Here I am, convalescing from back surgery, fast approaching Christmas and figuring what to make for a family gathering that will be both easy to make and special at the same time. In talking with family members I discovered one of my brother in law's favorite dishes is Southern Banana Pudding. That is my task, to reinvent a classic and put a special spin on it. Why not a pie? I will make a crumb crust made from "Nilla Waffers" and melted butter. Instead of sliced bananas I thought back to a raw food presentation I attended where the presenter pureed ripe frozen bananas into a "banana ice cream", a cold base layer for our pie. Next we need the prerequisite vanilla pudding layer with a little toasted coconut for a twist. Let us finish with a nice browned meringue for the perfect ending. Your assignment: Pick a favorite dish from a friend or family and make it something special. Marrey Chistmas!
6 ripe bananas frozen
1 package "Nilla Wafers"
1 stick melted butter
1 cup whole milk
1 cup cream
1 vanilla bean
3 Tbsp. Corn Starch
1/3 cup sugar
1Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted sweet coconut
3 egg whites
3 Tbsp. sugar
1. Puree most of the Nilla wafers retaining some for decoration adding 1 stick melted butter to create a crust. Spread mixture in a greased pie pan smoothing into a shell.
2. In a medium saucepan add 1/3 cup sugar with the cornstarch and 1/3 of a cup of the milk and whisk into a paste. Add the remaining milk and cream and heat on medium heat until the mixture thickens. Cut the heat and add the vanilla extract. Split the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and add to the pudding. Cool and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
3. Skin the frozen bananas and puree or put through a juicer to create a banana "ice cream". Spread the banana mixture and sprinkle half of the toasted coconut. Spread the cooled pudding mixture evenly and sprinkle with the rest of the coconut.
4. Whip the egg whites with 3 Tbsp. sugar until stiff peaks form. Arrange the rest of the wafers around the top of the pie and top with the meringue. Brown top with torch or under broiler. Serve immediately.
I was reading "Sarabeth's Good Morning Cookbook" by Sarabeth Levine and came across her recipe for Hot Cereal Soufflés which started me thinking; why not a southern version made with cheese grits? But why stop there? Here in the south we love pies so why not a soufflé pie? In her version she makes a sweet soufflé with jam on the bottom but I like savory so I added some pancetta for flavor. Maybe I can make a version with a savory Shrimp Etouffé at the bottom for a surprise. My point is that inspiration can springboard from other chef's recipes so read through your old cookbook library leaving your mind open to new possibilities or in this case a new addition to your library.
1 cup stone ground premium white grits
2 cups milk
2 cups water
1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup diced Veleeta cheese
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 ounces diced pancetta
3 eggs separated
pinch of cream of tarter
1 deep dish pie shell
extra parmesan and finely grated sharp cheddar to sprinkle on top and bottom of pie shell
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add the butter to a large sauce pan and the grits and toast on medium heat for 10 minutes.
2. Add the milk and water to the sauce pan and bring to a boil while stirring with a whisk. Continue cooking until grits soften (about 30 minutes) adding more water if needed.
3. Sauté pancetta in separate skillet until crisp and drain on paper towels while grits soften.
4. Grate and dice the cheeses and add to grits while stirring. You can optionally add extra butter to make creamier grits. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add water to achieve proper consistency and take off heat. Stir in the pancetta into the grits.
5, Sprinkle some cheese into the bottom of the pie crust and bake in oven until the cheese melts. This will help the pie crust stay crisp.
6. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks with a tablespoon of milk and whisk into the grits. In a clean bowl whip the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tarter until glossy and stiff peaks form. Using a spatula fold one quarter of the egg whites into the grits mixture. Fold the grits mixture gently into the remaining egg whites until mixed. Fill the pie shell with the mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Cook until the pie crust is golden and the filling has risen and browned (20 to 30 minutes). Serve immediately and enjoy.
This week is Thanksgiving and I have been thinking for some time about how to use the leftovers. One of my favorite savory breakfasts is chicken and waffles, so I thought why not turkey and waffles? I had previously used turkey stuffing as a base for my Thanksgiving Benedict so why not use it to make the waffle. I have seen it done before, but I wanted to do it with a breaded fried turkey thigh. First I would brine and debone the thigh then bread it and fry it just like fried chicken. All that remains it to decide whether I want to use maple syrup or turkey gravy.
turkey thighs or breast
2 cups flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 cups panko bread crumbs
oil for deep frying
leftover stuffing (2 cups per person)
1 tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. sugar dissolved in 1 quart water
1. Brine the turkey in the salt, sugar mixture for at least 2 hours or overnight
2. Dry the turkey and dust in the flour. Dip in beaten eggs then roll in the panko bread crumbs. Fry in 325 degree oil until lightly golden brown. Transfer to a 300 degree oven and finish cooking until the turkey reaches 165 degrees internal temperature.
3. While the turkey cooks spoon the leftover stuffing into a hot waffle iron and cook until nicely browned. Serve the turkey on top of the waffle and serve with gravy or if you wish syrup. The waffles can be done before and heated up in the toaster before serving.
My favorite sandwich is the Monte Cristo, a roasted ham and turkey with Swiss and processed cheese fried in a milk egg batter. As you may of noticed I have an obsession with eggs Benedict, so why not bring the two together? Let us start with a base of French toast, top it with roasted ham, turkey, Swiss and processed cheese. Then add a perfectly poached egg and cover with a drizzle of strawberry jam thinned into a sauce. Maybe you can add bacon if you want to. I think this creation successfully brings two of my favorites together into one great tasting dish.
2 slices day old bread (traditional is challah bread but any firm white bread will do)
1 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup half and half
4 slices honey ham
4 slices roasted turkey
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 slices American cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. sugar
powdered sugar for dusting
1. Mix 1 egg, vanilla, sugar and the half and half in a shallow dish to form a custard. Soak both sides of the bread in the custard.
2. Heat a skillet on medium high heat and add the butter. When the butter starts to foam add the bread and cook both sides to golden brown. Keep warm.
3. Poach the remaining 2 eggs and keep warm. In a small sauce pan heat the jam and thin to a sauce-like consistency.
4. Build the Benedict starting with the French toast. Stack a slice of Swiss cheese, ham, turkey then a slice of American cheese. Add a poached egg then drizzle with the strawberry sauce and finish by dusting with some powdered sugar. Serve immediately.
My first experience of Machaca con Huevos was less than satisfying, a small amount of tasteless dry grey steak encased with dull rubbery overcooked eggs; the product of a good dish in the hands of a poor cook. When I experience just such a fiasco, I start diagnosing what when wrong and how I could improve it. Starting with the beef, I wanted to concentrate on texture and flavor. Traditionally machaca is made from reconstituted dried beef, and I am not excited with dried meat products. Although drying can concentrate and intensify flavor, I hate to lose the braised texture of the meat. What really sparked my interest is the shredded form of the meat, which led me to think about pulled pork and braised beef short ribs: both which could be infused with Mexican flavors. Then as chance would have it, I pulled out a corned beef brisket that I was going to slow cook. I gently cooked and shredded the corned beef; then crisped it in the oven before adding onions and peppers then served over crispy shredded hash browns with . Topped with your favorite eggs and topped with a little pepper hot sauce resulted in salty, savoury beef; crispy potatoes with spicy eggs with a noticable Irish twist just in time for Saint Patrick's day. This dish shows we can use multiple translation techniques; substitution using corned beef (plus I used some pickled red peppers instead of roasted), using Saint Patrick's day as an inspiration, and slow cooking the brisket and shredding it changing methods. The pulled pork and braised beef versions are waiting for another day when I have suitable leftovers.
1 pound corned beef
1 poblano pepper
1 large russet potato shredded
1 red bell pepper (optional)
2 Roma tomatoes
1 small sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
½ cup beef stock
6 Large Eggs
½ cup shredded cheese (optional)
dash favorite hot sauce (optional)
1 Tbsp. canola oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Garnish with cilantro, lime, tomato and some tortillas.
Shred the corned beef with fork or hands and reserve. Roast at 400 degrees for fifteen minutes or broil until browned and crispy).
Shred the potatoes and fry in oil until brown and crispy. Keep warm.
Skin, seed and dice the tomato. Roast, skin and dice the peppers. Dice the onion and finely chop garlic. Heat a skillet on medium heat; add butter and a little oil and sauté garlic and the onion for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, add peppers and continue to sauté until soft (about 5 min). Add the tomato, most of the corned beef, beef stock and reduce until most of the liquid is gone. Reserve and keep warm.
Cook your eggs and plate some potatoes first then some beef mixture then a little of the reserved potato and corned beef. Garnish with cilantro, avocado slices, a small wedge of lime and grilled tortillas.
Growing up in Canada fries were almost always offered with brown gravy and in Quebec they go one step further; lovely fresh squeaky cheese curds! Initially I was a sceptic, gravy and cheese together. Certainly not an everyday type of food, and wouldn't the gravy make the fries all soggy? Surprisingly, it all fits together; hot home made crispy fries, squeaky cheese curds covered with a tasty brown gravy. It truly is the perfect accompaniment for a tourtierre quiche or as pictured here, a authentic French Canadian Tourtierre. You can cut the potatoes any way you wish. I prefer a short stubby fry.
2-3 russet potatoes
Fresh cheese curds
1/2 red onion
salt and pepper for seasoning
Wash, peel and slice the potatoes to desired size and shape. Rinse under running cold water and store in cold water until needed.
Slice the onions into ribbons and add to a preheated pan on medium heat with a pat of butter. Season with salt and continue to cook until softened and sweet. Add the gravy and stir checking the seasoning. Keep hot until needed.
Drain and dry the potatoes and add to a deep pot or deep fryer of cold oil. Start heating the oil slowly to 375 degrees. This is a new method I'm trying out called the cold start method and is reputed to create French fries that are lower in calories and is practically fool-proof. Drain the potatoes on paper towels and keep warm until needed.
To assemble, put the potatoes on a warm plate and sprinkle with cheese curds. Serve immediately with individual cups or creamers of the hot gravy and let each person pour the gravy over the fries to maximize the crispy-ness of the potatoes as they will get soggy fast. Enjoy this treat from Canada.
One of the things I looked forward to each year when I was living in Canada was Christmas Eve. Before heading to church for Christmas eve service we sometimes had the fortunate pleasure of eating tourtiere, a French Canadian meat pie. My sister married into a French Canadian family and her mother in law always had tourtiere for the season. Made with a mixture of pork and beef, potatoes and spices the aroma always reminds me of family and friends during the Christmas season right till New Years. There are as many recipes as there are families, lovingly passed down to each new generation and I have my own recipe that I will share with all of you. But I also want to introduce something new and different, a breakfast layered meat pie and quiche. I developed this as a way to combine two great dishes into one unforgettable hybrid. When I first attempted this dish the quiche flowed into the meat creating just a meat quiche. Time for a solution and not backing down I melted a thin layer of cheese on top of the meat to create a barrier. I now could add a quiche Lorraine layer that remained separate making something truely unique and saving calories as a unexpected bonus. Of course you can just make the meat pie without the quiche half; just cover it with a pastry lid. Serve with poutine homefries (Coming soon).
1 pound pork freshly ground
1 pound beef freshly ground
2 russet potatoes cooked and riced
2 stalks finely diced celery
1 medium onion finely diced
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
large pinch ground cloves
1 tsp. savory
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1/4 cup water
2 cups grated Swiss cheese
12 slices bacon cooked and chopped
1/2 cup milk or cream
1 tsp. Herbes de Provence
salt and pepper
2 deep dish pie crust home made or store bought
Prepare the pie crusts (See below)
To get the best results I recommend grinding your own meat if you are able. Cut into 1 inch cubes and mix the pork and beef together when grinding. It will help if you partially freeze the meat first before grinding.
Boil or steam 2 medium russet potatoes in their skin until a knife easily pierces to the center of the potato. Peal and mash or if you have a ricer; cut in half and put into the ricer cut side down and rice. The skin will be left behind and can be easily discarded. Reserve until needed.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a skillet on medium heat melt the butter and add the garlic, celery and onion. Cook 3 to 5 minutes to soften then add the ground pork and beef and continue to cook until all pink is gone. Add the spices and water and mix to combine. Fold in the potatoes and cool until needed.
Blind bake the pie crusts until just starting to brown. If you have not done this before, don't worry; we just prick the bottom of the crust with a fork about 12 times, cover with some parchment paper, add dry beans to let the crust keep it's shape and put into the oven.
Brush the pie crust with a little beaten egg to help keep it from getting soggy. Split half the meat potato mixture to each pie crust and smooth down. It should come about half way up. Sprinkle a thin layer of grated cheese to cover the meat mixture and melt in the oven for 5 minutes. Beat the eggs in a bowl with the milk or cream and the Herbes de Provence, season with salt and pepper. Add to the pie crusts then add the bacon and cheese. Cook until the egg is fully set covering the exposed crust with foil to protect it from browning too much. Let cool for thirty minutes before serving. Makes two quiches. I sometimes make extra meat and potato mixture and make true Tourtières covering the meat pie with a pastry crust brushed with egg wash. Remember there is twelve days of Christmas and I always try to make some extra. They freeze well, for a great future meal!
There is a great recipe for pie crusts at the Smitten Kitchen. Follow this Link.
One of the most important aspects of Inspiration are ingredients; especially when an ingredient is in season and at its peak. Pick up and smell a tomato when it is ripe and at its peak or almost any other seasonal ingredient and let the fragrance, appearance and taste give you inspiration. Currently here on the coast it is Dungeness crab season and my neighbor gave me some of his extras. My initial thought was to make crab cakes and then inspiration led me to create a benedict that showcases the northwest. The base has to be that great northwest bread, sourdough; then a great lump crab cake, a poached egg and some sort of a sauce. To make things simple I decided to make a simple sauce, mayo, lemon juice and avocado; both that go great with crab.
1 pound fresh cooked lump Dungeness Crab meat
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon cranberry mustard (or substitute Dijon)
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 large egg
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. butter
½ cup mayonnaise
1 ripe avocado
4 large eggs
4 slices sourdough bread
Mix the wet ingredients together then gently fold in the crab then the bread crumbs. Divide into four equal portions and form into cakes. I like to use a ring mold. Melt the butter in a medium heat skillet and fry until crispy on one side, then gently flip and brown the second side. Keep warm.
Mix ½ cup of mayonnaise with the juice of ½ lemon then mash in one half of a ripe avocado. Whip until smooth. Poach the eggs until the desired doneness and reserve warm.
Toast the bread and butter. Place the bread on a plate and add a crab cake on top. Place a poached egg on top, season with salt and pepper and top with the avocado mayonnaise mixture. Repeat for the three remaining benedict and serve immediately. Serves four.
I love to create new and innovative benedicts; using something interesting for the base followed by a complementary piece of meat or vegetable, topped with a lovely poached egg and a sauce to tie everything together. Using Thanksgiving as my inspiration, I thought to use leftover dressing for the base, pressing it into a ring mold and browning it in sauté pan. Next I think a nice piece of turkey would be perfect next level. We could use a circle cutter to make it look a bit more professional or leave the pieces as is for a more rustic presentation. Then the prerequisite poached egg done to your favorite doneness; I like mine with the white firm and a runny yolk. For the sauce, I could use turkey gravy or if cranberries are your thing, top with cranberry sauce. Maybe next year I will work on a cranberry-hollandaise sauce to bring something new to the traditional. This benedict is the perfect brunch dish for your Thanksgiving weekend and is so easy to make.
Option: To work properly your stuffing should be moist and be able to be compacted into the form. If you don't want to make this dish with leftover stuffing why not use the Stuffin Muffin recipe and use a egg ring instead of a muffin pan to create a form similar to an English muffin. You just have to trim off the top to make it flat.
2 slices of turkey
2 cups of moist turkey stuffing or dressing
2 poached eggs
turkey gravy or cranberry sauce
1. Using greased round egg molds, divide stuffing and press to fill. Heat a skillet on medium heat, add butter and the stuffing in the molds. Brown on one side, unmold and brown on second side. Reserve until needed.
2. Using a circle cutter the same size as the egg mold, cut the turkey slices into rounds or if you prefer a more rustic look use a slice. Warm and place on the stuffing rounds.
3. Poach two eggs and add on top of turkey
4. Finish with warmed gravy or cranberry sauce. (you could also add the cranberry sauce to hollandaise for a fancier offering)
Daylight is getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler and football rules the airwaves so it must closer to Thanksgiving day. One great thing about being a Canadian in the United States is that I get to celebrate two separate Thanksgivings, November 28, 2013 in the US and October 14, 2013 in Canada. Talk about leftover turkey! All kidding aside, how do you take inspiration and make a special breakfast that does Thanksgiving proud. Each year I look forward to my favorite dish; stuffing made with celery and onions, bread and spices plus something extra like sausage or diced turkey. My inspiration is to recreate that same great taste in a savory muffin, my "Stuffin' Muffin." I wanted the muffin to be moist and savory with a hint of sweetness. I encourage you to use this as a starting point and make it your own and then envision your own savory muffins.
Note: I searched for the name "stuffin' muffins" and found others had made something similar (even Rachael Ray has one!) usually using bread crumbs or pre-packaged stuffing mixes. I think that using seasoned bread crumbs would be a great idea if used as a crisp topping. I believe my version is unique, adding turkey gravy to add additional moisture (and for taste); creating an unique dish. I believe you could substitute chicken or turkey broth to save some calories.
3 tbsp. butter
1 medium to large onion
2 or 3 stalks celery
Optional: 1 or 2 large precooked turkey or pork sausage patty
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 cup turkey gravy plus extra for serving
1 tsp. thyme leaves
1 tsp. ground sage
Salt and pepper for seasoning
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3-5 tbsp. sugar
1 Large Egg
½ cup milk
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Finely dice the onion, celery and if you choose to use, the sausage. Heat a skillet on medium heat and add butter. Sauté the onion, celery and sausage seasoned with salt and pepper until the onion and celery are soft. Add the poultry seasoning, thyme and sage and sauté for two minutes more, then add the gravy and stir to combine. Taste and correct the seasoning, take off the heat and allow to cool until warm.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in to a large bowl. Beat the egg, sugar and the milk in another bowl and gently mix into the dry ingredients. As making any other muffin I want not to over work the mixture. Mix in the onion and celery mixture.
Grease some muffin tins and spoon the mixture into the muffin tins ¾ full. Bake in a 400° F oven until done (about 20 minutes) or until the tops are brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serve hot with extra gravy. Makes 6 large or 12 small muffins.
And now for something completely different - Ever since Monty Python showed up on the airwaves in the late sixties, I have been a devoted fan. The silly skits still make me smile and laugh. When ever two or more devoted fans come together, you will almost always hear songs or skits recited from memory. Any one for a quick run through of the lumberjack song? For the first time that I know of; a breakfast dish inspired by and dedicated to the lads of Monty Python. What’s next, dead parrot hash, killer rabbit stew or strawberry tart with not too much rat in it? This has to be definitive proof that inspiration can come from anywhere - "Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink, Say no more!" This is simply spam done three ways. We start with scrambled eggs with minced spam, accompanied with spam and potato hash covered with a country spam gravy. I recommend that you use the low sodium spam which still has a considerable amount of salt. Everyone sing, "spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam, wonderful spam!"
Eggs with minced Spam
½ can of Spam (or use reduced salt Spam)
4 eggs plus 2 extra yolks
1 Tbsp. finely chopped chives
2 Tbsp. milk or half and half
1 Tbsp. butter
salt and pepper for seasoning
¼ can of Spam (or use reduced salt Spam)
1 small white onion or 2 shallots finely diced
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. chicken base
4 sprigs thyme
pinch red pepper flakes
hot sauce to taste
salt and pepper for seasoning
2 Medium Red Potatoes
¼ can of Spam (or use reduced salt Spam)
1 - 2 cloves garlic
1 small white onion
½ small green or poblano pepper
½ small red pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs - parsley, oregano, rosemary and chives (or your favorite mix)
salt and pepper for seasoning
¼ cup olive oil plus 2 Tbsp. butter
Heat a sauce pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add 2 Tbsp. butter and the finely diced Spam and finely diced onions or shallots, season with pepper and cook until the Spam is browned. Add the thyme and red pepper flakes and continue to cook for a minute. Whisk in the flour and stir until fully mixed. This is in fact a roux. Stir until the raw flour begins to smell nutty which should only take a minute or two. Continue to whisk and slowly add the milk. Increase the heat to medium high continuing to stir until the mixture begins to boil, then reduce the heat to low. Add the dijon mustard, hot sauce and the chicken base (I like to use "Better then bullion"). Now is the time to check seasoning, and to add the hot sauce to achieve the heat you want. Pick out any thyme stems and keep warm until needed.
Peel and dice the potatoes into 3/8 inch cubes and soak in ice water bath. Dice the Spam, onions and peppers to the same size and reserve. Drain and dry the potatoes with a kitchen towel or paper towel. Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle to medium heat and add ½ of the butter. When the butter starts to sputter, add the oil and then the potatoes. Cook slowly letting each side of the potato brown before flipping. While the potato browns heat a skillet on medium heat and when hot add the remaining butter. When the butter starts to sizzle add the garlic and sauté until fragrant then add the onion and peppers and season with salt. Cook until the onions start to brown and reserve warm. When the potatoes are almost brown and crispy, add the Spam and continue to cook until both the potatoes and spam are browned and crispy. Add the onion and pepper mixture and toss to combine. Taste, season with salt and pepper and add the chopped herbs. Toss to mix and remove from the heat. Serve immediately.
Eggs with minced Spam
Crack the eggs
and extra yolk into a small bowl and add the half and half or milk
and season with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs with a fork until they are a
solid color. Do not over-beat to keep the eggs tender. Heat a 10
inch skillet on medium high heat so that when you add 2 Tbsp. of the
butter, it sizzles but does not brown too quickly. Swirl it around the pan
to cover the bottom. Add finely diced Spam and fry until lightly browned. Add
the beaten eggs to the skillet and let heat for 20 to 30 seconds. Using the
spatula gently push the egg mixture from the edge to the middle of the pan.
Continue over the entire surface of the skillet until egg curds start to
form. Reduce the heat to medium low, and start gently folding over the
curds. If you want extra creamy eggs; while the mixture is still runny add small
pieces of butter continuing to fold the mixture over to make the eggs
extra creamy. Pull the eggs off the heat when almost done, stir in chopped
chives and let the residual heat finish cooking the eggs. Serve
immediately. Serves 2.
Hints - I like to use the 25% salt reduced spam to cut back on the salt and taste as I go to ensure the salt doesn't get out of control. Don't skip the fresh herbs, they are my favorite part. If you want to add additional vegetables, go for it; in fact if you want to add a Hawaiian touch you could try a little pineapple in the hash. Try substituting olive oil for the butter to save a few calories and for the vegetarian, substitute mushrooms or a meat replacement product for the Spam.
When I reviewed Deb Perlman's book "The Smitten Kitchen", I was totally enamored with her recipe for mushroom bourguignon. Since my wife and I are trying to eat less meat and more fruits and vegetables, I am always looking for great vegetarian ideas. This morning I ventured to our local farmers market and found some fresh wild porcini mushrooms and bought them not knowing how I was going to use them. When I was driving home I started thinking about cooking something Italian and I remembered Deb's mushroom dish. I thought mushroom stew, then I thought Italian and then cacciatore, the traditional Italian chicken stew came to mind. This is a great example of both inspiration and substitution. There are other versions out there but here is mine made with fresh porcini mushrooms.
2 to 3 pound fresh porcini mushrooms about 5 large
1 pound cremini mushrooms
1 medium red onion
3-4 Cloves of garlic sliced
2 stalks celery
1 red pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes
8 large roma tomatoes skinned
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tsp. porcini powder
1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese plus some rind if you have it
1 cup white wine
1 cup vegetable broth
splash of sherry or white balsamic vinegar
fresh herbs - basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley and oregano (one or more)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot boil some water with some salt. Core the roma tomatoes and cut an "X" in the other end. Place in the boiling water for 30 seconds to loose the skin then remove to an ice water bath. Skin and coarsely chop and reserve until needed. Put the cherry tomatoes in a shallow baking dish, sprinkle with olive oil and kosher salt. Roast in 400 degree oven until darkened and let cool until needed.
Clean and prepare the veggies and coarsely chop. Heat a large skillet to medium high heat and add two Tbsp. olive oil. Chop the mushrooms into large bite-sized pieces and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes then reserve until needed. Add more oil to the pan and add the onions and garlic, season and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and peppers, re-season and sauté until they start to soften then deglaze with the wine. Cook for 5 minutes and reserve. Clean the pan, reheat and add some more oil then add the roasted cherry tomatoes. Add the tomato paste and sauté for a minute or two, then add the rest of the tomatoes and cook until they start to release some liquid. Add the dried herbs, then add in the reserved onion mixture. Stir to combine then add the mushroom and the fresh herbs. Top with the vegetable broth and bake in a 275 degree oven for at least an hour. Turn the heat down and let the flavors mingle while you prepare some pasta. When the pasta is ready, add a splash of sherry vinegar and grate some parmesan cheese over the top and serve over pasta. Let any leftovers cool and refrigerate. It tastes even better the second day.
Flavor boosters - I use a few tricks to boost the flavor, first roast the cherry tomatoes to add a sweet element. Second, I add tomato paste and let it brown a bit. Third, I always keep some porcini powder (ground dried porcini) around and save the parmesan rinds to add to any stew and last, a splash of sweet vinegar adds a brightness and extra sweetness.
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How does a good chef think? What is the creative process a
chef uses to come up with new and exciting dishes? What do I need to know to enable that creative process? These are the questions I want to explore in this series of articles. As a chef and an avid cookbook collector I am drawn towards
ideas and techniques of cooking rather than just a collection of recipes. I believe to grow as a chef, I need to continually learn and hone new techniques along with perfecting each technique I use every day. Whenever I go to a restaurant, whether fine dining, neighborhood pub, avant garde, or even fast food, I continually ask myself how can I do this better, what works and more important, what doesn’t? Feel free to send me comments, ask questions. Together, we can explore and make creative cuisine.
Spending almost thirty years in the computing field, I was able to travel experiencing a wide variety of tremendous cuisine. First I became a foodie, and when the opportunity arose, I was able to attend culinary school following my passion. I work as a part-time private chef and volunteer time at the community café in North Bend Oregon providing affordable meals in a restaurant setting to my community.