The Week Ahead and a Great Recipe for Stuffed Cabbage!

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What an outstanding day here in Maryland!  Sky is blue, air is cool and crisp,  The day will be perfect for turning off the overworked air conditioners and opening the windows.  Payment indeed for the 7 tornados and torrents of rain that hit us on Friday.  Yes, that was 7 tornados touching down all over from Frederick, MD to Northern VA.  What is going on with our weather?   But today is a gift I am going to take advantage of and head outside to read and take pictures of the garden.

Let’s look at what is coming up this week.  Sorry all, things came up that pushed back my next installment of VGB.  It will be posted at the end of this week.  Last week was a banner week with wonderful books from great authors.  For those who missed it, Saturday’s substitution was Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison. New author, first book in a new series. Loved it! This week will be some new authors for me as well as a continuation of a series I just love:

Monday:                Still Waters, Sanctuary #4 by RJ Scott

Tuesday:                Seizing It by Chris T Kat

Wednesday:          Murder at The Rocking R by Catt Ford

Thursday:              Five Star Review by Lara R Brukz

Friday:                   One Small Thing by  Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

Saturday:               New Vocabulary Gone Bad!

Now for a great recipe that can be used as a main course or secondary dish.  I just love this one. It came from Laura Calder again.  Can’t go wrong  with her recipes or her quirky show French Cooking At Home.  Great taste and the presentation is so pretty! And it is easy to make.  What’s not to like?

Stuffed Cabbage:

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
1 medium or 2 small savoy cabbages (about 1.5 pounds)
3 ounces white bread
About 1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 pound trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
A few handfuls fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon quatre-epices, more to taste, recipe below
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 pound pork sausage meat – I like to use sweet Italian

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt it generously.

Core the cabbage. Gently peel away the leaves to expose the heart (by heart, I mean the ball of more yellowish leaves at the center which are too tightly packed to bother prying apart). Cut out that core of inner-most leaves and shred to add to the stuffing. Cut the thick ribs out of the remaining leaves (they will look like you’ve stolen a sliver from a pie). Set aside.

Blanch the cabbage leaves for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, and refresh under ice-cold water. Drain and pat dry with a towel.

Break the bread into crumbs in a bowl, pour over the milk and set aside to soften. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet and gently fry the onion and shallot until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the bread and cook until the milk has evaporated. Stir through the quatre-epices and season generously with salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the sausage meat in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Make a small ball and fry it in the frying pan. Taste it to check the seasonings. Adjust as needed.

Lay a tea towel on the counter with a piece of cheesecloth or muslin large enough to wrap the cabbage in. You’re going to reconstruct the cabbage, but with layers of stuffing between the leaves. So, first lay down the large outer leaves, in a circle, slightly overlapping with the prettiest side out. Spread over a layer of stuffing. Lay over another layer of leaves and repeat the action. Continue until you have run out of leaves. Pull up the edges of the cheesecloth, like a bag, and twist, as if making the head of a puppet, to shape the cabbage into a round loaf shape. Tie a string around the beard of cheesecloth where it meets the cabbage ball, to secure the package. The cabbage can be prepared to this stage in advance, refrigerated and then cooked before serving.

To cook: Steam the cabbage over water or good chicken stock (about 2 cups) for 45 minutes. The flavor from the stuffed cabbage will drip into the water or stock and give it the most amazing flavor. When the cabbage is done, boil down the cooking juices and serve a spoonful around each wedge of cabbage in a soup bowl.

Quatre Epices or Four Spices (a common French spice)

1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorns ground
2 tsp whole cloves ground up
2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger

The Week Ahead and Another Great Chicken Dish To Try

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It’s a blustery rainy day here in Maryland and the storms from the south are scheduled to arrive this afternoon bringing high winds, more rain and perhaps even hail.  So long to my newly blooming roses and irises in the backyard.  Sigh.  From the 80’s back down to the 60’s, our Spring is having a wild time of it this year and so are my gardens.

Today I finished up my review of Ethan Day’s A Token in Time for Joyfully Jay but my lips are sealed until it is published there first.  So what is coming up this week?

Monday       Review of Bully by Carter Wolf as promised

Tuesday       Review of Earthly Concerns by Xavier Axelson.

Wednesday Review of Levi, Leopards Spots 1 by Bailey Bradford

Thursday     Review of Oscar, Leopards Spots 2 by Bailey Bradford

Friday           Review of Two Tickets To Paradise Anthology by Dreamspinner Press

 

Tonight I am preparing  Chicken in Vinegar, another easy and great tasting chicken dish made from ingredients that most people will have in their pantries.  Again my thanks to Laura Calder (French Cooking At Home) for this easy, great tasting dish with a couple of changes from me.

 

 

 

 

 

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 pieces or equal amounts of chicken thighs, or legs, whatever you have available.

Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon butter, plus another tablespoon for finishing
1 tablespoon olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped or 1  can of diced tomatoes drained
1 bay leaf
1 large fresh thyme sprig
2 good handfuls chopped fresh parsley
DIRECTIONS

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Melt the butter and olive oil in a saute pan and brown the chicken, a few pieces at a time. You’re not cooking the chicken here, just making the skin crisp and giving it color and flavor. Five minutes per side is about right, more so if you have only dark meat. Remove the chicken to a dish.

Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and boil down by half, about 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, and pour in the stock. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme.  Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken to a clean dish and keep warm.

Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan, pressing to get all the juices through, and whisk in the last spoonful of butter and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Pour over the chicken. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

I served this with some Quinoa flavored with garlic and basil before and will do so again.  It works so well together.  So quick and easy you will make this a staple.

 

A New Recipe for a Day Spent Writing

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Today I had to hit the keyboard and finish a few reviews for JoyfullyJay where I am a guest reviewer so dinner had to be simple.  My solution?  Chicken Paprika also known as Poulet au Paprika.  Quick, easy, and great tasting, recipe courtesy of Laura Calder, my new favorite chef.

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Ingredients:

4 chicken legs, split between thigh and drumstick or just use the drumsticks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon bacon drippings or oil
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into roughly 2-inch strips known as julienne
1 onion, sliced
1/2 small fennel bulb, finely chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon high-quality hot or sweet Hungarian paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche
Squeeze lemon juice, to taste (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the bacon drippings in a saute pan and, working in batches, brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Remove. Drain off all but a tablespoon of the fat from the pan.

Lower the heat and add the julienned pepper, onion, fennel, if using, and paprika. Cook until soft, but not colored, about 12 minutes, adding the garlic for the final minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine (pour in the wine, scrapping all the good bits off the bottom of the pan). Add the tomatoes and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Put the chicken back in. Cover the pan, and cook, turning the chicken occasionally, until tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Turn up the heat under the sauce and boil down to sauce consistency. Turn off the heat, stir through the cream, check the seasonings (including the paprika, adding more if you like), then pour over the chicken, and serve.

Great taste, perfect for dinner.

A Herb and Cheese Souffle Recipe To Love

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It’s been wavering between very warm and seasonally warm here in Maryland and this month looks to go down as our warmest March yet.  And for me, when the temperature is up, I want to eat lighter and this souffle is the perfect meal, no matter the time of day.  It melts in the mouth and tastes like herbed air.  Lovely.

From Laura Calder’s French Cooking At Home show with some minor alterations from me.  Easy to do.  And you will want to make it again and again.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 small onion, peeled
Pinch paprika or  1/8 teaspoon (I only use Hungarian Sweet Paprika)
Grated Parmesan cheese, for dusting the dish – bottom and sides
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
3 eggs, separated plus 1 egg white (3 egg yolks and 4 whites)
3 ounces of grated Gruyere cheese
1 generous tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (I use a combo of fresh parsley and thyme, anything else overwhelms the flavor)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Put the milk with the bay leaf, onion, and pinch of paprika in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside to infuse 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and onion.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 8 (1/2-cup/125 ml) ramekins or 1 (4-cup/1 liter) souffle dish, and dust with the grated Parmesan cheese. I prefer using the 4-cup souffle dish, but other round overproof dishes work too.

In a clean saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk, and cook, stirring, until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in the yolks. Stir through the cheese and herbs. Season well with salt and pepper. If you don’t really season here the dish will be too bland. It won’t be too salty.

Beat the whites to stiff peaks with a pinch of salt. Stir a spoonful into the yolk mixture, then pour the yolk mixture onto the remaining whites and gently fold together. Pour into the souffle dish* and bake until risen and set, but still slightly creamy in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the souffle dishes. You can usually tell when the top is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the sides.

Serve immediately before it slumps.

*After you have poured the mixture into the souffle dish, run your thumb (nail against side of dish) around the edges inside creating a channel between the mixture and the dish.  This will help your souffle rise evenly and is a old chef’s trick!  It will make your souffle look so much better.

A Recipe To Love – Pork Chops with Green Olives and Lemons

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I have written about French Cooking At Home, a show with Laura Calder that has become an addiction of mine.  Her recipes are simple but oh so tasty.  I am now working my way through her first cookbook and haven’t found a recipe I haven’t loved.  This latest one came not from her book but from the show.

Once again, Laura Calder has come through with a wonderful receipe.  I tried it out and with a few changes, it came out so scrumptious that it is now on my favorites list:

Pork Chops with Green Olives and Lemons

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork chops, on the bone
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup/175 ml white wine
  • Skin 1 preserved lemon, chopped (I used the zest of 1 Lemon and that worked just fine)
  • 1/2 cup/85 g green olives, with pits  (I used regular green olives, they worked great)
  • Small handful chopped fresh rosemary or thyme ( I have now tried it both ways, each tastes great).
  • Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
  • Branch cherry tomatoes
  • Olive oil, for drizzling

Directions:

Season the chops with salt and pepper. “Season” also with sugar, sprinkling judiciously over both sides of the chops, as if it were salt. Heat the oil in a saute pan and brown the chops on both sides. Pour over the wine, and add half the lemon and olives, along with the rosemary. Cover, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and test doneness. Boil down the liquid a little, if necessary, toss in the remaining olives and preserved lemon. Serve with the juices spooned over and a branch of roasted baby tomatoes on the side.

To roast a branch of cherry tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet, dribble over a little olive oil, and bake at until the skins have wrinkled and the fruit is soft, 20 minutes to half an hour.

This is great if you are only cooking for 2 people, and easy to double if you are cooking for 4.  I could also see putting the pork chops over a bed of wild rice.  And that sauce?  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  Hmmmmm……..so good.