Category Archives: Entree

Birthday Dinner (plus leftovers) – Crab Cakes with Dijon & White Wine Cream Sauces

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

There are indeed times that life becomes so overwhelming that I don’t even have time to cook. Then there are those times that I am just having so much fun that I’m too lazy to take the time to write about it on my blog! Thankfully, since I last posted, the latter has been the case.

I am feeling much better, work has been manageable and we have been busy having a little fun over the last couple of weeks including a camping trip for the Memorial Day weekend. This past weekend we celebrated my wife Kat’s birthday and as bad as I am at picking out gifts, hopefully I made up for it by cooking some of her favorite meals.

On Saturday night I made Crab Cakes with a Dijon cream sauce then yesterday, her actual birthday, the leftovers made for a very special brunch; Crab Cakes Benedict! I was pleased with the way they came out but the Benedict would have been better with a traditional Hollandaise sauce. I used a “quick and easy” version and I don’t think it was as good as taking the trouble to do it right. I am going to include a link below that explains both the quick and the traditional Hollandaise.

Speaking of sauces, the Dijon and white wine cream sauce is simply a variation from rouxbe.com, I just cut the recipe in half and used a little more wine to boost the flavor. You could certainly substitute plain non-fat yogurt but I don’t think a little bit of cream is all that bad for you as long as you practice moderation. If you do prefer to use yogurt remember not to let it come to a boil or it may curdle. Just move the pan on and off the heat to control your temp and you will be fine.

Unless you are picking the crabs yourself, I recommend using only the “fresh” canned crab that you find in the refrigerator case at a fresh fish market or a warehouse store. In my experience the stuff on the shelf (next to the tuna) at the grocery store just isn’t worth messing with. Lump crab is quite sufficient for crab cakes, I don’t think the extra expense of “jumbo lump” or “back fin” is really necessary. Usually, I buy the 16 oz can of Phillips or Blue Star brand at Costco or Restaurant Depot.

You may notice that the crab cake recipe itself is quite simple, even more so than my salmon patties, but there is a method to my madness. I have tried many different crab cake recipes including adding mayo, chopped onions, peppers and/or celery, Worcestershire sauce, and even cubed wonder bread to the mix. I have always gone back to minimizing the ingredients because crab has such a wonderful and delicate flavor…I prefer to keep it simple and let that flavor shine through.

Crab Cakes with Dijon & White Wine Cream Sauce

For the crab cakes…

1 Lb – Lump Crab meat, drained
1/3 Cup – fine panko bread crumbs, plus 1/3 cup on the side
1 – Egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon – Old Bay seasoning
Olive Oil
Canola Oil

For the Dijon & white wine cream sauce…

1 Tbsp – Unsalted butter
1 Tbsp – Shallots, finely chopped
¼ cup – Dry white wine
1 cup – whipping cream
½ Tbsp – Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine the first four crab cake ingredients in a large mixing bowl and fold gently to combine. Mix well trying to break up the crab pieces as little as possible.

Using a 1/3 cup measure mold the mixture into cakes pressing firmly to compress into an evenly shaped patty. Dust the outside of each cake with additional panko and set very carefully on a lined cookie sheet so as to avoid breaking the cake. (This recipe should make 6 equal cakes with a little left over for one smaller cake for the cook.) When all the cakes have been formed, refrigerate the crab cakes for at least 1 hour to allow them time to set up.

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium high heat and add enough olive oil and canola oil (combined 50-50) to cover the entire bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, using a spatula, very gently place half of your crab cakes into the pan and cook about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Gently turn and cook 3 minutes more. Remove the browned crab cakes to a cooling rack or paper towel then carefully wipe out the pan and repeat with the rest of the crab cakes.

When all the crab cakes are browned, carefully pour off the oil and return the pan to the heat. Add the butter and when the butter has melted and just stopped foaming add the shallots. Cook the shallots for about one minute, stirring them to prevent burning then add the wine to the pan. Allow the wine to come to a boil and cook until the wine has nearly evaporated leaving only a few tablespoons of liquid.

Add the cream, whisking to combine and continue whisking steadily until the sauce returns to boil. Cook, whisking continuously until the sauce has reached your desired thickness, whisking in the Dijon mustard at the last minute. Test the sauce for seasonings and add salt & pepper to taste.

To serve, plate the crab cakes individually resting in a small pool of the cream sauce or serve with the sauce in a small dish on the side.

If you have leftovers do try Crab Cakes Benedict for breakfast the next day!

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

Simply reheat the crab cakes in a toaster or conventional oven until warmed through then serve them on a toasted English muffin topped with a poached egg and a little Hollandaise sauce. These are simple, elegant, and truly a great way to treat your loved ones to something special!

Enjoy!

Randy

Mother’s Day Brunch – Tuna Soufflé Bake

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

For my third installment in the Mothers Day brunch series I am revisiting my youth once more. The recipe I’m posting below is verbatim from an old, yellowed, newspaper clipping I found in one of my mother’s recipe boxes:

I remember the recipe well and I loved it as much for dinner as I did (leftover) for breakfast. So as a nod to my mom and her wonderful ability to always provide us with the tastiest meals, even when times were a little tight, I felt this one very appropriate.

The dish is definitely a budget meal like so many of the recipes from that era, and it’s more of a “strata” than a “soufflé” as it contains more bread than eggs but I don’t think they were shooting for gourmet status when they published it so many years ago. Rest assured, it was gourmet to me back then and today I still enjoy it exactly as written.

Another beauty of the recipe is that the variations are endless; if you don’t want to use tuna, try crumbled and browned breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, or go meatless for that matter. Some of the combinations I can envision are Italian Sausage with fontina and swiss chard, feta cheese, with tomatoes and spinach, and how about chili & cheese? Yum! See what I mean? This is also a versatile and inexpensive weeknight recipe with many possibilities.

Getting back to the brunch though…I did substitute whole grain bread (crust included) and unsweetened almond milk in the soufflé pictured and it could have used a little more moisture. I think next time I would soak the bread in an extra ½ cup of the milk before assembly just to get the texture and moisture a little closer to the original. (If you use a white bread this extra step should be unnecessary.) Otherwise, use your imagination a little and have fun with the recipe. I’m sure your mom will appreciate the effort!

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

 Tuna Soufflé Bake

8 slices – Day-old bread
1 Can (7 oz) – Tuna, drained
2 Cups (8 oz) – Shredded cheddar cheese
1 Can (4 oz) – Mushrooms, drained
3 – Eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon – Prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon – salt
1/2 teaspoon – Onion salt
1/8 teaspoon – pepper

(Preheated 325 degree oven – 2 Quart Casserole / 6-8 servings)

Trim crusts from bread: cube. Place ½ of bread cubes in casserole: add tuna, mushrooms, and cheese. Top with remaining bread cubes: then remaining cheese. Blend together eggs, mustard, salt, onion salt, and pepper: add milk. Pour over casserole. Bake 60 – 70 minutes or until set.

Mother’s Day Brunch – Shaved Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

I have plans to spend Mothers Day with my mom this year but I won’t have the opportunity to cook for her. For those of you that will, and with Mothers Day a little more than a week away, I wanted to come up with a couple of recipes on a brunch theme with just the touch of class that moms so much deserve.

This simple but classy salad will be the first of several Mothers Day recipes and although it is intended as a salad course for a brunch menu…with a poached egg perched on top (and a warm crusty baguette) this salad made for an elegant yet light dinner entrée for my wife and I last night.

After first slicing the whole tips off of the asparagus spears, I used a vegetable peeler to “whittle” the rest of the stem into shavings. This was a little awkward at first but once I got the hang of it I breezed through the bunch almost before the pot of water even came to the boil. Don’t fuss too much with this step; the rusticity of the shavings add to the appeal of this dish.

I make it a point to mention not to over-dress the salad because last night, I pretty much did just that. I think our dish would have been perfect with a little less of the dressing. This too isn’t complicated, just add the dressing a little at a time until the asparagus is “just” coated. This is also why I emphasize getting the asparagus as dry as possible after blanching it. The point is simply; this salad is best if you don’t drench it with the dressing…use a gentle touch and all will be good!

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

1 Bunch – Asparagus (about 1 Lb.), tough bottoms trimmed away
1 – Med Shallot, diced small
¼ Cup – Prosciutto, thin sliced and cut into (roughly) 1/8” wide strips
¼ Cup – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of – 1 Fresh Lemon
1 Tbsp – Sherry Vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Asiago Cheese, for garnish
Green Onion, green parts only, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil along with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Meanwhile, cutting at a sharp angle, slice the tips off of the asparagus then using a vegetable peeler, shave the remaining stems into roughly 1 to 2 inch pieces. Place all of the asparagus into a sieve or strainer (that will fit into the pot) and lower it into the boiling water to blanch for 1 minute. Remove the asparagus from the boiling water and rinse under cold water for at least 1 minute to stop the cooking process. Discard the water.

Spread the asparagus on a paper towel lined cookie sheet and pat dry then move the asparagus to another paper towel lined cookie sheet to make sure excess water is removed. Allow to air dry 10 to 15 minutes before placing it in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and when hot add the olive oil. Stir in the prosciutto strips and cook until dark (but not too dark), 1 to 2 minutes. Strain the prosciutto, reserving the oil. Spread the prosciutto on a paper towel to crisp and return the oil to the pan.

Sauté the shallots about 1 minute, until they just begin to turn transparent, then add a few good grinds of fresh black pepper and the lemon juice. Boil and reduce until the lemon juice begins to turn syrupy, about one minute more. Add the vinegar, return to a boil while stirring, then remove the pan from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon remove most of the shallots from the pan and transfer these to the bowl of asparagus. Set aside some of the prosciutto for garnish then stir the rest into the asparagus. Toss gently to mix the ingredients while adding just enough of the pan juices to moisten the asparagus throughout…do not over dress! (You should have just enough dressing to coat the asparagus but not enough to pool in the bottom of the bowl.)

To serve plate the salad, topped with a poached egg if desired. Garnish with shaved Asiago cheese, some of the crispy prosciutto and green onion tops sliced lengthwise into approximately 1-1/2 X 1/8 inch strips.

Enjoy,

Randy

Mission “Learn to like Tilapia” – Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

For some time now I have been wrinkling my nose at tilapia. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sustainability factor of conscientiously farmed raised fish; I do! It’s the taste and the texture of most tilapia that turns me off. In my experience tilapia often has an unpleasant earthy (or muddy) taste and the texture can be mushy even when it’s perfectly fresh and flawlessly prepared. I don’t mean to be a food snob, really I don’t! But compared to all the fresh Atlantic seafood I have the opportunity to catch (well sometimes), or purchase here in South Florida, tilapia just seemed second rate.

Last night however, I decided to give tilapia another chance. Why? Because tilapia has taken over the market in leaps and bounds becoming one the most popular seafood products in the U.S. today. Everywhere I look, from restaurant menus, to grocery stores tilapia has become a recognized value and a very popular request. Hey, what was the old adage…If you can’t beat them, join them? So I picked up a package of fresh tilapia fillets and set out to prove myself wrong.

According to Cooks Illustrated the muddy taste in tilapia is caused by a naturally occurring compound called geosmin which is Greek for “earth smell”. (Go figure!) They said this compound is abundant in the blue-green algae found in the bottom of the man-made ponds that catfish and tilapia are raised in and that the flavor can be diffused by acids. They went on to recommend soaking in buttermilk for an hour before cooking which of course, I didn’t take the time to do.

My thinking in using this recipe was that the yogurt, garlic, and vinegar in the tzatziki would provide enough acid to overcome any unpleasant taste in the fish and indeed it did…somewhat. While the recipe is a keeper that I will definitely use again, I might opt for pre-soaking the tilapia in buttermilk next time (if I don’t use snapper, grouper, or mahi-mahi instead).

Hang on now…don’t fret! I haven’t given up on tilapia yet. After all, I still have 3 big fillets left from that package last night. I think I might try it with an acidic marinade, a Cuban mojo perhaps or some other citrus blend. I’ll keep you posted as mission “Learn to like Tilapia” continues!

Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

2 to 4 – Tilapia fillets (preferably pre-soaked in buttermilk for one hour)
¾ Cup – Japanese Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp – Olive Oil
Zest of one whole lemon
½ Tbsp – Large grind, fresh ground black pepper
Kosher Salt
Tzatziki Sauce (Recipe below)

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat the fillets dry and place them on a lightly oiled, foil covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle the fillets with kosher salt and set them aside while you mix the crumb topping.

In a medium bowl combine the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and pepper then drizzle in the olive oil while stirring. Continue stirring and fluffing the crumbs loosely until the oil, lemon, and pepper has been very well distributed, about 5 minutes.

Spread an approximately 1/8 inch thick layer of tzatziki evenly on top of each fish fillet then sprinkle the crumb mixture over the tzatziki to form an evenly thick coat. Bake for 10 minutes then broil for 1 minute to crisp and brown the topping. Carefully remove from the oven and plate the cooked fillets.

Serve with additional tzatziki and a lemon wedge on the side.

Tzatziki Sauce

2 Cups – Greek Yogurt, plain non-fat
1 small (or 1/2 large) – Cucumber, seeded and grated  (about 1/2 cup)
1 Clove – Garlic, grated fine
1 Tbsp – Red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp – Olive oil
1 good pinch – kosher salt

Grate the cucumber and place it on a paper towel or dish towel, sprinkle it with the kosher salt and let it sit while you prep the other ingredients. In a medium bowl stir together the garlic, vinegar, and olive oil then stir in the yogurt. Finally, gently squeeze any excess moisture out of the grated cucumber and stir into the yogurt mixture until well blended. Taste for seasoning and chill until ready to use.

Enjoy,

Randy

Try Something Different This Easter – Nigella’s Ham in Cola

For the Easter holiday this year I wanted to come up with something unique and when I found this recipe by one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Nigella Lawson, I simply could not resist. The fact that she uses an entire 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola is certainly an indulgence considering my usual avoidance of sugar but hey, isn’t indulgence what holidays are all about?

After reading Nigella’s very fitting introduction I thought I would give it a try.

Aside from changing the language to suit a U.S. kitchen I altered the recipe only very slightly; turning the ham halfway through braising to create an even “burnish” from the cola, and placing the cloves strategically so that a little more flavor would soak into the ham. For more even cooking I would also recommend starting with a (close to) room temperature ham.

I also tried to describe the scoring a little better…it’s basically just lines drawn on the surface with a knife in roughly a diamond pattern. This scoring allows the fat to baste the ham while baking keeping it nice and moist. Don’t let the scoring scare you…it does not have to be perfect…mine certainly wasn’t!

On the day that I cooked this ham I made the mistake of discarding the cola after removing the ham from the pot. Although the ham turned out wonderfully flavorful and moist, in retrospect I would like to have tried reducing (boiling down) some of that sweet and spicy liquid until thick and then drizzling it over the sliced ham for both a fancier presentation and added flavor. Do try that…I know I will next time around.

Nigella’s Ham in Cola

For the braise…

1 – 4 to 5 pound, lower sodium ham, bone in
1 – 2 Liter bottle of Coca Cola
1 – Large Onion, halved and sliced

For the glaze…

12 (or more) whole cloves
1 to 2 Tablespoons – Dark molasses
2 Teaspoons – Mustard powder
2 Tablespoons – Light brown sugar

Place the ham, and sliced onions into a large stew pot or Dutch oven. Pour the entire bottle of Coca-Cola over all and bring to a light boil over medium-high heat. When the cola reaches a boil, lower the heat, cover, and maintain a gentle simmer for 2-1/2 hours carefully turning the ham over at the halfway point. Remove the ham after 2-1/2 hours and place on a cookie sheet to cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees.

When the ham has cooled just to the point that you can work with it, trim away the skin and most of the fat from the outside, leaving just the slightest layer of fat. Carefully score the ham, slicing 1/8 to ¼ inch deep diagonal score lines around the outside every inch or so. Then turn the ham and slice score lines in the opposite direction, forming a diamond pattern as the scored lines intersect.

Massage the outside of the ham with enough molasses to create a nice glaze then carefully and evenly distribute first the mustard powder, then the brown sugar over that. Poke whole cloves into the ham at the points where the score lines intersect so that they are snugly seated and will not fall out. Bake the ham uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes until the glaze has become sufficiently browned and bubbly. Remove the ham from the oven and rest until cool enough to slice.

Of note from Nigella:  “for braising the ham in advance and then letting the ham cool, take ham from the refrigerator, glaze it according to the recipe, and give it 30 to 40 minutes to sit at room temperature. Place in a 350 degree F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, then turning up the heat if you think it needs a more crispy exterior.”

Enjoy,

Randy

Turkey Croquettes with Pan Gravy

Making the salmon cakes last week brought another old favorite to mind, Turkey Croquettes. The original recipe called for making the gravy with cream of celery soup and although I was tempted I opted for cleaning this one up a little bit and making it fresh. The recipe looks involved but I would honestly consider it intermediate to easy. That reminds me that I have been meaning to mention one of my favorite kitchen tips.

Kitchen Tips: To boost your confidence a little it is always a good idea to read a recipe through start to finish at least once if not twice before you begin preparing it.

Speaking of cleaning it up a friend mentioned possibly converting this recipe into an Atkins Diet version and I think it would be fairly easy to do. For a lower carb gravy you could 1) use almond flour instead of whole wheat flour or 2) eliminate the flour altogether and simply thicken the gravy by boiling it a little longer and allowing the broth time to reduce.

For the croquettes my first thought was simply to eliminate the bread crumbs but that might result in too dense of a croquette. One of the things I really like about this recipe is the lightness of the final product so I think I would prefer to use a cup pork rind crumbs instead of completely doing away with the filler. I know that may sound like an odd substitution but I have tried it in other (low carb) recipes and it works quite well for this type of diet.

Notes: The easiest way that I have found to form these croquettes is to use the lid from a Ball mason jar as a ring mold. To do this, simply set the removable “top” of the mason jar lid aside and lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the ring shaped threaded part of the lid. Now, with the lid sitting top-down on a flat surface use a wooden spoon to press in just enough of the turkey mixture to fill the lid completely, flatten and level off the top, then turn the lid over to gently pop out your formed patty.

Turkey Croquettes with Pan Gravy

For the patties…

1.25 Lbs – Lean ground Turkey
1 Cup – Soft Whole Wheat bread crumbs
1 – Small onion, diced small
1 – Large branch of celery, diced small
1 – Small carrot, grated
1 – Small clove of garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp – Tomato paste
1 Splash – Worcestershire sauce
1 Cup – Chicken stock, divided into ½ cups
1 – Egg, lightly beaten
½ Tsp – Dried tarragon
½ Tsp – Rubbed sage
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil

For the gravy…

2 Tbsp – Whole Wheat flour
2 Cups – Chicken stock
1 Tbsp – Plain yogurt

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrot for two minutes then add the tarragon, sage, and 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Continue cooking stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn translucent then stir in the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in ½ cup of chicken stock and allow the mixture to cook until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the second ½ cup of chicken stock and the minced garlic, allow the mixture to come back to a boil then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl gently break apart the ground turkey then fold in the bread crumbs, egg, and the onion mixture. Gently fold the mixture until all the ingredients are incorporated but not over-mixed. Form the mixture into 10 to 12 equally sized patties and placing them on a foil or wax paper lined cookie sheet as you go. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 10 – 15 minutes to firm up the patties before browning.

In the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and warm over medium heat until the oil is shimmering hot. Swirl the pan to evenly distribute the oil then gently place half of the patties (do not crowd) in the pan. Shake the pan a little to prevent sticking and brown 3 to 4 minutes on each side. When the patties are browned remove them from the pan and place on a cooling rack or paper towel to hold. Wipe the pan and repeat this process until all of the patties are browned. Do not wipe the pan after the last batch saving the oil and browned bits for the gravy.

After the last batch of patties are browned and removed from the pan add two tablespoons of whole wheat flour to the pan and stir to create a roux. There should be just enough oil and flour to create a smooth, almost liquid, paste; add a little more olive oil if the roux seems too dry. Cook, stirring until the flour begins to take on some color, about 5 minutes, then whisk in 1 cup of the broth. When the first cup of broth is incorporated, whisk in the second cup of broth and continue whisking slowly until the gravy begins to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and check the gravy for seasoning. Add kosher salt & fresh ground pepper if needed.

Return the croquettes to the pan coating each one with the gravy, then simmer 10 minutes more. Serve croquettes over rice, egg noodles, or toast points as desired.

Enjoy!

Randy

Menu – Restaurant Style Greek Roasted Game Hens with Fingerling Potatoes and Fennel Infused Cabbage

I was recently asked to post some of my easier recipes and this is definitely one of them. With 10 minutes of prep, you can put the game hens in the oven then sit down and relax for ½ an hour. Then, by the time you slice and cook the cabbage the hens should be coming out of the oven. Viola! Your plates will look like you worked very hard but you will still have enough energy left to enjoy the compliments.

I know some of you are a little intimidated by Game Hens but they are really just little chickens. To split them just set them, breast side up, on the cutting board and take a knife or kitchen shears and carefully cut, lengthwise, through the center of the top of the bird. Once the breast is cut through you can spread open the cavity a little, sort of like a book, then cut down either side of the backbone to remove it. That’s all there is to it! You should now have two even halves.

Here is a video in case you need a little more help:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwyB_HDk8MM

You can cook these hens whole but for this recipe I think they cook through better, and present better, when cut in halves before cooking. If you are still hesitant, this recipe would work fine with a smaller chicken cut into quarters. I do recommend you give these little hens a try though; they are easy to work with, tender and delicious, and very impressive looking on the plate. (They will think you slaved for hours!)

Notes: For the cabbage, I like to let it cook without stirring for more than 5 minutes at a time. This allows the cabbage to brown a little and makes it taste almost like it was griddled on a restaurant flattop. Just be sure to shake the pan at least every 5 minutes to make sure it doesn’t get too brown.

Greek Roasted Game Hens with Fingerling Potatoes

2 – Rock Cornish Hens, split into 4 halves, rinsed and patted dry
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ Cup – Olive oil
¼ Cup – Fresh parsley, chopped
½ Tbsp – Dried oregano
1 Clove – Garlic, minced very fine
¼ Tsp each – Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
1/2 Lb – Fingerling potatoes, about 8 or 10 total, rinsed and dried
1 – Spring fresh rosemary

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the lemon juice, parsley, oregano, garlic, and salt & pepper in a medium sized mixing bowl. Whisk the olive oil slowly into the bowl until all of the oil is added then continue whisking until the liquid begins to thicken. Dredge each Cornish hen half in the liquid rubbing carefully with your hands to cover all sides. Place the hens in a 9” X 13” glass baking dish.

Dredge the potatoes in the remaining liquid and distribute them around and in-between the Cornish hens. Drizzle or sprinkle any remaining liquid or herbs over the hens and add sprinkle more of salt & pepper if desired. Place in the oven and bake 1 hour.

Carefully remove and allow to rest 15 minutes before serving with cabbage.

Fennel Infused Pan-Sauteed Cabbage

½ Head – Cabbage, halved lengthwise then sliced crosswise in ½” increments
1 – Small white onion, halved & sliced
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
½ Tbsp – Whole dried fennel seeds
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering hot. Saute the onions and garlic for about 1 minute before adding the remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring only occasionally, until cabbage is just tender through and through…about 20 minutes. Set aside until the hens are finished then serve the cabbage as a bed on the plate, with Cornish hens placed on top.

Enjoy,

Randy

Mmm…Pork! Country Style Pork Ribs with Tomatoes & Red Wine

Count me among the many meat-eaters that love pork…the flavors, the succulence, the aroma as it cooks…I do love a good hunk of pork! And is it really all that bad for you? The recently shelved “other white meat” campaign would have had us believe it is no worse for you than chicken. While it’s true, there can be about the same amount of fat as chicken, there can also be a significant amount of calories from fat depending on the cut.

In my wiser years I have naturally become more conscious of my eating habits. I hardly ever eat bacon anymore and practice moderation when it comes to all things pork. Believe it or not, I only cook pork twice, maybe three times a month. Even so, the reason it shows up on my blog quite often is because it is indeed one of my favorite things!

While I do make a habit of choosing the leaner cuts, country style pork ribs generally isn’t one of them. I think I actually got a little giddy when I found these nicely lean boneless ribs at Aldi last week. I picked them up and excitedly anticipated giving them a try. With the long cooking of the braise they came out wonderfully tender, had only a little line of fat along one edge and the flavor was chock full of porky goodness!

I have discovered that grating the garlic on a microplane creates an intensely garlicky flavor, so much so that I only used about half the garlic I used to use. Speaking of flavor, the browning in this recipe gives it a nice head start and the tomatoes and the wine contribute to both flavor and tenderness. Lastly, covering the pan with foil creates an extra good seal to prevent moisture loss and helps retain all that good flavor.

I served this dish over spinach pappardelle; the wide noodles did a good job of collecting all that sumptuous sauce. You could also use egg noodles, ziti, or rigatoni.

Country Style Pork Ribs with Tomatoes & Red Wine

4 to 6 – Boneless country style pork ribs
1 – 28 Ounce can whole tomatoes including juice
½ Cup – Dry red wine
1 – Small Onion, diced
1 – Branch of celery, diced
1 – Medium carrot, grated
1 – Clove of garlic, very finely minced
1 – Sprig fresh rosemary
½ tsp. each – dried oregano, dried thyme
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven or a large heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat until almost smoking. Season the ribs well on both sides with kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper and sear until well browned on all sides (about 10 minutes over all). Set ribs on a plate to return to the pan later.

Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and herbs to the same pan and cook stirring often until the onions become transparent, about 6-8 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and stir to loosen any browned bits. When the wine has reached a rapid boil add the tomatoes and the juice from the can, gently crushing them as you add them to the pan.

Return the pork to the pan nestling the ribs into the sauce, bring to a light boil then cover the Dutch oven or pan with aluminum foil. Place the lid on the pan pressing to seal it well then flatten the foil around the sides. Bake 1-1/2 hours and allow 15 minutes rest before serving. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy,

Randy

Using Leftover Turkey – Shepherds Pot Pie

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

In one of my last posts I talked about all the stuff I’d been doing with leftover turkey, then, I posted a recipe for pork. Surprise! I got a few emails asking for the turkey recipes I had mentioned. Since I didn’t have pictures of those I thought I would use a little more of that turkey last night. Even after making this one, would you believe I still have more turkey in the freezer? Wow, I do love making good use of those leftovers!

This is sort of a fusion recipe; a pot pie filling with a shepherd’s pie topping. All of the ingredients are fresh and honestly, with the exception of a couple of recipes my daughters will never let me quit cooking, I doubt I could ever go back to making casseroles with frozen veggies and canned soups! When you take that first bite of good fresh food the wholesomeness is immediately apparent…the richness of the leeks and the mushrooms, the depth of flavor in the homemade broth.

I can’t recommend enough cooking with fresh food. The payoff in enjoyment (not to mention compliments) is almost as nice as the health benefits!

In this recipe I used my own homemade turkey stock, another great way to use leftover turkey (and bones). Chicken broth would work almost as well as would leftover chicken. The idea behind cooking the mushrooms in this way is to get the pan just hot enough so that the juices exude and evaporate very quickly, rather than pooling in the pan. As the liquid evaporates it leaves lots of flavor behind. Then as the mushrooms begin to caramelize, they will be at the peak of their flavor.

Yes, I do use a little butter here; I think it adds richness to the potatoes and a polish to the sauce. I honestly feel there is no harm in using butter as long as it is used in moderation. If you think about it in terms of, two tablespoons of butter in a dish of 10 – 12 servings, it actually works out to very little fat per serving. Just enough in fact that I didn’t miss the whole milk (or cream) that I used to use in mashed potatoes. As the potatoes come together the goal is a fluffy creaminess with still a little stiffness…too much liquid would result in a watery final dish.

Start to finish the dish took a little over an hour to prepare…40 minutes prep work and 30 in the oven. This one is definitely good enough for company as the friend that came to dinner simply couldn’t stop eating it. It was, for sure, a great way to use up a little more of that leftover turkey!

Shepherd’s Pot Pie

For the filling…

2 Cups – Cooked Turkey, cut in roughly ½” cubes
2 Cups – Good stock
2 Cups – Leeks (white part only) quartered lengthwise, rinsed well then sliced
8 oz – Button mushrooms, quartered (approx 2 cups)
1 Cup – Celery, diced large
1 Cup – Carrots, diced large
3 Tbsp – Unbleached all purpose flour
2 Tbsp – Fresh Italian parsley, chopped
½ tsp – Rubbed sage
½ tsp – Dried marjoram
½ tsp – Dried thyme
2 tbsp – Olive oil
1 tbsp – Unsalted butter
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

For the topping…

5 large – Red potatoes, quartered lenthwise the cut into (approx) 1” chunks
1 Cup – Low fat cultured buttermilk
½ Cup – Fat free plain yogurt
1 Tbsp – Unsalted butter
One sprinkling – Paprika

Kosher salt

Place the potatoes into a large saucepan or soup pot and add enough water to cover. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and bring to a boil over medium high heat. When the water is boiling reduce the heat to medium and cook until fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking…

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. When the pan is nice and hot add the olive oil and swirl in the pan to distribute. Add the mushroom and sage and cook stirring frequently until the liquid has cooked out of the mushrooms and they are showing signs of browning. Then, add the leeks, carrots, and celery to the pan along with several good grinds of pepper, the marjoram, and the thyme. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often until the celery is tender-crisp.

Stir the Turkey into the pan along with 1 Tbsp of butter and cook, stirring, until the butter has melted. Stir in the flour and cook two minutes more stirring gently to incorporate. Stir in the broth being sure to loosen any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer and thicken, stirring only occasionally, while you prepare the mashed potatoes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°.

When the potatoes are fork tender carefully pour into a colander or sieve to drain. Allow the potatoes to sit for 5 minutes to allow the steam to dry the potatoes before returning them to the cooking pot. Crush the potatoes slightly then add ¾ of the buttermilk and the yogurt. Mash well with a potato masher (or mixture) until well mashed. Add the butter and the remaining buttermilk and continue mashing until your desired consistency is reached. Taste the potatoes and season with salt if needed.

Stir the turkey mixture once more, stirring in the fresh parsley. Taste the mixture to check the seasonings, add salt & pepper if needed, then pour evenly into a 9 X 13 baking dish. Top the turkey mixture evenly with approx. ½” thickness of the mashed potatoes using the back of a spoon to even out the surface. Sprinkle the top with a little paprika then bake 30 minutes. Rest 10 minutes and serve, garnishing each plate with a little more fresh chopped parsley.

Enjoy,

Randy

Salmon Cakes – The easiest recipe I’ve posted yet!

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

It has been a busy couple of weeks since I last posted, highlighted by a trip to visit my parents. I haven’t done a great deal of cooking and when I did cook, I kept it simple. This recipe is a perfect example of a simple and fast weeknight recipe for when you don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. It is also, comfort food (once again) for me as it reminds me of the salmon cakes my mom made years ago. Are you noticing a trend here?

Speaking of simple, I have experimented with all manner of ingredients for salmon cakes and none really came out any better than this ultra easy 4 ingredient version. I even commented last night that they don’t even require salt & pepper as the (Arctic Bay from Aldi) canned salmon is seasoned quite well.

When I was a kid I doused them in ketchup; I don’t recommend that these days! What I do highly recommend with these salmon cakes is the Creamy Dill Sauce from Eating Well magazine. Last night, for the sake of time, I went with a quick cocktail sauce but that Creamy Dill Sauce has become a favorite of mine and it compliments these salmon cakes perfectly. Do give it a try!

The only other note I would add is; if your salmon cakes seem to be cooking too quickly, lower the heat by a notch or two. Once it’s that hot, the pan will retain a good deal of heat, even for the second round of cakes. I also recommend wiping out the pan between batches. The fresh oil browns the patties more evenly without leaving bitter charred bits of the first batch behind.

Salmon Cakes

1 – 14 Ounce can pink salmon, drained (Did I mention? Cats love the juice!)
1/3 Cup – Panko bread crumbs, plus ¼ cup reserved
1 – Egg, lightly beaten
3 – Green onions, sliced thin
Olive Oil

In a large bowl use a fork to break the salmon into flakes, crushing any large bones and mixing in any skin (You may remove skin and bone but it is not necessary). Toss the salmon first with the bread crumbs and onions, then with the egg until well mixed.

Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup as a mold, press the mixture to a level 1/3 cup then gently remove the patty. Use your hands to carefully press and finish molding the patty into an approximate ¾ inch thick round. As you finish each patty, dust the exterior with some of the reserved panko crumbs then place it on a platter or cookie sheet to set. Chill the patties in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before browning.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until the oil is shimmering hot. Place 3 of the salmon cakes gently into the skillet and cook about 3 minutes, until crispy and golden. Gently turn the cakes and cook 3 minutes more. Remove the browned salmon cakes to a cooling rack or paper towel. Carefully wipe the pan, replace the 2 tablespoons of oil and repeat.

Serve with cocktail or Creamy Dill Sauce.

Enjoy,

Randy