Archive for the ‘Main course’ Category

emma’s popovers

Emma has been exhibiting quite an interest in ‘helping’ while Jill or I cook, so when Jill found a DK Children’s Cookbook, she knew we had a winner Christmas gift.

As Emma paged through the book, she decided that she wanted to make every recipe. Fortunately, she settled-with some gentle nudging-on the Sausage Popovers. And, doggone it, they turned out really good.


  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2ish tsp chives
  • 1 Tblsp spicy brown mustard
  • oil
  • 12 sausage pieces-approximately 2″ each


  • Sift flour and salt into bowl. Make a well in center of flour.
  • Crack eggs into a bowl and mix lightly.
  • Pour milk and eggs into flour mixture. Beat together till smooth, no lumps. Add chives and mustard. Mix well.
  • Let rest about 30 minutes.
  • Heat oven to 425.
  • Pour about 1 tsp oil into bottom of muffin pan holes. Add one sausage piece to each. Heat for 3-4 minutes. (Our sausages were already cooked, just needed heating through. If they are not cooked, put them in the oven for an additional 3 minutes.)
  • Remove muffin pan and half-fill each hole with batter.
  • Bake  18-20 minutes till puffed and lightly browned on top.
We had ours with corn and onion rings. Delicious!


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We had a Friday Night Chopped dinner. Two leftover strips of pounded out pork loin were in the fridge that needed to be used quickly. After briefly pondering how to prepare them, I realized they were calling out to be fried in some way. The following is based on the ATK recipe for “Chicken-fried steak”, but you need a web subscription to access it, so here is what I did.

ATK says that getting the initial oil temperature to 375 degrees is key to the success of this recipe.


3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Table salt and ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 large egg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

6 cube steaks* , about 5 ounces each, pounded to 1/3 inch thickness

enough shortening to measure about 1/2″+ in a skillet

*Pork cutlets: cut pork loin into 1/2″ strips and pound out to 1/4″. I had these left over after fixing pork pinwheels for the church’s Christmas banquet.
Cream Gravy

1 medium onion , minced

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

2 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups whole milk

3/4 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper cayenne pepper

  1. For the steaks: Measure the flour, 5 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and cayenne into a large shallow dish. In a second large shallow dish, beat the egg, baking powder, and baking soda; stir in the buttermilk** (the mixture will bubble and foam).
  2. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper to taste. Drop the steaks into the flour and shake the pan to coat. Shake excess flour from each steak, then, using tongs, dip the steaks into the egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing the excess to drip off. Coat the steaks with flour again, shake off the excess, and place them on the wire rack.
  3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, set a second wire rack over a second rimmed baking sheet, and place the sheet on the oven rack; heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a large plate with a double layer of paper towels. Meanwhile, heat 1 inch of oil in a large (11-inch diameter) Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Place three steaks in the oil and fry, turning once, until deep golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes (oil temperature will drop to around 335 degrees). Transfer the steaks to the paper towel-lined plate to drain, then transfer them to the wire rack in the oven. Bring the oil back to 375 degrees and repeat the cooking and draining process (use fresh paper towels) with the three remaining steaks.
  4. For the gravy: Carefully pour the hot oil through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pot. Return the browned bits from the strainer along with 2 tablespoons of frying oil back to the Dutch oven. Turn the heat to medium, add the onion and thyme, and cook until the onion has softened and is beginning to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the flour to the pan and stir until well combined and starting to dissolve, about 1 minute. Whisk in the broth, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the milk, salt, pepper, and cayenne; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until thickened (gravy should have a loose consistency—it will thicken as it cools), about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer the chicken-fried steaks to individual plates. Spoon a generous amount of gravy over each steak. Serve immediately, placing any remaining gravy in a small bowl.

**Quick-n-dirty buttermilk substitute: 1 C milk+1 Tblsp white vinegar or lemon juice. Let stand 5 minutes before using.

Served with biscuits. Good Friday night comfort food. Keeper recipe.

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Jill has a passion for Macaroni Grill’s Penne Rustica, and I recently made this version for our church’s Christmas banquet. It met with Jill’s seal of approval which is enough for me.

Penne Rustica lite
Ingredients :
1/2 box of penne pasta (this works well with whole wheat pasta)

1 piece chicken breast – sliced thinly

small scallops (the original recipe calls for small shrimp…which is redundant. I like the scallops much better.)

2 slices of bacon – chopped roughly

(optional)2 pcs of roasted red peppers – diced

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

a handful of grated Italian blend cheese

1/4 of paprika

chopped parsley (garnish)

Cream Sauce
1 tsp butter

2 minced garlic cloves

1/4 cup Marsala wine (you can replace this with chicken stock)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp chopped rosemary

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

2 cups low fat half & half (you can use heavy cream, but it is plenty rich with just half and half)


1. Cook pasta according to the instructions on the box and set aside.

2. In a large pan saute garlic and butter until lightly brown. Add Marsala wine, mustard, salt, rosemary, cayenne pepper and half and half. Cook until the sauce reduce to half.

3. In a different pan heat up some olive oil. Saute ham, chicken until chicken is half cook. Add in shrimp and stir fry for a minute.

4. Add in sauce, cooked pasta, peppers, Parmesan cheese, and paprika and mix thoroughly. Spread in baking dish. Sprinkle the top with some Italian blend cheese, Parmesan cheese and paprika.

5. Bake 425 degree F oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve warm.

Tip: Be certain to reserve a good bit of the pasta water to thin out the cream sauce after baking. The starchy water does a great job of making a stodgy sauce creamier without making it thin and watery.

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Looking for a change from the same ol’ slather-chicken-pieces-with-bbq-sauce routine? Would you like a sweeter bbq on occasion? Here is the recipe for you!

  1. Split and flatten two medium sized chickens (4ish lbs each). Cut out the backbone (freeze to use for chicken stock). Flip the birds over and press down on the keel bone till it breaks to flatten the chicken. You now have a “spatchcocked chicken” which makes one wonder where that name came from. Here is a good step-by-step visual of the process if pictures help you understand: http://goodeats.dyndns.org/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=39891
  2. Loosen the skin so you can get the rub directly on the meat.
  3. Brine the chicken to ensure juiciness. 1/2 cup table salt, 1/2 cup sugar and about a gallon of cold water. Stir till dissolved and slide the chickens into the brine. Add enough water to cover birds and place in fridge for 30 minutes to 4 hours.  Other seasonings can be added to the brine, but the salt and sugar are necessary.
  4. While coals are lit and coming to temp, soak apple chips (if anyone knows where I can get chunks of apple wood, I’d appreciate it). Rinse the chickens and pat dry with a paper towel. Dust liberally on both sides, as well as under the skin, with the apple dry rub or the bacon-apple dry rub (see recipes below).
  5. Bank the coals on one side of grill. Prep the grill grates as normal, and scatter the chips over the coals. Place the chicken skin-side down on the opposite side of the grill from the coals.
  6. Grill chickens until skin is well browned, 35 to 45 minutes. Flip chickens skin side up and grill, covered, until breast meat registers 165 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes longer.
  7. Transfer to a cutting board. Tent with foil for ten minutes. Rise, carve and eat!

This is delicious! We really loved the apple rub. I never would have thought to use dried fruit in the spice rub, but it really works well. The rubs need to be developed further, but this is worth exploring and enjoying again. I wonder how dried peaches would do?

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apple dry rub

Today I stumbled across a new path in bbqland. I had two chickens that I wanted to grill-roast, but, being a wee bit tired of the same old dry rub, I pondered what to do differently. I spied a partial bag of apple wood chips. “Hmmm,” thought I, “something sweeter instead of spicy. But what to do? What to do?” To gain some inspiration, I googled  something along the lines of “dry rub for apple-smoked chicken” and found a dry rub recipe that used-get this!-ground up dried apples!! “Whoa Nellie. Whodathunka THAT?!” flashed through my mind. Followed immediately by, “That sounds really interesting. Gotta try that.”

The original recipe had possibilities but needed tweaking (in my never-to-be-humble opinion). So here is the Apple Dry Rub that we used on one of the chickens tonight; it is outstanding!

Dried Apple Spice Rub
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp brown sugar
½ tsp granulated sugar
1 Tbl kosher salt
2 Tbl ground dried apple*
*Core and peel two apples. Slice very thin. (The original recipe said to oven dry the apple pieces – 150 degrees for 2-3 hours – and then leave them out overnight to dry to brittle. I didn’t have time for that, so I spread them out on a microwave bacon pan and microwaved them for about 10 minutes at power level 3 or 4. Then popped them in the oven for an hour or two till they were dry.) Grind them in your spice grinder. They will grind very fine, almost like dust.
As I was compiling all this, Jill decided to make BLT’s (without the L) for lunch. “Bacon? Bacon! Baaaaaacooooonnnnnn!!!” You got it, here is the recipe for the second chicken:
Bacon-Apple Spice Rub
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tsp kosher salt
2 Tsp ground dried apple
1 slice bacon oven baked and ground*
*If you don’t oven bake your bacon, you are really missing the boat. Spread the bacon on a cooling rack that is laid in a sheet pan. Bake it at 225-300 until done to desired crispiness. For this recipe, it needs to be pretty crispy. It wasn’t really dried out for us today, so it kinda gummed up inside the spice grinder bowl. But it worked well enough to make a rub. And this is fantastic!
These will need some more experimentation. The rub could use a bit more sugar, and the bacon needs to be bumped up, but they are excellent new paths to explore in bbqland. Try it and send your feedback.

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Braised Pork Shoulder with Risotto

This is an outstanding recipe from Melissa D’Arabian (Food Network). It is excellent as is, but welcomes a variety of spices. I used coriander and allspice most recently. It also easily doubles, depending on the size of your Dutch oven.

mise en place

2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 6 large chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine (white wine works fine as well)
1 1/2 cups beef stock or broth (chicken, even turkey stock has worked fine)
1 bunch parsley stems, tied with string
2 bay leaves
1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and working in batches brown the meat on all sides until a golden crust forms. Transfer the pork to a plate. To the pan add the onion, celery, and carrot and sweat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes to cook off the raw flavor and caramelize it. Sprinkle with the flour and cook another 2 minutes to cook off its raw flavor. Whisk in the wine and reduce it by half. Return the pork to the Dutch oven, then stir in the beef stock, parsley stems, and bay leaves. Add the water if liquid does not come up to the top of the pork. Do not cover the pork with liquid. Cover the pan and place it in the oven to braise until the meat is fork tender, about 3 hours. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer to a serving platter and serve.


This stew is rich, succulent, subtly sweet. It is wonderfully versatile, easily accepting a variety of spices and vegetables. We have enjoyed this with the risotto, rice, and biscuits. It would go well with buttered noodles as well.

Economical and delicious; this is the best recipe find of the past year.

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puff pastry empinada

Cook’s Country (Feb/March 2010 had an interesting recipe for something they called “Michigan Pasties” which looked interesting, though the name was a little ribald for my taste. We tried them as is and they were okay. They would have been better, but they burned a bit. I should have checked them five minutes before the minimum stated cooking time. They had potential and inspiration struck when I thought of several left-behind puff pastries from a holiday dinner. So here is my variation that is much superior to the original.

Mise en place

2 Puff Pastry sheets

1 onion chopped fine

1/2 lb  ground pork sausage

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 cup AP flour

2 cups leftover beef roast*

1 cup leftover roast gravy

salt and pepper

1 egg beaten

*We had leftover braised brisket, and it was incredibly good. However, I believe this would work well with chuck roast or any other good pot roast.


1. Shred the meat if it is not yet.

2. Saute the onions until softened. Add the ground pork and cook till just done. Add spices and cook till aromatic. Stir in flour and cook about 30 seconds. Add gravy, meat and any vegetables that were in the pot roast; cook until quite thick. Set aside to cool.

3. Heat oven to 450. Line sheet pan with parchment paper.

4. Spread out puff pastry on a flour dusted board (be certain to take it out of freezer 20-30 minutes before attempting to unfold it) and roll it out to approximately 10″x20″. Cut in half to make two 10″x10″ sheets. Spoon about 1/4 of meat mixture on center of each piece, leaving about a 1″ border. Moisten edges with egg wash. Fold and crimp edges. Brush tops with egg wash and slash several times to let steam out.

5. Bake 20-25 minutes. Let cool five-ten minutes before serving.


1/2 lb ground pork sausage

1/2 onion chopped

1/4 cup mozzarella or monterey cheese

1/4 cup flour

1 cup milk

1. Cook onions till softened. Add the ground pork  and cook till no longer pink. Stir in flour and cook till juices are absorbed and flour becomes a thick paste. Pour in milk and cook till thickened (it will be quite thick).

2. Remove from heat and cool to room temp. Stir in cheese.

Use this as an alternate meat mix.

and the result

This is an outstanding meal to use up leftovers! We will be making this many times in the future. This went great with a salad.

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