Comfort Food


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Someone in my life bought a huuuuuge five-plus-pound pot roast (thanks, Mom, who exactly are we feeding?), so off we go, first to the stovetop, then straight to the oven for a long (4 hours) winter’s nap. It cooks right down to delicious tenderness unattended once you get the party started.

A CONNECTICUT YANKEE’S POT ROAST
3-5 pound pot roast
Kosher salt
black pepper
smoked paprika
2 large sweet onions, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
8 carrots, unpeeled, cut in thirds
3 stalks celery, cut in thirds
8 oz. mushrooms, quartered
2 sprigs rosemary
sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
3 cups beef broth
1 cup red wine (I used Gnarly Head Old Vines Zin)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously season the roast with Kosher salt, pepper and smoked paprika (optional). Heat olive oil to coat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear on all sides until browned, about 15-18 minutes. Remove to a plate.

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Add the onions  browning them on all sides–about 5 minutes or so keep stirring. Move them to a large bowl. Running low on oil? Add a bit more. Now do the same with the carrots and celery–heat, brown a bit, move to bowl. Last, drop the temp to medium, throw in the mushrooms, and when they’ve got some color on them (couple minutes), add the garlic and 1 tablespoon tomato paste and stir fast-fast.

Move the roast back to the pot. Pour in the stock and wine; add herbs. Add in all the rest of the vegetables.

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Put the lid on, then roast for 3 hours for a 3-pound roast. For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours. The roast is ready when it’s fall-apart tender.

Once the roast is done, remove it from the braising dish, leaving behind all the liquid and vegetables, then season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with your favorite mashed potatoes! It also makes a nice to-go box for someone special.

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You don’t need me to tell you we can make pesto out of herbs other than basil. But I’m here to share because I like how this came out and, selfishly, I’d like to document it so I can do it again.

I bought a rather large container of baby arugula to use for other things earlier this week, so it seemed the right time to change up the pesto game. It’s so easy! Here we go.

ARUGULA PESTO
2 cups arugula, loosely packed
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts), toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
juice of one lemon
freshly ground pepper to taste

Add nuts to a small skillet over medium heat. Add nuts to pan; cook until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes or so, shaking the pan constantly. Set pan aside to cool a bit.

Add nuts and garlic to food processor; process till minced.

Add arugula, oil, salt and pepper; process until blended, scraping sides as needed. Add lemon and cheese; process until smooth.

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Toss with pasta of your choice–we had gemelli. Be sure to save a bit of your pasta water (or don’t drain the pasta all the way) to blend with the pesto when you initially toss the pasta and pesto together to coat. What you see on top is pure pesto, though.

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Oh, hey--since you’re already here, would you like a bonus round with this easy recipe? It’s called “what to do with a bag of spinach when you thought you were going to make stuffed mushrooms and only had four mushrooms left.” OOPS!

CREAMY SPINACH AND MUSHROOMS
an accidental side dish

1 9-oz. bag fresh spinach
4 mushrooms sliced (more would have been better, then we could’ve stuffed them, but this isn’t science, so, by all means, use more if you have them!)
1 clove garlic, pressed
butter to coat the bottom of a large saute pan
1 oz. cream cheese
dash of salt

Melt butter in large saute pan over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms. When those have cooked down and browned a bit, add the garlic and stir for just a minute. Add spinach. Cover so it steams down to the point you can stir it all together–this happens pretty quickly.

Add an ounce of cream cheese and a dash of salt. When the cream cheese has melted in to form a creamy sauce, it’s ready to serve.

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Let’s hear it for Yankee ingenuity! And Yankee thrift, too, I suppose. Cheers to that!

 

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It’s finally feeling like fall–a perfect time for soupin’ it up in the kitchen, and turning on the oven to roast tomatoes. All that sound good? Lasagna soup might be just what the weatherman ordered! I wonder if cousin Gil Simmons is listening?!

This recipe has all the delicious flavors of lasagna without being overly cheesy. Not that there’s anything wrong with being cheesy (HA HA, please, look who’s talking). But it’s plenty rich and hearty without ricotta or mozzarella. See if you agree!

LASAGNA SOUP

1 pint grape tomatoes
olive oil to coat the bottom of a large roasting pan
1 large sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup vodka
1 pound sausage (patties, or casings removed from links) CT folks, I love Longhini!
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 oz. mushrooms (I used baby bella), sliced
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, if you have it
1 box (32 oz.) chicken stock (my fave is Kitchen Basics)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup flour
1/2 pound lasagna noodles, broken (note: I found frozen lasagna noodles from Durante’s Pasta of West Haven at Shop Rite in Wallingford–SCORE!)
1 bag (6 oz.) baby spinach
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
fresh basil to garnish (optional), parsley’s always nice, too

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil to coat 9 x 13″ baking dish. Roll the tomatoes around in the olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Gently smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife and add to baking dish. Make sure all the tomatoes are in an even layer. Roast in oven 10 minutes, then shake and put them back in for 10 minutes more. Then shake again and back to the oven 10 more for total of 30 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup vodka after you remove the pan from the oven. Sizzle-sizzle!

Watch the asterisks (*) for where we need to multitask a bit. 🙂

In a stock pot, cook sausage over medium heat, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Add pepper, mushrooms and thyme; cook 5-6 minutes. Add tomatoes/onions/garlic/vodka and chicken broth and simmer for 5 minutes. Add broken lasagna noodles, and bring to low boil. *Cook for 10-12 minutes (follow package instructions as a guide) or until the noodles are tender. Add spinach and cook for about a minute while stirring.

*While the noodles are cooking, in a separate smaller saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup flour and continue cooking for 1 minute; whisking constantly. The butter/flour mixture should be bubbling. Slowly whisk in milk/cream until it’s smooth and thickened; about 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat and slowly whisk in Romano cheese. Once the mixture is creamy and the cheese has melted, slowly whisk into soup.

Now it’s time to serve. Garnish with basil or parsley and mangia, mangia! Serves four to six people, depending how hungry your people are. 🙂 Reheats very nicely, too.

Something about marshmallow treats brings me directly back to being a kid–piano recitals, playing hide ‘n seek and marshmallow treats. Low energy days call for an update to classic comfort. Brown butter, more marshmallows, and a combination of Rice Krispies and crushed Golden Grahams make these treats extra special EXCELLENT. Not only do they come together quickly, but they just might make you want to break into a happy dance, like our old friend Snoopy.

BROWN BUTTER MARSHMALLOW TREATS WITH GOLDEN GRAHAMS

4 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups Golden Grahams cereal, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick salted butter, browned
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 10-oz. bag mini marshmallows
2 cups (additional) mini marshmallows–keep these separate

Butter an 8 x 8″ baking dish.

Gently crush (in a Ziploc bag, roll with a rolling pin or bottle) the Golden Grahams cereal so it becomes roughly the same size as the Rice Krispies. Combine with Rice Krispies and salt. Set aside.

Brown the stick of butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts, stir and watch carefully to be sure it gets just a bit brown and nutty–like so.

Stir in the 10-oz. bag of mini-marshmallows and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla till it’s nice and melted. Now, remove from the burner and stir in the cereal. Once the cereal is combined and evenly coated, add the final 2 cups of mini marshmallows (these won’t melt all the way–that’s our goal) and press into the buttered baking dish.

Cool, cut, happy dance! It’s that easy!

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1 pound full-fat cottage cheese, small curd
1 pound full-fat sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (Neufchâtel is fine and welcome at the otherwise full-fat party)
4 large eggs
12 oz. bag of egg noodles
15 oz. can pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt

Topping
½ stick salted butter for topping
crushed cornflakes on top
2 teaspoons light brown sugar to sprinkle over the cornflakes

Butter a deep baking dish (my 10 x 13″ one does the trick nicely), preheat oven to 375 degrees F and set aside. Be sure your oven rack is right in the middle.

Using a stand mixer, whisk cream cheese with brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla and almond extracts. Add eggs, whisk to combine. Add cottage cheese, sour cream, pumpkin and spices.

In a large pot, boil noodles according to package instructions, drain. Combine noodles with dairy/pumpkin mixture in the large pot.

Fill baking dish with noodle kugel. Crush cornflakes over top. Dot with butter. Be generous–I use almost half a stick. Sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of light brown sugar evenly over the cornflakes.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 1 hour. Take a peek around 50 minutes to make sure the top isn’t burning–just in case your oven runs any hotter than mine. If need be, cover top with foil. I didn’t have to do this–hopefully, you won’t either.

Damn, does it smell fantastic in here! Let us dig in and celebrate the season of pumpkin spice!

Kattys Kitchen biscuits n gravy

I grew up in an S.O.S. family. Yup, that’s $#*+ on a shingle. Uncle Al was a Marine, and if Sunday breakfast wasn’t pancakes or waffles, S.O.S just might be on the menu. I’m guessing it was nostalgic for him.

I always did enjoy creamed chipped beef on toast. Then, as I got older, I discovered biscuits and gravy–a serious level up on both components. First, tender, homemade buttermilk biscuits. Right there, the fight is already won. But topped with a rich, spicy sausage gravy? It’s a TKO with the proud winner, B&G!

BISCUITS ‘N SAUSAGE GRAVY

Kattys Kitchen biskies

First, here’s a handy link to my favorite biscuits.

Now, let’s work on the gravy.

1 pound breakfast sausage (I like Jimmy Dean Bold)
sprinkle of cayenne pepper
about a teaspoon, minced fresh rosemary
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk

In a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat, add sausage. Break into small pieces as it cooks. When sausage is cooked halfway or so, add minced rosemary and sprinkle of cayenne.

Once sausage is just about finished cooking, sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over pan; stir to coat evenly. This is a good time to bring the temp closer to medium so nothing burns. You’ll want to get the flour cooked about a minute or so before you add the milk. Then stir and stir till it thickens.

For the full experience, I add a layer of cheesy eggs. To serve, slice biscuits in half. Top with cheesy eggs (cooked low and slow with cheddar in my kitchen), then generously ladle gravy over the top. Pass black pepper at the table if you like.

Last night when I made this for dinner, my mom said, “If this was on the menu, they’d be lined up out the door.” Her comment puzzled me. “Who is they?” I asked. “The people coming to the restaurant.” 🙂 Maybe someday. Till then, at least you can make your own.

Sloppy Joe

There’s nothing like a meal of old school nostalgia on a bun. Back in Macdonough School days, Sloppy Joe was always a favorite. Something in the air on a recent bike ride reminded me of that comforting dish. It got me thinking about our old friend, Sloppy Joe, and how to make a homemade version.

I kicked it up a bit with Sriracha ketchup–one of my new favorite ingredients–and some chopped bell pepper because it tastes good. It’s a flavorful trip down Memory Lane. See if you think so, too.

SLOPPY JOE

1.25 pounds ground chuck
1 small sweet bell pepper, diced
half a large sweet onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 10.5 oz. can Campbell’s condensed French onion soup (strange, I know, but seems to be key to the familiar flavor we all remember)
heaping 1/4 cup Sriracha ketchup
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

To a large sauté pan over medium heat, add chuck, along with bell pepper, onion and celery. Break up meat as you go, cooking till meat is browned and vegetables are tender.

Remove fat, then add remaining ingredients: soup, ketchup, water, tomato paste, mustard and Worcestershire. Reduce heat to low and let simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes so flavors meld and sauce thickens a bit.

Serve on your favorite hard rolls. I find mine at Tri-Town Foods in Portland, Connecticut. They’re whole wheat. And these Sloppy Joes definitely ring my bike bell. May they do the same for you. 🙂

 

 

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