Traditional French Cassoulet takes time. Lots of time. I’m guessing most people do not have the time to spend in the kitchen to make this French peasant dish. So, I took the highlights of cassoulet and sped up the process.
Cassoulet recipes also vary across France, based on the region and the family making it. At its core is chicken, sausage, and beans. I’m using ingredients commonly found in the United States, but you can use other types of sausage if you want. Just note, that the sausage imparts flavor on the liquid. So, if you use andouille or chorizo, it will change the flavor profile of the dish quite a bit.
Heat a little oil in a (5-6 quart) Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove bacon from the pan and set aside.
Add the chicken to the hot grease and saute until brown on all sides. Add the sausage and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the onion, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Mix to combine. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute until the onions soften, about 5-10 minutes.
Add the stock and beans. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Add the cooked bacon. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve with cooked rice, mashed potatoes, or buttered noodles.
Cream of Chicken & Rice Soup
It's February and winter is winding down. Well, unless you live in Montana where winter seems to go on forever. So, for those cold, rainy (or snowy) days that lay ahead, here is a soup recipe to warm your soul.
For this recipe, I used a rotisserie chicken purchased from the deli at my local grocery store. I like using rotisserie chickens for many recipes from enchiladas to soups. Even though I love roasting my own chicken and having a great meal, I like these deli chickens for quick weeknight meals. Of course, you can use raw chicken in this recipe. Just add the chicken (diced) at the beginning of the cooking process when you are sautéing the onions and garlic. You can also use any type of leftover cooked chicken you have available.
Make this recipe your own. I'm offering you the building blocks...
Cream of Chicken and Rice Soup
In a small sauce pan, combine 2 cups stock and rice. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.
While the rice is simmering, combine the olive oil and butter in a stock pot placed over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, and red pepper flakes. Sauté for 5-8 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium low and add the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the remaining 2 cups of stock. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to low. Add the cooked chicken and the rice (including the liquid). Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Stir in the milk. Add the kale/chard and parsley. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with warm, crusty bread.
Chipotle Chicken Burgers
It's spring and it's time for us to dust off the grill and start cooking outside! There isn't a better way to break in your grill than to cook up some hamburgers.
Now, I like a good beef (grass-fed, of course) burger, but my family does not always want to eat red meat, leaving me to become creative in which meat I cook. So, I like to use chicken thighs whenever possible. They grind up well and have a lot of flavor (way more than breast meat).
To grind up chicken thighs, you will need to use either a food processor or a meat grinder (like the attachment for a KitchenAid Mixer). Otherwise, you will be chopping up chicken thighs with a knife, which will be time consuming.
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce can be found in the Mexican food section of the grocery store. They add a nice smokey flavor to the burgers along with a little bit of heat.
Chipotle Chicken Burgers
Makes 4-6 burgers
Place the chicken thighs in a food processor. Pulse several times to roughly chop up the meat. Add the garlic, onion, chipotle peppers, salt, and pepper. Pulse several times until blended and the meat is chopped up.
If using a meat grinder, run the chicken through the coarse blade. Then mix it with finely chopped garlic, onions, chipotle peppers, salt, and pepper.
Form meat into patties. Cook on a grill or on the stove, about 4-5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature of the burger reaches 165ºF. Add cheese if desired. Serve on a toasted bun with all the regular burger fixings.
The Basics: Roast Chicken
One of my all-time favorite meals is roast chicken. In fact, if I had to pick my last supper, it would be roast chicken with ratatouille. Seriously good, comforting eats.
Before I really started cooking, I was intimidated by a few basic recipes -- biscuits, pie crust, and roast chicken. Seems odd, right? Well, my mom may have been a good cook when I was a kid, but I don't ever remember her roasting a chicken or making pie or biscuits from scratch. Don't get me wrong, she could throw together a mean casserole and maybe pot roast but she was always in a hurry to get dinner made.
So, when it was time for me to start learning how to cook some basic recipes, I turned to Julia Child (basic French), Marcella Hazan (basic Italian), and the Betty Crocker cookbook (basic everything). Seriously. Honestly, if I had to keep one cookbook, it would probably be Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking. It's a classic and one that every budding chef should have.
Hazan has a recipe for lemon roast chicken that is one of the easiest recipes around. Over the years, I've used the same basic recipe but put my own spin on it.
In the recipe, the chicken will cook in 1 hour. One piece of cookware that is essential for this is a cast iron pan. If you don't have a cast iron pan, go out and buy one. They are not expensive and will last a lifetime. Best non-stick pan out there. You can get away with using another oven safe pan but cast iron will retain the heat much better.
Roast chicken is best served after it has rested for about 20 minutes after cooking. Serve with a side of vegetables -- your preference. You can make gravy from the pan juices, if you so please, but I am not providing instructions on that. Honestly, this chicken doesn't need gravy.
Preheat oven to 490ºF. Place your oven-proof pan in the hot oven for 20 minutes.
While the pan is heating up in the oven, get your chicken prepped. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Tuck the wings under the breast. Using your fingers, make a pocket between the skin and breast. Spread the half of the olive oil mixture under the skin of the chicken so that it touches the meat directly. Spread the other half the olive oil mixture on the skin of the bird. Stuff the rosemary stems and the lemon wedges in the cavity of the bird. Tie the legs together with the butcher string; cut off excess string. Set aside until the pan is ready.
When the pan has been heated, carefully remove the pan from the oven and place the chicken, breast side up in the hot pan. Put it back in the oven and roast for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat (resist the urge to open the oven) and leave the chicken in the oven for an additional 30 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. When it reads 165ºF in the breast (170º in the thigh), the bird is done. (In case the bird is not cooked through, turn on the oven and roast at 350ºF until the chicken is at the proper temperature, about 10-15 minutes longer.)
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Chicken Noodle Soup
We've officially entered fall when the leaves are changing and a chill fills the air.
Fall is my favorite time of year. I actually welcome the weather change from hot and humid to chilly and breezy. One of the best parts of fall is the change in cooking and recipes from light meals to hearty chili, soups and stews. You know, meals that help to create a cozy, comfortable setting at home.
Over the years, I've made a lot of chicken noodle soups. I finally decided on a better way to make chicken noodle soup -- using a whole chicken and keeping things very simple. This is a good recipe for a weekend meal. As you are running around doing errands on a Saturday afternoon, your soup can be simmering away on the stove. If you want, you can make this in a crockpot set on low over 3-4 hours.
In this recipe, you are making the stock or base of the soup with the whole chicken and then using it right away to make the soup. This provides much better flavor than using storebought stock.
Chicken Noodle Soup
In a large stock pot, add the chicken, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, parsley, and thyme. Add the water. Place over medium high heat. Bring up a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium low. Periodically srape off any "scum" that floats to the top (see pictures below for what I'm talking about). Simmer for about 2-3 hours or until the chicken is done.
Carefully remove the chicken from the stock and place in a bowl. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before removing the meat from the bones. Strain the stock; discard the solids and save the liquid. Pour the liquid into a stock pot. After the chicken has cooled and you've removed the meat from the bones, bring the stock up to a simmer over medium high heat. Add the chicken meat and the noodles. Season to taste with salt and pepper; add red pepper flakes for a little heat if desired. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the noodles are tender and cooked. Serve with bread or crackers.
Soup will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Freeze any leftovers for up to 6 months.
Spanish Paella. I'm not sure what to say about paella other than it's one of the most awesome dishes to prepare on the grill, providing you have a grill (charcoal is preferable) and a paella pan that will withstand the heat.
There are many variations of paella. Some are made with chorizo; some are not. Honestly, it all boils down to preference. I'm offering my preferred way of making paella. A basic paella recipe is made with a short grain rice (like arborio or bomba*), chicken, seafood, and saffron. You need saffron or else it won't be paella. Check out the Spice House and Penzey's Spices for saffron.
Then you need a large shallow pan. There are several places to buy paella pans -- all cooking stores will carry a few different brands that vary in price. If you are going to grill your paella, look for a pan that will withstand the high temperature of the grill -- like something made with cast iron or anodized steel. I used Mauviel 14-inch paella pan.
Paella is a great dish made for a large crowd. If you like to entertain friends and family, always have an arsenal of great dishes you can make easily and that are sure to please. Add this recipe to your stack of dinner party recipes.
*Bomba rice is a short grain rice that the Spanish typically use in their paella. Arborio rice is a short grain rice from Italy that is easier to find in most grocery stores.
Season the chicken with the paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up 1 day.
Preheat the grill. (This recipe can be made inside on the stove -- use medium to medium high heat.)
Heat the stock in a small saucepan with the saffron. The saffron will infuse the stock. Keep warm. Heat the olive oil in the paella pan on the grill. Brown the chicken on all sides in the hot oil. Remove from the pan. Continue to cook the chicken on the grill as you sauté the vegetables. Add the onions, garlic, and parsley. Sauté until soft, about 3-5 minutes; season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the chorizo sausage; sauté for another 3-5 minutes. Add the rice; stir to coat with the oil and vegetables. Add the white wine and tomatoes; cook until mixture reduces, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of stock. Bring to a boil. Add the chicken to the pan. Cook until the rice and chicken are cooked through; about 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the seafood; cook until clams/mussels open and the shrimp turns pink; about 5-10 minutes. Add the peas at the last minute. Serve with bread and wine.
Now it's time to feast.