One more delicious holiday salad

Since I had such luck with the potato salad being a delightful way to use a Dutch oven, I thought I’d do it again with another family favorite.

Ditalini salad sounds like something that probably once came on the side of the box for using ditalini pasta.

Ditalini salad ingredients.

I’ll never know since I can never find the dang pasta, even though I know it still exists because my family has made it using the traditional small, round tube pasta.

In its place, I use small shells. They’re close in size but they do tend to catch the other ingredients in its shell rather than being a separate mix. But otherwise it’s a fine substitute and any small pasta will work.

The rest of the ingredients are either usually on-hand in any household or easy to find. I usually just have to get a bell pepper and a jar of pimiento peppers, and I’m ready to go.

Like with the potato salad, and my other pasta dishes this year, it’s possible to cook the pasta in the Dutch oven, letting the main ingredient cool in a strainer while the Dutch oven cools as well. So it can be another simple one-pot dish. Just what’s needed for a lazy long weekend. Happy (early) 4th!

The absolute best pasta salad.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients 

  • 1 box (16 oz.) ditalini, or other small pasta, cooked
  • 1 jar (4 oz.) diced pimiento peppers
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 T. white vinegar (you can use different, but I swear, the white works best for the authentic flavor)
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 2 T. olive oil

Directions

Place the cooked and cooled pasta in a large Dutch oven. Stir in the peppers. Add the sugar, vinegar, and olive oil. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight and enjoy!

Who needs 11 herbs and spices?

With summer officially upon us, I wanted to make something perfect for picnics and staying (relatively) cool in the kitchen. Sure, fried chicken is fried, but it’s great with a summer salad and there’s no baking or hours of stirring on the stove top.

I found my recipe from my very helpful Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook. While there was the traditional fried chicken, the Midwest gal in me couldn’t resist the ranch fried chicken.

Ranch fried chicken ingredients.

In this case, ranch mostly just meant more herbs and spices, a buttermilk coating, and serving it with a side of ranch. But that also meant that it was mostly just a flavor explosion. Both the buttermilk mixture and the flour coating had the same herbs (cilantro, dill, and chives) and a lot of them. I might have added more dill because I misread teaspoons for tablespoons, but it was a delightful error.

Aside from being relatively easy and perfect for the summer season, I also found ways of making it even quicker and easier.

The lazy person in me just served it with a side of pre-made ranch rather than putting it together myself. Plus, my packages of chicken (Bare) had 10 thighs that meant I didn’t have a lot of leftover buttermilk mixture to mix with mayo for the homemade ranch.

I also skipped the step of laying out the flour-dredged pieces on their own wire-covered baking sheet to have fewer dishes to do later. This did mean dredging twice toward the end but mostly it was fine to lay it on parchment paper and/or plates.

So much flavor. Even better dipped in ranch.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 5 T. fresh chives, minced, divided
  • 5 T. fresh cilantro, minced, divided
  • 2 T. fresh dill, minced, divided (as mentioned above, I used more than the recipe called for)
  • 2 t. white vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ c. cornstarch
  • 1 ½ t. garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ~2 q. vegetable oil
  • 8 to 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trimmed if needed), about 2 lbs.
  • Ranch dressing, for serving

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix together 1 c. buttermilk, 2 T. chives, 2 T. cilantro, 1 T. dill, white vinegar, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of cayenne.

In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, the cornstarch, the remaining chives, cilantro, and dill, salt and pepper, and garlic powder.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil (about 1 ½ inches high) to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, pat the chicken thighs dry. Dip the thighs individually into the buttermilk mixture before dredging in the flour mixture. Repeat with each thigh. As I mentioned above, the recipe recommends putting the dredged raw chicken on a wire rack on a sheet pan, but that sounded like a lot of extra dishes, so I placed them on a plate — I may have had to re-dredge some, but it was OK. Use whatever method you like best to hold the ready-to-fry chicken until the oil has heated.

Once the oil is heated (and try to maintain the temperature), add the chicken 3 to 4 pieces at a time and fry until cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the chicken and place on either a wire rack on a paper towel-lined sheet pan, or just on a paper towel-lined plate, as you desire. Repeat the frying process as needed until all chicken is cooked through.

Serve with ranch dressing, maybe some coleslaw as desired, and enjoy!

Super simple chicken and dumplings

I was feeling a bit lazy this week. I knew what I wanted to make but I didn’t know how to make it and didn’t want to spend hours researching.

I just typed chicken and dumplings into the ol’ search engine and clicked on the first couple that popped up. The one that laid out the amount of prep time (25 minutes) and total time (just over an hour), won out. So, thanks Delish!

Chicken and dumpling ingredients.

Everything about it was simple, and that included making my own homemade dumplings. I’ll say it did take me a little longer than an hour total, probably like 1 hour and 20 minutes, but I’m not the most efficient person in the kitchen, and I care more about simplicity than speed.

I just fired up Good Omens (Yes, I am rewatching it often), and poured some wine, and it was all in all a pretty nice little weeknight meal.

Even better, it was also delicious. Despite heading into summer, it doesn’t feel terribly heavy. The dough is airy, the rest is mostly chicken. While that’s a little oversimplified, and there is plenty of creamy goodness throughout, it didn’t feel too hearty for the time of year.

*drool*

It was practically perfect for what I wanted.

Here’s what I did, practically perfectly following the recipe (sans the speed):

Ingredients

For the soup

  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 t. dried oregano
  • 2 t. dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 c. chicken or vegetable broth (I use homemade; if you don’t, try low sodium broth)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • Chopped parsley for serving, optional

For the dumplings

  • 1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 ½ t. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅔ to ¾ c. buttermilk
  • 2 T. melted butter

Directions

For soup

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, and cook until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Add in the oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic, and stir together for about 1 minute.

Add the broth and the chicken, and bring the pot to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer covered until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes more. Remove the chicken and shred using two forks.

For the dumplings

While the soup is simmering, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the flour mixture and add the egg, buttermilk, and melted butter. Whisk together with a fork until combined.

To bring together, and finish

Add the shredded chicken back to the Dutch oven, and add the heavy cream. Return to a simmer. Then, drop spoonfuls of dumpling mix into the pot. Cover, and cook on low until the dumplings are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Stir to mix up, add parsley to the pot (if using), and enjoy by the ladleful!

Slow cooked red beans and rice goodness

This week’s recipe is the perfect meal to make on a lazy weekend. It’s time consuming but also incredibly easy, relatively inexpensive, and not overly labor intensive.

The only problem with red beans and rice, really, is there’s enough chopping involved that it’s really helpful to have two working arms; at least if you’re used to using both and and heavily favor one.

Red beans and rice ingredients.

So, like an idiot, I managed to injure myself exercising, and the right arm I usually use was not as useful as I would have liked. I could tackle most things, as sausage and celery are relatively easy even with a weakened arm. I called in my sweetie and sometimes sous chef to help with the rest of the prep for the red beans and rice.

He did most of the stirring, actually.

But barring that, this was a simple delight that I really enjoyed eating, especially as leftovers.

I mostly followed the Serious Eats recipe, though I didn’t know how to easily and cheaply track down ethically made pork shoulder or ham hock. Instead, I replaced them with just a little 6 oz. slab of Beeler’s ham. It was perfectly fine, and less expensive.

I still sprung for my favorite D’Artagnan andouille sausage.

After 2 hours or so on the stove top and a lot of waiting semi-patiently, the wonderfully tasty and filling meal was ready, with plenty of spare to enjoy too!

Bubbling beans.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. dried red kidney beans
  • Salt, for dried beans
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage, cut into ½ inch disks
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t. ground sage
  • 2 t. dried thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste (I used about 1 ½ t.)
  • 6 to 8 oz. ham
  • 6 to 8 c. broth (water will work, but I liked having the extra heartiness)
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • Cider vinegar, to taste
  • Cooked white rice, for serving

Directions

The night before you plan to make the meal, or the morning before, place the dried beans in a bowl with water, covering the beans by a couple inches, and add a few pinches of salt, stirring until it’s dissolved. Let stand for 8 to 16 hours, before draining and rinsing.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery, and cook until the vegetables have softened and the onions are just starting to brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so.

Add the cayenne, sage, black pepper, and thyme. Stir to mix.

Add the beans and the broth (or water) until the liquid covers the beans by about 2 inches. Add in the ham and bay leaves.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the beans are completely tender for 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove lid and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened and turned creamy, 30 minutes to an hour. Season with hot sauce and cider vinegar, just before serving, and enjoy with prepared rice!