Sunday, November 20, 2011

Roasted Mushrooms over Creamy Polenta

I would never lie to you.  You understand that every recipe I post here can't be the most amazing recipe ever, right?  Of course I don't post stuff I make that I don't like, I do have some standards.

But there's a bell curve at work here where a couple posts land into the "recipes I'd rather forget" category, most things fall in the "pretty great" category, and a special handful land in the "ferociously spectacular" group.

So, knowing that I am truthful on this blog, please listen carefully: without a doubt, this is at the tippy top of the last group.  It's K-I-L-L-E-R.  Ridiculously simple, stunningly gorgeous, and exceptionally nutritious.  Make it.  Serve it with roasted Brussels sprouts and fresh pomegranate seeds.  I guarantee you will be satisfied or your money back.

Roasted Mushrooms over Creamy Polenta, adapted from Rachael Ray
Serves 4

1 package crimini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced thick
1 package white button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced thick
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil, salt, and pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup corn meal (or polenta)
1/2 cup roasted squash puree (canned pumpkin is OK too)
flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Spread your mushrooms, onion, and garlic on a large baking sheet, drizzle with a healthy splash of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 15 minutes.  Add balsamic vinegar and roast another 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are all browned.

Heat your stock until boiling then quickly whisk in the corn meal.  Reduce heat to low and continue stirring another minute or two.  Add squash puree and whisk more.  You want it to be a creamy consistency, so add more cornmeal or stock to make it so.

Serve mushrooms over polenta and garnish with parsley.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Vegetarian Lunch Meat
TWO YEARS AGO:  Quinoa Stuffed Squash

Friday, November 18, 2011

Green Bean Casserole with Fried Onions

I've never really been too excited about Thanksgiving food. It's all just hot mush, really. So I end up eating mostly appetizers, lefse, Grandma's cranberry sauce, and wine. Which, when you think about it, really isn't a meal to complain about.

But this year I'm having the strange desire to cook a proper Thanksgiving meal. If I did, it wouldn't include turkey, boxed stuffing mix, nor canned green bean casserole with that horrible cream of crap soup.

It would, however, probably include some kind of fish (like this), some kind of potatoes (like these), a fancy dressing (like this, but maybe with wild mushrooms, too), a winter white salad, and this AMAZING made-from-scratch green bean casserole with homemade crispy fried onions.

99% of this casserole is super easy. But I'm not going to sugar-coat this...frying onions is gross, smelly, and dirty. My house is going to reek of fried onions until Christmas. They're so ridiculously delicious though, that it's totally worth it. I wish I would have fried about 3 times as many, because there's no way I'm doing it again this year.

I ate this casserole topped with a poached egg and some of that winter white salad, which is nearly halfway to my dream Thanksgiving menu! It actually did prompt me to give thanks for nutritious and delicious food like this.

Green Bean Casserole with Fried Onions
Makes 4 large servings

For the sauce:
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
1 quart whole milk
1 cup shredded fontina cheese, or other mild melting cheese
salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

For the casserole:
1/2 onion, diced fine (mine was red)
1 package crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
1 colander full of fresh green beans, chopped into bite-sized pieces

For the topping:
1 large onion, sliced into long thin strips (mine was a red onion, and I only used half)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
light oil - not olive oil, for frying (about 1 cup), I used canola oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

First, make your sauce by melting the butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and let it cook for 2 minutes. Add milk, whisking constantly and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until it coats the back of a spoon. Stir in shredded cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Taste it to make sure it's good.

Then, in a large skillet, saute your onion in some olive oil or butter until soft. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until they brown. Add green beans, salt, and pepper and cook until green beans start to soften, about 5 minutes. I added 1 Tbsp of water and covered the pan for a couple of minutes to finish cooking the beans.

Mix together your sauce and green beans (you may not need all your sauce, use your best judgment) and pour in a casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes, or until hot all the way through and bubbling.

While the casserole is in the oven, put cornstarch and salt in a large ziploc bag. Add your sliced onions and shake until they're all coated. Heat your oil until shimmering. Add onions and cook until they start to turn dark. Remove onions from oil and drain on a kitchen or paper towel. Sprinkle with more salt while still hot. Spread fried onions over green bean casserole fresh from the oven and serve immediately.

TWO YEARS AGO: Kale and Chard Panade

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

Just when I thought there couldn't possibly be another way for me to enjoy sweet potatoes, I Hasselback'd them and now my orange crush shows no indication of slowing down.

Hasselback potatoes are named after a restaurant in Sweden. Presumably, slicing potatoes thin and roasting them up was invented there. They're also called accordion potatoes, for obvious reasons. It makes potatoes crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. And, could there be anything more fun to serve at a dinner party? It's a great way to snazz up a plain old baked potato for entertaining.

A simple Google search proves I'm not the first one to try the method on a sweet potato. Oh well - I don't mind that I'm not the most original cook in the world. As long as something tasty ends up on the plate, I'm happy. These potatoes are very simple (especially if you have a sharp knife), impressive to serve to company, and taste great.

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

1 sweet potato per person
olive oil, salt, and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Using a very sharp knife, slice 3/4 of the way through the potatoes as thinly as possible. It's OK if you accidentally cut all the way through (I did). Cover with olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Roast 35-40 minutes or until crispy on the outside and cooked all the way through.

ONE YEAR AGO: Cheesy Stuffed Squash

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Oven-Dried Apple Chips

How is it almost mid-November already? I wrote the date today at work and nearly choked when I realized how fast time has warped forward. I feel old when I say stuff like that, but it's true.

Even though fall is waving goodbye and winter is barreling towards us, I'm still in an apple frenzy. I've used up all the beauties I picked from my 94-year old Grandpa Art's trees in muffins, soup, or applesauce. And I wasn't sick of apples yet, so when I found more Haralsons at my local grocery store for only 99 cents per pound, I pounced.

Every night, I've been making batches of these apple chips, searching for the perfect method. I have tried them many different ways - cooking on parchment, on tinfoil, making slices thicker, thinner and every time they stuck to the pan. I finally put some cooking spray on the sheet and it solved all my problems.

Everyone who has tried these apple chips thinks they are AWESOME, and I have to agree! They're crunchy and sweet and super simple. If you're the potato chip lovin' type of person, I recommend trying these as a healthier substitute.

Oven-Dried Apple Chips

3 apples, cored and sliced to 1/8 inch thickness
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 225 degrees.

Mix sugar and cinnamon together. I have a nice little shaker I use for this, but it's not necessary.

Lightly spray baking sheets with cooking spray or brush with oil. Arrange apple slices in a single layer. Sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Bake for 75 minutes or until they're starting to get golden brown. Turn off the oven heat and leave them in there for another 60 minutes or do what I do and just leave them in the oven overnight. They're ready to pack up for lunch in the morning.

ONE YEAR AGO: Mushroom Souffle

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chard and Artichoke Stuffed Chicken

Last weekend was the last hurrah for local farmer's markets. I went to Kingfield on Sunday to stock up, and tonight I wanted to stuff everything I got from the market into a meal fit for entertaining.

I got three bunches of rainbow chard at the market. I couldn't find my favorite green veggie, kale, so I settled for the chard instead. If chard and kale were sisters, kale would be the interesting but ugly older sister, and chard would be the boring yet beautiful younger sister.

Rainbow chard really is gorgeous, but I don't think it has as deep and rich a flavor, nor as chewy and substantial texture as kale. Nevertheless, it's green and good for you so I mixed it with sauteed onion and artichokes and stuffed it in some chicken breasts with goat cheese.

Then I used an orange squash (I think it was an ambercup variety) for a salad. Remember back in school when you learned about how the Native Americans used the whole buffalo and nothing went to waste? That's how I felt about this squash. I roasted up the flesh for my salad, then picked the seeds out of the goop and toasted them up with salt and cayenne pepper to top my salad. Pomegranate seeds, more goat cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette rounded out this pretty little salad.

I got so distracted by hosting dinner that I forgot to photograph the chicken right out of the oven, so this photo is when it's nearly gone. It was such a classy meal to serve to company. It was easy to make, too. Best of all, it tasted great.

Chard and Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Serves 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 medium onion, diced fine
1 bunch rainbow chard or kale, stems discarded and leaves chopped
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
4 Tbsp fresh goat cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and lightly oil a casserole dish.

In a medium skillet over medium high heat, sweat your onion in a couple Tbsp olive oil or butter for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Add chopped chard or kale and stir. Add balsamic vinegar and a splash of water. Let cook until chard is wilted and soft. Add chopped artichokes and stir to heat through, then remove from heat.

Use a sharp knife to split your chicken breasts open. Lightly coat all over with olive oil and season all over with salt and pepper. Place in casserole dish.

Put 1 Tbsp crumbled goat cheese inside each split chicken breast, then add the chard/artichoke mixture. Bake 18-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.