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Posts Tagged ‘stew’

I started taking French cooking classes at my local community college, and it’s been the calorie-rich highlight of my weeks. Because the course is conducted in German, I not only get to learn the finer points of butter and egg yolks, I can also practice my umlauts. It’s been a great experience, and I wanted to share the highlights with you here. Think of this as French cooking class light: all of the good stuff, none of the overcooked chicken livers.

So far, the dish that has impressed me most was one of the easiest.  I mean, really, who gets excited about lentil soup? Sometimes I feel like despite the massive number of ingredients and herbs I throw in, it’s just uninspiring.

Leave it to the French to elevate the humble brown lentil.

Well, this French lentil soup has taught me the wisdom in keeping it simple. Its flavor is practically the inverse of the time and ingredients involved.  Not only is it easy to make and flavorful, I like it enough that I’d serve it to company. The French must be on to something.  They know a) how to extract the most flavor from a few key ingredients, and b) not to muddle up dishes with too many herbs and competing flavors.

Simple, non?

Without further ado, here’s the recipe.  I’d love to keep talking it up, but it’s a rare sunny day in Berlin, and the sidewalks are calling my name!  I’ll report back with more French hits soon.

-3/4 c. brown lentils (or French green “du Puy” lentils; I’ve made it both ways), rinsed and picked over
-1 sm. onion, chopped
-2 strips bacon, chopped
-2 Tbsp. butter, divided
-2-3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, divided
-3 1/3 c. vegetable broth, warm
-1/2 bunch fresh parsley
-3 sprigs fresh thyme
-handful of celery tops, optional
-scant 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
-freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a medium pot on medium-low heat, sauté the chopped bacon to render some of the fat, about 2 min. Keep the heat low so that the bacon does not get crispy. Add the chopped onion and 1/2 tablespoon butter and sweat until translucent.

2. Add the broth, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and the lentils to the pot. Cover and simmer 20 minutes.

3. Add the parsley (whole), thyme sprigs, and celery tops to the pot. Simmer covered 10-15 minutes more, or just until the lentils are tender. Check doneness occasionally to prevent overcooking.

4. In a small saucepan or skillet, brown the remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter. Set aside.  It should be a deep golden brown, but not black. (more…)

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There are scare quotes in the title because I have no idea how authentically Moroccan this stew is.  Regardless, it’s delicious and definitely worth the chopping involved.  Jam-packed with vegetables, slightly spicy, and full of flavor, it’s even pretty good for you.  Don’t be scared off by the long list of ingredients; if you make chili or Mexican food, you probably have most of the spices in your cupboard already.

I adapted this recipe from my friend, Nikki, who served it at a dinner party.  Moroccan chicken stew is a great dish for a crowd, because once everything’s in the pot, you’re free to hang out with your guests.  Nikki says, “I love the recipe because it is so easy to make for that reason.”  And we love to eat it.  Everyone wins!

-1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs
-2 Tbsp. olive oil
-1 med. onion, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tsp. ground coriander
-1 tsp. ground turmeric
-1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
-1 tsp. chili powder (or more to taste)
-1 tsp. oregano
-2 tsp. tomato paste
-cayenne pepper, to taste
-1 or 2  (16 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with sauce (I used two)
-2 med. zucchini, quartered and cut into chunks
-4-5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into coins
-1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
-1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
-1 cup chicken broth
-juice from 1 lemon
-1/4 c. raisins, optional
-1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
-lots of salt and black pepper, to taste

Mise en place = crucial!

1) Season chicken with salt and pepper and begin browning in a large (pref. nonstick) pot. (more…)

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Should you ever find yourself with an abundance of venison on your hands (via a generous hunter or a murderous rampage against the buck raiding your flower beds), consider whipping up a batch of Hirschgulasch.  This recipe originates from an Austrian restaurant where I used to serve and bartend.  I met many a character there, including a cokehead bartender who claimed to have immortality and a kindhearted Turkish law student.  We slaved long hours together, hoping for big tips and generosity from chef Thomas, who would save us a portion of the venison Gulasch special when he was in a good mood. After a hard night’s work, there was nothing more comforting than a plate of tender wine-braised game over dumplings.  Years after leaving, the dish was still on my mind, so I contacted Thomas for the recipe.

I hope you find Hirschgulasch as memorable as I did.

-1 lb. venison shoulder, trimmed and cubed
-4 small onions, halved and cut into thin wedges
-4 shallots, cut into wedges
-1 Tbsp. flour
-3/4 bottle (450 ml) red wine (I used a light tempranillo)
-1 c. dark beef broth
-1 tsp. beef bullion (staying true to Thomas’ recipe)
-dash each paprika and cayenne
-a few sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed
-1 tsp. fresh minced rosemary
-1-2 cloves garlic, minced
-8 juniper berries
-8 peppercorns
-2 bay leaves
-1 Tbsp. lingonberry jam (or whole cranberry sauce), plus more for serving
-salt and pepper, to taste
-vegetable oil

1. In a large, heavy pot, heat a few Tbsp. vegetable oil until very hot.

2. Dry venison cubes on all sides with a towel. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Sear in batches in the hot oil to brown and develop a nice crust all over. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.

(more…)

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fried polenta

It’s official:  all this cold, dark weather has put me on a comfort food kick.  If the forecast is to be trusted, sunset hits Berlin at about 4:30pm. Honestly, I haven’t seen the sun make an appearance on any recent afternoon.  It’s just been gray, gray, gray.  Then pitch dark.

autumn leaves

As close to a sunny day as you get in Berlin.

So how does a SAD girl beat the blues?  With vitamin D supplements, the occasional jog, and frequent carby, cheesy, meaty homecooked meals.  If I make it through winter without having to buy new jeans (or more Spanx), it will be strictly by the graces of my under-30 metabolism.

I was very pleased with myself for inventing the following recipe until a friend pointed out that it’s quite close to the Midwestern classic, tamale pie.  Whether you see this as Tex-Mex-Italian fusion or classic comfort food, see that it makes it onto your dinner table—stat!

chili polenta

cooking chili

Chili con Carne:

-1/2 lb. ground beef
-2 Tbsp. chili powder (or to taste)
-1 small onion, finely chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 Tbsp. tomato paste
-dash of sugar, preferably brown
-1/2 c. red wine (optional), beer, or water
-3/4 c. tomato juice
-1 tsp. beef bullion base (optional)
-1 regular can kidney beans, drained (14.5 oz.)
-1 regular can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz.)
-2 tsp. cumin
-1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa
-cayenne pepper, to taste
-salt and pepper to taste

1. Brown the ground beef on high heat in a medium pot, breaking up into small pieces and seasoning with half the chili powder, salt, and pepper.

2. Turn the heat down a bit and push the beef to the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Fry the chopped onions in the remaining oil, sprinkling with a little sugar to aid browning.

3. Mix together the beef and onions and stir in the garlic and tomato paste. Deglaze with red wine, scraping up the brown bits into the sauce. Let the wine cook off.

4. Reduce the heat and pour in the tomato juice, bullion (if using), beans, diced tomatoes, cumin, cocoa, and remaining chili powder.

5. Simmer uncovered for 1-1.5 hrs. Add water or more tomato juice if it begins to look dry. Taste for seasoning, adjusting chili powder, sugar, salt, and pepper to your preference. (more…)

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potato soup

Image via The Big Blend

Cool weather just screams out for hearty, homey food, don’t you think? The weather dropped a good 15 or 20 degrees (Fahrenheit…have to specify now!) this past month in Berlin, and I’ve been craving comfort food. This chunky, creamy potato soup fits the bill without being a total fat-bomb. It’s great as is, but feel free to kick it up a notch with some grated cheddar or a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of homemade croutons and fresh snipped chives.

potato soup ingredients

Don’t let the German-language label mislead you…that thar’s evaporated milk.  And there’s no celery in this photo because I spontaneously added it later.  For me, soup making is a bit of alchemy!

sauteed shallotsA little butter is key to this recipe’s success.

homemade stock

In a soup of so few ingredients, homemade broth is a nice touch.

Soup:

-1 3/4-2lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
-1 1/2 stalks celery, pureed in blender or very finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 onion, finely chopped
-1 shallot, minced
-handful of parsley, chopped
-approx. 4 c. chicken or vegetable broth (depending on how thick you like your soup)
-1 c. evaporated milk (not condensed milk)
-cayenne pepper, to taste
-pinch of dried sage
-salt, pepper, and white pepper, to taste
-pinch of nutmeg
-2 bay leaves

-1 Tbsp. butter
-olive oil

To serve: fresh chives, sour cream, cheddar cheese, homemade croutons (recipe follows)

1. Melt butter and a splash of olive oil over med-low heat in a large stock pot. Add onions, shallot, and celery. Cook gently until almost translucent.

2. Stir in garlic, being careful not to burn. Next, add broth, evaporated milk, bay leaf, sage, and parsley.

3. Add peeled, chopped potatoes to pot. Simmer uncovered until tender. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.

4. Thicken the soup. Either 1) use a potato masher to break down some of the potatoes and thicken the soup or 2) remove the bay leaves and about 3 cups of cooked potatoes to a bowl and puree the remaining contents of the pot with an immersion blender. Return the reserved potatoes to the soup.

5. Heat through and serve with your choice of toppings.   Enjoy with a chunk of crusty bread!

Homemade Croutons:

-2 slices thick cut bread of your choice (whole wheat is good)
-1 tsp. butter
-salt

1. Cut bread into bite-sized cubes.

2. Melt butter in a skillet.

3. Add bread cubes. Fry until golden. Sprinkle with salt and serve atop your favorite soup.

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Japanese curry kare tofu cutlets

Rumor has it that curry made its way from India to Japan during the colonial period via the British navy. There it morphed into a mild, savory-sweet roux-based sauce that’s the perfect counterpoint to a crispy piece of pork or tofu.  If you’re used to eating coconut-milk laden or incredibly spicy curries, Japanese curry is a refreshing change of pace.

Intrigued?

It’s dead easy to make, armed with a box of Japanese curry roux.

1.  Drain, slice, and season firm tofu with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. Put a pot of rice on to simmer.

tofu

2.  Coarsely chop and saute together carrots, potatos, onions, sweet potato, red bell pepper, and a bit of eggplant.*

IMG_1523

3.  Dredge seasoned tofu in flour.  Dip in beaten egg, then coat with panko (Japanese bread crumbs).  Season with salt.

Japanese panko bread crumbs

4. Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease a baking sheet with oil. Arrange cutlets evenly on sheet and begin baking. Occasionally rotate the pan, but do not flip the cutlets.
baking curry cutlets

(more…)

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Superbowl Sunday seemed like the perfect weekend to perfect a classic Cincinnati chili recipe.  And how:

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img_0088 (more…)

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