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Archive for the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

When we were in Paris last year, we had the best beef bourguignon at a small restaurant where the tables were so close together that it felt like you were actually eating dinner with the strangers next to you.  I have always been a fan of beef stew.  I have memories of my aunt’s beef stew, but unfortunately I do not have the recipe. I remember how tender everything was and how each bite was just delicious. I often try to replicate my memory of it, but it never comes out quite right. 

The beef bourguignon was nothing like my aunt’s comforting stew.  It was much more refined with much stronger flavors.  Although I really love beef stew in all its forms, I rarely finish all of the meat in the dish. I much rather have a little piece of meat with lots of veggies that have borrowed flavors from the meat.  When I came across this recipe for Mushroom Bourguignon I thought that it was a fantastic idea.  When I explained what I was cooking to my husband, I believe that he was a bit confused that there was no meat.  The sauce was very tasty, and although I used regular white button mushrooms instead of portabella or cremini, it turned out well.  I especially liked the pearl onions, which gave the sauce a sweeter taste.  However, I must admit that while we were eating, I did say…this is good, but would be great with a little beef in it.

Mushroom Bourguignon (adapted from SmittenKitchen)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 pounds mushrooms, in 1/4-inch slices

1/2 carrot, finely diced (or handful of baby carrots)

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup full-bodied red wine (I used Malbec)

2 cups beef broth

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup pearl onions, peeled

¼ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper

Pinch of salt

Egg noodles

In a Dutch oven or large sauce pan, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter over medium heat.  Throw the mushrooms into the pot, but do not crowd them.  Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken.  About three or four minutes. Remove mushroom and set aside. 

Then add a tablespoon of olive oil, and sauté the carrots, onions, thyme, a pinch of salt and ¼ tsp of fresh ground pepper until onions are slightly browned.  Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the wine.  Turn the heat on high, and reduce wine by half.  Then add tomato paste and beef broth and stir until combined. Add the mushrooms with any juices that have collected.  When the liquid begins to boil, reduce temperature to low, so it simmers for about 20 minutes.  Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more. 

 In a small bowl, combine butter and the flour with a fork.  Stir it into the stew. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Boil egg noodles.  Serve mushroom sauce atop a bed of egg noodles.

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Swiss chard seems to be sweeping the food blog world.  Everyone is using it in everything from eggs to pasta.  What is this Swiss chard phenomemon you ask?  Although it is typically in season from June to August, swiss chard looks great right now in the local grocery stores and it is incredibly cheap.  It is another bitter-tasting green that is usually eaten with many other ingredients surrounding it. 

 

With my left over gigantic sweet potatoes that I had from a few weeks ago, I decided to try this recipe.  In my opinion, this dish really seems to belong to Thanksgiving, with the sweet potatoes and nutmeg and all, but I found it to be a delightful springtime side dish or meal as well. 

 

I did a little revising to this recipe for several reasons.  First, I did not use enough greens.  One bunch looked like plenty to me in the store, but once the greens cook, their bounty decreases.  So I would add another bunch of chard.  I used skim milk instead of whole milk my first time through, but I would recommend the whole milk because I felt like the sauce sort of disappeared while the gratin was baking.  A thicker sauce may have more staying power.  I got rid of the parsley and thyme because I wanted to actually taste the chard and sweet potatoes and not have the dish be over taken by thyme, which I feel thyme has a tendency to do.   Also, and most important I believe, add more cheese.  The original recipe calls for 1 ¼ cups cheese, which I felt was too little.  It did not cover the layers at all, and after baking, the only cheese you could taste was the cheese sprinkled on top of the dish.  I chose Emmentaler cheese because I tend to really like this cheese in general.  But I think you could use any type of Swiss cheese or gruyere.  I would avoid cheddar and parmesan though, just because I don’t think cheddar would necessary compliment the sweet potatoes and the parmesan does not have the right consistency for melting in this gratin. 

Once the gratin is prepared you have this pretty multi-colored dish, and once it is cooked, the golden top accentuates the purples, oranges and greens which have now taken on deeper tones.

 

The sweet potato definitely steals the show in regards to flavor.  The combination of the sweet potato, greens and cheese make the dish a comfort food.  I also enjoyed finding the pops of Swiss cheese throughout.     

Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin (adapted from SmittenKitchen)

1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 bunches Swiss chard

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups whole milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
2 medium red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups coarsely grated Emmentaler cheese (or Swiss cheese or Gruyere)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  First, separate leaves and stems of the chard.  Cut leaves and stems into 1 inch pieces.  Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy pot over moderately low heat until softened. Add chard stems, pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper and cook until tender. Turn heat to medium-high, and add the leaves and cook until wilted.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  Place greens in a colander to drain.  Make sure to press as much liquid out of the leaves as possible to avoid sogginess.

 Peel the sweet potatoes and then cut into slender 1/8 inch thick rounds.  Then, place milk and garlic in small saucepan and bring to simmer.  Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat and stir in flour, and whisk for one minute.  This is the roux, as my Husband always loves to point out.  Add the milk/garlic and continue to whisk for about 2-3 minutes, until thickened. 

 Butter a deep baking dish.  I used a glass rectangle Pyrex dish.  Spread half of sweet potatoes in the prepared baking dish.  Add a ½ cup of the cheese. Spread half of the greens mixture over the cheese.  Again add a ½ cup of the cheese over the greens. Pour half of the sauce over the layers.  Then spread the remaining sweet potatoes, ½ cup cheese, and remaining greens.  Pour remaining sauce over those new layers.  Add ½ cup cheese to top. 

 Cover the dish with aluminum foil, but be careful to not press the foil down near the cheese or it will cook to the foil.  Bake for 1 hour, until most liquid id absorbed, and then cook another 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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We love to order the Hungarian Beef Goulash at our favorite Jewish deli in the city.  Although it usually takes awhile to prepare (sometimes up to 30 minutes), we love it.  It is a great comfort food with tons of flavor.  However, the meat is usually pretty fatty, and therefore this dish, along with the portion size the deli provides, is not at all healthy.  Craving this delicious meal, I came across a recipe entitled Chicken Goulash.   I was a little skeptical about swapping the beef for chicken, and I was quizzical as to what spices are added to get the goulash flavor.

Be forewarned, this is not anywhere close to the traditional Hungarian beef goulash that is out there.  This recipe is actually its own thing all together.  There were tons of flavors in the sauce, although I did not particularly care for the thyme.  It also did not have the tangy flavor that I was expecting.  On its own, this is a tasty dish, and much healthier (I imagine) than the beef dish.

Chicken Goulash (tweeked from Food and Wine 1997)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

8 chicken tenderloins

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot sliced (or use baby carrots chopped)

1 turnip sliced

2 ribs celery, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon flour

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (mine had basil leaves in it)

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

3 cups noodles (shells or farfelle)

The original recipe calls for two carrots, but I substituted one carrot for a turnip (which I had from a previous dish, and I thought would add additional flavor), and I substituted baby carrots for the other carrot (because I didn’t have a regular carrot).

 

Cook chicken in a large pot with the vegetable oil until golden brown on each side.  Remove chicken and set aside.

Chop up the onion and garlic.  Slice the carrot, turnip, and celery.  Add the veggies and garlic to the pan, and cook until onion is translucent.

Gather paprika, flour, and cayenne in a small dish and mix.  Then add the spice blend to the veggies, and stir in. 

Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, salt, thyme and bay leaf.  Add chicken.  Simmer, partially covered for about 20 minutes.  Occasionally stir because the spices will gather in places.  While cooking, boil the noodles, drain, and add ½ tbsp butter to the noodles.  Once the chicken is done cooking, remove bay leaf, add some ground pepper and serve atop the noodles.

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Chicken Pot Pie is a great comfort food.  It is perfect for a cold day.  Although it was almost 90 degrees on this beautiful April day, I still decided that chicken pot pie would still be a delicious dinner.  Chicken pot pie is a creamy dish filled with vegetables and chunks of chicken.  What I love about this meal is the flaky crust that lies atop.  When I choose a meal that I want to cook, I usually look at a few recipes, and then combine them in some way.  This recipe is a combination of two Weight Watchers recipes, and a recipe from Cooking Light.  I used, for the first time, our new glass pie pan that we received from friends in California as a wedding gift.  I imagined that the first time we used our new pie dish would be for a heaping apple pie or maybe even a homemade pumpkin pie, but the chicken pot pie looked equally delicious in the dish.

What you need:

4 chicken tenderloins

2 tbsp flour

1/4 tsp ground pepper

1/8 tsp salt

Onion (only use one half)

2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup corn

1/2 cup sweet peas

1 cup carrots

1 cup celery

2 tbsp butter

1 and 1/2 cans fat free cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 ground pepper

1 sheet puff pastry thawed

First, chop the chicken into small cubes.  Fill a Ziploc bag with the flour, salt and pepper. Place chicken in the Ziploc bag and toss chicken to coat.  Cook chicken on medium heat.  Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside.

Then chop onion and garlic, and saute in 1 tbsp of butter.  When the onions are clear, remove from heat and set adsie.  Be careful not to burn the garlic because it will taste bitter.  When cooking the onion and garlic togheter, I typically place the garlic on top of the onions in the frying pan, so that the onions are allowed to cook a little bit before the heat directly hits the garlic.  After a few minutes, then I stir the onions and garlic in the pan so that the garlic can cook too.

Next, chop carrots and celery.  Add 1 tbsp butter to the pan, and add the carrots, celery, corn and sweet peas.  I used summer crisp canned corn.  Allow the vegetables to soften a bit.  Stir a few times.

Add the fat free cream of chicken soup and white wine to the veggies.  Add more ground pepper.  Allow to cook for 5 minutes, then add the chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.  If the mixture looks too thick, add a little more white wine. 

Let the chicken and vegatables cool for a few minutes, and then pour into a glass pie pan (ovenproof).  Place thawed puff pasty on top of the mixture, inside the pie pan, and press the edges of the puff pastry down with the tip of a fork.  Cook in oven for 30 minutes at 375 degrees, or until puff pastry is golden brown.

The result…my Husband, the taste tester, found the pot pie to be creamy enough, he liked the large amount of veggies, and he liked the garlicky flavor.  However , he said that it contained a taste that was not exactly “pot pieness”.  I think it is the white wine.  I actually prefer the white wine taste because I thought it gave the dish more flavor.  Some pot pies have a creamy mixture that is either salty or flavorless, so I found the wine to add something to it and cut down on the saltiness of the cream of chicken soup.  Water, in place of the wine, works fine too.

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