Crappy week calls for comforting soup

I had plans to make something else this week, but something about the best laid plans of mice and men.

Bear with me as I get personal for just a second before getting into the recipe (I know, it’s widely mocked), but on Sunday night one of my two oldest cats had his first seizure and it was rather traumatic for us (he seems to be doing OK but it probably isn’t good news in the long run). This comes on the heels of learning less than two weeks ago that my other oldest cat has chronic health issues. So not only have I not been sleeping well but we’ve upped our medication routine lately, and of course, my anxiety.

This all means that while I had a vague idea of what I was going to make, I didn’t get around to it yet. Thankfully, my sweetie had plans to make one of his favorite seasonal soups, beer cheese soup. More importantly, he had the ingredients on hand. So, while he did some household chores, I made the soup.

Amy Thielen’s beer cheese soup recipe ingredients.

It’s from Amy Thielen’s The New Midwestern Table, one of my favorite cookbooks, and the beer cheese soup recipe in it is one of our family favorites. It’s not the healthiest but its simple and quality ingredients make it seem kinda OK.

Because I trust Amy Thielen, I mostly follow her recipes with little alteration. The same is true in this case, except as it was approaching 9 p.m., I decided to skip the blending step. I know, it’s sacrilege to have chunky beer cheese soup, but it works for me. Mostly, I don’t love smooth soups. But also, after realizing that my diced veggies — as the recipe called for — weren’t that chunky, I figured I’d save myself the effort.

After all, it’s been the kind of week that calls for easy, comfort food.

See those chunks. Yum.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter (I used unsalted even though the recipe calls for salted)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced (dicing is less critical if you plan to puree)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced (dicing is less critical if you plan to puree)
  • ¾ c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 c. broth (chicken or vegetable, preferably homemade)
  • 1 (12 oz.) can/bottle of beer (the recipe calls for a pale ale, I used my staple of Hamm’s)
  • 1 ½ c. half and half
  • 12 oz. white cheddar, grated (good-ish stuff preferred)
  • ½ T. Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • ⅛ t. ground nutmeg
  • 2 T. Dijon mustard
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Mustard oil, for serving (optional but a delight)
  • Thyme, for serving (fresh preferable but dry also works)

Directions

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the carrots, peppers, and a pinch of salt, and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring regularly until well incorporated, about 5 minutes more.

Add the stock, beer, and half and half, and cook, stirring often, at a slow simmer over medium low heat. Cook for about 15 minutes.

Add the cheese by the handful, stirring after each addition until the mixture is smooth. Add in the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, nutmeg, mustard, and lemon juice, and stir to combine.

Puree the soup in batches, if desired, being careful not to get hurt by the hot soup.

Just before serving, add salt and pepper, as needed, to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a small swirl of mustard oil and a sprinkle of fresh thyme, and enjoy!

Lazy, lovely layered lasagna

I was scrolling through Twitter one fine day keeping up on the shitshow that is our current American political system when I was distracted by something not actually terrible, an Epicurious video.

The short clip I watched without sound was a recipe for slow-cooker lasagna. I thought it sounded amazing, except, you know, I wanted to make it in my Dutch oven.

Lasagna ingredients.

Now, I’ve made lasagna a lot and I have a couple of favorites, so instead of watching the video again, I just sort of guessed/remembered/assumed what I should do to put together my own dish.

Except for the fact that I did a terrible job of evenly distributing my filling, the lasagna was amazing. I mean, most times I make lasagna, there’s too many noodles to fit but this time, oof, I really distributed poorly for the layers. But all was not lost. I just made sure to take from the better filled areas and the less filled areas and made it work.

However, if you, dear reader, try the same, be sure to go light on the filling as you roll up the noodles.

Now, having made lasagna a few different ways during my time, starting with the traditional-ish, I have to say my favorite is still actually the sheet pan recipe because I like my lasagna crispy. But if you really like the saucy bits, this one is for you. And either way, good lasagna is good lasagna, so this was quite good.

BRB, there’s more in the fridge.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 box lasagna noodles, cooked to package directions
  • 32 oz. jar of arrabbiata sauce, or red pasta sauce to your liking
  • 1 (15 oz.) tub ricotta
  • 3 c. mozzarella, shredded, divided
  • 1 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded, divided
  • 4 oz. feta, crumbled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (10 oz.) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 10 oz. marinated artichokes, chopped
  • ½ T. basil, chopped
  • ½ T. dried oregano
  • ½ T. dried rosemary
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes, optional
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, 1 c. mozzarella, ⅓ c. Parmesan, egg, spinach, artichokes, and the herbs and spices, until well mixed. EVENLY spread the mixture onto about 14 lasagna noodles, more if necessary, and roll the noodles lengthwise.

Poor about ¼ of the sauce onto the bottom of a Dutch oven. Add about half the rolled noodles to the Dutch oven; sprinkle with 1 c. mozzarella, ⅓ c. Parmesan, and half the feta, and about half the remaining sauce. Place the remainder of the rolled noodles on top, and then top with the remaining sauce, and cheeses.

Cover the Dutch oven and bake for about 30 minutes; then, remove from heat and remove the lid. Bake another about 20 to 30 minutes, uncovered, until the cheese is browned on top. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

Be a doll and make this dal ASAP

Some years ago, my sweetie got this delightful cookbook called “Flavors of India” that includes a ton of delicious, simple, and vegetarian Indian dishes. It was a household staple for years, particularly because it made healthy *and* cheap food that lasted for days.

Then, it got destroyed.

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it wasn’t lost forever. My sweetie got another copy and we’ve continued to use that one (and keep it safe) for many more years now, and it’s still as much of a treasure.

Dal-dhokali ingredients.

One of my favorites — but one I hadn’t yet made myself — is dal-dhokali, or toor dal (lentils) with chick-pea flour dumplings. It’s also, dare I say, vegan, so it’s mostly healthy (there’s some oil in the dumplings) but still very flavorful.

It’s not necessarily a quick weeknight meal but it is a lot of passive time so put on a movie favorite or catch up on your podcasts while you make this simple dish.

It looks like sludge, it tastes like awesome.

Here’s what I did, following the recipe other than increasing the spice amounts:

Ingredients

For the dal

  • 1 c. toor dal (split pigeon peas), or any dried split pea or lentil if toor dal is hard to find in your area
  • 10 c. water (yes, it sounds like a lot, but it’s works)
  • 1 ½ t. salt
  • 1 t. turmeric
  • 1 t. coriander powder
  • 1 t. cumin
  • ½ T. grated ginger
  • 1 T. tamarind concentrate, or if it’s hard to find in your area, the cookbook suggests using a tablespoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of sugar in its pace (which given its tart/sour flavor, it seems appropriate)
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 T. oil
  • 1 T. black mustard seeds
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 dried hot peppers, I used chile de arbol
  • Cooked rice, for serving

For the dumplings

  • ¼ c. chick pea flour (besan)
  • ¼ c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 T. oil, plus more for mixing
  • ¼ t. salt
  • 2 pinches cayenne
  • 5 to 7 t. water, more as needed to make dough

Directions

Wash and rinse the dal, rubbing it in your hands to remove the oily coating, while bringing the Dutch oven full of the 10 c. water to a boil with the salt.

Once the water is boiling, add the dal and return to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-high, and cook the dal uncovered for 10 minutes. Then, reduce heat and cook, covered, for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Mix together the two flours with your hands; add the salt, cayenne, and vegetable oil. Crumble the mixture together in your hands. Add 5 t. of water and continue to mix with your hands or a fork until a dough begins to form, adding more water a teaspoon at a time as necessary. Imagine making a pie crust and get it to that consistency. Once ready, set aside.

After the 30 minutes has passed, add the spices, ginger, and tamarind (or substitute) to the dal mixture, and simmer another 10 minutes, uncovered, while you roll out the dumpling dough.

To ready the dough, use oil instead of flour to keep the mixture from sticking. Add a small amount to your hands and knead for a few minutes in your hands until smooth. Add small amounts of oil to the rolling surface and rolling pin, and begin to roll out the dough, again, like a pie crust. Roll until thin like a plate (how the cookbook describes it), about ¼ inch. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut into 1 inch squares.

Add the dough a few at a time, to ensure they do not stick together, and stir to separate.

Add the tomato, and continue to simmer while preparing the final spice addition.

In a small saucepan or frying pan, heat a tablespoon of oil, and add the mustard seeds, whole cloves, and hot pepper (broken into pieces). As the oil heats, the mustard seeds will pop. Once they stop popping, about 1 to 2 minutes later, remove from heat, and dump the contents (with the oil) to the Dutch oven.

Stir the dal mixture together a few more times, and then cover the Dutch oven once more, and cook for another 20 minutes on low heat, stirring about every 5 minutes so that the dumplings do not stick. Once the dumplings are softened, serve with rice, and enjoy!

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.

Weeknight Mexican rice

Taco nights are a wonderful weekday staple in our household, as I suspect they are in many. It’s so simple to whip up, especially when so much already comes pre-packaged and ready.

Our taco nights have become slightly less simple once we reduced our salt intake and therefore actually realized how much salt is contained in those pre-packaged items.

The low sodium beans are easy enough to come by, and a homemade taco seasoning mix can be made in bulk. Skipping out on my salty Spanish or Mexican rice, however, has been a source of frustration.

Mexican rice ingredients.

My sweetie has mostly taken up the duties of making Mexican rice so it’s still a no-fuss process for me. And if I’m being totally honest, the work that goes into homemade, healthier Mexican rice is only slightly more than dumping box contents into boiling water. After all, the rice part takes equally long to cook and is equally easy to ignore.

The worst part of the homemade rice is cutting a carrot and an onion; in other words, not all that much work.

My sweetie has kept the rice flavorful, without the salt, by adding a homemade broth. He has also started cutting out the addition of tomato and tomato paste. Since I was on duty this time, I made it my way.

So tasty, and less salty.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped, optional
  • 1 c. medium grain rice
  • 2 c. homemade vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 2 to 3 T. tomato paste

Directions

Add the oil to a Dutch oven on medium heat. Saute the onion and carrot for 3 to 5 minutes until just starting to soften. Add the garlic, tomato, if using, and the rice. Saute for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat for 12 to 15 minutes, until the rice is nearly done and the broth is absorbed. Add the peas and tomato paste, stir to combine, re-cover and cook until the peas are cooked through and rice is ready, about another 3 to 5 minutes.

Fluff the rice and enjoy with tacos … or next week’s recipe.

How green was my shakshuka

I was looking for another savory breakfast food when I was reminded that for years I’ve thought about making the Middle Eastern egg and sauce dish called shakshuka.

There were no hard-to-find ingredients; it just never quite made the cut when I was looking for something new to try. Until this week.

Green shakshuka ingredients.

My now-beloved Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook even had a recipe all ready for me. Sure, it’s a different take than the traditional — it has a green sauce rather than a red tomato-based one. But that sounded even better. I can always use more greens in my diet.

The recipe turned out fine, if not my favorite. It calls for adding herbs in at the end, though I think adding them to the base sauce and then again at the end would be better — so that more of their flavor seeps into the sauce but also has the fresh zip that their late addition adds. (I should add that my sweetie quite liked the dish so maybe I just don’t appreciate greens as much as I should.)

Other than that, be prepared to buy a lot of Swiss chard, and preferably the kind without red stems if you want it to look vibrant green rather than my brownish-green.

Look at all those beautiful herbs. Noms.

Here’s what I did, roughly following the recipe (though changing some proportions):

Ingredients 

  • 3 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed and reserved and leaves chopped
  • 12 oz. baby spinach
  • ¼ c. olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 t. ground coriander
  • ½ c. vegetable broth
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 T. chopped dill (I recommend more for sauce)
  • 2 T. fresh mint (I recommend a little more for sauce)
  • 1 t. dried Aleppo pepper, optional (I had on hand but it’s a mild crushed pepper so regular crushed pepper isn’t a good substitute unless you want to add a little spice)

Directions

Chop chard stems to yield 1 cup. Discard the rest or save for another use.

Heat Dutch oven on medium heat. Add 2 T. olive oil. Add the chard stems, onion, and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened and lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and coriander, and cook for about another minute.

Add the chard leaves and spinach (I had to do it in batches so they would wilt down), and cook until wilted but still green, about 3 to 5 minutes. Here I’d recommend adding some herbs for more flavor, to taste. Remove the mixture from heat and add 1 to 1 ½ c. of the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, about a minute. Stir the blended mix back into the Dutch oven.

Add lemon juice and peas, and stir.

Place back on heat, medium to medium-low. Make 4 indentations in the mix and crack 2 eggs into each indentation. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper, if using, and more salt as desired. Cover the pot and cook until egg whites are just set, 5 to 10 minutes (You have to keep a close eye on it). Remove from heat and let sit, covered, until the whites are fully set, another 2 to 4 minutes.

Add the herbs, feta, and drizzle with more olive oil.

Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

Ratatouille any which way

I’ve talked about my love of Ratatouille before, both the movie and the food item. The movie has the message of “Anyone can cook,” which is to say not everyone can do it but that one’s station in life — even as a rat — can’t dictate whether one is a great chef.

Ratatouille ingredients.

A great chef I am not but I take comfort in that, and many other, life lessons offered by the Pixar classic.

As I’ve come to love the French dish almost as much as the move, I’ve also come to realize it’s an appropriate recipe to highlight the movie’s message and theme. The dish is a humble stew that also can be made to be served at the top restaurant in Paris.

If anyone can can cook, ratatouille shows that simple ingredients can make for an impressive meal no matter which way you make it.

I found last year that I loved making this traditional stew-like dish as a tian on a sheet pan. But in making it in my Dutch oven this year, I was reminded that it also works really well in its stew-ish form. While it mirrors a hearty stew, it is still exclusively vegetables and herbs and spices, with a little bit of (OK, a lot of) olive oil, which makes it light even on a summer night. Also, it doesn’t need to cook for hours upon hours. It’s a half hour or so in front of a stove top, not bad in the air-conditioned house.

It’s practically perfect, especially for the upcoming Bastille Day!

So healthy and yet so scrumptious.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 5+ T. olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 7 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 to 2 medium), chopped
  • 2 medium zucchinis, chopped
  • 2 medium summer squash, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 T. thyme (the recipes often recommended whole sprigs to be removed; I just used dried)
  • 2 T. dried basil  (I’d prefer fresh but I had some dried on hand)
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • ½ T. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 to 5 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 T. tomato paste

Directions

Add about 2 T. of oil to a large Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until beginning to turn translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add another about 2 T. of oil and the eggplant. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 to 10 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add another about 2 T. of oil, the zucchini, summer squash, and bell pepper. Cook, continuing to stir occasionally, for another 5 to 10 minutes until the zucchini and squash are mostly cooked through. Add the tomatoes, herbs and spices, and tomato paste, and cook for another 5 minutes, covered, until all the vegetables are cooked through and the mixture looks stew-ish.

Let cool slightly (it stays hot for awhile), and enjoy with some fancy bread!

The best rice casserole

I love the boxed Rice-A-Roni mixes as much as the next person who has little time and a desire for calories. But I love even more the absence of guilt when I home make a similar recipe.

This is how I came to create my own broccoli cheddar rice casserole.

Broccoli rice casserole ingredients.

Sure, recipes abound for throwing together cooked rice, a pre-made cheese sauce, and some microwaved broccoli, but with slightly more effort, you can enjoy baked, cheese, rice, and broccoli that doesn’t feel quite as bad for you.

Though it wasn’t hard to find either kind of recipe online, there was nothing I found that quite suited my tastes. So, I did what I usually do, I mixed and matched to make it suitable for my Dutch oven dreams.

All the recipes of any kind called for mushrooms but I just about refuse to eat them. If they’re tiny and hidden, I may be able to handle some. I can kind of do raw ones, sometimes, if I have to, but as much as I try to keep an open mind about foods, I just can’t do it with mushrooms. So, if you like them, feel free to remove one head of broccoli from my recipe and substitute with 8 oz. mushrooms, or do both and have an extra vegetable-y recipe.

With my changes, and thanks to mostly Southern Living and a little Serious Eats, and I had the perfect recipe, and even better, it came together quickly and deliciously. I loved it.

Nom nom noms.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 6 T. butter, divided
  • 1 c. panko
  • 2 c. cheddar, divided (I like extra sharp)
  • 1 c. Parmesan, divided
  • 3 c. broth (I used homemade; the recipe calls for chicken)
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 t. thyme
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes (optional but I liked the kick)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ c. flour
  • 1 ½ c. uncooked long-grain rice
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 3 heads fresh broccoli florets, chopped to stems

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 2 T. butter, and combine it with the panko and ½ c. of the cheddar, and ½ c. of the Parmesan, and toss together. Set aside.

Melt remaining 4 T. in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broccoli (and mushrooms if using), the salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes until the broccoli has started to turn bright green. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the flour until combined.

Add the rice, and stir for another couple minutes. Stir in the broth and milk, and bring to a boil. Add the remaining cheeses, and the sour cream, and mix until well combined. Cover with Dutch oven lid or aluminum foil.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the rice is tender, the liquid is nearly absorbed, and the broccoli is cooked through. Add the panko mixture on top, and bake for another 10 minutes until the top is browned. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

Fitting vegetable gratin for mediocre fowl dinner

My sweetie and I had what we thought would be a fun idea when we were ordering meats earlier this year. We should try all these random non-chicken birds available from our favorite sustainable meat supplier, we thought. How bad could they be, we thought.

Well, I am here to tell you that there’s a reason we as meat-eaters dine on chicken more often than wild game birds. There’s the buck shot for one, and the feathering, but mostly it’s the strong and not altogether pleasant taste.

We made it through the birds, but in the future, I’m probably not going to eat too much partridge, wood pigeon, or pheasant. Unless the apocalypse comes sooner than I hope.

But to go along with these fowl, I thought I’d make a nice vegetable gratin to go with our meat-heavy dinner.

Vegetable gratin ingredients.

While the preparation went more smoothly than for the birds, the end result was a similar level of meh. It was easy but at the cost of being pretty bland.

It was less offensive than the birds to my taste buds but it also made a lot more and we’re still slowly going through the leftovers. I much prefer the similar vegetable dish I made last year on a sheet pan — marinated artichokes add so much, I guess (probably mostly salt) — than this Dutch oven gratin.

It looks pretty good, but it’s just not bad.

If you’re looking for a plain dish, or have ideas of sprucing up my adaptation of a The Kitchn recipe, here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, sliced*
  • 3 medium leeks, halved and thinly sliced
  • ¾ to 1 lb. potatoes, sliced*
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced*
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (I used the jar stuff, and didn’t measure)
  • 1 ½ c. sour cream
  • 1 ½ c. Parmesan
  • ½ t. ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • *Note: A mandoline is recommended for slicing these vegetables, so they can be evenly thin. I used ⅛ inch.

Directions

Heat an oven to 400 degrees.

Add all the sliced vegetables to a large Dutch oven. Add in the sour cream, Parmesan, nutmeg, and salt and pepper, and stir well to lightly coat the vegetables with the cream mixture.

Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Carefully remove the lid/cover, and bake for another 15 minutes uncovered so the top can brown. Cool for about 10 minutes, and (try to) enjoy!