Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pumpkin Polenta with Sausage and Fennel

A morning show I used to listen to made fun of Rachel Ray all the time, especially the way the commercials for her show would always say, "Next time, on RACH!"
I have seen a few of her 40 Dollars a Day show, but not her talk show. She is strangely perky.
BUT-but, I love her magazine and I do like her recipes. And I have made a lot of them, and almost all of them have been extremely tasty.
On her website, there was a link for Fall Comfort Food. Now fall is my favorite season. And since I try to eat most foods seasonally, I get even more excited when fall food time comes around.
So this sounded really really tasty. I like sausage. And fennel. And polenta with cheese.
Some ingredient notes: Rachel always uses quick cooking polenta. I never see this at the grocery store. I see pre-made polenta which won't work, or the regular stuff which is corn grits/polenta. You are supposed to cook the regular stuff for 30 minutes. So if you use the real stuff like I did, you should probably start that before the sausage mixture.
Also, I just used freshly grated nutmeg for the first time! I grated it on my micro-plane which is really fast and easy.
And lastly, I used basil instead of parsley to garnish.
So try this out. Have it with some apple cider and watch the leaves fall.

Rachel Ray's Pumpkin Polenta with Italian Sausage and Fennel
1 Tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 14-oz can pumpkin puree
1 cup polenta (quick cooking or regular)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (I left this out)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup shredded romano cheese
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley (or basil) chopped
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (Rach says to eyeball it!)

1. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brown the sausage. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate. Add 1 tablespoon of EVOO (1 turn of the pan) to the skillet and then the onion and fennel. Cook the vegetables over moderate heat until tender but not brown. Add the wine and return the sausage to the skillet. Cook the wine away, a minute or so.
2. 2. In a large saucepan, bring the chicken stock and butter to a boil and stir in the pumpkin. Return to a boil, whisk in the polenta and stir until it masses together, 2 minutes. (Watch out for splatters.)
*For regular polenta, start first and cook stirring frequently for about 30 minutes.*
Remove the polenta from the heat and stir in the nutmeg, thyme, salt, pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. Top the pumpkin polenta with the sausage and fennel. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

So this is the sad state of my life right now. I am way too busy to blog!! This summer I loved to blog my recipes, now work and other commitments keep me so busy. This is why I am grateful for being a part of the Barefoot Bloggers group. It makes me take the time to blog!
I also liked the recipe this week, because it is not something I would have picked out to make myself. My husband doesn't like mushrooms, and while I like mushrooms a lot more than I used to I wouldn't have just decided to make this for dinner normally.
This was a great recipes for a cool fall day. I really enjoyed it. And my friend Jocelyn liked it too yay!
Note: I halved this recipe, since it was basically me eating it for dinner, and then leftovers, myself.

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
Source: The Barefoot Contessa

5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms (I used dried)
5 ounces fresh portobello mushrooms
5 ounces fresh cremini (or porcini) mushrooms (I used dried porcini)
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/4 pound (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 carrot, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided (I used dried lemon thyme.)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don't wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if there are big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, the sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

Here are my stock veggies cooking away! I didn't add the thyme yet. I used dried lemon thyme I got from the Spice man at Central Market.

Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock. If not, add some water.

Here is the stock later, before I strain it. It smelled um-um good.

The pretty mushrooms! I did not have all fresh mushrooms. The porcini and the shitake were dried (again from the wonderful spice man at market). So I soaked them in water for a about 25 minutes then cut them.I like how the baby bellas and the other mushrooms make it look like there is a shadow.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 pound of butter and add the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot.
They left out this part of the recipe. "After adding the cup of wine to the soup, it is necessary to pour yourself a small glass of wine to drink as you finish the recipe."
I think this is crucial. :)
And also, in case you are wondering, I used a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Here is the soup pre-cream. Doesn't look quite as pretty yet, but still smells AMAZING.

Add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.
What a nice earthy flavor. I think next time I personally would chop the mushrooms smaller. I like the flavor of mushrooms, but the chewy texture on the big pieces wasn't my favorite. But the wine, the leeks, the cream, everything together with them was great!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Grown-Up Mac and cheese

I just joined the barefoot bloggers, a group of foodie bloggers who all make two Barefoot Contessa recipes each month and post them. I am very excited to join! I like the fact that someone else picks a recipe and you make it. Seems like a great way to try new things and make things you might not pick yourself.
This first recipe (for me) is a delicious mac and cheese with a more grown-up cheese taste. I enjoyed the blue cheese, there wasn't too much to be overpowering. My husband and I both had to have seconds of this. We loved this meal with green beans and a very oaky chardonnay.
The modifications I made were to use panko bread crumbs instead of slices of white bread and I used nitrate-free bacon which unfortunately does not come thick-sliced. I just feel a lot better eating bacon that is more natural.
4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes.

Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Just out of the oven....ymm

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