Chunky Chicken Curry Soup

October 10, 2018 – Yeah, I know. I’ve written about chicken curry already.  This recipe is not the same.

And yeah, I know the title is a corny alliteration.  Something to be avoided in writing whenever possible.  Considered flashy and too clever by far.

But it was my mother’s birthday.  Though she’s been gone for two years, I felt like celebrating.  And she was flashy.  She was clever.  She was colorful.  She squeezed every bit of life from each minute she was given here with us.

Mother loved being the center of attention.  I often teased her, telling her she would join any club that let her be president.  She laughed at that and admitted it was true.  Mother liked to be in charge.  So do I.

Mother loved to entertain.  She gave great parties.  So do I.  For many years, I hosted the only Mardi Gras party in Anchorage, shipping live crawfish up from New Orleans and eventually finding the only Dixieland jazz band in Alaska.

Every year I named someone king or queen of Mardi Gras.  I never saw Mother more proud than the year she was queen.  And never was a reign more elegant.

Queen of the Anchorage Mardi Gras

In Baton Rouge, I hosted a cochon de lait, a pig roast, each fall.  Given that both of us wanted to be in charge, I had to find something for her to do.  Potato salad, I thought.  Mother made the world’s best potato salad.  That became her responsibility.  Potato salad for fifty guests.

God help you if you didn’t eat her potato salad!  She kept a close eye on how much the guests put on their plates as they passed through the line.  She was even known to wander through the tables to check plates.  If she noticed a plate with what appeared to be too much of her potato salad left on it, the diner could expect to hear, “What’s the matter?  You don’t like my potato salad?”

And I know she was proud of me.  I never saw her more so than when I sent her the manuscript of my first novel.  She was already gone when The Empty Mint Mystery was published but I can feel her delight.  And now, with Neighbors and Other Strangers due to be released within the next few weeks, I can see her face beaming with that irresistible smile.

My mother was colorful and fun.  I miss her.  And it was her birthday.  I wanted to celebrate.

She always supported my heuristic nature, especially when it comes to food.  I want to experiment, to prepare new dishes myself.  When I was in the kitchen she was happy to play a supporting role as I tried new things.

This year I decided to make a chicken curry soup.  Curry isn’t a spice with which I’ve had a lot of experience but I had some on hand.  I had the breasts from a roast chicken.  Why not?

So I celebrated my mother’s birthday with a French 75 and a pot of exotic soup.  She would have enjoyed the evening.

A French 75 and chicken curry soup

Chicken Curry Soup

6 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

3 small Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons curry powder

2 tablespoons brown sugar

5 cups stock

6 sprigs parsley

2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup uncooked rice

1 cup half & half or heavy cream

12 ounces frozen green peas

Salt & pepper to taste

In a stock pot with a heavy bottom, melt the butter.  Saute’ the onion and potatoes seasoned with the curry powder and brown sugar.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook over low heat for about fifteen minutes.  Give the vegetables a stir  around the halfway mark.

Add the chicken, parsley, rice, and stock.  Bring the liquid to a boil.  Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for about half an hour.

Stir in the half and half, or cream, with the peas.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Simmer for another fifteen minutes.

Bon temps!

And happy birthday, Mother!

And yet another casserole…all vegetables

October 2, 2018 – It should be clear by now that I am a child of the ’50s.  I’ve certainly written enough about casseroles to make the point.

I am a fan of casseroles for the same reason that motivated the dominant generation of the last century.  It was a time when our lifestyle was undergoing significant change.  The old days of one person in the family working outside the home and the second tending the house and children were rapidly disappearing.  More and more it was becoming necessary for both husband and wife to take paying jobs.  And still the family must be fed.

Casseroles were, and are, an easy answer.  They’re easy to throw together, most anything in the pantry or refrigerator can go into them, they can be prepared relatively quickly in advance, and, when working parents get home, an hour or so in the oven produces dinner.  They also have the added benefit of using up any leftover bits of food that might otherwise be wasted.

Vegetable Casserole

I had a beautiful ribeye calling to me and wanted an accompaniment.  But I had a busy day ahead.  When the sun was over the yardarm late in the afternoon, I wanted to enjoy a flute of Prosecco.  I didn’t want to be standing in front of the stove.

What did I have that could be prepared earlier in the day?  All kinds of vegetables, both fresh and frozen.  Oh yeah, either works well.  I had a head of broccoli, a handful of Brussels sprouts, and a potato.  There were also half bags of green beans and pearl onions in the freezer.  And cheese.  Always some form of cheese.  To add a little depth of flavor, a poblano pepper.

I cut the broccoli flowerets away from the stalk.  The Brussels sprouts were trimmed and cut into halves.  The potato I cut into bite size pieces, leaving the skin on.  I chopped the poblano also into bite size pieces.

If you’re using fresh vegetables, brown them a bit in olive oil.  Frozen vegetables can be tossed in as is.

To bind it all together, I made a Béchamel sauce seasoned with the poblano pepper.  A nice touch.

I used Mozzarella cheese because it’s what I had and I like it.  Any grated cheese will be fine.

There is nothing sacred about the ingredients I used.  They were just some of my favorites, some things I had on hand.  They worked for me.

The final result was a cheesy, gooey bit of deliciousness, a perfect side to a rare ribeye.

Vegetable Casserole

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (more if needed)

1/4 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half

Flowerets from one head of broccoli

1 poblano pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 cups milk

1 russet potato with skin on, cut into bite size pieces

6 ounces frozen green beans

6 ounces frozen pearl onions

2 – 3 cups grated cheese

Salt & pepper to taste

In a skillet with a heavy bottom,  warm two tablespoons of olive oil over moderate heat.  Saute’ the Brussels sprouts and broccoli flowerets until they begin to brown.  It’ll probably take about four minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Add two more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.  When it is heated, saute’ the poblano pieces until they begin to soften, about three or four minutes.

Add two tablespoons of flour and stir to make a roux.  Don’t let it darken.  When the flour and oil are incorporated, add the milk, increasing the heat to high.  Stir continuously as the Béchamel begins to thicken.  When the sauce has reached the desired thickness, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat.

Place the Brussels sprouts, broccoli, potato, green beans, and pearl onions in an oven proof dish with a tight cover.  Add grated cheese to taste and the Béchamel sauce.  Mix well.

Molly is ever hopeful for a bite of steak but will settle for one of her treats if she must!

Cover with a generous amount of additional grated cheese.

Bake, covered, at 350 for an hour.

Bon temps!

 

 

Char Siu: Roast Pork in the Style of Canton

September 8, 2018 – Writing this blog for the past few years has been an education for me.  I have repeatedly noted here that I’m not a chef, nor am I an expert on the foods of the diverse countries and cultures about which I write.  Well, I do know a little about Louisiana cooking and am a fair hand at preparing Alaska salmon and king crab.  But other than the foods of my two home states, it’s strictly a never-ending learning process.

What I do is research and experiment.  I have always been fascinated about how the dishes we know and love were developed.  I have learned that most of the comfort foods we enjoy in our various home countries also appear among the dishes favored in most other parts of the world.  Certainly there are differences, but I can’t think of a culture that doesn’t have mom’s chicken soup or meat wrapped in some form of bread to create a fast food sandwich.

And that preamble brings us to Char Siu, roast pork in the style of Canton.

Canton, or more properly Guangzhou, is in southern China about 70 miles northwest of Hong Kong.  The roast pork to which Canton has given its name is known for its red color and deep penetration of flavor as a result of marinating the meat.

Char Siu, I learned, means fork roasted, the original method of preparing the pork over an open fire.  These days it’s more often simply oven roasted, though sometimes it is finished on a grill to give it a little bit of char.

It’s no surprise that I found several variations on the marinade ingredients.  All, however, included hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and five spice powder.  The traditional red color is usually achieved with either food coloring or red bean paste.

I don’t like to use food coloring and didn’t have red bean paste in the pantry.  Fortunately, I found more than one recipe that achieved the same result with ketchup.  That’s not heresy when we consider that ketchup originated in China.  It reached North America by way of Malaysia.  It was in that southeast Asian nation that ketchup was refined to something closely resembling the tomato based sauce with which we in America are prone to slather our French fries.  And by the way, ketchup is the word closest to the original Chinese name for the sauce.

This is the kind of dish Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson would love.  Stop by gordonparkerbooks.com to see what they’re up to.  Their next adventure will be out soon!

Here’s my version of char siu, which I served over rice.

Char Siu

Char Siu, Cantonese Style Barbequed Pork Served Over Rice

1 pork shoulder (about 2 pounds)

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

4 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon five spice powder

Slice the pork into thin, bite size pieces.

Make the marinade by combining all the other ingredients.  Pour the mixture over the pork strips and marinate for at least three hours.  The longer the meat marinates, the better the char siu.  Overnight in the refrigerator makes it truly great.

Spread the pork with the marinade in a roasting pan.  Cook in an oven pre-heated to 350 for about 35 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Excellent served over rice.

Bon temps!

 

Spicy Sausage-Rice Casserole

August 19, 2018 – I’m as busy working now as I’ve been in a long time.  And it feels great!

Dividing the hours of my days among continuing to push for legislation in Washington, D.C., that is good for rural and Bush Alaska (good for all of rural America, for that matter), promoting my first novel, The Empty Mint Mystery (gordonparkerbooks.com), and going through the second book to get it ready for the publisher (watch for Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson’s next adventure coming soon!), there isn’t a lot of time left to create great meals.

But next to say, oh, a French 75 or some other equally delicious cocktail when the sun, as my Navy Seabee uncle always proclaimed, has gone over the yardarm, there’s nothing I like better than a good dinner.  No, make that a great dinner.

So when time is short, I revert to the ’50s, that golden era of the casserole.  They can be put together quickly using whatever is in the refrigerator or the pantry and they cook themselves relatively unsupervised.  Perfect meals ready at the end of a busy day.

Spicy Sausage-Rice Casserole

This dish starts, as do so many of my culinary experiments, with what in Louisiana we call the Trinity:  onion, sweet peppers, celery.  It’s our version of the classic mirepoix.

I like to season in layers, so the first seasoning occurs after the Trinity has had a chance to cook down a bit and the vegetables are beginning to soften.  Use salt cautiously in this dish, however, as the sausages will provide a good bit of their own and the stock I used for the rice was also seasoned.  Except for a light dusting over the Trinity, I didn’t add any salt at all.

I used a combination of uncooked sausage links, including plain pork as well as both hot and sweet Italian.  Ground bulk sausage would have been easier but I seldom have that on hand.  I wouldn’t deign to advise you on which to use.  But I will say the effort to cut through the casings and turn the uncooked links into ground sausage is measured in seconds.  It’s not that big a chore.

The hot Italian sausage added heat to the dish.  But I wanted more.  Real heat!  And I thought a touch of acid would bring out even more of the flavors.  So I added a handful of pickled jalapenos.  Oh yeah!  Now we’re talking!

I like to cook rice in a stock, or at least well-seasoned water.  I used chicken stock for this dish because, of course, it’s what I had.  Pork stock would be even better.

While we’re talking about stock, I never throw bones away.  Chicken, pork, beef.  Any bones go into the stock pot with some onion, celery, maybe lemon, whatever seasonings that sound good on stock-making day.  There’s always a bowl of stock in my refrigerator.  If you make it yourself, it’ll be better than you can buy at a store, not to mention cheaper.

And here’s a bonus she suggested with this casserole:  If there are leftovers, make

Patties from left over spicy sausage-rice casserole. Great with a fried egg on top!

sausage-rice patties and fry them up.  Great with a fried egg on top!

So here’s my Spicy Sausage-Rice Casserole for the end of a busy work day.

Spicy Sausage-Rice Casserole

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

1 rib celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 tablespoon garlic powder

Salt & pepper to taste

1 1/2 pounds ground sausage (mixed plain pork, hot Italian, sweet Italian)

2 tablespoons pickled jalapeno, minced

1 cup uncooked rice

5 cups stock, boiling

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a heavy oven-friendly skillet or braising pan, heat the  olive oil over moderate heat.

Saute’ the onion, roasted red pepper, and celery in the olive oil until the vegetables begin to soften.  Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Add the sausage and pickled jalapeno.  Stir to combine.  Break up any clumps of sausage as the meat browns.

Add the raw rice and mix well with the browned sausage and vegetables.

Pour in the boiling stock and stir to combine.

Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes.

Bon temps!

 

 

 

Shrimp, Mushrooms, Pasta, & a Good Book

July 23, 2018 – A good book makes an evening alone pleasant.  Add shrimp, mushrooms, and pasta with, oh, a few other things, and it becomes memorable.

I cook quite often with shrimp and mushrooms.  They’re two of my favorite ingredients.  Very often they’re bathed, together or separately, in a cream sauce.  I had something similar in mind on this night but wanted to take it in a slightly different direction.  A cream sauce but no cream.  And perhaps an often overlooked addition that would add a little pep.

I used moderately large shrimp.  Fifteen to twenty to a pound.  But either larger or smaller would work as well.

The different direction called for substituting sour cream for the usual heavy cream.  Thicker.  A slightly different taste.  Not a radical departure from the usual.  Just a variation on the norm.

And the “often overlooked addition?”  Horseradish.  I thought about horseradish when talking recently to my friend, Rich Listowski.  Rich, in years past, was famous for the Polish Easter dinners he hosted.  Rich lives in Juneau, Alaska’s beautiful, small town capital with a small town’s paucity of grocers.  To collect the supplies needed for his Easter gathering, Rich would fly to Anchorage, Alaska’s largest community with its greater variety of grocery vendors.  He came in search of horseradish.

I would drive him around to one grocery after another as he bought up all the horseradish root he could find.  When he had enough to resemble a fair sized bundle of firewood, he would fly back to Juneau to begin the peeling and grating.  Not work for those of languid character.

This is another easily assembled, quickly prepared recipe.  It has a flavor I found to be very good.  The horseradish gave it that esoteric touch that I like.  It’s that thing that makes the diner think, “That’s really good but I just can’t quite place what it is.”  Yeah.  I like to hear that.

One other thing.  For another of those hard to place tastes, I added two tablespoons of a good quality vanilla to the pasta water.  The result was a barely discernible sweet nicely offsetting the slight bitter of the horseradish.

Here’s the result of me tinkering around in the kitchen, preparing something quick and easy to enjoy with a good book.  And the book, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a really good one!

Shrimp &  Mushrooms in a Sour Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 pound shrimp, shelled

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon horseradish

Salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter and warm the olive oil in a heavy skillet over moderate heat.

Saute’ the mushrooms, cooking them down until they begin to brown.

Add the shrimp and continue to cook until the shrimp turns pink.  It shouldn’t take more than three to five minutes.  Don’t overcook the shrimp.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up all the bits from the mushrooms and shrimp that have stuck to the skillet.

Stir in the sour cream and horseradish.  Mix well.  Continue to stir as the sour cream liquifies.

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Shrimp, mushrooms, pasta, treats for Molly, and a really good book!

Serve over your choice of pasta.

Bon temps!

 

 

 

 

 

Stuffed Cabbage

July 13, 2018 – “Ah, kapucha,” my friend Rich Listowski exclaimed enthusiastically when I told him I was making stuffed cabbage for dinner.  Cabbage.  A vegetable dear to generations of his Polish ancestors.

As our conversation continued, I learned that stuffed cabbage is gotabki, pronounced “gaw-WOHMP-kee.”  Translated literally, it means “little pigeons.”  Looking at the small bundles of deliciousness awaiting their baptismal dunking, it’s easy to see how they came to be so named.  It was as pretty a sight as I’ve ever seen on a stove.

The food of Poland is as fascinating as is the nation itself.  In centuries past, Poland was a major power, with several cultures falling under its dominance.  Its food from those years developed with Latvian, Turkish, and Hungarian influences among others.

Later centuries brought invasion from other powerful nations.  The Poles were no pushovers.  Their cavalry was the finest in the world, respected and feared by their enemies.  The elite were the Winged Hussars, who rode into battle with a pair of wings on their backs.  There is debate as to the purpose of the wings.  I’ve always liked the version that the wings made a weird, supernatural noise that could be heard before the cavalry came into sight, striking panic in many of the opposing forces.

Military history aside, the point is that Polish food developed from a variety of cultures.  The Poles, however, made each new element their own, preparing and presenting it in their uniquely wonderful fashion.

After emerging into the light of freedom after decades of dark domination, first by Nazis and then communists, Poland has earned the world’s respect and again become prominent in the community of nations. I decided it was time to try my hand at Polish food.  Summoning my culinary courage, I launched into the delicate construction of gotabki.

I used only ten leaves from a head of cabbage because that’s what I needed for the amount of ground meat I had.  The leaves should be large and handled gently so as not to tear.

I also added a couple of spices that probably wouldn’t be included in a true Polish version.  Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

With apologies to my pal, Rich Listowski, and his Polish ancestors, here’s my take on gotabki.

Gotabki

“Little Pigeons”

1 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg

10 large cabbage leaves

1 pound ground beef

1 cup cooked rice

Little Pigeons

1 onion, minced

2 eggs

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon allspice

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

1 onion, quartered

1 rib celery, sliced into medium chunks

1 1/2 cup stock

6 ounces tomato paste

Bring a pot of water, seasoned with nutmeg and salt to taste, to a boil.

Place the cabbage leaves in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over them.  Let them soak for about 15 minutes.

While the cabbage leaves are soaking, combine the ground beef, rice, minced onion, eggs, garlic, and allspice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Remove the cabbage leaves from the water, handling very carefully so as not to tear them.

Lightly oil a heavy pan with a tightly fitting lid.

Layer the quartered onion and celery chunks in the pan to create a bed for the cabbage rolls.

Place a portion of the meat mixture into each leaf.  Carefully roll the leaf and tuck the ends under.  Lay the cabbage rolls on the vegetable bed.

Swirl the tomato paste into the stock and pour the liquid over the cabbage rolls.

Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour.

Bon temps!

Or more properly in this case, dobre czasy!

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Cream Sauce

July 6, 2018 – I love mushrooms.  Love’em.  I put them in all sorts of dishes.  And I use them as the star of many sauces, soups, pastas.  You name it.

I had some chicken thighs to be roasted.  And, wouldn’t you know it?  I also had some mushrooms.  And some heavy cream.  A  mushroom cream sauce is terrific with chicken.

I use chicken thighs because I prefer them to breasts.  But either, or a combination of both, will work just fine married to this sauce.

For spices, I decided to use what I call my “gumbo” spices.  Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.  Yeah, just like the Simon and Garfunkel song.  Easy to remember.

I don’t specify the kind of mushroom for this sauce.  Use your favorite.

This is quick and easy and delicious.

Mushroom Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

1 – 2 tablespoon olive oil

Molly likes chicken & mushrooms, too!

3 tablespoons flour

1 shallot, minced

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon sage

1 tablespoon rosemary

1tablespoon thyme

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

Salt & pepper to taste

In a heavy skillet, melt the butter and warm the olive oil over moderate heat.

Add the flour and stir to make a blonde roux.  In other words, don’t let it darken.

When the oils and flour are combined, toss in the shallot, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Continue stirring to thoroughly coat all the ingredients.  If it becomes too dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil.

When the shallot and mushrooms are beginning to soften and spots of light browning begin to show, pour in the stock and cream.  Stir to combine as the liquids come to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, as the sauce thickens.  You don’t want it too thin or too thick.  It will probably take about five to seven minutes on an easy simmer but you should keep an eye on it.

When it reaches the desired consistency, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with your choice of chicken pieces.

Bon temps!

 

 

Shrimp, Roasted Red Pepper & Basil Hors D’oeurves

June 15, 2018 – Some evenings a complete dinner seems too much.  This was one of those evenings.  A platter of hors d’oeurves sounded more appealing.

The bonus of preparing hors d’oeurves rather than dinner is the snacks can be so simple and easy to  put together.  You don’t have to prove yourself doughty to accomplish the task.

As an example, the hors d’oeurve I offer here.  So simple.  Few ingredients.  Quickly done.  Beautiful presentation.  Best of all, delicious.

Shrimp that are on the large rather than small size are best for this dish.  The ones I used came twenty to a pound.

As to roasted red peppers, roast your own or, as I now most often do, use the ones that come in a jar.  They’re excellent and save a lot of prep time.

The fresh basil I found was probably the best I’ve ever had.  Ever.  The fragrance permeated the entire house as I tore the leaves into proper size.

Here, then, is my offering of a simple and really terrific hors d’oeurve.

Shrimp, Roasted Red Pepper, & Basil Hors D’oeurves

2-3 tablespoons olive oil, depending on how many shrimp are in a pound, plus a little extra

Shrimp, shelled & deveined

Roasted red pepper, cut into enough pieces to cover each shrimp and about the same size

Basil, torn into pieces equal to the number of shrimp and about the same size

1 tablespoon ground sage

Salt & pepper to taste

4 – 6 ounces feta, crumbled

Rounds cut from a baguette equal to the number of shrimp, toasted

Arrange the toasted rounds of bread on a decorative platter.  Dribble a little olive oil over the toasts.

Shrimp, Roasted Red Pepper, & Basil Hors Doeuvres

Heat the remaining olive oil in a heavy skillet.

When the olive oil is hot but not smoking, add the shrimp and roasted red pepper.

Stir in the sage and combine thoroughly.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the shrimp until it turns pink.  It should take no more than three to four minutes.  The red pepper will be heated through in that time as well.

Remove the shrimp and roasted red pepper to a plate covered with a paper towel to drain.

Assemble the hors d’oeurves by placing a shrimp on each piece of toasted bread, followed by a piece of roasted red pepper, and, finally, a piece of basil.

Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the hors d’oeurves.

Bon temps!

Pomodoro Sauce

June 9, 2018 – Pomodoro is a common word.  Translated from the Italian, it means “tomato.”  A Pomodoro sauce is simply a tomato sauce.  Easy to prepare but far from common in flavor.

Tomatoes were unknown in Italy until European sailors stumbled onto the Americas.  Since then the Italians, perhaps more than any others, have raised the basic tomato to the level of food royalty.

I have written here about a slow-cooked, tomato-basil sauce with sausage.  That is delicious.  But it’s a different matter all together.

A Pomodoro is a tomato sauce.  Not a meat sauce.  A tomato sauce.  It need not be festooned with sausage or any other ingredients to make it wonderful.  A small supporting cast of onion, red wine, and a few compatible seasonings will do.  In a Pomodoro, the tomato is star.

Both the tomato and onion will offer up a bit of sweetness to a Pomodoro.  I wanted a little more.  I risked sacrilege by adding just a touch of honey.  It was worth the risk.  the honey, it seemed to me, inspired the natural sweetness of the tomato and onion to sparkle and shine.

Pomodoro Sauce

I also decided to again cast basil in the main supporting role.  It is a spice quite compatible with tomatoes.

The consistency of a Pomodoro is a matter of taste.  Some like it smooth, much like a marinara.  I prefer sauces that are chunkier.  It’s strictly a personal preference sort of thing.

Either fresh or good quality canned tomatoes can be used to make a Pomodoro.  I used canned tomatoes because that’s what I had on hand.

Here, then, is my take on a tomato-basil Pomodoro.

Tomato-Basil Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup red wine

4 cups tomatoes, diced

1 tablespoon honey

4-6 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped

15-20 basil leaves, chopped

8-10 sprigs parsley, chopped

2 bay leaves

Heat the oil in a sauce pan until hot but not smoking.

Saute’ the onion until it begins to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute being careful not to let the garlic burn.

Pour in the wine and bring to a boil.

Add the tomatoes and honey.  If you want a smoother sauce, break the tomatoes up with a potato masher or even with your fingers.

Lower the heat and simmer for half an hour.  If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little more wine, or stock, or even a little water.  But do so a little at a time.  You want the sauce to be neither too thick nor too thin.

Add the basil, oregano, parsley, and bay leaves.  Season to taste with salt and white pepper.  Simmer for another 20 minutes, keeping an eye on the consistency.

Serve with the pasta of your choice.

Bon temps!

 

 

Italian Sausage with a Roasted Red Pepper Demi-Glace Sauce

June 2, 2018 – Sausages are wonderful.  And such a variety.  If you can think of a meat, there’s a sausage made from it.

Like many of our favorite foods, sausages were originally created as a way to preserve food and make it stretch as far as possible.  It’s a continual amazement to me to learn how creative hungry people in ancient times could be.

My favorite is andouille, that delectable Louisiana offering.  But I’m happy with kielbasa,  Italian, chorizo, or even just plain old pork.  No, I didn’t mention chicken.  But that’s just me.

Italian sausage with roasted red pepper demi-glace.

She prefers Italian.  So I decided to use some sweet and hot Italian sausages I had on hand.  How about a roasted red pepper demi-glace?  Don’t see how  there could be a better compliment to an Italian sausage than that.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more accepting of shortcuts.  But only shortcuts of excellent quality.  Fortunately today there are a few of those.

There are excellent roasted red peppers available at high end grocers.  So much easier than making your own.  And every bit as delicious.

There are also demi-glace sauces available that are of restaurant quality.  Yes, I know.  Truly dedicated chefs might ridicule me for this one.  But let me repeat:  They are the highest quality and, frankly, I’m no longer willing to spend six hours or more making a demi-glace.  In today’s world, how many home cooks really have the time to make their own demi-glace?  So criticize away, if you must.

The trick, of course, is what you do with these shortcuts.  If not used properly, they don’t work.  But then if anything in the kitchen isn’t used properly it won’t work.  So there you are.

My Italian sausage with roasted red pepper demi-glace sauce was perfect.  I’m not bragging.  It was just perfect.

Italian Sausage with Roasted Red Pepper Demi-Glace

6 Italian sausages (hot, sweet, or combination)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 celery rib, chopped

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

1/4 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup demi-glace

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 sprig fresh rosemarry

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

Salt & white pepper to taste

For the sauce:  Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, put in the onion, celery, and roasted red pepper.  Saute until the onion and celery begin to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.  Don’t let the garlic burn.

Add the basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley, and thyme.  Stir to combine well.

Pour in the red wine and bring to a boil.  Add the demi-glace.  Bring back to a boil.  Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about ten minutes to let the flavors fully combine.  Add a little more wine if the sauce becomes too thick.

Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

For the sausages:

Heat just a little olive oil in another heavy skillet.  When it is hot, add the sausage.  Cook them, turning, until they are browned all around and cooked through.

Serve the sausages with the roasted red pepper demi-glace.

Bon temps!