Lentil Pheasant Soup

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Years ago, this soup recipe was my first exposure to lentils, and I’ve been in love with them ever since. The pheasant I used was some that my husband brought home after a hunting trip. I can’t give any credit for this recipe, it’s that old. But I’ve been making it for a long time, and it’s still a keeper.

Pheasant isn’t terribly popular as a protein, mostly because it can easily be overcooked. But in this soup it stays nice and tender. You can substitute chicken if necessary.

If you’re in the mood for a laugh, I wrote a post about discovering my husband was a hunter after we were married.

To make this soup recipe for the blog, I purchased whole pheasants from D’Artagnan. I guess the local Oklahoma birds have been hiding in the fields these days.

Make sure you don’t use “grocery store” lentils when you make this, because they will become overcooked and mushy. If that’s all you can find, omit the last 15 minutes of cooking.

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Lentil Pheasant Soup

1 pheasant, 1 1/2 – 2 pounds, quartered, backbone removed and reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 carrots, cut into 1/2” dice
2 medium onions, cut into 1/2” dice
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2” dice
1 medium parsnip, peeled, cut into 1/4” dice
3 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
4 cups pheasant or chicken broth
3 cups drained and crushed canned plum tomatoes
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
6 tablespoons Italian parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper
Sour cream, optional

Place the backbone and wings in a large pot with water, and make a quick broth, which only takes about 20 minutes. Include some onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and celery leaves. Or, substitute chicken broth.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a soup pot. Add the carrots, onions, celery, parsnip and garlic. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 15 minutes to wilt vegetables.

Season the pheasant legs and breasts with salt and pepper.

To the soup pot, when the vegetables have wilted, add the tomatoes, lentils, and pheasant legs. To add the pheasant stock, I measured from the pot in which I made the broth, and poured it through a strainer.

Stir well, and simmer the soup, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Add pheasant breasts and simmer another 15 minutes.


Remove legs and breasts; reserve and let cool. Also let the backbone and wings cool so the meat can be removed from the bones for the soup.

Cook the soup, completely covered, for another 15 minutes, over the lowest heat. Give the soup a stir and make sure you like the consistency. Adjust with more broth if necessary. Season with parsley, thyme, salt, and white pepper.

During the final simmer, remove skin from the pheasant parts and chop or slice the meat. Add to the soup and stir to combine.

Serve immediately.

I love serving this soup with sour cream.

It’s just nice with the tomato-rich lentils, and the pheasant.

This soup freezes well, so don’t hesitate to make a double batch! If you were paying attention, I used two birds for this recipe, and doubled the ingredients.

Risotto with Pork Shanks

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On the last season of Masterchef US, season 10, the 4th runner up went home. His name is Noah Sims and he was a favorite. What sent him home was a risotto topped with venison loin. The venison was overcooked, unfortunately for him, but what sent him home was a profound learning experience to me.

Risotto is a dish. It is a meal. It can be enhanced with an endless number of ingredients, from mushrooms to tomatoes and squash, and seasoned accordingly. It also can be served with protein of just about any kind, for a more involved meal. However, the protein is a separate dish from the risotto.

So, you have risotto, and the added protein, and according to Joe Bastianich, the son of Italian cuisine expert Lidia Bastianich, something has to tie them together. Otherwise it’s like serving a chili dog on a plate of cacio de pepe. (not his quote.) Two completely different dishes.

What Mr. Bastianich suggested was that if Noah had been able to prepare a venison stock to use in the risotto, the overall meal would have worked.

I found this to be quite revelatory. Because although my husband doesn’t mind, I’ve put just about any kind of meat or seafood over his risotto. Now, they have to “go” together. Now I know.

So I created this risotto dish topped with braised pork chops in order to use pork broth in the risotto. Start in the morning, and don’t plan on serving the dish until the next day.

Braised Pork Shanks
4 servings

4 – 1 1/2 pound Berkshire pork shanks
Salt
Pepper
Grapeseed oil, about 1/4 cup total
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
3 cups white wine
3 cups chicken broth
Parsley
Bay leaves
Rosemary branch
Thyme branch
Sprig of sage

Begin by coating the pork with a generous amount of salt and pepper.


Heat the grapeseed oil in a heavy cast-iron pot over high heat. Brown the tops and bottoms of all four shanks, one at a time.

After browning, place the shanks in a large, deep and heavy pot, like a Le Creuset; set aside.

Turn down the heat under the pot to medium. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrots for about 5 minutes, stirring up all of that meaty goodness.

Stir in the garlic for a minute, then add the wine and broth.

Add all of the herbs to the pot with the broth. Heat up the liquid in the pot, uncovered, and cook for 30 minutes. Then cover the pot well and cook for 30 more minutes.

Let the liquid cool enough to handle the pot, then strain the liquid through a fine colander into the pot with the shanks. Add more wine or broth if necessary. The meat should just be covered.

At this point you can check the seasoning. The broth should be rich with flavor.

Place the pot over a medium-high heat and simmer the shanks for 2 1/2 hours. Turn the shanks over halfway through cooking.

When you’re ready to collect the pork broth and proceed with the risotto, remove the shanks and place in a baking dish. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Taste the broth. If it’s watery, spend at least 30-45 minutes reducing it. Store it in a pourable pot, then make the risotto (recipe below).

Risotto served with Braised Pork Shanks
4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
12 ounces arborio rice, about 2 cups
Pork broth, about 4-5 cups
Salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, and saute the shallots for a few minutes. Add the rice and stir until all of the grains are lightly coated with the oil.

Gradually begin adding the pork broth to the risotto. This whole process should take about 45 minutes; stir constantly.

Season to your taste. At the end of cooking, I added just a little bit of cream, but this is optional.

For seasoning the risotto, if you want it more “fun,” think about adding some dried thyme, or mushroom powder, or even tomato powder or tomato paste.

The risotto already pairs with the pork shanks because of the lovely rich broth used in it, but you can be a little more creative with the risotto.

To prepare the risotto and pork shank dish, place half of the risotto on a pasta bowl, and top with a warm pork shank. I brushed a little of the broth over the pork so it was nice and moist.

I added some chopped parsley for a little color, and served the meal with a simple green salad.

The pork is so moist, and tender like pulled pork. And flavorful.

And the risotto? Superb. Even with very little fat, the pork broth really created a rich-tasting risotto.

And if you don’t want to deal with the whole shank on your risotto, you can cut it up first, and serve warm over the risotto, like you would short ribs.

But the whole pork shank does make a pretty presentation!

Chicken with Chick Peas, Tomatoes, and Chorizo

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You all know that I’m kind of a stubborn gal. Trends of all kinds send me in the opposite direction. I did love bell bottoms, but I was young and silly then. I will never get long pointy fingernails that seems de rigeur these days. I’m too practical. Besides I’d mostly like slice my eyeballs.

When it comes to food, I’m the same, although I’m the first to admit that I’ve been wrong. I married a guy with an orange crock pot. Never used it. Now they’re called slow cookers. I bought one and use it. Pesto and sun-dried tomatoes were on every menu in the 80’s, so none for me. Very silly. And then there was cauliflower rice. Made my eyes roll, but the recipe I made was really good! Bowls? Why does food have to be in bowls? I’ll never have an instapot, but that’s mostly cause I don’t need anything insta anymore with no kids at home.


Which brings me to when I first started noticing tray bakes and sheet pan bakes and the sort. Even my beloved Nigella put food baked in a jelly roll pan on Instagram. Really? A jelly roll pan is just a shallow baking dish!!!

Once again, I broke down once I saw the cookbook, The Roasting Tin, by Rukmini Iyer. It’s “simple one dish dinners.” Which I’m assuming are different than one pot dinners?!! Sorry, I can’t help myself.

The Roasting Tin, below left, was published in 2017, followed in 2018 by The Green Roasting Tin.

To be fair, I bookmarked a number of good sounding recipes in the cookbook. The recipes are easy and I trust that the main ingredients come out of the oven all cooked properly, because the authors seems quite popular. One pot tray-bake meals do cut out any preliminary steps like sautéing or browning or par-boiling.

This is the recipe I chose to make first.

Chicken with Chorizo, Chick Peas, and Tomatoes

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
100 grams or 3.5 ounces chorizo, roughly chopped
1 – 400 gram tin of chickpeas, drained
1 – 400 grams or 14 ounce tin of tomatoes
300 milliliter or 10 ounces water
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1.4 kilograms or 3 pounds chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F. Place the onion, garlic, rosemary, chorizo, chickpeas and tomatoes in a roasting tin, and use the water to rinse out the tomato tin before pouring it in with everything else. Season well with salt and pepper.


Arrange the chicken thighs over the tomato mixture, and rub with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, then transfer to the oven and roast for 40 minutes.

Turn the heat up to 200 degrees C or 400 degrees F and roast for a further 50 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through.

Taste the sauce, season as needed with salt and black pepper, and serve hot.

So, have I ever in my million years of cooking thrown purple onions in with sweet potatoes when roasting? Sure. Have I ever cooked chicken and sausages in the same roasting pan? Of course.

However, this book does have some unique ideas, and I can’t deny the fact that it is fun to cook a whole meal in a “tray” with minimal preparation and mess!

Although if you noticed, I did use a roasting pan. My jelly-roll pans warp when they’re in the oven, which would have created a terrible mess.

I’m sure the author will forgive me for not using a tray.

The Briner

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My sister-in-law and I share a serious love of cooking, so her gifts are always spot on. For my birthday she sent me something really unique, called “The Briner.” It’s a large, plastic container designed for brining meat.

As you can see in the below right photo, there is an inside “lid” that holds meat down inside the container and keeps it submerged in the brine. It’s ingenious!

To quote from The Briner website, this patented product “resolves the #1 challenge to successful brining – floating food! Simple design, easy to use, easy to clean, works great.”

Previously, I’d used my largest, deepest pot for brining, and had to stack heavy plates on top of the meat in order to keep it from floating, especially the few times I brined a whole turkey or chicken.

Not being an expert briner, I looked to Paul from That Other Cooking Blog, who is obviously a proponent of brining. I’ve followed Paul for years now; his blog is also a great resource for sous vide cooking. Plus, his professional photography is featured in a cookbook entitled, “The Essential Sous Vide,” published in 2016.

Isn’t that one gorgeous photo on the cover??!!

So I asked Paul some basic brining questions. In a nutshell, here’s what he said.

“Everything is brinable.”

Paul said a lot more than that – he’s quite generous with his knowledge, but that’s the gist of what he said. And I guess, why not?!!

He also brines and then uses his sous vide. That almost hurt my brain to think of how exceptional protein could turn out with everything going for it!

And again, why not?!! So I decided to brine with The Briner, and sous vide a pork loin chunk.

Those of you who don’t own a sous vide machine, I highly recommend you look into one.

This is the model I own. (above) It’s half the size as the commercial sous vide, less expensive, and perfect for a small family.

To me, it’s an essential appliance, especially for tough cuts – brisket, flank and hanger steaks – and easy-to-overcook cuts, like pork and chicken.

Here’s what I did for the brine.

1 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
8 cups water
1 1/2 pound pork loin
2 oranges, quartered
1 onion, quartered
A few smashed garlic cloves
Rosemary
Thyme
Sage
Bay leaves
Star Anise
Cloves
Some crushed juniper berries

Using a large pot, combine the salt and sugar with the water and heat until dissolved. Set aside the pot to let the mixture cool.

Place the pork loin in The Briner, or a large pot. Pour cooled brine over the top.

Add the remaining ingredients, squeezing the orange pieces a bit into the brine.

If the meat is not covered by the brine, add some more cold water.

Then add the lids to The Briner, place in a cool place like a cold garage or refrigerator for 24 – 48 hours.

After brining, rinse the pork, and dry off well.

Vacuum seal the loin and keep chilled until the sous vide is ready. You can season the pork, add more herbs, and even add butter to the pork before sealing, but I did not.


Preheat the sous vide to 135 degrees. The pork will be done after 12 hours. Plan according to whether you will be removing the pork and immediately browning it and serving it, or if you plan to refrigerate it overnight first.

Here’s what it looks like after the sous vide process.

Brown the pork in a little oil, seasoned with a good garlic pepper or seasoning of your choice. You can brown the whole chunk of loin, but I decided to slice it into serving pieces first.

Honesly, the pork is ready to eat after the sous vide’ing, but most people are put off by pink pork!

I served the pork with a creamed spinach.


Then I tasted the pork. Oh my.

I tasted the brine ingredients!

I could taste the onion and orange, specifically. The depth of flavor was tremendous.

And, of course, the pork was super tender from the sous vide process.

So young Paul was right. Why not take advantage of all the tools and tricks we have to create the best food possible!

Chicken and Sausage

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When I read cookbooks, I am not turned off by long lists of ingredients. Nor do I look for the words “quick” or “easy” in the recipe names. I never have, even though I probably should have taken quick and easy more seriously when I was cooking for our growing family and busy as the dickens. I just prefer real recipes with real ingredients, whether simple or more involved.

I own all of Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks and love all of them. I love a lot of things about her. She’s hysterically funny, an impressie writer, she embraces her love of food and eating, and she doesn’t bother with super fiddly recipes (translation from British – fussy/sophisticated).

Even her cakes are often rustic, mis-shapen layers of chocolate goodness. You don’t make them for fair judging, you make them because they’re fabulous.

So once I came across a Nigella recipe for chicken and sausages that were roasted simply with Dijon mustard and oil. In the old days I might have turned up my nose at such a recipe, especially if it was called “Quick and Easy Chicken and Sausage.” But fortunately I didn’t. It is just a good recipe that happens to take little time, and the results are wonderful. And I’ve made this dish more than once, which is a rarity in my kitchen.

It came from the cookbook, “Feast” which might be my favorite of Ms. Lawson’s – aside from “Nigella Christmas.” Doesn’t she just look like she could be my best friend?!! I mean, that’s what I look like in the kitchen when I’m kneading bread!
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Nigella’s original recipe For chicken and sausage has a few more ingredients, but this is how I’ve adapted her recipe.
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Dijon-Roasted Chicken and Sausage

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 chicken breasts
5-6 Italian sausages
Small red potatoes, scrubbed
1 large purple onion, cut into wedges
Coarsely ground black pepper
Chopped rosemary

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or 375 degrees if you have a roast setting.

Combine the olive oil and mustard in a decent-sized roasting pan. Whisk until smooth.


Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally, creating uniform pieces. Place the breasts in the pan, coating them with the mustardy oil. Then add the sausages to the pan, rolling them around to get coated.
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Sprinkle the potatoes around the meat; halve them if they’re too large. Then add the wedges of onion around the meat.

Season well with coarse black pepper, if desired. Then add some sprigs of rosemary, or chopped rosemary.


I am in love with my Mauviel roasting pan, which has endured a lot of oven use over the years.

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Roast for approximately 30-35 minutes, turning the chicken pieces and sausages half way through.
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Serve immediately.

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This dish is wonderful with steamed green beans.
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As you can see, this dish is definitely quick and easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good!
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Thank you Nigella!

Dipping Oil

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Recently, a girlfriend of mine asked me if I had a recipe for dipping oil. And I was taken aback. I have never made a dipping oil before. I love them – in fact I love when restaurants serve their hot breads with the combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. As long as I don’t choke on the vinegar, it’s absolutely the most decadent treat. But I’ve never served that at home.

I looked up dipping oils on Williams-Sonoma, just for the heck of it, and what I found really shocked me. Now as you all know, I’m a huge fan of Williams-Sonoma, and I’ve probably single handedly built a few stores from my purchases over the years. But these dipping oils are $12.95 for one 8.5 ounce bottle!

Even considering a high quality olive oil as the base for these seasoned oils, I still find these overpriced. Here are the varieties that can be purchased:

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Pesto recreates the bright flavors of the classic Italian sauce with basil, walnuts, parmesan cheese, garlic and tangy lemon.

Herbs de Provence is a French-inspired blend of herbs de Provence, black pepper, lemon and a hint of Dijon mustard.

Parmesan Garlic is a rich, savory combination of aged parmesan cheese, roasted garlic and Mediterranean herbs.

Rosemary Garlic features a Mediterranean-style blend of rosemary and fragrant garlic, highlighted by tangy lemon and a touch of Dijon mustard.

Sun-Dried Tomato showcases the rich sweetness of sun-dried tomatoes, accented with basil, shallots and spices.

They all sound really good, but the first thing I thought of, not surprisingly, is that they can easily be made at home!

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So I decided to do just that. I started with a clean jar, and then added these ingredients:

Spiced and Herbed Dipping Oil

Good quality olive oil, although any good oil could be used
peppercorns, a nice colorful variety
dried chile peppers
some lavender sprigs
a sprig of rosemary
a couple sprigs of thyme
a few bay leaves
a couple of peeled garlic cloves

Then I shook everything up and let the jar sit in my pantry for 2 weeks. I didn’t add salt, nor did I add cheese. I felt that those ingredients could be added at the time when I serve the dipping oil with bread.

I usually do a separate post for liqueurs and such that take a couple of weeks to “age” properly, but in this case, the oil was ready right before Thanksgiving. So I’ve already played with it, and I am impressed.

I firstly used a funnel with a sieve attached to pour some of the oil into a small dipping bowl.

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And then the tasting began. Or, uh, testing. The taste was spectacular by itself, but I did add some salt.
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Then I added some balsamic vinegar for fun.
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It was a fabulous combination; the vinegar didn’t overwhelm the oil because it’s pretty potent itself.
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I will definitely play with making these oils again. So many different possibilities!
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Rosemary’d Dip

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Bean dips are so delicious and versatile, and easily enjoyed year round. One of my favorites is White Bean Dip with spices. This one is similar in the use of white beans, but instead of spices, I only use fresh rosemary. So if you like rosemary, you’ll love this dip.

I don’t know if this is as much a dip or a spread, since I typically serve it with a spreader, especially with guests. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s a soft, spreadable purée of rosemary-flavored white beans. It can served in a bowl alongside breads and crackers, as I have, or creatively topped on crostini for a prettier presentation.

And let’s not forget the healthful benefits of beans. It’s wonderful to enjoy a delicious appetizer that’s actually good for us!

Rosemary’d White Bean Dip

2 cans Great Northern Beans, well drained and rinsed
1/4 good extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves*
1/2 teaspoon salt

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Place the drained beans in the jar of a food processor. Add the olive oil and the garlic, and puree until the mixture is smooth. I always process the garlic first to ensure there are no pieces of garlic left, then proceed with the recipe.

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I remove the germ from my garlic when I’m using it fresh in a recipe like this, and it’s not going to be cooked, like in a stew. Supposedly the germ is bitter. I’ve not tested this theory, but I do remove it when making this dip. I want a delicious fresh garlic flavor – not a flavor that is bitter and overly pungent. This is especially the case when the garlic is trying to sprout and the germs get quite large. I completely avoid them.

Scape down the puréed beans in the jar and process again.

If you’ve picked your rosemary early in the day, simply stick them in water to keep them fresh. I routinely do this even though I’m not sure how much it helps! I figure it can’t hurt.

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Then add the rosemary leaves and salt to the beans. If you think that the bean purée could be a little softer, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Pulse just to combine, then add the rosemary and salt. If you’re making it about 3-4 hours before serving, definitely make it on the soft side, because the beans will absorb the oil. But I wouldn’t make it any earlier then 3 or 4 hours.

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Place the dip in a serving bowl and serve at room temperature with assorted breads, and/or crackers. Vegetables are good with it, too.

If you make this dip a few hours before serving, keep it at room temperature; don’t refrigerate it. It’s not good refrigerated overnight, either. It just loses the good texture.

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* My rosemary this time of year is much less pungent than in the summer, so depending when you make this dip, make sure you taste it. Fresh rosemary can be very strong. But whatever you do, don’t use dried rosemary.

note: You could certainly use garbanzo beans in this recipe, but I prefer white beans for dips. You can see how soft and smooth they are in the photo after they’ve been pureed with the oil and garlic. In my experience, garbanzo beans never get this smooth, which is why I prefer white beans. I’ve heard that if the garbanzos are peeled, they will become smoother, but I’m not about to bother with that extra step.