Sloppy Joes

We used to go north to our cottage on weekends and Sloppy Joes were frequently our go-to Friday night supper.  Easy to prepare, especially because they involved browning some ground beef, opening a can of Manwich, stirring and loading it onto a bun.  I always had cans of Manwich in the cupboard.  Manwich first came out in 1969 and was marketed as a fast, one dish meal.  It arrived on the scene before Hamburger Helper but much later than Kraft Macaroni and Cheese which came out in the 1930s.  I’m sure, back in the day, I tried a few varieties of Hamburger Helper and I know I whipped up more than a few batches of neon orange Mac and Cheese.  Now I prefer making my own Mac and Cheese, casseroles concoctions, and Sloppy Joes.  Perhaps we ate Sloppy Joes a little too often because I hadn’t made them in years.  Recently we had guests over for a casual supper and I decided to try making them, sans Manwich.  They tasted mighty good.

Sloppy Joe Ingredients:

2 pounds ground beef

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced celery

2-3 gloves of garlic minced

1 12oz bottle of chili sauce

1/4 c brown sugar

1/4 c cider vinegar

1 T yellow mustard

2 T Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup sweet pickle relish (the secret ingredient)

In a heavy skillet brown the meat and season with salt and pepper.  Use a colander to drain the meat and remove the grease.

In the same skillet, saute the onion, celery and garlic for 2-3 minutes until tender but not browned.

Whisk together the chili sauce, cider vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and Worcestershire.

You can combine all of the components in the skillet and simmer for 10 minutes or put them all in a crock pot on low until you’re ready to serve.  I use the crock pot.  Either way, you want the flavors to meld.

Just before you’re ready to serve the Sloppy Joes stir in 1/4 cup of sweet pickle relish, my no longer secret ingredient.

I served the sloppy joes on seasame seed buns with corn on the cob, coleslaw and chips.  You can choose your favorite sides.

NOTE:  If you don’t have chili sauce in your pantry you can substitute a cup and a half of your favorite catsup.  My hands down favorite catsup is Brooks Tangy.

Spanish Rice

Pork Loin with Tomatillo Salsa and Spanish Rice.  That was last nights supper.    (You can find the recipe for Roasted Tomatillo Salsa in an earlier post.)

This Spanish Rice recipe is one I started making in the early 70s. It is listed under “Pork Casseroles” in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book that I received as a gift from my Home Economics teacher, Mrs. Little.  It has a serious burn mark on the back cover…another down side of electric stoves I say, and several pages that have splatter on them.  For several years, when I first started cooking, it was my go to book.

We all either own one of these books or have seen them in antique shops.  The Spanish Rice recipe is listed next to the Cantonese Casserole which calls for frozen French style green beans, soy sauce, sour cream, cubed ham and water chestnuts topped with buttered soft bread crumbs and then baked.  I never did make Cantonese Casserole.  On the opposite page are Glamorous Rice Rings…which call for pressing hot cooked rice with chopped canned pimientos and peas into a ring mold.

As you read this cookbook you’ll find that the ring mold was a must have in every kitchen.  It was used for salads like the Harvest Fruit Mold, Frosted Cranberry Salad or Rosy Strawberry Ring; vegetable dishes like Tomato Aspic; and main dishes like Jellied Chicken Salad.  Back in the day we had lots of “molds” hanging in our kitchens.  Of course the conventional ring mold but others shaped like a fish or fruit or fancy loaf shapes.  I  love this cookbook.  There are some tried and true recipes that I still use today including a never fail pie crust recipe written in the margins.

Back to my Spanish Rice.  I have modified the recipe a bit but even in its original form it is a good recipe.

Ingredients:

3-4 slices of bacon

1 cup diced sweet onion like Vidallia

1 half sweet bell pepper diced

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 pint tomatoes

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup uncooked long grain rice

1/2 cup chili sauce

1 tsp brown sugar

1 T Worcestershire

Fresh cilantro to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

In Dutch oven or heavy skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Set aside.

Add the onion, pepper and garlic to the bacon grease and cook over medium heat until tender but not brown.  Two to three minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, broth, rice, chili sauce, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce.

Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed.  Once the rice is done stir in the crumbled crisp bacon and cilantro.

Dish up and enjoy.  This was a perfect side to my pork loin but would also go well with pork chops or roast chicken.  The tomatillo salsa kicked the pork up a bit.

NOTE:  When I buy bacon I freeze some in 3-4 slice servings to use in recipes like this one.

The original recipe calls for 8 slices of bacon, thus qualifying it as a Pork Casserole.  I reduced that significantly but you’re welcome to add more bacon if you’d like.  If you do use significantly more bacon be sure to drain off most of the grease before cooking the vegetables.

I was fortunate to have a jar of chili sauce that someone had made and given to me.  It was excellent!  Perfect for this recipe.  I wish I remembered who gave it to me so I could thank them.  I think I’ll add chili sauce to my tomato canning this summer.

 

Potato Salad

Today is our friend Joyce’s annual 4th of July party.  She loves to entertain and is a natural at making people feel welcome and comfortable.  And she LOVES feeding people.  She makes the main dishes…her famous lemon breaded chicken, meatballs, and sauerkraut with several different kinds of sausage.  People bring dishes to pass and today I’m making potato salad.

I have never been a big fan of potato salads.  But I do like this recipe.  This is not the traditional mayonnaise, mustard and egg potato salad most of us are familiar with.  This salad is perfect  for hot days when we all worry about having to keep mayonnaise based foods adequately chilled so as not to poison our guests.  Actually this salad tastes best served at room temperature.  Lots of veggies make this salad colorful and marginally healthier.

Salad Ingredients:

5# Yukon gold or redskin potatoes

1# green beans

3 sweet bell peppers (one each red, yellow and orange)

2 bunches green onions

4-5 stalks of celery

Dressing Ingredients:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

2 T whole grain mustard

2 T Franks hot sauce

2 tsp salt

I leave the skin on the potatoes.  Cut the potatoes into potato salad size pieces.  Rinse them well and cook until tender.  Blanch the green beans and set aside.  While the potatoes are cooking rough chop all of the vegetables.

You want to dress this salad while the potatoes are still warm so they absorb the dressing.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together.

Put all of the rough chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl.  Add the drained, still warm potatoes to the mixing bowl and pour on the dressing.  Gently toss all the ingredients together.

While this salad is good cold it is really best served warm or at room temperature.  It’s a bit reminiscent of German potato salad.  Make sure you sample a bite.  Or two.

NOTE:  If you’d like to serve this as an entree cut some spicy smoked sausage or polish sausage into bite size pieces and brown them in a little olive oil.  Stir the sausage pieces into the potato salad and serve with a fresh green salad.

Enjoy!

Shrimp and Polenta

When we visited Charleston last spring we went to a little brewery for dinner and adult beverages on our first night in town.  Everyone said, if you visit Charleston you need to eat some shrimp and grits.  So…I ordered the shrimp and grits and enjoyed every bite.  This recipe is my take on that dinner but I substituted polenta for the grits.  I like grits but I like polenta a little better.  You can serve this with grits if you’d like.  It’s a really easy meal to prepare and very satisfying.  I tried to enjoy an IPA with my dinner when we were at the brewery but they were tapping a new keg and I had my IPA for dessert.  My timing was better at home.

Ingredients:

4 T olive oil

1/2 cup green onions diced

2-3 cloves of garlic sliced thin

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup fresh parsley chopped

1 lemon zested and juiced

2 T tomato paste

red pepper flakes to taste

3/4-1 pound of raw shrimp cleaned and deveined

salt and pepper to taste

Prepare your polenta (or grits) per package instructions. 

In a heavy skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat and saute about half of the onion, red peppers flakes to taste and all of the garlic for a minute or two.  Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook  a couple minutes on each side.

When they’re done the shrimp will be opaque and the shells will be pink.  Remove the shrimp to a platter and set aside.

You want to cook the shrimp with the shells on because the shells add a lot of flavor to the dish.  Add the tomato paste to the skillet and cook over medium heat stirring constantly for a couple minutes.  Stir in the white wine and a quarter cup of water or chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 3-4 minutes to reduce slightly.

Stir in the remaining green onion, parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Add the shrimp back to the skillet and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Dish up some polenta (or grits) into your bowl and ladle on the shrimp and sauce.

Serve with a salad and some crusty bread and a nice cold IPA and enjoy!

NOTE:  I buy white wine in little four packs.  We drink very little white wine and the little bottles are the perfect size for cooking. If you don’t have any wine on hand you can substitute chicken or seafood broth.

I did not do this but, if you prefer, before adding the shrimp back into the sauce you can remove all but the tails from the shrimp making them a little easier, less messy, to eat.

 

Black Rice

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On our way home last weekend after visiting friends we stopped at Horrocks in Lansing.  I’ve always loved that place!  Their website says they are a Farm Market but they are so much more.  A huge selection of beers and wine, all sorts of packaged products including a lot of organic items, meats, cheeses, and, of course, produce.  Many things that you might not find in your average grocery store.  We were with another couple and my friend Jane and I can both spend a LONG time reading labels and looking for new and unusual items to try.  We met a woman in the rice and pasta aisle who is apparently a kindred spirit.  She  was looking for Forbidden Black Rice.  She said she loves the taste and consistency.  We had never heard of it or seen it.  So naturally, each of us bought a bag.  On the way home we looked up recipes for preparing black rice and found instructions for the pressure cooker.

A little more research told me that black rice is a superfood.  It has more anatioxidants than blueberries.  Its always a bonus when something tastes good and is good for you.  Legend has it that it was grown only for the emperors of ancient China and was called “forbidden” because it was off limits to the general public.

Last Wednesday I cooked my bag of black rice.  I served it with chicken with a mushroom sauce and asparagus.  And we loved it.

Ingredients:

2 cups black rice

2 3/4 cups water

1 T olive oil

1 tsp salt

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The instructions are pretty straight forward.  Combine the rice, water, olive oil and salt in the pressure cooker.  Select high pressure for 22 minutes.

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Allow for 10 minutes of natural pressure release.  After the 10 minutes, release any remaining pressure.  Keep the rice warm until you’re ready to serve.

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Black rice is not as fluffy as white and it has a rich nutty taste and a chewy texture.  We liked it much better than brown rice.  I think it would be excellent in a stir fry or a cold rice salad.  I had quite a bit leftover and took the advice of the lady we met in Horrocks and froze it.  Maybe I’ll use it in soup next.

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The day after I had cooked my black rice I got a picture and a text message from my daughter.  Unbeknownst to me, they had cooked black rice as well.  Great minds apparently think alike.  And from the looks of their dish they liked it as well.

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Thank you Kate.  I’m glad we met you in Horrocks and love that you introduced us to forbidden black rice.

Navajo Tacos

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I hadn’t made these in a long time.  What makes these tacos so very good is the fry bread.  The dough is made from very basic ingredients…flour, shortening, baking powder and water.  No yeast.  The fry bread is rustic, flattened and shaped by hand and then fried in hot oil.  Fry bread dates back to the mid 1800s and originated in Arizona.  It reminds me of the sopaipillas we love in New Mexico.  My daughter went to a restaurant in Denver Colorado a few years ago that specialized in tacos served on fry bread.  And fry bread was named the official state bread of South Dakota in 2005.  The fry bread.  It’s what makes these tacos stand out.

Fry bread Ingredients:

2 cups of flour

2 tsp of baking powder

1 tsp salt

4 T lard or shortening

2/3 cup cold water

peanut oil for frying

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Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like fine meal.  I cheat and use my food processor…it works great!  With the food processor on low slowly add the water until the dough comes together.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until the dough is smooth.  Wrap the dough in Saran Wrap and set aside while you make the chili.

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Chili Ingredients:

1 medium onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

1 T chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp dried oregano

3 T canola oil

1 pound ground pork (or beef)

3 T minced chipotle in adobo sauce

1 T tomato paste

1 can pinto beans

salt and pepper to taste

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Measure out the spices and dice the onion and mince the garlic.

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Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and sweat the onions, garlic and spices together  for a few minutes until the onions are tender.

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Add the ground pork, chipotle and tomato paste.  Cook until the pork is no longer pink.

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Stir in the beans and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Cover and keep warm in the oven while you fry the bread rounds.

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Heat the oil to 375.  I use a wok for deep frying.  The oil maintains a more consistent temperature, it’s less likely the oil will splash and it’s fairly easy to lift things out.  This is a trick I learned reading “The Food Lab” by J. Kanji Lopez-Alt.  An awesome book I highly recommend.

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Cut your dough into six pieces.  On a lightly floured surface use you hand to flatten and shape the dough into a disc.  Keep the discs covered with a clean kitchen towel or Saran Wrap until you are ready to fry them.

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Drop the discs, one at a time, into the hot oil. Cook a couple minutes on each side until the fry bread is golden brown.

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I line a jelly roll pan with paper towel and put a rack on top of the  paper towel.  As the breads finish frying I put them on the rack and keep them in a warm oven until I am ready to assemble the tacos.

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Get your favorite toppings ready so that you can assemble and serve the tacos.  I used shredded sharp cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, black olives, jalapeño and sour cream.  Well, no jalapeños on mine.  You could also use diced onion and salsa.  Avocado is my favorite topping but I did not have any.

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Put a generous serving of the chili on a fry bread and choose your toppings.  Squeeze on some fresh lime juice.

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If you have fry bread left over you can warm it and enjoy it with a little honey, jam or powdered sugar.

NOTE:  You can increase or decrease the seasoning based on your personal taste.  Mine were a little spicy tonight.  Or use your own favorite recipe for tacos.  Like I said, what makes these so special is the fry bread.

I usually open a couple cans of chipotles in adobo sauce at a time and run them through my small food processor.  I put the purée in an ice cube tray and freeze it.  Once the chipotle cubes are frozen I put them in zip lock snack bags and keep them in the freezer.  Recipes typically call for one or two tablespoons and this ensures that the rest of the can doesn’t go to waste.

 

Risotto with Peas and Baby Spinach

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Risotto is a an Italian dish; a perfect comfort food.  Like macaroni and cheese.  In Italy it would be served as a first course.  When prepared properly it has a rich creamy consistency.  It makes a great side dish with shrimp or fish or chicken or you can add the protein to the risotto before serving. Tonight the risotto was the main course.  Risotto is fairly easy to make and it is a very versatile dish.  Almost anything in your refrigerator will work.  Tonight I used fresh spinach and broccoli and frozen peas.    I remember asking my Dad if he liked Chinese food.  His response was, “I don’t care much for rice.”  I don’t think this is a dish my Dad would appreciate.  As an entree or as a side dish.

Ingredients:

1 T olive oil

2 T butter

2/3 cup dry white wine

5 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1/4 cup shallot diced

1 cup broccoli flowerettes and stems sliced

1 cup peas

2 cups baby spinach

1 T lemon zest

3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 cup fresh grated asiago or Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

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Grate the cheese.  Zest and juice the lemon.

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Heat the oil and butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat and saute the shallot and broccoli for a couple minutes.

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While you saute the vegetables put the chicken broth in a sauce pan and heat.  You will be adding hot broth to the rice.  The hot broth helps to release the starch from the rice so that the risotto cooks properly.

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Add the rice to the skillet and stir to coat the rice with the oil and butter.

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Add the white wine and simmer over low heat stirring constantly until almost all of the wine has been absorbed.

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Add  the chicken broth two ladles at a time stirring frequently.  Wait for the broth to be absorbed before adding more.  This entire process will take about 30 minutes.

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About half way through the cooking process add the peas and the lemon zest.

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When you add the last of the broth also add the spinach.  Continue cooking and stirring until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender.

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Add the cheese and lemon juice stirring to combine.  Add salt and pepper.  Cover the skillet and remove the skillet from the heat for a few minutes.

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Serve the risotto hot and sprinkle with more cheese.

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Enjoy!  Mangia!

NOTE:  Feel free to use any combination of vegetables.  Leeks, asparagus, fennel, squash, mushrooms.  You can also substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.  Add vegetables that take longer to cook earlier in the cooking process.

Dry reds are the wines of choice at our house so I purchase white wine in the small, single serving bottles.  Perfect for cooking.

 

Paella In My Paella

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Paella is a Spanish dish made with rice, and a variety of meat (chicken or rabbit), seafood (shrimp, mussels or a firm fish like cod), and spicy sausage like andouille or chorizo.  It also includes vegetables like green beans or peas and spices like paprika and saffron.  This dish allows for countless variations.  The rice is supposed to be cooked in such a way that it crisps up on the bottom and edges.  It’s frequently prepared over an open fire or a very high burner.  Every summer we attend a music festival in northern lower Michigan where huge iron paella pans are set over an open flame and enough paella is being prepared to feed dozens and dozens.  It’s almost as much fun watching them make it as it is eating it.  They make a vegetarian Paella as well making them a very popular stop.  Paella cooked in this fashion allows for nicely crisped rice.  Personally, I prefer my rice without the crisp so that’s the way I prepare it.

This post, however, is as much about my new pan as it is about the paella.  Interestingly, the word “paella” derives from the Old French word paella for pan which in turn comes from the Latin word patella for pan.  (I didn’t happen to know that off the top of my head but I do know how to access all things Wikipedia.)  I frequently stop and browse in shops that sell  Le Creuset cookware.  Le Creuset is a French company that makes enameled cast iron cookware.  I have several knock-off enameled cast iron pieces which I use all the time but have never purchased a Le Creuset.  Until now.  I am still excited!  My husband gifted it to me so I promised to, appropriately, make paella my first dish in this beautiful 5 quart Braiser aka Paella or Patella.

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A thing of beauty, no?!

This recipe makes a generous amount.  Although the leftovers were great I probably will not  make this again until we have guests.

Ingredients:

Herb Blend

1 cup chopped fresh parsley and cilantro

2 or 3 large cloves of garlic minced

juice of one lemon

1 T olive oil

Paella

1 cup water

1 tsp saffron threads

5 cups chicken broth

1/2 pound unpeeled jumbo shrimp

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 links andouille sausage

3-4 slices of thick bacon cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cups finely chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 cup canned diced tomatoes undrained

1 tsp sweet paprika

3-4 cloves of garlic whole

3 cups Arborio rice

1 cup frozen peas

1 lemon juiced

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Combine the first 4 ingredients and set aside.  Combine the water, broth and saffron in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Do not boil.  Keep warm over low heat.

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Heat 1 T of olive oil in large heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Add the chicken pieces and saute 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove them from the skillet and set aside.  Add the sausage and bacon to the skillet and saute 3-4 minutes.  Remove them from the skillet.

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Reduce the heat to medium low and add the onion and bell pepper.  Saute for approximately 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

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Add the tomatoes, paprika and garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.

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Add the rice and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.  Stir in the herb blend and the peas.

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Add the broth mixture, chicken, and sausage mixture and bring to a low boil.  Cook 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

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Once the meat is added this 5 quart pan is VERY full.  Be careful.

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Add the shrimp and cook 5 more minutes.  Most of the liquid should be absorbed.  Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the juice from one lemon, cover, and allow the paella to sit for 10 minutes.  If your skillet doesn’t have a lid cover the paella with a clean dish towel.

Serve with lemon wedges.

NOTE:  Like I mentioned earlier, this recipe is perfect for modifying based on personal tastes.  I would love to use mussels but availability is an issue.  I may try this next with strictly seafood and substitute seafood broth for the chicken broth.  My husband likes foods kicked up and he added hot sauce to his.

 

 

 

 

Pierogi

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Some very special neighbors have, on several occasions, given us homemade pierogi which are amazing.  They make them around the holidays and freeze them.  We have also gotten pierogis and sausage from a Polish Market in Hamtramck, MI that have been excellent.  And, of course,  there are always frozen pierogis that you can pick up at most grocery stores in the freezer section.  Eating the pierogi made by our friends and savoring every bite inspired me to take a stab at making my own.  They were actually quite fun to make.  The dough is easy to work with.  Easier I think than pasta dough.  And, like ravioli, the filling possibilities are only limited by your imagination.  Sauerkraut, cheese and potato are pretty standard but you can make variations on those as well as stuffing the little dough rounds with fruit or meat.  This year for our after Thanksgiving family get-together I decided to go Polish.  We had Polish sausage with my homemade sauerkraut, cabbage rolls (golabki), buttery mashed potatoes, applesauce, pickles, and, of course, pierogi.  A feast for sure.  Nearly every bite was devoured.  There were no leftovers to put away.  Next year my Dad wants us to do Finnish.  So stay tuned.

Dough Ingredients:

2 cups AP flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup sour cream

4 T butter at room temperature

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Mix the salt and flour together in a bowl.  Add the egg to the flour mixture and stir.  The dough will be clumpy.  Work in the sour cream and soft butter until the dough comes together in a slightly sticky ball.

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Knead and fold the dough without adding additional flour until the dough is less sticky but still moist.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 60 minutes or so.  While the dough is chilling prepare your filling.

Filling Ingredients:

1 cup warm mashed potatoes

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Stir the potatoes and cheese together until the cheese melts, season with salt and pepper and set aside until the filling is cool to the touch.

Now it’s time to roll out your dough.  Divide the dough ball in half and roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8th inch thickness.  Cut rounds using a biscuit cutter or a glass dipped in flour.

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Place a couple teaspoons of the potato cheese mixture on each round.  Gently fold the dough over to form a pocket around the filling.  Pinch the edges to seal and reinforce using the tines of a fork.

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Now you’re ready to either freeze your pierogi or cook them in a large stockpot of boiling salted water.  Only cook a few pierogi at a time so they aren’t crowded.  When they float to the top they are done, about 10 minutes.

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In a large heavy skillet melt a few tablespoons of butter and sauté onion or shallots just until they begin to brown.  Add the drained pierogi and cook until they are browned on both sides.

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Serve them hot with sour cream or applesauce.  Enjoy!

Seriously. How can something made from butter, sour cream and flour, stuffed with cheesy mashed potatoes and fried in more butter possibly be bad????

NOTE:  I also filled some with a sauerkraut, mushroom and sour cream mixture.  Drain the sauerkraut and saute along with finely diced mushroom in a little butter.  Remove from the heat, stir in a little sour cream and season with salt and pepper.  Allow the mixture to cool before filling the pierogi.

I’m looking forward to making these again soon.

Cauliflower Soup with Cudighi

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It’s very cold in Michigan.  Perfect weather for soup.  The secret ingredient in this soup is cudighi.  Cudighi is Italian sausage that originated in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Most specifically it is said to have been invented by Italian immigrants in Ishpeming Michigan which happens to be where I was born.  Cudighi is made using pork butt and dry red wine, garlic, cinnamon,  nutmeg, clove and allspice.  The cudighi I used came from a little Co-op in my hometown of Chatham Michigan.  This sausage is very versatile.  It is excellent in spaghetti sauce or lasagna, formed into paddies and fried for a sandwich, mixed with ground beef for meatloaf or meat balls, as a pizza topping.  Your only limits are you imagination and, of course, your ability to access cudighi in the first place.  It might just be worth a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to score a few pounds.  Or Vollwerths cudighi can be shipped from U.P. Foods in Lake Linden (info@upfoods.com).  If a trip to the UP or waiting for a sausage shipment seems like too much trouble, substitute with a good  Italian sausage available closer to home.

Ingredients:

1 pound cudighi (or Italian sausage of your choosing)

1 head of cauliflower

3-4 stalks of celery rough chopped

2-3 carrots sliced

3 leeks, white and light green parts, sliced

4-5 cloves of garlic diced

2 medium russet potatoes rough chopped

1 poblano pepper seeded and rough chopped

4 cups chicken broth

4 T flour

4 T butter

2 cups half and half or whole milk

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

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In a dutch oven cook the Cudighi over medium heat until it is no longer pink.  Drain and set aside.

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While the meat is browning prep all of the vegetables.  Slice the leeks and soak them in water.  Leeks tend to hold sand and you don’t want grit in your soup.

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Wash and cut up the poblano, celery and carrots.

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Peel and dice the potatoes and cut the cauliflower into flowerettes.

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Once the cudighi has been browned and set aside add the carrot, celery, and leeks to the drippings and sweat the vegetables over medium heat 3-4 minutes.  Add in the leeks and garlic and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes.  If necessary add a little olive oil.

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Add the potato, cauliflower and broth to the kettle.  Season with salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover the kettle and cook until the vegetables are all tender, 30-40 minutes.

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While the vegetables are simmering make a white sauce in a heavy sauce pan.  Melt 4 T of butter and whisk in the flour over medium heat.  Slowly add the milk continuing to whisk until the mixture starts to thicken.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the shredded cheese.

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Once the vegetables are fork tender purée using an immersion blender.  The consistency is a matter of personal taste.  You can leave some chunks in the soup or purée until smooth.  Once you’ve done the blending add the cheesy white sauce to your dutch oven as well as the sausage.  Add salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.  Stir and bring to a simmer.

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Garnish with additional shredded cheese, green onions and cilantro.  And homemade garlic croutons.

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Ladle into serving bowls and enjoy!

NOTE:  Fresh parsley or basil leaves sliced, shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese,  or some chopped roasted red pepper would all make excellent garnishes for this soup.  Great served with a slice of good sourdough bread that you can use to clean your bowl.

I happen to think that soups are one of those things that taste a little better the second day.  We will be eating this soup for lunch tomorrow.