Bread and bourbon for the holiday

I was looking for a nice and light dessert to make for this holiday weekend, and instead came up with one of the heavier things I could have selected. I couldn’t help it. I was inspired by last week’s recipe and its abundant use of bread in the Dutch oven.

You guessed it, I made a bread pudding.

Bourbon pecan bread pudding ingredients.

Even better, it has bourbon and pecans, two of my favorite dessert ingredients. I’m a sucker for a bourbon pecan pie every Thanksgiving, so I couldn’t resist.

The recipe also gave me a good excuse to track down where I could find challah in Ames, and an opportunity to learn that the average loaf of bread is equal to one pound. (The recipe called for a pound, and I had no idea how to guess the weight of a loaf; turns out it’s pretty easy to find.)

It all turned out perfectly, and bonus, I got a whole bunch of mostly egg white scrambled eggs as the recipe called for a ton of only egg yolks.

Bread pudding so good it’ll make you challah!

Here’s what I did, mostly following the recipe in my Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook:

Ingredients 

Bread pudding

  • 1 loaf/1 lb. challah bread chopped or torn into 1 in. chunks (preferably slightly staled)
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 2 ½ c. whole milk
  • 2 ½ c. heavy cream
  • ¾ c. brown sugar, packed, plus 2 T., divided
  • ½ c. bourbon
  • 1 T. vanilla
  • ¾ t. salt
  • ½ t. cardamom (optional)
  • ½ c. pecans, chopped

Sauce

  • 7 T. heavy cream
  • ½ c. brown sugar, packed
  • 2 ½ T. butter
  • 2 T. bourbon

Directions

In the Dutch oven, mix together the bread pudding ingredients: milk, cream, egg yolks, ¾ c. brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla, salt, and cardamom, if using. Stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture is well combined. Fold in the bread chunks, and let sit for about 30 minutes to let the bread absorb the milk-egg mixture (stirring halfway through).

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

After the half-hour, top the mixture with the pecans and sprinkle on the 2 T. brown sugar. Bake in the oven, uncovered, until center is set, about 50 to 70 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by melting the remaining sugar with the 7 T. heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the mixture boils, remove from heat, and add the butter and bourbon. Stir to combine.

When the pudding is ready, let cool slightly, stir the sauce mixture again, serve with sauce, and enjoy! Happy Labor Day weekend!!

Christinia’s first cooking class

One thing that has become a staple of vacationing with my mom’s side of the family is taking a cooking class. Though I was not there, I will not soon forget the pictures my mom sent of my Polish maternal grandma learning to make sushi.

We’re nothing if not adventurous.

Pappa al pomodoro ingredients. Decidedly not sushi.

As I’m about to embark on a girls trip with my mom and aunt to a new foreign land, including a cooking class of course, I’m reminded again of the first time our family’s first time taking a class. The poor souls who had to wrangle about 10 of our clan did not have an easy task, especially as the wine flowed freely.

But 12 years later, I still make the recipes that we learned that day, and I still remember the wines that we tasted. Thankfully for the purposes of this blog, the recipe I make most often, pappa al pomodoro, (and was also one of the first dishes I shared with my sweetheart whom I’ll be missing dearly), can be made in a Dutch oven.

I haven’t made many changes over the years. Why mess with this Italian classic?

BRB, there’s more in the fridge right now.

Here’s what I did on my most recent venture:

Ingredients

  • 4 ½ lbs. tomatoes
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 1 garlic bulb, about 20 cloves, peeled minced
  • 1-2 packages fresh basil, chopped
  • Red chili flakes, to taste (about 2 pinches is what I use)
  • 1 loaf bread, preferably stale
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Peel the tomatoes — my method is to cut a cross in the bottom and put them in boiling water for a minute or less before transferring them to an ice bath. (I didn’t say it was easy, just a way to use tomatoes!) Then, chop roughly and use a food processor or blender to puree the tomatoes.

Separately, in a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat and then add the leeks and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for about another 1 minute.

Add the tomato puree to the Dutch oven, and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for about an hour. Add the chopped basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Continue to cook for about another half-hour. When the tomatoes are cooked, chop or tear off pieces of bread and place in the soup until it is thickened to taste. (I used about ⅔ of a small French loaf.)

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with additional olive oil and salt and pepper, if desired, and enjoy!

Programming note: I will be traveling, mostly out of the country, for the next few Fridays, BUT I will still be keeping my blogs updated as I worked in advance to ensure I kept up with posting weekly. However, if any technical difficulties or best laid plans do not work out and I go without posting, please be understanding and know that I’ll fix anything when I return.

Chicken curry a perfect weeknight dinner

Like many of my recipes, this one was given to me by my mother, has been among my staples for years, and has been endlessly adapted until the original recipe is more of a suggestion than a specific direction.

So, I figured this year was the perfect time to write out what I actually do to make chicken curry versus what the recipe I use calls for.

Chicken (and vegetable) curry ingredients.

I started adapting this one from the start out of necessity. I was poor and prefer chicken breasts, but the original calls for 3 pounds of chicken meat. Maybe I could have afforded that if I bought a whole chicken but as it was, I wanted to make a meal that lasted for days, and I was more likely to eat a boneless dinner.

So, I halved the amount of meat and then substituted in vegetables.

Now that I can afford 3 pounds of meat, it still seems excessive. So, I still make it with a mix of meat and vegetables. My list of vegetables changes but I like cauliflower and carrots with curry, even though they’re not usually my favorites. Peas and peppers rounded out the list this time, but anything works.

I also probably end up adding more than 1 ½ lbs. of vegetables because I don’t quite measure what goes in. I just eyeball it, including in the suggested amounts below.

Otherwise, I tweak a few other things from “The Curry Book” recipe my mom Xeroxed many years ago for me to enjoy.

So much curry goodness.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 4 T. unsalted butter (or ghee, if you have on hand)
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
  • 3 T. minced ginger
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1 ½ lb. chicken breast, chopped into bite-size chunks
  • 2 c. cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 c. sugar snap peas (or just frozen peas)
  • 3 T. curry powder
  • ½ T. ground cumin
  • 2 t. ground coriander
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ⅔ c. plain yogurt
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • Scallions, optional for serving
  • Cilantro, optional for serving

Directions

Heat the Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat, and add the butter. Add the onion, cauliflower, carrot, and bell pepper, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until just starting to soften. Add the chicken and cook until mostly cooked through. Add peas, ginger, and garlic and cook another minute.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the curry powder, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, yogurt, and lemon juice, and stir until well mixed. Scrape the yogurt mixture into the Dutch oven, and toss to combine.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook stirring occasionally, for about 30 to 35 minutes until chicken is cooked through and the flavor has combined. Serve on rice, with scallions or cilantro if desired, and enjoy!

 

Don’t be a drip, make this beef recipe

I don’t often say this, but thank God for air conditioning. I’m cold-blooded by nature so if I’m just sitting and the A/C is on, I’m under a blanket or wrapped in a cardigan.

But this week’s recipe called for the oven to be on for about 5 hours, and I’m pretty grateful that I did not have to heat an already scorching house.

Even though the drip beef I made (based on a Pioneer Woman recipe my sweetie came across) warmed the house for one day, the best part about it is that we didn’t turn on the oven for the next several days as we made our way through the leftovers.

Drip beef ingredients.

The microwave and toaster took care of reheating our many, many drip beef sandwiches.

The Pioneer Woman recipe gave two different ways to make this but there wasn’t a question in my mind that I’d be making the one with pepperoncinis. Even better that it was with loaded with Italian herbs as well.

I did, however, snag the sliced onions from the other recipe and add them to this one. It was not particularly noticeable but I was still glad for the little bit of onion flavor added.

The recipe was really easy, put together in less than 5 minutes, and checked only occasionally over the hours it sat in the oven. The hardest part was using forks to shred the beef, but with the A/C on, for me, it wasn’t too bad to stick my face over the Dutch oven. Besides, if done right, the meat should shred with very little effort.

I’m not usually a big beef person but this was a treat. We finished the 3 pounds we made in a few short days. Amazing.

I wish there were still some left. 🙁

Here’s what I did, tweaking the recipe slightly:

Ingredients

  • 2.5 to 4 lbs. beef chuck roast
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1 onion, halved and thickly sliced
  • 2 c. beef broth
  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 1 T. dried thyme
  • ¾ T. dried rosemary
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 16 oz. jar pepperoncinis, with juices
  • Deli rolls, toasted (for serving)
  • Cheese slices (provolone worked well), optional (for serving)

Directions

Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Meanwhile, over medium heat, melt the butter on the stove and then add the onion slices. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until just starting to brown.

Turn off stovetop. Add the remaining ingredients to the Dutch oven, except the rolls and cheese if using.

Cover and bake in the oven for 5 to 6 hours until the meat is very tender and starting to fall apart. If it’s not yet tender, keep cooking at 30-minute intervals until tender.

Remove from oven and shred meat with two forks, leaving no large chunks. Serve immediately or keep warm on the stovetop until ready to eat, and enjoy as sammies.

Beer + bacon = bueno beans

We’ve had a bag of dried pinto beans sitting on a shelf for a few months, which neither of us now remembers why we bought it.

So, when I thought about making Mexican rice, I figured I may as well come up with a recipe for using those pinto beans.

Borracho beans recipe.

Homemade bean and rice burritos with some extra cotija we also had lying around sounded like a perfect dinner to me.

I just needed the beans recipe. Thankfully, Homesick Texan was right there with three ways to make pinto beans, each building on the recipe before it. Because I always do too much, I of course, opted for the third one that had all the flavors and ingredients, and took the most time.

These beans were not meant to be made for a casual weeknight dinner, but the leftovers definitely will, and have.

I mostly followed the recipe but I decided against buying two different kinds of pork and met in the middle with thick-cut bacon. I also reduced the jalapenos and replaced one with a poblano to keep the spiciness to medium (It probably would have been fine but my way was good for me). I also made an error in recipe-reading so an adequate substitute is provided.

Best beans ever.

Here’s what I did, based on the borracho beans recipe from Homesick Texan:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. dry pinto beans, soaked overnight
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb. thick-cut bacon, divided (I used Beeler’s)
  • ¼ c. jalapeno pickle juice
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with the juices (I forgot this ingredient so substituted ½ pint cherry tomatoes and 1 c. vegetable broth)
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded, stemmed, and roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded, stemmed, and roughly chopped
  • 2 chipotles in adobo, chopped
  • 1 c. cilantro
  • 1 (12 oz.) bottle Modelo Negro or similar dark beer

Directions

Chop up all but 4 strips of (uncooked) bacon and add to a Dutch oven on medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and salt, as desired. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the beans and add them to the pot with water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring the pot to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about an hour. (At about a half-hour, I covered partially as I had added too much water, so check water levels and adjust as necessary.)

Meanwhile, cook remaining 4 pieces of bacon. Add the cooked bacon pieces to a blender with tomatoes (or tomatoes and broth, as it were), jalapenos, poblano, chipotles, and cilantro. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Once beans are mostly cooked through, after an hour, add the blended mixture to the pot.

Cook another 20 minutes, covered or uncovered as appropriate to adjust liquid level to your choosing. Add beer about 10 minutes before ready; add jalapeno pickle juices, about 5 minutes before ready, and simmer uncovered.

Let cool slightly and enjoy with more beer, and perhaps some Mexican rice.