Simplicity is key.
Life can be difficult. It can even be daunting. When you come home from a hard day of wrangling penguins, the last thing you want to do is put together a meal with 27 different ingredients.
So you reach into the larder (does anyone even have a larder anymore? When’s the last time you saw the word “larder”?) and pull out a handful of ingredients. No more than five. And you make a meal, or at least a dish.
It may not be as complexly flavored as the one with 27 ingredients, but on the other hand, there is less to go wrong, too. It’s clean. Efficient. Simple.
Simplicity is key.
And from such simplicity can come bold flavors. I made a pot roast out of five ingredients, and it is so roundly delectable that I am calling it Five-Ingredient Bourguignon.
That may be stretching the point, but only a little. I began with a hunk of meat (top or bottom round; I used top) and I braised it until tender in red wine with onions and thyme.
The key is to cook the meat at a low simmer for a long time (mine took a little under two hours). This not only makes what is typically a tough piece of meat deliciously tender, but it also gives a chance for the acidity in the wine to mellow out as the alcohol cooks away.
It’s a breeze to make, and the result is a hearty roast, just right for a cold winter’s night.
For a side dish to stand up to the beef — or an excellent vegetarian main course — you might want to consider White Beans With Rosemary and Garlic.
Naturally, this is a dish of white beans that has been flavored with rosemary and garlic, plus olive oil and salt. But the recipe comes from Alice Waters, who revolutionized American cooking with her world-famous restaurant Chez Panisse, so you know it is going to be extra good.
And so it is. Beans, garlic and rosemary combine to bring out an almost unworldly earthiness in each other; it is a truly great grouping of flavors. It was superb.
And so was teriyaki chicken with bok choy, a dish that embarrasses me a little because it breaks an unwritten law. I generally try not to cook with premade or processed ingredients (the “Semi-Homemade” way) such as teriyaki sauce. And yet, here is a recipe calling for chicken thighs marinated in bottled teriyaki sauce and garlic, and it was wonderful.
How could it not be? The people who make bottled teriyaki sauce know what they are doing. It adds just the right sweet-spicy notes to chicken that play beautifully off the mildly bitter taste of the bok choy. Serve it on rice and you have a satisfying, easy meal.
Even faster and easier, though, is crispy-coated lemon-pepper salmon. The secret to this is lemon-pepper-flavored panko bread crumbs which, admittedly, is also sort of semi-homemade.
But they add a snap of lemon and a hint of black pepper to salmon, which goes perfectly with them. And the panko bread crumbs add a bit of texture to it, though maybe not the crunch the name implies.
The only other ingredients needed are buttermilk and melted butter, both of which help the bread crumbs adhere to the fish. It all takes the salmon, which is already great, and makes it better.
One of my favorite go-to dinners is sausage, peppers and onions, so I made it, as well. There is just something magical about the way Italian sausage blends with sauteed onion and the natural sweetness of a mild pepper.
When I make it, I usually eat it with no embellishments because it needs none. But it’s even better when it is sandwiched between two pieces of good crusty bread. I put mine in the middle of a baguette, which brought a new level to an already incredible meal.
And all of this could only be topped with dessert. vanilla pots de creme is a light vanilla custard. It’s just a gentle combination of milk — you don’t even have to use cream — sugar, egg yolks and vanilla. Cook until it’s thickened, then cook some more in a water bath to regulate the temperature.
How can something this amazing be made from only four ingredients?
Yield: 6 servings
2 ½ pounds beef, chuck roast, top round or bottom round
2 cups red wine
½ onion, in lengthwise slices
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1. Generously season beef on all sides with salt. Place meat in Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot with the wine, onion and thyme.
2. Bring to a boil, cover, lower temperature and cook at a low simmer, turning occasionally, until meat is cooked through, about 1¾ to 2 hours.
VANILLA POTS DE CREME
Yield: 4 servings
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 (2-inch) piece vanilla bean
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Separate the eggs. In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks just enough to break them up (reserve the whites for another use). Set a strainer over a different medium heat-proof bowl. Set a kettle of water on the stove to boil.
2. Pour milk and sugar into a heavy-bottomed pot. Slice the piece of vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the tiny seeds from each side into the milk mixture. Add the pieces of bean to the mixture, and heat the pot on medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. When the milk is hot, whisk a little bit of it at a time into the egg yolks. When you have added ¼ of the milk to the yolks, pour the mixture back into the hot milk.
3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon; if you draw your finger across the coating on the spoon you will be able to see the trail it made. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and quickly strain into the heatproof bowl.
4. Pour the custard equally into 4 ramekins and set the ramekins in a large baking pan. Place the pan in the oven and fill the pan with the boiling water at least halfway to the level of the custard, taking care not to spill water into the custards. Cook until the sides are set but the center of the custard is still loose and jiggly, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the baked custards from the water to cool, then refrigerate.
Yield: 4 servings
1 tablespoon oil
1 bell pepper, any color, cut into strips
½ onion, cut into lengthwise strips
4 Italian sausages, pork or turkey
4 hoagie rolls or 1 baguette
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper pieces, onion and sausage. Cover and cook, occasionally turning the sausage and stirring the vegetables, until sausage is cooked and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes (or less, if using precooked sausage). If using pork sausage, drain off excess oil. Serve each sausage in 1 roll or ¼ baguette, smothered in peppers and onions.
TERIYAKI CHICKEN WITH BOK CHOY
Yield: 4 servings
1 clove garlic, chopped
¼ cup plus ⅓ cup teriyaki sauce
8 bone-in chicken thighs (2½ pounds)
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 bunches baby bok choy, quartered
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a large bowl, combine the garlic and ¼ cup of the teriyaki sauce. Add the chicken and marinate for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook the rice according to the package directions.
3. Roast the chicken on the prepared baking sheet, basting with the remaining 1/3 cup of teriyaki sauce , until cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Add the bok choy 10 minutes before the chicken is done. Serve over rice.
CRISPY-COATED LEMON-PEPPER SALMON
Yield: 4 servings
4 tablespoons butter, divided
½ cup lemon-pepper panko bread crumbs
¼ cup buttermilk
1 (1 ½-pound) salmon fillet, cut into 4 serving pieces
Note: Can also be grilled over medium heat, covered.
1. In a small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Mix with the bread crumbs. Place buttermilk in a shallow dish. Dip salmon in buttermilk and press crumb mixture evenly on top of salmon pieces.
2. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Place salmon, skin-side down, on pan, cover, and cook until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 10 to 14 minutes.
WHITE BEANS WITH ROSEMARY AND GARLIC
Yield: 3 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
2 cans white beans, rinsed and drained
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add garlic and rosemary. Cook just until garlic is soft, about 2 minutes. Add the beans, taste for salt and adjust if needed. Let the dish sit for a few minutes before serving to allow the flavors to marry.
Breaking bread together has long been considered the best way to get to know another person. Sitting down at the table and partaking in even a simple meal allows us to transition from strangers to friends and even family. As we sit at the table, we eat and we share stories and experiences.
We exchange ideas and opinions. We listen and we learn about each other. By the end of the meal we are united.
This weekend my table got much, much larger when two families became one. The “We Do” weekend brought my three, plus one significant other, together with three of his five, three spouses and three grandchildren. A table for four has become a table for 17 with two simple words — “I do.”
Over the past four years we have woven our families together while preparing and sharing meals. There is always a task for every pair of hands and young and old work together to put food on the table. Classic barbecues in the summer and warm, cozy meals in the winter have created relationships and wonderful memories.
This weekend, the “We Do” weekend, we chose fondue as the celebratory meal. Warm cheese fondue with chunks of baguette, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, and tart apple slices. Lean steak and jumbo shrimp fondue cooked in hot peanut oil, served with several different savory sauces. Finally, a large green salad to balance out the richness of the meal.
There is plenty of work to be done to prepare for a fondue feast — baguettes need cutting, vegetables need steaming and blocks of cheese needs grating. The youngest members of our new clan are in charge of grating the cheese — three grandchildren with three cheese graters work side by side at the kitchen counter. Adults cut up raw steak and baguettes, and the in-betweens peel shrimp and slice apples. The cheese fondue is made on the stove, the mountain of grated cheese is slowly added a handful at a time to warm wine until the cheese has melted into a warm gooey concoction.
It is important to keep the heat low and stir constantly so the cheese does not stick and burn on the bottom of the pan. Once the cheese is completely melted it is poured into a prepared ceramic fondue pot and set on the table with all the ingredients for dipping. Sharp metal fondue forks are distributed and the feasting begins. At first some jostling and good natured teasing goes on as the members of this new family jockey for position around the table.
Then there is a companionable silence as everyone fills their plates and mouths with what we have created together. Once the initial rush is over, the stories begin and the laughter follows. Food is passed around the table and there are seconds and thirds, and the laughter goes on into the night. A table for four has turned into a family of 17. Our fabric has been woven together and will get tighter and stronger with every meal we share.
So, head up to the attic or down to the basement and locate the fondue pot you got as a wedding present way back when. Dust it off and call your family together for a fun and festive bonding experience over a pot of melted cheese.
½ pound imported Swiss cheese, shredded
½ pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cherry brandy, such as kirsch
In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside. Rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic then discard.
Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in cherry brandy, and nutmeg.
Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods on a lazy Susan around fondue pot. Serve with chunks of French bread. Some other suggestions are Granny Smith apples and blanched vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and asparagus. Spear with fondue forks or wooden skewers, dip, swirl and enjoy.
Boo Wells is chef and owner of the Farm House Kitchen, a catering company and cooking school in Sackets Harbor. Contact her at sacketsfarm email@example.com or visit thefarmhousekitchen.com.
Nowadays, hard cider, an alcoholic beverage, shows up on menus everywhere. Made from the fermented juice of tart apples (and/or other fruit), this pleasingly acidic, slightly bubbly beverage pairs beautifully with food and proves easy sipping. This fall, I’m incorporating hard cider into my cocktail hour and my cooking.
Reportedly cider sales have grown by 60 percent in the past five years, but I’m not trying to be trendy. I drank my first glass of hard cider decades ago in a pub while backpacking though the UK. A charming bartender talked me into a glass. Served barely chilled, it was dry, delicious and less filling than beer. I’ve enjoyed cider ever since when traveling in England, France and parts of Spain where it’s been a popular beverage for centuries.
As it once was on this side of the Atlantic. Cider, historians tell us, was the drink of choice for Pilgrims because it was safer than bacteria-laden water. After Prohibition, finding hard cider in this country proved tricky; it seems we preferred beer.
Slowly, cider has been regaining recognition in this country. In 1981, cookbook author and television host Jacques Pepin, shared his method for making cider in a November issue of the Chicago Tribune’s food section. I was happy to learn the method but never made my own. When I wanted apple flavor in a dish, I splashed in a bit of Calvados or applejack.
Today, the choice of ciders at my local store impresses. I can select various sweetness levels and flavor variations. I seek out imported ciders or small-batch artisanal ciders, made from local apples, such as Virtue Cider, for drinking. For cooking, a moderately priced, dry cider, such as Stella Artois Cidre, Strongbow Gold Apple Hard Cider or Crispin Hard Cider, infuse food with acidity and a pleasant apple flavor and aroma.
Braising browned lamb or pork shoulder in cider renders the meat tender with just a touch of sweetness. I add crisp apples, such as Honeycrisp, Granny Smith and Braeburns here, sweet red peppers and aromatic rosemary plus white beans for a creamy texture. After a couple of hours in the oven, the combination yields a creamy, golden-hued fall stew.
Lamb stew, cut from the leg or shoulder yields a fuller-flavored, less rich stew than pork. If using lamb, you’ll likely need to order it in advance from most supermarkets. Pork shoulder proves a less pricey option that pairs beautifully with the cider and apples.
For braising stews, I prefer the gentle cooking and pan juice concentration that happens with a tightly covered heavy pan or Dutch oven in a moderately hot oven. For convenience, you can make the recipe in a slow-cooker set to low. Because there is little to no evaporation in the slow-cooker, the stew may be quite liquidy; simply spoon the stew liquid into a pan set over high heat and boil hard to reduce it into a thicker consistency.
Serve the stew in warmed shallow bowls with a side of mashed potatoes seasoned with sour cream, apples and garlic. Pass bottles of cold, crisp cider, and make a toast: Everything old is new again.
CIDER-BRAISED STEW WITH RED PEPPER AND WHITE BEANS
Makes: 8 to 10 servings
Stews always taste even better the next day, so I routinely make a large batch. If desired, this recipe can be cut in half; be sure to use a smaller Dutch oven so the liquid covers the meat during the cooking.
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or lamb stew (from shoulder or leg), cut into 1 inch pieces
⅓ cup flour
Salt, freshly ground pepper
3 to 5 tablespoons safflower or expeller-pressed canola oil
1 large sweet onion, cut into ½-inch dice (about 2 cups)
1 large red bell pepper, cored, cut into 1-inch dice (about 1 ½ cups)
2 ribs celery, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 large crisp-tart apples (total 12 ounces), peeled, cored, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2 ½ cups
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bottle (12 ounces) dry sparkling cider
3 to 4 sprigs each: fresh thyme, rosemary and oregano (or ½ teaspoon each dried)
½ cup chicken broth
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) white cannellini beans, drained
Chopped fresh parsley and chives for garnish
Sour cream and apple mashed potatoes, see recipe
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pat pork or lamb pieces dry. Mix flour, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper in a zip-close food bag. Add a few pieces of the meat at a time; shake to coat well. Transfer to a plate while you coat the rest of the pieces.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy-bottomed 6-quart Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add about one third of the flour-coated meat to the pan in a single, uncrowded layer. Cook, turning occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat to brown all the meat, adding oil as needed.
3. Stir onion, red bell pepper and celery into pan drippings. Cook and stir, 3 minutes. Stir in apples, garlic and cider, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil gently to reduce the liquid slightly, about 5 minutes.
4. Return the browned meat to the pot. Stir in the herbs and chicken broth. Heat to a boil. Cover the pan tightly, and place it in the oven. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the meat is fork-tender, about 1½ hours.
5. Remove herb sprigs. Stir in beans. Heat to a simmer over medium heat. Taste for salt, adding more as needed (usually ½ teaspoon).
6. Serve sprinkled with fresh herbs and accompanied by the potatoes.
Per serving (for 10): 393 calories, 19 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 83 mg cholesterol, 27 g carbohydrates, 9 g sugar, 27 g protein, 638 mg sodium, 5 g fiber
Slow-cooker variation: Prepare the recipe through step 3. Put apple mixture, browned meat, herbs and chicken broth into a slow-cooker. Set the slow-cooker to low and cook covered until meat is nearly tender, 4 to 6 hours. If pan juices are too thin, pour them off into a saucepan and boil hard to reduce them to the consistency of cream soup. Then finish the recipe as directed in step 5.
SOUR CREAM AND APPLE MASHED POTATOES
Makes: 8 servings
If working in advance, cover the finished, hot mashed potatoes with plastic wrap set directly on the surface and then top with the lid of the pan. The potatoes will hold like this, off the heat, for about 30 minutes until serving time.
2½ pounds golden yellow potatoes, scrubbed clean, cut into eighths
2 medium tart green apples (total 9 ounces), peeled, cored, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
½ cup milk
4 to 6 tablespoons sour cream or mascarpone
4 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Put potatoes, apple and garlic into a large pot. Add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Heat to a boil, then simmer gently with lid slightly askew. Cook, checking potatoes occasionally with a knife, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well.
2. Return the drained potato mixture to the pot. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and pour the milk into the center. Set the heat to medium under the pot. When the milk starts to boil, reduce the heat to low, and start mashing vigorously using a potato masher. Mash in the sour cream and butter until the mixture is fairly smooth. Season to taste, usually about ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Remove from heat. Serve.
Per serving: 193 calories, 8 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 29 g carbohydrates, 5 g sugar, 3 g protein, 164 mg sodium, 3 g fiber
If you’re going to eat pumpkin pancakes, this is your window to do it. Of course, you could eat these flapjacks spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg anytime, but there’s no better time than these few weeks before Halloween when we start to gear up our palates for a whole season of festive eating.
Malika Ameen, whose new book “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your Baking” (Roost Books, $30) was recently released, offers dozens of dishes that will entertain your tongue year-round. Her holiday offerings, like these pancakes, are particularly good.
As always, don’t overmix the pancake batter. Leave those small lumps — they’ll cook out of the pancakes on the hot griddle. Vietnamese cinnamon has a particular warmth that Ameen likes for these pancakes, but any cinnamon will do.
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground Vietnamese cinnamon
¾ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature, divided
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
4 Tbsp. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup pure canned pumpkin
Heat oven to 250 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the buttermilk and the eggs, butter and vanilla. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until barely combined.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and the remaining ¼ cup of buttermilk. Gently fold the pumpkin mixture into the batter.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly grease the skillet and cook the pancakes in batches. Spoon about ¼ cup of the batter onto the pan per pancake. Cook until golden brown on the bottom and slightly dry looking and bubbly on the top.
Use a spatula to flip each pancake and cook on the second side until cooked through. Transfer from the skillet to a baking tray, cover with aluminum foil, and keep warm in the oven while you cook more. Serves 4.
Northern New York wineries share ‘labor of love’ with communities
Invest in fresh with a CSA share
By Karee Magee, NNY Living
The grocery store has long been dominated by soldier-like rows of foods while the freshest and healthiest sections on the perimeter have grown ever smaller.
As those sections have decreased, the products, especially produce, become more expensive and less fresh.
“It’s an important public health issue,” said Gloria McAdam, executive director of GardenShare, a nonprofit that helps low-income families afford locally produced food. “The lower a family’s income the more likely they’ll buy the cheapest food they can instead of the healthiest.
Options might seem slim, but a growing number of Community Supported Agriculture farms are bringing local, fresh produce back to the north country.
“It will absolutely be fresher,” Ms. McAdam said. “The average eggs from the grocery store are 45 days old.”
If shoppers buy eggs from a CSA, though, they would last longer without having to be refrigerated if they haven’t traveled far, she said.
A CSA is a partnership between a farmer and local consumers where everyone shares the risks and benefits of farming, Ms. McAdam said.
Consumers pay up front at the beginning of the growing season, usually in June, and receive weekly deliveries or pickups of produce and other items.
Dan Kent, of Kent Family Growers, a CSA in Lisbon, said being a partner isn’t as risky as it seems.
“There is really no risk,” he said. “We produce more than enough.”
Ms. McAdam said that consumers usually end up with more produce than what the payment is worth.
Each CSA offers different items with the staples mainly produce, but farms also offer cheese, eggs, beef, chicken and niche products.
“We try to give people the largest portion of each share the staples, but we offer some special items like strawberries and cantaloupe to keep it interesting,” Mr. Kent said.
The produce available changes depending on the season though. Strawberries and blueberries are available in the late spring, but items like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and squash are available later.
Certain CSA’s, including Kent Family Growers also have a winter season running from November to March.
Mr. Kent’s farm has a high tunnel similar to a greenhouse, but passively heated, to grow winter vegetables including beets, carrots, onions and cabbage. They also freeze fresh produce like broccoli and cauliflower for the winter season.
Mr. Kent’s family produces pickles, pesto and strawberry jam as niche items for the winter season. He said his customers appreciate the CSA because it “forces them to eat vegetables.”
“I might say we’re encouraging them,” Mr. Kent said. “People are afraid of throwing away local produce. You’re going to make the extra effort to put it to use.”
GardenShare offers a program to help low-income families in St. Lawrence County to afford the CSA payment called CSA Bonus Bucks. The program pays $100 of the cost of a CSA membership.
“Every farm is different,” McAdam said. “Find the farm that is right for you and then come back to us for CSA Bucks.”
GardenShare maintains a list of CSA’s and Farmers’ Markets in St. Lawrence County on its website gardenshare.org. To find CSA’s in the Lewis and Jefferson counties check the Cornell Cooperative Extensions website at cce.cornell.edu.
Karee Magee is a magazine associate for NNY Magazines. Contact her at 661-2381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meal prep made fast and easy
Keep a few staple ingredients on hand to impress
Life moves so quickly. When my boys were babies, random
strangers would constantly approach us while we were out for a walk or at the grocery store, “Thing One” and “Thing Two” in a stroller or shopping cart, “Thing Three” in a snuggle cryovaced to my chest, and they would ooh and ahh, complimenting me on how darling the boys were (really, I’m not biased). What I remember most was the number of times they would warn “time moves quickly, enjoy every moment,” and “Your boys will grow up in a blink of an eye,” or “Enjoy them now, because before you know it, they will be grown and gone.” It was one of those things that I heard so often it began to sound like the adult voices on a Peanut’s cartoon “Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.” [Read more…]
Give the gift of food this season
Roasted vegetable minestrone a holiday staple
I have never had food poisoning. I realize that is a is a strange proclamation but given my mother’s unusual food safety habits or lack thereof, it is actually a miracle. As I have mentioned in previous columns, my parents entertained often. It seems like these days people don’t entertain like they did when I was growing up. My parents had dinner parties several times a month and, as a result, were asked out multiple nights a week (read: babysitters in Connecticut make bank because of social obligations). According to proper etiquette, when you were invited to a dinner or cocktail party you are then expected to reciprocate with an invitation to your next party. [Read more…]