat to low and dump in the can of undrained tomatoes, the entire contents of the giant bowl, including all liquid, 2 quarts chicken stock, bay leaves, and sausage. Give it a good stir. If it's too thick, add more chicken stock to get the consistency you like. Season with Cayenne pepper.

Bring it up to a simmer, then add a bag (or 2) frozen sliced okra. Simmer Gumbo 20 - 30 minutes.

During the simmer time, make the rice. Just plain old white rice. One part rice to 2 parts water. So, combine about 2 cups rice and 4 cups water in a sauce pot. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cover with a lid. No peeking for about 15 minutes.

When the rice is done, take an ice cream scoop and scoop out a nice serving of rice. Put in the center of a bowl. After tasting the gumbo for correct seasoning, surround the rice with a big ladle of soup.

Top it off with fresh chopped flat leaf parsley, and dig in.

Any leftovers can go straight into the freezer. This freezes beautifully.

Chicken Sausage Gumbo:

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 links Andouille sausage (or any other smoked sausage)
2 onions
2 Red bell peppers
4 stalks celery, peeled and chopped, including the leaves (they're delicious)
1 - 2 bags frozen sliced okra
2 quarts chicken stock
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 bay leaves
3 Tbls fresh flat parsley
Salt, pepper, and Cayenne pepper to taste
2 cups long grain white rice
4 cups water

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pesto cheesy chicken

O.K. You must make this! Today. I made it last night when it was snowing and cold. Perfect cold weather fare. You start with these basic ingredients: Sweet Italian sausage, San Marzano diced tomatoes, red wine, onion, garlic, olive oil, fresh oregano, Herbes de provence (Or Italian seasoning), beef broth. First, we'll make a red sauce to put on the chicken.

Start with a good cast iron Dutch oven. Swirl in some extra Virgin olive oil.

Now, Heat up your dutch oven over medium heat. Chop up an onion and throw it in the pot. I used a red onion, but you can use any type onion.

Smash and mince up about 5 cloves of garlic.

Throw them in the pot.

Stir them around so they don't stick and burn. Now it's time to add the sweet Italian sausage. I used 3 big links. Since I used links, I had to take the casings off. Just slice right down the sausage and peel it off. You can also use 1 pound ground sausage.

Roughly chop up the sausage. (This pic has enough gross out factor to make you want to never make this. Do not make that mistake. The end result is worth it).

Put the sausage in the pot. Turn the heat up to medium/high. You want to really brown the meat. Pale sausage is not appetizing. It's time to season things up. The earlier in the cooking process you season, the more flavor your food will have in the end. Add some Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, about 2 tsp Herbes de Provence, about 2 tsp fresh chopped oregano, and about a tsp red pepper flakes. Who doesn't like a little kick? Give it a good stir.

After the sausage is nicely browned, Deglaze the pan with 1 cup red wine.If you won't drink it, don't use it in your food. And, Never, Ever, use cooking wine. It is nothing but bottom of the barrell salty swill. If you don't want to use wine, sub in beef broth.

After you have scraped up all the yummy goodness stuck to the pot, add 1 jar  (28 ounce) San Marzano tomatoes. If you can't find these, just use 1 can of crushed or diced tomatoes, juice and all.

Give it a good stir, and turn the heat down to low. Add 1 cup beef broth, stir it up. While you start on the chicken, let the sauce simmer slowly on the stove, filling your  house with a wonderful aroma. After the sauce has simmered for about 15 minutes, it's ready to use. The more time you simmer the sauce, the deeper the flavors will develop. Depends on how much time you have. At this point, you could top off some hot cooked pasta and call it a day. But we won't. Nope, we're going for over the top here, so we carry on.

So, we'll use 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Give 'em a good rinse under cold water, then dry them off on paper towels. I suppose you could sub in boneless skinless breasts, but the dark meat has soooo much more flavor! And remember? We're going over the top today. Put the dry chicken in a gallon size ziplock bag and close it up tightly, squeezing out all of the air.

Now, grab your meat mallet and beat the crap out of these babies until they are super thin. This is a great way to take your frustrations, and it keeps your family safe, too. It doesn't matter if they get a few holes in them along the way.

They should look something like this. I know, this picture is turned the wrong way, and is fuzzy, but I have no idea how to fix it.. Season up both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Now, remember that delicious Roasted Garlic Pesto we made a few days ago? Pull it out, kids. It's getting serious now. Smear one side of each thigh with the pesto.
Next, open up your package of proscuitto.

Place 1 slice proscuitto on top of the pesto laden chicken. Trim it to fit.

Here's where it gets good. Top the chicken with some Fontina cheese. You could also use mozzarella. You can chop it or grate it. Doesn't matter. I don"t grate, as I end up grating off finger flesh. Not delicious.
Put some of the delicious red sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish.
Fold the thighs over. Brush on more pesto. Place them in the dish.

Ladle a heaping bunch of sauce over the top.

It should look like this.

It's time for the finale. Sprinkle cheese over the top. I used some pre-grated Mozzarella and some more Fontina. YUM!

Bake in a 350 degree (f) oven for 30 minutes. 30 minutes is plenty of time to cook these, as the thighs were pounded very thin.

This photo really stinks. I must have been in a hurry to eat these packets of cheesy goodness!
1 lb sweet italian sausage
1 onion
5 cloves minced garlic
28 ounces San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth
2 tsp fresh oregano
2 tsp Herbes de Provence
1 tsp red chili flakes
salt and pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup pesto
2 cups cheese: Fontina and / or Mozzarella


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About Me

Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States
I'm a home cook that can put some good tasting food on the table, most of the time. My family knows dinner is ready when the fire alarm goes off.