Posts Tagged 'Main Meal Recipes'

Onion Pizza with Ricotta and Chard (aka My Best Grilled Pizza Yet!)

I finally managed a restaurant-quality grilled pizza, y’all.  I’ve been using the same dough recipe since last summer and I’ve tried a variety of different toppings, but this last one – Onion Pizza with Ricotta and Chard – is a real winner.  If you want crisp yet chewy homemade crust and totally delicious (and pretty nutritious!) toppings, this one’s for you.

Basic Grilled Pizza Dough
Makes four 10-inch pizzas (1 pound dough total)

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon sugar
1 packet (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl and brushing
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 1/4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

Method:
Pour 1 cup warm water into a medium bowl; add sugar and sprinkle with yeast.  Let stand until foamy, 5 minutes.

Whisk oil and 1 teaspoon salt into yeast mixture.  Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until liquid is incorporated (dough will appear dry).  Turn out onto a floured work surface.  Knead until dough comes together in an elastic ball, 2 minutes. Transfer to an oiled medium bowl; brush lightly with oil.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap; set in a warm, draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk, 45 minutes. Punch down dough and cover; let rise another 30 minutes.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide into 4 equal pieces.  (To store, refrigerate dough pieces, covered, up to 2 days, or freeze, up to 1 month.)  Let rest 15 minutes before using.

Source: Everyday Food, July 2010

Onion, Ricotta, and Chard Pizza Toppings

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 pounds onions, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 pound chard, stemmed, leaves washed (can substitute spinach, if desired)
3/4 cup ricotta (6 ounces)
2 ounces Parmesan, grated (1/2 cup, tightly packed)

Method:
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet.  Add the onions.  Cook, stirring often, until tender and just beginning to color, about 10 minutes.  Add the thyme, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt.  Turn the heat to low, cover and cook another 10 to 20 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are golden brown and very sweet and soft.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

While the onions are cooking, stem and wash the chard leaves, and bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  Fill a medium bowl with ice water.  When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the chard.  Blanch for one to two minutes, just until the leaves are tender, and transfer to the ice water.  Drain and squeeze out excess water. Alternatively, steam the chard for two to three minutes until wilted, and rinse with cold water.  Chop the chard medium-fine.  Combine the ricotta, chard, and Parmesan in a medium bowl and set aside.

Make ahead note: The cooked onions and the blanched or steamed chard will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator.

Source: The New York Times

To assemble pizzas:

Heat grill: Set up a grill with heat source, coals or gas, on one side over medium-high.  Clean and lightly oil hot grill.

Stretch dough: On a lightly floured work surface, separately stretch or roll 2 pieces basic grilled pizza dough or 8 ounces (two 4-ounce pieces) store-bought dough into 10-inch-long ovals or other desired shape.  Brush one side lightly with herb oil or olive oil and season with coarse salt and ground pepper.

Grill dough: Using your hands, place dough, oiled side down, directly over heat source.  Brush dough with herb oil or olive oil and cook until underside is lightly charred and bubbles form all over top, 1 to 2 minutes.  With tongs, flip dough and cook until lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes.  Slide dough to cooler side of grill.

Add toppings: Top dough with ricotta/chard/Parmesan mixture and caramelized onions.  Cover grill.  Cook until toppings are heated through, 2 to 5 minutes.

Onion Pizza with Ricotta and Chard

Holy cow, this pizza was deeeeeelicious.  The dough was crisp on the edges and chewier in the center, the caramelized onions were smoky and sweet, and the ricotta with the chard and Parmesan was creamy and super flavorful.  I served this with a beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and walnuts and thought I was in heaven.  I will definitely make this pizza again, and the menu (with the salad) would make a fantastic casual dinner party.

I’ll admit that it took a bit of practice to develop a good system for getting the dough from the kitchen to the grill, so I’ll share what I know.  I roll and stretch the dough on my kitchen island and then put each piece on its own lightly-floured baking sheet before I brush it with oil.  Since I don’t have much work space on the sides of my grill, I make Dr. O carry the two baking sheets onto the deck and then I hand-transfer the dough to the grill.  The dough tends to shift and stretch a bit when it’s picked up, but that’s OK; rustic is good.

TIPS:  If I make the pizza dough ahead, I wrap it in plastic wrap before I store it.  If I freeze it, I wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in a freezer bag as well.  To use frozen dough, I typically just thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.

Recipe links: Basic Grilled Pizza Dough and Onion Pizza with Ricotta and Chard

Thai Chicken with Basil

As I was making my desserts this afternoon for this month’s gourmet club, it occurred to me that in all of June’s travel-related craziness, I never blogged my dishes from last month’s Thai-themed gourmet club.  They’re too good not to share!

I was initially a bit nervous about today’s dish – Thai Chicken with Basil – because it isn’t something you make ahead.  As many of you know, I prefer to do as much as I can ahead of time when entertaining to keep my kitchen space clean and my stress level low.  My kitchen is a gathering place and it isn’t a space I can close off, so cooking with company present involves putting on a bit of a show.

Thankfully, this dish was pretty easy to throw together.  Here are the “prep steps” I took to make things as easy as possible (everything was stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator):

  • I cut the chicken breasts and stored them separately.
  • I combined the fish sauce, soy sauce, water, and sugar in a small container.
  • I cut the onion and stored it separately.
  • I seeded and sliced the chiles, minced the garlic, and stored them together.
  • I washed the basil and stored it separately.
With the hard work done, all I had to do was combine the marinade and the chicken and then dump the right things in the pan at the right time.  Easy entertaining! Here’s the recipe:
Thai Chicken with Basil
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 1/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4), cut into 1-by-2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 large onion, cut into thin slices
3 fresh red chiles, seeds and ribs removed, cut into thin slices, or 1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
Method:
In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with the fish sauce, soy sauce, water, and sugar.  In a large nonstick frying pan or a wok, heat the oil over moderately high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Stir in the chiles and garlic; cook, stirring, 30 seconds longer.
Remove the chicken from the marinade with a slotted spoon and add it to the hot pan.  Cook until almost done, stirring, about 3 minutes.  Add the marinade and cook 30 seconds longer.  Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the basil. Serve topped with remaining 1/2 cup basil.

Thai Chicken with Basil

Oh, this dish is really yummy.  There’s a hint of sweet, a hint of heat, and the sauce is delightfully salty (not overpoweringly so).  The chicken came out nicely cooked, and I love the tender onions and fresh basil.  I didn’t take time to photograph the dish during gourmet club, so I gladly made it again the following week because we enjoyed it so much.  If you’re a fan of Thai food, give this one a try!

TIPS:  When I was working on this recipe in May, SuperTarget was the only grocery store I found that carried red chiles.  (They were Fresno chiles, specifically.)  I’m seeing them in King Soopers/Kroger these days as well.

Recipe link: Thai Chicken with Basil

Fat Tire Pulled Pork Tacos

I was recently selected to participate in a challenge put on by Foodbuzz and New Belgium Brewing.  The goal: to create a recipe that incorporates a New Belgium beer or pairs well with one.  In return, I would receive a $50 stipend to buy beer and ingredients (yes!) and the opportunity to connect with New Belgium’s many, many Facebook fans (double yes!) if the company likes my recipe well enough to post it.  I was especially excited about this challenge because Dr. O and I have been huge fans of New Belgium for years.  Since we live in Denver, we’ve even been able to make a trip up to Ft. Collins to visit the brewery.

Dr. O at New Belgium

Not-Yet-Dr. O waaaay back in the day

To honor my hubby’s favorite (classic Fat Tire), I decided to build on a pulled pork taco recipe that I developed for a friend’s party last year.  Here it is:

Fat Tire Pulled Pork Tacos
Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:
3 1/2-pound pork shoulder roast, trimmed of excess fat
1 cup Fat Tire (drink the rest!)
1 small onion, peeled and cut into thick wedges
1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Salsa
Sliced avocado
Queso fresco
Tortillas or taco shells

Method:
In a 5-quart slow cooker, combine beer, onion, serrano pepper, garlic, and bay leaf. Cut pork roast in half and add to the slow cooker.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top of the pork.  Cook on low heat for 8 hours (or high heat for 6 hours).

Transfer pork from the slow cooker to a large bowl.  Cover to keep warm.

Skim fat from the top of the slow cooker juices (or pour juices into a fat separator). Strain juices into a medium saucepan (discard solids) and cook over medium-high heat until reduced by half (about 5 to 7 minutes).

Meanwhile, shred pork with two forks.  Discard any obvious pieces of fat.  Pour reduced slow cooker juices over the shredded pork and toss to combine.  Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve pork in tortillas or taco shells with your favorite salsa, sliced avocado, and queso fresco.  Enjoy with Fat Tire, of course!

Fat Tire Pulled Pork Tacos

This recipe produces great results.  The meat comes out tender, moist, and flavorful, and the accompaniments round out the dish nicely.  Fat Tire and tacos are a match made in heaven.  Give them a try!

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

I have two dilemmas on the grocery front this week.  One, I have so many beers in my refrigerator right now (party leftovers!) that I barely have room for anything else. Two, I have significant quantities of strawberries and grapes that I need to use.  I was able to respect the space issue and make use of some of the grapes with today’s recipe: Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad from the June 2002 issue of Cooking Light.  Luckily, I had both green and red grapes left over from the party, and I had all of the other ingredients on hand except for the chicken breast (minimal fridge space needed) and the red onion (pantry storage).

Here’s the recipe:

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad
Serves 4 (approximately 1 1/4 cups per serving)

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 cup seedless green grapes, halved
3/4 cup seedless red grapes, halved
2/3 cup coarsely chopped celery
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine onion powder, paprika, chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sprinkle over chicken.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, and sauté 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Wrap handle of skillet in foil; bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until done. Remove from pan; refrigerate until chilled. Chop into bite-sized pieces.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, green grapes, and next 6 ingredients (green grapes through orange juice) in a large bowl. Add chopped chicken, and toss to coat. Sprinkle salad with walnuts.

Source: Cooking Light, June 2002

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

This salad is soooooo good.  So good!  It’s super fresh tasting (the grapes), kicky (the red onion, paprika, and chili powder), and bright (the orange juice and vinegar).  The crunch of the toasted walnuts and the celery is fantastic as well.  I was initially a bit nervous about my chicken because my spices ended up blackening on the stove instead of browning, but the end result was flavorful, juicy meat.

Not that I advocate trickery, but I think this is one of those salads you could get away with serving to people who claim to hate mayonnaise.  There’s such a small quantity of it and it’s so diluted by the orange juice and the vinegar that you can’t even tell it’s in there.  Evil, I know.  What isn’t so evil is the nutritional value of the salad: only 7 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per serving!

Anyway, I acknowledge that I made this today because I already had most of the ingredients, but I would absolutely go out of my way to get the ingredients in order to make this again.  It’s definitely going into the book club/casual lunch/barbecue buffet recipe cache.

Recipe link: Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

Chicken and Spinach Casserole

I initially hesitated to post this recipe because I knew it wouldn’t photograph very well, but what the heck?  It’s too yummy not to share.

I’m not usually one for recipe repeats (unless I’m entertaining), but I’ve made this dish twice in the past couple of weeks.  Both times, I was motivated by the need to use an excess amount of spinach in my refrigerator.  (I can’t pass up organic baby spinach at Costco since, at under $4, it’s less than the tiny containers I would get at the regular grocery store.  A pound of spinach is a lot of spinach, though!)  The first time was a test; the second time, I knew I’d be making something absolutely delicious.

What do I like about this recipe (besides the flavor, obviously)?  I like that it uses fresh spinach instead of the frozen stuff, since I think fresh tastes so much better. I like that it incorporates the convenience of rotisserie chicken.  I also appreciate that there isn’t much prep work, since the only ingredient that requires chopping is one onion.  (I used jarred minced garlic.)  I love that it can be made ahead, though I haven’t taken advantage of that option just yet.  Here’s the dish after Dr. O and I had devoured half of it:

Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Think of this dish as creamed spinach with shredded chicken and fabulous, salty toasted bread on top.  If that appeals to you (and it does to me!), you’ll love this dish.  I also enjoy that I get something super creamy that isn’t completely nutritionally devastating because the base is made with half-and-half instead of cream.

Note:  I baked this in a 1 1/2-quart Corningware dish, and I’ll admit that the amount of food the recipe produces isn’t huge.  This is perfect for Dr. O and me to have dinner with enough left over for one person’s lunch the next day.  If you wanted to serve four (or even six) adults, I would double the recipe.  Also, be generous with seasoning during the cooking process.  It makes all the difference.

Recipe link: Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Mexican Potato Omelet

January was a month of dates with friends and lots of naughty, naughty food. Croque Madame with loaded potato soup (heavy cream!) at The Squeaky Bean? Yes, please!  Massive plate of fries (half bacon mac and cheese, half buffalo) at Jonesy’s Eat Bar?  Mmmm.  Catered dinner from Le Central at the sorority reunion?  You bet. (And that’s really only half the damage!)

We had lots of fun, but I’m going to focus on healthy cooking for the next couple of weeks to balance things out a bit.  I made something wonderful last night – Mexican Potato Omelet from the April/May 2006 issue of Body + Soul – that was fresh, well-balanced, and delicious.

Here’s the recipe:

Mexican Potato Omelet
Serves 4
Prep time: 20 min. | Total time: 50 min.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red-skinned potato (6 ounces), well scrubbed, halved, and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 large eggs
1 1/4 cups plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 tomatoes)
1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese (2 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Method:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch broiler-proof skillet over medium-low heat. Add potato, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and all but 1 tablespoon of the scallions; season with salt and pepper and cook 1 minute.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until well combined. Add 1/4 cup each tomato and cheese; stir to combine. Add remaining oil to pan, and pour egg mixture over the potatoes.

Preheat broiler with rack 4 inches from the heat. Meanwhile, cook eggs on the stove top, lifting the edges to allow uncooked egg to flow underneath, until the center is almost set, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cheese over the top, then broil in the oven until set, about 2 minutes.

In a small bowl, make a salsa by combining the remaining tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, and lime juice. Run a metal spatula around the edges of the pan and slide the omelette onto a platter. Serve cut into wedges with salsa.

Source: Body + Soul, April/May 2006

Mexican Potato Omelet

This wasn’t knock-your-socks-off amazing, but it was a solid, tasty weeknight meal.  I especially loved the way the lime in the salsa brought out the flavors in the omelet.  I didn’t modify anything exactly, but I did need an extra 2 minutes to cook the potatoes and I went the full 10 minutes to cook the eggs on the stove top.  I also seasoned the eggs and the salsa separately (in addition to the potatoes when the garlic and scallions were added).  I served the omelet with seasoned black beans.  Yummy!

Recipe link: Mexican Potato Omelet

Slow-Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

Football party season is upon us (Dr. O is out enjoying one as I write), which means it’s time to break out our very best game day recipes.  I found one this past week that is easy, perfect for entertaining (slow cooker!), and is actually pretty healthy: Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches from the January/February 2011 issue of Everyday Food.  The recipe isn’t on the Everyday Food site yet, so I’ll share it with you here.

Slow-Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
Serves 8 | Active time: 25 min. | Total time: 4 hr. 25 min.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup hot-pepper sauce, such as Frank’s (I used Cholula)
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
8 hamburger buns

Method:
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Add chicken thighs, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring once, until meat is golden brown, 5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer to a slow cooker, leaving as much oil behind as possible. Repeat with chicken breasts.

To skillet, add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until onion is translucent, 6 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup water and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet, 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and transfer to slow cooker.

To slow cooker, add crushed tomatoes, hot-pepper sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, and molasses; stir to combine.  Cover and cook on high until chicken is very tender, 4 hours.  Shred chicken and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve on buns.

Note: Refrigerate the finished dish in an airtight container, up to 5 days, or freeze, up to 3 months.

Nutrition per serving: 358 cal; 10 g fat (3 g sat fat); 35 g protein; 31 g carb; 3 g fiber

Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

These sandwiches were SO good!  I have a basic barbecued chicken sandwich recipe that I’ve been using for years, but this recipe has so much more depth of flavor. Unless I’m short on time, I’ll take this sandwich any day.  I should note, though, that the inclusion of the word “spicy” in the recipe title isn’t a joke.  I was cautious and cut the hot sauce to 3 tablespoons instead of 4; the heat was still enough to make our noses run.  (Our New Mexico and Arizona friends joke that we’re still “in training” when it comes to eating spicy food…  Somehow, I think this will be a lifelong process!)  Anyway, if you like it hot, go with the full 1/4 cup; if you don’t do spicy food, you might still get a hint of heat if you cut the hot sauce to 2 tablespoons.

Since I’m used to cooking fattier cuts of meat (like pork shoulder or chuck roast) in the slow cooker, I was a bit skeptical about how well the chicken breast would shred.  It was amazingly easy!  I guess that just goes to show that the slow cooker can do amazing things with meat, lean or not.

I won’t be cooking on Super Bowl Sunday, but I’m absolutely putting these sandwiches in my game day arsenal.  Give them a try the next time you need to make a casual supper for a crowd.

Bouef Bourguignon

I spent three whole hours this afternoon making homemade pierogi that ended up being too doughy to be truly delicious.  I really could have used a pasta machine (and a miracle!).

So instead of dwelling on my disappointment, I decided to write about something I did very right recently: Bouef Bourguignon!

Although many people instantly think of Julia Child when Bouef Bourguignon is mentioned, my recipe is from Ina Garten.  I first made the dish last February when I hosted a French-themed gourmet club meeting, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to pull the recipe back out when I hosted my Colorado family for dinner. Aside from the fact that the flavor is phenomenal, my favorite thing about this dish is that it actually tastes better if you make it a day or two ahead and gently reheat it for guests.  The time required for prep work and cooking is a bit long, but it’s worth it for me; I’ll do almost anything to reduce day-of-dinner-party stress.

Bless The Washington Post…  They reprinted the recipe exactly as written in Barefoot in Paris and saved me some trouble.  (Food Network’s online recipe is close but not quite the same…  I hate it when they leave things out!)

Here are my notes:

  • I wasn’t able to find a single 2 1/2-pound beef chuck roast (pot roast), so I bought two smaller ones.  This worked out perfectly because I was able to cut out the solid, fatty sections and just use the best parts of the meat.
  • I used brandy instead of Cognac.
  • Flambéing freaks me out, to be honest.  Here’s my technique: I make sure all flammable things are at least three feet away from the stove, and then I point the end of my Bic Luminere lighter as far down as it will go.  Standing back as far as possible, I hook the lighter over the edge of the pan and let ‘er rip.  I jump every time!
  • This time, I used a 2009 Domaine Jean Descombes (Georges Duboeuf) Morgon for the wine and it was fantastic!  It kills me when people talk about using past-its-prime wine for cooking…  The better the things you put into your cooking are, the better it will taste.  I served a bottle alongside the dish as well.
  • I reheated the stew for half an hour or so over medium-low heat before serving.  (You don’t want to crank up the heat because you could overcook the meat and vegetables.)
  • I served the stew over county bread that I toasted in the oven with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper.  I intended to rub the slices with a cut garlic clove before serving, but I didn’t feel like dealing with it at the time.

Bouef Bourguignon

This was SO good.  My friend Christopher (who had the privilege of tasting leftovers both times I made the dish) and I agreed that it was even better than my first attempt…  I think I had a better cut of meat, a better bottle of wine, and a better handle on seasoning with salt and pepper this time around.  With rich broth, tender meat, and a fantastic mix of vegetables, Bouef Bourguignon is perfect winter comfort food and an ideal option for entertaining.  I love it!

Recipe link: Bouef Bourguignon

Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta

Despite the fact that it really doesn’t feel like fall has arrived here in Denver just yet (and I’m not complaining – this time last year, we’d already had a significant snow storm!), I could no longer resist the urge to start cooking fall comfort food.  I love grilling and all the amazing produce summer has to offer, but I think fall – with its braised meats, soups, stews, squash, and all other kinds of warm, delicious things – might be my favorite cooking season.

I found the recipe for my first comfort dish of the season – Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta – from Cooking Light, which I suppose makes this a nice transition from summer to fall; the dish tastes incredibly rich and comforting, but it actually isn’t all that bad on a nutritional scale.  A dish with (turkey) sausage, butter, and (light) cream cheese?  Yes, please.  Here’s the recipe:

Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta
Serves 4 (Serving size is 1 cup ragù and 1 cup polenta)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces hot turkey Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
2 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked polenta
4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter

Method:
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Remove sausage from casings. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sausage, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium; simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Bring broth and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add polenta, stirring well. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 20 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, cheese, and butter. Serve with sausage mixture.

My deviations:

  • My grocery store was out of hot turkey Italian sausage, so I used sweet.
  • I find that Cooking Light recipes rarely have enough salt for my taste, so I used 1/4 teaspoon of salt (1/2 teaspoon total) each time the recipe called for 1/8 teaspoon.  On this same note, I just bought a regular old can of diced tomatoes (not no-salt-added diced tomatoes).  I did buy fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth as the recipe instructed.
  • I used Bob’s Red Mill polenta.  The recipe said to cook it for 20 minutes and the package suggested 30; I was happy with the consistency (for this particular meal, at least) at the 15 – 16 minute mark.

Mushroom and Sausage Ragu with Polenta

Good heavens, this was delicious.  I don’t know how the people at Jennie-O do it, but I never would have guessed that the sausage was made from turkey (as opposed to beef or pork) if I hadn’t cooked it myself.  The spiced meat combined with the earthy mushrooms and the sweet tomatoes made a perfect sauce.  And the polenta that soaked up that sauce?  Holy cow.  I’ve made polenta with butter and Parmesan many times before but never with cream cheese; the cream cheese really took it to the next level.  I also appreciated that there was enough butter in the polenta so we could taste it, but not so much that it created a nutritional disaster. Each serving clocks in at nine Weight Watchers points so it isn’t exactly a lean meal, but it certainly tastes far more indulgent than it is.  If I hadn’t told Dr. O this was a healthy recipe, he would have thought I was fattening him up for winter.

TIPS:  Cook the polenta while the ragù simmers so everything will be done at the same time.

Printable recipe link: Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta

Sautéed German Sausages with Bacon and Apple Sauerkraut

Oktoberfest officially starts tomorrow!  In celebration, my gourmet club is having a German-themed meal.  I’ve been working on my menu for the past week, and today’s recipe is the dish I chose for the main course: Sautéed German Sausages with Bacon and Apple Sauerkraut from the October 2005 issue of Food & Wine.  It’s so incredibly delicious (provided that you have an appreciation for sauerkraut!) and most of the work can be done ahead of time, which makes it perfect for entertaining.  Here’s the recipe:

Sautéed German Sausages with Bacon and Apple Sauerkraut
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
5 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 very large onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons off-dry wine, such as Riesling
1 large sweet apple, such as Gala or Fuji – peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
12 juniper berries
4 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup water
2 1/2 pounds sauerkraut – drained, rinsed, and squeezed dry (4 packed cups)
12 fully-cooked German-style sausages, such as weisswurst or bratwurst
Grainy mustard, for serving

Method:
In a large, enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the bacon and cook over moderately high heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel–lined plate.

Add the onion to the casserole, cover partially and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 20 minutes. Increase the heat to moderately high. Add the wine, apple, juniper berries, bay leaves, sugar, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and boil for 3 minutes. Add the water and the sauerkraut. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the apple is very tender, about 45 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Poke the sausages several times with a fork and cook them over moderate heat, turning several times, until golden and heated through, about 8 minutes.

Spoon the sauerkraut onto a platter and arrange the sausages on top. Sprinkle the reserved bacon over the sausages and serve with mustard.

Make ahead tip: The sauerkraut can be prepared through step 2 and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Sauteed German Sausages with Bacon and Apple Sauerkraut
This dish is going to be perfect on my Oktoberfest table.  It’s hearty, traditional, and delicious.  I love the hint of sweetness the apple and the wine add to the sauerkraut, and any dish topped off with bacon is practically guaranteed to be a hit with me.  I can’t wait to make it again for Sunday!
TIPS:  I made a half-recipe since I was just cooking for Dr. O and myself.  I ended up going with bockwurst for the sausages and they came in packs of four; that’s why my photo seems to be missing a few links.  I also left out the juniper berries since my grocery store didn’t have them and I didn’t have time to make a Savory Spice Shop run.



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