Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Classy Comfort Food

My go-to comfort food is a simple chicken-rice casserole.  Yesterday I tried out a recipe from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen blog.  Recipes on this blog are tend to be a little more time-consuming than I generally cook, but I was seduced by this recent recipe.  I love chicken marsala, so this was a chance for the same kind of tastes, but in a casserole.  You can also make this without the chicken if you prefer vegetarian.  It turned out really, really good.  I will definitely be rotating it into my cooking.  Next time, I may try it with a little less cheese.

serves 4 (can be doubled for a crowd)

8 ounces chunky pasta (e.g., penne, ziti)
1 T. olive oil
12 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced (regular, cremini, or a mixture)
1 medium onion, halved and sliced thin
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 c. marsala wine
3 T. unsalted butter
3 T. flour
1-1/2 c. broth (chicken, vegetable, or mushroom)
1/2 c. finely grated parmesan cheese (divided in half)
4 ounces mozzarella (either shredded or cut into small cubes)
2 c. cooked chicken, diced (optional)
3 T. chopped flat leaf parsley (divided 2 T and 1 T)

·      Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  To save on how many pots get dirtied, cook the pasta in a 3-4 quart pot that can also go in the oven.  Directions below assume you're doing that.  If not, you'll be using a total of 3 pots instead of 2.
·      Cook the pasta to the firm side of al dente, about 1-2 minutes before fully done.  Drain the pasta and set it aside.  Set aside the pot without washing.
·      While the pasta is being prepared, start the sauce.  Heat a large pan over high heat.  Add oil and heat it up.  Add mushrooms and cook until they've begun to get shiny, but have not yet released their liquid.
·      Reduce heat to medium-high, add onions, salt, and pepper and sauté until the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated.  (It's OK if there's still a little liquid left in the pan.)
·      Add the marsala and cook the mixture, stirring, until it is almost all evaporated.
·      Add butter and stir until melted.
·      Add the flour, stirring until it is all absorbed.
·      Add the broth, a small amount at a time, stirring continuously, and scraping the bottom of the pan as you stir.  Continue adding broth until all has been added.
·      Simmer the mixture for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  If using the cooked chicken, stir it in now.  Then add 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, all the mozzarella, and 2 T. of the parsley and stir all in together.
·      Spray with olive oil the pasta pot.

·      Transfer the sauce and the drained pasta to the pot.  Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on top.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until the edges of the pasta are golden brown.  Sprinkle with 1 T. parsley and serve.
By the way, this is a good example of how I change up the recipe some if I'm sharing a recipe from someone else.  Some bloggers make explicit what they expect if someone re-posts a recipe:  1) Re-write the instructions in your own words.  (Doesn't have to be entirely new.)  2) Provide a link back to the original recipe.  If I haven't changed anything in the ingredients or process, or if I think the wording is perfect as is, I would just give you a link to the recipe online.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Excellent Recipe Source

You may or may not have noticed that a number of the recipes I've posted have their origin in Elise Bauer's blog, Simply Recipes:  http://www.simplyrecipes.com/  Elise posts a recipe every 2-3 days, and almost all of them look interesting enough that I read through them, and I print out a good many of them as well.  The recipes run the gamut of all types of food, and they tend to be fairly simple, and usually healthy, recipes.  The website has an extensive collection of recipes by category, as well as an index.  You can also subscribe to the blog to see the regular postings.  If she had a cookbook, I would buy it!

Simple Poached Salmon


This is about as simple as you can get for preparing salmon.  I purchase very high quality wild-caught Alaskan salmon from Sitka Salmon Shares, and this recipe showcases the flavor of the salmon, pure and simple.  It also takes just a few minutes to prepare and cook.  The other day I felt like making a somewhat elaborate side dish (stuffed peppers), so I decided to try this recipe, to save some time on the salmon.  I will be making it again soon!

Amount of salmon:  figure on something between 4-7 ounces per person.  Up to about 1-1/2 lbs should fit in a standard pan.  When I cooked an 8 oz. fillet, I used the same amount of liquid as indicated for a larger amount, and it turned out fine.

  • salmon steaks or fillets, up to about 1-1/2 lbs (or as much as will fit in one layer in your pan
  • salt
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 shallot, sliced, or a few thin onion slices
  • a sprinkle of dried dill (or a few sprigs of fresh dill if you have it)
  • a few sprigs of parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • a wedge of lemon—one per serving.

Into a sauté pan, put the wine, water, dill, parsley, and shallots/onions.  Turn up heat to medium and bring to a simmer.

Sprinkle a little salt on the salmon.  Place salmon in the pan, skin-side down.  Cover the pan and cook 5-10 minutes, depending on how thick the fillet is.  (The sockeye fillet I cooked was done in 6 minutes one night, and 7 minutes the next.)  Serve with freshly ground pepper and lemon slices.