Category Archives: entrees

Braised Rabbit In Belgian Ale

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Rabbit is one of those meats you either love or hate; I’m in the camp that loves it. I don’t cook it often but whenever I do I find myself wondering why I don’t cook it more often. After all, it is readily available fresh in Belgian markets. And rabbit is a versatile meat-it can be grilled, baked, or fried in the same ways one would cook chicken. But my favorite method is slow cooking it in a stew or a braise.

Now that the cooler weather is upon us again braised meat is the perfect dinner. This recipe, adapted from Simply Recipes, is easy to make and the ultimate in comfort food. And when using real Belgian ale, I like to think of it as a quintessential Belgian fall dinner. Serve the rabbit over a parmesan infused polenta or other starch that can soak up the juices.

BRAISED RABBIT in BELGIAN ALE 

1 2 1/2- 3 pound rabbit cut into 6 or 7 serving pieces

Salt

1/2 cup flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

6 whole garlic cloves, peeled

6 sprigs fresh thyme

1 1/2 cups Chimay or other Belgian ale

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

2 teaspoons brown sugar

  • Place the rabbit on a large plate and sprinkle on both sides with salt. Allow to sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Place the flour on another plate and dredge the rabbit pieces in the flour.
  • Heat the oil and butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Once the butter is melted and foamy, add the rabbit in a single layer. Brown on both sides for 5 to 6 minutes per side without disturbing. Remove the rabbit to a plate.
  • Add the onions to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown.
  • Add the garlic cloves and thyme and cook until the onions are soft and the garlic is fragrant.
  • Increase the heat to high and add the ale. Simmer for 2 minutes then add the chicken stock. Season with the salt and pepper.
  • Return the rabbit to the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Cover the pot and reduce the temperature to low. Cook for 45 minutes or until the rabbit is cooked through and tender.
  • Remove the rabbit to a platter and keep warm.
  • Increase the temperature to high and reduce the liquid by one third.
  • Reduce the temperature to low and stir in the mustard and sugar.
  • Return the rabbit to the pot and rewarm.

Serves 4-6

Chicken Korma

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It isn’t quite spring around here but the tease of warmer weather and definitely longer days has me thinking about ways to lighten up my menus.  On sunnier days stick to your ribs stews are loosing their appeal and have me seeking out lighter fare. But lighter doesn’t have to mean less flavorful as this quick dish from the  Noble Pig attests to.

The rich and tangy flavors of cilantro, cumin and ginger add spice to ground chicken (you can substitute turkey if you prefer) while the peas and fresh cilantro add brightness and the necessary vegetables that make this a complete dinner option. Its fast, delicious and sure to please.

CHICKEN KORMA

1 large red onion; 1/2 chopped, 1/2 sliced
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt plus more for garnish
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
4 pitas, for serving

  • Combine the chopped onion, ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin  1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup of water in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse  until a thin paste forms.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until golden, 4 minutes.
  • Add the ginger paste and cook, stirring, until most of the water is cooked out, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the chicken and cook until opaque, breaking up the meat.
  • In a small bowl mix the yogurt with 1/4 cup water, add to the pan and simmer over medium-low heat until the meat is cooked through, 2-3 minutes more.
  • Add the peas and the cilantro and season to taste with additional salt if desired.
  • Meanwhile, heat another skillet over high heat. Brush the pitas with oil, season with a tiny amount of salt and toast in the skillet, about 1 minute per side.
  • Divide the chicken mixture among the pitas.

Serves 4

Meat & Stout Pie w/ Blue Cheese Crust

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Tis the season when everyone is a wee bit Irish so why not celebrate with food?

For me, pot pies are the ultimate in winter comfort food. Chicken and turkey are my usual fillings but since my family eats a lot of beef stew I began playing with making a beef pot pie that was reminiscent of meat pies I’ve enjoyed in Great Britain. And I found success. If a rich beef stew is good, it is even better when encased in a flaky crust. But I didn’t stop there. In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day I adapted this pot pie from Williams Sonoma into an Irish tribute. Both beef and lamb and slow cooked in a rich Guinness Stout broth which infuses the entire meal with flavor. And best of all, it is topped off with a blue cheese crust. Yum.

I’m not going to lie; this is a time consuming dish to make. But you can do as I often do and make this dish is two steps over two days. The filling and dough can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the pot pies and eat them. Simply reheat the filling until it is hot and bubbling then fill the pie dishes and proceed as directed. By doing this, you can easily serve up hot pie pies as a fast weeknight meal.

MEAT & STOUT PIE w/ BLUE CHEESE CRUST

For the meat filling:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 cups baby portobello mushrooms, quartered

1 cup pearl onions, peeled

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 1/2 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 pound lamb roast, cut into 1-inch cubes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 1/2 cups Irish stout, divided

1 cup beef broth

1 cup carrots, cut into chunks

2 cups red potatoes, cut into chunks

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely minced

One 16-inch round blue cheese pastry

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat.
  • When the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms, onions, 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly browned and softened. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.
  • Place the flour and remaining salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  • Dredge the beef and lamb in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pot. When the oil is hot add half of the meat and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes. Transfer the meat to a separate bowl.
  • Add 1/4 cup of the Guinness Stout to the pot, stirring to scrape up any brown bits. Pour the liquid into the reserved meat.
  • Repeat the process with the remaining oil, meat and 1/4 cup of stout.
  • Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the garlic and tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.
  • Add the meat, reserved liquid, remaining stout and beef broth the the pot, stirring to scrape up any browned bits.
  • Add the mushrooms, onions, carrots, potatoes, bay leaves and thyme and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef is very tender, about 3 hours.

For the crust:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

16 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/3 cup ice water

4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

  • In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt and sugar until blended.
  • Add in the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal; about 10 pulses.
  • Add the water and pulse an additional 2 to 3 times. The dough should be soft and hold together when squeezed but not sticky. If necessary, add additional water, by the tablespoon, until the dough is the right texture.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands a few times. Shape into a disk, wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and place on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. Roll into a rough 12 by 16 inch square.
  • Sprinkle the blue cheese over half of the  dough then fold the other half over the cheese. Roll the dough again until it it is 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

To assemble the pot pies:

  • Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place 4 2-cup oven proof ramekins on a rimmed baking dish and fill each one with the meat mixture.
  • Using a sharp paring knife and your baking dishes as a guide, cut out 4 circles of dough, adding 1/2 inch to each piece of dough.
  • Place the dough on top of each pot pie, crimping the edges to form a seal.
  • Cut 3 or 4 silts into the top of each pie.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes or until the tops are browned and flakey.
  • Allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Yields: 4 2-cup pot pies

Bolognese Sauce

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Some dishes are simply classics. They are the go-to recipes that you return to over and over again. In my family bolognese sauce is one of those recipes. Rarely does a week go by without our eating a steaming plate of pasta topped with rich bolognese sauce for dinner. Its comforting, satisfying and when I make a pot of the sauce over the weekend, becomes the perfect fast weeknight dinner.

I’ve adapted this recipe from Williams Sonoma’s Essentials of ItalianIts taken me years to find my right balance of meat, vegetables and sauce but I think I’ve finally found my magic combination. The key to a good sauce is long and slow cooking. The process just can’t be rushed if you want to achieve the perfect balance of flavor and texture. I’m also a fan of including a piece of parmesan rind in my sauce. Most people discard this hard remnant of cheese but I stash my leftovers in the freezer then pop one into my sauce while it simmers. It adds a richness and complexity that you just can’t find any other way. If you don’t have a parmesan rind on hand that’s ok to. Skip it for now but save it the next time you use up your hard parmesan cheese. Try it once and you too will be a convert.

BOLOGNESE SAUCE

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces pancetta, chopped

1 large carrot, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 leek, quartered and thinly sliced

1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cup drained and chopped plum tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 beef bouillon cubes

1 cup water

1 cup milk

1 parmesan rind

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • Melt the butter in a large heavy pot set over medium-low heat.
  • When the butter has melted add the pancetta, carrot, celery and leek. Stirring occasionally, cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the ingredients are golden brown and tender.
  • Add the ground pork and ground beef to the pot and stir well.
  • Raise the heat to medium and stirring often in order to break up the meat, cook until the meats are lightly browned and crumbled with most of the juices having evaporated. This should take about 20 minutes.
  • Add the wine to the pot and scrape up any browned bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pot.
  • Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, bouillon cubes, water, milk, parmesan rind, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir well.
  • Allow the mixture to just begin to simmer then reduce the heat to very low and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally for about 1 hour. If the mixture becomes too thick you can add in a bit more water.
  • Partially cover the pot and continue cooking until the sauce is thick and dark brown, an additional 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • Skim off any fat that floats to the surface of the sauce and serve over hot pasta. Alternatively, let cool, cover and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat over low heat, additionally additional water or wine as necessary to get the right texture.

Yields 4 cups

Spice Rubbed Steak w/ Avocado-Grapefruit Salsa

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This meal lets you dress up an ordinary steak with a bit of spice and seasonal fruit.  I love the marbling in rib eye steaks but you can use whichever cut of meat you prefer.  The spice rub give the meat a little extra kick while the grapefruit and avocado put a new spin on a typical salsa.  Serve alongside a baked potato and you have a complete meal in less than half an hour.  Now that is the perfect way to end your work week.

SPICE RUBBED STEAK W/ AVOCADO-GRAPEFRUIT SALSA

2 rib eye steaks

For the steak rub:

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon coriander

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Evenly divide the spice rub amongst both sides of the two steaks.  Use your fingers to massage the spice into the meat.
  • Allow to sit for 10 minutes before grilling.
  • Lightly grease a grill with cooking spray.  Pre-heat the grill to medium-high heat.
  • Place the steaks in the center of the grill and cook for approximately 9 minutes (for medium-rare) to desired level of doneness flipping every two to three minutes.  The amount of grilling time will depend upon the thickness of the meat and your personal preferences.

For the salsa:

1 red grapefruit, peeled and sectioned with membranes removed, cut into bite sized pieces

1 ripe Haas avocado, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks

1 chili pepper, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

Juice of 1 lime

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  • Serve along side the grilled steak.

Serves 2

Gnocchi Mac & Cheese

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I love macaroni and cheese; actually my entire family does. The premise behind the dish is so simple, noodles and cheese baked together in the oven but the execution can be anything but ordinary. Classic macaroni and cheese is delicious as is roasted garlic mac & cheese and broccoli mac & cheese. Or perhaps you prefer your mac and cheese even a bit more different; in that case, beer and jack chili mac n’ cheese might be what you want or if you are looking for an impressive presentation sausage macaroni & cheese stuffed squash is what you need. But what if your mac and cheese doesn’t include the traditional noodles?

That is exactly what this mac and cheese, adapted from Sugar & Soul, is all about. Here, gnocchi, those little Italian pillows of potato goodness, take the place of traditional noodles. The cheese sauce remains the same and is comprised of a variety of cheeses which only adds to the complexity of the sauce. Its so easy and so good.

Serve these cheesy gnocchi with a green salad and dinner is ready. Yum!

GNOCCHI MAC & CHEESE

1/4 pound diced pancetta

1 pound potato gnocchi

1 tablespoon butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/3 cup shredded asiago cheese

1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat a ceramic casserole dish with non-stick baking spray and set aside.
  • Cook the gnocchi according to package instructions. When the gnocchi is cooked, drain it a colander and transfer it to the prepared casserole dish.
  • Fry the pancetta in a medium sized skillet set over medium-high heat until browned and crisp.
  • Drain the pancetta onto a paper towel then sprinkle evenly over the gnocchi.
  • Add the butter to the pancetta fat and stir in the garlic. Cook until fragrant.
  • Stir in the flour and wisk until bubbly.
  • Add in the milk, salt, and pepper and stir until thick, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the cheddar, mozzarella, and the parmesan cheese to the skillet and then immediately remove it from heat.
  • Wisk until cheese has melted.
  • Pour cheese sauce over the gnocchi and sprinkle with the asiago cheese and the bread crumbs.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until top layer of cheese is melted and golden brown.

Serves 6

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Beef Gyros

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I’ve always been a huge fan of Greek food. Regardless of the season the tangy Greek flavors of feta cheese, oregano and fresh dill inspire images of sun drenched Greek beaches. And this time of year, when the weather is especially gray and dreary, I find myself longing for a Greek Island getaway. When that isn’t possible, I head to the kitchen and cook up my own Greek feast.

These gyros, adapted from Peanut Butter and Peppers, comes pretty close to channeling the Greek Island experience. Here beef is substituted for the traditional lamb (which is also delicious but sometimes difficult to find). The meat is marinated in a lemon-oregano mixture which ensures that every bite is juicy and flavorful. As a finishing touch the entire gyro is topped with Tzatziki Sauce- the yogurt, dill and cucumber sauce that Greece is famous for.

So here’s to getting your own dose of the Greek Islands. Enjoy!

BEEF GYROS

For the Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup cucumber, diced small

3 tablespoons fresh dill, diced small

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 dash salt

1 dash pepper

For the gyros:

1 pound beef steak tips, cut into bite size pieces

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 cups salad greens

2 tomatoes, sliced

¼ cup feta cheese crumbles

4 pita breads

  • To make the tzatziki sauce, place the cucumber and half of the yogurt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  •  Add mixture to a medium sized bowl and stir in remaining yogurt, the dill, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
  • Add additional salt, if needed  and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • To prepare the gyros, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Add the meat to a zip top bag or bowl, and pour marinade over the beef. Refrigerate for 1 hour up to 4 hours.
  • When you are ready to cook, set grill to medium low heat
  • Place the meat on the grill, (you can place meat on skewers if you prefer) and cook on each side for about 4 minutes or until they are done to your preference.
  • Let the meat rest for 5 minutes.
  • Evenly divide the meat on a pita shell, top with the salad greens, tomatoes, feta cheese and the Tzatziki Sauce.

Serves 4

 

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