Start St. Pat’s right with beef stew

I admit if I really wanted to do St. Patrick’s Day right I would have made corned beef and cabbage, but beef stew sounded better.

Guinness beef stew ingredients.

I found an ideally titled recipe for Guinness beef stew and thought this would be the perfect time to make it. Then, I looked at the recipe and found its ingredients, aside from the Guinness, to not really be my tastes.

So, I started looking for what would be my tastes and found that I didn’t see a single beef stew recipe that looked up my alley. Then, I just decided to make my own recipe.

The ingredients were all the things I thought would be in my ideal beef stew and then just added Guinness to that.

Mercifully, it worked perfectly. Well, again, to my tastes.

My only mistake was a tad too many potatoes. I wanted to clip up the three large russets we had and uh, that made for a pretty potato-y stew. But there are worse things.

It was time consuming, but that was expected. And it’s not very difficult or active time so that’s OK too. All in all, it’s just a good weekend dish.

Beer and beef, what could be better?!

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. beef chunks
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 T. oil
  • 3 small to medium onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 can or ½ pint diced tomatoes
  • 1 c. flour
  • 20 oz Guinness
  • 4 c. broth (any will do)
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 parsnip, chopped
  • 3 medium potatoes, chopped
  • 4 celery, chopped
  • 1 ½ c. frozen peas
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 t. dried oregano
  • Parsley, chopped

Directions

Heat Dutch oven over medium heat and add 1 to 2 T. oil. Brown beef chunks 5 to 10 minutes, adding salt and pepper as you stir. Add onions and cook another 5 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook another 1 to 2 minutes.

Add flour and stir it in until mixed 1 to 2 minutes more.

Slowly add Guinness and broth, and cook until boiling. Reduce heat, cover, and cook on the stove top for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 325 degrees.

After about 45 minutes, add parsnips, potatoes, carrots, and celery to the Dutch oven. Cover again and cook in the oven for an hour and a half or so.

Add Worcestershire sauce, oregano, parsley, and peas. Cook in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and enjoy!

Fun times on Fish Fry-day

Lent has begun. Like many lapsed Catholics, I still generally keep track of the beginning of the Lenten season and its many holy days even though I no longer follow those traditions.

Still, this felt like as good a time as any to have a fish fry for those who do go without meat on Fridays during Lent. And anyway, I love fish and chips.

Fish fry ingredients.

I’ve generally avoided making it, though, as I’m bad at deep frying since I so rarely do it, and because I’ve not had good luck at finding a good batter. I’d like to tell you that my attempt this week went off without any hitches and I’ll now be doing Fish Fry-days every week, but dear readers, that was not the case.

The nadir was when I spilled hot oil on my shirt (but avoided burning myself badly!) and dropped a fish fillet on the floor. The peak was high, though. The beer batter was divine, my choice to use Alaskan pollock was a good one, and the fish fry was ultimately a delicious success.

Aside from being generally clumsy, I also, uh, tried to do too much, trying a baked fish recipe and a fried fish one on the same night, each with their own side. And doing all this mid-week after a couple of busy, hectic weeks.

But I’m not giving up.

After all, maybe it just was not my week to try new things (she writes as she just spent an hour and a half walking because she still doesn’t know her way around campus).

Fish Fry-day!!!

Here’s what I did, following a Serious Eats recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. cornstarch
  • 1 (12 oz) can beer (ale or lager, I used Hamm’s because I’m classy)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 to 1 ½ lbs. skinless white fish fillets (like cod, haddock, or pollock)
  • Pepper, to taste
  • About 6 c. canola oil for frying
  • Malt vinegar, for serving (optional)

Directions

Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, beer, egg, and salt in in a medium bowl, and stir until there are no lumps. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 hours.

Begin to heat the oil in a large Dutch oven to bring temperature to 375 degrees over medium heat.

Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season with pepper, and any additional salt as desired.

Once the batter is ready, drop each fillet into the batter bowl. Once temperature of oil reaches 375 degrees, pick up a fillet with a pair of tongs and carefully place in the hot oil (the recipe recommends holding it in the oil for a few seconds but with my coated Dutch oven, nothing stuck if I didn’t hold it), and repeat with as many fillets will fit without overcrowding.

Cook for about 5 minutes until golden, turning as necessary and adjusting heat as necessary, and then use tongs to remove to paper towels to drain. Repeat the process with remaining fillets as necessary until all are cooked.

Serve with malt vinegar and chips, as desired, and enjoy!

Poland, pickles, perfection

Monday marks my favorite holiday, Casimir Pulaski Day. Growing up in Illinois, we had two unique school holidays, and this was one of them thanks to a large Polish population. The other, of course in the Land of Lincoln, was that we celebrated Lincoln’s birthday specifically not Presidents Day generally.

I have written in the past about how awesome Pulaski was (while making Polish foods) and how he warrants recognition for his role in the Revolutionary War.

Especially in these times, it’s important to remember and recognize that immigrants were playing a role in this country going back to literally its founding.

If you want a refresher about the “Father of the American Cavalry,” check out his Wikipedia page.

To celebrate the man, his contributions, and my own (one-quarter) Polish heritage, I try to find something to make from his home country each Pulaski Day. This year was no exception, and I’m rather proud of this one.

A unique Polish pickle soup to recognize a unique Polish man.

Polish pickle soup (aka zupa ogórkowa) ingredients.

There were several recipes online for zupa ogórkowa, which actually seems to translate as cucumber soup but most called it either sour cucumber or simply pickle soup. None of the recipes perfectly suited what I was picturing so I melded them all together.

I won’t lie, this soup will not be for everyone. But if you like dill pickles, and me and my sweetie do, boy is it great. It also all comes together relatively quickly.

For my tastes and sensibilities, it’s an awesome winter soup, featuring heavily those ingredients that in times past (and in lean times now) that keep well throughout a long winter and are easy enough to come by. We, in fact, had most ingredients on hand except not quite enough of them. And I did get fresh dill but the dried stuff would do just fine.

The results were pure perfection, particularly for this time of year and this holiday.

What lies beneath is an abundance of pickle flavored perfection.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2-3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2-3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 4 T. all-purpose flour
  • 6 c. broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 2 t. dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 medium russet potatoes, chopped
  • 1 c. pickle juice
  • 1 c. dill pickles, grated
  • Dill, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Sour cream, for serving (optional)

Directions

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and saute for 5 to 10 minutes and vegetables are softened.

Add the flour slowly and stir until combined. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the thyme, oregano, and bay leaves. Then, stir in the broth.

Bring mixture to a boil, and then add the potatoes. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 to 25 minutes until the potatoes are just softened.

Add the pickle juice, pickles, salt and pepper to taste, and cook another 5 minutes, covered.

Stir in the dill, and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve with sour cream and any additional dill as desired, and enjoy!

Get full ahead of Fat Tuesday

Lent is coming. If you practice that sort of thing.

I don’t, but at this time of year, this relapsed Catholic still can’t help but think of the many holidays and sacrifices (that I’m not making) ahead. But mostly, I think of the Mardi Gras celebrations to come in New Orleans.

Then, I think of the the cajun food that I can enjoy.

Most years, when it’s still cold and miserable in Iowa, I make a hearty gumbo. But I wanted to try something different this year. So, I asked Mom for her popular jambalaya recipe.

Jambalaya ingredients

I can see why it’s so beloved amongst her friend group — it is literally full to the brim with meats and flavors. But like with the cassoulet I made earlier this year, I could not rationalize eating 6 pounds of meat, so I cut some back from her recipe (that seems to come from the USA Cookbook).

The ingredients I used were the same, but my amounts varied quite a bit, except in the rice to broth amounts so I could ensure I didn’t end up with jambalaya soup or dried rice.

It worked out perfectly, even though I made it on a weeknight. There was relatively little swearing, and I’m looking forward to the leftovers as it was still filled to the brim.

Hopefully, the Dutch oven will be empty before Fat Tuesday, which is March 5 this year. (Note: This is a joke. I would not keep food around that long.)

Brimful of jambalaya in the Dutch oven. Nom noms.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage, cut into ½ inch slices
  • 1 lb. chicken breast, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used more)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (I used one red and one green)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 t. dried basil (I used more)
  • ¼ t. cayenne (ha, I used way more, try 2 t.)
  • 2 c. long grain rice
  • 4 ½ c. chicken or vegetable broth, preferably homemade
  • 1 (14 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¾ c. chopped fresh parsley, preferably flat-leaf
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Use slotted spoon to remove and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate or bowl. Add the chicken pieces, and cook until just cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove and transfer to the same plate or bowl as the sausage.

Add the onions to the to the Dutch oven, and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add in the garlic, celery, bell peppers, bay leaves, cayenne, and basil. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the (uncooked rice) and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and add back in the meat. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and then cook covered for about 20 to 25 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Add in the shrimp, and parsley, and cook, covered, for another 5 or so minutes, until the shrimp is cooked through. Adjust the seasons, as necessary, and enjoy!

One more one-pot pasta dish

Wine and pasta are such a perfect pairing that it’s worth doing twice.

We’re replacing white with red, sticking with spaghetti, and focusing on red meat. That’s right, it’s time for spaghetti bolognese.

Spaghetti bolognese ingredients (except I really used my own broth instead of bouillon).

I adapted a recipe from “Cook It In Your Dutch Oven,” though — like the scampi — most recipes I found were pretty similar. What I liked about this one is that it added additional vegetables than just tomatoes; what I didn’t like is that it had the vegetable puree mostly replace tomatoes. Call me traditional but it’s not bolognese without an abundance of tomatoes.

So, instead of pureeing, I just diced the vegetables, cooked them longer, and had a chunkier sauce. Because of that, I also decided to use crushed tomatoes instead of tomato sauce so it was all chunky. I kept in the 3 T. of tomato paste too but I’m not sure it’s necessary. I just needed it for another recipe anyway so I kept it in.

I also used all broth instead of a mixture of water and broth, and replaced beef with buffalo.

I think all the changes worked. It made a hearty, heavy meal feel healthier, and all tasted great. My only small complaint is that this supposed weeknight meal took longer with cutting all the vegetables (rather than pureeing), and also isn’t *that* short even without it. Still worth it, though, and made for days of yummy leftovers.

Nom nom nom.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground buffalo, or any ground meat
  • 6 oz. pancetta, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 celery rib, diced
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 (14 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 T. tomato paste, optional
  • 1 c. dry red wine
  • 5 c. broth (I used homemade chicken vegetable broth but any will do)
  • ½ c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (I used more)
  • 1 lb. spaghetti, uncooked
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat butter and oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and the onion, carrot, and celery. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened.

Add the ground meat and tomato paste, if using, and cook until the meat is just cooked through, about another 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the diced tomatoes and the wine, and cook for about 5 minutes to reduce the liquid total by about half, stirring occasionally. Add broth and Parmesan, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook the sauce mixture for 20 minutes to let the flavors combine.

Increase the heat, and bring the sauce to a boil. Gently add in the pasta, and return to a simmer. Cook covered or partially covered — depending on how thick you like your sauce — for another 10 to 15 minutes until the pasta is cooked to desired tendency. Add more broth if necessary. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve and add extra Parmesan, if desired, and enjoy!

Sumptuous shrimp scampi to share with your sweetheart

I have a thing about Valentine’s Day, and well, really, most dates in general: I don’t like them. I don’t like to dress up; I don’t like the fancy-pants restaurants you’re *supposed* to go to for special occasions; and mostly, I don’t like the pressure to have a romantic evening.

If they’re your thing, more power to you; make the reservations, and have a good time.

I was lucky, then, to find a partner who feels the same way I do. A restaurant that requires us to feel like we don’t belong is not a restaurant we’re going to, no matter the rave reviews. Advance planning, likewise, isn’t really our thing.

Instead, I usually try to find something special but simple to make for dinner — and yet, I also don’t feel pressured to do so, if I feel lazy or if take-out beckons. In past years, I’ve celebrated the holiday with peanut stew. This year, I found something even simpler and yet also fancier: shrimp scampi.

Shrimp scampi ingredients. They didn’t all fit but they would have if I didn’t buy large quantities of wine and olive oil.

I’d never made it before, and honestly, hadn’t gotten it in restaurants because it’s usually too pricey to justify what it is. But after tasting it, I can see why it’s a go-to fancy dinner order. It’s damn delicious.

It’s also still too easy to make at home to justify the upcharge for having it made for me. There’s few ingredients, and it’s even a one-pot meal. In all, it’s about a half-hour of work. It’s the perfect stay-at-home dinner date whether you have a special Valentine or not.

SHRAMMPIES!!!!

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. angel hair pasta or similar (I used spaghetti because I wanted whole wheat and I couldn’t find it in angel hair)
  • 1 ½ lb. peeled and deveined uncooked shrimp
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • ½ c. dry white wine (and, let’s be honest, more to serve in a glass on the side)
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ t. red pepper flakes (I used more but we like a little more kick to our food)
  • 3 T. unsalted butter, cold and cut into smallish cubes
  • ¼ c. coarsely chopped parsley, flat-leaf preferred
  • Juice from ½ lemon

Directions

Bring water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add the pasta, cooking to al dente according to package instructions (between 7 and 12 minutes, depending on pasta type). Reserve ½ c. of cooking water, and then drain the pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, pat the shrimp dry and season both sides with salt and pepper, to taste. In the same large Dutch oven where you cooked your pasta, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook for about 1 minute. Flip, and then add the wine, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the shrimp are just opaque and the wine has reduced by half, about 2 to 3 more minutes.

Remove the Dutch oven from heat, add the butter cubes, and stir until melted. Add the pasta, parsley, and lemon juice. Toss until combined, adding reserved pasta water by the tablespoon, until a sauce forms that coats the pasta. (Don’t worry if you don’t use all the water.) Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Putting the pot in pot pie

When I knew I was doing Dutch ovens, I knew that I needed to buy a Dutch oven cookbook for guidance and ideas throughout the year. But I found it was real easy to come up with the first few things I needed to try so I put it off.

Finally, though, I went ahead and got “Cook It In Your Dutch Oven” from America’s Test Kitchen. I patted myself on the back for how many of their ideas were things that I’m planning to make this year already, but my jaw dropped (not literally) when I came across the pot pie recipe.

This pie lady never thought of making a pot pie as a not-quite-pie, but definitely all pot.

Chicken pot pie ingredients.

The recipe was for spring vegetables, but I damn well know what goes in a pot pie and I know it’s wintery AF.

And bad mistakes, I made a few.

First of all, the lattice top crust that makes up the top (spoiler: there’s no crusty bottom) is with puff pastry and I am so bad at dealing with puff pastry. I muddled through but it was frustrating.

Second of all, the recipe called for chicken thighs. I got a mix — 1 lb. each of chicken breast and chicken thighs — but I didn’t realize that trimming raw chicken thighs is frustrating and nearly impossible. I should have known by now, but I mostly work with breasts, or thighs that are cut after cooked.

Third of all, seasons. The substitutions I made worked real well for a winter pot pie, but it didn’t occur to me until too late that some of the ingredients made more sense in a spring recipe rather than winter, and I should have probably scrapped them. They are the optional ingredients below — tomato paste and lemon zest (the original also calls for some lemon juice from about half a lemon). I think they’d work better in a real spring recipe (with asparagus instead of potatoes, and tarragon instead of parsley)  than this one, though they didn’t manage to ruin the whole thing.

What I’m saying is, despite my mistakes, and despite the modest frustration, it was still good. Because pot pies are good. And errors can be corrected so that pot pies are even better.

I’ll probably never love working with puff pastry, but honestly, a good hearty (or even spring!) pot pie is worth it.

It sure looks pretty, but it also tastes pretty great.

Here’s what I did (with recommendations for what I should have done):

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 6 T. butter
  • 1 lb. (about 4) leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
  • 4 carrots, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. potatoes, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (I used the jarred stuff)
  • ½ c. flour
  • 1 T. tomato paste (optional)
  • 3 c. chicken broth, more as needed
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 1 t. soy sauce (we were out so I used Bragg liquid aminos)
  • 2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (or thighs if you’re a masochist)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 T. dried parsley flakes or chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 T. lemon zest (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Cut a sheet of parchment paper to match the outline of a Dutch oven lid. Set aside. Roll puff pastry sheet into about a 15- by 11-inch rectangle, and then cut (a pizza cutter works great) into 10 1 ½-inch wide strips. Place 5 strips parallel and 5 strips perpendicular on the parchment paper round you created.

There are fancy techniques to do this more efficiently, but weave the 10 strips into a lattice top into whatever is easiest for you. Cut the strips to fit onto the parchment paper round.

Move your lattice top puff pastry using the parchment paper to the up-turned lid of the Dutch oven, and refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the pot pie.

Move oven rack to the lower middle position in the oven, and heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, melt the butter on the stove top over medium heat.

Add the leeks, carrots, celery, and potatoes, and cook until the leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another minute. Then, add in the flour, slowly, and stir for another minute. Add the tomato paste, if using.

Then, stir in the broth, scraping up browned bits as necessary. Add the cream, and soy sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the chicken pieces, and continue to simmer for a couple minutes before removing from heat.

Put the the up-turned lid with the puff pastry on top of the Dutch oven (still up-turned and do so carefully!), and brush it with the egg mixture (I also added a tablespoon or so of water). Sprinkle with salt, if desired.

Transfer the pot to oven and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until the puff pastry is puffed and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove pot from oven and carefully transfer the parchment and pastry to a wire rack and remove lid. Stir in the peas, and let sit until heated through about 5 minutes. Add more broth if necessary. Add the parsley flakes and lemon zest, if using, and stir in salt and pepper to taste. Plop (carefully!) the puff pastry on top of the filling, and enjoy!

There will be bread

I love me a recipe that offers shortcuts and still tastes amazing. So, even though I don’t mind kneading bread, I still eagerly bookmarked the no-knead recipe from Jim Lahey as soon as I came across it.

No-knead bread ingredients. No, the Sodastream water is not bubbly.

Then, I discovered the caveat. There may not be kneading, but it still takes time and a little bit of getting your hands dirty (with sticky dough).

After going through it the first time, I shrugged and said I wasn’t really saving all that much so I wouldn’t make it again. That is, until I tasted it. Readers, it’s worth the time and effort.

And the more I’ve made it, the less the time and minor effort bothers me. I just plan better.

This is also a quintessentially Dutch oven dish.

Part of why the crust crunches so well is you preheat the Dutch oven for long enough that your dough goes into a nice and hot container. (I will admit, however, that I have used this recipe to make a couple of baguettes and it turns out well, just not as crunchy.)

It’s also pretty hard to mess up, since there are so few ingredients. The key is using bread flour, but I have — and I did this time on a whim — thrown in some amount of wheat flour and it’s worked. It’s not quite as fluffy but fiber does a body good.

Now, you can time things out how you want, but with a 12 to 18 hour rise time on the first go, my planning schedule is this:

*Before bed: Mix together the yeast, salt, water, and flour, and stir until blended.

*The next day/evening: When I get home from work, or the afternoon on a weekend, scrape the edges of the mixture and ensure it’s risen; then, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a boule, and wrap in a well-floured or cornmeal-coated towel, and let rise another 1 to 2 hours, before preparing to bake.

If you’re an early morning riser or an insomniac, a different schedule may work for you. But I’d rather get it started before bed and then deal with it later in the day. And a few hours extra rise time, if it’s a work day, hasn’t made a difference.

Again, it’s pretty hard to mess this up, even if there is an optimal way to make it that will maximize its awesomeness.

My boule isn’t the prettiest and it didn’t rise as much as I thought it would, but it tastes forking great.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • ¼ t. active dry yeast
  • 1 ⅓ c. cool water
  • 1 ¼ t. salt (I estimate)
  • 3 c. bread flour (OR, 2 c. bread flour, 1 c. wheat flour — which may require slightly more water)
  • Bran, cornmeal, or additional flour, for dusting

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast, and then add the water. Use a wooden spoon, rubber dough scraper, or your hands to mix together until a wet, sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds. If it’s not wet and sticky, add more water or flour as necessary.

Cover the bowl — either a tea towel or plastic wrap or a loose lid will work. Let rise in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, for 12 to 18 hours.

When small bubbles dot the surface of the dough and it’s at least doubled in size, dust a work surface with additional flour. Scrape the dough onto the work surface. Use your hands — lightly floured — to shape the dough into a round.

Dust a (non-terry cloth) tea towel with flour or cornmeal, and then place the dough, seam-side down, in the towel, and then gently wrap together. Let the dough rise for another 1 to 2 hours. (It’s ready when it has almost doubled and/or you can poke it with a finger and it holds the impression.)

About a half-hour before the second rise has finished, heat the oven to 475 degrees with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Place the Dutch oven, covered,  in the center of the rack.

When the dough is ready, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven. Uncover it, and add some cornmeal or wheat bran if desired, to the bottom of the pot. Then, unfold the dough and quickly but gently invert it into the pot with the seam-side up. Cover the pot again.

Bake the dough for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to bake until the bread is browned but not burnt, another 15 to 30 minutes.

Once the bread is done, carefully remove the loaf from the Dutch oven, and place it on a rack to cool. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing, and enjoy with soup, butter, or all by itself!

Cassoulet casserole!

This week’s recipe is another that has been on my list for years. I almost made it during my casserole year, but ended up *shrug emoji.*

This year, however, after reading that cassoulet is the ultimate Dutch oven dish, I figured I had to try it, and try it early this year.

Cassoulet ingredients.
Cassoulet ingredients.

Another hold up in my mission was, well, the ingredients in cassoulet. Not only are many of them hard to find, and therefore, not all that cheap, those ingredients are also extremely fatty meats that are not all that appetizing.

To make up for this fact, I mercifully found a vegetarian cassoulet. Only that seemed pretty boring.

So, I did what anybody — well, one other notable foodie at least — would do, I reverse engineered the vegetarian cassoulet to add the amounts and types of meats I wanted. I settled on pancetta and andouille sausage.

For the vegetarians, these can easily be skipped and my assumption that it would be boring was wrong. For the meat eaters, feel free to add duck fat, duck legs, salt pork, pork shoulder, chicken thighs, or any of the variety of meats that appear in the multitude of recipes for this French classic.

I did what tasted best to me, and dear reader, it was amazing.

I won’t lie, it’s time consuming, and the recipe can be tweaked in hundreds of ways to suit one’s tastes, but I can definitely see why cassoulet has the reputation it does, especially in a Dutch oven.

This cassoulet only gets better with the addition of garlicky bread crumbs (not pictured).

Here’s what I did, adapting the Epicurious vegetarian recipe:

Ingredients

For the cassoulet

  • 8 oz. pancetta
  • 3 medium leeks, white and pale green parts, sliced
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped (I used more)
  • 1 T. dried thyme
  • 2 parsley sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ⅛ t. ground cloves
  • 12 to 16 oz. andouille sausage, sliced
  • 16 oz. dried cannellini or great northern beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 quart broth, vegetable or chicken

For topping

  • 4 c. fresh bread crumbs from a baguette (about 1 baguette) (I actually did this and it was much better, and the bread can be days old as well; just tear bread into chunks and blend well for about a minute)
  • ⅓ c. olive oil
  • 1 T. chopped garlic (I didn’t measure)
  • ¼ c. chopped parsley (I used about half a bunch)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

For the cassoulet

Fry up the pancetta in a large Dutch oven. Once mostly cooked, add in the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, and herbs and spices, and cook stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are softened and lightly golden.

Add the beans, and broth, and bring to a boil. Cook partially covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sausage after about 30 minutes, and continue to cook for another 15 to 30 minutes, until beans are fully cooked through.

For the topping

Meanwhile, while the cassoulet cooks, make the garlicky bread crumbs. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss the bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and salt and pepper, until the crumbs are coated. Spread on a sheet pan and cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the mixture is crisp and golden. Cool the crumbs in the pan, and then return the bread crumb mixture to the medium bowl and stir in the parsley.

To finish

Mash some of the beans in the pot with a potato masher to thicken the broth. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Just before serving, sprinkle the cassoulet with the bread crumbs, and enjoy!

That’s a spicy meatball!

My family knows me well as among Christmas gifts were cooking equipment and utensils. My brother gifted me brand new sheet pans, for which he felt bad that it came at the end of my sheet pan year.

However, I plan to keep making sheet pan recipes even if I’m not blogging about them. And anyway, it turns out I can keep blogging about them as this week’s recipe utilizes both a sheet pan and a Dutch oven and both are vital to the meal coming together.

I have had this curried meatball recipe from Epicurious on my to-make list for a couple years but just hadn’t gotten around to it. As I was looking for recipes for this year, I was delighted to note that I finally had an excuse to get around to it.

Curried meatballs ingredients.

And now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. It was a bit of a pain in the ass with all the steps, but honestly, worth it. The spicy meatballs complement the smoky curried sauce and make for a wonderful mix of flavors.

It also makes quite a bit so you can impress friends by sharing or sacrifice one night for several days of yummy leftovers.

That’s so spicy and saucy, and noms.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

For meatballs

  • Olive oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 jalapenos, halved and seeds removed if desired
  • 6 garlic cloves (I used more)
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped (I used a heaping T from a jar of minced ginger)
  • 1 T. lime juice (we were out of lemon)
  • 1 T. garam masala
  • 1 t. ground coriander
  • ½ t. ground cumin
  • ½ t. cayenne pepper
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T. plain yogurt
  • 2 t. salt

For sauce

  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • 4 medium onions, chopped
  • 10 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 ½-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped (I used 1 ½ heaping T from my jar of ginger)
  • 3 dried chiles de arbol
  • 3 t. curry powder
  • 4 t. ground cumin
  • 4 t. ground turmeric
  • 3 t. ground coriander
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 (14.5 oz. can) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • ½ t. Cayenne pepper
  • Cilantro for serving (optional) (I forgot it, sadly)
  • ¼ c. yogurt (optional) (I added just to get rid of the remaining amount in my small container)

Directions

For meatballs

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray rimmed sheet pan with oil, and set aside.

Puree the scallions, jalapenos, garlic, ginger, juice, and spices in a blender until smooth. Blend egg in a large bowl, and add the puree mix. Add the yogurt, beef, and salt. Mix with your hands until well blended. Roll into 24 balls, of about golf ball size, and place them on the oiled sheet pan about 1 inch apart. Spray with a little more oil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until cooked through.

For the sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are starting to brown. Stir in the chiles, spices (except cayenne), and continue to cook for about another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf and 2 c. water, and return to a boil. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes.

Let cool slightly, and then transfer the sauce to a blender, blending until smooth. Transfer the sauce mixture back into the pot. Stir in the remaining yogurt, lime juice, and cayenne, and taste, adding more seasoning if needed.

To finish

Add the meatballs into the sauce, and bring to a simmer. Cook the mixture until the meatballs are heated through, and flavors meld a little, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with rice and cilantro, if desired, and enjoy!