Category: Cooking for a crowd

Easter Brunch or Howling Wind Precedes Mimosas

Easter Brunch or Howling Wind Precedes Mimosas

Green Bean Mustard Rosemary Salad..

Note:  This blog was begun late in Holy Week and has been added to throughout.  The last entry will be on Easter Monday  when I will hopefully have time to pull the whole shebang together.  Until then, sing a new song, friends.
.
Earlier in the week:

The wind is blowing, oh, about 50 miles an hour–no joke.  It kept me up half the night.

Hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way…………….

Perhaps in the south, way in the south, the weather is conducive to and making like Easter.  Maybe in Mississippi or Alabama, the grass is way green and the tulips are waving their pretty little heads, showing off their Easter bonnets.   Maybe in Mexico.

But here, up on the Mesa near the foothills of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, winter must howl its way out of existence.  There is no ushering in like a lamb.  Out here, it’s all lion.   While the air has warmed up enough to turn off the heat for one or two days (and to give up baking), every few days there is still a snow or wind storm and we’re reminded that we are not in charge here.  Snow and Easter lilies; these are my favorite sorts of (and the typical Colorado spring) combinations.  So, it’s really like this:

Baby, it’s cold outside….

There is one hopeful, tiny row of daffodils in an extremely sunny spot down the street.  Huh.

And once more, the seasons of Lent and Advent mix and murk-up life.  I once had a friend who said, “It isn’t Christmas unless you find a piece of Easter grass under the sofa when you’re cleaning.”   As I dig through the junk drawer, looking for a little Easter bauble for the table, I come across Christmas ornaments that didn’t make it into the box in the attic.  Or I see a snowman I missed at the top of a bookshelf.  Just when I think I am ready to believe grace is mine, it seems I’m thinking about waiting for the messiah to be born in my heart.  Ah, gee.

No only that, but in my faith, huge, magnificent, screaming winds are not for Easter.  The are for Pentecost, the birth of the church.  I dunno.

And, by golly, I blogged unleavened bread last week.  Ok, I’m confused for sure.  But, if you’re celebrating Passover, check out our Chinese meal and  fix the green onion pancakes, which are not really pancakes, but tasty chewy flatbreads cooked on top of the stove in a skillet.  Rolling the eyes and taking a big breath here.

Meantime, I’m believing Easter will come.  The winds will die down.  I’ll make it through Maudy Thursday and Good Friday services.  I’ll cook through the Saturday vigil.  And, like the rest of the world, I’ll wait to be saved.  Or free.  Or sinless.  Guiltless.  Clean.  Loved.  New slate.  Ready, set, go.

Again.

This year, our brunch is capital “S” Simple.  Friends are coming and bringing part of the meal.  I won’t be putting the whole thing together until Sunday after church, but will do a trial run of a quiche for grins, giggles and fotos.  I’ll gear up the table (which will be filled with grass, eggs, chocolate, etc.) a bit and get it all together for you, but will try to get more complete photos as I work on the meal over the weekend.  Perhaps I’ll be better with the camera than I was on a regular writing/photography gig today.  When I arrived at Patsy’s Candies to take pictures for an article, my battery was dead in the camera.  This from a woman who spent the $50 to have a BACKUP BATTERY and left it at home.

You see how it is this week.  This blog will be a work-in-progress.  Like all of us at Easter.

 Or anytime.

Ok-The bread- Columba de Pasqua- is first.  I couldn’t get it to work in the shape of a dove, the traditional shape.  Instead, I have a braid.  I guess we’ll eat it.  Made on Thursday afternoon-evening, I’ll freeze it and unthaw it Sun.

  Ok, it’s Saturday afternoon, April 3-Happy Birthday, Emily- (and I promised this would be a work in progress.) and next up are two of the quiches.  There were three.  One was in an old tart pan that gave way in the oven and leaked.   (Like a lot of old … oh, for goodness sake, I’m not going there, but you get the drift. ) The custard baked in the bottom of my big oven.  I’ll include a pic of that, too.  So, oven cleaning was part of the mix…  Anyway.  One quiche is bacon, ham and swiss and the other is a green chile quiche that is called “Betty White’s Mexican Quiche” and I’ve had the recipe for 30 years from Sue.  Fun.

Above:  Bacon and Ham Quiche  outdoors on the deck table. It’s now 65.
               (Read all about making quiche in my Quiche 101 article.)

Above:  Betty White’s Mexican Quiche
Above:  This is how a quiche that wants to bake on the bottom of an oven looks.
The oven was so dirty anyway that it was a blessing that this thing happened.  Right.

Above:  Lidia’s Limoncello Tiramisu.  Good thing I made it before the oven disaster because I might have stopped cooking at that point if tiramisu was still ahead.  This stuff is limonsinful.  Recipe at epicurious.com.

I still have to do the table.  No, it isn’t done yet..  Sunday morning I’ll do the beans and Sunday at 12:00 noon, I’ll put the last quiche in the oven.  The shell is chilling and the filling is cooked and in the frig.
Sunday promises to be 60 and sunny.  Thanks, God.

Sunday night:  Well, the brunch went on for 4 or 5 hours, depending on who you were.  We had four more people show up than I thought were coming.  Good thing I always cook for a crowd.  I made one more quiche (no pic–maybe tomorrow of the leftovers) that was turkey Italian sausage and veg from http://www.perfectpantry.com/ (go Lidia).  There was more than we needed and here we are at Sunday night and I’m just reading MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather for my book club.  That’s all.  More later!
—————-

 Pftzz:  Here’s my current plan.  For food, that is. (Written Wed or Thurs? Alyce plans; God laughs.)

Menu
Starters:  Smoked salmon/ lemon, capers,  minced red onions
                 Deviled eggs (Dave will make- out of my dyed eggs.)
                 Mimosas
                Mains:   Quiches:  Lorraine, Italian sausage/veg, and seafood
                Manicotti (Jeanne brings)
               Fresh Green bean salad (blogged last year)
               Fresh Fruit Salad (Sara brings)
               Polish Easter bread (Jeanne brings)
               Alsatian Riesling or Australian Rose (Carlei)
Dessert: Limoncello Tiramisu (a Lidia recipe!)
              Colomba di Pasqua (Italian E. bread shaped like a dove) (left in freezer after all-next week?)
              Coffee
How I’ll accomplish it:
  • I planned the menu a couple of weeks in advance and located my recipes.
  • I did some of the dry-goods grocery shopping last week.
  • I went to the candy store, liquor store and grocery store today, leaving only produce for Sat.
  • Thursday I’ll make the bread and the quiche pastry.  Into the freezer they go.
  • Thursday I’ll dye eggs. 
  • Friday I’ll clean a little house, make sure my clothes are ready, teach a lesson and go to 3 hours of worship.
  • Friday night, we’ll listen to a few requiems.  Verdi is my favorite, but Mozart, Faure and Brahms will show up, as well.
  • Saturday, I’ll send Dave to the store for the produce (I won’t go near a grocery the day before Easter) and I’ll set up the buffet and drinks station and set the tables.  I’ll make the green bean salad and the dressing, only dressing it a little that day. (More dressing on Sunday.) I’ll make the Limoncello tiramisu and refrigerate it.. Oh, and I will chill sparkling wine for the mimosas.
  • Dave will make the deviled eggs, taking care not to over-salt them.  Old recipes are very salty.  One time, we couldn’t eat them.  Agh.
  • We will not cook or sit at the table Saturday night.  I don’t know what we’ll do; maybe we’ll go out or maybe we’ll eat on trays watching a movie.  Waiting, watching.
  • Sunday morning I’ll take the bread and quiche pastry out of the freezer to unthaw.  I’ll make the quiche fillings before we go to church.   When we come home, I’ll fill the quiche pans and bake them.  Hot, warm or room temp–it’s all good for quiche.  I like it cold.  I’ll set up the coffeemaker and put out cups, cream and sugar.  Maybe a little something to nip up the coffee a bit.  Bailey’s?
  • I’ll give the bathrooms a last lick and a promise.  I’ll light the candles gratefully.
  • I’ll grab a basket of eggs and hide them.
  • I will probably shovel and sweep snow.
  • I’ll be wiped clean myself…ready to begin again.
  • And try not to eat so much chocolate.  (Though, if you read my examiner articles, you’ll know it’s ok now to eat some every day!!)
  • I’ll welcome our guests, “He is risen!” (I didn’t do this….how could I have forgotten???!)

Are you glad Lent is over?
Potato Soup and Irish Soda Bread

Potato Soup and Irish Soda Bread

I had a farm in Ireland…….
——————————————————————–
Not.  I did, however, visit once.
I wish I could go back.
I can’t go today, but I can make Potato Soup and Irish Soda Bread on
St. Patrick’s Day……
———————————————————————–
I’ve been making this meal for a long time.  I love it, but I don’t make it any other time of the year.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be special if I made it, say, in May or September.  You, however, have no holiday strings emotionally strumming over these recipes and could make them next week or next year.
Go you.  So, here’s the soup………..and then the bread–
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
971c1-dsc01117

Potato Soup

  • 2 slices of bacon, diced; 1/4# Canadian bacon, chopped*
  • 2 onions (different kinds are nice), chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 3 large pototoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 turnip, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces, optional
  • 6-8 cups unsalted chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 c Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • parsley or dill
  1.  In an 8-10 quart soup kettle, saute bacon until about half-done; add Canadian bacon.  Cook until well browned.  Remove meats  from pot and drain on paper towel-lined plate.  Cool and  refrigerate until you’re going to serve the soup. 
  2. Pour out all but enough bacon grease to coat the bottom of the pan well.  Add onions, garlic and leeks and saute until almost golden, stirring often.  Add potatoes, turnip and parsnip and cook 2-3 minutes until hot.  Add chicken broth.  Bring to a  boil and lower the heat.  Simmer until all vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  
  3.   Puree in food processor, with hand-held blender or by hand using potato masher.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream, a bit of the bacon and ham and a garnish of fresh parsley or dill.  Make sure there’s fresh ground pepper at the table.
    *You could choose to use all bacon.
  4. Printable recipe for both soup and bread below the bread recipe.
17308992_1267377379965436_8649806387995927284_n
There isn’t much better than soup and bread anywhere.  If you’re cold.  If you’re really hungry.  Can you think of anything better?  I have a friend whose husband doesn’t like soup,  Just doesn’t like it at all.  He did, however, eat soup at my house once.  And asked for the recipe later.  Such folks are few and far between.  Who doesn’t walk in a house, smell soup simmering or bread baking and go, “Wow!  It just smells so good in here.”  And, while we can’t always put our fingers on what makes us happy in life, we do know we like it when the house smells like something good to eat.  Those  “Wow”s come with big smiles and anticipatory movements that include looking around for the delighting elements.  So, here’s the bread.  More on the provenance later.
Irish Soda Bread – American Style
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cup currants or raisins
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk (+ 2-3 T, if at altitude)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1.  Grease a 2qt  round bowl (ovenproof), casserole or  deep cake pan. Alternately, line a baking sheet with parchment paper for a free-form loaf.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F.
  3. In food processor, or large mixing bowl, measure dry ingredients and mix well.  Cut in with blade attachment or with knives or pastry blender, the butter. 
  4. In a large mixing cup, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs; add the currants and baking soda.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and mix well to form a very wet dough. 
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured board and knead briefly.  Shape into a round loaf.  Turn out into the prepared baking bowl or onto baking sheet and bake for about an hour  (or a bit more)  until bread is very well-browned and firm in the center.  A wooden skewer stuck in the middle of the bread should come out clean.  You may have to test several times.
  6. Let this bread sit 15-20 minutes before cutting or it will crumble.  Cool completely before wrapping tightly in foil and storing in the refrigerator.  Will keep 3-4 days.
  7.  Excellent leftover just as it is, but even better for toast made under the broiler. 

{printable recipe for both soup and bread}

 

Me and the green.
A couple of notes on the provenance of the recipes:
I began (and later changed) the potato soup years ago from a recipe called  “A Cold Winter’s Day Potato Soup” from THE EASTERN JUNIOR LEAGUE COOK BOOK, edited by Ann Serrane and published by David McKay in ??1980.
The bread recipe is one I have no idea about from whence it came.  It’s on a recipe card I’ve had for so many years.  I’d guess I copied it out of a magazine or a book at the library one day as a young wife.
——————————-
THE TWO-DOG KITCHEN IS REALLY SOMETHING ELSE AS TUCKER HITS FOUR MONTHS……
While we are making the potato soup, Tucker tries to figure out if he likes onions skins.   Nah….
Sing a new song,
Alyce
all photographs copyright Alyce Morgan 2003 and 2010
Sooper Bowl Chili-Chop and Stir-Into the Crockpot for Half-time

Sooper Bowl Chili-Chop and Stir-Into the Crockpot for Half-time

I don’t know where the idea of chili for Super Bowl came from, but it’s a hit most places if you’re not having pizza.  If you’re not having pulled pork.  (I noticed that top Yahoo! searches were including “pork recipes” this last week.)  So maybe pulled pork, but maybe ribs.  The pork case at the market looked like July 3, it had so many racks of ribs in it.  Prices weren’t bad either.  Still, I was on the path to chili…could I be led away?

I was drawn to a recipe in the NYT (Mark Bittman)  for Chicken Sausage Jambalaya.  Actually, I think it first came from a site called sundaysauce.com; it’s in the left side bar under blogs I follow.  Chicken, sausage:  it all sounded so good.  Rice.  Hmm.  But, chili beckoned.  I haven’t made chili since Halloween and I usually make it pretty often.  Somethings just yelled.

At the store…

Italian sausage (Sara’s-made right up near Palmer Lake) hit the cart.
VEEEEry lean beef fell in on top of it.  I know; it should have been turkey.  But, hey, it’s the Super Bowl.

Did I have enough canned tomatoes?  Italian ones?  Beans?  Unsalted, organic?  I knew I had dried beans, but had a thought about a Super quick chili using canned beans.  Up the canned aisle; it’s not my favorite place. (Produce is my favorite.)  No big cans, so I grabbed 2 pinto and 1 black.  I can never bear to make chili with only one sort of bean.  What else?  Nothing.  OH, I had to have (and this is critical)

TORTILLA CHIPS

Fritos are good, too, especially with cheddar cheese on chili.  But tortilla chips… hmm.  Just right. I actually like to eat this chili with tortilla chips, not a spoon.  I rarely eat chips of any kind, still… Oh well.

Grab some Dos Equis or make a pitcher of margaritas?  I might be the only one who likes zinfandel with chili and I thought I had a sweet bottle of Seghesio. Still, the better half probably needed his Dos Equis; the winter ales in the garage frig were going to pale compared to a Mexican brew. (not bad, eh?)  Note to self:  hit the liquor place next door before going home. Oh, and go back through produce (yeah) and get limes.

By then, the cart was a dead giveaway; anyone going by (and aren’t there a lot of cartsnoopers?) knew I was making chili.  Like, regular old Irish kinda chili.  Not fine Texas fare with big hunks of beef slowly simmered in a thick, spicy sauce; not NM green, mild, hot or in between.  Just the kind of big pot my learned-to-cook-during-the-depression mom made, using her own home-canned tomatoes, some jars of which were  full of other small goodies like celery, green pepper, etc.  We had a ferocious garden out back.  Summers were literally  full of “what a row to hoe.”  Of course, over the years, the recipe morphed.  (There never was a written recipe, just we kids’ memory for the pot, the shelves full of quart jars-“Run bring me a jar of tomatoes.”- and its smells.) Nowadays, I like lots of different vegetables. I like different kinds of meat. I like wine in it.  Lemon.  Dijon mustard. Cinnamon, just a tish.  Yeah, it’s a bit different than mom’s.  It smells as good.  Even the milk man smelled it outside.

“Smells so good in there.”   “I’m going to your blog tomorrow for that recipe.” (ok!)

Ah, yep.  I’m cookin’ chili. Get outta the way, dogs.  Makes me incredibly happy for some reason.  Makes me feel rich to have a great big pot of the stuff cooking away.  Odd what makes us feel rich.  You?

This particular pot of chili can be pulled together in 20-25 min and then thrown in the crockpot, well, not literally.  I do pour it pretty quickly into the crockpot insert in the sink!  Or, make it the day before.  Whichever way, it’s an easy meal.  Buy or make some corn bread.  Get some tortilla chips and salsa.  Of course, the Dos Equis.  A pan of your favorite brownies?   A veggie tray and you’re on your way.  Why be troubled?

We like Manchego with chili.

Can you smell it?

Sooper Bowl Chili
serves 8-10;makes a little more than 6 quarts

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon each: cinnamon, dried red pepper flakes, cumin, black pepper, chili powder
2 onions, chopped (food processor if you have one)

4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 large celery stalks, chopped
1/2 each red and yellow peppers, ditto
2-3 small zucchini or yellow squash, ditto
1 pound each: bulk sweet Italian sausage and lean ground beef
3  15-oz cans no salt, organic beans (pinto, kidney or black)
6 Tablespoons chili powder (or to taste)
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt (+/- to taste)
2 Tablespoons each, dried oregano and basil
2 32-ounce cans Italian tomatoes
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice

2 cups ea: red wine and water

Optional garnishes: grated Manchego (or cheddar), chopped onions, tortilla chips, hot sauce

Saute  first five (1/4 t each) spices in the 2 Tablespoonsolive oil over quite low heat very briefly in a 10 or 12 qt. stockpot while you begin to chop the vegetables (2-3 batches) in the food processor (or by hand.)  Spoon vegetables into pot and cover, turning heat up to medium-high.  Meanwhile, brown both meats in another skillet over medium-high heat.  Stir both pot and skillet frequently.  When vegetables are tender, add rest of ingredients to pot. Drain meat well; add to the tomato mixture.  Stir well and taste; season as needed. 

Bring to a boil and turn off the burner. *Place crockpot stoneware insert  in sink and pour chili into it.  Replace insert into crockpot.  Set heat to low and let cook 4-6 hours.  If too thin, take lid off and let cook 15-20 minutes on high to thicken.

Serve garnished with tortilla chips and chopped onions and cheese if you like.
Pass a bottle of your favorite hot sauce for those who want to burn their taste buds.

*Option:  Cook on stove.   Lower heat to medium low and simmer at least an hour.  More, if you’d like.  Some people like to wait and add the beans during the last 15 minutes.

 

Enjoy the day.  Have a little more if you like.  There’s plenty.  You’re rich.
no spoon needed

If you still don’t know anything about football (I don’t want to know; it’s a good time to read the NY Times), you can click below and get a very quick lesson on how the game is played….

http://football.about.com/c/ec/7.htm

Sing a new song  (Go Colts?  Go Saints?), as I pray for two dear friends, s and c and for Emi, taking the Biblical Content Exam today at Princeton………..
Alyce

Here’s the newest from the Two-Dog Kitchen–

Gab’s all Tuckered out!

Note to readers:  If you’d like to keep up with my local articles (on a national site),  they’re listed in my twitter feed  on the left sidebar at the top of the blog.   You don’t have to make a separate trip to examiner.com. Article titles say things  like “Super Bowl Pizza…” and you just click on the link that begins with tinyurl…  Thanks!!!!  Also, check out my favorite blogs, links to which are right below the Twitter stuff.
Cassoulet — Why did I wait so long to make this?

Cassoulet — Why did I wait so long to make this?

Oh, for years I’d made a couple of things approaching cassoulet–the incredible French bean dish made with pork, sausage, lamb, duck…you name it…someone somewhere in France puts it in there. (The name comes from “cassole d’Issel,” an earthenware pot in which the dish is made. I had no such dish.) I had even come up with a delectable bean soup with some of the necessary components (another blog.) But I’d never bitten the bullet and really done the thing right. Somehow, as I mentioned in one of the December blogs, I decided this was the year we’d have it for Christmas Eve dinner. Well, we had it all right…and it WAS wonderful and it WAS time-consuming and it WAS earthy and filling and, well, heart-warming and, ok, it was (and is) just a little bit of a sexy dish that you have no choice but to put your heart and soul into or it’ll never get done. You must dedicate yourself to this dish. Be commited, as it were. It took me this long to find the time to blog the process (and process it is); forgive me. One note before I forget:

If you are going to make and photograph cassoulet, get a new camera FIRST. My old camera died and died and some of the pictures are taken with that beast—- and some are from my 2 megpixel phone and some are…I don’t even know how I got them… They aren’t professional, but they document the process. (I got a new Sony 12. something mp for Christmas AND a new computer; not using either one here…. Coming up, I promise.) Ok, back to cassoulet and why it’s so good and why it’s so loving and lovely.
To begin with, it’s French. If you say it right, it just sounds like something very good to eat…to cook..to experience… hmm —to have a little bit of France wherever you might be… God is so very good to provide a good wineshop down the street (Coaltrain’s is my favorite in Colorado Springs; Thomas Liquors in St. Paul)……… and the wine you drink with it helps the whole thing along.

“I’m making cassooolay………”

Who else in the world would spend 3 days on baked beans?

“We’re having cassoolay……”

Thank God someone else is going to eat this; there’s enough for a week…We can do

———a party! Whose anniversary is it?

“We’re having a Beaujolais with our cassoolay….”

—- This is sounding better by the minute…..I think I WILL finish making the _____.

“We might have a Rhone with our cassooolay….”

In fact, this is sounding like we should begin right now….and maybe make more. (not)

So, I was definitely making cassoulet, but how was I to do it? I have no less than 20 recipes for the dish and those are from my books, not off the net. Remember I’ve collected cookbooks and magazines from long before Epicurious took off. Maybe you have, too. For years, traveling with my little band around the globe, there was just me, the cooking friends I knew, and Elizabeth David or MFK Fisher or Craig Claiborne or JOY or James Beard or Julia, as people now call her….. There was the long awaited GOURMET or BON APPETIT. Cooks, home cooks, just mostly had their heads. There was no Tyler Florence; no food network! And, years ago, you just didn’t pitch old magazines– thinking the recipes were all available on-line. You kept them all. You remembered where most of the recipes were and developed indexes in your recipe boxes (or notebooks) for the rest, including menus. Those days of keeping everything are gone (for me), but I do still have friends whose basements are full of GOURMET. Now I think they’re pretty smart as GOURMET is no more. I donated my entire collection of cooking magazines (except for the favorite holiday issues from the last year or two) to the library and, I’m guessing even they pitched them. Tangent.
Anyway, I didn’t dare start cruising the on-line sources. I had enough possibilities. Also, on-line searching has become so cumbersome and repetitive that I become quite sick of it fast. I read two of the recipes thoroughly well, nearly well, anyway…a long version and a short version. The long version, was, of course, on page 399 of MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, vol. 1 by Julia Child, and is called “French Baked Beans…Cassoulet.” The short version was from Molly O’Neill in the December, 2009 issue of COOKING LIGHT, on page 136; CL lightened the recipe up a bit by using chicken sausage. So I went from 1961-2009 and why not?
I then looked over the rest of the recipes, even one from the BETTY CROCKER INTERATIONAL COOKBOOK, from which I, some years ago, learned to make lovely eggrolls, beef strogonoff and minestrone! BC threw a little dried mustard into the beans. I wasn’t doing that. Otherwise, the flavors seemed similar.
Oh, do remember, we’re talking about December 23 (look at the stollen recipe pictures from the New Year’s Day brunch blog and see the wine glasses still sitting around from another holiday dinner the night before) and I’m teaching two little kids to make Christmas bread while I work on the cassoulet in the breaks. The recipe I settled for was something in between the short and long version and I put away the BC totally. Back on the shelves went my beloved Patricia Wells and even THE AUBERGE OF THE FLOWERING HEARTH, which had no cassoulet that I could find, but always holds my heart never-the-less. I did not have enough time to cook lamb, duck, pork and garlic sausage. So this is what I did about the meat:
  • I used a small pork shoulder (well trimmed!) for the basic bean cooking, keeping out pound and a half – or so to make the sausage.
  • I bought duck (legs) confit for a horrible price at Whole Foods. (Worth it if you’re rushed.)
  • I had my talented husband take the extra pork and make French garlic sausage, as no one that I could find sold it nearby. I found directions on-line, but later noticed Julia had one.
  • I (sob sob sob) skipped the lamb, despite having some lamb stew meat frozen in my big garage freezer.

I did not document the process precisely as there was not one inch of unoccupied space in my galley kitchen during the two days before Christmas. My pictures are helpful, however, and I will bring together the recipe I think I made. Also, I have some in the freezer and can unthaw it and look at it if needed. If you live nearby and want to taste this, let me know! What’s beautiful about this sort of dish, is that just like your own favorite baked beans or chili, it’s never exactly like any recipe.. it’s how you liked to make it that day. It changes with the year, the availability of ready cash for duck confit, the wine vintage and with how your heart is cooking.

Take the plunge; make a date; invite a group for a birthday or Valentine’s Day or to ski and–
MAKE CASSOULET —— HERE’S HOW I DID IT———
ALYCE’S CASSOULET
serves 12
Cook’s Note: You must begin a day or two ahead for this version…You can almost finish the dish the day before you need it if you begin two days ahead. You can then just do the final baking on the day you need to serve the meal. Read through the recipe before starting. This is done in stages…first the soaking of the beans, then the cooking of the beans and pork, overnight in the frig, the making of the sausage, the first cooking of the casserole, the second cooking with all meats and bread crumbs… You’ll get the idea; give yourself time. It’s worth it. It’ll hold once done…just don’t let it dry out. If it does, warm it up with the addition of a little chicken stock or white wine.

1 1/2 # white beans of your choice, rinsed and picked through for bad beans and stones
3# pork roast, boneless and trimmed well (or you can bone it) (You’ll cut some into 1-2″ pieces to cook with the beans and later use the rest to make a quick sausage)
1-3T canola oil, divided (you’ll need some to fry the sausage)
3 large onions, chopped coarsely
5 cloves of garlic, minced
4-5 large carrots, cleaned, peeled and sliced thickly (you don’t want them to disappear in the long cook)
2 cups chopped celery
1 14 oz can of tomatoes, crushed or 6 T tomato paste (Julia’s first choice)
Water
1/2 bottle of white wine (I used an inexpensive Chardonnay)
2 32 oz boxes of chicken stock, low-sodium
Bouquet garni, composed of 2 -3 stalks celery, 8 stalks of parsley, 2 bay leaves, 5-6 sprigs thyme*
Kosher Salt/Freshly ground pepper
4 Duck confit legs (or 3 grilled duck breasts, fat removed and meat chopped after grilling)
2# “French” garlic sausage (recipe below–need 1/2 # bacon and 3-4 garlic cloves in addition to above pork)
1/2 c fresh bread crumbs
2t olive oil
*Bouquet garni: Tie together these vegetables/herbs with kitchen string; you remove them before baking the cassoulet.
Directions: Be brave, loved ones……… Don’t do this alone; find a friend!
In a large stockpot, bring beans and water just to cover to a boil for five minutes. Turn heat off, cover, and let beans sit for an hour. If desired, you can, instead, let beans soak overnight.
In a large skillet, brown a little less than half of the remaining pork, cut into 1-2″ pieces, in a little bit of canola oil. When well-browned on all sides, remove to a paper-towel covered platter and add onions, celery and carrots to the skillet. Add a little extra oil if needed. After the vegetables are almost soft, add the garlic and tomatoes and saute for another 3-4 minutes, stirring.
To the stockpot with the beans, add the drained and browned pieces of pork and then sauteed vegetable mixture. Pour into the pot half of the chicken stock and all of the wine. Add water to make about six cups total of liquid or to make sure there is plenty of liquid in which to cook the beans. Season with about 2 t kosher salt and 1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 2 to 2 1/2 hours until beans are tender, watching liquid level and adding more water or stock as needed. Beans should boil freely. Let the pot cool and refrigerate overnight.
Meantime, make the garlic sausage and cook and bone the duck. You can do it that night or the next day, depending on the time you have. If you do it that night, refrigerate the meats separately.
Making the Garlic Sausage:
You can look a recipe up on-line (NYTIMES: Nov 4, 1981: Saucissons a L’Ail (French Garlic Sausage) by Craig Claiborne– or many other sites) or you can try the version we made, which was tres delicious. Be bold; try it!
Take the other pound and half or so of lean pork roast and about a half pound of good-quality bacon and finely mince/grind the two together in the food processor, fitted with the sharp blade. Season with TABLE salt (not Kosher or sea–it must really blend) and finely-ground pepper. Add 3-4 finely chopped cloves of garlic and mix very well.
Take out a tiny patty and fry it up. How does it taste? If it is bland, adjust seasoning and fry and taste again. Some people like a bit of allspice, a tad of sugar or some wine added to this sausage. Si place. (Do as you like.)
To a medium skillet, add about 1T of canola oil and place the sausage into the pan, creating a very large sausage patty. Fry on one side over medium heat until golden and flip. Finish cooking on the other side. Remove to paper-towel covered platter and cool. Cut into 1-2″ pieces. Sample some. You should have more than you’ll need. Cut a bit of baguette, add a little cornichon- or any pickle-add some grainy mustard and eat some of your sausage with that. You deserve a snack. God is, indeed, Good. Now you’re ready for onward and upward.

COOKING THE DUCK

Place your duck legs into a “pammed” baking casserole and bake at 400 degrees 10-12 minutes. Cool and bone. Reserve meat.

Preheat oven to 325 (350 for altitude baking) Take bean mixture out of the refrigerate and warm up over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add the rest of the chicken stock. Taste. If you season now, remember that you will soon add sausage that is well-seasoned. Add boned duck. Pour mixture into a large Dutch oven or very large casserole and bake for about 2 hours.

Reduce oven temperature by 50 degrees. Remove Dutch oven and add cut-up sausage. Stir well and taste. Season as needed. Sprinkle bean mixture with fresh bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil. Bake @ 275 or 300F for another 1 1/2 -2 hours, depending on
altitude. Beans should be very tender; casserole should be nicely browned. Remove and let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Do let people help themselves from the stove for an informal meal.
Wine: Beaujolais or Cotes du Rhone–nothing expensive or fancy.

Serve with: a little bread and butter……..salad if you want.
Dessert: Oh, not this night. You need a little cognac only for a digestion!
Bon appetit, my friends. If you’ve waited this long to eat…-or read this blog!- you should have a GOOD APPETITE BY NOW!!!
Listen to lots of good songs while you cook this; cook with friends and share this wonderful dish,
Alyce
In Memoriam: Tavern on the Green, NYC — So sad.
Italian Beef Sandwiches and "I Yam What I Yam Fries"

Italian Beef Sandwiches and "I Yam What I Yam Fries"

“Please make me,” said the Italian Beef.

You can make a bunch and feed a lot of people and make them all happy. You can feed just two of you and freeze some for later. Whatever you do, just get a pot going and make this “I’m so happy I came” Italian Beef. Definitely a head-shaking, eye-rolling lip-smacker. You probably have the picture. Great for the weekend after Thanksgiving or the holiday office potluck.

Is Italian beef really Italian? I’m not sure I know, but where I grew up in Chicago, it was sliced thinly with a bit of heat and a lot of spice and garlic, piled high on a great piece of baguette (we didn’t know that word; I’m sure we said ‘Italian bread’) and served with marinated vegetables (giardiniera) or maybe just pepperocini, which is what I prefer. I grew up eating this whenever I could get it and, when I got married, my mother-in-law proudly passed on her recipe. Over the years, it’s tweaked itself into something somewhat different….similar, but up the ladder a peg or two flavor-wise.

My childhood Chicago version was wrapped in white paper or in white paper topped with aluminum foil if you were going far. Adored and consumed quickly while hot. If you waited too long to eat it, the juice (ah, the juice!) would seep into the bread’s deepest corners rendering a knife and fork necessary. Still good, but not exactly a sandwich anymore. And juice, lots of it, is a big part of THE Italian Beef Sandwich. Think of French Dip without the dip. Ya gotta have it. I DO like to serve a small side bowl of this spicy broth for dipping in just the same way you serve the au jus for French dips. Cheese? If you must. Only provolone.

Your choice about how to cook this beef. If you’re home, you might like it in the oven; its smells like heaven and people won’t be able to wait to eat what’s in there. “What smells so good in here?” will be the favorite line. Isn’t that what you want to hear? Teenagers might stay home for dinner. If you’re working, throw the mess in a crock-pot and come home able to say, “Dinner’s ready!” These are many people’s favorite words in life.

Feel free to double or triple the recipe for either two pans in the oven, two crock-pots, or one counter top roaster, such as a Rival. (These come in a few sizes starting at 10 quarts) I purchased one for a frantic Thanksgiving a few years back and use it often as an over-sized crock-pot. At any rate, you then have enough to freeze a couple of meals ahead in two quart containers. Simply take one out in the morning of the day you require a do-nothing dinner, run it under hot water to pop it out and then place it in the large crock-pot that you’ve put a little water into. Turn to low and leave all day. Presto……….dinner.
Starting out in the morning……………………
Add a little Caesar Salad on the side or try my “I Yam” oven yam fries; I’ve included the recipe after the one for the beef.
Italian Beef Sandwiches
Serves 6 -8
Ingredients:


5 pounds (approx.) Beef rump roast or top round
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (can use more, but broth can be salty)
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons each dried oregano and basil (you need this much or more)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
5 cups beef broth, low-sodium
1 cup red wine (can make it 6 c beef broth if you don’t care for wine; you can also use white wine)
2 stalks celery cut into large chunks; 2 carrots peeled and cut in thirds

1 large onion, quartered
Pepperocini
Sliced provolone (opt)
8-10 small baguettes, hard rolls such as Kaiser rolls, or sliced Italian bread, toasted

Directions:

Rub beef roast with salt, pepper and garlic.* Place in 6 qt crock-pot and cover with oregano, basil, marjoram and red pepper. Pour broth and wine over all and add celery and onion. Set crock-pot on low and cook 5-6 hours until tender (1 hr more at altitude) but not falling apart. (Or roast in oven, covered, at 350 about 4-5 hrs) To eat today: Remove beef from broth; let sit while you strain the broth, discarding celery and onions. Place a ladle full of strained broth in each of six small cups; return remainder to crock-pot. Slice beef thinly and add to broth in crock-pot. To eat later (best because the flavors marry overnight and you can slice cold meat more easily): Cool meat in strained broth; ; store in frig. Slice cold beef very thinly and return to covered pot. Re-heat gently in oven at 350 F for 30-40 min. Serve with toasted baguette or sliced Italian bread and pepperocini on plates with bowls of broth for dipping. Add provolone cheese to sandwich if desired.

*At this point, you can brown the meat on all sides in a Dutch oven with a small amount of oil or bacon grease but, while this improves the taste, it is not absolutely necessary and adds 10-15 min. to the preparation time in the morning. Do it night before and have it ready to go if it makes a big difference for you.

“I Yam What I Yam Fries”
Serves 6
Ingredients:
8 medium yams, peeled and cut into 1/2″ x 3″ segments
3-4T canola oil
1/4 t ground cayenne (or to taste)
1/2 t Vietnamese cinnamon
1/2 t Kosher salt
1/4 t freshly-ground pepper
Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large bowl, toss cut yams with oil and spices. Spread out onto a large, rimmed baking sheet (2 if needed) and bake until crispy at ends–45 min to an hour. Do not over cook.
Wine: Chianti or another inexpensive Italian red. Nothing pricey.
Dessert: Pick up some cannolis if you have a source. If you have a pizzelle maker, you can make cannolis yourself. Or, for a group, spumoni and biscotti is a perfect ending.
Current reading: MANHOOD FOR AMATEURS, by Michael Chabon
Current Listening: Regina Spektor: “far”
———————–Cooks Against Hunger……………………………………………………
While we love to cook and share time with families and friends, it’s sometimes not so easy to think of how many people are hungry right now in our world.
The current number stands at about 1 billion, 35.5 million of which are in the United States. In the U.S., 12.6 million, out of the 35.5 million, are children.
16,000 children die world-wide every day due to hunger-related causes.
What can we do?
  • Each of us can begin, on our own, by not wasting food. In our world, statistics vary, but often quoted numbers note 25-30% of the food produced is thrown away.
  • Volunteer at your local soup kitchen or food pantry.
  • Keep the food in your own kitchen pantry up to date. Clean out your cabinets now and take the extra food to church or the local food pantry.
  • Donate money there for meat, perishables and things food stamps don’t buy.
  • Check out bread.org (website for Bread for the World, a Christian Voice for Ending Hunger) for facts and for ideas for helping in your community or place of worship.
  • Or, for other information and for places to support financially, go to

charitywatch.org
and check the listings under HUNGER for an organization you might want to support. Go to that website for information on donations or volunteering.
What else? Comment here for thoughts to share with fellow cooks.
It’s snowing outside my window and I am blessed indeed to be warm and well-fed. I had the great privilege to worship in a safe place and hear the Word brought beautifully. My family treated me to a birthday lunch out and what is better than sitting next to your grandson in a restaurant booth?

When the cold winds blow and you’ve got two or ten that’ll be hungry, pull out this recipe. In fact, get a rump roast or two the next time you see them on sale. Freeze them and be ready to make this beef. You won’t be sorry and.. you’ll be smiling as you draw the smell deeply into your nostrils and breathe…Italian Beef!

Sing a new song; make a hot sandwich,
Alyce

Lamb-Italian Sausage Stew

Lamb-Italian Sausage Stew

 

My favorite stew—–It might be yours, too!

The weather has gone from autumn brilliant:


to frozen solid with all of the leaves on. We’ve had three lynx on our back deck (I got only one horrible pic), as well as these gorgeous bucks

trying to get something to eat through the ice. One wants to know why I’m taking pictures off the ice rink of an upper deck. We spent a couple of lovely days at home working on projects and enjoying cooking time. Ice, ice!

Today’s blog is actually not totally from that cooking weekend, though we began it with a Friday night version of this lovely, original stew, layered with some rice topped with chiffonade of basil and a tish black pepper: I even added some carrots to round the stew out.   Another night, we had it with pasta.

I do apologize for the picture, but you get the idea. This is a full-bodied, hearty lamb stew that you could make

1. in the crock-pot,
2. on the stovetop or
3 in the oven if you so choose.

You can eat it just like it is in deep bowls, adding some baguette for dipping. Or, you can freeze a few containers and have them with rice or pasta some other week. Totally up to you.

LAMB/ITALIAN SAUSAGE STEW
–Can sub beef or pork for lamb (but I wish you wouldn’t)
6-8 servings

In microwave oven or stove, cook 2 c dry white beans, one large onion, halved (keep skin on), 4 cloves of garlic with papers, 3 sprigs of rosemary and a teaspoon of freshly-ground pepper (no salt) in 2qts water, covered, until nearly tender. (Dry beans cook wonderfully in the micro.) Drain beans, remove vegetables and herbs. Set aside.  (If you choose to use canned beans (drained), add them in for the last hour of cooking in the crock-pot.)

In large skillet, brown 2# lean lamb, cubed and 4 Italian sausage links, cut into chunks.

Here, I cooked the meat in two pans at once (left and right) to hasten the process.

Add 2 c chopped onion, 1 c chopped celery, 2-4 cloves crushed garlic, 1 t each rosemary, thyme. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Cook 5-7 minutes until onion is becoming limp and translucent.

In 6qt. crock-pot, combine drained beans, meat and veggies. Add 2qt. beef stock , 1 32 oz can chopped tomatoes and 1 c red wine.*


Cook on low 6-8 hours. Make sure beans are tender before serving. Taste to adjust seasonings.

Alternately:  Cook on the stove top.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook until everything is tender–about an hour and a half.  Don’t overcook.

Serve w/ crusty bread and the rest of the bottle of red wine. An inexpensive French Cote du Rhone or even a lighter Italian red would be great. Any red would do in a pinch. We have enjoyed Pinot Noir with this meal. (Of course.)

A note on the meat: I use boneless leg of lamb for this stew and there is plenty left to do some lamb kabobs the next day if you have bought a whole leg.  Alternate onion and lamb on soaked skewers. Brush with olive oil and dust with garlic salt and oregano. Grill until medium rare. Serve with a side of cucumbers and dill in yogurt.

I have also used Lamb top round, which cooks a bit too quickly for this stew.  Stick with the leg or shoulder if you can.

Turkey Italian Sausage can be subbed for the pork sausage. If you use turkey, do not cook it all day in the crockpot. Just brown it and add it right before serving.

*This is a great method for altitude cooking.  If you live at sea level, or near it, you can just cook the beans half-way before adding them.


This is one of my very favorite stews and certainly a favorite recipe. I heard the words lamb and beans one day and this is what transpired.

There must be a special blessing for eating lamb; it’s so tasty, homey and still elegant. Think of one and post it? We are always so incredibly grateful for such stomach-warming dishes. Particularly when it snows ice for hours on end. Brr.

… … … … … … … … …

Meantime, the weather has broken a tad and I’m in the middle of baking loaf after loaf of pumpkin bread. Pumpkin is a little scarce this year, but I got enough for my bread and for the Thanksgiving pies. Yes, it’s coming!

I’m traveling the next few days. I will put up something new if I can, but might have to wait until early next week. Include me in your prayers for travel mercies?

Sing a new song…
Alyce
additional pictures added Feb, 2013

Summer "Up North"-Tortellini Salad

Summer "Up North"-Tortellini Salad

Goin’ on a picnic, leavin’ right away…..
Nah, Let’s first go out for breakfast and read the paper.

A FAMILY WEEKEND BLOG
A weekend up north….it’s what Minnesotans (if they live elsewhere, that is) do in the summer. Cabin fever is as real as it gets here. The cities sort of empty out onto the mostly northern routes come Friday afternoon and people head out to find their family/friend groups until Labor Day. We joined the throng last weekend.
Our trip began very late on Saturday morning because we insisted on a long breakfast at our favorite near-by Mediterranean cafe, Shish. A new baby and two birthdays drew us and we joined family members who flew in from Florida for a caravan to, well, not to the cabin, but to the hotel anyway. Not until after the rain started and we had to replace a windshield wiper. To say nothing of the boocoo bucks we had just spent that day replacing tons of wiring mice had chewed in our apartment parking lot. (The four-wheel drive is still out because of the sweet little rodents; part yet to come.) Do we really need cars?


Here’s one sweet fellow we went to see—-

Fell in love with newest little Hadhazy:
Meet Blake Ryan, aged 2 months, son

of nephew Joe and wife Becky.
Loving brother of Olivia (see below)
Grandson of my sister, Helen (see below)

Spent a great day visiting with family, picnicing and grilling…. I brought my Tortellini Salad, which I for some reason forgot to photograph. Never mind: I have a great picture of Olivia instead! (Next time I make it, I’ll include the pic.)

Olivia turns six!
She’s as sweet as she looks!
Happy Birthday to you!!!!!!!!!

After the meal, Joe built a huge bonfire in the back forty and we enjoyed it along with sparklers and other fun fireworks. Mostly, we just enjoyed one another because we so seldom get together. Too sad. Can we fix that problem?

Grandma Helen gets cuddle time.

Lots of great food all day; wonderful drink, too. I had many requests for the recipe for the Tortellini Salad I took and, when I got home, had an email request from friend Jan for same. Anyway, here it is; you can adlib the veg…..

TORTELLINI SALAD FOR OLIVIA’S BIRTHDAY
serves 12

18-20 oz. fresh cheese tortellini (find in cold case)
2 small zucchini, cut into matchstick size pieces
1 small yellow squash, ditto
1 red sweet pepper, ditto
1 yellow sweet pepper, ditto
1 green or orange sweet pepper, ditto
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4# hard salami, cut into 1/4″ slices
1/3 cup fresh basil, shredded (keep out 1 T for top of dish)
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese (keep out 2T for top of dish)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3T red wine vinegar
2T Dijon mustard
1/3 c Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt; Freshly-ground Pepper

In 8 qt. stock pot, bring 5-6 qts. well-salted water to boil. Add fresh tortellini and cook about 8 min or according to package directions.
Meantime, make dressing: In large bowl (or baby food processor), whisk together red wine vinegar, garlic and Dijon mustard. Slowly pour in olive oil and whisk until emulsified (creamy and satiny). Add salt and pepper and stir well. Set dressing aside.
Drain tortellini while still a tad al dente and, while hot in colander, add all zucchini and yellow squash. Stir gently to let heat of pasta cook the squash just a tad. Allow pasta and squash to cool, stirring periodically.
Add sliced peppers, salami, all but 2 tablespoons parmesan and all but 1 tablespoon fresh basil. Stir gently; tortellini can fall apart easily. Drizzle most of dressing onto salad and combine. (Save some dressing to add right before serving) Refrigerate until needed or overnight. To serve, add extra dressing and taste salad for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with reserved basil and parmesan cheese.

{printable recipe)

Enjoying time at Gooseberry Falls at
Lake Superior. End of a great day……

Come see the Great Lakes!

Family members elsewhere: We missed you!

Sing a new song,
Alyce
P.S. I’m reading nothing but new choral scores this week. If I ever get the nerve, I’ll post some video of my totally reinventing myself as a conductor.
Starting from scratch…. it’s fun at 55.