Chicken Biryani

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When I first made biryani a million years ago, or so it seems, it was a fun dish for me because it was a perfect vehicle for leftovers – leftover rice, leftover chicken, even a leftover curry. But one can also make it purposefully from scratch, creating a custom version of what you like.

Biryani is an Indian dish, with many variations, which is perfect for the way I like to cook. It’s basically rice and meat, and you can sprinkle the dish with cilantro or green onions, serve with sour cream. It’s fun and flavorful and filling.

I’m not using an actual recipe, simply so I can show you how to make it from scratch and how easy and straight forward biryani is. I’m using the basic Indian-inspired seasonings, basmati rice, and prepared chicken.

After I’d created the seasonings for this biryani, I discovered an actual biryani seasoning mixture that I bought a few years ago. I need to go through my spice drawers!

Chicken Biryani
Printable recipe below

3 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 – 1” piece of ginger, minced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 cups basmati rice, I’m using brown
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, or to taste
Approximately 3 1/2 cups of good chicken broth
4 grilled chicken breasts
2 tablespoons ghee
1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
1 green bell pepper, cut into slices
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Melt the ghee in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add the ginger and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, give it a stir, then pour in the rice followed by the spices.

Add the broth and give everything a stir. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for about 30 minutes. Brown rice takes a bit longer so test it. If your rice is done and there’s still some broth, give it a stir, keep the lid on, and give it about 10 minutes; the rice will absorb the liquid. Set aside and keep warm.

Cut up the cooked chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. I put sweet paprika on mine before cooking, which is why they’re red; paprika is not an Indian spice. Set the chicken aside.

In a skillet, heat the ghee over medium-high heat, and sauté the pepper slices for about 5 minutes, getting some good caramelization on them, turning once. You might have to do this in two batches. Set the slices on a plate.

Add the chicken pieces, turn off the heat, put on a lid, and let the chicken heat through.

Peel the hard-boiled eggs and slice in half; make sure they’re at room temperature.

To serve, place the aromatic rice on a serving platter, then cover with the peppers and chicken. If you prefer, you can mix the chicken with the rice instead.

Decorate the biryani with the egg halves, and sprinkle the dish with cilantro.

If you don’t want to grill chicken breasts, pick apart a rotisserie chicken and coarsely chop the meat.

If you want to use less chicken, include a can of drained chick peas to the rice.

Now you can see how you can come up with your own recipe for biryani. It’s fun and easy!

 

 

A Seasonal Risotto

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I love making dishes that I can add stuff to, like pancakes, yeasted breads, risottos, mashed potatoes… well I guess just about any home-cooked dish! It’s one thing I enjoy and am good at. I didn’t learn creativity in culinary school, since I didn’t attend any cooking school ever. It actually comes from being financially strapped and never wanting to waste anything. Got a carrot? Juice it and put it in a soup, grate it and put it in a meat loaf, purée it and add to potato mash… and so forth.

But also, since I grew up experiencing various cuisines, I figured out that it’s easy to be creative by turning any random dish into an inspired-by cuisine. Take a potato soup, for example. Add chorizo, chipotle, and fresh cilantro and you’ve got a Southwestern-inspired soup. Use ricotta in the potato soup and top it with a spoonful of basil pesto, and you’ve got an Italian-inspired soup. And so forth. Every week you can make a “different” potato soup!

So that’s how I have fun in my kitchen, when I’m not following specific recipes.

Which brings me to risotto. I was looking over old blog posts a while back, and I came upon my Paprika Cream Risotto. It’s just a “plain” risotto with the addition of paprika cream. Simple, yet fabulous. The photos could be updated, of course, but what caught my attention were my own notes on suggestions of seasonal risottos.

Spring: Lemony goat cheese risotto with salmon, peas, and basil

Summer: Tomato and tomatillo risotto with chorizo and cilantro

Fall: Brussels sprouts risotto topped with grilled sausages

Winter: Smoked gouda risotto topped with short ribs and pickled onions

Damn. Those are great ideas! The Italian purists wouldn’t appreciate these recipes, but I have no problem with this kind of inspired cooking. Especially when the outcome is so wonderful!

I decided to start with the spring version, cause it’s spring! Now, this combination isn’t unique for springtime flavors, but they are really good together! Begin with the salmon, then keep the filets warm while you prepare the risotto, then put the final dish together.

After receiving a gift of a variety of fish from my daughter at Christmas from Sitka Salmon Shares, it has become my source for fish; their salmon is perfection.

Easy Sautéed Salmon Filets
Serves 2

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 salmon filets, not steaks
Salt
Finely ground pepper

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and let it brown slightly.

Season the flesh sides of the filets, then place the filets in the skillet, flesh side up. Cook for about 2 minutes, then gently flip over.

Lower the heat slightly and cook the skin-up filets for a about 4 minutes. At this point you can easily remove the skins using a thin spatula.

Turn them over for one last time so the fish cooks under the skin more, about 2-3 minutes over the lowest heat. Place them on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm, then prepare risotto.

Lemon and Goat Cheese Risotto with Peas
Generously serves 2

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup Riesling or other non-dry white
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 or 4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup prepared green peas (or sliced steamed asparagus if you prefer)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the butter and let melt. Add the shallots and sauté for about 4-5 minutes; don’t allow much caramelization.

Add the rice to the pot and stir it around in the butter and shallots until all the grains are coated. Pour in the white wine. Stir as the rice cooks in the wine and it gradually gets absorbed.

Without letting the pot go completely dry, add some of the broth, about 1/3 cup at a time, and repeat the stirring process, without allowing any burning or sticking. Turn down the heat if you think the rice is cooking too fast; it’s always best to go slower. You can see the risotto is cooking but not ready quite yet.

When you’re down to the end of the broth, turn off the heat and gradually fold in 3 ounces of goat cheese until well distributed.

Add the salt and white pepper and taste for seasoning. If you’re satisfied, gently add the peas, lemon juice and zest, cover the pot, and set it aside.

Lemony Goat Cheese Risotto with Peas Served with Salmon

2 tablespoons goat cheese, at room temperature
Lemon zest from 1 lemon
A chiffonade of basil leaves

Strain the reserved butter in the skillet into a small bowl. There should be at least 1 tablespoon of melted browned butter. Add the 2 tablespoons of goat cheese into the butter by gently whisking until smooth. If you don’t like this idea, just put a small dollop of soft goat cheese on each filet before serving.

To serve, divide the risotto into two pasta bowls. Top each serving with a salmon filet. Divide the goat cheese-butter mixture between the filets.

Divide the lemon zest between both servings, and finish with the basil chiffonade.

I loved the goat cheese, lemon, and basil flavors together!

If you’re not familiar with the term salmon “filet,” here are photos of the two most common individual cuts – the thinner filet, and the thicker steak. Filets can be trimmed so their thickness is uniform. Save the scraps!

Thanks to Cooks Illustrated for these photos!

Potted Ham

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I love all forms of charcuterie, but I’m especially enamored with pâtés, terrines, and rillettes. It’s something about their rustic, picnic-like nature.

On my sister-friend’s cooking blog a while back, I saw something I’d not made before – potted ham! I knew I’d love it. It’s a simple recipe, not much different than making rillettes. And to make it simpler I used my food processor.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Linda Duffin, whose blog is Mrs. Portly’s Kitchen, you are missing out. First of all, besides being a professional cookery teacher, recipe developer, and writer, she’s a hoot!

I often read her blog posts out loud to my husband, mostly because we can’t figure out what she’s saying, with all of her Britishisms, but we still laugh out loud!

Here is Linda posed by her infamous Aga, and a shot of her beautiful English kitchen.

A post of Linda’s from May 3, 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, had us rolling on the floor. You can read it here. My favorite line from the post is, “Get me a lobster thermador or I’ll cough on you.”

Potted Ham
Printable recipe below

5 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 small garlic clove, peeled
14 ounces lean ham, trimmed
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Clarified butter or duck fat

Add the butter, cream cheese, and garlic clove to a food processor. Run until the garlic is well dispersed. Chop the ham and add it to the mixture in the food processor, along with the parsley and spices. Pulse until combined, but not lose texture. This should be spreadable, but not baby food.

Taste for salt.

Add to crockery jars and top with clarified butter.

I considered getting fancy with mustard, but then just decided on a whole grain Dijon.

Serve at room temperature with toast and cornichons.

Lift off the chilled butter and dip into the wonderful ham spread.

Personally my adaptation of Ms. Duffin’s recipe is perfection. I’m sure hers is perfect as well, I just went a little fattier and a bit spicier.

Potted ham is basically ham rillettes. Add butter, spices and parsley to a meat and that’s what you get.

The potted ham would be fabulous with cheeses as well. Especially on a picnic by a creek in the Cotswolds. But for now I’ll just enjoy my potted ham in quarantine.

 

 

Spiced Gammon Cooked in Cider

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Ever since my daughter had a cider-cooked gammon on Christmas in England with her now-husband, I’ve been chomping at the bit to make it. It sounds so British, but also so autumnal. First I had to figure out the American equivalent of gammon.

Thank goodness I have British blogger friends, who worked tirelessly with my predicament, and it wasn’t easy. Linda Duffin, of the blog Mrs. Portly’s Kitchen, finally figured out, with some help, that it is an uncooked Virginia ham. Below are Linda by her infamous Aga, and her gorgeous kitchen where she teaches cookery classes.

I chose an uncooked country Virginia Felts brand ham.

Then I found this, from the blog The Nosey Chef:

The etymology of ham is truly confusing, and it is not helped by trans-Atlantic variations in use. Put simply, a hind leg of a pig is a leg of pork. If that leg is brined, then it becomes gammon. If you cook a gammon, you end up with ham. But if the gammon is served hot from the oven and cut thickly as a main protein in a meal, then it is still called gammon. Let it go cold and slice it thinly, then we are back in ham territory. In the US, the uncooked meat is called a ham, and the word ‘gammon’ never arises. So, in the UK, you can ‘make’ a ham, but in the US, you can only really buy one.

The recipe I used is from Sainsbury’s Magazine online. Sainsbury’s is a large supermarket chain in the UK.

The recipe uses dry cider, which I also had to research, and discovered is what I know of as hard cider, which fortunately is now widely available in the US. My favorite is Strongbow.

You know the joke… “I love cooking with wine. And sometimes I even put some in the food! Well, that’s also me with Strongbow! Cheers!

Spiced Gammon Cooked in Cider

For the gammon:
1 – 2 kg boneless gammon joint (about 4.5 pounds)
1 onion, peeled, quartered
2 whole star anise
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 bay leaves
1 liter dry cider (about 34 ounces)

For the glaze:
Handful of cloves
100 g of dark brown sugar (3.5 ounces)
50 g honey (3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Scrub the gammon to remove the moldy parts.

Place the gammon in a large pan along with the other ingredients, and top with cold water to cover the gammon by an inch.

Bring to a boil, skimming off and discarding any impurities as they rise to the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool in the liquid for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (425 degrees F). Remove the gammon from the stock and transfer to a board. Remove the skin; score the fat into diamonds and stud the fat with the cloves.

Mix together the sugar, honey, mustard and spices. Transfer the gammon to a foil-lined tin and brush the fat with half of the glaze. Since I think I trimmed off a little too much fat, I added a few dabs of butter.

Roast in the over for 20 minutes, spooning the remaining glaze over the top halfway through.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 20 minutes if serving warm. Slice thinly into the fattest part of the leg, slicing cross-wise.

Cool completely to eat cold. Duh.

I served the gammon with roasted potatoes and my Festive Cumberland sauce.

It was a lovely combination.

So, was it worth it? I enjoyed the process, but I didn’t really taste apple flavor, although the glaze is especially good.

Maybe next time I’ll try another recipe.

Olive-Brined Chicken Thighs

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My girlfriend recently told me about her tried-and-true recipe for fried chicken, which begins with marinating chicken in pickle juice. I have been so intrigued by that and curious about the flavor the juice imparts. She’s promised me to make it when I visit next time, and I can’t wait.

I started thinking about pickle juice when I was perusing my jarred items in my refrigerator the other day (doesn’t everyone do that?!!) and I saw a jar of brine saved from olives. I do this for my son-in-law, who is the dirty martini drinker of the family.

My mind went from olive juice to chicken, as in, marinate chicken in the brine, and then follow my friend’s second step which is to marinate with buttermilk.

I have 3 friends who swear by marinating chicken in buttermilk, and it’s a popular Samin Nosrat recipe as well. There’s something about the acid in the buttermilk that tenderizes the chicken, whether you’re planning on frying or roasting or whatever.

So, this is what happened with my olive brine and buttermilk experiment.

Olive Brine, and Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Thighs

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 2 1/2 pounds total
Salt and pepper
12 ounces olive brine
12 ounces buttermilk
Garlic pepper
Olive oil

Place the thighs in a baking dish or ziploc bag. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the olive brine and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Remove from the brine and pat dry on paper towels. Place in another baking dish or ziploc bag, and fill with buttermilk. Refrigerate for another 24 hours.

Remove the chicken thighs to paper towels to drain.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F while the thighs warm up a bit.

Drizzle a little olive oil in a baking dish that will comfortably fit the thighs. Season them with garlic pepper. Right before baking, drizzle some olive oil over the chicken thighs.

Bake until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F. This took my oven approximately 25 minutes. If you want more browning, use the broiler for a few minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the oven, and place the chicken on a serving platter. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic pepper, if desired.

I made some carrot and pea fritters to pair with the chicken, mostly for some color and texture.

I mixed together 75% crème fraiche and 25% Kewpie mayonnaise for a creamy condiment. A little Sriracha was tempting, but I decided to keep everything mild in order to highlight the chicken.

Have you ever tried Remoulade in a tube? It is excellent.

No condiment is really necessary. I just like condiments.

The chicken was super moist, and tasted just like olives. It doesn’t look like much, but wow.

I didn’t realize the olive brine would impart so much flavor!

The marinated chicken could have also been grilled.

I’m certainly convinced about what buttermilk does for chicken as a marinade. But I also like olive brine’s part in this chicken. Next time? Pickle juice!

Split Pea Soup

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Split pea soup. Easy. Cheap. Satisfying. Healthy. Well, depending how much sour cream you dollop on top…

My husband reminded me that he could eat split pea soup every day. The foods I could eat every day are in a very different category, but this soup is what he loves, so I make it for him, although obviously not often enough… and why not? For 99 cents and a little time, a hearty soup is hardly an effort. Plus some ham hocks.

Even though the weather is getting warmer, split pea soup with ham is still a springtime soup in my mind, but certainly satisfying during cold months as well. Here is a recipe I used to make my husband happy.(Trust me, he’s never unhappy with the many meals I continue to prepare for him. But I do like cooking for an appreciative soul.)

Split Pea Soup with Ham

16 ounces dried split peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 ham hocks
8 ounces diced ham
Sour cream, optional

Soak the split peas in warm water for about 4 hours, then drain before starting the recipe.

Add the olive oil and butter to a Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and give it a stir, then immediately add the soaked split peas and chicken stock. The broth or stock should cover the peas by at least 1/2 inch.

Add the seasoning, and bring the stock to a boil. Place the 2 ham hocks in with the peas, cover the pot, then simmer the peas for about 45 minutes; you can’t overcook the split peas.

Let the soup cool, either overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Remove the hocks and try to remove all of the ham bits from the bones. Set aside to use as garnish. If you choose, use an immersion blender to blend the soup smoother. It’s just prettier that way, but optional.

Add the diced ham to the soup, and heat. Then taste for seasoning.

Serve the hot soup with sour cream and the chopped smoked ham.

This soup could also be made with chopped carrots and/or potatoes.

When my daughters left home, they knew how to cook a pot of legumes, lentils, beans, and split peas. I think I taught them that cooking doesn’t have to cost a fortune, as well as the fact that home cooking isn’t difficult.

Salmon Rillettes

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There are many salmon recipes on this blog, because of all fish varieties, salmon is my favorite. It’s such a versatile protein – one that goes beyond basic grilling, poaching, or smoking.

A while back I had a dilemma facing me with two leftover salmon filets. And this is how my salmon rillettes recipe was created.


Salmon Rillettes
Makes about 24 ounces of rillettes

1 or 2 salmon filets, approximately 12 ounces total, pin bones removed
4 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces soft goat cheese, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
4 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped
Fresh chopped parsley, about 3 tablespoons

Rinse and dry the salmon filet. Bring it to room temperature if it’s not already. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the salmon by browning it on the flesh side first. The browned butter will help color the salmon.

Turn it over, lower the heat, and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the salmon is medium rare, about 6 minutes total, depending on the thickness. Turn off the heat.

While the fish is still in the skillet remove the skin and discard. Using a spatula, chop up the salmon coarsely. Let cool slightly.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cream cheese, goat cheese, and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Season with salt and white pepper. Beat until smooth.

Fold in the sautéed salmon, along with the butter from the skillet, as well as the smoked salmon. Try to keep some of the pieces of salmon in tact. At the last minute, add the parsley, gently “pushing” it into the salmon and cheese mixture.

Place in a jar or serving dish, and serve with bread or crackers.

These rillettes are definitely best just made, still slightly warm. If they must be refrigerated, bring them to room temperature before serving.

Rye crackers or bread are fabulous with anything salmon.


Rillettes of pork, or those made from duck or goose are almost purely meat, softly ground to make spreadable.

These salmon rillettes contain some cream cheese and goat cheese for creaminess. If you want “meatier” rillettes, cut back on the cream cheese. The important thing with rillettes is that they’re soft and spreadable.

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).

 

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Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup

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My first introduction to pumpkin was probably like every other American’s – pumpkin pie. I had no idea that this lovely pie was made with a vegetable! The horror! I was married and just learning how to cook when I figured this out.

Pumpkin, the squash, does not taste like pumpkin pie. It’s kind of plain, really, but with some sweetness. But boy does it lend itself to all things sweet and savory.

When my kids were little, I snuck canned pumpkin into just about everything, from oatmeal and pancakes to soups, stews, and pastas. To me, the pumpkin just increased the nutrition of whatever I was making, and the girls never minded the color. Puréed spinach is a different story!

The only way to get canned pumpkin in the “old” days, was in cans. Nowadays, I purchase puréed organic pumpkin in cans or aseptic cartons. I learned a long time ago not to buy inferior brands of pumpkin. They are tasteless and watery.

If you want to be a purist, grab a cooking pumpkin, chop it in half, remove the seeds. If desired, drizzle the flesh with a little olive oil and season (if you’re using the pumpkin for something savory.) Cover the halves securely with foil, then bake in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.

After the pumpkin has cooled, remove the flesh and place it on paper towels or a clean dish towel to remove the water. This step takes a couple of hours. If you want to expedite this, place a heavy baking dish over the paper towel-wrapped pumpkin flesh. This isn’t as critical of a step if you’re using the pumpkin purée for a soup.

Baking a pumpkin from scratch is an important thing to do once. It’s fun. Afterwards, you figure out it’s much easier to buy good puréed pumpkin! Plus, you know the weight of the pumpkin in the can, if you’re using a recipe.

You might have noticed this post published the day after America’s Thanksgiving event. That is because pumpkin to me is something that can be used year around. It isn’t just for autumnal dishes.

Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup
serves 4
printable recipe below

2 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1” piece of fresh ginger, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 – 15 ounce can pumpkin purée
1 – 15.8 ounce can Great Northern beans, well drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 – 1/3 cup heavy cream, or other options, below

Heat butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes; a little browning is okay.

Add the ginger and garlic and sauté gently for about 2 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth, let boil, then reduce the liquid by about half.

Add the pumpkin and beans and stir well. Add the seasoning and taste. Let cool before adding to the blender.

Now you’ve got curried pumpkin and white beans and you have options.

1. For a less creamy soup, use broth to blend the pumpkin and beans to your desired consistency. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche.

2. Use heavy cream to blend the pumpkin and beans for a super creamy and rich soup, and serve with cilantro and cayenne pepper flakes.

3. Use either of the above liquids, and top your soup with bacon bits or slices of grilled sausage. And the curry powder ingredients are optional, of course.

Because I’m a sucker for rich soups, I opted for number 2, using heavy cream. You can use 1/2 and 1/2, evaporated milk, or even goat milk. They will all work.

Stop blending when the soup is as thin as you want it; I prefer thicker soups, especially during cold months.

If you haven’t used white beans in a soup before, they’re a miracle worker. They thicken, just like potatoes, but they also add a creaminess and healthy fiber, without adding any significant flavor. It would be like adding tofu for creaminess, fiber, and thickness, which also works well.

Once you use white beans for a soup, you’ll be hooked. I promise.

 

 

Raisin Bread Stuffing with Cranberries

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The recipe below is one I’ve saved for years to remind myself to use raisin bread as a stuffing base, a great option from cornbread or sourdough. And finally I decided to try it.

However, I could only find raisin bread with cinnamon, which isn’t an ingredient I wanted in the stuffing, mostly because I wanted it for turkey, not duck or goose. Did there used to be commercial raisin bread without cinnamon?

I considered making my own cinnamon bread by making panettone or challah and adding raisins, but then discovered a cheat mix for brioche online (at Amazon, of course) from King Arthur’s flour. It makes 1 – 1.5 pound – 9 x 5” loaf and turned out delicious. All you add is butter and warm water; the yeast came with the mix.

So in the end, I’m not really using raisin bread as a base for this stuffing, but I refuse to change the name of the recipe! One day I will find cinnamon-less raisin bread. Or, am I weird and do you think cinnamon belongs in stuffing?

Raisin Bread Stuffing with Cranberries
printable recipe below

1.5 pound loaf prepared brioche
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Scant 1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup raisins
Heaping 1/2 cup dried whole cranberries
Chopped parsley, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the crust of the prepared brioche if necessary. Cut into cubes about 1″ in diameter and place the cubes on a jelly-roll pan. (In retrospect I’d make 1/2″ cubes.)

Bake the bread cubes until golden and slightly crusty, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t include raisins in the brioche, since I was so gung-ho on using raisin bread, it was because I decided I didn’t want the cranberries dried out from the toasting step. Adding them at the last minute assured that they remained plump. The cranberries I use are from nuts.com. They are whole dried cranberries.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.

In a medium-sized skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, allspice, salt, and white pepper, and remove the skillet from the heat.

Place the cooled bread cubes in a large bowl. Add orange juice, drizzling over all of the cubes as much as possible. The bread should be soft, but not soggy.

Stir in the vegetable mixture.

Gently incorporate the raisins, cranberries, and cream. You can add the parsley at this point, but I decided to sprinkle it on before serving instead.

Place the dressing in an 8 x 10.5” baking dish covered tightly with foil.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, remove the foil, then continue until the top is golden brown, about 5-6 minutes.

I served the stuffing with turkey from a whole turkey breast I roasted in the oven. A perfect pairing.

This stuffing came out absolutely perfect, in spite of the absence of actual raisin bread.

Overall the stuffing isn’t sweet except for the brioche and the bit of orange juice. Even the raisins didn’t pop out as sweet. I think I could have added more allspice, but the savory components were perfect.

I hadn’t yet made cranberry sauce or chutney this year, so I opened a jar of NM prickly pear and jalapeno jelly I bought in old town Albuquerque a while back. I discovered the maker of this jelly here. It’s good stuff!

Please tell me if you know of raisin bread without cinnamon!