Thursday, January 21, 2016

Recipe 3 from the New York Times 20 Best of 2015 - Sausage Ragù

This was a delicious dish and I would definitely make it again. I followed the New York Times recipe with these exceptions (and I doubled all the proportions to make a double batch);

Instead of just water, I used half red wine that I had left over and half chicken stock; and I used a combination of sweet and spicy Italian sausage 2/3 pound sweet and 1/3 pound spicy)



1 pound Italian sausage (I used Premio sweet and spicy mixed pack)
2-3 TBS Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (I used Hunt's whole plum tomatoes in thick sauce)
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup grated pecorino-romano cheese
Ground black pepper
1 pound penne pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve


With the tip of a small, sharp knife, slit open the sausage casings.

Once the casings are slit open, just pull out the sausage meat and tear into pieces

Crumble the meat into a wide, heavy skillet or Dutch oven and set over medium-low heat. If the meat is not rendering enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan as it begins to cook, add olive oil one tablespoon at a time until the meat is frying gently, not steaming.

Sauté, breaking up any large chunks, until all the meat has turned opaque (do not let it brown), about 5 minutes.

Add onion, carrot, celery and parsley and stir. Drizzle in more oil if the pan seems dry. Cook over very low heat, stirring often, until the vegetables have melted in the fat and are beginning to caramelize, and the meat is toasty brown. This may take as long as 40 minutes, but be patient: It is essential to the final flavors.

After 30-40 minutes of sauteing. the vegetables are melting tender and the meat is cooked through 

Add tomatoes and their juice, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands or with the side of a spoon.

Bring to a simmer, then add thyme and rosemary and let simmer, uncovered, until thickened and pan is almost dry, 20 to 25 minutes.

Mix tomato paste with 1/2 cup red wine and 1/2 cup chicken stock (or use water).

Leftover red wine and chicken stock are added to the tomato paste

Add to pan, reduce heat to very low, and continue cooking until the ragù is velvety and dark red, and the top glistens with oil, about 10 minutes more. Remove herb sprigs. Sprinkle pecorini-romano cheese over, stir in well and taste.

Cook on low until ragù is thick and velvety.

Add cheese (if desired) stir in well and taste.

The sauce is ready for pasta!

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pasta until just tender.

Scoop out 2 cups cooking water, drain pasta and return to pot over low heat. Quickly add a ladleful of ragù, a splash of cooking water, stir well and let cook 1 minute.

Several ladles of sauce and one of pasta water.

Taste for doneness.

Repeat, adding more cooking water or ragù, or both, until pasta is cooked through and seasoned to your liking.

Pour hot pasta water into a large serving bowl to heat it.

Pour out the water and pour in the pasta.

Top with remaining ragù, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Pass grated cheese at the table, if desired.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Recipe 2 from the New York Times 20 Best of 2015 - Roasted Chicken Provençal

Crisp, flavorful skin and tender, moist meat

Tonight I made the second of the twenty New York Times Cooking Best 20 of 2015 recipes.  It was also delicious!  It is a good weeknight roast chicken dish that provides juicy, flavorful chicken with a taste of Provence.  

A simple salad and a baguette to sop up the juices and to eat with the softened garlic cloves and shallots would round out the meal nicely - although I put mine over leftover rice - yummy!

I stuck faithfully to the recipe with this exception:  I melted a stick of butter, 1/4 cup of dry vermouth and 1 chicken bouillon cube together to use as a baste for the chicken in the last 20 minutes of cooking.  

Why?  Well - because the pan I used just fit the 8 pieces of chicken thigh; I couldn't get under the chicken pieces to baste it with the rendered liquid and juices.


8 bone-in chicken thighs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (my addition)
½ to ¾ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
1 lemon, quartered
8 to 10 cloves garlic, peeled
8 to 10 medium-size shallots, peeled and halved
1/3 cup dry vermouth
8 sprigs of thyme


1 stick (8 ounces) of butter
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1 bouillon cube

Melt all ingredients together in a microwave or a small saucepan. 


1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

2.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper (and garlic powder).

3.  Put the flour in a large ziplock bag and lightly dredge the chicken in it, shaking the pieces to remove excess flour.

4.  Drizzle the olive oil in a large roasting pan, and place the floured chicken in it, skin side up.

3 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan.

5.  Season the chicken with the Herbes de Provence. 

6.  Arrange the lemon, garlic cloves and shallots around the chicken, then add the vermouth to the pan.

7.  Place a few thyme sprigs on top.

Lightly flour-dredged seasoned chicken with the herbes de Provence, shallots, onions and thyme.

8.  Put the pan in the oven, and roast for 25 to 30 minutes. 

9.  Meanwhile, prepare the basting liquid.

10.  Continue roasting for another 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is very crisp and the meat cooked through.

11.  Baste the chicken twice before it is done during the last half of the cooking time.


Baste it with half of the the basting liquid at about 20 minutes before it is done and with the remaining basting liquid 10 minutes before it's done.  I just poured a spoonful of the basting liquid over each piece of chicken.

Serve in the pan or on a warmed platter, drizzled with some pan sauce.

 The chicken smells great and the skin is nice and crispy...with plenty of pan juices.


I cooked the chicken for the first 30 minutes at 400 F. on a regular bake setting.

After the first half of the cooking was done, the chicken hadn't browned or picked up any color so I set it on 400 F. Convection Roast for the second half hour; basting as directed.  This resulted in a crispy crunchy and flavorful skin while the meat was juicy and tender.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sunday Brunch: Quick Pantry Shakshuka, Quick Flatbread

Quick Pantry Shakshuka and Quick Flatbread

I had my usual breakfast dilemma today.  I was hungry for breakfast/brunch today but really had no desire to leave the house and as much as I love to cook; I hate to make a traditional American Breakfast (of eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast) or a Full English otherwise known as a British Fry-Up (of sausage, bacon, beans, tomatoes, eggs and toast) at home because of the mess and smell.

Also, since New Jersey is fill with great diners - several of them close to home - I rarely ever make either at home since I can enjoy them out faster and cheaper than I could ever manage on my own.

I decided that a large skillet of shakshuka with some hot flatbread would be perfect and so I headed to the kitchen to see about whipping some up.

Shakshuka is often thought of as a Jewish or Israeli dish and it was likely introduced to Israel by Tunisian Jews and Maghrebi Jews, hundreds of thousands of whom immigrated to Israel during the 1950s; the dish and the word is of Arabic origin - specifically Tunisian Arabic.

Shakshouka means "a mixture" in Tunisian Arabic or other Maghrebi Arabic dialects, and is basically a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin.

Here is my version of the dish.

I always have flour and yeast and a great quick flatbread recipe so that was good to go; I also always have onions, garlic and usually petite bell peppers on hand so I just needed some canned tomatoes and spices to get my shakshuka together.  

I didn't have canned tomatoes (rare) but I did have several jars of Wellsley Farms Organic Marinara Sauce on the shelf.  No idea where they came from but as Wellsley Farms is a BJ's Wholesale Market brand - I think I know who bought them and this morning I was very grateful that it was on the shelf.

Here is my version of the dish:



2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chooped
A handful of petite baby bell peppers chopped, about 6
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon hot paprika - I used the Spanish
1 teaspoon cumin ground cumin
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 22 ounce jar of chunky marinara sauce - I used Wellsley Farms Organic Marinara
1 tablespoon of honey
3 table spoons of red wine vinegar
6 eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 F.


1. In a wide cast-iron or oven-safe skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic and peppers and cook over medium low heat until the peppers a re tender and the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the black pepper, parika, cumin and tumeric and stir into the onion mixture.  Cook for a minute, stirring constantly, to release their fragrance.

2. Add the jar of marinara sauce, a bit of water, the honey, and vinegar, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened somewhat but is still loose enough so that when you shake the pan it moves around the pan slowly.

Jarred Marinara is a great shortcut for shakshuka - just use a good quality, chunky sauce.

The sauce simmering away, waiting for the eggs and the oven.

3. With the back of a spoon, make 6 indentations in the sauce. Crack an egg into each indentation.

4. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the egg whites are just opaque.

The whites of the eggs are just barely opaque, they will cook slightly more in the sauce.

Yummy!!  Hot, spicy and delicious shakshuka.

Serve the shakshuka hot from the pan on the table with hot griddled flatbread.



2 1/2 cups all purpose or bread flour
1 package of fast-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 cup warm water (110 F - 115 F)
4 teaspoons olive oil


1.  Place flour, yeast, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl.

2.  Add water and oil and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough gathers into a ball.  If too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time to make dough come together.

3.  Place dough (it will be sticky) in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and Let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Dough right after mixing.

Dough after resting covered for 10-15 minutes.

4.  After 10-15 minutes, preheat a skillet to med-high. I used my non-stick crepe pan but any skillet will do - do not oil the skillet, it needs to be hot and dry.

5.  Divide dough into eight and shape each piece into a ball.

6.  Roll each ball into a 6-inch circle.

7.  Cook on ungreased hot pan about 1 minute per side.

8.  The bread will brown lightly on the first side then when flipped will puff slightly.

The rolled dough placed in the hot dry pan.

The dough will begin to puff slightly, this is a good sign to turn it.

The bread will brown lightly on the first side then when flipped will puff slightly.

The bread is puffed and ready to be taken from the pan - about a minute per side is all it takes.

Quick, hot, griddled flatbread.

Note: To make whole wheat flatbread use 1 1/4 cup each of whole wheat and all-purpose flour... totaling 2 1/2 cups of flour.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Recipe 1 from the New York Times 20 Best of 2015 - Braised Chicken With Lemon and Olives

Braised Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives over Polenta with a side of Braised Kale

Tonight I made the first of the twenty New York Times Cooking Best 20 of 2015 recipes.  It was delicious!

I stuck faithfully to the recipe with these exceptions:  I used jarred preserved lemons instead of Meyer Lemons  and I thickened the juices into a more viscous sauce with a cornstarch and chicken stock slurry.

Here are the recipes:


8 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in, about 3 1/2 pounds
 Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1 tablespoon roughly chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 Meyer lemons, cut in wedges (I used 2 jarred preserved lemons)
1 cup flavorful olives with pits, a mixture of black and green, about 1 pound
(I used a mix of black and green Bella di Cerignola and purple Alfonso Olives)
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

cornstach and chicken stock to thicken juices.


1 16 ounce bag of washed, chopped kale greens (I used Glory brand)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 cups of chicken stock


2 cups chicken stock (or water)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup yellow polenta or cornmeal (I used quick cooking)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter


1.  Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels. Season well with salt and pepper and place in an earthenware baking dish in one layer, skin side up. Sprinkle with red pepper, garlic, fennel and rosemary and drizzle with olive oil. Rub seasoning into thighs on all sides. Tuck lemon wedges here and there. Let marinate for 15 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

I dried the thighs and then put them on a plastic wrap covered baking sheet to spice as opposed to spicing them in the baking pan but was mainly for blogging purposes.

I distributed the spices evenly on the thighs, topped with the minced garlic and then drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil.

I was afraid that the amount of spices was not enough but it was quite adequate and nicely fragrant.

I used 2 jarred preserved lemons from Sur La Table as opposed to fresh Meyer Lemon.

I did add the olives and lemon right to the dish before roasting which is a bit before the recipe states - no harm done and it all came out great.

It's a very eye-appealing dish even before cooking!

2.  Put baking dish in oven, uncovered, and roast until skin browns lightly, about 20 minutes. Scatter olives evenly over chicken and add broth. Cover tightly and bake for 1 hour, until meat is very tender when probed with a skewer.

I roasted it for 20 minutes at 375 F. uncovered as stated on my oven's Convection Roast setting.

Great smell and slight browning of the spices before adding the chicken stock and covering with foil to bake for an hour.

3.  Remove thighs and lemon wedges and arrange on a platter. Keep warm. Pour pan juices into a saucepan and quickly skim fat from surface. Over high heat, simmer rapidly until reduced by half. Spoon juices over chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

You can see how much juice is in the pan - when there was 8 minutes cooking time left, I uncovered the dish and drained as much of the pan juice into a saucepan.  I had about a scant 2 cups of juices.  I then put the pan back in for the remaining 8 minutes uncovered as I finished the dish.


A.  I brought the drained pan juices to a rolling boil in a small saucepan and after a few minutes, I brought it down to a low simmer.

B.  I then made a slurry of cold chicken stock and cornstarch - probably a 1/3 cup of broth to about a 1/4 cup of cornstarch.  I whisked it smooth and added the slurry bit by bit into the hot simmering juices until I had a consistency that I liked.


A.  Heat a large frying pan or wok and add the olive oil and kale greens.

B.  Toss kale quickly until bright green then add 1 cup of chicken stock and cover.

C.  Simmer on low heat covered, tossing periodically until chicken and polenta are done.


A.  Put the stock and the cream in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Slowly pour the polenta into the hot liquid, whisking briskly to prevent clumping. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.

B.  Add the cheese and butter, stirring gently until incorporated.


Place a dollop of the soft polenta in the dish - I used a large shallow bowl.

Arrange a couple of the chicken thighs, olives and lemon slice on the polenta.

Add the braised kale.

Pour some of the thickened sauce over the chicken, olives and polenta.

The finished dish with the sauce and some chopped parsley.

Tender, flavorful chicken and polenta in a light garlic sauce with a touch of herbs and lemon.


My plan is to make each of the "20 Best" dishes as written and then to make any personal changes based on the original dish.  

In the case of the Braised Chicken With Lemon and Olives; I would make it exactly the same.  The chicken thighs were cooked perfectly and the meat was tender, flavorful and juicy.  The sauce was lightly garlicky with bright herbal notes and a subtle background hint of lemon citrus.  The dish was perfect with the soft cheese and cream rich polenta and braised kale.

While I liked the preserved lemon in the dish, I think Meyer lemon or even a common grocery lemon would work perfectly fine for what it added to the dish.  It had a very subtle lemon flavor which I liked since I am not a heavy lemon fan.  The crushed fennel and the tablespoon of chopped rosemary were perfect - I would not use dried in place of fresh rosemary in this dish.  The olives I used were Italian:   a mix of black and green Bella di Cerignola and purple Alfonso Olives.

This dish is a keeper - perfect for an intimate dinner or large dinner party.