Time to Cook!

Inspiration for wholesome weeknight & weekend cooking.

Posts from the ‘main course’ category

My mother-in-law Patsy is from New Orleans and she is a great cook.  She can do all of the New Orleans specialties – homemade beignets, crawfish etouffee, shrimp creole, turkey and sausage gumbo, etc.  She serves dirty rice as a side dish at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner in place of stuffing or mashed potatoes.  This dish is so incredibly flavorful.  I sometimes serve it as our main course for dinner with a side salad.  Every Mardi Gras (this year it’s on Tues., March 4th), I cook something traditional for dinner (complete with colorful bead necklaces and silly hats) so the boys will be aware of their heritage.  Note: if the organ meat in the recipe grosses you out, try it without and I bet it would still be good.  The original recipe calls for all organ meat, but instead, I use mostly ground beef and add just a bit of organ meat, which gives the dish a complex and rich flavor.  Chicken livers and gizzards, although high in cholesterol, do offer a ton of vitamins and minerals (iron and zinc) and protein and are fine in moderation.  You can ask for chicken livers and gizzards at the meat counter at Whole Foods.

Dirty rice

Recipe adapted from The New Orleans Cookbook.

Dirty Rice

Serves 4.

“Dirty rice is a popular Cajun dish made with chicken livers and gizzards, vegetables, long grain rice and lots of pepper.  It is served as an accompaniment to poultry and meat.  If the main dish has a gravy, you pour some of it over the dirty rice.  Don’t use leftover rice warmed up; the dish will have an unpleasant texture.”

Ingredients:

1/4 pound chicken gizzards

1/4 pound chicken livers

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced garlic

1 2/3 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley

3 cups Boiled Rice (see below)

Directions:

Add chicken gizzards and chicken livers to a small pot of boiling water and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon and purée in blender (I use a Mini Prep Processor).  Set aside only 1 tablespoon of this puréed organ meat for the recipe; discard the rest.  Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet or Le Creuset and cook the ground meat until it begins to brown.  Add the flour, garlic, onion, celery, and green pepper and mix well.  Cook until the vegetables begin to turn soft and slightly brown.  Add 1 tablespoon of puréed organ meat to the skillet along with the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, most of the parsley, and 2 tablespoons of water.  Cook over low heat for a few more minutes, adding a bit more water during cooking if necessary.  Remove skillet from heat.  Toss in the cooked rice and stir; serve hot.  Garnish with a bit of parsley.

Boiled Rice

“Firm, fluffy, freshly prepared boiled rice is the essential accompaniment to so many of our dishes… Rice is served with gumbos, bean dishes, crawfish bisque, etoufees, and many other dishes.  Preparing it this way takes only 15 minutes, very little more than any pre-cooked convenience rice, and gives you the superb texture and flavor only freshly cooked rice has.  The tiny amount of butter keeps the grains from sticking together.”

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 cup long grain white rice

2 cups cold water

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon salted butter

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy 3-quart saucepan with a tight-fitting cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Stir once with a fork, then cover tightly and reduce the heat to very low.  Cook covered for exactly 15 minutes.  Do not lift the cover during cooking.  Remove the pan from the heat, uncover, and fluff the rice gently with a fork.

Note: the rice will keep warm enough for serving second helpings if you use a heavy saucepan and keep it covered after serving.  Another way to keep the extra rice warm is to put the covered saucepan in a pre-heated 175 degree oven.  Do not keep it warm for more than 25 minutes.

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This is a fun meal to serve if you are having people over since everyone can assemble their own carnitas to their liking.  You can make the braised pork ahead of time (or the day before).  My neighbor Karen told me about a great local Hispanic market “Chavez” where I buy freshly made guacamole, salsas, and queso fresco to accompany the carnitas.  I also serve shredded cabbage (green and/or purple), sour cream, lime wedges, fresh corn cut off the cob, and chopped cilantro on the side.  I like to use white corn & wheat tortillas and my friend O’Neal taught me how to warm them up: simply place directly on top of your gas burner over medium heat for about 10 seconds per side and flip over with your hands.  Tortillas should be warmed and slightly browned.  Cover in tin foil until ready to serve.

This is the caption here.

Recipe on blog by David Lebovitz (adapted from his cookbook The Sweet Life in Paris.)

Carnitas

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 4-5-pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 5-inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola or neutral vegetable oil
  • water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly-sliced

Directions:

1. Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate for 1- to 3-days. (You can skip this step if you want. Just be sure to salt the pork before searing the meat in the next step.)

2. Heat the oil in a roasting pan set on the stovetop. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around. If your cooking vessel is too small to cook them in a single-layer, cook them in two batches.

3. Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel, then pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits.

4. Heat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.

5. Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are 2/3rd’s submerged in liquid. Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the chile powders, bay leaves, cumin and garlic.

7. Braise in the oven uncovered for 3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.

8. Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces, about 2-inches (7 cm), discarding any obvious big chunks of fat if you wish.

9. Return the pork pieces back to the roasting pan and cook in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them.

I like mine deeply, darkly, crispy brown on the outside.

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This is one of my favorite, easy soups that I make regularly.  You could easily double the recipe and freeze extra into gallon ziplock freezer bags for future dinners.  This is a great vegetarian dinner (since you get protein from the lentils) served with a toasted baguette or rice.  My whole family loves this!

Lentil Kale Soup

Recipe inspired by one that I saw on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Mother’s Group.

Lentil and Kale Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup carrots, finely sliced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups dry lentils (I prefer red)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 bunches of kale (or spinach), chopped roughly

Directions:

In a large pot, sauté the onions and carrot in the oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until onions turn clear.  Add the garlic and sauté.  Add the lentils and brown for 5 minutes (be careful not to burn the onions and garlic).  Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and salt.

Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until lentils are soft, about 45 minutes (less for red lentils). Remove bay leaves.  Throw in kale (or spinach), cover and simmer until greens are soft (about 10 more minutes).  Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and purée in blender before serving.

Great for the whole family.  Add more salt for adults when serving.

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There are a handful of dishes that I’ve ordered at restaurants that I will never forget.  This was one of them.  I was dining at Nobu while traveling on business for my job after college and the waiter talked me into ordering their Black Cod with Miso.  It melted in my mouth and the flavors were delightful.  This was not the fish I grew up having!  When I came across this similar recipe on Goop, I had to give it a try.  The hardest part is tracking down true black cod.  Your best shot might be calling the seafood counter at Whole Foods a week ahead and asking if they can order it for you.  (Remember that you want to pick it up the day before you serve it since it needs to marinate overnight.)  Substitutes can be sablefish or butterfish, but they are not as thick.  Note: I used Tamari (or you can use regular soy sauce) instead of nama shoyu (raw soy sauce).  This is great served with Stir-Fried Brown Rice with Seaweed & Black Sesame.

Black Cod with Miso

Recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog Goop.

Clean Black Cod with Miso

Makes 2.

Ingredients:

• 1 lb (2-3 fillets) black cod
• 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup
• 3 tablespoons nama shoyu
• 1/2 cup white miso paste
• 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preparation:
Mix the brown rice syrup, nama shoyu and white miso paste in a container (with lid) and set aside.  Clean the fillets and pat them dry. Place the fish into the container, coat them with the marinade, cover and refrigerate overnight.  Preheat the oven to 400°.  Remove the fish from the fridge and scrape off the marinade.  Coat a grill pan with olive oil and set to high heat. Add the fish and cook until browned on each side, about 2 minutes. Transfer the fillets to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until nice and
flaky.

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My mother-in-law “Cille” made this for our family when she was visiting and we loved it.  It’s healthy and tasty, it’s a meal in and of itself, it doesn’t make a huge mess in your kitchen, it can be made ahead (I love this!), and you can easily freeze extras for a future dinner.  She used to make this all the time for her four hungry boys growing up (they loved this in high school).  I thought I would take a crack at updating this classic.  For the bell peppers, I substitute yellow and orange peppers for the traditional green peppers (I still make a green one for my husband who is nostalgic!)  Instead of hamburger meat, I use ground bison (it’s healthier and I think tastes so much better).  Instead of white rice, I use farro (it has a nice chewy texture and is fiber rich and is full of minerals) and you can also use pearl barley (also a great source of fiber and can lower cholesterol) or just brown rice.

Meat Stuffed Bell Peppers

Adapted from my mother-in-law Cille’s recipe and one from Emeril Lagasse.

Meat Stuffed Peppers

Serves 6.

Ingredients:

6 bell peppers (try a mix of colors), tops cut away and seeds removed

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup onion, finely chopped

1 pound ground Bison meat (can substitute turkey)

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

pinch of red pepper flakes

2 cups cooked farro or pearl barley (or brown rice)

8-ounce can tomato sauce (Muir Glen Organic)

shredded cheese (mozzarella or cheddar)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot of boiling water, parboil the peppers until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and dry on paper towels.

In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the bison meat, garlic, parsley, salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes. Cook until the meat is browned, stirring with a heavy wooden spoon to break up the lumps, about 5 minutes. Pour off any excess fat. Add the farro or barley and tomato sauce and stir well. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste.

Pour enough water into a baking dish to just cover the bottom, about 1/8-inch deep. Stuff the bell peppers with the rice mixture and place in the baking dish. Top each pepper with plenty of shredded cheese. Bake until the peppers are very tender and the filling is heated through, 30-35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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I’m always looking to try a new steak marinade and this one is delicious.  Tri-tip is a wonderful cut of meat for grilling — it’s less expensive than rib eye and very tender and full of flavor.  I did have to buy malt vinegar for this recipe, which I found at Whole Foods.  Note: I used less garlic than the recipe calls for – 2 tablespoons seemed like so much!

Tri-Tip Marinade

Recipe from blog The Kitchn.

A Really Good Tri-Tip Marinade

“My friend Bill shared his tri-tip marinade recipe with me, and recently I gave it a try. It was delicious! The marinade was garlicky and peppery, sweet and savory, and just wonderful. The meat was tender and succulent.”

Ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon onion salt or garlic salt
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
1/4 cup malt vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
A nice piece of trip-tip, anywhere from 1.5 to 4 lbs.

Preparation:
In a saucepan, mix together 1/4 cup of the sugar and 1/4 cup of the water and bring to a boil, stirring all the while. When the sugar gets a dark color, add the spices and stir. Bring back to a boil for a minute, and then add the vinegar, the other 1/4 cup of water, the soy sauce, and the fish sauce. Mix well and taste. If you feel like it needs more “balance,” add a little more salt. Add the garlic and the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bring back to a boil, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Let cool.

Place the tri-tip roast in a shallow baking dish or a Ziploc bag and pour the cooled marinade over. Place in fridge and let marinade for a hour or overnight. (I did this overnight.)

Cooking Method:
This can be cooked on the grill or roasted in the oven. If roasting in the oven, do it at 425 degrees F and stick a meat thermometer in. When it reaches an internal temperature of 128 degrees, remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

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