Sausage strata made simple

When I made this week’s recipe, I was mad at myself for not making it sooner and not making it more often throughout my life. Seriously, what have I been doing missing out on the best, easiest brunch dish ever?!

Strata is the ultimate impress-company-without-doing-much-work meal, and I didn’t think to make it regularly so that I could have breakfast, brunch, and/or lunch for almost a week. I’ve been a fool.

Strata ingredients.

I’ve learned my lesson now, though.

Recipes abound for how to make this but there’s no real universal dish or way to make it, so I did it my way, and therefore I loved it. But this is one of those recipes where you can substitute pretty much anything.

For my tastes, I wanted sausage, pepper, and onion. I also wanted the, well, sour taste of sourdough bread instead of the plainer french bread. But your mileage may vary and that’s fine.

Prefer bacon? Do it. Hate onions? Skip ‘em, or replace with another veggie.

Oh, and it can all be made in one pot.

It’s truly an amazing dish and so universal. I’ll definitely be making it again soon.

*nom nom noms*

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. breakfast sausage
  • 1 T. oil, depending on how fatty your sausage is
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 sourdough boule, roughly torn into pieces
  • 2 c. cheese, plus more for topping (I used Cabot’s Mac & Cheese that’s a mix of Parmesan, Swiss, and cheddar, but whatever works)
  • 12 eggs
  • 3 c. milk
  • 1 ½ t. dried oregano
  • 1 ½ t. dried (or fresh) basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

The night before you plan to cook the strata, thoroughly cook the sausage (using oil if necessary) in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, adding onions and peppers part-way through so that they are softened.

Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool completely.

Meanwhile, mix together the eggs, milk, herbs and spices, and cheese. Place the torn bread pieces in the Dutch oven with the sausage mix, and stir to combine. Pour the egg mixture over the sausage mixture. It’s OK if it’s a little soupy, as the bread will absorb it over time.

Cover and refrigerate the mixture overnight.

In the morning, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the Dutch oven, still covered, in the oven and bake the mixture for 45 minutes to an hour until the the eggs are cooked through, adding another half cup or so of cheese to the top about 15 minutes before the dish is complete.

Allow to cool slightly, if possible, and enjoy!

The Crippes family chicken cacciatore (sorta)

My Grandma Crippes would have been 84 on Monday, so to honor her memory I made one of her lovely recipes. And then, because I’m a terrible grandchild, I tweaked it a whole bunch and made it in a Dutch oven.

I’ve made her chicken cacciatore recipe several times before but it’s always been as a casserole.

Chicken cacciatore ingredients.

And, to be honest, I’ve always made a bastardized version based on my mom’s version of Grandma’s recipe. My mom tells me the recipe originally included mushrooms but no one in my immediate family liked them growing up so they got scrapped in my mom’s making.

This time I made even more changes, and probably should have made even more. But I kept the heart of the recipe in tact, which is tomato sauce, marinated artichoke hearts, and sauteed chicken. Aside from removing the mushrooms, I added onions and extra artichokes.

The change I should have made for the Dutch oven is to tweak the sauteed chicken by either not dredging it in flour or cooking it in canola oil rather than olive. What happened was a nice blackened layer of flour-y oil coated the bottom of my Dutch oven when I made it this way. Hotter oil or no flour would have fixed that.

Fortunately, it was still fine. The burnt layer was still there after it came out of the oven but didn’t impact the flavor any — just made the house smokier for a bit.

I do like this Dutch oven method, though, because it was a one pot meal. I even made the angel hair pasta in it first while I did the other prep work. I didn’t combine it all at the end because that is not how it’s been served in my family, but it’s possible … though I’d add less than the full 1 pound mentioned below.

*drools for eternity*

Anyway, here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 (14.5 oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1 ½ to 2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 1 c. flour, for dredging (optional)
  • Oil, for sauteing
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
  • ¾ c. Chardonnay (or dry sherry)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used more)
  • Basil, chopped or torn, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parsley, chopped to taste
  • 1 lb. pasta, cooked according to package instructions, for serving

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the Dutch oven on the stove top over medium heat. Drain the marinade from the artichoke hearts into the skillet, and add oil. Dredge chicken chunks in flour, if using, and brown until golden. Do this in a couple batches, depending on the size of your Dutch oven.

Remove the chicken from the Dutch oven to a plate.

Meanwhile, add more oil as necessary and saute the onion, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, artichoke hearts, crushed tomatoes, wine, and the spices to the Dutch oven. Cook until boiling, stirring occasionally.

Add back in the chicken, and stir to mix.

Cover the Dutch oven, and bake in the oven for about 30 to 35 minutes until bubbling and flavors are mixed. Let cool slightly, serve over cooked pasta (preferably spaghetti or angel hair), and enjoy!

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!