Darcey Anderson’s Sausage Ragout

Darcey Anderson’s Sausage Ragout

October 22, 2018 – Like me, Darcey Anderson, my fictional character in The Empty Mint Mystery and the soon to be released Neighbors and Other Strangers, was born in northwest Louisiana.  As a child, she ate the food prevalent in that part of the world.  Fried chicken.  Pork chops.  Fried catfish.  Black-eyed peas, collard greens, and corn bread.

The dishes of south Louisiana also found their way to the Anderson table.  Gumbo.  Red beans and rice.  Jambalaya.  Crawfish etouffee. Oyster and shrimp po’ boys.

When I was still a boy, my parents moved us to Alaska.  There we remained faithful to the southern food we loved but we also quickly began to enjoy the bountiful seafood of the Northland.  Salmon.  Halibut.  King crab.

Darcey was introduced to new foods when she attended the Interior Design School in London and, after graduation, moved to San Francisco.  Like me, she never lost her love of southern food but enthusiastically embraced the dishes of the other cultures with which she came in contact.

San Francisco’s most iconic dish, of course, is cioppino, that delightful seafood stew created by Italian fishermen many decades ago.  You can find Darcey’s cioppino recipe posted on my author’s blog, gordonparkerbooks.com/blog/.

On this evening, Darcey was also thinking Italian.  But pork, not seafood.  More specifically, a sausage ragout.  A spicy stew with hot and sweet sausages, hot and sweet peppers.  And to bind it all together with a touch of silkiness, a little cream cheese swirled into the finished product.

This is excellent served with the pasta of your choice.  Darcey prefers rotini.

Note:  Darcey Anderson might be a fictional character but her sausage ragout is for real!

Darcey Anderson’s Sausage Ragout

3 links sweet Italian sausage, cut into 1 inch slices

3 links hot Italian sausage, cut into 1 inch slices

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, minced (or any hot pepper)

2 roasted red peppers

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 14-1/2 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 cup parsley, minced

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup cream cheese

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet or braising pan.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, put in  the sausages.  Stirring occasionally, let the sausage cook until all the pieces are nicely browned.

Add the onion and jalapeno.  Cook until the vegetables have softened and are beginning to take on color, about five minutes.

Toss in the roasted red peppers and garlic.  Stir to combine all the ingredients.  Continue cooking for another three or four minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes and red wine along with the parsley.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Let the ragout simmer on moderately low heat for about half an hour.

Sausage Ragout

Taking the pan off the heat, swirl in the cream cheese, continuing to stir until it has melted and is combined with the finished ragout.

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!