main dish

hoisin chicken with green beans and sticky rice

I’ve been thinking a lot about this guy lately.

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He’s starting at a new school this fall and will experience all kinds of change during this time called adolescence and junior high. It’s brought back all kinds of memories from my own adolescent years – everything from remembering locker combinations to who to sit by at lunch to what to wear. Ugh. I know he’ll do great, but it’s so hard to be a parent and go through all these transitions again with your kids. Especially when the transitions and years seem to be passing at lightning speed. I still think of him as a toddler some days, and long for cuddling with him, reading him bedtime stories, or playing dinosaurs and trains. He has been known on occasion to hover over my shoulder and listen when I’m reading a picture book to my youngest. I love that.

School starts in one day, and I’m about as ready as I’ll ever be. Back-to-school for us means busy evenings with homework and sports. My head is spinning thinking about managing our schedules, as I’m sure many others can relate.

Need a quick dinner recipe? This one’s so very simple and easy to throw together. Great for those nights when you feel like Chinese takeout, but prefer to make it yourself. It’s complete with protein and veggie and is easily customized with your favorite substitutes, i.e. shrimp, peppers, beef, broccoli, etc.

My version, which I sort of tossed together with whatever we had in our refrigerator, turned out to be a keeper. I like to serve this with a sticky rice, which is Jasmine rice, rinsed until the water runs clear and made in a rice cooker. All while you prepare the main event. Everything is ready to serve in less than 30 minutes. Feel free to add additional sides like potstickers, cream cheese wontons or egg rolls, or to keep it healthy – more sauteed veggies. An after-dinner lucky fortune cookie doesn’t hurt either.

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Hoisin Chicken with Green Beans and Sticky Rice

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1 cup fresh mushrooms, cut in half
2-3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
Few dashes of tamari

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over med-high heat. Add chicken and stir fry for 5-7 minutes, until no longer pink. Add garlic and continue to stir fry until fragrant. Add green beans and mushrooms and continue to stir fry until green beans start to wrinkle and vegetables become tender. Add hoisin sauce and a couple dashes of tamari and stir to combine. Serve with sticky rice and soy sauce.

Enjoy!

A little fact about me – I’m fascinated by dinosaurs and have been known to name all of them in our collection. Pterodactyls, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Bronchosaurus, Triceratops, etc… Do you know yours? Happy back-to-school, crazy schedules and all!

a meat-less asian saute – gone totally right

Well, hello there! I’ve been gone for a while. Still cooking like crazy, but most posts have remained in the drafts folder. I’m hoping to get a few quiet moments more regularly, but most days, it’s just pure busy around the house. Wake up, get ready, work, leave work, pickup kids, do the homework/dinner scramble, leave for activities (often conflicting and in opposite locations), watch activities, return, showers/baths, book time, kids bedtime, and often I’m the next in line. Repeat. If I’m really good, I manage to get myself on the treadmill in the morning.  That’s the usual “during the week schedule” for us.

I’ve dabbled in the past cooking with tofu, and most times, I’ve been disappointed with the results. Not this time. This recipe is fantastic, and could easily be swapped out with various meats, if you wish. The sauce fills in the flavorless void of the tofu, and the vegetables are just the right addition.

The key to this dish is making sure the tofu is completely drained of excess moisture. Also, having patience, the right level of heat, and not disturbing the saute pan yields golden-brown, crispy tofu perfection. Try it for yourself, and you may enjoy just as much as I did … Another bonus? My kids were convinced they were eating chicken. Perfect for a Meatless Monday, or any day of the week.

tofu1

Hot and Sour Seared Tofu With Sugar Snap Peas (and Red Pepper)
Adapted from NY Times
2-3 servings

1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu (and drained well)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 small jalapeño chiles, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free version)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons peanut oil, more if needed
6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and thinly sliced (I’ve also made with haricots verts/green beans, broccoli or whatever vegetable you choose)
1/2 red pepper, diced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
Crushed red pepper, as desired
Sesame seeds, as desired
May garnish with chopped cilantro or basil.

Drain tofu well, wrap it with a clean dish towel or several layers of paper towels and place on a rimmed plate; top with another plate and some extra weight. Let drain further. (This step is key to golden brown perfection.)

To make the sauce, combine garlic, chiles, soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, sesame oil, fish sauce and honey in a small bowl. Unwrap tofu and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Pat slices dry. Heat a large skillet over high heat until hot. Add peanut oil and let heat for 30 seconds, then carefully add tofu. Don’t touch tofu for 2 to 3 minutes, letting it sear until golden brown. Flip and sear for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Move tofu to one side of pan (or temporarily remove from pan and keep warm). Add vegetables and, if needed, a few drops more peanut oil. Stir-fry vegetables for a couple of minutes, being careful not to overcook them. Add sauce and stir well, cooking until vegetables are done to taste, 1-2 minutes. Return tofu to pan and coat with sauce. Sprinkle sesame seeds over tofu and vegetables. Can also garnish with cilantro or basil, if you wish.

Serve with cooked jasmine or brown rice. Enjoy!

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cauliflower steaks with jalapeno corn relish

Inspired by a similar Food & Wine recipe, and motivated to reduce the amount of red meat from our diet, here’s a steak recipe that proves to be hearty, healthy, and meatless.  This one caught my eye, as we love to make roasted cauliflower as a side for many of our meals.  But, why not make it the main event?  A vegetable topped with more vegetables, and a little spicy heat – brilliant as a main course.

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Slicing the head of cauliflower into 3/4 inch steaks was a little tricky with the size I had, but I worked with it anyways.  And, it’s prepared very similar to a real steak.  Hot skillet (add a little canola oil and salt and pepper), sear/brown each side for about 3 minutes, or until nicely browned.  Roast for about 20 minutes.

Yum.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

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Cauliflower Steaks with Jalapeno Corn Relish

inspired by this Food & Wine recipe

2 large heads of cauliflower, stems lightly trimmed
1 1/2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and minced
4 scallions, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced and drained
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut three 3/4-inch-thick center slices from each head of cauliflower to form “steaks.” Use the rest of the cauliflower for something else.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the jalapeno and cook over moderately high heat for 30 seconds. Add the scallions and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Stir in the corn and tomato and season with salt and pepper.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add 3 cauliflower steaks and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side; transfer to a large baking pan. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and 3 cauliflower steaks.

Press the jalapeno-corn relish into the spaces between the cauliflower florets. Bake the cauliflower steaks for 25 minutes, until tender and richly browned. Top with additional relish, if desired.  Enjoy!

busy schedules, life and asian chicken

I’m back, after a much necessary break. Life happens, and so does the reality of busy schedules!  In early April, my family visited my sister Whitney, in Austin, Texas! Left Minneapolis at 6 am and drove straight through to Austin. 19+ hours in the car, all 6 of us! We had a blast! Lots of road food and convenience store snacks on the way down, but lots of amazing food in Austin – Shipley’s Donuts (a donut shop way too close to my sister’s place), Kebabalicious (an amazing food truck serving falafel, chicken shawarma, etc.), Chuy’s (a Mexican restaurant), Moonshine (a great night out with my sisters and husband), and many others. The end of April marked the beginning of summer sports, and three colliding schedules. Oh, and a coaching husband. April and May were pretty much a blur.

In June, I visited my sister Kortney in California for a shopping, eating and dining trip. We indulged in amazing foie gras just weeks before a state-wide ban for restaurants. So fortunate to have been one of the last to have this and other amazing dishes at a quaint, French restaurant on Balboa Island in Newport Beach called Basilic. We also visited Palm Springs for a day/evening during Restaurant Week. Amazing place. Must go back with my husband! We had amazing Mexican food and margaritas at a place called Las Casuelas Terraza. Dinner at a place called Zin American Bistro – yum. And, brunch at the Ace Hotel / King’s Highway. Great food and gorgeous drinks. Kortney and her boyfriend visited Minneapolis the following weekend, and we cooked at home and dined at a local place called the Little River Inn and Bar. We also celebrated my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in June. Busy and fun times!

In late June and early July we traveled back to Bismarck, ND for my husband’s 20 year class reunion and a week’s vacation over the Fourth of July. And, in August, celebrated a family reunion with amazing cousins from California, Kansas, Texas, North Dakota and Minnesota. It’s been a great summer spending time with family and friends, hanging out in the backyard with amazing neighbors, enjoying my patio heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs, and creating wonderful meals at home.

September means back to school month, and a search for quick fix, easy dinner ideas…

Here’s a great healthy, Asian recipe I adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food General Tso’s Chicken. A hit for us and the kids too! Love the light (almost non-existent) batter of the pan-fried chicken, combined with chopped veggies and tossed in a slightly sweet, touch of heat sauce. We added red and green pepper, sugar snap peas and green onions.

Asian Chicken / Healthy General Tso’s Chicken
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food
Serves 4

1 1/4 cups long-grain brown or jasmine rice – (We made our own fried rice.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
1/4 red pepper, chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower (we used canola oil)

Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add vegetables, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).

Add vegetable mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.

Enjoy!!

pesto and rotini

An amazing, simple, healthy dish. Use store-bought pesto, or make your own (like I did.) Serve with a sautéed chicken breast, a veggie and a nice glass of white wine.

Pesto
3-4 cups of packed, fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (I toasted mine in a saute pan over low heat, just enough to warm them and see a hint of golden)
1-2 garlic cloves (to your liking)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Blend/puree all ingredients in a food processor until the pesto is blended and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Serve with cooked whole wheat rotini pasta.

Prepare whole wheat rotini per package directions. Toss pasta with pesto and freshly grated parmesan cheese and whole pine nuts (if desired.)

rigatoni with spicy sausage, arugula and tomato

This one’s a keeper.  Mmm.  Served it to a group of friends for a weekend dinner, pre- Superbowl and pre- Valentine’s Day.  Friends+pasta, salad, bread and dessert+red wine = a great time.  We even discovered that a couple of our friends may be distant relatives…and a search for Icelandic ancestors may be in their future.  🙂

Love the addition of arugula and fresh herbs in this dish.   And, freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Add crushed red pepper to your preferred level of spice.

Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage-Tomato Sauce, Arugula, and Parmesan
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield: Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds fresh hot Italian sausages, casings removed
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
16 ounces rigatoni
2 cups (packed) fresh arugula, stemmed
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add sausage; cook until browned, breaking up with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Drain drippings from pot. Add wine, diced tomatoes with juice, and crushed tomatoes; increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cool, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat before continuing.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Stir pasta, arugula, basil, and oregano into tomato sauce. Simmer until arugula wilts, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Serve with a salad and garlic bread.

deep-fried heaven

The minute I got my February issue of Bon Appetit, I knew I had to make the cover – skillet fried chicken. The kind I have maybe once or twice a year. The kind that’s “oh so bad for you”, but a must have indulgence on occasion. A personal, Iron Chef kind of challenge and a first stab at frying at home. A messy endeavor, a not so nice cleanup and the lingering aroma of peanut oil – but, so worth the deep-fried wonder.

The suggested overnight rub mixture is genius, and true to the chef’s word – resulting in flavorful meat seasoned to the bone. Dipped in a mixture of buttermilk, egg and water and coated in seasoned flour, then carefully bathed in hot oil.

We had drumsticks and breasts on hand, so we worked with what we had. However, next time, I will make sure to have more drumsticks – the declared favorite among the kids and me. The tender, juicy dark meat and crispy, brown skin are indulgence at its best. And, there’s just something barbaric about picking up a drummy with your bare hands, eating the meat off the bone. Love bending the table manners. Everything goes out the window here on no eating with your hands or don’t pick at your food… (My sister would love that one too, right K?) The chicken breasts were also very yummy. Yes, the chicken tastes great immediately after being fried, but cold fried chicken is just as good. Mmm.

OK, some essentials are key here. Did I say this was messy? Yes… and then some. I covered the kitchen floor with old towels (to catch most of the splattering grease, and make clean-up a little easier.) I also draped kitchen towels around the nearby surroundings – countertops, cabinets. Aprons are also encouraged. Other essentials: a set of metal tongs, a large cast iron skillet, a deep fat fry thermometer, an instant read thermometer, plenty of peanut oil, a wire baking rack set on top of a large cookie sheet. We set our oven temp at about 275 degrees to keep the chicken warm once it was fried, and to be sure the meat was cooked through, as we fried 3 separate batches. Amazing. You must try it yourself.

I’m still searching for remedies to rid the frying smell in the house, so let me know if you have any tried and true secrets… already tried boiling vinegar/water mixture – nada.

Skillet-fried Chicken
adapted from Bon Appetit

2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3–4-lb. chicken (not kosher), cut into 10 pieces, backbone and wing tips removed
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Peanut oil (for frying)

• Whisk 1 Tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Season chicken with spices. Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill overnight.

• Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 Tbsp. salt, and remaining 1 Tbsp. pepper in a 9x13x2″ baking dish.

• Pour oil into a 10″–12″ cast-iron skillet or other heavy straight-sided skillet (not nonstick) to a depth of 3/4″. Prop deep-fry thermometer in oil so bulb is submerged. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°. Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet.

• Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture; tap against bowl to shake off excess. Place 5 pieces of chicken in skillet. Fry chicken, turning with tongs every 1–2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300°–325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and 12-15 minutes for thighs, legs, and breasts.

• Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack.

• Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Thanks Bon Appetit!

chicken lettuce cups

This one’s in honor of Chinese New Year, and the Year of the Dragon, and “do-it-yourself Chinese take-out”…

We love the lettuce wraps at various restaurants like PF Changs, and this creation could be just as good or better. Fresh, light and healthy.  It was the perfect treat for the red carpet and the Golden Globe awards.  And, bonus… the kids loved them too! Served them with cream cheese wontons, potstickers, steamed edamame and brown rice.  Mmm. Mmm. Good.  Enjoy!

Chicken Lettuce Cups
Adapted from Epicurious
Yield: Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons clear rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup minced red onion
1 cup chopped canned button mushrooms  (I used fresh mushrooms)
1/2 cup water chestnuts, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, minced (I diced my chicken into small chunks)
8 to 10 inner leaves iceberg lettuce, edges trimmed and chilled
Handful of fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Scallions, cut diagonally
Optional: 1/4 cup unsalted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

Combine the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small bowl and mix together until the sugar dissolves.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok over high heat. Stir-fry the garlic and ginger for 10 seconds. Add the onion, mushrooms, and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Remove the contents of the wok.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok. Swish the oil around, add the chicken, and brown for 1 minute, or until no longer pink. Add the cooked vegetable mixture back to the wok, decrease the heat, and stir in the sauce mixture. Stir for 1 minute, or until the sauce is heated and the chicken is cooked through.

Spoon the filling in equal amounts into the lettuce cups. Top each lettuce cup with cilantro, scallions and sprinkle with chopped cashews, if desired. Serve warm.  (Next time, I may even top with crispy rice sticks for a little added texture.)

an evening of wolfgang

This past Sunday, we opted for an evening dinner of beef stew and spaetzle, celebrating combined German roots, and newly discovered recipes by Wolfgang Puck.  I recently read that one of the food trends for 2012 will be more preparation of comfort foods, sometimes, with a twist.  New twists on old favorites, such as the addition of jelly in this beef stew recipe.  There’s nothing better than a warm, comfort food on a Sunday in January, cooking on the stove all. day. long.  Mmm… And, the aroma coming from your kitchen might just tempt friends to knock at your front door…

We cooked our beef stew in an enameled cast iron dutch oven.  Perfect for browning meats and slow cooking them, which is key for tender, fall apart results.  Enameled cast iron pans are a “must buy”, by the way.  LOVE them.

The kids found the spaetzle very intriguing and were a little skeptical when their plates were presented before them. However, they couldn’t get enough of it!  Yay!  Always love a new recipe success, especially when enjoyed by the whole family.  The kids’ version of spaetzle was served minus the caramelized onions.  Perfect because Jeff and I love a few extra onions, caramelized… even better.

The spaetzle preparation was interesting…and, I now know that I will be on the search for a colander with slightly bigger holes.  The batter was to be pressed through the holes of the colander into a pot of salted boiling water.  Our colander worked, but made for mostly mini spaetzle.  Once boiled and drained, the soft, egg noodles were spread in a baking dish, dotted with butter and topped with shredded, gruyere cheese.  I don’t care much for gruyere on its own, but once melted and baked, it gives an amazing flavor.

Menu for the evening?

BEEF STEW WITH RED CURRANT JELLY & CREAM AND SPAETZLE WITH CARAMELIZED ONION & GRUYERE CHEESE

The beef stew is perfect alongside the spaetzle.  Enjoy!

Beef Stew with Red Currant Jelly and Cream
Adapted from Wolfgang Puck

4 pounds well-trimmed beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons juniper berries (I substituted 2 tbsp dry gin)
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth
3/4 cup red currant jelly (I substituted blackberry jam)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large bowl, toss the beef with the celery, carrots, onions, wine, bay leaves, juniper berries, rosemary and thyme. Cover and refrigerate overnight, stirring a few times.

Drain the meat and vegetables in a colander set over a bowl. Pick out the juniper berries and discard them; reserve the marinade. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add half of the meat and vegetables and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Stir and cook until lightly browned all over, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the meat and vegetables.

Return the meat and vegetables to the casserole. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the casserole. Add the reserved marinade and the tomato paste and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the stock and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the currant jelly, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Drain the stew in a colander set over a bowl. Transfer the pieces of meat to a platter. Press on the solids in the colander to extract as much liquid as possible. Pour the liquid back into the casserole and return the meat to the pot. Stir in the cream and bring to a simmer. Season the stew with salt and pepper.

In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of red currant jelly over moderate heat, stirring. Ladle the stew into large shallow bowls. Drizzle the warm jelly over the stew and serve with the spaetzle.

Serve along side Spaetzle with Gruyère and Caramelized Onions  (RECIPE BELOW)

Spaetzle with Gruyere and Caramelized Onions
adapted from Wolfgang Puck

1 3/4 cups milk
4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (5 ounces)
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, whisk the milk with the egg yolks and egg. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Using a wooden spoon, stir the egg mixture into the flour, leaving a few lumps. Cover and refrigerate the batter for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Carefully hold a colander with large holes over the boiling water. Add about 1/2 cup of the batter to the colander and press it into the simmering water with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Repeat until all of the batter has been used. Cook the spaetzle for 2 minutes longer, then drain. Immediately transfer the spaetzle to the ice water, swirling the dumplings until all of the ice melts. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread the spaetzle in the dish and dot with the butter. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the spaetzle is hot and the cheese is just melted.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and cook over high heat until softened, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Scatter the onion over the spaetzle and serve.

Note:
The spaetzle can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated for up to 1 day.

Serve Spaetzle With Beef Stew with Red Currant Jelly and Cream in shallow bowls.

seared scallops with beurre blanc (tarragon butter sauce)

I have a new favorite herb crush.  Tarragon.  The flavors in fresh tarragon are absolutely incredible – aromatic and intense, with hints of licorice, anise, basil and sweet mint.  It’s one of those ingredients that screams “guess what I am?”  as you take a bite and you immediately taste the unique flavors and know something special has been incorporated into the recipe.  It’s great in sauces served with poultry and fish, and in dressings, i.e. green goddess.

Here it is.  Beautiful French tarragon…

And a recipe…

Seared Scallops with Tarragon Butter Sauce
adapted from Gourmet
Makes 4 servings

1 1/4 pounds large sea scallops, tough ligament from side of each discarded and patted completely dry
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (be sure to chop very fine)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon (or more, depending on your liking)

Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper (total).

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sear scallops, turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a platter.

Add shallot, wine, and vinegar to skillet and boil, scraping up brown bits, until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Add juices from platter and if necessary boil until liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Reduce heat to low and add 3 tablespoons butter, stirring until almost melted, then add remaining 3 tablespoons butter and swirl until incorporated and sauce has a creamy consistency. Stir in tarragon and salt to taste; pour sauce over scallops. 

Bon Appetit!