Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I have made this soup for many years, trying to copy-cat some famous versions of it. Lately, I settled on this recipe which is a blending of several different recipes I found over the years. So, it’s my take on a creamy Broccoli Cheddar Soup. One of my additions to it: I caramelize some white mushrooms in butter prior to adding the shallots and garlic. I think the mushrooms add a quiet umami kind of note. The cheddars are white and yellow, just to keep the color a little lighter. I mentioned chopped chives when serving, though I didn’t add them in this recipe or photo. They would be a great finish.

Ingredients:

  • About 1 1/2 cups of thin-sliced, white mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked white or black pepper
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shallots, sliced
  • 1 medium garlic clove, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp Herbes de Provenance
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock or broth, vegetable broth can be used as well
  • 1 1/2 cups of broccoli florets, about 1 inch in size
  • 1/2 cup grated yellow cheddar cheese + a little more for garnishing
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • Chopped chives (optional)

Directions:

  • Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat and melt 2 tbsp of unsalted butter. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté the mushrooms until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Reserve a couple tbsp of the cooked mushrooms for a garnish.
  • Add the stock and broccoli and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes until the broccoli is tender.
  • Place the soup in a blender or use a hand blender to process until smooth, or, leave a little chunky if you wish. Return to the sauce pan.
  • Add the cream and bring back to a simmer, then add the grated cheese. Stir and heat until the cheeses are completely melted.
  • Taste. Reseason with salt and pepper if neccessary.
  • Portions into bowls or small, toaste bread bowls. Garnish with the reserved mushrooms and a tablespoon or so of greater yellow cheddar. Add the chopped chives now if desired.
  • Serve immediately.

Slow Braised Pot Roast with fresh herbs

Another lifelong favorite comfort food that, in my opinion, should be kept basic and simple. The only changes from my Mom’s recipe: fresh herbs…and a lower heat (300F) and longer cook time. I used a thick piece of chuck, about 2 pounds here. A generous amount of salt and pepper rubbed on the roast then a hot sear on all sides and a slow cook will insure a flavorful pot roast. Also, I like to caramelize the sliced onions long and slow instead of simply sautéing them. This recipe can be done in a slow cooker, but I used and prefer an enameled, cast iron Dutch oven in the oven. With a 4 hour braise, I suggest leaving out the potatoes until half way through so they don’t get mushy.

Let’s get to it!

Ingredients:

2 tbsp canola oil

4 tbsp olive oil

2 pound chuck roast

About 1 1/2 pounds of little red or gold potatoes, peels left on or, use Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

1 pound of peeled baby carrots or large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces

2 medium cloves of garlic, sliced

2 cups of white or yellow onion, quartered, then thin sliced

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked black or white pepper

4 small sprigs of fresh thyme

1 large sprig of rosemary

4 sprigs of fresh parsley

1 whole bay leaf

3 cups of beef stock or broth, divided, save 1/2 cup for later

1 cup of dry sherry

Unsalted butter

Fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

  • Lightly coat the roast in canola oil. Coat generously with Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper on all sides.
  • Heat about 2 tbsp of canola oil in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. When oil is hot, add roast to the pan and seriously brown on all sides. Remove to a plate.
  • Lower heat, add about 4 tbsp of olive oil and add the onions. Cook on low, stirring occasionally for at least 20 minutes until onions begin to brown slightly. Add sliced garlic and cook for another 10 minutes. Do not let the onions or garlic burn. Add more oil if necessary to almost cover the onions. You want them lightly caramelized here. Take your time, this is important for the best, savory flavor.
  • Preheat the oven to 300F.
  • Increase heat and add the sherry. Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan for 2 minutes. Add the stock, continue to simmer for another 2 minutes.
  • Tie butcher twine around the thyme, rosemary, and parsley sprigs (a garni)
  • Add the roast back to the pan. Add the garni to the pan, make sure you submerge it in the liquid. Add the bay leaf to the pan.
  • Add the carrots to the pan. No potatoes yet.
  • Place the pan in the oven, cover, and cook for 2 hours.
  • After 2 hours, add the potatoes to the pan, keep covered, and cook for another 2 hours or until the roast is falling apart tender and the potatoes are done.
  • When it is done cooking, remove the roast, potatoes, and carrots to a serving bowl (leave the onions, garlic, and liquid in the pan). Add some unsalted butter to the vegetables. Season lightly with a little salt if desired. Loosely tent the roast and carrots and hold in a 200F oven until ready to serve.
  • Check that there is at least 1 1/2 cups of stock in pan. Bring to a high simmer.
  • Mix 2 tbsp of corn starch into the cooled beef stock that was set aside prior to cooking. Add to simmering pan stock and cook until thickened. About 5 minutes. Stir in about 1 tbsp of fresh chopped parsley. TASTE…then reseason with salt and pepper if neccessary.
  • Serve the gravy at the table along side the roast and vegetables.
  • Note: I don’t shred the roast before serving. I let the guest scoop out big chunks, then they can pour as much gravy as they desire on their plates.

Tuscan Bean Soup

Tuscan: relating to Tuscany, its inhabitants, or the form of Italian spoken there…or, relating to food, dishes and a cooking style that may or may not be found in Tuscany, such as Crostini Toscanini (thin slices of bread, lightly toasted and crispy, with some sort of topping like pate or sauce), or Bistecca alla Fiorentina (loosely refers to a cut of beef, typically loin or filet, grilled over an open fire), Ribollita (a hearty soup made with bread and vegetables, cannellini beans, and cabbage). So, perhaps this recipe could be referred to as a soup in a Tuscan Ribollita style. Regardless of the nomenclature, it’s a hearty one-dish comfort style soup, a little chunky, very savory tomato flavor. I borrowed most of this recipe from Chef Samin Nosrat, author of Salt Fat Acid Heat. Photos taken in my kitchen with my iPhonexs.

Onward.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 2-ounces pancetta, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 cup celery, 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled, 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 cup white onions, 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked white or black pepper
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups crushed, canned, San Marzano tomatoes with juice
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese and a 2×2 rind
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • 3 cups of kale, 1 inch chop
  • 3 cups of green cabbage, 1 inch chop

Directions:

  • Use about a 3-quart sauce pan over a medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil. When hot, add the chopped pancetta and cook until slightly brown, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the onion, celery, carrots, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook an additional 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add the Parmesan rind and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese. Add the stock. Bring back to a simmer stirring occasionally.
  • Add the kale and the cabbage. Make sure there is enough liquid to cover everything. Bring back to a simmer again.
  • Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Splash in a little olive oil before serving if desired.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Serve with crusty French bread and fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Ragu

Every now and again I like to whip up a batch of Ragu. No, not the stuff called Ragu that comes in a jar at the grocery store. But a meaty sauce made from ground beef and pork, soffrito, and tomato paste, sometimes duck or other poultry. One type of soffrito, the Italian type here, is similar to mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots), cooked in olive oil for at least 30 minutes. The meat I used is home ground lean beef chuck and home ground pork (I used a pork chop here). It’s perfectly fine to use pre-ground beef and pork. I’ve made Ragu and Bolognese many times, and this one is my favorite so far. It’s inspired by a recipe from Samin Nosrat, chef and author of ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat’. I changed a few things a bit from the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound coarsley ground lean beef (I ground beef chuck at home)
  • 1/2 pound coarsley ground lean pork (I ground a pork from a bone-in chop at home)
  • 1 cup white onions, fine chop
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled, fine chop
  • 1 cup celery, fine chop
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 cup beef stock or broth
  • 1 cup whole milk or half & half
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-inch strip of lemon zest
  • 3-inch strip of lemon zest
  • half a cinnamon stick
  • 3 tbsp tomatompaste
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground white or black pepper
  • Fresh basil, chiffonade, for service
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces pasta – rigatoni, penne, fettuccine, or tagliatelle – cooked al dente according to package directions.

Directions:

  • Heat a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. When hot, add about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the ground beef and ground pork to the pot. Cook, stirring and breaking up the meat until it gets browned, aboutb7-8 minutes. When browned, transfer the meat to a bowl.
  • Add the onions, celery, and carrots to the same pot and cook over medium heat. Add more oil, at least enough to almost cover the vegetables. Cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, about 25-30 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir into the vegetables.
  • Return the meat to the pan, and the pork bone if using. Increase the heat to high, and add the wine. Add the milk, stock, bay leaves, zests, and cinnamon stick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer. Simmer the sauce, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 1 1/2 hours on low.
  • Use a spoon or a ladle to skim off the excess fat as needed. Remove the bay leaves, the zest peels, the cinnamon stick, and the bone.
  • Toss some of the ragu in the cooked pasta of choice. Plate the pasta, add more ragu. Garnish with fresh chiffonade basil strips. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese at the table.

Filet Mignon, Au Poivre


Traditionally, I prepare my own birthday meal. No going out to some over-priced, over-rated restaurant that inevitably disappoints with mediocre food and, worst of all, shoddy customer service. Loretta and quipped recently, “Maybe someday well find a ‘favorite’ restaurant in this town”. So, in the meantime, I enjoy cooking, this dish is relatively easy and forgiving, and we really enjoy it…Steak au Poivre. In this recipe, Filet Mignon au Poivre for my birthday dinner!

My first choice, go-to-steak is a thick Ribeye, usually pan-seared and served with some fresh Pico de Gallo and a baked potato. This is my second favorite. In this venture, served with Sherried Mushrooms and my 12-Layer Au Gratin Potatoes.

Most of the Filet Mignons in the butcher case were only about 1 1/2 inches thick. I asked him to cut me one at least 2 inches thick…and was fortunate enough to get one 2 1/2 inches thick…even better!

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 12-ounce Filet Mignon, at least 2-inches thick, trimmed of any silver skin, tied with butcher twine
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Crushed black or white peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp shallots, chopped
  • 2 tbsp brandy, Cognac, or Gran Marnier (what I used here)
  • 1/4 cup beef stock
  • 1/4 cup cream

Directions:

  • Make sure the filet has come to room temperature, take out of the refrigerator about an hour before preparing.
  • Lightly coat all sides with Canola oil. Salt liberally with Kosher salt and cracked black or white pepper on top and bottom – I used white pepper here. Let sit for another 15 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Heat canola oil in a medium, oven safe, sauté pan (not non-stick if possible). Add butter butter. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add filet to pan. Sear the top and bottom for about 2 minutes on each side. Then, sear the sides for about 1-minute each side. Get a good brown, a crust all over.
  • Place pan with filet into preheated oven and cook for about 8 minutes (less if filet is thinner than 2 inches). Check temperature of filet with a meat thermometer. Approximately 125F for rare, 135F for medium rare, 145F for medium.
  • When filet is at desired temperature, remove from pan to a warmed plate, tent loosely with foil.
  • Immediately add brandy to pan (off the flame) to deglaze the pan. Use a lighter or match to ignite the brandy to burn off the alcohol (needless to say, stand back at arms length!). When the flames are gone, place pan over a medium flame and bring brandy to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the chopped shallots. Add the beef stock and continue to cook for about 2 minutes. Add the cream and continue cooking until liquid begins to thicken, about 2 minutes.
  • At this point, you can add the filet back to the pan and turn to coat, slice, and serve. Or, as I like to do, slice the filet (dry), reason if neccessary, then pour the pan sauce over the slices on a serving plate. Serve immediately or hold for a few minutes in a warm oven, loosely tented with foil.
  • Note – Of course, you can prepare this recipe with a Ribeye, NY Strip, Sirloin (or any tender cut steak). Cooking any steak paste medium will reduce the tenderness. Thinner cuts do not need to be finished in the oven.

Sherried Mushrooms

We make this elegant, simple recipe next to a steak or chop or just when we have a hankering for mushrooms. It really elevates the mushroom flavor without adding breading or stuffing. You can use cream sherry or, like I prefer, dry sherry. White button mushrooms or creminis are best. Be sure to trim the end of the stems as they can become a bit ‘woody’. Quarter or halve them depending on the size.

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 medium white or cremini mushrooms, stem trimmed, cut in quarters
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup dry or cream sherry
  • 1/4 cup beef stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, thin sliced (like in Goodfellas)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked white pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped chives

Directions:

  • Clean the mushrooms and cut in quarters
  • Heat the oil and butter in a small sauté pan over medium low heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes until just beginning to brown.
  • Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
  • Add sherry and bring to a simmer, stirring, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add the beef stock, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Stir in parsley and chives just before serving.

Haricot Verts, Country Style

Haricot Verts work superbly with a classic country green bean recipe. This thin variety of green beans cooked al dente, and paired with bacon and onions, can’t be beat! Cook them al dente (never mushy) first, then drop in an ice bath to stop cooking and maintain flavor. You can do this ahead of time. And, only 3 ingredients (not counting the S&P)!

Ingredients:

  • About 3 cups haricot verts (I used Trader Joe’s frozen brand)
  • 3 thick sliced bacon slices, 1/2 inch chop
  • 1/2 cup white onion, 1/2 inch chop
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Directions:

  • Place the frozen beans on a small pot of salted water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes. Check beans, they should be al dente and not mushy. Drain and immediately place beans in a bowl of ice water.
  • Cook chopped bacon in a medium sauté pan until beginning to brown. Leave about 1 tbsp of bacon grease in pan (drain the Excess). Add the chopped onions, turn down heat, and sauté, stirring until onions are translucent.
  • Add the blanched green beans and cover pan for about 5 minutes, tossing or stirring occasionally.
  • Season with pepper and a little salt. Careful with the salt, the bacon may already make it salty enough.
  • Place all in a serving bowl, toss, and serve immediately.

Capellini Pomodoro

Capellini Pomodoro

We make this simple, fresh vegetarian entree quite often. I believe it is a truly vegan dish as well (if you leave out the Parmesan of course). A couple of suggestions for success: use only fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes (you can use canned diced tomatoes but it just won’t taste the same), be sure not to burn the garlic, don’t “cook” the tomatoes, just heat them in the hot olive oil, be sure to season with salt and pepper, and don’t cook the angel hair (capellini) for more than 3 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp of thin sliced garlic
  • 1 cup of fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade*
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese + more for table
  • 5 ounces of angel hair pasta (capellini)
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

  • Cook capellini in rapidly-boiling, salted water for 3 minutes, drain, don’t rinse, return to pan and drizzle with olive oil, toss.
  • Heat olive oil in medium sauté pan over medium high heat. Add garlic. Cook for about 1 minute. Do not let brown or burn.
  • Add tomatoes and salt and pepper, heat through, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Tomatoes should not lose their shape or get mushy. Remove pan from heat.
  • Transfer hot, cooked pasta to large bowl. Toss pasta gently with garlic, tomato, and olive oil mixture. Add Parmesan cheese and basil and toss.
  • Serve immediately and sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese.
  • *chiffonade – roll up the basil leaves tightly, slice into ribbons.

A Basic Braise

Slow cooking has been around since the beginning of, well, cooking. And braising is typically something, usually a tough cut of meat, first sautéed or seared, then cooked, covered, very slow in some sort of liquid…wine, stock, water. Here is one example…my Braised Beef Short Ribs. Adding vegetables and fresh herbs of course enhances the flavor of the beef. In this case, it’s the ubiquitous mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery), fresh thyme, rosemary, garlic, chicken stock and dry sherry. Photo at end of recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 bone-in beef short ribs, about 2 lbs total
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of onions, rough chop
  • 1/2 cup carrots, peeled, rough chop
  • 1/2 cup celery, rough chop
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic, chopped
  • 2 small fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 medium fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 cup dry sherry
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

Directions

  • Take short ribs out of the refrigerator at least 1 hour prior to cooking. Generously season on all sides with Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  • Place a medium size Dutch oven or enameled cast iron pan over medium high heat. Add canola oil. When very hot, add the ribs and thoroughly brown on all sides. Do not crowd and be sure to get a good sear on them. Remove ribs to a plate. Discard most of the oil in the pan.
  • Add 2 tbsp of olive oil the the onions, carrots, and celery. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté for about 10 minutes without browning. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for about 30 seconds longer.
  • Add 1cup of sherry and the fresh herbs. Bring to simmer and cook, reducing the sherry, for about 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables, herbs, and liquid to a bow, set aside.
  • Return the browned ribs to the pan. Pour the vegetables and liquid over the ribs. Distribute the vegetables evenly over the top of the meat and sides. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat, cover, and place in 325 degree oven for about 2 hours. Uncover, raise heat to 350, and continue to cook for another 1 hour. Keep checking to make sure the liquid does not totally cook off. Add more water if neccessary.

Shrimp Scampi alla Risotto

My take on a couple of iconic bistro dishes: Risotto and Shrimp Scampi. It’s relatively easy to make (and clean up). This recipe is for an appetizer portion for 2-3 people. Above all, take your time with the Risotto ((don’t walk away!)…and, don’t be tempted to add cream. The creaminess in classic Risotto comes from using starchy Arborio rice. Be sure to taste and season when necessary. Don’t let risotto dry out. Don’t overlook the shrimp, they cook quickly.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup shallots, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I use Chardonnay)
  • 3 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Kosher salt & fresh ground white pepper
  • 1/2 pound large shrimp (16-20 count)
  • 1 tsp of seasoning (like Lawry’s), I use my own salt-free mix
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Kosher salt and white pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped

To prepare the Risotto

  • In a 2-qt saucepan, bring chicken stock to a simmer, keep hot over low heat.
  • In another 2-qt saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter and shallots. Add the wine, cook stirring for a few minutes to reduce a little. Add the hot chicken stock about 2 ounces at a time, stirring constantly until mostly absorbed. Repeat this until all the stock is gone, always stirring. Cook until the risotto is done al dente, about 20-30 minutes. Add more liquid (stock or water) to keep risotto creamy. Take off the heat. Add 1 tbsp butter and the Parmesan cheese and stir. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately or cover and keep warm.

To prepare the Scampi

  • Make sure the shrimp is dry. Season with seasoning mix.
  • Put 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp unsalted butter, and a sprinkle of crushed pepper flakes in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp, spreaded out evenly. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes then turn. Cook for another 1 minute. Add the garlic for 30 seconds. Add the wine and the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
  • Serve several shrimp over plated risotto. Drizzle with butter and garlic from pan.
  • Serve with crusty garlic bread.

Have everything prepped and ready to go before starting…mis en place!