From the Fridge: Spanish Quesadillas

I grew up in a family where virtually nothing was wasted. My mother would save the tiniest sliver of Breyers ice cream that used to come in a square container, and sometimes, oh my God, we’d even take leftovers to amusement parks. I of course wanted those horrible hot dogs rolling around on those metal tubes all day. I often think how almost criminal it is that we have three refrigerators in our house that are so stuffed with food we can’t even see what’s growing in the back of each of them. Yes, I teach cooking classes so there’s always a lot of ingredients needed for classes and testing recipes, but it’s still no excuse for wasting precious food.

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

I decided that instead of dreading the monthly clean-out of moldy bits and pieces and the slimy gook from spilled jars, I should stage our own version of Chopped, where contestants are given a handful of secret ingredients and they have to come up with some brilliant dish. The difference of course is that I won’t try to make a four star dinner out of cheese doodles, octopus, gelatin and some sort of spiky fruit. I’m challenging myself to search the freezers and fridges each week for several ingredients and to figure out a dish in one hour. This kind of self imposed contest forces you to use a variety of skills – it could be searing, braising, frying or roasting, or whatever – in new ways and to really work the spices you have on hand.

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

Okay I admit, this first week I had a head start. I just finished doing a week of cooking demos on back to school healthy snacks and lunch options on Fox News (link to avocado video) and had great lime jalapeno guacamole left over. I had also had a huge package of 12 inch tortillas from making low fat baked tortilla chips on air. Quesadillas anyone? So I searched the fridge and found perfectly ripe yellow heirloom tomatoes, Iberico cheese and smoked prosciutto (similar enough to Iberico ham). Perfect ingredients to make a Spanish-ish Quesadilla. Here’s the recipe:

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

Countdown to Thanksgiving 4

pumpkinbacon

 

This Pumpkin Fondue is one of our absolute favorite recipes of all time. We’ve posted this one before, but in light of the demo it on TV the other day, I decided to bring it back from the archives. It’s too important to miss! If your Thanksgiving menu is still flexible, we highly encourage you to check this one out! Scroll down for the recipe and a video of the TV segment!

 

pumpkinwithmilk

pumpkinfondue cinderellapumpkin

 

 

 

Pumpkins Stuffed with Everything Good – Our Way

From: Heide Lang, Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

  • 8 strips bacon (¼ cup shallots may be substituted for vegetarian version
  • ¼ pound stale bread cut into cubes
  • ¼ pound cheese, such as gruyere, emmental, cheddar, smoked gouda, asiago, parmesan, or any combination, cut into ½ inch cubes 
  • 3 cloves of garlic pressed or minced 
  • 1/8-1/4 cup fresh chives or scallions 
  • 2 teaspoons or more fresh herbs (i.e., parsley, rosemary, thyme) 
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (optional)
  • 1 sugar or Cinderella pumpkin weighing about 3 pounds 
  • 1 cup or more heavy cream 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sautee shallots until they are crispy (about 15 minutes), or fry bacon until crispy. Set aside.
  3. Combine chunks of bread and cheese, along with dried cranberries (this is optional, but will add beautiful color to the fondue). Season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Add bacon or shallots to the bread and cheese mixture. Combine well.
  5. Add any herbs you choose, along with the chives or scallions, and garlic. Toss well.
  6. Using a very sturdy knife, cut off the cap of the pumpkin, just as you would a jack-o-lantern.
  7. Scoop out the stringy pumpkin and the seeds and generously salt the inside of the pumpkin.
  8. Pack the filling tightly into the pumpkin (there shouldn’t be any air pockets).
  9. Pour in cream until the bread mixture is saturated and there is a bit of liquid on top (but be careful not to have the bread “swimming” in heavy cream).
  10. Put the cap back on and bake until the pumpkin is soft, about 60-90 minutes. Check the pumpkin after 45 minutes to see how soft it is. Continue baking until the ingredients are bubbling and the meat of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Do not let it burn, or the pumpkin will turn black and collapse as it cools. You don’t want all your good work ruined!
  11. Place a large spatula under your creation and move it gently to a beautiful platter.
  12. Serve as a side dish or an appetizer on small plates.

Countdown to Thanksgiving 3

Tim Lammers, a delightful anchorman at Fox News in Hartford, was very skeptical when I told him we were making mashed potatoes with turnips for the show last week. Turnips, as vegetables go, are not very pretty in their raw form, and many people put in them in the same category as Brussels sprouts (which we will be making later in the week as well!) He was surprised and delighted at just how delicious the potatoes tasted. As a bonus, we also prepared a roasted pear puree, which adds a lovely sweetness to mashed potatoes and cut the richness of the Thanksgiving meal. Here are all the recipes we made.

 

 

FINALPotatoes

 

 

Question of the day: What are your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes?

 

 

Mashed Potatoes and Turnips with Roasted Pear Puree

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 ripe bosc pears, peeled, quartered, cored
  • 1 basic mashed potato recipe (see below)
  • 1 pound turnips peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine honey, lemon juice, melted butter and pears in medium size bowl. Toss to coat evenly.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and place pear mixture in a baking dish so that all the fruit is in one layer.
  4. Roast pears for 30 minutes and then toss the pears in the juices.
  5. Continue roasting for about 30 minutes until the pears are very tender (this will vary depending on how ripe the pears are).
  6. Transfer pears with liquid to a food processor and puree until smooth or puree directly in the dish with an immersion blender. Set aside. (Pear puree can actually be made up to 2 days ahead).
  7. In the meantime, prepare basic mashed potato recipe. (See next recipe)
  8. Place turnips in a separate pot of salted boiling water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.
  9. Puree turnips until smooth and combine with mashed potatoes.
  10. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. Re-warm pear puree and serve together by placing the potato mixture in a serving bowl and swirling in the pear puree. Alternatively, serve separately, and let your guests determine how much puree they would like.

Basic Mashed Potatoes

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds russet potatoes peeled 
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 teaspoon or more of salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut the potatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on their size. You want to make sure the potatoes are the same size so they cook evenly.
  2. Place the potatoes in cold water, bring to a boil, and then salt the water (the water should taste like the ocean in order for the potatoes to be properly seasoned). (Water should always be salted once the water is boiling. Otherwise, the salt will sink to the bottom and stick to the bottom of the pot.) Lower the temperature to a simmer and cook until a fork easily goes through the potatoes, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.
  3. Drain the potatoes in a colander and “dry mash” without the milk or butter for 2 minutes over a low flame.
  4. Add the butter and gently mix into the potatoes without mashing (you don’t want to over mash the potatoes or they will be gluey).
  5. Combine the milk and cream in a small saucepan and warm milk.
  6. Gradually add warm milk and cream to the pot and mix thoroughly.
  7. Add pepper and additional salt to taste. Mash potatoes until smooth or coarse, your preference.

Countdown to Thanksgiving

Few will admit this, but preparing Thanksgiving dinner stresses people out. We are living with non-stop information overload and everywhere online, on television, and on billboards we see pictures of that annoying perfect turkey with all the flawless trimming and a relaxed happy host just waiting for their guests to arrive. Nope! We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter, but it’s hard not to feel a little judged because, well, you probably are being judged kind of a little, or maybe even a lot depending who is coming.  It’s like going to the hairdresser. Why we care what people think of our hair I’ll never know, but we often do!

 

EditedFigTart2

 

So when WTIC Fox News Connecticut asked me to do a Thanksgiving cooking extravaganza for the next eight weekdays in a row starting today, I jumped at the chance to show viewers and our blog friends just how satisfying and easy it can be to host Thanksgiving (Ironically, I’m not hosting this year, but that’s okay because after this series my family will have had about a dozen trial turkey day dinners!). Each day, I will share the recipes and the videos with you, and give you clever ideas meant take the stress out of the day (don’t carve the turkey where people can see you).
Editedkithenset

 

We’ll start with appetizers, starters, side dishes and dessert, and work our way up to taking the fear out of carving and what to do with all that turkey meat come day three of leftovers when major boredom sets in.

 

 

EditedSoup1

 

Yesterday, we made Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Shallots and Fig Goat Cheese Caramelized Shallot Squares made with puff pastry. These recipes are both huge crowd pleasers and don’t require a ton of time or skill. Watch today’s video to learn how to make these winner recipes as well  (http://foxct.com/2013/11/18/try-a-new-thanksgiving-side-dish/)

 

 

Also, we’d also love to hear about your Thanksgiving success and disasters (especially if they’re funny.  What are your favorite and worst Thanksgiving memories?

 

 

 

Fig Goat, Cheese, and Caramelized Shallot Squares

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 1 ready-made defrosted puff pastry sheet
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 2 ½ cups of thinly sliced shallots (4 large shallots, or 6 small ones)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12-14 whole dried figs (3 ounces)
  • 3 teaspoons honey
  • 5-6 ounces crumbled goat cheese
  • ¼ cup coarsely ground walnuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Roll out the puff pastry to a 10 X 13 rectangle. Poke a few holes in pastry with a fork (so it doesn’t puff up while baking.)
  3. Pre-bake the puff pastry until it is just slightly browned, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, melt the butter with oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the shallots.
  5. Cook the shallots on medium heat until they are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently, especially if you are not using a non-stick pan.
  6. Add the salt, and season to taste with pepper. Set aside.
  7. Place dried figs in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and dry figs.
  8. Slice figs 1/8 inch thick, and then coarsely chop them (you should have ½ cup of sliced figs). Mix with honey and set aside
  9. Spread the shallot mixture evenly over the pre-baked pastry.
  10. Sprinkle the goat cheese, followed by the figs and the walnuts.
  11. Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese starts to bubble, about 15-20 minutes.
  12. Let cool and cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Crispy Shallots

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ½ cups sliced shallots (6-12 shallots, depending on size)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil and butter in a 12-inch saucepan over medium heat until it starts to bubble.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add the shallots.
  3. Cook until golden brown, about 30 minutes (add more oil if the shallots start to burn) stirring frequently.
  4. Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Pat down to remove excess oil. Once the excess oil is absorbed, place the shallots in an airtight container and use to garnish soups, vegetables, potatoes, and sandwiches.

Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Shallots

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups leeks, chopped
  • 1/3 cup shallots, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh butternut squash cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 can pure organic pumpkin puree (no sugar added)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger finely minced
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 Bartlett pear, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 5-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
  • 4-5 tablespoons crispy shallots (see recipe below)
  • 1/3 pound pancetta, sliced thin (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat canola oil in a 6-8 quart pot. Sautee shallots and leeks over medium heat until they are soft and glassy, but not yet brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the butternut squash and sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the pumpkin puree and stir well.
  4. Add salt, pepper, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cayenne pepper. Stir and cook over medium heat for one minute.
  5. Add the pear and broth and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is hot, turn down the heat to a steady simmer on a low-medium flame. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the pears and squash are soft.
  6. Puree in a food processor, or with an immersion blender (you may also use a blender, but be sure to let the soup cool to lukewarm first).
  7. Add sour cream and mix well.
  8. Fry pancetta (optional) in a small frying pan over medium-high heat, until crisp, and pat between two towels to absorb grease.
  9. Serve with crispy shallots and/or crumbled pancetta on top.

Easy Ghoulish Treats

Most people think I’m a little bit strange when I tell people that Halloween is my favorite holiday. It’s really simple. I adore the foods of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Easter, not to mention all the glorious casual picnic foods from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but I just love the theatre and whimsy of Halloween.

 

Witches Brew Punch with Dry Ice – epic halloween trick/treat | The Road Home

 

This great holiday, after all, is not about gifts or how perfect the table looks for relatives. It’s about fun, and magic, and theatre. It transcends age. We will have 8-year-olds and 16-year-olds side by side at our house all enjoying the same silly food and wearing goofy costumes. What could be better? I get to take my apron off and think solely about what would make kids of all ages happy. The pressure is off to be perfect. All anyone cares about is that the offerings are funny, maybe a little “scary” and of course colorful.

 

Clementine Pumpkins | The Road Home  – cancels out the candy right?

 

So here’s part of our line-up for All Hallow’s Eve at our house. We’ll offer our friends and fellow trick-or-treaters Mad Scientist Bubbly Brew, followed by cauliflower brain dip, and darling little “pumpkins” made of clementines and celery. There will be other things, but these are my favorites. I hope this sampling of our Halloween inspires you to think like a child even for just one day. Happy Halloween everyone!

 

Witches Brew Punch with Dry Ice – epic halloween trick/treat | The Road Home

Halloween Cauliflower Brain with Guacamole - gruesome but great | The Road Home
Witches Brew Punch with Dry Ice – epic halloween trick/treat | The Road Home

Have you got any special halloween foods you make at your house? We’d love to hear about them! Comment below to let us know!

 

 

Clementine Pumpkins

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • One dozen or more Clementines
  • Several stalks celery

Directions:

  1. Peel Clementines and place on a fun Halloween platter.
  2. Cut a stalk of celery into small pieces for the pumpkin stem. Stick a celery piece into the top of each peeled Clementine and serve!

Creepy Cauliflower Brain Dip with Guacamole

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

    Guacamole

    • 4 ripe avocados peeled and pitted
    • ½ cup chopped onions
    • 1/8 cup fresh lime juice
    • ¼ cup cilantro (optional)
    • 1 4 ounce can finely chopped seeded jalapeno chilies**
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ¾ teaspoon pepper
    • 1 cup of tomatoes, diced and seeded (or canned diced tomatoes in the winter)

    Brain

    • 1 large cauliflower
    • 1 package of red licorice string

    Directions:

    1. Place all guacamole ingredients but tomatoes in a food processor or in a medium sized bowl. Puree in the food processor or puree in bowl using an immersion blender until very smooth.
    2. Drain tomatoes thoroughly through a sieve and gently blend into the avocado mixture using a spatula.
    3. Remove all of the leaves from the cauliflower and remove the stem so that there is a hollow area, but most of the florets are intact. (Use toothpicks to hold the sides together if it starts to fall apart).
    4. Put the hollowed out cauliflower into a snug fitting bowl. (For a really scary presentation, wrap the bowl in cheesecloth stained with red food coloring.)
    5. Fill in with the guacamole and decorate the florets by weaving the licorice between the florets to make the veins and arteries.  You may also sprinkle a bit of red food coloring on the “arteries” as well but be careful not to overdo it.

    Mad Scientist Bubbly Brew

    From: Heide Lang

    Ingredients:

    • Clear glass container or punch bowl
    • Artificial green or red drink, such as Gatorade or Hawaiian Punch (You may also use a clear liquid like seltzer or Sprite, died with food coloring, if you want)
    • Gummy worms, plastic spiders or any other creepy creatures you wish
    • Dry ice

    Directions:

    1. Fill container or punch bowl with a green or red beverage.
    2. Place gummy worms, spiders, etc, on the edge of the bowl.
    3. Add a few small pieces or pellets of dry ice, just enough to get the brew bubbling and smoky. If it comes in a big brick, you will need to chip pieces off of it. (Do NOT pick up dry ice with your bare hands. Use tongs to handle it or protective rubber gloves if you must pick it up with your hands.)
    4. Serve immediately, adding additional pieces of dry ice every 10 minutes, or as needed.

    Roasted Pears in Cider and Port Wine

     

    There is nothing like finding a dessert that’s beautiful, easy and unbelievably delicious. We all know that it isn’t always so easy. There are a lot of desserts that fit only one or two of those stipulations.  A genoise cake, for example is beautiful and delicious but certainly NOT simple.

     

     

    Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

     

     

    That’s why this dessert is so special.  Did I mention that it’s fairly low-calorie as well? I used to make roasted pears with pomegranate juice and red wine, which was very good but it just didn’t quite have the depth a great autumn dessert should have. I tinkered with apple cider and port wine instead and added ginger, cinnamon and cardamom to create this gem of a fall treat. I honestly haven’t met anyone in any of my classes who hasn’t gone crazy over this one. You may also want to prepare this if you are having an open house as well. The combination of pears, port, cider and spices says cozy autumn like nothing else. I bet it will sell your house in a flash!

     

     

    Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

     

     

     

    The best thing about it is that your friends and family will not only love it but they will be so honored you spent so much time making them a special dessert. The truth (note, I am whispering) is that it will take you about 15 minutes to get in oven. Don’t worry. Your secret will be safe. Who am I going to tell?

     

     

    Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

     

    Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

     

     

    Oh, and be sure to save any extra sauce to pour over French toast, pancakes or waffles over the weekend. The recipe purposefully makes more sauce than you will need for the pears alone so you can have leftovers. Who could ask for more?

     

     

    Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

     

     

    Do you have any easy winner dessert recipes like this one? Let us know in the comments, below!

     

     

    Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

     

     

     

     

     

    Pears in a Port Wine Cider Glaze

    From: Heide Lang

    Ingredients:

    • 1/1/4 cups Ruby Port
    • 1 1/4 cups Apple Cider
    • ½ cup Sugar
    • 1 ½ Cinnamon Sticks
    • 2 teaspoons Grated Orange Peel
    • ¾ teaspoon Ground Cardamom
    • ¾ teaspoon Ginger Powder (or one teaspoon fresh finely chopped ginger)
    • 6 Ripe Bosc or Red Star Crimson Pears, with stems, peeled
    • Vanilla Ice Cream

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
    2. Stir port, apple cider, sugar, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, cardamom and ginger powder in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.
    3. Using a small melon baller, core pears from bottom of wide end.
    4. Trim bottoms flat and stand upright in 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking dish.
    5. Pour all but a ½ cup of the sauce over pears. Set aside the remaining ½ cup for later.
    6. Roast pears until tender when pierced with a knife or skewer, basting pears with sauce every 20 minutes, for about 1 hour.
    7. Using spatula, transfer roasted pears to serving platter.
    8. Return the pan juices to the saucepan.
    9. Simmer until reduced to 2/3 cup, about 5 minutes.
    10. Strain through a fine sieve into a small bowl, discarding all solids. (This is optional. The sauce will simply be smoother if you filter out the orange zest before serving.)
    11. Spoon glaze over pears.
    12. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

    In The Fridge: Cooking Corn at Midnight

    If ever there was a day to write an “in the fridge” post, it was last week. We came home a day early from New Orleans in the wake of  “Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Turned-out-to be-Barely-Cloudy-in-New Orleans Karen (it was petering out to sea as we were boarding the plane, only we were delayed because of ‘high winds’ at Newark international. Do I need to point out the irony? Oy).

     

    CornCastIronSkillet

     

    I’m always fearful when I open the door to our house after a trip. Something a little scary always happens when we’re gone, only this time I was hardly worried since my parents were house sitting for all but the last day. I walked in and there was this vague scent of musty vegetables. I put a deliriously tired Francesca to bed and then went to investigate. It took me a good long while to realize the freezer wasn’t completely closed from ice build-up, which happens from time to time. Everything was still vaguely cool, but definitely not frozen.  Most things had to be thrown away, but there was a lot of corn that was still cold. Fortunately, I remembered a recipe I taught once for a farmers market class – Lime Ancho Corn Soup  – which I once modified during a class for a student who didn’t eat any dairy.

     

    limezestancho2

     

    I took out my cast iron skillet, turned up the flame, and voila re-created this great, fast, and easy side dish that combines blackened corn with lime and ancho chile powder. This dish can also be converted into a salad by chilling the corn and adding red onions, tomatoes and avocadoes as well.

     

     

    corncastiron

     

     

    I was feeling very jet lagged and very bummed to be cooking at midnight, but of course very happy the next day to have the corn with roasted capon. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for a refrigerator mishap to make this dish. Enjoy!

     

     

    cornsaladplate2

     

     

    Question of the Day: Have you ever turned around a refrigerator disaster like this? What did you do? We want to know!

     

     

    Burnt Corn with Lime and Ancho Chile Spice

    From: Heide Lang

    Ingredients:

    • 3 tablespoons canola oil
    • 2 pounds (about 4 ½ cups,) frozen or fresh organic corn*
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • 2 limes
    • ¾ teaspoon pepper
    • 1-1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
    • 2 teaspoons ancho or chipotle chili powder divided
    • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 medium red onion coarsely chopped
    • 2 avocados diced (optional)
    • 2 tomatoes coarsely chopped (optional)

    Directions:

    1. Heat canola oil in a non-stick pan, preferably cast iron.
    2. Add corn. Mix well to assure all the kernels are coated with oil.
    3. Add the salt, stir and cook on medium high for 10 minutes, or until the kernels start to brown and even burn in some places. (It will smell vaguely of popcorn and may even pop a kernel or two, so be careful!)
    4. Zest both limes (you should have 2 teaspoons of zest)
    5. Add the zest and the juice of one lime to the skillet. Mix well and then add the ancho powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir well and serve. You may also serve the corn as a light and healthy salad by letting the corn cool for at least an hour in the refrigerator and adding red onions, avocado and tomatoes. Sprinkle the juice of the second lime over the salad, mix well and serve.

    Caramelized Shallots

    I was a bit of a rebel at cooking school, which was kind of surprising considering I was pretty much a nerd in high school. I was always asking a lot of questions, especially ones that began with “Why do we have to….?” One of the hallmarks of great French cooking, I learned very quickly, was that shortcuts were pretty much a no-no. We learned, for example, how to prepare mayonnaise and whip egg whites stiff by hand instead of using mixers or hand blenders just so we would know how if we needed to in the future.

     

    Easy Caramelized Shallots – the latest, greatest kitchen cheat | The Road Home

     

    For chefs in a commercial kitchen this may come in handy on occasion, but I think every minute home cooks spend in the kitchen should be enjoyable. This means you should take shortcuts and even cheat a little sometimes. Otherwise, I know for a fact you will avoid certain ingredients, like shallots, which are tedious to peel since you need so many more them than onions, and slicing or dicing may them burn your eyes. You should never avoid such a wonderful ingredient such as shallots since they add so much flavor, being a little less bitter than onions and really sweet when caramelized.

     

    Easy Caramelized Shallots – the latest, greatest kitchen cheat | The Road Home

     

    So I’ve come up with a an easy way to caramelize massive amounts of shallots with very little labor after being inspired by a  12-Hour Rabbit Bolognese recipe in Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Great Britain (a book by the way everyone should own). He just puts all the ingredients whole into this rabbit stew and the onions just fall apart and assimilate during braising. So smart. I thought that perhaps I could achieve the same results with shallots if I just peel large shallots, quarter them and slowly cook them in a bit of oil. It works!

     

    Easy Caramelized Shallots – the latest, greatest kitchen cheat | The Road Home

     

    So what, you say?  Shallots cooked this way are a great replacement for onions in stews, or in pureed soups, mixed in with vegetables or mashed potatoes (see Stoemp). You could also add these to a pot pie, fill puff pastry cups with shallots and add a bit of goat cheese for a easy elegant appetizer, or again really use them anywhere you use cooked onions. Today, for example, I used them for a meatloaf. First I added a bit of cognac to the shallots, and let the alcohol burn off. Then I pureed them before adding them to the ground beef and other ingredients (you can also just chop them – fine or coarse – or leave them just the way they are).  There’s really no end on how you can use them.

     

    Easy Caramelized Shallots – the latest, greatest kitchen cheat | The Road Home

     

    Do you have any go-to ingredient or spice that adds pizzazz to everyday meals? Let us know in the comments, below!

     

     

     

     

    Caramelized Shallots 1-2-3

    From: Heide Lang

    Ingredients:

    • 8 large shallots, or 12 smaller ones peeled.
    • 4-5 tablespoons canola or sunflower oil (or another oil with a high smoke point)

    Directions:

    1. Cut off the root of the shallots and quarter them
    2. Heat a medium size sauté pan and add 4 tablespoons of oil.
    3. Add the shallots and coat them with the hot oil. Break up the shallots with a firm spatula as they cook until all they have all fallen apart.
    4. Cook over a low-medium heat until the shallots start to brown, about 25 minutes. Add the last tablespoon or more of canola oil if the shallots stick to the pan
    5. Remove the shallots from pan and add to your favorite vegetable, stew, soup, or any place else you would use cooked onions. (You may chop or puree them as well.)

    Cozy Spuds for Chilly Days

    One of the best things in life is when you get to try brand new dish or ingredient you didn’t even know existed. I was driving Gabrielle back to school for the fall semester (actually it was our second trip the week after labor day because Gabrielle can never fit all of her stuff in the Honda Odyssey in one trip!) and we decided to have a leisurely lunch in New York before saying goodbye. We set very simple but specific parameters for the meal. The restaurant had to be cozy and unpretentious. We didn’t care if it was famous at all, but it had to serve real food. So Gabrielle put our conditions into the magical search known as Google and out popped Petit Abeille. This tiny restaurant seats only about 20 people and it was a bit gritty and cramped, but the aroma of onions and fried things from the open kitchen made us feel like we were in our own kitchen. It smelled like home cooking, a rarity I’m afraid for most restaurants.

     

    Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

     

    There were many great things on the menu, including lot of offerings featuring real Belgian waffles, including one with fried chicken, which we naturally ordered.

     

    Fried Chicken to Accompany Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

     

    There were the usual omelet brunch yummies as well, but our eyes were especially drawn to the chalkboard, which explained a food we had never even kind of heard of.

     

    Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

     

    We ordered a second fried chicken with stoemp and it was heaven. I love fried chicken sometimes more than life, but I practically ignored my chicken and just inhaled the potatoes. What a brilliant idea and a damn nearly perfect fall food. You have potatoes, cream, butter, and root vegetables all working together to create a cozy rich feeling in your mouth and tummy. And the potatoes were properly salted too! Go Petit Abeille!

     

    Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

     

    Stoemp is a richer version of a similar dish from the Netherlands called Stamppot, which also consists of mashed potatoes, other vegetables (especially root ones), cream, butter bacon, onions or shallots, herbs and spices. You can use any combination of dairy fat, onions/shallots and vegetables you like, but I decided to use two vegetables – kale and spinach – that I don’t really love because I figured all the cream and butter and bacon would more than offset bitter or “good for you” taste from the vegetables.

     

    Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

     

    I couldn’t wait to get home to work on my own version of stoemp, which was good the first time around, but needed more butter, bacon and cream. What doesn’t, really? Here’s my final version, with an added bonus. Most people don’t know this, but there is actually a science to making mashed potatoes. This recipe shows you how to make proper mashed spuds. Russet, Idaho and Yukon make the best mash because they are not waxy and are less likely to lump together. Here, we use russets because I think they yield the tastiest and smoothest mashed potato. You should also dry mash your potatoes first and coat them with some fat (usually butter) before adding milk and cream. It keeps the potatoes from getting gluey and weird as long as you don’t over mash and can live with some lumps.

     

     

    Stoemp – Road Home Style

    From: Heide Lang

    Ingredients:

    • 6-8 strips bacon (local, if possible)
    • 1 large onion or two medium onions coarsely chopped
    • 4 pounds russet potatoes peeled
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • ½ cup heavy cream
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves
    • 1 cup chopped fresh kale*
    • 1 teaspoon or more of salt
    • ½ teaspoon pepper

    Directions:

    1. Heat a medium size saucepan and add the bacon. Cook until crisp over medium heat.
    2. Remove bacon from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the fat.
    3. Crumble the bacon with your fingers when cool, and set aside.
    4. Drain all but 3 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan.
    5. Add the onions to the bacon fat and cook until they are brown and have caramelized, about 30 minutes.
    6. Add the kale and spinach to the onions and continue cooking until the vegetables are soft, about 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
    7. Cut the potatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on their size. You want to make sure the potatoes are the same size so they cook evenly.
    8. Place the potatoes in salted cold water* and bring to a boil. Lower temperature to a simmer and cook until a fork easily goes through the potatoes, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the potato.
    9. Drain the potatoes in a colander and “dry mash” without the milk or butter for two minutes over a low flame.
    10. Add the butter and gently mix into the potatoes without mashing (you don’t want to over mash the potatoes or they will be gluey).
    11. Combine the milk and cream in a small saucepan and warm milk.
    12. Gradually add warm milk and cream to the pot and mix thoroughly.
    13. Mash potatoes until smooth or coarse, your preference.
    14. Mix in the bacon, vegetable mixture, salt and pepper until combined well.
    15. Stoemp is best served fresh, but may be made several hours ahead of time.

    * You may also add any other root vegetable or greens you like.

      ** Add enough salt so that the water tastes like the ocean. You can always add more salt to the dish once it is assembled, but potatoes like everything else tastes MUCH better when properly cooked with salt during the process instead of after the fact.

        Pasta with Pumpkin Cream

        Most normal people recognize that Saturday morning is the best day of the week to sleep in, but I’m a little dumb about these things. After a week of sleepless nights, I still have a tendency to get up at 6am to make it to my dance class at 10… in Connecticut. It is, in fact, insane. But my dance school is one of my favorite places in the whole world and the concrete towers and grand avenues that are my New York day-to-day are no substitute for the fiery autumn country roads that lead me home.

         

        Pasta with Pumpkin-Sherry Cream | The Road Home

         

        Usually I go home on friday nights so I can get up for dance at a normal time, but by a beautiful stroke of luck I took the train last week. And when I got off the train in South Norwalk to transfer to Bethel (which is so great, you’ve never even heard of it) I had what can only be described as “a moment.” All at once, the friendlier people, bright colors and most importantly the crispness of the air whacked me in the face and though the equinox was still a week away, my fall had arrived. Ever since then, I can’t get enough of apples, pumpkins, squash and cinnamon… but I decided I’d better hold off to share my insanity until it was really really fall, and also until I had a recipe worthy of my sentiments to share with you – something truly special. Which luckily, I found today on the first full day of fall! This recipe is inspired by Martha Stewart’s recipe, but with added sherry, more rosemary, cream, garlic and cheese. It tastes vaguely Northern Italian, but distinctly American and very very fall. And the best part is it only takes 1/2 an hour max from start to finish, even for a slow cooker like me!

         

        Pasta with Pumpkin-Sherry Cream | The Road Home

         

        How about you – do you have a savory way to welcome in the season? We’d love to hear about it!

         

        Pasta with Pumpkin-Sherry Cream | The Road Home

        Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

        From: Gabrielle Siegel, inspired by Martha Stewart

        Ingredients:

        • 12 oz penne pasta
        • 2 tbsp canola oil
        • 4-5 cloves garlic, finely minced
        • 2 tsp dried rosemary
        • 2.5-3 tbsp sherry
        • 1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin
        • 3/4 cup half-and-half
        • 1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan
        • 1 tbsp sugar

        Directions:

        1. Cook pasta, according to package directions, in salted water until al-dente. Drain, and reserve 2 cups water.
        2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan, and sauté garlic and rosemary for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant and slightly toasted
        3. Carefully add the sherry, pumpkin, half-and-half, parmesan and sugar, and stir to combine. Add reserved water in 1/2 cup increments until desired texture is reached.
        4. Add pasta to pan, and stir to coat. 
        5. Eat, sprinkled with parmesan and a little rosemary.