Thursday, January 28, 2010

Emily's Takeover

Today I decided to takeover not only my mother's blog but her kitchen as well. I'm on vacation from seminary (follow my blog!) and decided to make a delicious dinner for my parents. I live in a dorm and eat in a cafeteria, so I don't get a chance to do real cooking very often. I'm not a great cook, but I can follow directions pretty well. Today I wanted to stretch my culinary skills. We invited over some friends, and we watched the snow continue to fly. For some reason I gravitated to French foods or at least foods that sound kind of French. I had no idea if everything would go well together, but I didn't know when the next chance for me to cook would be. It helps that I'm at home in safe place. In case something went wrong I could pull out the big guns (crying) and Mom would jump in and fix it. That didn't happen although I had lots of questions.
Hummus and Fresh Vegetables
Tuna Croquettes with Sauce Remoulade
French Onion Soup
Alyce' Sweet Balsamic Salad
Creme Brulee
Starters: I bought hummus (garlic) at the store and arranged on a cute plate these things:
celery, asparagus, English cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots
-Dish #1 : Tuna Croquettes --I'm not sure what I expected here, but they were a little like incredibly good crab cakes. Except! I didn't have to pay for crab. I used tuna in pouches.

Recipe by Alton Brown
I had seen this recipe on Alton Brown's show Good Eats. It sounded good. It turned out good. Because the panko is lighter than normal breadcrums, each little ball of tuna-ie delight was crispy but not heavy. I can't see these croquettes as a full meal, but it was a satisfying appetizer. Even though the recepe online shows the croquettes with some sort of thick sauce, there was no recipe! Mom whipped up a sauce made of mayonaise, shallots, dill pickles and dijon mustard. She called it a Revved Up Tartar Sauce which then we realized was close to a sauce remoulade.

Dish # 2: French Onion Soup---This one doesn't bake, nor does it have a ton of heavy cheese- just parmesan when you serve it. Oooo la la ! The house smells like heaven.

Carmelizing the onions above. Ina says 20 min; it took 45.

The soup cooking.. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH----------

Here (above) are the parmesan croutons for the soup. Good all by themselves, too.
Recipe by the Barefoot Contessa (also found in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook from 1999)

I have never made soup before except by heating up the insides of a can. So when the idea went off in my head to make French onion soup, I was confused. "Don't you know I don't cook?" I told myself, but I just wouldn't listen to me. So I found what looked like one of the easier French onion soups in the world. The hardest part was slicing the onions. I had no idea how to slice an onion properly, but I found out that once you cook them it doesn't really matter if you sliced them 'right' or 'wrong'. It's important to get all the onions about the same size if you can. It did take twice as long for the onions to brown than the Barefoot Contessa told me, but I assume that's because I'm in Colorado and the altitude makes cooking weird sometimes. I used a sweet sherry that made a big difference in the final product. The house still smells wonderful from the onions and butter that were the base of the soup. I finished the soup about an hour and a half early and just left it on the stove until our friends showed up and we were eating the first course. It warmed up very quickly and was delicious.
Mom made a quick salad to go with the soup so that we would have something green. It was kind of like this:
Dish 3a. Alyce's Sweet Balsamic Salad
10 cups mixed greens (she used baby arugula and baby spinach
1/3 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c cherry tomatoes
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch ea: kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2T Balsamic Vinegar
1T honey
4-5 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
I think she made the dressing in the bottom of the bowl first. She whisked together the vinegar, honey and salt and pepper. Then she drizzled in the oil until it was all mixed pretty well.
Greens, walnuts and tomatoes went on top in a large bowl, which was refrigerated until we needed to eat it. Then Dad tossed it and served it on salad plates.

Dish #4: Creme Brulee See top and bottom photos, too!
Recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl (2004)

Here-above- I am doing something Mom says is "tempering the eggs." Otherwise, the hot cream will scramble the eggs and we don't exactly want breakfast tonight.

SO GOOD! One neighbor raved, "This is the best creme brulee I've ever had!" I usually bake a type of cake for a dessert, but I really wanted to try something different. I think Creme Brulee is super fancy and grown up. Turns out it's not that hard to make if you've got a torch handy. Mom said the key to a good creme brulee is good heavy cream and high quality vanilla. As a Masters student I understand that it makes sense to buy the cheap vanilla, but after eating this creme brulee I will NEVER buy cheap vanilla again. The creme was creamy and smooth. The brulee (expertly burned by my father) was crackling and crisp. If you want people to think you can make incredible desserts but you don't know if you really can, this recipe is for you! It does take some specialized equipment (ramikins, torch), but invest in that equipment and it will pay off.
(Mom says you can use plain old Pyrex custard cups and put the creme brulee under the broiler; you can do without the special stuff but it's so fun to torch something, says Dad.
The best part about cooking for people is that you get to spend time them and show them you care. I hope you enjoy these recipes and take over YOUR mother's kitchen some time.
Check out the rest of the creme brulee pictures below.......................
God Bless,
power tools

Mom's note: Wow! I love having anyone cook like that for me. AND the creme brulee was, there's no other word: silky. Thanks, Emi. Come home anytime.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's Official; it's Tucker

Welcome to the Morgans and the Two-Dog Kitchen, Tucker. Please sleep all night.
Thanks to everyone who suggest so many great names.

I cooked a lovely salmon on couscous tonight...will blog it ....later. ZZZZZzzzzzz.......

Love a new dog,


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blogs With Bite,

Check out the great list of Blogs with Bite at

Look at the January 22 post and there's a link to Mike Licht.

Meantime, look at the rest of Bitten's posts

and begin reading to your stomach's content.

Read a new blog,

courtesy Mike Licht, Creative Commons

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spicy Chicken Vegetable Soup or Name the New Puppy

There isn't anyone who doesn't love chicken soup. At least I never knew anyone. Usually people say, I love so and so's (Grandma's, my friend Laura's, my Mom's) chicken noodle soup, but when I try and make it, it doesn't taste like anything. I have a warm, bubbly make-it-all-better, from scratch chicken noodle soup that I will blog sometime; this isn't it. This is how to make a simple, fast, tasty and even good-for-you chicken soup in the time it takes to watch Rachel Ray. Or: how to make chicken soup out of leftovers plus a few things you might have in your frig and/or pantry. It's also:
How to make January taste better.
How to go to bed feeling full, toasty, and very healthily fed.
How to use what you have and feel great about it.
How to not spend all night in the kitchen or all your money on take-out.
The secret to making many a soup taste like anything is flavoring the stock. If you make homemade chicken stock, you will pile up in a huge kettle chickens, onions, celery, carrots, herbs and season it heartily with salt and pepper. You'll boil it for a few hours, remove the chicken (your call as to what to do with all of that cooked to death chicken), strain the broth, and then reduce it by boiling it again right then or when you make soup.

If you're making soup out of leftovers, you must sort of back-pedal that whole process and figure out how to get that flavor without all the prep. You can have soup made in a half hour in many cases. Let's say you have some leftover baked chicken and a few noodles and it's not enough for dinner, but you don't know what else to do with it. Well, you could warm it up and feed you; everyone else could make a sandwich. Or: you can make a chicken soup capable of curing anything and you will never again wonder how to make soup taste like something.

First, it might be helpful to just think about what you need to have on hand so that you are able to take those leftovers (not a nice word, don't you think, unless we're talking leftover chocolate cake) and make delicious second and, sometimes, third meals from them:

  • Keep several boxes of low-sodium broth on hand.

  • In the frig, store carrots, celery, parsley, other fresh herbs (or grow your own)

  • Have some small (or even large) dried pasta on the shelf

  • Canned tomatoes (small and large cans) are always helpful

  • Store dried herbs and spices in a dark, cool spot

  • In the pantry, make sure you have onions, garlic, shallots and potatoes

If you have some chicken, pasta and vegetables from over the weekend and the above pantry items, you can try this sweet soup and see if you don't figure out how to rearrange the ingredients for another almost instant soup sometime. Feel free to sub ingredients with what you have, Here's how I did it:

Spicy Chicken Vegetable Soup from Leftovers serves 6

2T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 c carrots, sliced
1 c celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 boxes low-sodium chicken broth, gluten-free or regular
1 14oz can chopped tomatoes
2 c cooked chicken, chopped or torn
1-2 c cooked vegetables, diced (I had some zucchini and yellow squash)
1/2 t crushed red pepper
1/4 t Kosher salt; 1/8 t freshly-ground pepper
1 t Herbes de Provence (or 1/2 t ea dried sage and thyme)
1/4 c ea fresh basil and parsley, minced (or 2t dried basil)
1/2 c fresh spinach
1 c cooked noodles or pasta, gluten-free if necessary, cut into 2" pieces if needed*

In a 10 quart soup kettle, saute onions, celery and carrots in olive oil for 6-7 minutes. Add minced garlic and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Add rest of the ingredients except noodles and spinach and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add noodles and spinach; simmer 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot in warm bowls with rosemary bread.

*If you have no cooked noodles, add uncooked pasta to the soup after you bring it to a boil. Cook until pasta is tender.

WINE: We liked a little California Zinfandel with this.

DESSERT: A couple of Christmas cookies still in the freezer. Other option: a little cheese. MMM leftover from our New Year's party. All still good, too.


Seghesio Zin, 15% off with "Family Card" at Colorado Liquor Outlet on Briargate Blvd.

Eggplant, $1 ea at King Sooper's

Of course, here's the moment you waited for-
There's a new baby at our house. Meet 10 week old ______________. That's right; he has no name. He screams very loudly at 2am and 5 am, but is otherwise lovingly voiced. He is sweet, pudgy, friendly and sleeps and eats very well. His legs are barely long enough for him to get to the garage to eat; he about falls out the door. He gets so tired on walks that he lays down to sleep if you go for too long.
If you have an idea for a great male golden name, let me know. Current ideas from a variety of sources are Basie, Berlioz, Sam, Tucker, P-No (Pinot), Alfie, Basil, Curtis and Duke. Gabby wavers between being the happiest girl on earth and asking, "Where did HE come from?" and, "Do you still love me, Mom?"
As for me, I love having, once more, a Two-Dog Kitchen.
Sing a new song; name a new dog,

Baby love, my baby love-------

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Baked Snapper in Tomato Sauce or How to Decide What to Cook

When you arrive at the store or market with no set plan in mind (and this is a good way to shop sometimes), you have opportunity to be moved by what appeals to your
  • eyes
  • stomach
  • wallet
  • sense of the season
  • knowledge of what's in your pantry and frig

You must choose, at that moment, to be a rather more open and spontaneous cook, person and shopper. You must allow yourself the ability and time to walk through the produce and meat and fish/seafood sections (the pasta aisle remains fairly static) to just see what appeals. What looks possible, given your time constraints. What looks lovely, given the season. What looks available, given the bucks needed. What looks incredible and must-doable, given your heart. Your heart is critical here. There are days the most beautiful shrimp being sold at the most beautiful price won't move you. It's just not your day for shrimp; who knows why.

It's as much a creative process as anything and, I promise: the process improves with time. The first time you do it, you may wander round and round, taking an hour in the grocery or farmer's market. The second or third or fourth time may give you the same result. At some point, your love of food and innate intelligence will take over (or not) and the connections will begin to be made. You will walk in, see green beans two pounds for a dollar, stunningly red tomatoes grown nearby, teeeeny bright new potatoes, ahi tuna on sale for $11.99 a pound, and you will say,

"Et voila! Salade nicoise!" or


Now, I'm just starting to take a great French class (one of my life-long goals), but Salade Nicoise does sound better, I think. And, I hope you have better luck finding the tiny Nicoise olives than I do; I usually end up with kalamata.

Ok, you might not start there. This could be an ambitious example.

In between those trips, you will have cooked, eaten and fed someone you like (I hope) and you, if you're really interested, will have begun to read recipes or even watch Ina Garten on tv. The ideas for what you can do with food will have begun to make an imprint on your, well, I'm a faithful person, so I'll say soul. You will begin to trust yourself after some successes and disasters. Your friends and family will begin to look forward to your forays in the kitchen and you will be a new person for having learned something more about how to take care of yourself. I believe it can happen to most anyone.

Too scared to start? Then begin by taking 2-3 recipes you think you want to make. Walk through the fresh areas of the store (always on the perimeter). Think about what looked good that is actually on one of your lists. Shop for that recipe and make it.

Here's the story of my fish:

I knew I wanted to make fish. (fast, friendly, healthy). Went to the store and saw that red snapper looked the freshest and was, in fact, the cheapest right then. Snapper was $9.99 a pound; Tuna was $21.99 a pound. I knew I had zucchini that needed to be used and always have on hand

canned Italian tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, and celery

I began to have a picture.

Something, then, could come of all these things. I could have just grilled both the snapper and the zucchini, but something a bit more cooked appealed and this is what I made:


---serves 2-3

1-2 T olive oil

1/2 c chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, chopped

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2" pieces

2 stalks celery, diced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

1/2 t Herbes de Provence*

1/8 t crushed red pepper flakes

1 32 oz can tomatoes, chopped (I like Cento)

1/2 c ea, red wine and water

1 - 1 1/4 # fresh red snapper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Over medium heat, in large saute pan, cook chopped vegetables, herbs and salt and peppers in the oil for 10-12 minutes or until softened. Stir often. Add chopped tomatoes, wine and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes until somewhat reduced and a bit thickened. Add snapper. Place pan in oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes bit. Serve over a few gluten-free or regular noodles or rice, if desired.

*Herbes de Provence are available in the spice section or you can make your own by combining dried lavender, thyme, sage, marjoram, savory and/or tarragon. Some people add a wee bit of fennel. If you don't have these things, try some basil and oregano in generous amounts.

WINE: Try a Cotes du Rhone or even a Beaujolais. This is a good instance of red wine with fish. Here we're pairing flavors and preparation, not protein, with the wine. Think outside the bottle.

DESSERT: How about a little lemon sorbet, maybe with a tiny butter cookie? Otherwise, try a piece of biscotti with the rest of your wine.

The animals version of this story goes like this:

My bushes out front are, this morning, full of six (yes, six) robins eating juniper berries. Your guess as good as mine as to why the robins are in Colorado in January.

Sing a new song; cook a new fish; go see what the birds are eating,


A blogging note: I'm in the process (might take while) of moving my blog from Blogspot to Word Press; my new address will, sometime in the future, be....

I'll let you know when the switch occurs. I'm working on getting the site ready, but already see I'll have more flexibility and can entertain comments, etc. more easily. If you peek anytime soon, you'll see a site under construction, but are still welcome! Thanks for your patience while I make the change.


Over 3 million Haitians are affected by the earthquake; here are two great places with websites to which you can donate:

World Food Program (UN)

Share our Strength, No Kid Hungry

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese, Please, or Quattro Formaggio Cavatappi

Of course. You're watching what you're eating. It's January.
But, there are still nights when you find you need

comfort food comfort food comfort food comfort food comfort food comfort food
One such night was, oh, just the other night. It was a long day... A half hour before my lesson with a long-time student, I jumped into the prep for a warm, crispy and gooey macaroni cheese. I think I had it together in 25 minutes, most of which was spent waiting for the water for the pasta to boil. Grating cheese and whipping milk with spices is not time-consuming. Watch.
The only side was some steamed broccoli, which I nearly always serve with mac and cheese due to my ancient addiction to broccoli with cheese sauce. Here, I just eat a bite of pasta and a bite of broccoli.
Cook's Note: I have made an old-fashioned, white-sauced mac and cheese out of BETTY CROCKER for years. The recipe I give below is a cross between that and the more up-to-date version (no less fattening) found in THE SPLENDID TABLE'S HOW TO EAT SUPPER by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. Here's how:

3 c cavatappi or penne pasta
1/2 t kosher salt and 1/4 t freshly-ground pepper, divided
1 c milk
1 egg
1/4 c onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced very finely
1/8 t ea onion powder, garlic powder and sweet paprika
1/8 t red pepper flakes
1 c grated Gouda
1/2 ea grated Manchego and pre-grated "Mexican Mix" (Cheddar/Monterey Jack)
1/4 c Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2t extra-virgin olive oil (plus a drizzle for the boiling water for the pasta)

Preheat oven to 350 F.
-In a 6-8 qt stockpot, bring 3-4 qts water to a boil and add 1/4 t salt and 1/8 t pepper to the water, along with a drizzle of olive oil. Add pasta and cook 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain.
-While pasta cooks, mix remaining ingredients (except panko and olive oil) in a large mixing cup or bowl. Remember to include rest of salt and pepper.  You could put it in the blender or food processor.
-Place drained pasta in a 2 qt., well-greased, ovenproof casserole and pour milk/cheese mixture over the pasta.
-Sprinkle with panko and drizzle with olive oil.
-Bake 40-45 min until gooey and crispy on top. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
-Serve with steamed broccoli or other steamed vegetables made while the casserole sits.

Yeah, it's the real deal for dinner. Also, it reheats in the microwave. Reheat each plate individually and very briefly--35-45 seconds.
An aside about the Cassoulet blog, if you read it: I had to have some minor surgery (it's always minor to anyone not being cut) the other day and came home to a lovely cassoulet thawing on the counter. Dave heated it up gently in a make-shift double boiler and I was able to have a "Calgon, Take me Away" dinner lovingly presented. Freeze nice things, my friends. I was so very happy to come home to my great galley kitchen. So great to have a loving mate.
Does your own kitchen ever look any better than after a visit to a doctor and needles, etc.?

----------------------------------Kitchen, Sweet Kitchen-----------------------------------

It's the January thaw time (I don't think we really call it that outside the mid-west) here in Colorado and I went outside yesterday in a sweatshirt. My former student and locally famous landscape designer is out setting up watering schedules for her clients this week. It's warm enough and it's been long enough since we had snow that we must water. Life in the desert!
Sing a new song, enjoy (ha) learning about a new computer and camera......
Over 3 million Haitians are affected by the earthquake.... If you'd like to donate or help, go to site for (World Food Program) to learn more about United Nations/US efforts or to, the website for Share our Strength, No Kid Hungry. Share our Strength is the American organization that will sponosor our Great American Bake Sale in the spring. Both organizations have good info right now. Thanks.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

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, 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 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--



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)
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.


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,
In Memoriam: Tavern on the Green, NYC --- So sad.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chicken Little-Roasted Orange Chicken and Butternut Squash

It's January and maybe you can't tie your shoes like you did on November 1.

It's January and maybe you still have cookies in the garage.

It's January and maybe there are three left-over bottles of Champagne in the frig.

It's January and you are still grabbing Tums. (But, oh, you had fun!)

Should you starve? Naw. However, naptime is over.

You should start the year off with a really great roasted chicken and vegetables. This is a meal that you could make on Saturday or Sunday when you have a little time at home. You'd then have chicken for sandwiches or tacos or whatever. Why buy lunchmeat? Roast a nice piece of meat and have something lovely to eat for a few days. You could even make soup out of the leftovers. Back to the chicken. Throw it all in one pan except for the asparagus, which you grill lightly after the chicken's roasted. Here's how:

Serves 4

1 3-5# whole chicken, cleaned and patted dry (cook the innards for the dog or yourself)
3T olive oil, divided (you don't need salad-quality extra-virgin for this)
1-2 t kosher salt
1-2t freshly-ground pepper
1 orange, cut into fourths
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled, left whole
1 butternut or acorn squash 1-2#, washed and left unpeeled, cut into about 2x4" pieces

Preheat oven to 350 F (375 at altitudes above 4,000 feet).*
Use 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t pepper to season the inside of the chicken. Place cut oranges and whole garlic cloves in chicken cavity. Tie legs (the chicken's, not yours) together with kitchen string and place chicken in roasting pan if you have one. If not, fit a rack into a heavy casserole.

Brush olive oil over outside of chicken and season with salt and pepper. Place cut-up squash around chicken and drizzle with rest of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast chicken until instant-read thermometer inserted between thigh and breast reads 170F. (You may occasionally baste if you want.) If you have no thermometer (get one pronto, though), roast until the leg moves easily when you grab and jiggle it gently. This took about 2 hours at 6500 feet; I had a chicken that was on the small side.
Remove from oven, cover with foil and let sit for juices to come up while you grill the asparagus.
If you wish to make a sauce, remove chicken and veg to a carving board and place roaster over burners on stove top. Remove all but 1T fat, leaving browned bits behind. Heat roaster over medium flame and add 1 T butter and 1 c white wine. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add salt/pepper/garlic/sage (up to you-definitely salt and pepper) and taste. Adjust seasonings. Pour into a serving dish and serve at table with the chicken and veg.

*(You can choose to cook the chicken at 400F; I like it cooked a little slower so that the squash as plenty of time to sweeten and grow quite tender.)

1# fresh asparagus, cleaned and trimmed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Brush a grill pan with olive oil and heat to medium-high. Place into the pan the patted-dry asparagus in a single layer and season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill two minutes. Turn and grill for another two minutes. Remove to serving dish and serve.

Wine: California Chardonnay or French Sauvignon Blanc
The chicken will soon be gone and, yes, you could be little. Well, littlER.
Happy January. The snow is about to hit our house on the mesa once more. The temperature is dropping 30 degrees overnight. Brrr. Stay warm. Tell me what you're cooking?
Sing a new song; I hope you got something great to listen to for a gift,
Our little blog will participate in THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKE SALE this spring, sponsored by Share our Strength, an organization devoted to ending childhood hunger in our country... More later here, but if you'd like information now, go to the site and see what Americans are doing to alleviate the hunger of millions. Why not sponsor a bake sale in your community? All proceeds go to end childhood hunger. Sign ups start in March for 2010 bake sales. You can also sign up to receive email updates on all of the programs and to volunteer in your community. Information is available on what local restaurants and organizations are already involved.
There is strength in numbers......over 17 million children are being served by the food stamp program.... We can change it!