Sunday, October 27, 2019

Nigella's Toad In The Hole

It has been far too long since I've cooked with The Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson. To remedy that, I decided on an old-fashioned British classic, Toad In The Hole.

Toad In The Hole is a traditional dish that is basically links of sausage popping out of a popover batter.  The sausages are said to appear like toads poking their heads out of holes.

Now, Nigella changes things up a bit because according to her, "I really don't like the way that the sausages, when this is prepared in the traditional manner, go a spooky braised pink as they cook within the batter." So she removes the sausage from the casing and forms little patties.

Now, I've never tried the traditional way, with the links, but I can see Nigella's point and therefore chose to go with her method. In the end, I think it makes the dish a little more appetizing and also easier to eat.

Please do yourself a favor and try this classic dish.  It is incredibly simple to put together and requires very little ingredients. It makes for a comforting family meal, perfect for kids. Toad In The Hole is typically served with onion gravy and peas and/or mashed potatoes. The onion gravy truly brings together the flavors of the Toad In The Hole with the peas and mashed potatoes for a delightfully different meal. My favorite parts were the crunchy bits of the batter close to the edge!

Toad In The Hole
Recipe Adapted from Nigella's Kitchen
by Nigella Lawson
Serves 4-6

For The Toad In The Hole
1-1/2 cups milk
4 eggs
pinch salt
1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
approximately 1 pound good pork sausages (6 in number)
1 tablespoon fat or oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnishing

For Onion Gravy
2 tablespoons fat or oil
2 onions, peeled, halves, and very finely sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons flour
2 cups beef broth
splash of marsala, if desired

For the Toad In The Hole: Preheat the oven to 425F. Whisk the milk and eggs together with the salt, then whisk in the flour, beating to make a smooth batter. I find this way round makes for a lighter batter.

Press the sausage meat out of its casing (you may need to nick the skin with a knife), half a sausage at a time, rolling it in your hands to form a ball, and then squash gently to make a little, fat patty. You should get 12 patties from the 6 sausages.

Heat the fat or oil in a heavy-based, flame-safe roasting pan on the stove and brown the patties for about 1 minute each side; you need do no more than make them look enticingly brown.

With the patties and oil still hot, pour in the batter and quickly drop in the sprigs of thyme. Absolutely immediately put into the oven for about 40 minutes or until the edges of the batter have risen and turned golden, and the eggy middle has set.

Serve immediately, scattered with a thyme sprig or two or just a few leaves, and with gravy (if you feel you can only properly enjoy your popovers when they are sauce-sogged.

For Onion Gravy: Warm 2 tablespoons fat or oil and then cook 2 onions, halved, and very finely sliced, until soft (about 10 minutes). Add 2 teaspoons sugar, and let the onions cook, caramelizing a little for another 3 or so minutes, before stirring in 4 teaspoons flour, then 2 cups beef broth. When thickened and hot, add a glug of marsala (if you wish) to taste.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Ruth Reichl's Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Walnut Lasagne

When I first got my hands on Ruth Reichl's The Gourmet Cookbook, there were two recipes that jumped out at me, begging me to make them. The first was her Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves, which I made straight away, and the next was her Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagne, which I'm just now getting to because...well, it requires a lot of time and effort.

So, I've adapted this recipe for two reasons: one, I don't care for hazelnuts BUT I do love walnuts, and second, I wanted to add a little bit of sausage for flavor. Hence, Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Walnut Lasagne. I also read the reviews and decided to amp up the onion and garlic, add red pepper flakes, and add some more cheese, in the form of Gruyere. Mozzarella and Parmesan are good and all, but Gruyere belongs in this lasagne since it's nutty flavor pairs beautifully with both the walnuts and the butternut. Feel free to play with the flavors and adapt the dish how you like!

Just so you know, we're talking about layers of fresh pasta sheets covered in chunks of tender butternut squash seasoned with spicy sausage, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, walnuts, sage, and parsley; creamy bechamel sauce; and three kinds of cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Fresh Mozzarella, and Gruyere.

I mean I don't wanna get in the habit of writing love letters to chefs, but I could definitely write Ruth a love letter about this lasagne. The flavors and textures are simply incredible, friends! This is an amazing dish and one that you could definitely entertain over the autumn months.

Now, I knew that I would really like this dish, but I wasn't expecting to be bowled over with flavors and textures. While there is plenty of butternut squash in this dish it is not overwhelming in any way. You get the flavor of the butternut, along with the spicy sausage, the creamy bechamel sauce, and all the cheeses, and you wanna know what's really nice in this dish? The crunch from the walnuts. It goes a long way in creating such wonderful texture in this dish. You have both creamy and crunchy, plus little nuggets of butternut along with way. Drop the mic, folks. This is a total winner!

Thanks, Ruth, for another absolutely amazing dish!

Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Walnut Lasagne
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 6-8

For Filling:
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 pound ground sausage, spicy or another flavor
3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2" pieces
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 cup walnuts, toasted, and coarsely chopped 
any broth, optional

For Sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon or more, to taste, minced garlic
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 Turkish bay leaf 
1 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste

For Assembling:
2 cups coarsely grated fresh mozzarella (about 8 ounces)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan-Reggiano (about 2 ounces)
1 cup grated Gruyere (optional)
12 oven-ready (no-boil) lasagne noodles or 3 or 4 fresh pasta sheets

Notes: Feel free to change up this lasagne however you see fit. I loved this with the spicy sausage, but you can definitely make this vegetarian, spicing it up with red pepper flakes, or without! 
Make the filling: Melt butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add onion and sausage (if using) cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes (if using) and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender about 15-25 minutes. (I used a little broth here and there while I was cooking the squash so that the ingredients wouldn't stick to the pan). Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Taste the mixture and make sure the flavors are where you want them. Let cool. 

Make the sauce: Preheat oven to 425F. Butter a 13x9 baking dish. Set aside. Melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes to make a roux. Add milk in a slow stream, whisking constantly.  Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover the surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately). 

To assemble the lasagne: Toss cheeses together in a large bowl. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered baking dish and cover with 3 lasagne noodles (or a fresh sheet of pasta), leaving space if using separate noodles (pasta will expand). Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and 1/3 of the filling, then sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese.  Top with more noodles, 2/3 cup sauce, 1/3 filling, 1/3 cheese. Repeat layering one more time, using the remaining ingredients. Don't fret.  None of this needs to be exact!

To bake: Tightly cover the baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagne for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more.  Let lasagne stand for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with sage and/or parsley, if desired and enjoy!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Mark Bittman's Minimalist Buffalo Wings {The Very Best Buffalo Wings}

So my family is absolutely crazy for chicken wings. We eat them at least once a week. Years ago I tried a Nigel Slater version where he roasts the wings in the oven and this roasting method became my go-to method for chicken wings. The roasted wings are crispy without the mess of frying, and I feel that roasting the chicken helps to bring out the flavor of the chicken, much more than frying would. Roasting wings is a very good method.

However, I stumbled upon Mark Bittman's Minimalist Buffalo Wings recipe this week and wanted to give his broiling method a try. I could write a letter about them. In fact, I think I will.

Dear Mr. Bittman,

I thought I had perfected making chicken wings. My family and I really enjoyed them roasted in the oven with a simple dusting of Lawry's. They flew off the pan and I could never seem to make enough.

Then I tried your method of broiling the chicken wings and my family came unglued. We turned into wild animals, fighting over each wing until they were gone. I'm not kidding, Mark. Have you ever seen one of those documentaries where wild animals fight over their prey? The scene in my kitchen was very much like that. In fact, my children nearly attacked each other over your wings, Mark.

We blame this behavior on "the trifecta of deliciousness": the most incredible buffalo sauce (buttery and garlicky with just the right amount of heat);  the crispiest exterior a buffalo wing has ever had (truly the broiler method is the best), and the juiciest most delicious chicken meat on the inside. I mean when you take a bite and the buffalo sauce hits your lips it is lip smackin' good, then you get the crunch of the outside and bite into that juicy chicken and it is just magic, Mark. A mouth never had it so good!

Your wings are the stuff of dreams. You deserve a medal. We should shout your name from the mountaintops and we just might. Right after I make another batch.

You are our hero, Mark.
The Stirring The Pot Family

Minimalist Buffalo Wings
Adapted from Food52
by Mark Bittman
Serves 4-6, depending

3 pounds of chicken wings
Neutral oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup mild hot sauce, like Frank's Red Hot
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or white vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
blue cheese dressing or ranch, for serving
carrot sticks and/or celery sticks, for serving

Pat the wings dry very well with paper towels (this will help them crisp) and, if the wings are whole, cut them into 3 sections, saving the wing tips for stock. Toss the wings with a little neutral oil to keep them from sticking, salt them lightly, and spread them on a baking sheet, leaving at least an inch of space between each wing.

Heat the broiler with a rack 4 to 6 inches from the flame. (Alternately, heat a charcoal or gas grill; the fire should be moderately hot and the rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat. Leave one side of the grill cooler for indirect cooking.)

Broil in the oven on a sheet pan until the wings are evenly well-browned and crisp, flipping them midway through. This should take 20 to 25 minutes overall, but will depend on the strength of your broiler, so peek often! (If using the grill, put the wings on the cool side of the grill. Cover the grill and cook, checking and turning once or twice, until most of the fat has been rendered and the wings are evenly well-browned and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes.).

While the wings cook, in a large bowl, combine the hot sauce, melted butter, vinegar, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.

When the wings are browned and crisp, add them to the bowl with the sauce and toss to coat. Return the wings to the pan, leaving excess sauce in the bowl, and broil fora few minutes until sizzling and nicely browned on both sides, flipping once. (Or put the wings on the hot part of the grill and cook, uncovered, turning as necessary.)

Serve hot with the extra sauce on the side, for extra spicy, saucy wings, toss back in the sauce before serving. Blue cheese and/or ranch dressing and celery sticks and/or carrot sticks on the side are a good idea. 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Mark Bittman's Spaetzle for Oktoberfest!

I absolutely love Spaetzle! Who doesn't? Buttery little bits of's just a given. However, I never thought about making it because, well... I've become somewhat of a lazy cook and I don't like dealing with dough or special tools, like a spaetzle maker.

Well, let me tell you....never fear! This dough is super easy and you don't even need a spaetzle maker! No, all you need is a pizza baking pan with holes on the bottom! Or you can even use a pasta strainer. Who knew? Now spaetzle making is as easy as 1-2-3! Simply place the pizza pan, or strainer, over the boiling water and push that dough right through with a spatula. Spaetzle for everyone!

Now we can celebrate Oktoberfest like we should! The best part is that you probably already have every single ingredient you need, and if you don't then we need to talk, because we're talking the bare minimum ingredients here: flour, eggs, milk, butter, salt and pepper, and just about any kind of herbs for topping.

So, what on earth are you waiting for? Deliciousness awaits!

by Mark Bittman
Serves 4

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 eggs
1 cup milk, more if needed
2 to 4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
chopped fresh parsley or chives for garnish

Step One: Set a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. In a bowl, combine flour with pepper and a large pinch of salt. In a bowl, combine flour with pepper and a large pinch of salt. Lightly beat together eggs and milk, and add to the flour, stirring. If necessary, add a little more milk until the mixture has the consistency of pancake batter.

Step Two (per Mark Bittman): Scoop a tablespoon or so of batter and drop it into the water; small pieces may breakoff, but the batter should remain largely intact and form a disk. Repeat, using about one-third to one-fourth the batter, depending on the size of the pot. When spaetzle rise to the top a couple of minutes later (you may have to loosen them from the bottom, but they will pop right up), cook another minute or so, then remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl of ice water. Repeat until all the batter is used up. 

Step Two (Easier Alternative):  Instead of following Bittman's steps for forming and cooking the spaetzle I read and researched various ways, finally settling on a method that was easiest. If you have a non-stick pizza pan with holes you are all set! Simply place it over the boiling water and allow the batter to run through the holes - talk about easy! This is the perfect method for getting the perfect-sized spaetzle and also making a somewhat tedious job perfectly easy.

Step Three: Drain spaetzle; at this point you can toss them with a bit of oil and refrigerate, covered, for up to a day. Heat butter or oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. when it's hot, add spaetzle a few at a time, and quickly brown on both sides. Serve hot, garnished with parsley or chives. And, let's be real here...of course, you could use olive oil, but why on earth would you? Browned butter is the perfect accompaniment to spaetzle!

This is a helpful video if you decide to make spaetzle!