Roasted Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

Butternut Squash Soup tastefoodButternut Squash, Apples, Cider, Spice 

There is something magical about roasted butternut squash. Its orange flesh softens into a sweet and nutty squidginess, which is easily transformed into a puree. It’s hard to believe something so rich and sugary can be loaded with nutrients and betacarotene, but so it is. One cup of butternut squash provides a glutton’s worth of Vitamins A, B, and C, as well as potassium, fiber and manganese. When roasted, its natural sugars are coaxed out and gently caramelized, accentuating the squash’s inherent nutty flavor – simply delicious with a pinch of salt. In this recipe, roasted butternut mingles with its fall buddies – apples, cider and loads of warm spices – yielding an essential autumn soup.

Spicy Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

Serve as a starter to any meal, including Thanksgiving dinner. If you are entertaining a crowd, consider small servings in little cups or demi-tasse as a light hors d’oeuvre. Pumpkin may be substituted for the squash. I prefer small hokkaido pumpkins.

Serves 4 to 6 in bowls or 8 to 12 in small cups.

1 medium butternut squash (or 1 large hokkaido pumpkin) about 2 pounds
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, cut in 1/2-inch dice
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Lightly brush the exposed flesh with olive oil. Place squash, cut-side-down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the flesh is fork tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened without coloring, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the apple, curry powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the squash and chicken stock. (There should be just enough stock to cover the squash and apples. If needed, add additional stock to cover). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until the apples are very soft, about 20 minutes.

Carefully puree the soup in batches in a food processor (or with an immersion blender). Return to the pot. The soup should be thick. Thin it to your desired consistency with the apple cider. Stir in the brown sugar, salt and pepper. Warm thoroughly over medium-low heat and taste for seasoning. Serve warm, garnished with fresh cilantro leaves.

Irish Beef Stew Encore

I posted this recipe for Irish Beef Stew last March, as a nod to St. Patrick’s day and all things Irish. In one year, the post with photo has made the rounds on the web, seemingly acquiring a life of its own, attracting a following, favorited, pinged, tweeted and pinned. It’s more popular than me. According to my year-end stats, Irish Beef Stew was the top ranked TasteFood blog post of 2012. Pretty impressive for a no-nonsense beef stew in a cast-iron green pot. Perhaps it’s due to  the bottle of Guinness dumped into the stock. No matter the case, now that it’s March once again, I share this deeply flavorful stew, fortified with stout and sturdy root vegetables. Who says rock stars need to be flashy and frivolous?

Irish Beef Stew

As most stews go, this is a humble and forgiving recipe. Add your favorite root vegetables and serve with mashed potatoes. Serves 6.

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 pounds beef chuck, excess fat trimmed, cut in 1 1/2 inch pieces
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cups stout beer
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
3 large carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 large yellow onion, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 large rutabaga, cut in 3/4-inch pieces
1 large parsnip, cut in 3/4-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in an oven-proof pot or Dutch oven. Season the beef all over with salt and pepper. Add beef in batches to pot in one layer, without overcrowding. Brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining beef. Return beef to pot and add the garlic. Saute 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook stirring, 1 minute. Add stock, beer, thyme, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. The meat should be just covered with liquid. If not, add additional stock or beer to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Transfer pot to oven. Bake until meat is tender, about 2 hours.
While the meat is cooking heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep skillet or large pot over medium heat. Add vegetables and lightly sprinkle with salt. Saute the vegetables until they brighten in color and begin to take on a golden hue, 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove beef from oven. Skim any fat on the surface of the liquid with a spoon. Add vegetables to the beef, stirring to combine. Return beef to the oven, uncovered. Bake one hour, stirring once or twice, until the sauce is slightly reduced, the vegetables are tender and the meat is fork-tender. Remove and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with mashed potatoes.

Round out your St. Patrick’s Day menu with these recipes from TasteFood:

avocado bruschetta tastefood

Avocado Bruschetta with Balsamic Syrup

Celery Root potatoes tf

Smashed Potatoes with Celery Root and Horseradish

stout cake tf
Chocolate Stout Pound Cake with Whiskey Cream

Cooking for your Health: Chicken Gumbo Light

Gumbo TasteFood~ Louisiana-style Chicken Gumbo ~

There are several reasons to make a gumbo this month. First off, gumbos are one-pot wonders, piping hot and loaded with spice to warm the belly on a cold day. They may be prepared in advance and reheated for a later meal, which is perfect fare for the ski cabin or a busy winter work week at home. Finally, gumbos originated in Louisiana, home to New Orleans and Mardi Gras, and this year Mardi Gras (or Carnival) falls in mid-February. What better way to feed a hungry crowd of revelers than with a bowl of bright and spicy Louisiana-style Gumbo?

There are many variations of gumbo, incorporating shellfish, poultry and/or sausage in a spicy soup thickened with a roux. For this month’s installment of Cooking for your Health, I’ve lightened up a  Chicken and Sausage Gumbo just in time for Carnival festivities. The result is a vibrant and deeply flavorful stew with less fat than the traditional gumbo. White chicken meat and light turkey (or chicken) sausage stand in for the protein. I’ve crumbled the sausage in order to stretch it a long way while still capturing its essence in the flavor of the soup, and I’ve kept the roux to a minimum, ensuring color and flavor while relying on the okra as an additional thickener. Don’t hold back on the spices, though, and be sure to add extra hot sauce in the end. This stew is meant to spicy – enough to get you partying in the streets on Mardi Gras.

Chicken Gumbo

If you would like to further reduce the fat, the sausage may be omitted; add 2 teaspoons smoked paprika for extra flavor.

Serves 4 to 6

4 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil, divided
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch pieces
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound turkey or chicken sausage, crumbled
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large celery stalk, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups chicken stock
1 (28-ounce) can crushed Italian plum tomatoes
2 cups frozen sliced okra*
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco or hot sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

Chopped green onions for garnish
Cooked rice (brown or white)

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch-oven or pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to pot in one layer without overcrowding and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pot and brown sausage over medium heat. Transfer to another plate. Drain off fat from the pot. Add 2 tablespoons oil and flour. Cook, stirring, until roux turns light brown in color. Very carefully add the onion, celery and bell peppers (the pan will spatter). Saute for 1 minute. Add garlic, paprika, thyme, oregano and cayenne. Stir to coat the vegetables and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Carefully add chicken stock, and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add tomatoes, okra, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Return chicken and sausage to the pot. Cover and simmer for 30  minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add sugar if needed. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with green onions and serve with rice.

*Note: Fresh okra, when available, may be substituted for the frozen okra. Add 2 cups sliced fresh okra with the onion, celery and peppers.

Shrimp Puttanesca

shrimp puttanesca x
It took me a long while to make puttanesca – that feisty Italian tomato sauce packed with briny, sharp, spicy, fishy flavors. I confess it was the anchovies. While I don’t mind anchovies, I don’t liberally cook with them either, harboring a childhood timidity toward their pungent fishiness. I should know better: Anchovies are a magical ingredient, a bright star in the cuisines of the Mediterranean and Asia (think fish sauce). When used with restraint, anchovies melt into a dish, amplifying flavor and producing an elusive umami quality that keeps us digging in for more. So in the spirit of the New Year and a kick in the derriere, I made this puttanesca-inspired sauce, and now I am smitten. Goodness knows why I waited so long.

Shrimp Puttanesca

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
20 to 24 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Salt
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovy filets, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1 pound grape tomatoes, halved if large
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata or oil-cured olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp in one layer and lightly season with salt. Cook until pink on both sides and barely cooked through the centers (they will continue to cook in the sauce), about 4 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the same skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, olives, white wine, tomato paste, capers, and black pepper. Cook until the tomatoes break down and the sauce thickens, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently to break up the tomatoes.

Nestle the shrimp into the sauce and simmer until thoroughly cooked and heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Serve warm with crusty bread.

 

Shellfish Stew with Red Wine and Fennel

cioppino fish stew tastefood

~ Shellfish Stew with Red Wine and Fennel ~

Enough with the meat already. It’s time to lighten things up. January is the month of bowl-food in our home. Fancy holiday meals, featuring ribs and roasts, sauces and reductions, have taken a New Year’s time out, replaced by vessels brimming with steaming soups and stews, risottos and and noodle concoctions. And while meat is welcome, right now I am craving the lightness of fresh seafood. Served in a bowl, of course.

Shellfish Stew with Red Wine and Fennel

Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juices
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups medium-bodied red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, or to taste
18 littleneck clams (or mussels)
18 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
6 to 8 large sea scallops
2 cooked crabs, legs cracked, flesh removed from bodies

Fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Heat oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and fennel. Cook, stirring until vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, wine, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If necessary add a spoonful of sugar. Add clams. Cover pot and cook until clam shells open, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp and sea scallops. Cook, partially covered until just cooked through. Add the crab legs and meat. Continue to cook until thoroughly heated. Discard any unopened clams. Serve in warm bowls garnished with parsley. Accompany with crusty baguette or garlic bread.

Beef Stew with Cognac and Red Wine

Beef Stew TasteFood 1

~ Spirited Beef Stew with Cognac and Red Wine ~

For many days I’ve been saying that it’s Beef Bourguignon weather, so I finally stopped the talk and got cooking. I made this stew over the weekend, and the weather did not relent, gifting us with a deluge of rain worthy of an ark – and a cognac and wine infused beef stew. If you have to experience a torrent of rain, I dare say this kind of food makes it enjoyable – especially when accompanied by a creamy potato gratin, a robust bottle of Zinfandel wine, and a crackling fire.

Beef Stew with Cognac and Red Wine

Ideally start the stew a day ahead of serving. Not only does the flavor improve with time, it allows the fat to rise to the top as it cools. The next day, lift off the solidified fat from the surface before you reheat the stew. Serves 6.

Stew:
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cognac
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (750-ml) bottle full-bodied red wine
1 cup beef or chicken stock
4 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Vegetables:
10 ounces pearl onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, ends trimmed, halved if large
2 to 3 large carrots, peeled, cut on the diagonal 1/2-inch thick
Fresh thyme sprigs

1. Pre-heat the oven to 300°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add the beef to the pan in one layer without overcrowding. Brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and repeat until all of the beef is browned.
2. Add the cognac to the pot and deglaze, stirring up any brown bits. Reduce by half, then pour the cognac over the reserved beef.
3. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the carrots, onion, and garlic to the pot. Saute over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften without browning, about 4 minutes. Return the beef and cognac to the pot. Add the wine, stock, thyme, bay leaves, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover the pot aand transfer to oven. Bake in oven until the meat is very tender, stirring occasionally, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
4. Strain the liquid from the stew into a saucepan. Separate the chunks of meat from the vegetables and return to the Dutch oven. Press down on the remaining vegetables in the sieve to extract as much juice into the drained liquid as possible. Discard the vegetables.
5. Boil the liquid until the sauce is reduced by about 1/3 and somewhat thickened. As the sauce boils, skim the fat from the surface (if you are making the stew one day in advance, you may skip this step since the fat will be removed after refrigeration). Stir in the sugar and season to taste with the salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the beef. (At this point the stew may be made one day in advance. Cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight. One hour before serving, remove from refrigerator and proceed with recipe).
6. One hour before serving the stew, prepare the vegetables. Blanch the onions in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute; drain. When cool enough to handle, remove the skins; set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until light golden, about 3 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Steam or saute the carrots until bright in color and al dente. Transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms.
7. Skim any collected fat from the surface of the stew. Heat over medium-low heat on the cooktop to loosen the stew. Add the onions, mushrooms and carrots. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until stew and vegetables are hot. To serve, ladle the stew into warm bowls and garnish with fresh thyme.

Lambs + Clams Round 2: Smoky Clam, Chorizo and Butternut Squash Stew with Saffron Aioli and Fried Oyster Croutons

Lambs + Clams Contest – Round 2
Ingredient Challenge: Rappahannock River Oysters and Clams

It’s not often, er, ever, that I receive a box of East coast shellfish delivered to my California front door – that is until 10 days ago when a special delivery box arrived with 4 dozen pristine oysters and middle neck clams from Rappahannock River Oysters in Virgina. They were as fresh as could be, cold and moist, smelling of seaweed and sand. A taste of the East lay at my feet. This was simply not fair.

~
While I now live in California, and before that called Europe my home, I am a New Englander at heart. And I miss it. This is evident by how I gravitate to environments and sensations that remind me of a place I haven’t called home since 1991. I crave 4 distinct seasons, and reminisce wintry blizzards, humid summers, and the smell of fallen leaves with chimney smoke hanging in the air. I seek vignettes suspiciously similar to a traditional New England setting, old structures and neighborhoods steeped in history, creaking with wood, lined with cobblestones. And the sea must never be far away. Nothing epitomizes New England to me more than the seashore – especially on a chilly foggy day laden with mist, with the cries of seagulls and the clanging of buoys punctuating the sound of the wind and waves.

So there I was, a week ago, with 2 nets of memories before me in the form of shellfish, still moist from their beds, gritty with sand, smelling of brine and salt. It transported me to New England, and I knew that I would have to do them justice. I headed to my kitchen – the heart of our family home and life, no matter the coast or the country. The place where I go to recreate memories, carry on traditions and evoke sensations of time and place.

The oysters and clams were ridiculously fresh, and I knew I had to get to work fast. (OK, I admit a few oysters were instantly slurped straight up with a squeeze of lemon and dash of Tabasco. Hey, you would’ve too). I thought about how to create one recipe showcasing both oysters and clams, drawing inspiration from the East coast, while embracing my adopted West coast sensibilities – with a touch of the Mediterranean. I am a fan of chowders and cioppinos, and I decided on a stew, with layers of flavor and texture. It’s autumn after all, the season of layers – layers of clothing, layers of bedding and layers of nourishing, sating ingredients in our meals.

Each ingredient would stand out yet complement the whole of the stew, with a balance of sweet, smoke, heat and brine. I addressed each ingredient separately before uniting them, taking care to prevent a muddle. I browned the chorizo slices first for color and flavor. They would be added to the stew in the end, preventing softening and loss color by overcooking in the soup. Their legacy, the flavorful oil, remained in the pot infusing the stew with heat and smoke. I sautéed planks of sweet butternut squash in the oil. This step ensured the squash were thoroughly cooked and slightly caramelized. The chunks would be added in the end, like the chorizo, avoiding excessive mushiness and preserving their brilliant saffron color. Roasting the red pepper coaxed out its natural sugars and imparted another layer of smoky flavor to the soup. The clams cooked in the stew, opening and releasing their briny juices in the stock. Finally, I fried the oysters, first soaked in buttermilk and Sriracha, then rolled in cornmeal, ensuring super-crispy results with a playful bite. They would garnish the stew as a riff on croutons one might add to a Mediterranean seafood stew with a definite nod to the American south. A spoonful of saffron scented aioli added a creamy finish to the soup with the kick of heat.


Smoky Clam, Chorizo and Butternut Squash Stew with Saffron Aioli and Fried Oysters Croutons

Serves 4.

Aioli:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce

Oyster Croutons:
16 shucked oysters
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Stew:
Extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 small butternut squash, cut in chunks, approximately 1 1/2-inch square, 1/2-inch thick
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 sweet red pepper, roasted, peeled, cut in 1/4 inch julienne
2 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
12 to 16 middle neck clams
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Vegetable oil for frying
Fresh chopped Italian parsley leaves for garnish

For the aioli:
Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

For the oysters:
Place the oysters in a small bowl. Whisk buttermilk and Sriracha in a separate bowl. Pour over the oysters to cover and set aside. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper together in another bowl and set aside.

For the stew:
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage slices, in batches, and brown on both sides, turning once. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Add the squash, in batches, to the skillet and pan fry until golden on both sides, turning once. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil from the pan. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and onion. Sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add red pepper, garlic, paprika and red chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits. Add tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme. Simmer, uncovered, until somewhat thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Add clams. Cover pot and cook, shaking occasionally, until clam shells open, about 10 minutes. (Discard any unopened clam shells). Add salt to desired taste.

While the stew is simmering, fill a large heavy saucepan with 2 inches of vegetable oil. Heat over medium-high heat until a deep fry thermometer reads 350 F. Remove the oysters from the buttermilk, shaking off any excess liquid. Dredge in cornflour. Fry in batches, without overcrowding, until golden and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel

Ladle the stew into warm serving bowls. Top each bowl with 4 oysters. Spoon a little saffron aioli into the center of the soup. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

Harvest Vegetable Soup

Finely fall has arrived in California! When I am not doing my happy dance, then I am making hearty soups and stews exuding warmth and spice – just like this:

Harvest Vegetable Soup
Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds trimmed, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 15-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup bulgur or farro
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2-inch chunk of Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano rind
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped kale leaves, tough ribs removed
Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese for garnish

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened, 2 minutes. Add fennel and butternut squash. Saute 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, stock, bulgur, bay leaf, thyme, oregano and cheese. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, covered, until vegetables and grains are tender, about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning. Stir in the kale and simmer briefly until brightened in color and wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls. Serve garnished with grated cheese.

If you like this, you might enjoy these warming recipes from TasteFood:
Lentil Soup
Minestrone
Black Bean, Sausage, Butternut Squash Chili

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with Yogurt, Lemon and Garlic

If you are wishing for an easy and rewarding rustic dinner then look no further than this roast chicken. A whole roasted chicken is  a weeknight wonder, yielding a bounty of food with little effort. It will fill your home with comforting and tantalizing aromas as it cooks, amply feed a family of 4 with leftovers for lunch, and bestow you with the goods for a rich and restorative stock.

I roast a chicken nearly weekly in our home. For variety, it’s easy to change it up with a rub or marinade depending on the mood or season. Feeling spicy? Then try a marinade with Sriracha and serve over a bed of couscous. Prefer something cozy and traditional for a grey and rainy day? Then keep it simple with olive oil, rosemary, thyme and a pan gravy. If you are in the mood for exotic spice and aroma, like I was the other day, then try this recipe which infuses the bird with yogurt, lemon, garlic and ginger.

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with Yogurt, Lemon and Garlic 

Serve with baby potatoes roasted in the pan juices. Serves 4 to 6.

For the chicken:
1 whole free-range or organic chicken, 4 to 5 pounds
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup whole milk Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

For the potatoes:
2 pounds baby potatoes, halved if large
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt

Thirty minutes before roasting, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 425 F. Rinse the chicken all over and inside the cavity with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Rub the paste all over the outside of the chicken, between the skin and breast, and inside the cavity.  Place, breast-side up, in the center of a baking pan or oven proof skillet.

Prepare the potatoes: Toss the potatoes, olive oil, paprika and salt in a bowl. Scatter around the chicken. Place the pan in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Using tongs, carefully turn the chicken over, breast-side down. Stir the potatoes. Return to oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and once again turn the chicken over, breast-side up. Return to oven and cook until chicken is thoroughly cooked and thigh juices run clear when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let rest 10 to 15 minutes before carving. While the chicken is resting, return potatoes to oven to keep warm. Carve the chicken and return to skillet, nestling the meat between the potatoes in the pan juices.

Irish Beef Stew

I admit that I usually don’t get all hyped up about St. Patrick’s Day, but I do get excited about unique ingredients for cooking. So, as promised, here is the second post inspired by a bottle of Guinness Stout (that we somehow managed not to drink this week) which is a wonderful excuse to cook an Irish-themed meal for St. Patrick’s Day. Irish Beef Stew with Guinness is a no-nonsense kind of stew that you would expect from your mother or grandmother. Fortified with stout beer and sturdy root vegetables, this hearty no-frills stew will warm and comfort you – just like a woolen fleece on a misty grey day.

Irish Beef Stew

As most stews go, this is a humble and forgiving recipe. Add your favorite root vegetables and serve with mashed potatoes. Serves 6.

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 pounds beef chuck, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cups stout beer
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 to 3 large carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium rutabaga, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 medium parsnip, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or ovenproof pot with a lid. Season the beef all over with salt and pepper. Brown the beef in batches, without overcrowding, 6 to 8 minutes, turning as needed. Transfer the meat to a plate and repeat with the remaining beef.
2. Add the garlic to the same pot and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Return all of the beef to the pot and stir to coat. Add the stock, beer, thyme, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. The meat should be just covered with liquid. If not, add additional stock or beer to cover. Bring the liquid to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook until meat the is tender, about 2 hours.
3. While the meat is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep skillet or large pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, rutabaga, and parsnip and lightly season with salt. Saute the vegetables until they brighten in color and begin to take on a golden hue, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Remove the stew from the oven and skim any fat on the surface of the liquid with a spoon. Stir in the vegetables and return the pot to the oven, uncovered. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the sauce is slightly reduced, the vegetables are tender, and the meat is fork-tender, about 1 hour. Remove the stew from the oven and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with mashed potatoes.