Squash and Pomegranates?!

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Farro is one of those grains that is slowly creeping into the restaurant scene. Farro is also underused and often misused. This ancient grain can be used in a multitude of ways and makes a delicious side dish to almost any meal.

I’m going to be totally honest…I headed to the pantry at work looking for arborio rice to make a classic risotto. Turns out I was out of arborio rice and had remembered I bought farro just the other day. I had almost forgotten about this nutty grain entirely!

Turning farro into a risotto is one of my favorite ways to use this delicious morsel. Here’s what I did:

2 cups farro
2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil

2 cups butternut squash, diced & roasted (this is about 1 squash)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cinnamon
Salt and Pepper to taste

 

1.) In a large rondeau or pot, saute the onion, garlic & thyme until the onions just start to get some color on them. (about 5 minutes on medium) Add in the farro and continue sauté until the grain start to smell nutty and fragrant.

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2.) Deglaze the pot with white wine. Once the alcohol is cooked out of the wine, while stirring, add in about a cup of the chicken stock at a time. Make sure after each addition the previous amount of stock has been absorbed by the farro. You will start to notice after a few additions of stock and stirring the creaminess the starch from the grain gives off. This is what you want!

3.) Once all the stock is added into the farro; bring the roasted squash, mascarpone, spices & parmesan into pot party! Once these ingredients are mixed in the risotto becomes creamy and rich. Garnish the risotto with the pomegranate seeds. These add a nice textural contrast to the creamy risotto and a touch of acidity and sweetness!

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Trick Alert: I bought my pomegranate seeds already out of the fruit. (I’m lazy…but also the quantity needed would have taken me weeks to get out! For this recipe you will only need about 1 or 2 pomegranates) Sorry for the rant…back to the trick. Cut the fruit in half and over a bowl of cold water with the fruit seed side down, smack the back of the fruit with a spoon until the seeds fall into the water. The seeds will sink and the light flesh will float making for a much easier experience!

you’re welcome…:-)

 

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Banana Bread Pancakes

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Banana bread is one of my favorite comfort foods. When I smell it baking it immediately reminds me of home. I mean these pancakes take everything you love about banana bread and elevate them to the next level. The velvety smooth glaze over the crispy exterior of the pancake is amazing. Try these out on a Sunday morning; kids and adults will love them.

Pancakes

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Cinnamon and Oats to garnish

In a bowl whisk together oil, sugar, vanilla, milk and mashed bananas. In a separate bowl sift flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix to combine. (Yes this will be a thick pancake batter and will resemble that of a banana bread batter…go figure!)

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Vanilla Bean Maple Glaze

1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
2 teaspoon milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Feel free to make any flavor glaze you want but make sure you have plenty it goes fast!

BLT Barley Risotto?!

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I mean lets be honest anything cooked risotto style is creamy deliciousness! Some of you may not know that “risotto” is actually a technique. The type of starch or grain you use can be varied. Typically, restaurants use arborio or carnarolli rice. These are short grain rices and release the most starch content when constantly stirred. (this process is a true pain in the butt, but so worth it)

My BLT barley risotto takes the classic technique but uses barley instead of the typical rice. Barley is such a great alternative for a few reasons. 1.) Barley still releases starch, 2.) Barley has a great “al dente” texture to it,  and 3.) Barley is really good for you with loads of fiber, protein and amino acids!  While adding bacon to a healthy grain may seem to negate the whole purpose of using something healthy in the first place….I say everything in moderation! :-)

BLT Barley Risotto

3-4 slices thick cut bacon
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I used heirloom because I’m clearly fancy haha)
1 leek, thinly sliced and cleaned
1 bag of pearl barley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
Chicken stock (I ended up using 3 quarts)
Mascarpone Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

 

In a rondeau* Render your bacon down until almost perfectly crispy. (you can either remove the bacon at this stage if you prefer a crispy garnish) I leave my bacon in during the cooking process…Here’s why: the chewy lardons really add a textural contrast :-)

Once the bacon is rendered, add in your leeks and garlic. Let these saute for 5 minutes or until the leeks are wilted. (you may also hear the term translucent…aka just par-cook them a bit first) Add in your barley and stir. Let the barley almost toast for a minute then deglaze the pan with white wine. Let the wine cook off or until you no longer get a harsh alcohol smell from it.  It will look like this:

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Now, this part takes a bit…Gradually work in your chicken stock in 2 cup intervals until the barley absorbs it all. Stir every two minutes to check on it. There is honestly no need to stand there and stir the barley constantly throughout. Once the barley is 99% percent cooked and the most of the liquid is absorbed, add in parmesan cheese and mascarpone cheese. These will attribute to the saltiness and creaminess of the dish. Last thing to do before serving is throw in your halved or whole cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

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*if you don’t have a rondeau or know what the hell it is..it is basically a shallow wide pot with lower sides. I have used large saute pans and even large pots for this. But the wider the service area the better.

Don’t have barley on hand? Try using a longer grain rice or a starchy potato diced small. The cooking times will vary of course! Please guys make this one, you won’t be disappointed!!

Cold Weather Comfort

Final Stew
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Hi, I’m Michael. Nicholas’s boyfriend. I have to admit that as a home cook I was quite intimidated to date a professional chef. But I guess my food lives up to Nicholas’s standards because he really appreciates it when I cook. Today in Boston it’s freezing outside and what’s better than a slow cooked warm hardy meal. Nicholas doesn’t really get exicted for soup, it has no substance, but I’m a big soup fan. So a stew it is. My beef barley stew is a healthy mix of vegetables and chuck beef.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs stew chuck beef
  • 1 cup diced carrots (10 – 12 baby carrots or 3 – 5 regular carrots)
  • 1 cup diced celery (6 – 8 stalks of celery)
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms (about 1 pack)
  • 1.5 cups diced onion (2 medium to large onions)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, fine dice.
  • 3 – 4 small sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 small sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 – 1.5 cups pearl barley (depends on how much you want)
  • 42 – 48oz (4 – 6 cups) low sodium beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (Pref low sodium soy if you have it)
  • 1 teaspoon worchester sauce
  • 1 Box onion soup mix (2 packets – I used Lipton Onion)
  • 12oz lager or ale (I used local brew, Shipyard from Portland Maine)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

I like to use up things I have in my fridge, so every recipe I do often is unique for that day. Remember to BYOC or Be Your Own Chef. If you don’t have fresh herbs, used dry or just leave them out. Don’t want to use beer, substitute with more stock. Adjust the salt and pepper to your tastes.

Beef Barley Stew Prep
Step 1: Prepping all the vegetables and get them ready.

Diced Beef Chuck
Step 2: Dice the meat into 1/2″ cubes.

Salt Pepper Flour
Step 3: Put the flour, 1/2 the salt, 1/2 the pepper on a plate or bowl and mix with your fingers. Then dredge the meat in the flour. You’ll probably have to do this in stages or you’ll get flour everywhere. Shake off the flour from the meat and place aside on another clean plate.

Browning Beef Chuck
Step 4: Put the vegetable oil in a large stock pot and turn the heat to medium high. I used a heavy duty 8 quart All-Clad stock pot to help with even heating and reduce splattering. When the oil starts to ripple, test with a piece of floured meat. If it starts to sizzle, it’s show time. Cook the meat in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. You want to brown the meat, not steam it. Place the browned meat aside on a plate until you’ve finished all the meat.

Brown Bits
Step 5: Turn off the heat. Notice all the brown crispy bits on the bottom of the pan? That’s the good stuff! CAREFULLY pour off the excess oil to a heat proof bowl. Then pour in the beer (and enjoy a nice beer facial… jk, don’t get burned by the steam!) and pour in stock. Turn the heat back on to medium. Using a wooden spoon, scrap the browned bits off the bottom of the pan until the pan is essentially clean. Add in the worchester sauce and soy sauce. Take off heat.

Vegetables in Slow Cooker
Step 6: In a 5+ quart slow cooker set to 6 – 10 hours depending on your time period (I did 6 hours to make dinner time), add the vegetables, meat, barley, herbs, and onion soup mix. Pour over the heated stock and beer. Be careful not to burn yourself. The stock mixture didn’t cover the vegetables and meat, but they will release water and strink as they cook. You can always add some more stock or water as it cooks. Add the rest of the salt and pepper to taste.  You can always add more later if you want.

Step 7: Clean up and let it cook. I stir it every hour to make sure all the barley has access to moisture.

Note: I made this with 2 cups of barley and it was just too much for my tastes, but still very good.

So what’s for dessert? We have some pears and apples left over, so I guess I’ll be making a pear apple crisp.

Enjoy!

-Michael

Low-Carb Crisis

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I was craving spicy food tonight…bad…Anything with salsa really lets be honet. But with summer approaching i’d rather not have all those carbs. Tonight I may have eaten the low-carb lovers dream… We all love Spanish inspired dishes and burgers, well my Jalapeno-Cream Cheese Stuffed Turkey Burgers will satisfy those cravings!

Jalapeno-Cream Cheese Stuffed Turkey Burgers

  • 1 lb. Ground Turkey
  • 1/4 cup salsa (whichever you like)
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (feeling frisky? add more!)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapenos (you know the kind you buy at the grocery store)
  • 4 oz. “Greek” Cream Cheese and Greek Yogurt, softened
  • Chicken stock
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salsa and lime infused sour cream for garnish!

Combine all ingredients except pickled jalapenos and cream cheese. Mix these with your hands until well combined and form into 4 small burgers.

In a separate bowl, whip with an electric mixer the cream cheese and minced jalapenos until combined. Put in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Indent each burger a bit and scoop a tablespoon sized ball of the cream cheese mixture inside. Cover the cream cheese with the surrounding burger mixture and re-form to a patty.

Sear these burgers over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil for 3 minutes per side. Pour in about 1/2 cup of chicken stock and cover and simmer for 10 minutes. This allows the meat to cook through without burning and lets the cream cheese become extra melted and gooey!

Roasted Chicken Demystified

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Roasted chicken can be one of those boring week night meals that everybody is sick of. Problem? They are not doing it right. I will teach you the easiest roasted chicken. The trick to a perfect bird is seasoning and cooking time.

Home cooks tend to take chicken out AT 165 degrees. Ding dong… it’s carry over cooking time calling.

Carry over cooking and resting any meat is essential to keep the it moist and let the juices rest. If cut the protein right away once pulled from the oven, all the juices will escape and you will have a dry product. Carry over cooking is the time when you pull the protein out of the oven until the time you cut it. There should be at LEAST a 5 minute resting period before you cut or serve your protein. Trust me on this… you will thank me. #yourewelcome.

 

Here’s what you will need to create the perfect roast chicken:

  • 1 5 lb. Chicken (patted dry…this will help create a crispy skin)
  • 1 Stick of Butter, softened (This will make massaging the bird easy)
  • 3 Sprigs Sage, picked
  • 1 Small bunch Thyme, picked
  • 2 Sprigs of Rosemary, picked
  • 1 Lemon, zested THEN sliced
  • Salt and Pepper

 

Step 1:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pat the bird dry and season generously with salt and pepper. I mean get in there, season the wings, the legs, the breast, the underside and even the cavity.

In a food processor,combine the stick of softened butter, herbs and lemon zest. Pulse this mixture until combined. Take a few slices of lemon and shove them under the skin of the breast. Now take a few more and shove them into the cavity of the chicken.

Step 2:

Massaging time! Rub the compound butter all over the chicken to make an even layer of butter. This will not only help with the flavor but also the crispiness of the skin. (after all who doesn’t like a crispy skin?)

Place in the oven on a wire rack with a baking pan under neath. If you do not have either of these place the chicken directly on a cookie sheet (not the underside of the chicken prepare this way will not be as crispy…but equally tasty) Cook the chicken at 375 for 1 hour, then turn the oven up to 400-425 for an additional hour. Pull the chicken just after 2 hours and let rest for 10 minutes.

 

Take a look at the end result….notice the skin golden brown and crispy, the herbs and the lemon under the skin make for an unreal roasted chicken experience.

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