Busy Cooking Week Favorites

Three Horses Two Blankets

Louise Ellison: I see why they call this place Hell on Wheels. Rough men, loose women, whiskey, sin and guns.
Sean McGinnis: Do you not believe in a higher power?
Cullen: Yes, sir. I wear it on my hip.

This past week has been filled with good food and to start with a Saturday casual dinner party featuring Nantucket-style thick chicken chowder, cheddar biscuits, a lovely salad prepared by one of the guests and for dessert “birthday brownies” and ice cream.  No pictures/no time for photos except one of the birthday girl and I’m sure that she wouldn’t love her mug posted.  The chowder was adapted from Jasper White’s version in 50 Chowders a great dinner to make ahead then adding in the cream while reheating.  Serve garnished with sliced green onions and additional crispy bacon bits.   

 Chicken Chowder -Marti's Parti 2

Sunday we enjoyed a wonderful grilled porterhouse steak seasoned then marinated in a great chimichurri sauce.  Sides, grill roasted potatoes and a good old-fashioned wedge salad with a gorgonzola dressing. 

Porterhouse with Chimichurri-2

Monday, perky cheese stuffed baked chilies rellenos served with Spanish-style rice with tomatoes and green chilies, something about that dinner and watching “cowboys, Indians and railroad workers” (Hell on Wheels) and I think that Mr. Bohannon would have enjoyed the chilies, but of course he would have added a plate of beans and a thick steak and a plate of beans to the menu.

Chilies Rellenos III

I guess the most memorable dinner of the week for Michael was Tonkatsu (best pork chop according to him) a popular Japanese crispy “schnitzel” served with a very thick tangy sauce that Michael just loved.  Simple enough to make, the boneless center cut chops that I bought were on the thick side and I ended up pounding them down a bit after a couple of hours of brining.  The sauce was a simple blend of chili sauce (I was out of ketchup), Dijon mustard, the thick version of original Worcestershire sauce, and thick premium soy.  Little additions of sesame seeds, and splashes of mirin and Japanese sake were a couple of my add-ins. There are so many versions to explore pick one and make it your own…Michael says that this is his new “A-1”- style of sauce and not to waste a drop.

Tonkatsu with Sauce 2   Tonkatsu 2  Sesame Noodle Salad-Genius Food 52

My simple highlight of the week was of course the homemade sausage and a couple of loaves of homemade bread, while neither process were sooo simple it sure was rewarding comfort food.

Homemade Bread II     Sausage RES II

French Lentil Salad and Merguez Sandwiches
Salad of Lentilles du Puy –slightly adapted from David Lebovitz
About 6 servings
I cooked the vegetables separately as I do prefer them just tender and highly visible as opposed to mushy vegetables and since I didn’t have fresh fennel I added a couple of pinches of prepared fennel spice that I keep on hand.  A bit of fresh chopped tarragon and fresh parsley for garnish.  A last-minute thought for me was to serve over mixed baby kale with a fresh from NC orchards sliced with a drizzle of additional dressing. 

French Lentil Salad     Merguez Sausage II

For the lentils:  *Optional cook the vegetables with the lentils
1¼ cup (250 gr) French green lentilles du Puy
Water or vegetable broth to cover beans by 3-4 inches
1 bay leaf
all the tender celery inner leaves stems (remove after cooking)
a few springs of fresh thyme
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
1 bulb of fennel (optional), finely diced
freshly ground pepper

For the vinaigrette:
Note double the dressing and add about ½ teaspoon – 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard.

1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, peeled and minced

1. Rinse the lentils and remove any foreign matter.
2. Transfer the lentils to a large saucepan then cover with a copious amount of water, which should cover the lentils by at least 3-4 inches. Add the bay leaf and thyme.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add a bit of salt, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are just tender, adding more water if necessary. Be sure not to overcook them.  I found my lentils a little underdone after the cooking time mentioned in the recipe, I just let them sit in the remaining hot broth off heat and they absorbed more of the broth and softened to my liking and still remained whole.
4. While the lentils are cooking, heat a few teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet and add the carrots, onions, and fennel (if using). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently until tender. Set aside.
5. In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients for the vinaigrette.
6. When the lentils are done, drain them well, and then toss them in the vinaigrette with the cooked vegetables. Stir a few times to release the steam. Taste and season with more salt, pepper, and olive oil if desired. Remove bay leave and thyme sprigs.

Serve warm or at room temperature.
Cooked lentils will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. They can be reheated in a pan on the stove top or in a microwave.


Braised French Green Lentils Herbes De Provence

Braised French Lentils with Egg and PancettaV

Mangez bien.

On the other hand, should I start with the absolute best comfort food beyond pasta that I’ve had lately?  Certainly not as that is more involved than my veggie plate today.  Beautiful braised mixed French lentils, since I got lazy and tossed all the lentils into one jar, works rather well as you get a good combination of bean textures, French greens take a bit longer to cook, 40-50 minutes. I had six nice healthy leaves of Swiss chard left and decided to finish that off and in a classic way add a poached or fried egg to my dish.  I love my 6-minute egg so I’ll probably go that way.  A dusting of salt, pepper and a splash of white balsamic vinegar a perfect lunch.  Serve with a French Baguette and wedges of brie cheese.  A good white Bordeaux is what I chose for a wine.

Braised French Lentils with Egg and Pancetta IV

Braised French Green Lentils with Chard, Pancetta & Poached Egg

Serves 4 *Reserve 6 leaves red chard sliced into 1-inch wide ribbons (trim most of the tough red stem, but include 1-2 inches of the stems closest to the leaf) to add the last 10 minutes of braising time

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices thick cut bacon or pancetta, diced
½ medium red onion diced
1 small shallot, minced
3 medium carrots  diced
1 small celery heart and leaves minced
1 cup mixed French green and brown lentils
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
pinches of Herbes de Provence
3 sprigs fresh thyme, minced (if thyme is the young tender leaves mince the whole stems, if the stems are a bit tougher remove thyme leaves and mince)
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
splashes of white wine to deglaze the sautéed vegetables
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 or 2 poached or fried eggs per person (place over each serving of braised lentils)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish

Sauté the bacon and remove crispy bits to paper towels, add the EVOO and all of the minced vegetables and herbs sauté until tender.  Deglaze with white wine, add lentils, broth and season with salt and pepper simmer until lentils are almost tender then add the chard and simmer until lentils are done.  Finish with a drizzle the vinegar and top with egg and parsley.