Monthly Archives: January 2007

empty the freezer casserole – ham

I just bought a Cooks Spiral Ham on sale – but still had some chunks and slices of ham from the last one in the freezer. Slices can be for sandwiches this week – and I just used the rest in a casserole that looks like it will be pretty good.

4 cups dry 1/2 whole wheat blend rotini and 1/2 fusilli regular. Only because I ran out of the whole wheat kind! Must put on shopping list! Cooked and set aside while:

Sauteing one med onion chopped than adding a clove of garlic minced….hmmm, as I try to remember what I just did)….ah, I had frozen french style green beans in the freezer whose time had come and I added oh, five handfuls? enough to more than cover my 10″ pan… then I put all that in with the pasta. I then remembered to briefly saute the grated carrot (about one cup grated from 3 med to small carrots) and added that to the pasta veggie mix, too. Just that looked and smelled great! I chopped the rest of my fresh parsley and added that, too. maybe 1/4 cup chopped. Emptying the fridge, too.

I then put some oil (used canola, versus olive oil for the above sauteing) and about a tbsp of flour to make a roux, then added milk and beef stock as it thickened. I put some “shaky” parm (store bought versus grate yourself) cheese…pepper, salt…

It probably came to 1 1/2 cups of somewhat thickened liquid. Added the chopped ham – oops forgot to weigh or measure… again, covered the 10 inch pan. Heated to simmer.

Dang, I was going to add a few capers for fun…

Put the pasta/veggie mix in a 9×12 casserole dish, mixed in the liquid and ham, then topped with some shaky parm and breadcrumbs to cover, and about 1/2 cup grated cheddar. This is comfort food, mind you, not a gourmet creation!

It’s in the oven a 300 – at 250 it would probably be bubbling in 20 minutes, but I am waiting to see when Steve wants to eat before blasting it to get crunchy on top.

So – this used up stuff and will taste good. And, while looking for ideas, I came across a cool looking recipe for ham and olives with pasta.

Now, THAT looks interesting… Anyway – Geez, I need to start finding time to get a column proposal to the local paper. I am just dashing stuff off on here – I need to do more polished writing one these days!

good beef stew! and thickening tip

Ah, beef stew with a pleasant thickness without the mess of dredging in flour before browning the meat – or the bother of straining and thickening the broth after cooking. That tip from Cook’s Illustrated worked great – add flour and cook a bit to the sauted onion/garlic before deglazing and adding the rest of the liquid.

Although, since I also added potatoes 1/2 way through the cooking, by the next day it was “glop.” Luckily, I have some beef broth to thin it out upon re-heating. I really like those aseptic cartons of broth and stock for when I don’t have homemade available. I also use that brand of boullion that comes as a paste in a jar in a pinch – and did use that when making the stew (used chicken flavor for that) but the packaged (verus canned) stock and broth is great.

Anyway – an experiement with using “what I had on hand” that worked.

beef stew – another variation

Ooo, ooo – now two people read my blog and have left comments! My friend Lori (who lives, conveniently, upstairs from me) may even comment more, now that we have “twin” dutch ovens and will be exploring and sharing recipes for this wonderful type of cooking vessel.

As to Stacey – as I noted in a previous post, I discovered her cooking blog, which is light years beyond this one and from which I have already gained wonderful inspiration:

I have not yet used my dutch oven for beef stew. I adapted other recipes for the pressure cooker, especially one with tons of onions and mushrooms from The Meat Cookbook, and would have used that recipe today since it calls for a dutch oven and cooking in the oven rather than on the stove top. (Cook’s Illustrated test results are in favor of the slow oven – 300 degree – method rather than stove top.) But, alas, no mushrooms on hand – or red wine…SO… I am blending two recipes/techniques and using what I have on hand.

First, I will just salt and pepper 3 lbs (less, after trimming) of chuck chunks – NOT dredging in flour and brown for 5 or so minutes, probably in two batches.

Then I’ll remove the meat, add oil if needed, and saute sliced onions for a bit until soft, add minced garlic for 1/2 a minute or so, then, as noted in a Cooks Illustrated recipe, add 3 tablespoons of flour and cook for 1-2 minutes or so. Then I will add 1 cup comprising of 1/2 C OJ, a tbsp or so of red wine vinegar and water to make a cup (my red wine substitute) an scrape the pan of browned bits. Then I’ll add at least two cups of chicken stock made with just boiled water, and then add the rest of the ingredients sans the meat. Bring to a simmer, add meat, return to simmer, then cover and put in the oven for an hour.

Next, I’ll add chucks of potato and carrots and simmer for another hour until meat is tender. And, who knows what else I’ll add. I just wanted to get the merged techniques and order of ingredients written down instead of having to look at two recipes at once. Here goes – will post later.

easy mashed yams

Nuke ’em if you don’t have time to roast. I like to dry-roast butternut squash before mashing to intensify the flavor, but yams are so intense as it is that microwaving works fine.

Start with 5 minutes on high for one small yam. Add 2-3 minutes for each additional yam. I scrub them and toss them in on a plate.

Keep cooking until really mushy. Then break in half and let cool for a bit, peel the skin off by hand, scraping off any extra that sticks to the skin, add some olive oil, salt, pepper, a bit of maple syrup, and mash. Then, gradually add bits of water at a time while mashing until it is the consistency that you like. Keeps warm well in a double boiler if you want to make it ahead of time. An easy and healthy veggie that goes with all sorts of meals.

braising a boneless 7-rib pork roast

I had a 7-rib boneless pork roast – 2.35 lb – in my freezer. I got it for a great sale price and usually slice this cut into “country style ribs” and do the barbecue thing. But, I wanted to do something different. It is a relatively fatty cut of meat, so, unlike the leaner pork cuts, it should do well with braising.

I found a braised pork chop recipe at (sorry, no time to create and actual link!)

And – am going from there. First, the recipe calls for bone-in chops. I like using bone-in cuts for the extra flavor from the bone, but that’s not what I had on hand. I cut up the roast into 9 chunks, covered them with the rub (doubled the recipe amounts of spices) and seared them in just olive oil. I have a 6 Qt dutch oven (Mario’s) and it all fit in one batch.

I didn’t have rum and forgot to buy cider, so I used 1 and 1/4 cup of IPA beer and two tablespoons of rice syrup and added a bit of water to make 1 1/2 cups liquid. I was going to use molasses (since rum is made from molasses and sugar cane) but thought the flavor might be too strong. But I wanted something sugary and sticky in there. Could have used barley malt, but went with the rice syrup.

I decided to slice and onion up in there, too, and added that with four sliced Cortland apples. I am now wishing that, after de-glazing with a bit of the liquid after removing the seared pork, that I had caramelized the onions before adding the apples and the rest of the liquid. I’ll try that next time.

I just checked the concoction after 10-12 minutes in the oven at 350 and the pork is sooooo tender! Too much liquid in there, though. I may remove the liquid and reduce it a bit. AND, next time, I’ll go get a shot of rum for this. I bet the flavor is amazing. But, this smells and tastes good – although, let me try reducing and playing with it a bit before I serve it tonight. 🙂

I am serving with mashed yam, to compliment the sweetness, and steamed swiss chard to add a slight bitter contrast. Okay, time to go finish this experiment and see how this all works out.

…Just took out about 3/4 cup of liquid and added some cornstarch to thicken and added back in, along with salt and pepper…next time, I will use stock instead of beer if I don’t have rum. But, it still tastes good. Now, to serve dinner.