Apple Sauce Pasta & Cheese w/ Turkey Chicken Sausage

The exact origin of the classic ‘macaroni and cheese‘ is unknown, though it likely hails from northern Europe. Although there were French dishes with pasta and cheese as early as the 14th century, it was an English writer and business woman called Elizabeth Raffald who first wrote the recipe for what we would recognize as macaroni and cheese in 1769. Elizabeth’s recipe was for macaroni, cooked in a béchamel sauce with cheddar cheese added and sprinkled with parmesan.

Many countries have a profound love and deep historical connection to a version of this dish including the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and of course Italy where pasta was first popularized in Europe. It is also possible that some of its origins may trace back to the Alps of Switzerland.

Pasta itself is neither Swiss nor European in origin; it dates to at least 3500 BC in Japan and China, likely spreading to the Middle East and northern Africa via the Silk Road. Some studies believe that the 7th century nomadic Arabs then likely brought it with them while travelling from Libya to Sicily, from where it spread north along the Italian peninsula.

Whatever the truth, this humble pasta w/ cheese dish has become an ultimate comfort food in a plethora of cultures and countries around the world. There have been many inventive twists put on this classic. The 1953 edition of the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, calls for a sauce made from Velveeta, onion and cream of mushroom soup. Other variations sub in Brie, figs, rosemary and mushrooms for the traditional cheddar based sauce. Adding applesauce might sound like a weird addition, but it works. Just like cheddar melted over a piece of apple pie is an unexpectedly delicious treat.

I used some orecchiette pasta, which cups the sauce well and amped up the flavor with smoked turkey chicken sausage. Comfort food at its best!

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Apple Sauce Pasta & Cheese w/ Turkey Chicken Sausage
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Dice onion & slice smoked sausage. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan; sauté onion until almost tender-crisp then add sliced sausage & continue to cook for a few more minutes.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil & prepare the orecchiette pasta according to package directions. When it is cooked, drain it well, drizzle it with the remaining Tbsp of olive oil. Shake it around a bit in the strainer to keep pieces from getting stuck together.
  4. Heat the milk & applesauce in pot that was used to cook pasta, stirring constantly. Do not bring to a boil.
  5. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter & whisk in the flour. Cook mixture for two minutes, whisking all the while then whisk in the hot milk/applesauce mixture. Cook for 2 more minutes continuing to whisk while the mixture is thickening.
  6. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat & stir in salt, pepper, sage, gruyere (save a bit for garnish if you wish), cheddar, onion & sausage slices. Combine evenly then add cooked pasta & stir until pasta is evenly covered with sauce.
  7. Place the Dutch oven in the oven, uncovered & bake for 30-40 minutes or until the orecchiette on top just begins to turn golden brown at the tips.
Recipe Notes
  • Alternately, you can skip the oven time as the ingredients are already cooked. I thought some sautéed leeks made a nice garnish along with the gruyere.

Salmon, Leek & Potato Gratin

Special birthday wishes are going out to my sister Loretta today on July 25th. Loretta you are a treasure that our family holds dear. We appreciate you as a person, sister, friend, mother and any other function that you hold in your life! You don’t have a bad bone in your body and you never do anything to compromise your kind heart and tender soul, you are one special lady.

Even if Brion & I can’t have a ‘birthday supper’ together with Loretta, I still like to post a meal I think she would enjoy to have on her day.

This is a gourmet take on a classic potato dish. Its creamy, cheesy and comforting but instead of making this gratin with cream, I am using a béchamel sauce made with milk and two cheeses. Gruyere and Parmesan together with parsley, thyme & Dijon mustard give it a lovely flavor which highlight the taste of the leek & salmon.

WE CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY WITH LOVE, LORETTA!

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Salmon, Leek & Potato Gratin
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Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic, lemon zest & thyme for 2 minutes. Add flour & cook 1 minute, stirring to combine. Remove from heat & gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, then return to the heat & cook, stirring until thickened.
  2. Add salt, pepper, Dijon mustard & 3/4 cup of the combined parmesan & Gruyere cheese (reserving 1/4 cup) & stir until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat & stir in the parsley & lemon juice.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish lightly with olive oil.
  4. Wash & pare potatoes (leave the skin on if you prefer). Slice very thinly; place one sliced potato in a layer on the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping slightly.
  5. Arrange one third of the sliced leek & salmon evenly on top, then spoon one quarter of the cheese sauce over all. Repeat the layers with the remaining potatoes, leek & salmon, finishing with the final layer of potato & topping with the last quarter of the cheese sauce.
  6. Sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup grated cheese. Cover with foil & bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil & bake for a further 30 minutes. Allow the gratin to stand 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • If your making this for a 'special' occasion, you may want to make them in individual servings as I did in the picture. I used 5-inch round pans with removeable bottoms & lined them with parchment paper so they couldn't leak.

Bacon, Potato & Leek Frittata

A frittata is a ‘blank canvas’ for so many different flavor combinations …. a giant omelet that is started on the top of the stove and finished in the oven.

Vegetables and cheeses are very common ingredients for frittatas, but two of my personal choices are leeks and potatoes. Leeks are like onions after charm school: less of an edge, a little more refined, with a more colorful personality. As for potatoes, their a classic breakfast ingredient that add great heartiness to a frittata.

Yukon Gold’ is my absolute favorite when it comes to potatoes. This variety was created in Canada in the 1960’s. It was bred from a potato grown in North Dakota, called Norgleam with a wild, yellow-fleshed variety grown in Peru. It has become one of the most successful potatoes in the world, a true culinary star!

Yukon Gold is an oblong, medium to large potato in size, with a slightly flattened shape. Their smooth, thin, gold to light brown skin is relatively ‘eye’ free, creating a uniform texture and shape. When cooked, they take on a creamy and tender consistency with a rich, buttery, earthy flavor. You can bake it, boil it, scallop it and even deep fry them. Yukon Gold answers the market’s demand for a disease-resistant, yellow fleshed potato that could be easily grown in North America.

This frittata is one of those meals that looks pretty ordinary but the flavor is amazing!

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Bacon, Potato & Leek Frittata
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Ingredients
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Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Cut OUTER dark green tips off of the leek. Trim off root end, then separate the leaf sheaths; wash thoroughly. Slice leek crosswise into 1/2" pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towel & set aside. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings from the pot. Add the sliced leek & 1/2 tsp sea salt. Stir & cook for about 5 minutes until leek has started to soften. Add 1/4 cup water to deglaze the pot, scraping up any leek bits from the bottom. Reduce heat to medium & cover pot for another 3 minutes, until leek is tender. Turn off heat & keep pot covered.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. In a 9-inch pie pan, scatter cooked potato cubes across the bottom. Top with cooked bacon, gruyere cheese & leek. In a bowl, beat eggs with ricotta cheese, cream, grated Parmesan, sea salt & pepper until smooth. Pour over ingredients in pie pan.
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour, until top is golden brown & center is cooked through. Serve hot or at room temperature. Can be made several days ahead & reheated in the microwave for about 1 minute.

Overnight Shrimp Newburg Strata

Brunch has been sometimes been thought to be distinctly North American but probably started in 16th century Vienna. At that time, the custom was to have five official meals a day. Early breakfast was mostly liquid like hot chocolate or other beverages. The mid morning meal was called ‘gabelfruhstuck’, meaning  fork breakfast. The custom of having fork food in the middle of the morning supposedly spread throughout Europe among the wealthy classes before coming to North America.

Whatever its specific origin, ‘brunch’, as it has become known as, is always the combination of breakfast and lunch foods. It seems to increase and wane in popularity but never really goes out of style. It is always open to new interpretations as well as just staying with the classics.

One such iconic brunch meal is Shrimp Newburg Strata. Evolving from the original, Lobster Newburg that was served at New York’s famed Delmonico restaurant in the United States. It became a standby of the after-theater suppers that were in vogue at the time. 

The limitless choices that can be made for brunch have always made it one of my favorite meals to prepare. Overnight strata is the perfect choice to serve for an Easter brunch. This Shrimp Newburg pairs well with a Waldorf salad and hot cross buns.


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Overnight Shrimp Newburg Strata

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Course Brunch, Lunch
Cuisine American, European

Servings

Course Brunch, Lunch
Cuisine American, European

Servings

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil & saute mushrooms & onion for 3 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

  2. In a buttered, shallow baking dish, arrange half of bread slices. Peel & devein raw shrimp & coarsely chop. Top bread with half of the mushroom mixture & half of the shrimp. Arrange remaining bread slices over shrimp; top with remaining mushroom mixture & shrimp. Sprinkle strata with grated Gruyere cheese.

  3. In a bowl, whisk together milk, eggs & spices; carefully pour over casserole. Cover & chill at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake, strata, uncovered for 55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.