Category Archives: Main Courses

Thai-inspired Chicken Skewers

Last month, when I was at the Fancy Food Show, I had a chance to check out a few new products in Schoolhouse Kitchen‘s range.  I’m a huge fan of their jams, chutneys, and mustards, which combine top-quality ingredients to make bold and innovative flavors.  They are perfect for cooking with as well as for slathering on breads and meats to make delicious sandwiches and snacks.  Their new Coconut Citrus Vinaigrette is a fantastic addition to their product line.

It is deeply flavorful with a smooth texture from the coconut milk, a dash of spice from the curry, and a zing of citrus shining throughout.  The tastes are all so well balanced and would be perfect for drizzling over a salad of seasonal summer greens.  For me, this brought back memories of eating Thai Chicken Skewers.  I’d taken a cooking course in Asian cuisine a few weeks prior to the show, and when I compared my notes for the recipe with the ingredients on the label of this vinaigrette, I realized that Schoolhouse Kitchen had created almost the exact same mixture that I could use in my own home kitchen.

When I ran into Wendy, the president of the company, at the Ice Cream Beer Social at Jimmy’s No. 43 last week, we talked about my sending her a recipe for these, using her vinaigrette.  I’ve contributed a couple of recipes to her website that I made with their chutneys, and I always want to try to find more ways of using their products.  This recipe has little prep time, minus the marinade part, and a very short cooking time, so I put it on the list of Weeknight Suppers.  Add peanut dipping sauce and some greens or a Pad Thai, and it is an easy meal for a hot summer’s night or for any time you’d like to take a trip to the Far East.

Thai-inspired Chicken Skewers

Prep time: 30 minutes; 1.5 hours with marinade time

Serving size: 8 skewers; serves 8 as appetizers or 4-6 as main meal

Ingredients:

1/2 c. Schoolhouse Kitchen Coconut Citrus Vinaigrette

2 cloves Garlic, smashed and chopped finely

1 1/2-inch piece of Ginger, grated

2 tsp. Fish Sauce

4 boneless skinless Chicken breast halves (2 whole breasts)

8 long Bamboo Skewers

1 tsp. Canola oil

1 Tbsp. minced Cilantro (optional garnish)

Assembly:

Mix together the ingredients for the marinade.  Add the garlic, ginger, and fish sauce to the Coconut Citrus Vinaigrette and stir to combine.  Pour the mixture into a shallow dish large enough for the meat to be in one layer.

Grating ginger

Cut chicken into approximately 2-3 inch long and 1/2 inch thick pieces.  The best way to slice the meat is to cut it across the grain, as in the photo below.

Cutting chicken

Put the chicken into the dish with the marinade and toss it around to make sure that all of the pieces are coated in the liquid.  Leave this at room temperature for one hour to allow the marinade to infuse into the meat.  Turn the meat once at about the 30 minute mark so that both sides are coated with the liquid.  If making this several hours ahead of cooking time, cover the chicken and marinade and place it in the refrigerator instead of leaving it out at room temperature.

Soaking the Skewers

Thirty minutes prior to cooking the chicken, put the skewers in a pan or dish and cover them completely with water to soak them thoroughly before using them.  This will keep them from burning while the meat is cooking on the grill.

Chicken on skewers

When the chicken has finished marinading and the skewers are done soaking, thread the meat onto the skewers to prepare them to cook.  In the photo above, I probably crowded the meat too much, but you can see how the meat is threaded through the sharp end of the skewer and pushed to the bottom (flat end), like making shish kebab.

Cooking the skewers

Heat up a grill pan drizzled with canola oil or fire up an outdoor grill.  Lay the skewers in a single row, like in the photo above, to cook for 3-4 minutes on the first side.  When the edges of the chicken look done, i.e., the edges have gone from pink to beige, turn the skewers over and cook for 3-4 minutes on the second side.  As the meat has been sliced thinly, it will cook rather quickly.

Thai-inpired Chicken Skewers

When the meat is cooked through on both sides, remove to a plate or serving platter.  Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro, if using.  Serve with peanut sauce on the side.

Buon appetito!

Kitchen Witch Tip:

As a way of introducing new people to their products and to how easy it is to use them creatively in cooking meals for their families, the folks at Schoolhouse Kitchen have a well-curated recipes and serving suggestions section on their site. These are a great inspiration for anyone looking to perk up their usual weekly meal rotation.  Hopefully, you’ll also find a new favorite dish using one of these terrific products!

Asparagus and Scrambled Eggs with Herb Butter

If you don’t like using really great, European-style butter as a flavoring and key component in a dish, you should click away now.  If you don’t have a fear of la beurre, then this is a recipe for you.  I’d originally thought of it as a Mother’s Day Brunch dish, hence the hearts, but it could just as well be a weeknight supper or anytime meal, it is so easy to put together.

Asparagus are now really in season in New York, as are eggs (they have great flavor and color in the springtime), so this is a perfect meal to make at this time of year.  Fluffy, golden eggs, given extra flavor due to the herb butter, just melt in your mouth.  The puff pastry is an extra decorative touch that also gives a crunchy and light side note to the creaminess of the eggs and the woodsiness of the asparagus.  Coating the vegetables in the same seasoning as the eggs pulls the dish together even more tightly.

The compound butter that is a component of this recipe is simple to make and freezes really well.  I make a bit extra and keep it in my freezer to add an additional pop of flavor to grilled vegetables or meats.  The hearts were made using my regular cookie cutters, which is another way to consider a kitchen item that might usually just sit in a cabinet waiting for that holiday to be used each year.  For me, this was sort of a fun dish to make, as it brought together so many wonderful individual ingredients, much like getting friends who have never met each other around the table for a great meal and good conversations.

Asparagus and Scrambled Eggs with Herb Butter

Serving Size: 2 portions

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 sheet Puff Pastry (I used 1/2 sheet Dufours)

2 Tbsp good-quality unsalted butter (like President), softened to room temperature

2 tsp minced, fresh Tarragon

1 tsp minced Shallot

3/4 tsp Salt (1/2 plus 1/4)

1 pinch ground black Pepper

12-14 Asparagus spears

3 large Eggs

1 tsp. cream, milk or water (your preference)

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Using cookie cutter (heart shape optional) or knife cut out 4 pieces of the puff pastry (e.g., 4 hearts, 4 clovers, 4 triangles, 4 squares, etc.).  Place on parchment paper or silicone sheet and bake on tray for 25 minutes, until puffed up and light golden brown.  (I did not roll out the pastry or brush it with anything.  I just let it thaw a bit and then cut out the hearts.  This made them extra poofy when they cooked, as you can see in the end photo.  For fun, I also baked the cut out pastry portion to snack on later.)

Put a saucepan of water on to boil.  While the pastry is cooking and the water is boiling, prepare the butter mixture in a bowl.  Cream [mix] together the softened butter, tarragon, shallot, 1/4 tsp salt, and pepper.  Set aside.

Prep the asparagus.  I’m a big fan of the bend-until-the-end-snaps method.  You can also peel the ends until you get to a tender part, if that is your preference.  Once the saucepan of water is boiling, add 1/2 tsp. salt.  Add the asparagus to the water.  Let them cook for about 3 minutes, until they are barely fork-tender (i.e., a fork just goes through them all the way).  Remove them from the water and set them on a plate.  It doesn’t matter if they get a bit cool.

In a bowl, crack the eggs and beat them lightly with a fork.  Add the cream, milk or water and beat a bit more to incorporate the extra liquid.  Check on the puff pastry.  By this time, it should have risen at least a bit.  At 7 minutes until the time the pastry should have finished cooking, put 2 tsp. of the herbed butter into a non-stick skillet and turn the heat on the stove to let it melt.

Once the butter has melted and the shallots start to sizzle a bit, add the cooked asparagus to the butter.  Toss the asparagus in the butter mixture for 1 minute to coat the asparagus and to reheat them.  Divide the asparagus among 2 plates and cover them with foil to keep warm.

Check on the puff pastry.  If they are completely puffed up and the tops are light golden brown, remove them from the oven and leave them on the baking tray.

In the same skillet in which you cooked the asparagus, melt an additional 2 tsp to 1 Tbsp of herbed butter (or even just the rest of it, depending upon how you feel).  Pour the eggs into the butter when it is melted and foamy.  As the eggs start to cook, push them around and around the skillet gently with a rubber spatula so that the don’t sit at any point in the pan just completely cooking in one place (you are moving them around so that they stay light and fluffy).  At the point where they are still so slightly wet, turn off the heat.  The residual heat will continue to cook the eggs.

Divide the eggs between the two plates with the asparagus on them and place two of the hearts/puff pastry pieces on each of the plates.  Season with extra salt, pepper, and chopped fresh tarragon as preferred.

Buon appetito!

Valentine’s Day Special Dinner – Roast Chicken, Potato Gratin, and Apple Tart

Sometimes I wonder if we are so focused on Valentine’s Day as a particular day that we forget to recognize all those little things that we do throughout the year to show our affection and regard for the people whom welove.  Because I talk about on food and eating in my blog, this usually manifests itself in cooking a special meal or baking a little treat that you know someone likes.  It can even be about fixing dinner and cleaning upafterwards some evening when you know that your sweetie has had a roughday.  When I lived in the UK many years ago, having a roommate make an extra mug of very strong, sweet, milky teafor you when he/she was making his/her own mug was akin to saying, “I know today was a bad one, but it will get better.”

These are the sorts of pick-me-ups that keep us going in life, especially during the harder moments.  When folks ask me, then, what I think is a good meal for Valentine’s Day, I often recommend the straightforward, simpler dishes, in keeping with the wintry season during which the day falls.  A hearty roast chicken can make a house smell like home.  For my tastebuds and stomach, nothing is better than serving a gooey, cheesy, creamy potato dish alongside it.  Then, have something green (broccoli, broccolini, spinach, kale, it doesn’t really matter).  For dessert, I like to pick something that I can make, preferably in advance, that doesn’t take a lot of time.
One of these no-fail, family-favorite desserts is an AppleTart Tatin recipe that I found in an English cooking magazine years ago. When my sister was pregnant with my niece, all she wanted was rich, dairy-laden food.  She isn’t generally one of those folks who craves much of anything, that I’ve ever known.  In fact, she isn’t one of those folks who really lives to eat or who focuses all that much on food things.  In addition, her husband is lactose intolerant so they don’t keep very much diary in the house, and she doesn’t often get to eat some of the cream- or milk-based dishes that our mother used to make.
The other question I’m often asked is how I time things to all come out together.  I have to confess that some if it is really just practice and having made the same dishes over and over again.  Some of it is reading through all the recipes and actually mapping out the sequence of events,like with our family holiday dinner. With a little bit of pre-planning and timing, this can be pulled together on a weeknight, whether it is Valentine’s Day or not.  I’ve added a possible sequence of events (single oven version) as this post’s Kitchen Witch Tip.
My exact recollection is a little bit fuzzy, but I think that I managed to swing it perfectly that evening when my sister came to visit my apartment, despite the fact that I had been at work all day.  It must have been a particularly delicious memory because this meal came up in a conversation between the two of us just the other week.  It is still a sentimental remembrance for both of us: of affection and caring between two siblings and love and happiness for the life that was about to come into the world.
Buon appetito!
Thyme Roasted Chicken with Gravy
For chicken:
3.5 lb. chicken, preferably organic
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
½ tsp. olive oil, plus more for outside of chicken
1 tsp. thyme leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ whole lemon
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 thyme springs
salt
pepper
For gravy:
drippings from roasted chicken
¼ c. onion, finely chopped
garlic cloves from roasted chicken, peeled
2 sprigs thyme (fresh)
¼ c. dry white wine
juice of ¼ lemon
2 tsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. flour
1 c. chicken stock
¼ tsp. salt
1 pinch black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove gizzards, etc. from inside of chicken.  Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan.  Put lemon,garlic cloves, and whole thyme springs into the cavity of the chicken.
An improvised rack, made out of aluminum foil
Mix together (mash) minced garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil,thyme, and butter.  Gently lift up the skin of the chicken breasts and slather the butter mixture between the skin and the meat.  Make a small cut in the skin on the legs and put butter between the skin and the meat of the legs.
Rub olive oil into the outside of the skin of the chicken.  Make sure to coat the whole exterior of the bird with the oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Put in the oven for 10 minutes.  After that, turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for about 1 hour more, until a meat thermometer registers on the poultry setting (consult All Recipes for additional cooking times for larger chickens).  You might need to cook it for another 10-15 minutes after the hour mark, but let the thermometer guide you on that.
Remove chicken from the roasting pan, set on serving platter, and cover with foil. Roasting pan should be the type that can be placed on a stovetop burner.  Put pan on burner over low heat.  Add onion and garlic to the pan and mash the garlic into small pieces with the back of a fork.  Cook for 2 minutes.
Lots of great drippings to make gravy
Add in thyme sprigs and wine and let cook until the wine has reduced by one-half.  Add lemon juice and stir together.  Mash together butter and flour and whisk into the liquid in the pan until it is combined thoroughly.  Gradually add in chicken stock and cook until the mixture is rich and thick.  Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning to taste.  Strain gravy(or not, depending upon your taste) and serve hot with the chicken (see photo above of plated meal).
Cheesy Potato Gratin
Butter (or butter wrapper), to grease the baking pan
½ c. whole milk
½ c. heavy cream
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 thyme springs
2 large Russet potatoes, sliced thinly (I use a mandoline)
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. thyme leaves
¼ c. grated Gruyère or Comté cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter small casserole dish (9 x5.5-inches or smaller).  In microwaveable measuring cup, combine the milk, cream nutmeg, salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme springs (i.e., the next 7 ingredients), and heat in microwave oven on high for a minute or on the beverage setting.  Remove from oven and cover to let mixture steep for a few minutes.
In the meantime, start layering the potatoes into the buttered baking dish.  They should overlap slightly at the edges.  Putabout ¼ of the potatoes in the dish. Then, pour about ¼ c. of the liquid through a strainer or sieve over the potatoes.  The liquid should just come up to just below the top layer of potatoes.  Sprinkle top layer of potatoes with 1 pinch each of nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Continue to layer the potatoes and to pour the liquid into the dish in the same manner for two more times, seasoning each layer with 1 pinch each of nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Put one more layer of potatoes in the dish and season with 1 pinch each of nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Then, sprinkle the thyme leaves over the top of the potatoes and cover it with the grated cheese.  For this layer, delicately spoon over the strained liquid until it comes just below the cheese layer of the dish.  You might still have some liquid left, which you can discard or save for another use.
Cover dish with aluminum foil.  Place in oven to cook for 30 minutes.  Uncover the dish, place it on the top rack of the oven (if not already there), and cook for 15 minutes more to allow the top to get bubbly and golden brown. Remove from oven.  Allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes before trying to cut it into wedges toserve.  Be careful, as this dish will be piping hot.
This recipe hasn’t been uploaded online as far as I cantell, so this is the link to where it was first published on my website.  I have used MacIntosh and Jonagold apples, both with great success. Granny Smiths would be too tart and Golden and Red Delicious just don’t really stand up in this recipe.  It is also definitely worth it to indulge in real butter puff pastry if you have access to it.
Kitchen Witch Tip
The best thing to do is to make the Apple Tarte Tatin in advance.  That way, it can be put back in the oven to reheat while you are eating dinner.  The first task is to prep and cook the Chicken.  While the Chicken is cooking, prep the Potato Gratin. Thirty minutes before the Chicken is due to come out of the oven, put the Potato Gratin in on a bottom rack to cook, covered.
After you remove the Chicken from the oven, uncover the Potatoes and move them to the top oven rack to continue cooking and so that the top can brown.  While the Potatoes finish cooking, make the Gravy and put the Vegetables on the stovetop to cook.  The Gravy, Vegetables, and Potatoes should all finish at about the same time.  The resting time for the Potatoes can take place while you are plating up the Chicken and the rest of the food.  Turn the oven off and put the Apple Tarte Tatin in the ovento warm up for dessert (this doesn’t have to be served hot, but it is nice to have it a bit warm).
Buon appetito!

Sole Filets with Lemon-Butter Sauce

I have to confess to having a bit of a phobia about making fresh fish, which I had tried to confront when I took a class at Astor Center last spring.  After that, I actually had a greater comfort level at thinking about cooking it, although I haven’t put much of the lesson into practice.  I’d made the refreshingly delicious Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette when the weather got warm last year, but I haven’t re-created any of the other dishes we did in the class.

On Sunday, I was with some friends checking out the Foodshed seasonal market at the Brooklyn Commons.  One of them was eyeing the fresh skate that Joseph Fisheries out of Montauk on Long Island had on display for sale.  She was telling us that her cooking method is to poach it and then eat it served over a green salad dressed with a vinaigrette.  I really like skate and always mean to try making it but rarely find it to buy.  I should have snagged the last piece that they had there.

Instead, we each bought one the lovely filets of grey sole that they were selling.  I haven’t ever cooked sole, and I’m not even sure that I remember eating it.  So, I pulled out Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking to see her recommendations for preparing it.  The recipe for poaching the fish in a wine and water combination sounded like it could work; however, I had a feeling that these filets were too thin to withstand an oven cooking method.

What I was really after was something incredibly simple with a flavorful sauce to balance the delicate fish.  I remembered from the class that I’d taken that we’d lightly floured the filets before cooking them.  Then, I had an idea from an Italian recipe that I’d used to make to create a sauce using a white wine reduction with a little bit of butter and lemon for a punch of flavor.  When I put these things together, I came up with a tasty dinner, fast and easy to make.  I really should look out for great, locally-caught fish more often as this is so simple to throw together on a weeknight.


Sole Filets with Lemon-Butter Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Serving Size: 2 portions

Ingredients:
2 filets of Grey Sole
1/4 cup Flour
1/4 tsp. Salt
pinch Black Pepper
2 tsp. Unsalted Butter
1 tsp. Olive Oil
1 small Shallot, very finely minced
1/2 cup dry White Wine
1 tsp. Lemon Juice
Salt
Pepper
Parsley, chopped – optional

Assembly:
Mix together flour and salt and pepper on a plate.  Dredge sole filets in the seasoned flour (cover completely on both sides).  Heat 1 tsp. butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium-low flame.

Place sole filets in the pan when the butter-oil mixture is foamy.  Cook for 2 minutes on the first side, until you can see along the side of the filet that it is cooked.  Turn over and cook on the second side for 1 minute.  Take out of the pan and put each filet on a plate.

Add shallots to the pan and cook for 1 minute until softened.  Pour the wine into the pan and stir to combine the shallots and any of the flour that might be left over from the fish.  Cook to reduce the liquid by half.  Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining 1 tsp. of butter to make the sauce glossy and thick.  Add the lemon juice and stir to incorporate.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour sauce over the plated fish.  Sprinkle with parsley if using.  Serve with a green salad, steamed spinach, or other vegetable and some crusty bread to soak up the last of the sauce.

Buon appetito!

My Mom’s Sausage and Cheese Lasagna

It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog or who knows me that I did the majority of the dinner cooking when I was at my parent’s house over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.  In some ways I didn’t mind.  It gave me a chance to flex my culinary muscles, which doesn’t usually happen cooking for just one person, as I normally do.  I also got to make those big batch kind of meals that feed the small army of folks who grew up in my household but which would mean I’d be stuck eating leftovers for weeks.

So, in addition to the Christmas dinner of Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce, a batch of Spaghetti and Meatballs, and roasted chicken, all of which provided great leftovers for several days, I also whipped up a batch of my mother’s Sausage and Cheese Lasagna.  Last year, I wrote about how I wanted to see if this dish would stand up to some of the newer ones I’d come across as part of my Recipe Box Project.  Mom’s won.  It has that right flavor balance of robust tanginess from the tomato sauce, ooey-gooey comfort from the cheeses, heft from the pasta, and hearty meatiness from the sausages, with just a little bit of kick from the red pepper in the spicy sausage to keep the dish from being bland or boring.  It’s even better to eat on the second day.

This is a well-used card

This year, when my brother mentioned that he should get the recipe so that they can make it when they are back home, I said, “Well, it’s in the recipe card file.”  He replied, “Yeah, but that would mean I’d have to write it down.”  I countered, “It’s on my blog.”  He responded, “It’s just easier if you write it out for me.”  Actually, what he really meant to say is, “It’s easier if you not only write it out for me step, by step [as you can see from the card there’s just the ingredients listed, no instructions as to what to do with them], but also to make it, freeze it, and find a way to ship it to them ready-made.”  This is the same reaction I get to many of the recipes that my family wants from me (not to rat out my sisters and any particular cookie recipe or anything).


It was satisfying to see that he, my sister-in-law, my tiny nephew, and my dad all enjoyed eating the lasagna that I made.  Devouring it might be a bit more accurate.  Two-thirds of the pan was gone by the time dinner was over, with everyone, even the little guy, going back for seconds.  This recipe is easily adaptable, too, which makes it work well as a family meal.  Just throw together a green salad and some garlic bread to make it a classic Italo-American dinner.  So, here you are little bro, I’ve written out the instructions for you as I made this last week, but I’m not flying out there to make this for you whenever you want to eat it.

Hey!  How did that spinach note get in there?

Sausage and Cheese Lasagna*

Prep Time: 1.5 hours before the oven time, plus 30 minutes to bake
Serving Size: Depends upon how hungry everyone is, 6-8 people

For the sauce:
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 medium Yellow Onion, chopped finely
2 large cloves of Garlic, minced
1 lb. Hot Italian Sausage, casings removed and crumbled
1 lb. Sweet Italian Sausage, casings removed and crumbled
2 Tbsp dried Parsley
1 Tbsp dried Basil Leaves
1 28-oz. can chopped Tomatoes
1 8-oz. can Tomato Sauce
1 6-oz. can Tomato Paste

Warm up olive oil over medium-low heat in a large pan or Dutch oven.  Add onion and cook for three minutes, until the onions are soft.  Add in the garlic and cook for two minutes more, taking care that the onions and garlic don’t burn or turn dark.  Put the sausages in the pot and let them cook until you cannot see any pink parts.  This will take about 10 minutes.  While the sausages are cooking, you can mash them into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon.

Add the dried parsley and basil to the sausage mixture and stir to incorporate thoroughly. Pour in the chopped tomatoes with their juice and the tomato sauce.  Fill the tomato sauce can with water and swirl around to get the last of the sauce out of the pan.  Pour that liquid into the can with the chopped tomatoes and pour that into the pot.  Add the tomato paste. Fill the tomato paste can with water to scrape out the last bits and pour into the pot with the rest of the ingredients.

Bring pot to a medium simmer and turn the heat to low.  Let ingredients simmer for at least one hour.  Turn off heat and let sit while preparing the cheese layer and assembling the lasagna.

Meat Sauce for Lasagna

For the cheese layer:
1 15-oz. container Ricotta Cheese (can use part-skim if you like)
2 large Egg Yolks (save whites for another use)
2 Tbsp dried Parsley
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. ground Black Pepper
1 10-oz. box frozen Spinach, thawed and drained (if using) – optional

Combine first five ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until ready to assemble lasagna prior to baking it.  If you are using the spinach, add it at the end.

Cheese Mixture for Lasagna

To assemble:
10 oz. dried Lasagna Noodles, cooked according to package instructions (you might not use the whole box, so you should cook them in batches)
3/4 cup mixed Italian Cheeses (Fontina, Asiago, Parmesan) – optional
10 oz. box Frozen Spinach, thawed and drained (if using) – optional
1 lb. Mozzarella Cheese, grated (can be part-skim)

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put two tablespoons of sauce in a 9x13x2-inch pan and spread it around to coat the bottom.  Place a row of pasta on the bottom of the pan. Spoon over several ladles of sauce and a third of the cheese mixture.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the mixed cheeses on top of that.  If using the spinach, put globs of it (or spread it out, your choice) on top of the cheese layer.  Repeat two more times.  Finish by sprinkling the mozzarella on top of everything.

Ready for the Oven

Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes until heated through and the cheese on top is all melted and gooey.  Increase heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 10 minutes more to make the cheese golden.  Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into squares.  Serve immediately.

Ready to serve and eat

Buon appetito!

*Kitchen Witch Tip:
You could use a whole wheat pasta, but here I stuck to a regular one.  I liked the mix of the Italian cheese in addition to the ricotta, but that isn’t in the original recipe.  I omitted the spinach (which I think was an extra item my mom snuck in there anyway).   I also, for this batch, took out the sugar, salt, and pepper from the sauce, as listed on the card, as I thought it had enough flavor as it was.  Leave these things up to yours and your family’s tastes, however, to start your own lasagna tradition.

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce

Happy Holidays to everyone! Now that the presents are bought and hopefully wrapped (did you get any of my Holiday Gift Ideas?), it’s time to settle down and enjoy the celebration, especially if it involves a great family meal. Once upon a time, in my family, we had turkey on both Thanksgiving and Christmas, which made me really bored with that meat. Then, for reasons that are still not clear to me, my mom made a change, and we started having Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce for the latter feast. With the exception of one sibling who doesn’t like red meat at all, there haven’t really been any complaints about this switch.

This year, to accommodate various schedules, our actual Christmas dinner was held last night. When I floated this meal as a suggestion for the gathering, it met with little resistance and several “yums.” The other components of the dinner, like the vegetables and desserts,are negotiable, but the core essence remains the same: a rib-in roast cooked slowly to a lovely rare texture, rich custardy Yorkshire pudding, and creamy, home-made horseradish sauce on the side. For me, this is the quintessential family holiday dinner, sitting around a table with my siblings, parents, and other family members.  Sometimes, I think about preparing it at another point in the year, but I can never quite make myself do it.  It wouldn’t feel quite the same.
As you can see, this card with the instructions has been used quite a bit.  It’s tagged as part of the Recipe Box Project I started a few years ago (see the first post for the details).  I’m not sure where the recipe came from originally and haven’t been able to find it on line to attribute it.I’ve made some adjustments to it, as I’m sure my mom did as well.  I consider it part of the evolutionary process.
At least two cooks and then anywhere from two to four other people (not including the little ones) were in the kitchen at any one time, and that’s not including my father who poked his head in from time-to-time to offer“advice” or make a comment.  This process did not end up, by some miracle, in bloodshed, tears, or burnt food.  We even managed to get dinner on the table within 30 minutes of what I had originally guess-timated as our start time.  I consider that to be a success, even if  some folks needed to “pre-ssert” to make it through to then (photo above).  Maybe this is a meal that you can try with your family for next year to make a part of your holiday traditions as it is for mine.

 

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce
Roast Beef
Rib-in roast of beef (you want some fat left on the meat)
1-2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground thyme
Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Let roast come to room temperature.  Rub all over on all sides with the salt,pepper, and thyme (add more as necessary).
Roast in large pan on rack for 20 minutes per pound for rare.  Let roast stand for 10 minutesbefore carving.  Do not discard any of the fat that is in the bottom of the pan. If making Yorkshire Pudding,tent the meat with foil to keep warm as pudding cooks.  Also, do not be offended if any of your relatives decide that they need to cook the meat more in the microwave or on the stove.  This is also an annual tradition in my family.
Yorkshire Pudding
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 c. whole milk
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl.  Create a well in the bowl and pour in the milk and the eggs.  Whisk everything together thoroughly so that there are no lumps in the batter.
Cover and chill batter for two hours.  After removing roast from pan, pour batter into same pan with the beef drippings (melted fat)*.  Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake batter for 10-15minutes more until golden brown and cooked through.  Serve with Roast Beef and Horseradish Sauce.
*There needs to be between two to three tablespoons of fat for this to cook this properly.  You canal so add melted bacon fat to the pan to make up the missing amount if the fat from the meat didn’t add up to that much (which is what I had to do last night).
Horseradish Sauce
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 c. plain breadcrumbs
1/2 lb. horseradish, freshly grated plus 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
 OR 2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
Combine the sugar, mustard, breadcrumbs and horseradish together in a small bowl.  Fold in cream until everything is mixed thoroughly. Chill until a few minutes before serving.  Serve alongside Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
Kitchen Witch Tip:
Here’s how the sequence of events played out last night, to assist you with your meal preparation. First, we put the Roast Beef in the oven, as it was going to take about three hours to cook it.  Then, at about the 30-minute mark, I made the Yorkshire Pudding batter and put that in the refrigerator.  At about an hour out from the meat being done, I made the Horseradish Sauce so that it could chill and the flavors could meld.  When the meat came out of the oven, it was placed on a cutting board and tented with foil to stay warm while the Yorkshire Pudding was baking.
By the time the pudding came out of the oven, the Horseradish Sauce was on the table,someone had started to carve the meat for us all to start filling our plates.  Pies and vegetables and other sides were prepared during same time as this whole process, as my parents have two ovens so we could cook two parts of the meal at the same time.  If you have just the one oven, as I do, I’d recommend making the pies in advance and just reheating them that day.
Buon appetito e BuonNatale!