Kale and Bacon Baked Risotto

Kale and Bacon Baked Risotto

 

 

I really enjoy risotto. But I do not make it because I just do not have the time and patience needed to stand and stir for 45 minutes while the arborio rice absorbs the stock. Nope, not this gal.

But luckily, you can make a baked risotto that tastes really, really good. I admit, a baked risotto will never be as creamy as a properly made stove top risotto, but I can let go of some of that creaminess for not having to stir and stir and stir. And then stir some more.

Kale and Bacon Baked Risotto

 

 

I do admit you do have to stir a bit while making this recipe, but I promise it will not be 45 minutes. Unless something goes terribly wrong. Seriously.

Be sure to use arborio rice, or a rice that is labeled specifically for risotto.

I used a bag of Tuscan Kale from Cut ‘N’ Clean Greens, but you can substitute with a large bunch of kale. Just remove the stems and cut it into strips.

Kale and Bacon Baked Risotto

 

Kale and Bacon Risotto

Servings 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 small onion, small dice
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bag (10 ounce) Tuscan Kale
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 4 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3-4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 350° F.

  2. In a large oven proof pot over medium heat, cook the bacon until the fat is rendered. 

  3. Add the onion, stirring occasionally,  cook 4-5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.

  4. Add the salt, thyme, red pepper and kale. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the kale is wilted.

  5. Add the rice, stirring to mix it into the vegetable mixture.

  6. Add the hot stock, stir to mix well, cover and place in the hot oven.

  7. Bake the risotto for 30, then remove from the oven.

  8. Carefully, stir in the cold butter, a few pieces at a time, until all the butter is incorporated.

  9. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

I used a bag of Tuscan Kale from Cut 'N' Clean Greens, which was already prepped for me. You can substitute with a large bunch of kale, stems removed and cut into strips.

Spiced Chestnut Soup

Spiced Chestnut Soup

 

 

Fall is here and certain flavors are starting to be used in everything from coffee to dish soap. Yes, I am speaking about the omnipresent Pumpkin Spice. It is everywhere.

But it is not here. Nope. Not happening on this blog.

But I know Fall is about so many other flavors.

Like chestnuts.

I love chestnuts. When I lived in NYC and the chestnut roasters would set up on the street corner, the smell would entice me like no other. Except the smell of those sugared cashews and almonds, which would bring me to my knees. But, I digress.

Chestnuts are available now already steamed and peeled, packed in jars and vacuum sealed bags. It could not be easier to use chestnuts in your everyday life, not just for that Thanksgiving stuffing. I buy them all the time, but you haven’t seen a lot of recipes using chestnuts because I tend to eat them straight out of the container. By the time I come up with a recipe to try, I have already eaten them all! sigh. . .

Chestnuts are generally a seasonal item. but if you buy the jarred or vacuum sealed bags they will last for many months. Stock up when you see them. That way, when you want to make this soup in the Spring, you are ready!

 

Spiced Chestnut Soup

 

Spiced Chestnut Soup

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 13 ounces steamed and peeled chestnuts roughly chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock preferably homemade or low sodium
  • 2 cups water

Instructions

  1. In a soup pot over low heat, melt the butter.

  2. Add the onion, salt, thyme, paprika, ginger, cinnamon and allspice. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened.

  3. Add the chestnuts, stirring to coat them with the spice mixture.

  4. Add the stock and water, raise the heat to high.

  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

  6. Simmer the soup for 30 minutes.

  7. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, carefully transfer the hot soup to a blender or food processor, and puree until smooth. 

  8. Adjust the seasoning as needed and serve immediately.

Red Cooked Oxtail Dumplings

Red Cooked Oxtail Dumplings

I had never had a dumpling of any kind with oxtails. I have eaten more than my fair share of dumplings in my day, but never with oxtail. After making these Red Cooked Oxtail Dumplings, one thing I know for sure is that I will eat oxtail dumplings again.

After making a large batch of Red Cooked Oxtails, I froze some of the oxtails.

Red Cooked Oxtails

Those oxtails were so sweet, sticky and succulent from the long slow braise in red cooking liquid. The meat fell off the bone and barely needed chewing. They were probably the richest oxtails I had ever made.

These dumplings are incredibly simple because I used store bought wonton wrappers. You will not need the entire package of wonton wrappers, so be sure to freeze them for future use.

Serve them with your favorite dumpling dipping sauce. I recommend Sweet Chile Sauce, which balances the richness of the oxtails.

 

Red Cooked Oxtail Dumplings

Red Cooked Oxtail Dumplings
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 15-20 dumplings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups Red Cooked Oxtail meat
  • wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg, beaten with a teaspoon of water
  • vegetable oil for frying
Instructions
  1. Heat the oxtail meat slightly to make it easier to work with.
  2. On a a clean, dry surface place a few wonton wrappers.
  3. Place about 1 - 2 teaspoons of oxtail onto each wrapper.
  4. Brush a small amount of the egg onto the edges of the wrapper.
  5. Fold the wrapper in half diagonally, pressing out any air, and sealing the edges well.
  6. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and oxtail.
  7. If desired, brush the tips of the triangular dumplings with egg and fold inward to make a pentagonal dumpling.
  8. In a small pot, pour enough oil to deep fry the dumplings.
  9. Heat the oil to 350° F.
  10. Fry the dumplings in batches until golden brown and crispy, about 4 - 5 minutes.
  11. Drain well on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

 

Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Ragu with Orecchiette

Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Ragu with Orecchiette

Beef cheek? What the heck is a beef cheek?

It is exactly what it sounds like. The cheek of a cow. When I think of cows, I tend to picture them chewing their cud in a grassy field. And the muscles the cow needs to chew are in the jaws and cheek. Those muscles work hard everyday, meaning they are tough and lean. That is a very good thing, because the tougher cuts of meat are also the most flavorful. But, if they are not cooked correctly, they become a not very good thing.  Tough cuts of meat need to be cooked low and slow. That means low temperature for a very long time.

Beef cheeks are not something you find in your everyday supermarket, unless you live near a good Hispanic or Asian market. Go to a butcher store, or ask the meat department in your supermarket if they can order them for you.  If beef cheeks are nowhere to be found, this recipe would work well with beef shanks or short ribs. You will have to adjust the cooking time.

Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Ragu with Orecchiette

Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Ragu with Orecchiette
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 2 pound beef cheek, excess fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can water
  • 8 ounces orecchitte
Instructions
  1. Place the onions, thyme, rosemary, oregano and .garlic into a large slow cooker.
  2. Season the beef cheek with salt and red pepper, place on top of the vegetables.
  3. Pour the can of tomatoes onto the beef.
  4. Using clean hands, crush the tomatoes to release their juices.
  5. Fill the tomato can with water and pour into the slow cooker.
  6. Set the slow cooker to high.
  7. Cook for 6 - 6½ hours, until the meat is very tender.
  8. Remove the cheek from the slow cooker and shred the meat.
  9. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce, removing any herb stems in the sauce.
  10. Return the meat to the sauce.
  11. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
  12. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
  13. Serve the ragu over the cooked pasta.

 

Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Ragu with Orecchiette

Gumbo Step-by-Step Tutorial

Gumbo

Gumbo is not just a dish to serve for Sunday dinner, or to guests on special occasions. Gumbo is a tradition. Gumbo recipes are passed generation to generation in families from Louisiana. Just as Kentucky has its Burgoo and Georgia its Brunswick stew, gumbo is all about the melting pot that is Louisiana.

On the website of the Southern Foodways Alliance, a group which documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South, is an in depth study of the origins of gumbo.

 Gumbo is often cited as an example of the melting-pot nature of Louisiana cooking, but trying to sort out the origins and evolution of the dish is highly speculative. The name derives from a West African word for okra, suggesting that gumbo was originally made with okra. The use of filé (dried and ground sassafras leaves) was a contribution of the Choctaws and, possibly, other local tribes. Roux has its origin in French cuisine, although the roux used in gumbos is much darker than its Gallic cousins.

 

Gumbo was always an experience I looked forward to as a child. It was an experience just because of the number of steps and ingredients needed to properly make gumbo. And it had better have been made properly, or my grandmother Thelma, from Shreveport, LA would let my mother know what was wrong.

As a child I was able to help with the preparation somewhat. I remember helping my mother cut the okra (and getting all slimy from it) and vegetables for the trinity, measuring the rice to serve along with the gumbo. The house would smell so wonderful as the gumbo was cooked. The roux, chicken, shrimp, sausage, crab legs and file powder made a magical aromatic cloud so thick you could almost taste it.

My mother and grandmother are both gone now, and I haven’t found a written recipe for their gumbo yet. But I was able to re-create it from my memories, with a few minor changes. I don’t always add okra to my gumbo, although it is used not only as a flavor enhancer but also as a thickener for the gumbo. I am still traumatized by all that slime I had to endure as a child, so I usually forgo the okra.

Although gumbo is a labor-intensive dish, it is worth the effort.

 

Gumbo

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1 1/2 hours

Makes 12 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rendered bacon fat
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 64 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 package (15 oz) smoked sausage, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon gumbo file powder