Posts Tagged ‘sides’

Every year, my mom and I are on a mission to have me make tons of homemade jams and treats to give out for the holidays.  She’s the financial backer while I do all the hard labor in the kitchen–I don’t mind.

Really, I don’t.  Don’t look at me like that!

In the last conversation I had with her a few days ago, I told her I was switching gears from all the late summer fruits to autumn flavors such as Brandied Apple Butter.  She asked, why not make a cranberry relish? And wouldn’t you know, I thought that was brilliant.   I have a deep love of cranberries that goes all the way down to the shameful admission that I wouldn’t even turn down the canned jellied cranberry sauce.  However, it seems that here at El Rancho Destructo, I am the only one who feels this way, so I usually make my cranberry sauce the way I like it:   Jezebel Sauce (cranberries with horseradish and dijon stirred in).  I decided I should make a batch of something cranberry, so with a few bags in hand, I pulled out things that I knew would be delicious and came up with something that even Choo thinks it could turn him to the Dark Side of these tart little berries.  Granny Smith apples, oranges, red wine and dried cranberries knock this sauce out of the park–and I really think the dried cranberries are what make this special, by bringing up the intensity of the cranberry flavor with very little of the tartness associated with the fresh ones.

I can’t tell you how easy this one is, too–throw everything into the pot, simmer it for a while, and DONE.  How easy is that?

Cranberry & Apple Relish

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1- 12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest, finely grated
  • 2 tart apples such as Granny Smith or Pippin, peeled, cored & chopped
  1. Add all ingredients into a large saucepan and on medium heat, bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  2. Simmer until fresh cranberries have burst and apples are tender, but have not lost their shape.
  3. Pour into bowl, cover and chill.

*Note:  if canning this sauce, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice.


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I can’t believe it’s been a month since I’ve written a post–Kiddo started Kindergarten and we’re all still adjusting to the changes in our schedules.  It finally feels like things are falling into place, as it takes me about two weeks for my body to work out new sleep/waking times, and now that it seems like we have an idea of what we’re doing, I’m ready to get back to life–and to cooking and blogging!

To start things off this time, this article from the NY Times is, well, I’d say astounding, but it’s not, really.  Granted, I’m not perfect and there are days I don’t get those 9 servings of fruits and vegetables that’s now recommended  (that’s 4 1/2 cups, which is not as much as you’d expect), but I certainly try.  I get it’s a struggle sometimes–and there are days when sitting down to a burger and fries just sounds so much tastier than a plate of steamed broccoli and a side salad.  But, the attitude towards vegetables has to change, as they can be easier than you might think, and they can be darned tasty, too.

And, listen, if it takes pulling out the big guns to get you to eat your vegetables, I think you should do it.  I was ready to face an old enemy of my childhood:

Brussels sprouts.  Oh, I have sad, angry memories of these little guys, steamed to a greyish-green mush, with no butter or salt allowed (because it would have rendered them unhealthy, you see?).  I couldn’t look one in the eye for years. But, this morning at the farmer’s market, they caught Choo’s eye, and he challenged me to take brussels sprouts and make them into something good.

And you know what makes just about anything taste better?  Yeah, you guessed it:  BACON.

I found this bag of bacon pieces at Vallarta Market–3 pounds of bacon for $3.99–about what you’d pay for a pound of your regularly sliced bacon.  It’s absolutely perfect for when most of your bacon consumption happens not strip-by-strip, but when it’s chopped up and added to things.   And, there will be many things over the next few weeks that will be chock-full o’ bacon, you betcha.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Makes 6-8 side dish servings

  • 6 ounces bacon, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium onion, cut to small dice
  • 1 3/4 pounds brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed (halve the large sprouts)
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Over medium flame, heat a large skillet.  Add bacon, and cook until browned.  Remove with slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel.
  2. Add onion to bacon drippings, and cook 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  3. Add brussels sprouts and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Pour in stock, cover pan, and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until brussels sprouts are tender.
  4. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with reserved bacon.

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 It was a cold, drizzly day in L.A. yesterday, and we were expecting a few friends over to spend an evening of fun and frivolity.  But, what to make?  I needed a crowd pleaser that wasn’t too fussy, but hearty and relatively healthy after all the excesses of the holidays.  I thought of Chicken Cacciatore–full of vegetables, and I could lighten it a little by using skinless chicken thighs with the fat trimmed off.  Now, the Polenta–that’s what was decadent, loaded with Fontina cheese–was a great complement to the Cacciatore.   I also served this with red chard braised in chicken stock with onions and garlic, which is not pictured.

And props to my patient friends, who didn’t mind me setting up my studio immediately after I had finished my plate so I could take a picture. 

These recipes are made to serve 8, but can be easily halved.

Chicken Cacciatore

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, with the fat trimmed off (can use chicken breasts, but shorten cooking time because breasts will dry out quickly in braising)

1 1/2 cups flour, seasoned with salt & pepper

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 large white onion, diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced

1 1/4 pounds crimini mushrooms, sliced

4 cloves garlic, diced

1 bay leaf

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

3/4 cup dry white wine

1-28 ounce can of diced tomatoes

2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

Salt & pepper

Chopped parsley (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 325°
  2. Heat 5-quart dutch oven on medium heat;  dredge chicken pieces in seasoned flour and brown 2-3 pieces at a time, about 3-4 minutes each side.  Place browned pieces on a plate and set aside. 
  3. Add onion, red pepper, mushrooms, garlic, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, and rosemary;  sweat on medium heat until the juices from the vegetables are released (mushrooms will release a lot of water) and simmer for about 10 minutes until the liquids begin to reduce. 
  4. Add white wine and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and oregano, and return chicken to the pot, burying the pieces in the sauce. 
  5. Bring to a full simmer again, top with lid, and put into oven for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and is fork-tender.
  6. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Creamy Polenta

4 cups water

4 cups lowfat milk

2 cups coarse ground polenta

6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded

Salt & pepper to taste

  1. While the Cacciatore braises in the oven, pour water and milk into 4 quart pot and bring to a hard simmer.
  2. Sprinkle the polenta into the simmering liquid (it should “rain” polenta–don’t just dump it in.  Dumping = Clumping.  Got it?), while whisking constantly. 
  3. As the polenta starts to thicken, switch to a wooden spoon to stir.  Stir frequently while polenta simmers–as it thickens, take care as it will start to bubble and splatter (think hot lava). 
  4. When the polenta is of a thickness like porridge, approximately 15 minutes, add fontina, season with salt and pepper and serve with Cacciatore.

Note:  This makes a rather large batch of polenta–if you have plenty leftover, pour the excess into a buttered loaf pan or cake pan.  Polenta firms up as it goes cold, and can be sliced into pieces and pan-fried–absolutely delicious served with eggs the next morning.

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I wanted to bring a salad to the party last night, but I just didn’t want to bring some greens tossed in viniagrette–I mean, that’s good, too, but I was looking for something a little more substantial, perhaps served warm and using seasonal vegetables.  A search through Epicurious.com (one of my favorite recipe sites), I came across what sounded like a perfect recipe:  Yukon Gold potatoes roasted in olive oil, parmesan and garlic, then thinly sliced kale gets tossed in with the hot potatoes and dressed in a lemon-tahini sauce. 

This was delicious;  the kale wilted nicely (although I was making a double batch, and after tossing it around with the potatoes, I needed to pop it in the oven for 2 minutes to help break the kale down a little more), and it’s really the dressing that makes this dish work.  It’s tart and nutty and it lightens up what could be very heavy on the palate.  This will definitely go into into a regular rotation here at home, and it would complement fish or chicken, but it’s also hearty enough to be a vegetarian main dish. 

Wilted Kale and Roasted-Potato Winter Salad

by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez for Gourmet, December 2008

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves (3 thinly sliced and 1 minced)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup well-stirred tahini
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 pounds kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves very thinly sliced crosswise
  • Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in upper third.

Toss potatoes with oil and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large 4-sided sheet pan, then spread evenly. Roast, stirring once, 10 minutes. Stir in sliced garlic and roast 10 minutes more. Sprinkle with cheese and roast until cheese is melted and golden in spots, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, purée tahini, water, lemon juice, minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute. (Add a bit of water if sauce is too thick.)

Toss kale with hot potatoes and any garlic and oil remaining in pan, then toss with tahini sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

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After the soup and gougères, we still had several courses to go.

For our main course, I had heard a rumor of a Nigella Lawson recipe of a brandy and bacon chicken–a quick search online found the recipe, which, to be honest, had left me a little underwhelmed.  Still, it was a great inspiration, and used that as an idea to work into my own.  I started with a half-cup apple juice and a cinnamon stick in a skillet, and simmered that for a few minutes until the apple juice had reduced by half.  I poured in about a quarter cup of Calvados and set it aflame–one of the BEST parts of cooking!  Controlled fire!–and let it burn off all the alcohol.  One the flame was gone, I whisked in about 4 tablespoons worth of bacon fat, and I had something of a lovely, apple-ish, bacon-ish glaze for chicken.


I stuffed the cavity of the chicken with an apple half, and a few sprigs each of fresh sage and thyme.  The skin was rubbed down with salt and pepper, and spooned the Calvados glaze all over the skin. The chicken was roasted at 400° for a little over an hour–I didn’t really time the chicken since I had a digital thermometer in the thigh to tell me when it hit 165°.  Because of the residual sugars from the juice, the chicken did need to be tented with foil to keep the skin from burning.

Now, this was where I was a bad, bad food blogger and forgot to take a picture of the chicken when it came out of the oven;  this makes me sad because it was an absolutely gorgeous mahogany color when it was finished.  I did, however, take a picture of a main course plate:


We served that chicken with Cauliflower Gratin and Haricot Verts sauteéd in bacon and shallots.

I have to admit, I need to work on the recipe for the gratin (else I’d share it with you);  it came out kind of wet–it was still remarkably tasty, but the recipe needs some tweaking.

Haricot Verts with Shallots and Bacon

serves 4 as a side dish

3/4 pound fresh haricot vert (French green beans; regular green beans can be used), washed and stem ends trimmed

4 strips bacon

1 medium shallot, finely diced

  1. Steam or blanch beans to partially cook and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, cook bacon strips until crispy and remove from pan to drain.  Leave bacon drippings in pan.
  3. Turn heat down to medium and add shallots.  Cook until glossy; toss in beans and cook until fork-tender, about 3-5 minutes.

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