Vegetable Mac & Cheese w/ Milkfish

Bangus, the (unofficial) national fish of the Philippines, is called ‘milkfish’ in English. Milkfish has a distinct flavor; its not a neutral bland white fish. It’s natural flavor is mild enough that it can be cooked in the manner of white fish but it tastes best when its flavor is selectively paired with complimentary ingredients and cooking methods.

Milkfish is usually cooked in soups, fried, grilled, barbecued, stuffed or stewed in various spices, ginger and vinegar. Although milkfish is one of the bonier fish species, its a good source of protein and is rich in omega 3 fatty acids so it shouldn’t be missed.

Brion & I had never tried this kind of fish before so we picked some up that were smoked. The flavor was real nice and paired well with this simple veg mac & cheese meal. Its always great to try something different.

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Vegetable Mac & Cheese w/ Milkfish
Instructions
  1. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook macaroni until tender. Drain & rinse; set aside in a dish.
  2. In a saucepan, sauté leek until tender. In the microwave, cook broccoli & cauliflower for about 1 1/2 minutes, or tender crisp.
  3. In the cooking pot, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add flour; stirring until flour is cooked & slightly browned. Slowly whisk in chicken broth & mustard. Stir in about a third of the cheddar cheese & season with salt & pepper. Carefully fold in macaroni, veggies & milkfish.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. Spoon mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar cheese. Arrange diced tomatoes on top & lastly sprinkle with the tablespoon of parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake until hot & bubbly & cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.

Scallop Shell Pies

Scallop shell pies are a nice touch in the savory pie world, I guess you could say it’s a seafood inspired twist on a classic!

We are only in the month of March, so there’s plenty of time to savor comfort food at its finest. Typically, pot pie does not have an abundance of ingredients so it is imperative to build a good flavor profile.

When making the sauce, I always use stock as opposed to water. Any thickened sauce depends on a roux. Making sure its cooked to a light golden brown helps to avoid the ‘flour’ taste and allows the other ingredients to come to the forefront.

Within the loose definition of a ‘pot pie’, its easy to add (or remove) flavors that interest you. Its all about creative expression!

When choosing the pastry, there are no right answers, just numerous possibilities that depend on the maker. Modern convenience embraces the use of puff pastry as a flakier, more delicate solution. You could call it a weeknight comfort food’s best friend.

This pot pie is made with a puff pastry ‘scallop shell’ lid and no bottom crust. The golden crust acts like a piece of bread and soaks up some of the decadence with every bite. Adding scallops to a creamy vegetable based filling creates an amazing meal.

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Scallop Shell Pies
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. Thaw puff pastry. Leave on parchment & cut out 2 shell shapes to cover your ramekins. Mark with the lines on them to replicate sea shells. Place in fridge until ready to use.
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp; remove & drain on paper towel. Sauté leek, mushrooms & garlic in bacon drippings for a few minutes. Add cooked, diced potatoes, flour & seasoning.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  3. Sauté for another minute, making sure to coat everything with the flour. Add chicken broth, stirring well to dissolve the flour; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, add scallops, crumbled bacon, cream & salt & pepper to taste; gently stir to combine.
  4. Remove filling from heat & divide between ramekins. Top with chilled puff pastry & brush with egg wash. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nice & golden.
Recipe Notes
  • When I have some pastry scraps leftover, I make a bit of cinnamon/sugar to sprinkle on it. It makes a few little tasty sweet snacks to nibble on.

Roast Chicken & Stuffing Pie

Meals like pot pies are classics for a good reason which makes them the foundation for endless inspiration. When you chose to ‘reinvent’ classic dishes, you must keep some of the elements that make the dish familiar and at the same time, you want to make the dish better, not just new. Taking a new approach to an ‘old school’ dish gives a chance to appreciate what was great about the original but making it new again.

Pot pie is a comfort food favorite which I have posted on this blog in many renditions over the years. Along with chicken I have featured seafood, beef as well as some pork & oyster pot pies.

Chicken is arguably one of the most favored proteins to put on the dinner table. Its valued for its nutrition, accessibility, low cost and most importantly its extreme versatility. Poultry serves as a blank slate and flavor absorbing foundation for every type of cuisine imaginable.

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Roast Chicken & Stuffing Pie
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Sour Cream Cornmeal Pastry
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Ingredients
Sour Cream Cornmeal Pastry
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Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles both coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it.
  2. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. DO NOT overwork dough. Press dough into 2 disks & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Chicken Filling
  1. Dice previously roast or pan fried chicken; set aside. In a saucepan, melt oil & butter & add leek, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until fragrant & the leek has softened. Toss in the bacon & continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes; stirring to combine. Add diced roast chicken.
  2. Sprinkle with the flour & seasonings; stir to combine. Add the stock & milk. Cook to reduce the sauce as well as it thickening it. Remove from heat & transfer to a bowl to cool then refrigerate for 20 minutes. Prepare Stove Top stuffing as directed on package.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare the egg wash in a small dish.
  2. Remove pastry disks & filling from refrigerator. Allow pastry to sit for a few minutes to become workable. Roll out first disk to about 10 1/2-inches in diameter. Line a 9 1/2-inch pie dish with it. Fill case with chicken filling. Fold top inch of pastry over filling in a cupping fashion. Using about 2/3 of remaining pastry, roll it into a 9-inch diameter & place on top of filled pie.
  3. Divide remaining dough into 8 strips. Place over covered pie resembling spokes of a wheel. On alternate wedges place chicken stuffing. Use egg wash on remaining four sections & on top of the narrow pastry strips.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden & cooked through. If the top is browning too quickly, loosely cover with a layer of foil until done. Remove from oven & allow to cool somewhat before serving.

Shrimp Pierogis w/ Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Like many recipes with folk origins, pierogi dough can be made in a variety of ways with some people using eggs & sour cream & others don’t. Making your own pierogis is actually an easier job than you might expect (just a little time consuming).

Like all ‘dumplings’, pierogis can pretty much do no wrong. They’re great as a side, as the main event or you guessed it ….. in a casserole or even dessert.

What makes it even better is that the filling possibilities are endless ….. the pierogi knows no boundaries!

Brion & I always enjoy a seafood meal. On a quest to come up with something different it occurred to me I had never put shrimp in a pierogi filling before. If it works in seafood lasagna why not a pierogis?!

Last summer I had posted a meal using a sun-dried tomato sauce. The once, incredibly popular, sun-dried tomatoes have become an underrated, ingredient that few people stock in their pantries anymore.

Sun-dried tomatoes are very versatile & can be used in unlimited ways, Because they’re dried, the flavors of the tomatoes are intensified. This sauce, with its bold & rich garlic & herb flavors was the perfect accompaniment for these shrimp pierogis. Definitely a keeper!

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Shrimp Pierogis w/ Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
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Ingredients
Pierogi Dough
Shrimp Filling
Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Pierogi Dough
Shrimp Filling
Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
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Instructions
Pierogi Dough ( Yield = 18)
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, beaten egg, butter & sour cream. Mix until dough comes together. On a work surface, knead dough for 3-4 minutes until elastic. Place in a plastic container with a lid & refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
Shrimp Filling
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat melt 1 Tbsp each, oil & butter. Saute leeks, mushrooms & garlic until tender.
  2. Stir in half of the bottle of clam juice & the 1/4 cup chicken broth; bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, add shrimp & 1/8 tsp pepper. Return to a boil, then reduce heat & let simmer for 4-5 minutes. Drain the filling, reserving liquid. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the remaining 1/4 cup butter. Stir in flour & mix until smooth. Gradually add in the milk & reserved liquid (from filling), while stirring constantly. Sprinkle in the rest of the salt & pepper. Bring sauce to a boil & cook for about 2 minutes until thickened, continuing to stir.
  4. Remove the sauce from heat & mix in the heavy cream & Parmesan cheese. Take about 1/3 cup of the sauce & mix it with the shrimp filling. Place remaining sauce in a bowl & set aside to be added to the SUN-DRIED TOMATO SAUCE later.
Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
  1. Add oil to skillet & heat on a medium heat. Add onion & saute until it starts to soften. Add mushrooms, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, oregano & smoked paprika.
  2. Cook for 2 minutes, while stirring, then add remaining clam juice, sea salt & RESERVED sauce. Gently combine. Set aside until pierogis are cooked & ready to serve.
Roll & Fill Pierogis
  1. Remove pierogi dough from refrigerator & cut into 18 equal pieces (about 30 gm each). Roll each piece into about a 3 1/2-inch round. Place a heaping Tbsp of shrimp filling (about 30 gm) in the middle of pierogi. Dip your finger in a bowl of water & run it along the edge of the dough. Fold pierogi in half, carefully pinching together edges to seal it completely.
Cook & Serve
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully drop pierogis in & boil until all the pierogis float to the surface & dough becomes somewhat translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Remove pierogis with a slotted spoon, making sure to let as much of the excess water drip off as possible.
  2. In a large skillet, heat a Tbsp of butter. Place drained pierogis in skillet. Do not over-crowd so that they can all lightly brown on both sides. Reheat sun-dried tomato sauce & place in a serving dish. When pierogis have fried a bit, (blot on paper towel if you wish), then add to sauce on serving dish.
Recipe Notes
  • When making the pierogis, nothing wrong with rolling out all the dough at the same time & cutting your circles with a cookie cutter. I just personally like dividing the dough so I don't have to do any re-rolling with the scraps. Just personal preference.
  • If you happened to have any filling leftover, just add it to you sun-dried tomato sauce.

German Lasagna

Classic German staples come together in this lasagna to make a very unique version of the classic dish.

There are six main ingredients in this recipe. The first is spaetzle, the German equivalent of pasta. The second is onion. By caramelizing the diced pieces you turn it into little velvety pieces of heaven that add incredible depth and sweetness to the dish. Third is Bratwurst, a fresh link sausage characterized by its many different spices and seasonings. Fourth is sauerkraut, bratwurst’s classic sidekick. Fifth is bacon and the crowning touch and grand finale is the Emmentaler cheese.

I would like to talk a bit more about spaetzle which, in my opinion, elevates this lasagna to a whole new level. Compared to traditional pasta dough, spaetzle is softer and quite moist.

Native to Germany, ‘spaetzle’ is made all over the world now, having a different name in each country. The lines have become blurred between what is a spaetzle and what is something else.

The dough is quite basic, made from flour, eggs, water and salt. Although these little ‘dumplings’ can be eaten with almost anything, I thought they added something real special to this German lasagna.

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German Lasagna
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Keyword German Lasagna
Servings
Ingredients
Spaetzle
Sauce
Caramelized Onions
Cottage Cheese
Additional Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Keyword German Lasagna
Servings
Ingredients
Spaetzle
Sauce
Caramelized Onions
Cottage Cheese
Additional Ingredients
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Spaetzle
  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour with salt & make a well in the center. Add eggs to the well & whisk the flour into the eggs. Gradually whisk in the water until a very thick batter forms. Cover with a damp cloth & allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place spaetzle dough maker above the pot with the water. Load with dough & slide back & forth or press to squeeze the dough through & form the spaetzle noodles.
  3. Once the spaetzle begins to float to the surface, scoop with a large slotted spoon & transfer to a colander placed inside a bowl for the drained water to collect. Continue process until all of the dough is used.
Caramelized Onions
  1. Heat oil in saucepan, add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Set aside.
Sauce
  1. In the saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, bouillon, garlic powder & salt until smooth. Gradually stir in milk & broth. Bring to a boil; cook & stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat to a bowl & set aside.
  2. In the saucepan, cook bacon (not too crisp); remove to a cutting board to coarsely chop. Add bratwurst sausage meat (which has been removed from casings) to saucepan & scramble fry until cooked. Drain on paper towel. Add chopped bacon, bratwurst & caramelized onions to your prepared sauce.
Cottage Cheese / Other Ingredients
  1. In a small bowl, beat eggs; add cottage cheese & pepper. Set aside. Drain sauerkraut & rinse. Squeeze dry. Grate cheese
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
  2. Spread 1 cup sauce mixture over bottom of pan. Layer with 1/3 of the spaetzle noodles, a 1/3 of sauce mixture, 1/2 of the cottage cheese mixture, 1/2 of the sauerkraut & 3/4 cup grated cheese. Repeat layers ( spaetzle, sauce, cottage cheese, sauerkraut, spaetzle, sauce). Save grated cheese for last 5 minutes of baking.
  3. Cover & bake for 50-60 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining GRATED CHEESE; bake 5 minutes longer until cheese is melted. Allow to stand 15 minutes before cutting.
Recipe Notes
  • If you do not have a spaetzle dough maker, just drop spoonfuls of dough into the boiling water to form spaetzle noodles. Dip your spoon into water to prevent it sticking on the spoon.

Persimmon Chicken Thighs

Persimmons are a wonderful fruit, typically available in Canada from October to January. Their exquisite, delicate texture & flavor is hard to describe. They have sometimes been compared to that of a peach or a mango.

Fuyus are about the size and shape of a medium tomato, somewhat squat. Their color ranges from deep reddish orange to a vivid golden orange hue with a flower-like top or stem.

Many people prefer to eat persimmons fresh but they are a wonderful addition to many recipes. At breakfast try adding them to smoothies, as a topping for yogurt or granola or as a filling for crepes. The sweet tenderness of persimmons also works well in salads and as a compliment to various meat dishes.

Today we are having persimmon with our chicken. I just can’t resist using them when they are available.

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Persimmon Chicken Thighs
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Instructions
  1. Season chicken thighs with salt & pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil & sear the chicken thighs for 3 minutes on each side. Remove thighs from pan & set aside.
  2. Add the rest of the coconut oil & the onions. Sauté the onions for 2 minutes; add ginger, garlic, persimmons, rosemary, thyme & a little more salt & pepper. Sauté for another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken broth & bring to a simmer, stirring well, making sure to scrape any pieces off the bottom of pan. Add chicken thighs back to the persimmon mixture, cover & cook for another 12-15 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle.

Roast Turkey Breast w/ Sausage, Pecans & Cranberry Stuffing

In acknowledgement to our American neighbors who are celebrating Thanksgiving today, I am featuring a stuffed turkey breast meal on the blog today.

Technically, stuffing cooked inside turkey/chicken is called ‘stuffing’ whereas stuffing cooked separately is called ‘dressing’. But no matter what you call it, stuffing can easily upstage the turkey.

If you’ve never made sausage stuffing, your missing out on all the flavor and savor it adds to the meal. Any kind of ground sausage that you think would blend well with the other ingredients will work well.

You can use dried herbs, but your best flavor will be achieved from using fresh. I not only like herbs in the stuffing but using them in an herb butter for rubbing on the outside is so good.

Toasting the bread cubes isn’t always necessary. The toasting process is meant to dry out the bread to prevent your stuffing from becoming soggy with the bread absorbing too much liquid too fast. ‘Stale’ bread is already dried out and can be used instead of toasting. Crusty bread, such as sourdough or a French loaf, make good choices for preparing stuffing.

The addition of fruit and nuts further enhances the flavor and texture. For me, I can easily make a meal of the stuffing alone. I guess its another one of those ultimate ‘comfort foods’.

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Roast Turkey Breast w/ Sausage, Pecans & Cranberry Stuffing
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SERVINGS
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Turkey Breast
Herb Butter
Servings
SERVINGS
Ingredients
Turkey Breast
Herb Butter
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Instructions
Stuffing
  1. In a saucepan, cook sausage meat until brown & crumbled, about 5-7 minutes. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon to a paper-lined plate & set aside. Drain off excess fat from saucepan.
  2. Add butter to saucepan & melt. Stir in onions & celery; sauté until softened. Add apple & garlic; cook & stir for 2 minutes. Stir in herbs & spices. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Stir in sausage, bread cubes, pecans & cranberries. Add chicken broth & stir to combine. Set aside.
Turkey Breast
  1. Arrange turkey breast skin side down on a work surface so that it lies open & flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten & make an even thickness all over. Discard plastic wrap & season turkey with smoked paprika.
Herb Butter
  1. In a small dish, combine all herb butter ingredients & set aside. Preheat oven to 325 F.
Assembly
  1. Spread stuffing over turkey breast, leaving a 3/4-inch border around the edge. Close up snugly, tucking in the stuffing as you go, then tie with kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals around the entire turkey breast. Rub turkey all over with herb butter & arrange in a roasting pan.
  2. Roast uncovered, basting occasionally, for 2 1/2 hours or until cooked thru. Cover with foil if top browns too quickly. Transfer turkey to a craving board, tent with foil & set aside for 10-15 minutes. Remove & discard twine, slice turkey & serve.

Creamy Bacon Fish Pie w/ Potato Topping

This English classic originated in small fishing villages as a way of using up the surplus catch. After poaching, baking then adding cream sauce and potatoes, the quality and the cut of fish used really doesn’t matter.

Like its cousin, the shepherd’s pie, fish pie is a comforting, homey affair of savory stew, topped with cheese laden mashed potatoes.

Traditional fish pie makes use of white fish such as cod, haddock and halibut. However, salmon and prawns can also be used. Vegetables such as mushrooms and leeks will help to make the pie even tastier.

I found, adding bacon to the filling made it a really flavorful meal. You know that expression ….. ‘bacon makes things better’!

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Creamy Bacon Fish Pie w/ Potato Topping
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a casserole dish or individual ramekins; set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, sauté bacon until partially cooked then add leeks & mushrooms. Sauté, while stirring until leeks & mushrooms are cooked. Remove from saucepan & set aside. Wipe out saucepan with paper towel. Melt butter; add flour & cook until mixture bubbles & thickens. Gradually stir in chicken broth, milk & grated Parmesan cheese. Stir over heat until mixture boils & thickens. Season to taste; add fish & steamed broccoli along with bacon mixture. Gently stir until combined & heated thru.
  3. Spoon into casserole dish or divide between ramekins. Top with cooked, mashed potato & sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered, about 25 minutes or until browned lightly.

Potatoes Stuffed w/ Bratwurst, Caramelized Onions & Sauerkraut

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

When the air becomes crisp and summer turns to fall, Germany marks the change of the season’s with Oktoberfest. A tradition dating back to 1810 in Munich Germany. Originally a celebration of the marriage of the King of Bavaria and Princess Therese. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done, every year since.

Oktoberfest is not only about the beer, singing, dancing and fair attractions. Many of the best known and most loved Bavarian specialties are enjoyed during the festival. Just to name a few …..

*Flammkuchen – a ‘white pizza’, popular on beer garden menus, has a thin crust, topped with sour cream, thinly sliced onions & smoked bacon.

*Sauerkraut & Bratwurst Balls – the two best known German foods rolled into bite-sized balls, breaded & fried & served with Bavarian mustard.

*Sauerkraut Strudel – a version of the famous Bavarian dessert, this savory treat features sauerkraut & bratwurst flavored with traditional German spices as its filling.

*Half Roast Chicken – Typically whole chickens are spit roasted, then split in half and served.

*Beer Brats – bratwurst simmered in a malty beer & onion sauce & served with mashed potatoes as a plated entree or on a soft pretzel bun.

*Pan Fried Trout – this dish is very popular in beer gardens across Bavaria, especially in the areas nearest to the mountains. Sometimes whole char is used,brought down from the cold waters of the North Sea.

*Schnitzel – German pork schnitzel is as recognizable as sauerkraut. Also made with chicken which is equally delicious.

*BBQ Pork Spare Ribs – a beer garden classic that has a prominent place on the Oktoberfest table.

*Bavarian Cream – a German high-cuisine dessert with French origins.

*Candied Apples – an irresistible favorite of young & old at Oktoberfest events.

*Candied Roasted Almonds – another favorite of both young & old.

Since the list of wonderful items is endless, I’m sure you could eat something different on every day of the festival. It runs from Sept 19th – Oct 4th/2020.

Brion & I are acknowledging Oktoberfest with a German stuffed potato meal. Its the perfect complement to sauerkraut and bratwurst.

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Potatoes Stuffed w/ Bratwurst, Caramelized Onions & Sauerkraut
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil; place a wire rack over the baking sheet. Place the potatoes in a bowl & drizzle a bit of oil over them; sprinkle with salt & pepper. Rub oil/seasoning into their skins. Place the potatoes on the wire rack & bake for about 70 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from oven & allow to cool just until they can be handled.
  2. While potatoes bake, place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Drizzle a small amount of oil into pan. Add bratwurst slices in a single layer; allow sausage slices to brown on the first side for about 3-4 minutes, then flip the slices & brown on the other side, until completely cooked through; drain on paper towel & set aside.
  3. Drain the grease from the pan leaving about 1-2 Tbsp. With heat still on, add the sliced onions plus a pinch or two of salt & pepper to caramelize to a deep golden brown, for about 20-25 minutes on a medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
  4. Once the onions are caramelized, add the bratwurst slices back into the pan with the onions; add flour & mustard & stir to combine. Add in the chicken broth (or lager). Simmer until just slightly thickened, turn off heat, check to see if any more seasoning is needed; set aside keeping mixture warm.
  5. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, being careful not to cut all the way through. Carefully scoop out most of the flesh, leaving about 1/4-inch border all the way around. Reserve the flesh for another use.
  6. Brush some of the melted butter onto the inside of each potato (add salt & pepper to taste) as well as onto their skins. Place back on the rack, flesh side up; place under the broiler to brown for several moments, once inside is slightly browned, flip the potato & crisp the skins for a couple more minutes.
  7. Fill each crispy potato skin with the brat/onion mixture, & sprinkle with a some grated cheese; return under broiler to melt cheese for just a few seconds; then finish potatoes by topping with a bit of the sauerkraut & a twist of black pepper.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer, lager beer can be used instead of chicken broth. If doing so, omit the flour & mustard.

Creamy Mushroom & Sausage Orecchiette

Orecchiette pasta originates in the sunny, southern province of Puglia, Italy. This pasta’s round concave shape led to its name, which means ‘little ears’ in Italian. The rigid exterior and cup-like interior captures chunky sauces and scoops up small vegetables, making orecchiette perfect to serve with sautes. I should mention that I didn’t find orecchiette on the regular supermarket shelves. We are lucky to have some real good Italian grocery stores in our area which definitely have them available.

You will notice, another ingredient I used in this meal is Italian sausage. Sausage is so common that people rarely stop and think about how and why they are made the way they are. Every country has a unique sausage tradition and puts their own twist on the classic meat.

Italian sausage is one of the more popular sausage varieties available, but its origins in Italy are actually different from what we are accustomed to in North America. The true Italian sausage or ‘salsiccia’ (sahl-SEE-tchay) is made of meats that have been seasoned heavily with chili and other hot ingredients and allowed to marinate and change the flavor of the meat overnight.

The more common Italian sausage that North Americans know, is a pork sausage with a fennel and anise mixture as a base seasoning. It is packaged as either HOT or MILD, the difference being in the amount of red pepper flakes that are used.

If you choose to try this meal, I think you will find it real tasty. We just loved it and I have to say it was actually the first time we had ever tried Italian sausage. I have always thought it would be too spicy hot for our liking. Needless to say, I went with the mild version.

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Creamy Mushroom & Sausage Orecchiette
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, cook sausage with a splash of olive oil, until browned & cooked through. Set aside.
  2. Add butter to saucepan & saute onions until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Mix in garlic, cook another 2 minutes. Add mushrooms & zucchini, sauteing until tender-crisp, about 5-6 minutes. Return sausage meat to pan & keep warm.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt. Cook orecchiette pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta & return to pot. Fold in cheese, sausage/vegetable mixture, fresh parsley & pepper to taste. Slowly add chicken broth until preferred consistency is reached. Serve garnished with red pepper flakes & Parmesan cheese.