Tarragon Beef Stew to Keep You Warm

I think it is time to give up the ghost where the garden is concerned at this point.  With the exception of the hardy root veg and brussels sprouts we’re done and dusted.  A couple of weeks ago I managed to find some tarragon still green in the garden which reminded me of a recipe I had printed out from allrecipes.com a few years ago.  Looking at it again, I realised that I hadn’t followed it completely when I made it before.  For one, it had honey.  And a few other interesting things.  But it does have vermouth which works really well with tarragon.

I love beef stews, particularly with ale, but my husband sometimes finds them too heavy in flavour.  This stew has a lot of flavour without the heaviness.  A more refined rustic soup if that isn’t too much of an oxy moron!  

Terragon beef stew 1 2015

Dredge about a pound of stewing beef in flour and season it with sea salt and pepper.  In a saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Brown the beef.  Chop a small red onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic, a carrot, and 2-3 mushrooms.  Add the veg to the beef and cook for a few minutes.

Terragon beef stew 2 2015

Cube 2-3 red potatoes depending on the size.  Add it to the saucepan.  Cook for a few minutes then add 4 cups of vegetable bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Add 1/2 cup of vermouth, 4 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce, a handful of tarragon, and a small spoonful of mustard.

Terragon beef stew 3 2015

Simmer for a few hours at low temperature until the beef is tender and the potatoes are cooked through.

Terragon beef stew 4 2015

Add some crusty bread and you’ll be warmed to your toes!  🙂

Seared Lamb with Pear Sauce and Not Enough Hours in the Day….

I’m loathe to talk Christmas before Thanksgiving.  Growing up nothing remotely Christmas would show up until the day after Thanksgiving.  Now?  I see stuff in September.  I mean, seriously, 3-4 months of Christmas?  By the time it rolls round, we’re burned out.   I do, of course, make an exception for the lists.  Budget wise, it’s silly to try to do it all in one month.

So we were trading lists and I asked for things to match my interests.  We don’t need stuff, per se.  Honestly, those that love shopping, where do they put it all?  But I love to get books or gadgets that match our interests of gardening, photography, beer and cidre making.  Of course cooking!  Plus, we learning (or trying to learn) different languages.  The list is long.

My mum’s response?  Fabulous, I’m amazed you find the time for it all!  And there’s the rub.  I don’t have the time needed to do all the interests.  I do hope with the physio for my neck and hips, when everything is healed I can just fill the hours with productive stuff rather than icing or heating the injuries. They have taken up way too much of my time over the past several years.  I’m trying to be patient but I’m chomping at the bit to get healed and do bunches of stuff.

In the meantime, it’s one foot in front of the other.  And try to catch up with the blog posts.  It’s not tax season, this is crazy that I’m having trouble finding time to post and read all the ones I follow.  I was reading Jovina Cooks Italian a little while ago and she mentioned trying lamb with pear.  I thought I pinned it but I can’t find that post.  So, Jovina, please feel free to put the link in the comments!  But I was intrigued and thought it would be a great pairing to try.

Lamb with pear sauce 1 2015

When I mentioned the idea I think my husband was worried it would be too sweet.  We had some dried red currants on hand that would balance the sweetness.  In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of butter.  Season the lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Brown both sides of the lamb.

Lamb with pear sauce 2 2015

Finish off in the oven at 350F/175C.  In the skillet, add half a chopped onion and two small chopped pears.  Throw in a small handful of the currents.

Lamb with pear sauce 3 2015

Cook for a few minutes to allow the onions to soften and to have the pears to start to break down a bit.  Add a cup of chicken stock and half a cup of a dry white wine.  Bring to a simmer and season with sea salt and pepper.

Lamb with pear sauce 4 2015

Simmer until the lamb is finished.  Let the lamb rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  I also roasted potatoes and cooked up some corn for the sides.

Lamb with pear sauce 5 2015

I’m really glad I tried this flavour combo.  It is a very easy sauce to make with a great balance of tart and sweet over the lamb.  It just goes to show, you should always think outside the box!

Pan Fried Chicken with Gorgonzola Pasta

We’re not a sports family.  We’ll watch tennis once in awhile and the Olympics.  Which is a 180 from growing up.  I didn’t do sports but I watched a lot of sports with my dad.  It was our way of hanging out.  But now we are so busy with the kids or the house sports take a way, way back seat.  Wouldn’t trade it for the world but it’s funny how things change.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t root for our kids if they want to try their hands at sports.  We definitely aren’t the parents who yell at the kids to get the ball, overrule the coach, or expect them to become pros.  As long as they try their best, have fun, and run off energy we’re good.  In the past few years at the rec games for football (soccer) some parents would be screaming into the field.  I was just making sure my son’s shoes were tied.  Fortunately this time round I haven’t seen that yet.  And our son is blossoming which is all we can ask for.

Our daughter is part of a fantastic program in the high school.  Several high schools have set up a sports program for those that have disabilities, whether it’s physical or emotional, and they have a few students without disabilities on the field with them to guide them and support them.  I was so proud of my daughter watching her support and encourage her teammates as they try to get goals.  The kids have a blast.

I still had some gorgonzola and mascarpone cheese left over from the Filet with Gorgonzola Risotto and I didn’t want it to go to waste.  We also had some chicken to use and I was in the mood for Italian.  Let’s face it, I’m usually in the mood for Italian!

Gorgonzola chicken 1 2015

Prep the chicken before hand by coating it in a beaten egg and breading it with panko bread crumbs.  I take one chicken breast and slice it lengthwise to have two portions.  Chop up a few cloves of garlic, a bit of red onion, and a cayenne pepper.  Heat up some olive oil in a skillet.  Start with the garlic and onions.  After a couple of minutes add the pepper.

Gorgonzola chicken 2 2015

In a separate skillet heat up at least a half a cup of olive oil or avocado oil.  Once it’s hot start pan frying the chicken.  In the first skillet add sliced mushroom.

Gorgonzola chicken 3 2015

Make sure the chicken is browned evenly on both sides.  Once it is cooked set aside and keep it warm while you finish the rest of the dish.  After you remove the chicken add about a third of a cup of gorgonzola crumbles and the same amount for the mascarpone.  Toss in a handful of fresh basil.

Gorgonzola chicken 5 2015

Cook until the cheese has melted and add cooked pasta of your choice.  Serve with the chicken topping the pasta.

Gorgonzola chicken 6 2015

Grate fresh parmesan cheese over the dish.  It doesn’t have a ton of colour but it really has a lot of flavour.  And this is a quick and easy meal to throw together when you have a busy schedule.

Tomato Garlic Beef Curry

There is a new Indian restaurant here in town.  We did make the mistake going on opening night.  We were getting cranky waiting for the food!  But once the food did arrive it was really good.  So I hope that they get things sorted because we would love to have a proper Indian restaurant in town.

I had ordered a spicy lamb curry with tomato, garlic and onion.  A slow cooked flavourful curry with a great balance of heat.  I had to recreate it.  I planned on doing that for my dad’s birthday but since plans got changed (for a good reason!) I decided to make it for the kids when they got back from FL as they both requested curry for dinner.  And they gave a thumbs up for adding spice.

Tomato beef curry 1 2015

This is a dish you want to slow cook, no short cuts on this on!  But other than the time it takes it is really simple.  Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Season about a pound of stewing beef or lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Brown the meat on all sides.

Tomato beef curry 2 2015

Coarsely chop an onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic.  Add to the skillet.  We have been growing Ring O Fire peppers in our garden so I harvested a couple for this.  Start off with one pepper.  It’s a lot easier to add more heat than remove it.  Again, seeds increase the heat so use your judgement.

Tomato beef curry 3 2015

Saute for a few minutes to soften the onion then add a 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Freshly grate about 1 – 2 inch/2.5-5cm piece of ginger, add to the skillet.  Chop a small handful of fresh cilantro.  Then season with sea salt and pepper, 1-2 teaspoons of garam masala, and a couple of tablespoons of red curry paste.

Tomato beef curry 4 2015

Cover and keep it on a low simmer for a few hours.  Stir occasionally so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.  Half way through cooking test the heat and if you want more add more hot pepper.  Adjust for the curry seasoning with the paste if needed as well.  Meanwhile, my husband made up some incredible naan for us to enjoy.  We thought the naan would be enough so I didn’t do up any rice.

Tomato beef curry 5 2015

I was really pleased with this, it tasted close to what I had at the restaurant.  It was hearty without being heavy.

Today is the first day of school for the kids.  Our daughter started high school and our son is starting middle school.  Wondering where time is going.  But to make it a fun day I’m making pavlova and and chicken cordon bleu.  Can’t wait to hear all the stories!

BBQ Burgers and Family Time

Every summer there is nearly a month when the kids are gone.  A bit hard on the parents but it means the kids are off on adventures.  They do a two week overnight camp and then we usually get them for a couple of days then they are off to Florida to see grandparents with their mother and stepfather.

While we get a break from the usual back and forth of getting the kids round we miss them like crazy.  We picked them up from camp Friday evening and they had so many stories to tell.  It was non stop and it was fabulous.  But they were looking forward to home cooked food.

Our daughter must have missed the kitchen as she made breakfast each morning this weekend and baked cookies.  Yesterday morning she kicked us out and set the table with flowers and candles.  She really loves going all out.

When we picked them up they mentioned they were sick of cheeseburgers.  Shoot, as that was what I was making for last night!  Our daughter said oh we love your burgers so that’s ok.  Phew!

It was time for something different so I thought I would make BBQ burgers.  Our poblanos are coming in and I wanted to use them.  Our garden has been a struggle this year but our peppers are doing us proud.  I see a lot of hot pepper jelly in our future.  Unfortunately we’ve used up all our Peach BBQ sauce I had made so I had to use, gasp, store bought.  Peaches are showing up in the shops now so it is on my list to make another batch.

BBQ Burgers 1 2015

I had a pound of ground beef which is more than enough for the four of us.  The only issue is it’s impossible to find decent buns that aren’t enormous.  So the buns tend to dwarf the burger.  I think a quarter pound of meat is more than enough but I think I’m in the minority in this country.  My husband and I went without the bun.  In a bowl add the meat.  Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic and add that with a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  I didn’t have enough cheddar to do slices on top but I did have enough to grate for the actual burger.  The amount I added was about a quarter of the meat in volume.  Then add a few tablespoons of BBQ.  Mix well and form into patties.  Set aside.  Cook up several rashers of streaky bacon and set that aside as well.

BBQ Burgers 3 2015

My husband brought home some fresh corn yesterday.  So exciting!  I love having them grilled.  Very easy to do, just soak for about 20 minutes in water.  Then grill for 5 minutes on each side until cooked through.  When these were halfway cooked I added the burgers.

BBQ Burgers 2 2015

Once you flip them add sliced onion that have been prepped with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and pepper.  Add the poblanos after deseeding them.  You want the peppers to blister a little but don’t go crazy.  You want to grill the onions so they have the grill marks but aren’t burnt. When the burgers are almost done add slices of cheddar or jarlsberg to the burgers to melt.

BBQ Burgers 4 2015

Layer with BBQ sauce, bacon, onion, and pepper.  Butter up that corn and enjoy!  My husband did up some sweet potato and regular potato chips (fries) to round out the meal.  I was stuffed.  I think a bun would have sent me over the edge.  I didn’t even have room for ice cream!

Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms and Cruel Cowardice

It’s hard not to be distressed by the capacity of some people to be heartless.  Don’t get me wrong there is a lot of good in this world.  People who have compassion and work hard to bring light to those that need it.  But there is a side of humanity that seems desperate to cause harm.  There is a endless list of horrors.  It gets overwhelming.

Such a representation of that this week was the senseless killing of Cecil.  In the scheme of things it’s a lion, there are much deeper issues of children in this world not safe, women not safe, people starving.  But it is indicative people lacking the basic compassion of living things.  It takes a special kind arrogance and cowardice to travel to the other side of the world, pay thousands, and then to bait an animal to give it a slow death.

I get the need for hunting in turns of population control.  Deer can face slow and painful death with overpopulation in winter.  And I get people hunting for food.  In our area there are a lot of families who need to put food on the table.  But to hunt so you can decorate your wall?  I find that disgusting.  I do hope the outrage keeps at its current level.  We need to stop the destroying of this earth’s gifts and resources.

This just really fired me up.  Thank you for letting me say my piece and I’ll get on with the usual program of food!

Due to the dietary needs of my various family members I always try to come up with ideas of tasty dishes that everyone can eat.  I thought repurposing a crostini into stuffed mushrooms would be fun.

Bacon stuffed mushrooms 1 2015

We learned how to make this bacon crostini in Tuscany on our honeymoon.  For this recipe I added onion to it.  I finely chopped a clove of garlic, half a small onion, and a bit of rosemary.  Then chop up half the mushroom stems.

Bacon stuffed mushrooms 2 2015

Chop up 3 rashers of streaky bacon and begin to render it in a small skillet.  After a few minutes add the onion.

Bacon stuffed mushrooms 3 2015

After the onion has softened a bit add the garlic, rosemary, and mushroom to the skillet.

Bacon stuffed mushrooms 4 2015

Keep cooking until the bacon starts to crisp a bit.  Add a few splashes of white balsamic vinegar.  Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 375F/190C.  Remove the bacon mixture from the heat and grate fresh parmesan over it and mix well.  Stuff the mushrooms and grate more parmesan over it.

Bacon stuffed mushrooms 5 2015

Bake until the mushrooms are cooked.  About 10 minutes or so.  While it is baking make up the salad if you are having this as a main meal.

Bacon stuffed mushrooms 6 2015

Of course I put more fresh parmesan on.  I can’t resist the stuff!  And it’s gluten free.  🙂

Rabbit and the Need to Strangle a Cock….

4am.  Still dead of night as far as I am concerned.  Cock-a-doodle-doo!  My husband then rolls out of bed to close the ceiling window because I’m too short to reach it.  Every morning the bloody thing would go off.  And it would go all day.  There is another one down the road that answers but that is more muted.  Ours was about 10 feet from our window. I say was as this morning it’s been quiet.  I’m wondering if coq a vin is on the menu next door.  If I never hear another cock-a-doodle-doo I’ll be a happy camper.

On my list of ingredients to cook while here in France was rabbit.  So off to the market we went in search of one.  

 
We were successful.  Good thing I asked the head be removed.  An unfortunate thing about the kitchen we’re using, aside from a very anemic oven, is the knives are very dull.  We’ve tried sharpening them without a whole lot of success.  Which made butchering this rabbit quite the chore!  My MIL helped as I had to wrestle it to submission.  I ended up removing the legs and then took what I could of the remaining meat to add to the sauce.  I didn’t want to waste the rest of the rabbit so when my MIL suggested making a quick stock I went in that direction.  In a saucepan I covered the rabbit in water, added a shallot, salt and pepper, and thyme.


Bring it to a boil then let it simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Once that is done heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and brown the legs of the rabbit.

  

While that is happening, prep a small onion, a few cloves of garlic, and some fresh rosemary.

  
Remove the rabbit legs and set aside.  Sauté the onions and garlic until they soften.  Add some of the rabbit stock to simmer with the onion and garlic.

 
Add the rabbit bits and rosemary and sauté for a few more minutes.  I bought some local mushrooms at the market which were really nice.  I sliced a few and added them the the skillet.  Again add some stock.  About half a cup or 4 ounces each time.

  

Chop up a few tomatoes.  I also had a can of diced tomatoes that needed to be used.  Toss these in and add 4-8 ounces of red wine.  Bring to a simmer and add the rabbit legs to finish off cooking.

  
The tricky bit is not to over cook and toughen the meat.  In fact after simmering awhile there was still a bit of rabbit on the larger leg that wasn’t cooked through.  We still had plenty of meat to go round.  

 
The sauce with the stock was really nice.  Not sure if I’d cook a lot of rabbit going forward.  It was nice but not something I would crave.  But I can cross this off the bucket list so to speak.  

Today is packing day as we have a long journey home.  I’ll miss this place.  I’ve loved the food, the sightseeing, working on the language, and the leisurely meals.  No one rushes you and it’s perfectly fine to have a glass of wine or two with lunch.  And I could eat bread here with minimal side effects.  It’s been fabulous!  But back to reality I’m afraid. 

Duck a la Rhubarb and the Roller Coaster of a Garden

It’s a bit of a struggle this year.  Our garden is giving us a run for our money with it being inconsistent in deciding what it wants to grow.  Every year there is usually one or two things that are stubborn.  But with the lack of rain in May and the reappearance of rabbits this year we’re not having much luck with the eggplant, tomatillos, parsnips, onions, leeks, and beets!

I have to say though our potatoes are going gangbusters.  So far they are the best we’ve ever had.  We’re struggling to keep up with adding dirt and straw to the towers as the plants grow.  Fingers crossed we’ll get a harvest bigger than what we put in!

A while back when Johnny had the Feed the Piglet blog he sent me a link for a Rhubarb Duck recipe.  Unfortunately the link is now private, though you can see latest posts on Kitschnflavours site.  So I had to come up with my own recipe.  Gasp!

Rhubarb duck 1 2015

Rhubarb is a perfect pairing with duck with the tartness of the rhubarb and the richness of the duck.  Slice 2-3 stalks of rhubarb.  Finely chop a handful of fresh thyme and half a sweet onion.

Rhubarb duck 2 2015

Score the duck skin and season with sea salt and pepper.  Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet and place the duck skin down.  You don’t want a high heat for this because you want to render the fat without burning the duck.  Once the duck has rendered turn it over to sear the other side.

Rhubarb duck 3 2015

Because this was a big piece of duck I finished it off in the oven.  While the duck cooks add the rhubarb, onion, and thyme to the skillet.  Saute to soften the rhubarb and onion.  Grate an inch square (2.5 cm sq) of fresh ginger into the skillet.

Rhubarb duck 4 2015As the rhubarb cooks down add a cup of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  It was interesting because I didn’t add any citrus to this dish but there was a definite citrus taste to it.  Must have come from the rhubarb.

Rhubarb duck 5 2015

Once the duck is cooked to medium let it rest before slicing.  Unfortunately we had a tough piece of bird!  I cooked up some mashed potatoes and pan roasted Brussels Sprouts.  The kids enjoyed this what with their love of duck and rhubarb.  It was mine to screw up!  🙂

Chorizo Risotto and the Strange Priorities

I don’t like cheats.  I think those that cheat should face consequences.  But when the consequences are out of whack compared to other offences I have a problem with it.

A news story that lit up the internet this week had to do with the NFL and the Pats.  In a game at the beginning of the year there were some deflated balls.  The NFL couldn’t, to their satisfaction, get the quarterback to talk about it even though he wasn’t the one who deflated the balls.  So they suspended him for four games and took away the team’s first round draft pick.  People went nuts!  The reason?  In the past few years the NFL has been grossly underwhelming with their punishments over things like rape, domestic violence, etc.  But a ball is deflated and all hell breaks loose.

And that saddens me no end.  I keep hoping the world will move in the direction that my daughter doesn’t have to worry about these issues.  I do hope the increasing outrage over these priorities will usher in a world, eventually, that doesn’t consider women and girls as second class citizens and a woman being punched so hard she is knocked out and dragged out of the lift will prompt a more swift and complete investigation than the one that happened for balls deflated.

In the meantime we just keep moving along.

This week I had some chorizo from the co-op.  I actually like chorizo very much but I made the mistake of getting the ones they make at the co-op.  I keep trying but they are either dry or mealy.  I think I need another source!  Shame really.

This is for two so double it for a family of four.

As always do the prep before you start cooking for this dish.  I chopped up half a cup of onion, a few cloves of garlic, and a few mushrooms.  Grate about 3/4 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and prepare two cups of vegetable bouillon.  Make sure it is hot before you cook.

Chorizo risotto 1 2015

Heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil and saute the onions until they are softened.  Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes.  While this is started begin to grill the sausages.  Don’t worry about cooking them all the way through as they will be finished off in the risotto but you do want to get a sear on the sausages.

Chirozo risotto 3 2015

After the garlic and mushrooms have cooked for a couple of minutes add 1/2 cup of arborio rice to the skillet.  Stir for a minute or so then add 1/2 a cup of a dark ale.  I used our Irish Red for this.

Chirozo risotto 2 2015

Bring to a simmer and add 1/2 cup of the broth at a time allowing it to absorb before adding more.  When it is halfway cooked slice the sausage and add it to the skillet.  For this dish I added some frozen corn for a pop of colour.

Chirozo risotto 4 2015

When the last bit of the bouillon is added add the cheese to melt in.

Chirozo risotto 5 2015Once the risotto is al dente it is ready to serve.

Chirozo risotto 6 2015Grate cheddar cheese over the dish and serve.  It’s a shame the sausages weren’t up to snuff as the rest of it was quite enjoyable with the cheddar and ale.  I’ll have to try again with different brands.

My Family Spoils Me with Amazing Food

Spoilt I tell you, spoilt.  Whenever I have a birthday or it’s a special holiday my family often creates lovely meals for me.  Several weeks ago I had my birthday and I was treated to a 3 course meal. Our son was up first with a fresh salad, my husband knocked it out of the park with an amazing sundried tomato risotto, and our daughter finished it off with her flourless chocolate torte.  And this is after our daughter started my day with breakfast in bed!  How lucky am I?

The other day I thought I would recreate the dish my husband made.  For the steak, I kept it simple.  While the risotto is cooking either pan sear it in butter or grill it.  All it needs for seasoning is sea salt and pepper.  This recipe is for two people.  Just double it for a family of four.

Sundried Tomato Risotto 1 2015I finely chopped half a red onion, several cloves of garlic, and a small handful of sundried tomatoes.  In a large skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil and saute the onions until they begin to soften.  Also prepare about 2 cups of vegetable bouillon in hot water.  Add the garlic and tomato to the skillet.

Sundried Tomato Risotto 2 2015After a few minutes add 1/3 cup dry white wine and 1/2 cup of risotto.  Cook for a minute or so.

Sundried Tomato Risotto 3 2015Add the bouillon 1/2 cup at a time. Bring to a simmer.  While this is simmering grate 3/4 cup of fresh parmesan and asiago cheese.  Set aside.

Sundried Tomato Risotto 4 2015When the risotto is about 3/4 the way cooked add the cheese and any bouillon left.  Continue to simmer until the risotto is cooked, keeping in mind it should be a bit al dente.  At this time cook the asparagus for the side.  I just quickly simmer them in water for a couple of minutes.  They should still be firm.

Sundried Tomato Risotto 7 2015I have to say this is my new favourite risotto, my husband really had a fabulous idea!  I could just eat bowlfuls of this.  🙂