Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Nigel Slater Inspired Chili

The days are still hot, but the nights are starting to cool down, making football games and bonfires so very enjoyable. As we dig out our big comfy sweaters, jeans, and boots we start to crave comfort food.  It's time for big pots of chili and all the fixings.

Chili can be served a variety of ways and I like to celebrate that by creating a chili bar.  Baked potatoes, pasta, hot dogs, burgers, french fries, and nachos are all great with a little chili on top.  Then you need toppings for the chili: crackers, cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, and onions are the most popular at my house.  Everyone loves to customize their own meal. 

My favorite is a chili dog with onions and mustard but that runs a close race with a baked potato topped with chili, cheese, jalapenos, and onions.  I can never decide which I like best.  My husband and daughter love their chili over pasta and everyone in my house loves chili and cheese over french fries. There are so many tasty options.

The type of chili you serve is all about individual taste.  I haven't really met a chili that I didn't like but I definitely favor chili with lots of beans.  This version is adapted from a very simplistic Nigel Slater recipe.  I doubled the recipe because I love leftover chili and I added lots of spices, veggies, and some jalapenos for heat.  This version was thick and delicious and I'd definitely make it again.

Gameday Chili
Inspired by Nigel Slater
recipe via The Guardian
Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 onions, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, minced
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 - 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 pounds of ground turkey
2 cans of chili beans, with liquid

Add oil to a large Dutch oven and cook onions and peppers over medium heat until softened, 5-6 minutes.  Add garlic, jalapenos, all the seasonings, and stir until everything is blended.  Add tomato paste and chili sauce and cook for 1-2 minutes to develop a deep tomato flavor.   Add can of crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.  Remove this vegetable mixture to a bowl.  Cook the ground turkey until it becomes a rich dark color.  Add the vegetable mixture back in the pot.  Add in the chili beans, with their liquid, and cook over low-medium heat until thick.  Continue to season and taste.  You may want to add a little more heat via red pepper flakes, jalapeno, or hot sauce.  You may even wish to season the chili with a bit more chili powder.  I usually add a little more minced garlic towards the end.  Garnish the chili with cheese, sour cream, cilantro, green onions, crackers, chips, etc. Serve over baked potatoes, pasta, hot dogs, burgers, french fries, and nachos.  Create your own little chili bar.
Theme: Ladle It Up!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Baked Manicotti with Sausage and Peas

"Did you eat it? Did you eat the last one?" I asked him this while giving him the death stare.  I knew he did, of course, but I had to ask.  The look in his eye confirmed my worse fears.  I knew in an instant there was no more Baked Manicotti with Sausage and Peas. He had done it.  He had ate the very last one.  

I didn't even try to hide my disappointment for a minute because I wanted that last manicotti with every fiber in my being.  Oh my goodness those manicotti were absolutely amazing. Beautiful pasta tubes stuffed with perfectly seasoned Italian sausage, petite peas, and fluffy ricotta cheese. A little marinara and a creamy dreamy fonduta sauce (a blend of milk, cream and Pecorino Romano) blankets the pasta.  Top all that with lots of ooey gooey mozzarella cheese, and after some time in the oven, you have one delectable, family-pleasing, feel-good casserole worth fighting over.  

Baked Manicotti with Sausage and Peas
Serves 4-6

Fonduta sauce:
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces (about 3 cups) grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves 

For Sausage and Pea Filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large or 2 small shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1/4 cup white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
3/4 cup (4 ounces) frozen petite peas, thawed
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta 

To Fill and Bake:
12 manicotti shells
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella 

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-13-by-2-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

For the fonduta sauce: In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low. Add the Pecorino Romano and whisk until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil. Set aside.

For the filling: In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, shallots, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook until the sausage is cooked through and the vegetables have softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, break the sausage into 1/2-inch pieces. Increase the heat to high. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until the wine has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Add the peas, ricotta, and 1 cup of the fonduta sauce. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

To bake:  Place half of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Using a small spoon, fill the manicotti shells with the sausage filling and arrange in a single layer in the baking dish. Pour the remaining marinara sauce on top of the filled shells. Spoon the remaining fonduta sauce on top and sprinkle with the mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until bubbly and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Theme September Potluck!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Salmon Cakes over Pea Puree

Every year on September 11th, we have a special family dinner. This special dinner is our way of remembering and honoring all those who were affected by the tragedy.  On this day we make it a point to take some time out and celebrate our family and how blessed we are to have each other.

Thirteen years ago on September 11th my daughter turned six months old and I was about excited as I could be because this meant she could eat real food for the first time.  I had looked forward to this day for such a long time.  I had a special outfit chosen for her with a matching bonnet. I also had a homemade pea puree prepared and waiting in the fridge. My plan was to dress her up, feed her, and take all sorts of pictures.  Everything was laid out and waiting.

Then I went to work and that day turned into something I will never forget.  The fear, the panic, and the heartbreak seemed neverending as one tragedy unfolded after another.  Thankfully my employer let us leave early and there was nothing I wanted to do more than see my baby girl's sweet little smiling face. 

I was never so happy to see Olivia and give her a big hug.  I didn't know what else to do so I went ahead and took her to her appointment.  The doctor gave his approval for her to start eating real food. I no longer felt like celebrating but I took her home, dressed her up, fed her pureed peas, and took a few pictures. She was smiling and happy and it was just what I needed in that moment.  When I look back on that day my first thoughts are about the tragedy.  Then I remember my sweet baby girl and how she made me smile on a day when there was so little to smile about and I'm incredibly grateful.   

So each year on September 11th, we remember the tragedy and we honor it with a special meal.  Our special meal always has to include peas, of some sort, and Olivia always gets an extra helping.  We tease her that she has to dress up just like I made her do on that day thirteen years ago. We congratulate her on eating real food for thirteen years, or however many years it happens to be.  Mostly we are just silly and grateful to be together. 

Salmon Cakes
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater
Serves 2-4

1 pound (500g) salmon, diced
a large stick of lemongrass, chopped finely
zest and juice of a lime
a thumb sized piece of ginger,grated
a small hot chili, diced
clove of garlic, grated
2 spring onions, diced
handful of cilantro, chopped
8 tablespoons breadcrumbs
salt and pepper, to taste
butter and/or oil, for cooking

Place the diced salmon into a mixing bowl. Add the finely chopped lemongrass, the grated ginger, chopped spring onions, grated garlic, and diced chili.  Stir the salmon adding in the lime juice and zest.  Be sure to use a light hand as to not turn the salmon into a paste.

Fold in the chopped cilantro and breadcrumbs together with a little salt and pepper.  Take up scoops of the mixture and pat into small thickish cakes.  The mixture should make about four patties.  Warm a little butter and oil in a skillet.  I prefer cast iron for frying.  Lower the salmon cakes into the skillet and cook until golden on each side.  Serve with the pea puree. 

Minted Pea Puree
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater
Serves 2-4

One bag frozen peas
4 sprigs of mint
one clove of garlic
salt and pepper, to taste

Boil the peas, mint sprigs, and clove of garlic in lightly salted water till tender, drain, and whizz peas and the mint in a food processor with the oil till smooth.  Be sure to taste and season well. Serve with salmon cakes.

Theme: Lentils, Legumes, and Pulses Oh My!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Chicken Po'Boy

To be perfectly honest I wouldn't normally turn to a British cook, like Nigel Slater, for a Chicken Po'Boy recipe.  However, Nigel's recipe seemed like a good jumping off point and I did happen to have all the ingredients on hand.

Nigel's recipe is as classic as ever.  Fresh baguette, strips of fried chicken, shredded lettuce and mayo.  The only personal touch I added was to add quite a bit of Lawry's seasoning to my chicken as it fried.  Lawry's seasoning is pretty much amazing on anything fried, especially chicken, and it was definitely a great addition in this recipe.   

The result was perfectly golden strips of fried chicken nestled in a hot crispy baguette with lots of shredded lettuce and mayo.  Every bite was heavenly. This sandwich is decadent, comforting, and satisfying on so many levels.

Chicken Po'Boy
Adapted from Real Fast Food
by Nigel Slater
For 2

2 small baguettes
2 chicken breasts, sliced into 3 strips each or
6 chicken tenders 
 cornmeal or flour, to coat
*Lawry's seasoning, to taste
a little canola oil for frying
shredded lettuce

Note: A homemade remoulade would be wonderful in place of the mayo

Split the baguettes lengthwise, put the halves together, and warm them in a hot oven.  While they are heating, slice the chicken breast into six pieces and roll in the cornmeal or flour.  Alternatively, put the cornmeal or flour in a bag and shake the pieces in it.

Fry the chicken in hot shallow oil till crisp, about 7 to 8 minutes, turning once.  Remove the bread from the oven and spread all the cut sides generously with mayonnaise.  Add some shredded lettuce to the bottom half of each baguette, then pile on the fried chicken pieces.  Press down firmly and eat while still warm. 
Soups, Salads, and Sammies Every Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen
Theme: Bread Ahead!