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Braised Parsnips With Cara Cara Oranges



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Braising is my favorite preparation for parsnips, because it really brings out all the flavors this oft-forgotten root has to offer: delicate sweetness, earthiness and just a hint of minerality. Cara caras, one of the many types of heirloom citrus that become blessedly available in the winter months, are a perfect partner to parsnips. But if you can’t find them, regular navel oranges will work just as well.

2 T butter
1 medium carrot, brunoise
2 stalks celery, brunoise
1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
4 good size parsnips, peeled
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 C white wine
1 1/2 C vegetable stock
3 cara cara oranges
1 T fresh chopped parsley
salt and black pepper, to taste

Place the butter in a large saute pan or wide, shallow pot and heat in your wood oven, which should be low- to medium-heat. Once the butter has melted, add the carrot, celery and onion, season, and sweat, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5-7 minutes.

While the mirepoix is sweating, cut your parsnips into bite-sized pieces. Add them and the sprig of thyme to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and sweat for another 2 minutes. Add the white wine and allow it to reduce by 3/4.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest of two of the oranges. Add the strips of zest to the pan along with the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the parsnips are just beginning to become tender, about 8-10 minutes. Squeeze the juice of all three oranges into the pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until the parsnips are soft but not mushy.

Remove from the oven and adjust seasoning if necessary. Pick out the orange zest and discard. Stir in the chopped parsley. Serve with roasted chicken, or even on its own over some rice or pasta with a little parmesan grated on top for a satisfying vegetable-based meal.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (7 votes cast)

Ash-Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Sage and Honey Butter

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This simple recipe was inspired by the Argentine chef Francis Mallmann, whose cookbook, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, is a fascinating look at cooking with fire – over it, around it, and even in it, as I do here. The end result might look a little scary at first, but the flavor you will achieve is undeniable.

4 like-sized sweet potatoes (I used the garnet variety)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
1/2 C chopped fresh sage
8 oz room temperature butter
1 T honey
salt and black pepper, to taste

Throw your sweet potatoes in the fire in your oven. No, seriously. Ok, fine, set them in the ashes at the edge of your fire. Turn them periodically. They are going to blacken and char and feel crispy and crunchy when you touch them. That is ok. Let them cook that way for 45 minutes to an hour. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a large piece of foil, wrap them tightly, and place them back on the edge of the fire to finish cooking. Allow them to steam in the foil until completely tender, 15 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your compound butter. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium-sized skillet. When it begins to shimmer, add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and sweat until just translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add the sage and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the pan is very aromatic and everything is soft. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer the onion mixture to the bowl of a food processor, along with the butter and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse until well combined.

At this point, you can just scoop the butter out into a bowl and use a spoon to dig out dollops. Or, if you want to be fancy, turn the butter out onto a piece of parchment paper. Form into a rough log shape. Fold the parchment down over the butter. Place the straight edge of a bench scraper or spatula where butter, parchment and work surface meet and gently push back toward the butter, tightening the parchment and forming the butter into a round tube. Set the straight edge aside, roll up the parchment bundle and then twist the ends tight so you’re left with what looks like a large Tootsie Roll in its wrapper. Place in the refrigerator to firm up.

When the potatoes are soft, remove from the foil. Cut a lengthwise slit in the top of each potato and squeeze them open to expose the brilliant orange flesh. Season with salt and pepper. Remove your butter from the fridge, unwrap it and cut round pats. Place them on top of the sweet potatoes and serve. The rich, slightly smoky sweetness will complement anything savory you’ve roasted in your oven, particularly game meats or turkey.

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Rating: 3.5/5 (6 votes cast)

Kale and Roasted Leek Gratin

leeks-news-ThumbHere’s a recipe for a hearty winter side dish. I just made this for my family for Christmas, and it seemed to go over well. I know there are folks in some quarters who are sick of kale’s moment in the culinary sun, but I’ve been cooking it for years, and I will keep cooking it, because the stuff is delicious. That said, feel free to substitute any hearty green: collards, turnip greens, even chard, though your cooking time will be much shorter.

1 quart cream
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
3 sprigs fresh thyme
8 oz hearty white bread, crusts removed
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 bunches kale, destemmed and washed
1 T sherry vinegar
1/2 C vegetable stock
3 leeks
5 oz pecorino cheese, finely grated
butter, for greasing baking dish
salt and black pepper

Place the cream in a high-sided pot along with the thyme and one strip of zest from the lemon. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so the cream is simmering, and allow to reduce by half. Cut the white bread into small cubes and place in a 250°F oven for 15 minutes to dry out.

Meanwhile, heat half the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the aromatics just start to brown around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the kale, vegetable stock, vinegar and juice from the half lemon. Season with salt and pepper, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid in the pot is gone and the kale is tender. This can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the variety and relative heartiness of the kale you are using. Be patient.

While the kale is cooking, clean and cook the leeks. Remove the darkest green, fibrous portion of each leek and discard. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, leaving the root end intact. Place in a sink or bowl of clean water and wash thoroughly, pulling apart the tops of each leek and allowing the dirt and sand to settle to the bottom. Remove from the water, pat dry, and season with the remaining vegetable oil, salt and pepper. Place in a heat-proof vessel and roast in your wood oven, turning once, until the leeks are tender and well-browned, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Slice off the root ends and discard, then cut the leeks into bite-sized pieces.

When all the components are ready, combine everything in the kale pot: Strain the cream into the kale and discard the thyme and lemon peel. Add the leeks, bread cubes an 3 oz of the pecorino. Mix everything together thoroughly and check for seasoning. Transfer the mixture to a buttered 8×8 baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese. Place in a medium-hot wood oven and allow the gratin to bake for approximately 30 minutes or until it is bubbly and beginning to brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy with a nice piece of roasted beef and a big hearty cabernet sauvignon and you’ve got yourself a winter meal that will keep the cold at bay.

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Rating: 4.8/5 (6 votes cast)

Wood-Oven Goat Cheese Sandwich With Shallot Relish and Kale

Who doesn’t love a good grilled cheese? That’s a rhetorical question, since everyone loves a good grilled cheese (except you poor souls out there who are unfortunate enough to be lactose intolerant). This is a twist on the classic I came up with as a vegetarian option for a party, and I was surprised to discover it actually ended up outpacing all the meat options in terms of popularity with the guests. The lesson, as always, is good food speaks for itself, and any preconceptions should go right out the window.

3 T unsalted butter
8-10 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 T capers, chopped
1 tsp piparras or pepperoncini, chopped
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 T fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp honey
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch kale
10 oz fresh chevre (goat cheese)
8 slices pumpernickel or marble rye bread
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a saute pan over medium-low heat. You can also do this directly in your oven if it is cool enough. You’ll want it at a relatively low temperature – around 350ºF – to make these sandwiches so they don’t scorch before the cheese melts and the bread crisps up. Add the sliced shallots and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the shallots are very soft and have turned a rich caramel color, about 30 minutes. If the shallots start to stick, add a small amount of water and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, stirring them in with the shallots. Once the shallots are done, remove from the heat and stir in the capers, peppers, vinegar, parsley, honey, lemon zest and half the olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.

While the shallots are cooking, massage the kale. Yes, you read that right. It’s a trick I learned from a cook/farmer friend (thanks Abra!), and you’ll never think about kale the same way again. First, remove the woody stems from the leaves. Use your hand to hold the leaves in a tight bundle and use a sharp knife to cut the leaves into thin strips (this is called a chiffonade). Place the kale in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Rub the seasoned kale between your palms and scrunch it in your fists until all the leaves have taken on a dark, shiny and slightly damp appearance, about 2-3 minutes. What you’ve accomplished is breaking down some of the stiff cellulose in the leaves without cooking them, leaving you with tender yet fresh and bright-tasting kale. Set aside.

Melt half of the remaining butter in a pan large enough to hold four sandwiches. Divide the goat cheese among four slices of bread. Top the goat cheese with spoonfuls of shallot relish and then add a layer of massaged kale. Close up the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread. Place the sandwiches in the pan, put the pan in your wood oven, and cook until the first side of the sandwich is browned and crispy, 3-4 minutes depending on the temp of your oven. Remove the sandwiches to a platter. Add the remaining butter to the pan and, once melted, flip over the sandwiches and put them back in the pan to toast the second side. When both sides are crispy and the cheese is nice and melty, remove from the oven and serve immediately with a cold beer.

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Rating: 4.7/5 (3 votes cast)

Seared Beef Tenderloin With Black Sheep Cheese and Roasted Tomatoes

This is one of those dishes that isn’t really a dish at all – just a confluence of good ingredients that happened to be at hand, with the end result being something beautiful and delicious. You’ll never really be able to recreate this dish: My tomatoes were grown by a family friend, and my cheese came from a farm that anyone outside of Illinois isn’t going to have access to. But that is the beauty of cooking – if you use your favorite tomatoes and seek out your own special cheese, you’ll end up with a finished product that is different from mine, but just as good (or better), and more importantly, one that is personal to you and your dinner companions.

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If you do happen to live in the Midwest, Black Sheep is one of the many delicious cheeses made by Prairie Fruits Farm in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. It is an ash-washed-rind sheep’s milk cheese similar in style to a Robiola. If you don’t have access to Prairie Fruits cheeses, check out your local artisanal cheese maker or cheese shop for something similar in style.

5 tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 T extra virgin olive oil
10 sprigs fresh thyme
5 sprigs fresh savory
1 T vegetable oil
1 whole tenderloin, cut into 6-oz portions
3 T butter
1 round of Black Sheep or Robiola-style cheese
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Remove your beef from the refrigerator and allow to temper for a least a half hour before cooking. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, place the tomatoes on a wire rack over a sheet tray. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter half of the thyme and savory sprigs over the top of the tomatoes. Roast in a hot wood oven, rotating once, until soft, about 6-10 minutes depending on your tomatoes and oven temperature. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, discard the herb sprigs and remove the skins from the tomatoes. You should be able to peel them right off with your fingers.

Preheat a large roasting pan or skillet in a very hot wood oven. Add the vegetable oil – it should smoke. Place the steaks in the pan, slide the pan back into the oven, and seal up the oven. Allow the steaks to roast for 4-5 minutes. Remove the oven door and turn the steaks. Scatter the remaining savory and thyme over the steaks and roast for 2-3 minutes more. Add the butter to the pan; when melted, baste the steaks with the hot fat for 1 minute. Cooking times will vary depending on your oven temp and the thickness of your steaks – listed here are the approximate times for this particular session, with the meat cooked to medium rare.

Remove the meat from the roasting pan. Cut your cheese into wedges and top each steak with a piece. Allow to rest for 5-7 minutes, then serve with the roasted tomatoes alongside.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (5 votes cast)

Braised Beef “au Chasseur”

Don’t let the fancy name fool you – what we’re talking about here is pot roast. I took my inspiration for the flavors in this dish from the classic French sauce chasseur, or hunter sauce, so I thought I’d give credit where it’s due. Sauce chasseur is a hearty amalgam of tomatoes, mushrooms and wine, so I have all those flavors working here, plus a couple more just because. This is one you want to cook low and slow, and it’s going to take a while in the oven, so plan ahead. The end result will be worth it, though.

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2 C red wine
8 oz crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 chuck roast, about 2.75 lbs
1 lb split beef shank
3 oz bacon, diced
2 T butter
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 T Dijon mustard
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 quart beef stock or broth
8 oz carrots, cut into equal-size pieces
1 lb fingerling potatoes, cut into equal-size pieces
vegetable oil as needed
salt and pepper to taste

Place the red wine in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce by half and set aside. In a large saute pan set over high heat, cook the mushrooms in a small amount of vegetable oil until nicely roasted. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Next, heat the vessel you’re going to cook the pot roast in over medium-high heat – a medium-size roasting pan should do the trick. Add enough vegetable oil to film the bottom of the vessel. Season the chuck roast and the beef shanks liberally with salt and pepper and sear on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the diced bacon to the pan and render until golden brown and crispy. Add the butter and the sliced onions sweat until the onions are soft and just starting to take on a golden hue, about 7-8 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the pan, bring to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes to slightly reduce the tomato liquid.

At this point, bring the rest of the flavoring ingredients to the party – add the reduced wine, Dijon, thyme and beef stock to the pan and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the liquid is going to reduce. Put the chuck and the beef shanks, along with any accumulated juices, into the pan, cover loosely with foil, and transfer to a low-temperature wood oven. You want your braise to be just barely simmering in the oven. If it’s too hot, you’re going to end up with tough, dry meat. Try placing your roasting pan on a rack to cut down on heat conduction from the bottom of the oven.

Cook, rotating the pan every so often, until you think the meat is about halfway done. This is the (only) tricky part of this recipe – judging the doneness of your meat. Cooking times are going to vary depending on your exact cut and type of beef, as well as oven temperature. You could be looking at anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. The difficulty is that you want to add the carrots and potatoes to the pan at a point when they’re going to have enough time to cook and be tender, but not so much time that they’re completely obliterated when the meat is done. I’d say to add them when you think the meat is about 1 1/2 hours from being done. At that point you can add the mushrooms and any accumulated mushroom juices to the pan as well.

When the beef is fall-apart tender and your carrots and potatoes are soft and have soaked up loads of delicious flavor, remove from the oven. Between the starch from the potatoes and the reduction of the cooking process, you should be left with a delicious, unctuous sauce in the pan. If the liquid is a little too thin for your taste, try this: Use a fork (or your fingers) to mash together 2 tablespoons of soft butter with 3 tablespoons of flour. When well mixed into a smooth paste, place your pot roast over low heat so that the liquid is simmering, then whisk in the flour mixture. Allow to cook for 4-5 minutes to let the flour work its thickening magic, and you should be left with a beautiful hearty sauce. (For the food-nerd people out there like me, this is called a beurre manié.)

And that’s that – you have a delicious (almost) 1-pot meal. Serve with a simple salad for some acidic contrast and some bread to soak up any sauce left on your plate and you’re good to go.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (4 votes cast)

Braised Shell Beans With Parmesan Broth

There’s nothing like fresh shell beans, in my opinion. No matter what you do, you can’t get the same result with canned or dried beans. Cooked properly, the texture and flavor can’t be beat. I used cranberry beans for this recipe, but you could substitute just about any fresh shell bean you can get your hands on. And if you weren’t already, hopefully this recipe will be a wake-up call – save your parmesan rinds! They’re a ready-made flavor booster. Throw them in soups, or use them to make parmesan stock, as we’re doing here, and then save the stock for the next time you have a pasta dish, soup or sauce in need of a kick in the seat, flavor-wise.

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3 carrots
3 ribs celery
2 large yellow onions
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh parsley, plus 2 T fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp black peppercorns
3-4 rinds from parmigiano reggiano
12 C water
2 T butter
2 lbs unshelled fresh beans, preferably cranberry beans
zest of 1 lemon
salt and black pepper to taste

First, make the parmesan broth: Roughly chop 2 of the carrots, 2 of the celery ribs and 1 1/2 onions. In a large pot, combine the vegetables, half the bay and thyme, the 2 sprigs of parsley, peppercorns, parmesan rinds and water. Bring to a boil on the stovetop or in your oven, then allow to simmer about 2 hours, or until the liquid has taken on a rich, parmesany flavor. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve the liquid and discard the solids.

While the stock is simmering, shell your beans and set aside. Cut the remaining carrot, celery and half an onion into a brunoise, or very fine dice. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest of the lemon in long strips. Using kitchen twine or cheesecloth, tie the remaining thyme, bay and lemon zest into a small bundle.

When the parmesan broth is ready, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the bottom of a pot large enough to hold the beans and broth. Add the finely diced vegetables and sweat, stirring often, until softened and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the beans, parmesan broth and herb bundle. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook in a low wood oven or on the stove until the beans are tender and creamy inside. This could take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the type of beans you are using. My cranberry beans took about an hour and a half. If necessary, add more water to the pot so that the beans remain just covered with liquid until they are done cooking.

Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Stir in the remaining butter and allow the broth to thicken slightly. Immediately before serving, remove the herb bundle and stir in the chopped parsley. These beans are good enough to enjoy on their own, but if you are looking for pairings I’d say a slow-roasted pork shoulder or lamb shank would do nicely, or even some smoked ham. Or just serve over rice with some roasted broccoli alongside, and you’ll be all set.

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Rating: 5.0/5 (4 votes cast)

Slow-Roasted Duck Breast With Rhubarb-Savory Compote

The bright acidity of rhubarb is a great counterpoint to the meaty richness of duck breast. This is a wonderful dish for the wood oven, because that faint lick of smokiness infused in both the meat and the compote really ties everything together. It’s also very simple, but the depth of flavor will make it seem as if you worked on the dish for hours. Savory is delicious, underused herb that adds a nice minerality to the compote. If you can’t find it, try substituting marjoram or chervil.

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2 boneless duck breasts
1 onion
10 oz rhubarb
1 T plus 1 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 C plus 1 T sugar
1/4 C red wine
1 T butter
1 T fresh savory, chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste

First, clean up the duck breasts: Remove any silver skin from the flesh and any excess fat and skin from around the edges of each breast. Using a sharp knife, score the skin of each breast in a crosshatch pattern, being careful not to cut through to the meat. Set aside.

Preheat a roasting pan or large skillet in your wood oven. Meanwhile, cut the onion into a small dice. Do the same for the rhubarb. (Hopefully it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: You need to remove any green leafy parts from the rhubarb and use the red stalks only – the leaves are toxic.) Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to your preheated pan, then add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and sweat until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the rhubarb and the sugar to the pan and allow to cook until the rhubarb becomes soft and starts to break down. If you get a little caramelization during this process, all the better. Once the rhubarb has starting falling apart, add the red wine and allow to reduce until your mixture has taken on a somewhat thick, jam-like consistency, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and savory. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary.

To cook your duck breasts, place a heavy skillet in the mouth of your oven, where the floor is still warm but the air above the pan isn’t blazing hot. Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the pan. Season the duck breasts liberally with salt and pepper and then place them in the pan skin side down. What you are trying to do is slowly render the fat on top of the breast, so that you are left with crispy skin, a thin, unctuous layer of fat, and rosy medium-rare meat.

Allow the breasts to slowly render, draining off any excess fat as necessary. This process can take as long as 15 minutes, depending on the level of heat you’re working with. If you notice that the meat side of the breast is starting to cook, pull the pan farther back out of the oven. At this point you only want to render fat, not cook the meat.

Once a good deal of fat has rendered and the skin is beginning to turn golden, slide your pan into the heart of the oven and allow the breasts to roast for 3-5 minutes, depending on the heat of your oven. You’re looking for crispy mahogany-hued skin and medium-rare meat. Again, depending on your oven temp, you may cook the breasts entirely on the skin side. If you check and the skin is done but the meat still feels under, flip the breasts over onto the meat side and cook for 30-45 seconds.

Remove from the pan and allow to rest for five minutes. Cut the duck into thin slices and serve with the compote. Enjoy it as-is, or serve with some braised lentils and wilted spinach, and you have a fine meal on your hands.

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Rating: 3.8/5 (5 votes cast)

Red Kuri Squash-Brown Butter Puree

Here’s a quick, easy recipe that’s a perfect addition to any festive holiday meal spread. Feel free to substitute pretty much any winter squash you can get your hands on – butternut, acorn, buttercup, hubbard, sweet dumpling, pumpkin. They’re all complemented wonderfully by the nutty flavor of brown butter. The only variety I would avoid is spaghetti; the texture just won’t be what you’re looking for here.

1 medium-sized red kuri squash
1 tsp vegetable oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, peeled
8 oz unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lemon
salt and black pepper, to taste

Cut the squash in half through the stem end. Use a sturdy spoon to scoop out the seeds and guts, just like you would do with a pumpkin. Rub the two halves with the vegetable oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place 1 clove of garlic and 2 sprigs of thyme inside each cavity. Place the squash halves open side down on a small baking sheet or skillet and slide into your wood oven to roast. Cook, turning the baking sheet occasionally, until the flesh of the squash is soft. You should be able to poke the skin of the squash and feel the flesh give way underneath. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the temp of your oven and the thickness of your squash.

While the squash is roasting, prepare the brown butter. Place the butter in a tall-sided saucepot over medium-high heat. Allow the butter to cook. First it will boil, which will then subside and be replaced by foam. Once the mixture begins foaming, stir frequently to prevent the milk solids from adhering to the bottom of the pot. When the foam begins to dissipate, you should be able to see the browning milk solids. Once they’ve reached a nice dark brown, remove from the heat and add the lemon juice to stop the cooking process. The mixture will boil violently for a moment, so just stand back and be careful.

Once the roasted squash is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of the skin. Discard the thyme and garlic from the cavity. Place the flesh in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the brown butter to the squash. Use the butter to taste – it will depend on the size of your squash and your personal weakness for delicious, delicious brown butter. Some squashes have more moisture content than others as well, so if your puree seems a bit dry feel free to add a small amount of water to improve the consistency.

Season the puree with salt and pepper to taste, serve and be ready to have leftover mashed potatoes at your next holiday dinner, because this creamy, unctuous little devil is going to steal the show.

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Mussels With Chorizo and Beer

Your first instinct might be to disagree, but mussels are actually a great food for entertaining: They’re cheap, they’re quick and easy to cook, and they give your guests a tactile connection to the communal aspect of sharing a meal as everyone dives in to a steaming pile of mussels to unearth the tender treasures hidden inside. What more could you need? Pairing mussels with chorizo is a classic combination, and this is my cook-with-what-you-got take on the dish, which came about recently when I had some leftover mussels from the restaurant and a bunch of hungry family members to feed.

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2 T extra virgin olive oil
8 oz Mexican-style chorizo
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 bell pepper, sliced
1/2 jalapeno, or to taste, thinly sliced into rounds
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
12 oz beer, preferably a lager (I used Dos Equis)
15 oz whole peeled canned tomatoes
5 lbs PEI or other mussels
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Place the olive oil in a large skillet in your wood oven or on the stove over medium-high heat. Once it starts to smoke, add the chorizo and brown it off, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it cooks.

Once the chorizo is broken up and caramelized, add the onion and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper, and allow the vegetables to sweat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the jalapeno and garlic and cook the mixture for 3 minutes more. Add the beer and stir well to dislodge any delicious caramelized goodness from the bottom of the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil and allow the beer to reduce by three-quarters.

While the beer is reducing, open the can of tomatoes, pour them into a bowl and use your hand to crush the tomatoes into little bits. You can just use diced canned tomatoes, but something about those big uniform chunks of canned tomato is just off-putting to me. So I prefer this method. Add the tomato to the skillet, re-season to taste, and allow the mixture to simmer gently for at least 15 minutes, until the flavors have all come together and the tomato liquid has reduced somewhat.

While your sauce is cooking, clean your mussels. If you haven’t cleaned mussels before, a quick primer: Place the mussels in a bowl of clean, cool water. As the mussels sit in the water they will filter out some of the sand and grit in their systems and leave it on the bottom of the bowl instead of in your teeth later. Use a brush to scrub the shells to dislodge any other dirt or barnacles that will come off and muddy up your final dish. Some of the mussels will have hairy fibers sticking out of one side of their shells. This is called the beard. Use your fingers or tweezers to pull these off by tugging them outward from the side of the shell. If a mussel is open, give it a squeeze or tap it on the edge of the counter. If it doesn’t close back up, throw it away. Same goes for any cracked or broken mussels.

Once your mussels are all clean, preheat a large roasting pan in your wood oven. Your oven should be very hot – pizza hot. Add the mussels to the dry pan and then pour the chorizo sauce over the top. Slide the mussels back into the oven and allow to cook just until the mussels open, rotating the pan once. If your oven is hot enough, this could happen in as little as 1-2 minutes. It won’t take any more than 5.

Remove from the oven, serve immediately with some crusty bread, and be happy.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (4 votes cast)