Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Monday, February 28, 2011

Classic Roast Chicken

I came across a recipe in Cooking Light's magazine that inspired me to blog about this classic entree.  I added a little more butter and olive oil than their recipe calls for, plus I tweaked it a touch more.  Because our oven is so old I added on another 30 minutes cooking time to the 350 degree temperature.  Be prepared to turn on your vent; the high-heat finishing may generate some smoke.  I make this a few times a month and the family loves it. The chicken comes out moist and juicy on the inside and beautifully golden brown and crispy on the outside.  I usually serve this with a green vegetable or salad and baked potato.  This is so easy and the leftover carcass makes a mean chicken stock.  

1 - 4 lb whole roasting chicken
4 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
4 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 - 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced or fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp garlic powder
zest of 1 lemon
juice of a half a lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 small shallot peeled and halved
3 fresh thyme sprigs or rosemary sprigs
1 lemon, quartered

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Discard giblets and neck from chicken.  Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breasts and drumsticks by inserting fingers or a knife, gently pushing between skin and meat.  Combine in a small bowl butter, olive oil, thyme or rosemary, paprika, coriander, garlic powder, zest of a lemon and salt and pepper to taste.  Rub mixture under loosened skin, over flesh; rub over top of skin as well.  You can ties the ends of legs with twine, but that's not necessary.  Also, you can lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under chicken.  Place chicken breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan.  Place shallots, herb sprigs and a quarter or two of lemon in cavity of chicken.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees (do not remove chicken); bake at 450 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in a meaty part of leg registers 165 degrees.  Remove chicken from oven.  Cover chicken with foil; let stand 10 - 15 minutes.  Carve chicken and serve immediately.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I saw this on Paula Deen's website and I had to try this recipe.  Since I had brussel sprouts at my favorite restaurant Bolsa I've been obsessed with them and am always searching for new ways of preparing them.  I made these last night and as my family still are not fans, I thought this was a good recipe...not the healthiest, but it's worthy of trying if you're a brussel sprout fan. 

1/2 pound lean bacon, finely diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons butter

In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.

Saute the brussels sprouts and stir them around so that they are coated with the bacon fat and pan roast until they're a golden color.  Add 
the onion and garlic and cook over low heat until soft, about 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the broth and cook, covered, over low heat until the sprouts are easily pierced with a fork, about 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the butter and transfer the sprouts to a serving dish. Garnish with bacon bits and serve.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

BoBo's Homemade Doughnuts

Here's a recipe that takes me back to the days while growing up on Valley Creek.  After a sleepover at one of my best friend's house Nancy Horton, we would would make these homemade doughnuts with her precious Grandmother, BoBo.  I will forever think of both Nancy and BoBo every time we make these sweet treats.  =)

This is a fun Saturday morning project to make with kids.  Dylan enjoys decorating and icing his own doughnuts.

Peanut oil
1 can store-bought biscuits, I prefer Pillsbury Grands, Flaky Layers and Buttery Tastin' Big Biscuits
glaze (recipe follows)

chocolate frosting (recipe follows)
granulated sugar
confectioners sugar
various cake sprinkles

Preheat fryer with peanut oil to 350 degrees F.

Separate pre-cut biscuits. Make a hole in the middle with your hand and sculpt dough into a doughnut shape. Place doughnuts into fryer and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, flipping to fry both sides. Place doughnuts aside onto a paper towel lined plate to remove excess oil.

Stick a fork through the doughnut holes and dip the doughnuts immediately into whatever glaze or topping you choose.  If using the the chocolate mixture dip the doughnuts immediately before the chocolate starts to cool. Place the doughnuts on a plate and serve when the chocolate on the doughnuts sets, about 5 minutes.

For Glazed Doughnuts:
1 cup confectioners sugar
a touch of milk
a dash of vanilla

Mix all ingredients together, adding enough milk to make it into an icing-like consistency. Refrigerate before icing doughnuts.  Drizzle with a spoon over hot doughnuts.

For Chocolate Frosting:
1 (4-ounce) bar sweet chocolate (recommended: Baker's German's)
1/2-ounce (1/2 square) unsweetened chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir in the sugar, alternating with the evaporated milk, blending well. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture becomes thick and creamy, about 8 minutes. Stir in the vanilla then remove the pan from the heat.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cane Rosso

David and I ate at a new pizzeria in Deep Ellum today called Cane Rosso, which in Italian means red dog, named after the owner's dog when he lived in Italy.  Jay Jerrier, the proprietor, studied how to make authentic Italian pizza in Italy under a pizza guru. He had his big, red wood-burning oven made in Italy and he imports the flour for his light and airy dough from Italy as well. They won me over at my first viewing of their menu which included pizza pies being named after some of our beloved family members, like Cassie, Emma, Ella, LuAnna, with the crowning touch being a Special K pizza.....I was sold!  Biased opinions aside, David and I agree that this might be the best pizza we've ever eaten in Dallas.  Dare we say this might even rival "Louie's" pizza (sorry guys)...even after they've only been open a little over a week.  Cane Rosso is a few doors down from Adair's and across the street from Twisted Root. Go check them out, I promise you will not only be pleased by witnessing these works of art being prepared before your very smelling the wondrously baked pizza in the oak-wood burning pizza seeing and tasting the final product...that features the crispiest, lightest crust, with a smattering of mozzarella, fresh basil and to the sausage from one of our favorite markets in town, Jimmy's Food Market.  Way to go guys....we look forward to getting the word out!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Our friend Jonathan, a bartender at Bolsa, is a fellow foodie and he encouraged me to try cooking risotto.  Not only does Jonathan know his artisanal drinks, he knows all about gourmet food as well...he shares our passion and obsession with food.  Cheers Jonathan...we so enjoy spending our "mini-date" with you guys talking about food, kids, the Super Bowl or's ALWAYS a joy!  Not only is the food out-of-this-world delicious at Bolsa, the staff is the crowning touch!

I learned that in making the perfect risotto it's a labor of love best undertaken with backup...your sweetheart, a friend or even an unsuspecting dinner guest with a strong arm will do.

The only modification I made to this recipe is I added a little truffle oil at the end.  This turned out so rich, creamy and decadently earthy tasting that I cannot wait to make this dish again.  This was a great use of wild mushrooms if you're a big fan like we are.  It definitely was satisfying enough to eat as an entire meal.  

1-ounce dried morel mushrooms
1/2 pound fresh porcini or cremini mushrooms
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup chopped shallots (3 shallots)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Place the dried morels in a bowl and pour 2 cups boiling water over them. Set aside for 30 minutes. Scoop the morels from the water with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. You should have 2 cups; if not, add water to make 2 cups. Drain the morels and rinse once more. If some of the mushrooms are large, cut into 2 or 3 pieces. Pour the mushroom liquid through a coffee filter or paper towel, discarding the gritty solids. Set the mushrooms and the liquid aside separately.

Meanwhile, remove and discard the stems of the porcini and rub any dirt off the caps with a damp paper towel. Don't rinse them! Slice thickly and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock with the 2 cups of reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the morels and porcini and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of the chicken stock mixture to the rice plus the saffron, salt, and pepper. Stir and simmer over low heat until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock mixture, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry before adding more of the stock mixture. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 25 to 30 minutes total. When done, the risotto should be thick and creamy and not at all dry. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot in bowls with extra cheese.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa

These tasty tacos, filled with lightly fried fish and served with a tangy-sweet mango salsa, will have your mouth watering at just the sight of them.  The red onion and cilantro compliment the mango beautifully.  Perfect meal for a sunny, spring-like day

For a healthier version, skip breading the fish and cutting into cubes and simply season and grill.  If grilling oiling the cooking grate will help prevent the relatively delicate fillets from sticking to the grate as you grill them.

In addition to the mango, I like to prepare a slaw.  Mix 1 cup finely shredded green cabbage and 1/2 cup finely shredded purple cabbage; 1 green onion, white and green parts, minced; 2 - 1/2 TBSP mayonnaise; 1 TBSP fresh lime juice; and 1 TBSP minced fresh cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, and let stand for about 30 minutes before serving.

Mango Salsa:
1 mango
2 TBSP red onion, minced
2 TBSP fresh cilantro, minced
1 Serrano chile, seeds and ribs removed, minced
3 TBSP fresh lime juice, plus a little zest
Kosher salt

1 lb skinless tilapia fillets or red snapper fillets, cut into 1" cubes
Tony Chachere's Seasoned fish fry
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tsp hot sauce (optional)
canola oil for frying
kosher salt
lemon pepper
8 white corn tortillas

lime wedges
red onion, sliced thin
avocado, sliced
jalapeno slices

To make the salsa, peel, pit and dice the mango.  In a small bowl, stir together the diced mango, onion, cilantro, chile, lime juice and salt.  Cover the salsa and let stand while preparing the fish.

In a large bowl, beat together 1 egg, 1 cup milk and hot sauce.  Pour desired amount of fish fry into a bag for shaking.  Dip fillets in egg wash.  Shake off excess.  Shake each piece in fish fry, coating well, shaking off excess.

In a large frying pan heat about 1/4" worth of oil to 350 degrees.  Fry 1 to 2 pieces at a time on both sides until golden brown.  Drain on absorbent paper towels and season with salt and lemon pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, place the tortillas on a lightly oiled and heated skillet, turning once, until heated through, about 1 minute total.  Wrap in a cloth napkin or kitchen towel to keep warm.

Serve hot fish at once with the mango salsa and tortillas.

Garnish with lime wedges, red onion, jalapeno and avocado slices and slaw.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cassidy's Sweet 16

Born to be Cassidy...

It's been a beautiful yet long, tough road...but thanks be to God we are here celebrating Cassidy's 16th Birthday!!!!   I have truly never experienced a more fulfilling and also a more challenging journey. Cassidy has always been our "spirited" child.  Literally from day one...from the days of duct taping her diaper on, to the day we had to beg her not to move when she was on the wrong side of the second floor balcony, waving at us from above, so pleased with herself.  Forever the performer, not a shy bone in this child's body...always singing and dancing to songs from "Annie" or Britney Spears or putting on plays with our neighbor, Kelsey from across the street.  The girls would invite various neighbors to watch their "show."  Once we would be seated, they'd get ready to perform and we would quickly discover that they had nothing planned, but always pulled off a humorous number or two that was sure to entertain.  Now, here we are, in the blink of an eye, our little girl has turned 16.  Amazing how time flies.  We're currently researching colleges for BOTH of our girls.  Cassidy will be graduating a year early from the Alexander School in 2012, along with her sister, Avery who will be graduating from Highland Park High School.  We will be empty nesting two of our 3 kids at the same time.  :(  They really will be in college before we know it!  I'm sad for me but super excited for our girls and this amazing chapter in their lives they're about to embark on.  It's Cassidy's hope to attend college at the University of California in Santa Barbara.  Knowing Cassidy, anything she sets her mind to and wants bad enough she gets.  =)  YOU GO GIRL!!  Happy Sweet Sixteen to our beautiful Cassidy!!  You continue to make us so very proud!!  I love you ALWAYS and FOREVER!!  XOXO

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Southern Chicken Fried Steak with Homemade Cream Gravy and Roasted Garlic, Horseradish, Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes

I was inspired to try and make chicken fried steak after David and I ate one of the best in town at Norma's Cafe in Oak Cliff.  Norma's is a Dallas home cooking institution. Founded in 1956, they continue to serve up hot and delicious home-style meals, with a savory Southern flare.  Their signature dish is chicken fried steak smothered with cream gravy, which is sure to make anyone's mouth water.  The original location has been operating in Oak Cliff for over 50 years.  Norma's has another location on the Dallas Parkway in North Dallas. Norma's is the classic cafe for that home-cooked meal you crave when you're away from home.

I've found there's an art to making chicken fried steak with crispy perfection.  We finally got it right this time, because it took a few attempts and a few recipes to perfect this dish.  The trick to the crust adhering to the steak, is dipping the steak in the flour mixture first, then the egg and milk mix, then back into the flour again.  You could add a tiny bit of cayenne pepper to give it a little kick if you like things spicy.  Chicken fried steak just isn't the same unless served with some fluffy and creamy mashed potatoes smothered in homemade cream gravy.  This is Texas cuisine at it's sinful best!  =)

4 - 4 oz round steak cutlets that have been tenderized
2 cups plus 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup whole milk plus 2 cups for the gravy
1 tsp chicken bouillon granules
vegetable or canola oil for frying

In a shallow bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, season with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.  In a second shallow bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, whole milk and chicken bouillon granules.  Season egg mixture with a little more salt, pepper and garlic powder.  One at a time, coat the steak pieces with the flour mixture, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg mixture, coating evenly and allowing the excess to drip off.  Return to the flour mixture to coat evenly, again shaking off the excess.  Transfer the coated steak pieces to a plate.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  Set a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet and place near the stove.  Pour oil to a depth of about 1 inch into a large, heavy frying pan (preferably cast iron), and heat over medium-high heat or until the oil shimmers, or when the oil is at 350 degrees.  Add the steaks and cook until the undersides are golden brown, about 1 - 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side.  Do in batches so as to not crowd if necessary.  Transfer to the rack and warm in the oven while making the gravy.

Carefully pour the hot fat from the frying pan into a bowl and set aside.  Wipe out the pan with paper towels.  In a saucepan, heat the remaining 2 cups of milk over medium heat to just below a boil and remove from the heat; set aside.  In original frying pan, return 2 TBSP of the fat and heat over medium-low heat.  Whisk in the remaining 2 TBSP flour and let bubble gently for 2 minutes.  Gradually whisk in the hot milk and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer whisking frequently, until lightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and pour into a gravy boat.  Serve the steaks at once, passing the gravy on the side.

Roasted Garlic, Horseradish, Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes (Inspired by Bolsa in Oak Cliff)

3 lbs baking potatoes
1/3 cup heavy cream or sour cream
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
3 TBSP butter
6 cloves of roasted garlic, or to taste
1 - 2 TBSP horseradish, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks.  In a saucepan, combine the potatoes with salted water to cover, cover the pan, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Uncover, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 20 - 25 minutes.  Drain well.  Return the potatoes to the pan and stir over medium-low heat for 2 minutes to evaporate the excess moisture.  Cut 3 TBSP of butter into pieces and add to the potatoes.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Using a handheld mixer or potato masher, whip or mash the potatoes while adding enough cream to create a smooth mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Another great night at one of our favorite places in town, Bolsa. From the amazing menu that changes on a daily basis, to the funky flower and candle arrangements suspended above the bar... to a staff we consider friends. Bolsa truly has the feeling of a European bistro. Here's a picture of the entree David and I had the pleasure of sharing in honor or Valentine's Day....Shiner Bock Braised Kobe Beef Cheeks with Mascarpone Potato Purée ....Heaven on earth! Happy Valentine's Day! =)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

The best shepherd's pie starts with a lamb stew that has been simmering for a couple of hours, lightly flavored and fabulously fragrant with rosemary and a hint of garlic.  Capped with creamy mashed potatoes, the topping becomes golden brown in the oven.  

I substituted 2 pounds boneless beef chuck for the lamb.  You can also substitute fresh thyme for the rosemary.  For an extra-rich topping I made my mashed potatoes by adding 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, 6 cloves of roasted garlic and a TBSP or two of horseradish.  Be careful not to whip the potatoes too long because you want them to be light and airy with peaks.  This is another great cold weather dish.

2 lbs boneless lamb shoulder
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
2 TBSP olive oil
8 TBSP unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 TBSP all-purpose flour
3 - 1/3 cups beef stock
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
3 lbs baking potatoes
1/3 cup heavy cream, warmed
1 cup, fresh or thawed frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Trim the lamb of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  In batches to avoid crowding, add the lamb cubes and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch.  Transfer to a plate.

Add 4 TBSP of he butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.  Uncover, sprinkle with the flour, and stir well.  Gradually stir in the stock and wine and then the rosemary.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Return the lamb to the Dutch oven, place in the oven, and cook until the lamb is tender, about 1 - 1/2 hours.

About 30 minutes before the lamb is ready, oil six 2 cup ovenproof soup crocks or a 3 quart baking dish.  Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks.  In a saucepan, combine the potatoes with salted water to cover, cover the pan, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Uncover, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 20 - 25 minutes.  Drain well.  Return the potatoes to the pan and stir over medium-low heat for 2 minutes to evaporate the excess moisture.  Cut 3 TBSP of the butter into pieces and add to the potatoes.  Using a handheld mixer or potato masher, whip or mash the potatoes while adding enough cream to create a smooth mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

Season the lamb mixture with salt and pepper, stir in the peas, and pour into the prepared baking dish(es).  Spread the mashed potatoes evenly on top.  Cut the remaining 1 TBSP butter into bits and use to dot the top.  Bake until the top is lightly tinged with brown, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes, then serve hot.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chocolate Croissants

An easy yet delightful dessert or chocolate fix.  Perfect with a cup of hot coffee or glass of cold milk.  When you look at these croissants they look so flaky and delicious, but when you bite into them its almost like biting into heaven.

1 (10.1 oz) packet ready rolled Pillsbury Big and Buttery Crescent Rolls
1 (1.55 oz) Hershey chocolate bar
1 egg beaten


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Unroll a triangle of dough and put the triangle with the wider part facing you and the point away from you.

Break off 2 rectangle pieces of chocolate 3/4-inch up from the wide end nearest you.

Then carefully roll from that chocolate loaded end towards the point of the triangle.

You should now have something resembling a straight croissant, seal it slightly with your fingertips and curl it around into a crescent.

Place the chocolate croissants on a lined baking sheet or spray the sheet with a little Pam; paint croissants with the beaten egg. Bake for 15 minutes until golden and puffy and croissant-like.  Sprinkle lightly with sugar.  Bon Appetit!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sara's Gravlax

Sara's gravlax are served with crackers at every McQuaid event or party and it wouldn't be the same without these infamous appetizers to munch on, even the Grandkids can't get enough.

This was an especially good batch of gravlax Sara made for us this weekend.  She said she can't explain it, maybe the brandy made a difference--she added a little bit this time...although, to us, it's always delish.  We enjoyed it so much, even to the point where I had to hide it from the kids so David and I could have some left to top on a toasted bagel this morning for breakfast.  As you can see, it's easy to make--you just have to remember to turn it and have room in your fridge.  :)

2 pieces salmon with or without skin (Sara prefers the domestic to the wild) any size according to how much you want to make but about even in size. Sara uses Costco salmon which is skinless.

1/4 cup sea or kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 tablespoons whole pepper corns (I like mixed but black are fine) crushed to a coarse consistency
1-2 pkgs fresh dill depending on how much salmon you are using
3-4 Tbl brandy or aquavit (optional, not necessary)

Place one piece of salmon in a glass casserole large enough to hold (skin side down).
Put a layer of dill on salmon filet completely covering it.
Mix salt, sugar and pepper together.
Sprinkle salt mixture over the dill.
If using brandy, pour it over now.
Put other piece of salmon on top, skin side up.

Cover with saran, then tin foil, and then place a weight on top of salmon (I use a foil wrapped brick (kept just for this purpose) but you can use heavy cans or whatever.  Refrigerate.

The next day, baste with accumulated juices, turning entire slab over and basting some more between the layers and on top.  Cover and weight again.

Do this at least for two days and three or four is better but not longer than four.  Remove from dish, rinse under tap water and pat dry with paper towel.  Wrap in saran and then foil.  This will keep at least a week in the fridge and can be frozen.

Important:  When ready to eat, slice VERY THIN and on a slant with a sharp knife.  The slicing can be done in advance, but it's better to keep gravlax unsliced until ready to eat so it doesn't dry out.

Serve with crackers and any garnishes you like (chopped onion, capers, chopped hard-boiled egg, dill sprigs, etc.).  We eat it just plain or with crackers!  Very delicious!

The Mansion on Turtle Creek Tortilla Soup

Day 4 of David and the kids being home due to inclement weather.  It was a day complete with pipes bursting and having Hooper Plumbing out twice.  I love a snow day or two, but enough already!  8-{  Today was day 2 of pipes bursting with our kitchen completely flooded and now we have a gaping hole in the ceiling of the kitchen to match the gaping hole in our family room.  It's not even dinner time and we're exhausted.  

Before all of our crisis began, we planned on preparing Tortilla Soup for dinner.  We are still sticking with that plan, which I must say, was a good move.  Sara, my Mother-In-Law taught me how to make this soup for the first time when they came to visit us when we lived in Palm Beach Gardens, FL right after Avery was born.  Sara taught me to use about a half of a taco seasoning packet to season the soup as opposed to using the cumin and chili powder as directed in this recipe.  Honestly, I like using the taco seasoning instead, it adds a nice bouquet of flavors to the soup.  Also, if you don't want to fry your own tortilla chips, just substitute your favorite tortilla chips instead.

I have very fond memories of spending time with David and Sara in the kitchen, whether we were in West Palm Beach, Beaver Creek, Costa Rica, or wherever...we are all very passionate, not only about food, but we all enjoy gathering the ingredients, the preparation that goes into each meal and ultimately enjoying our creations together.  I usually learn some new trick or two from Sara who is as close to a gourmet chef as you can get.

This hearty soup, which is suitable on warm spring days as well as cold winter nights, has been on the Mansion's menu since they opened.

When Tortilla Soup is ordered at the restaurant, it is brought to the table in a tureen for individual service by the waiter who garnishes each bowl according to the customer's desire.

3 tablespoons corn oil
4 corn tortillas, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh epazote or cilantro
1 cup fresh onion, pureed
2 cups pureed fresh tomatoes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 whole bay leaves
4 tablespoons canned tomato puree
2 quarts chicken stock (recipe to follow)
cayenne pepper
1 cooked chicken breast cut into strips
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3 corn tortillas, cut in strips and fried until crisp

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute tortillas with garlic and epazote over medium heat until tortillas are soft.

Add onion and fresh tomato puree and bring to a boil. Add cumin, chili powder, bay leaves, canned tomato puree and chicken stock. Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat to simmer. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste, and cook stirring frequently for 30 minutes. Skim fat from surface, if necessary.

Strain and pour into warm soup bowls. Garnish with an equal portion of chicken breast, avocado, shredded cheese and crisp tortilla strips. Serve Immediately.

Chicken Stock

1 chicken carcass (or 2 pheasant or 8 quail carcasses)
2 TBSP corn, peanut or vegetable oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
3/4 cup coarsely chopped carrots
3/4 cup coarsely chopped celery
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1 small bay leaf
1 TBSP  white peppercorns
5 cups water to cover

Have butcher cut carcass into small pieces or use a cleaver to do so at home.  Heat 1 TBSP oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add carcass.  Cook, stirring often, until well browned.

Add remaining oil with onion, carrots and celery.  Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are golden brown.  Pour off oil.  Add thyme, parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns.  Stir to blend and add water to cover.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, skimming surface as necessary, until reduced to 4 cups.

Line a bowl with an extra fine sieve (preferably chinois).  Pour mixture into the sieve and strain, pushing solids with a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard solids.  Skim off any surface fat.  Refrigerate, tightly sealed, for no more than 2 days, or freeze in small quantities for ease of use for up to 3 months.

Chicken Demi-Glace

4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 TBSP cornstarch mixed with 1 1/2 TBSP cold water

Bring finished stock to a boil over high heat.  Stir in cornstarch and water mixture, whisking constantly.  Lower heat and simmer until reduced to 2 cups or thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Stir occasionally as demi-glace cools to keep it from separating.

Demi-glace will keep up to 1 week in the refrigerator or for 2 to 3 months in the freezer, tightly sealed.  For ease of use, store demi-glace in small quantities.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta

The kids have their 3rd consecutive snow/ice holiday from school today.  WOOHOO!!  Obviously, the kids are thrilled.  We had some very unusually frigid temperatures yesterday and today, it was 14 degrees when we woke up this morning and tonight it's expected to get to another record low of 12 degrees...only a few degrees warmer than the North Pole.  Even with the extremely cold temperatures all of the Super Bowl festivities are trying desperately to get under way.  The Packers continue to practice at Highland Park High School, so there's quite the buzz going on in our neighborhood.  We were invited to Gene Simmon's party last night, but opted to remain hunkered down at home and do what else, but cook up something wonderful.

Last night's dinner was another braised short rib recipe I couldn't wait to try.  These flavorful short ribs perfectly illustrate how braised meat cooked on the bone can turn out succulent and tender enough to cut with a fork.  The bones also enrich the braising liquid, which melds delectably with the cheese-laced creamy polenta.  The ribs would be equally as good over your favorite mashed potatoes if you're not a polenta fan.  A bold flavored red wine is ideal for the pot and table.

For leftover short ribs, you can easily turn them into a heavenly ragu.  Simply remove the bones, shred the meat, stir it back into the sauce and reheat until warm.  Toss with freshly cooked pappardelle.

3 TBSP olive oil
6 lbs. meaty, bone-in, individual short cut ribs
4 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
6 carrots, cut into 1/2" pieces
4 ribs celery, cut into 1/2" pieces
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3  cup all-purpose flour
2 cups hearty red wine
3 cups beef stock
3 TBSP tomato paste

1 - 1/2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, crushed up, with juice
1/2 cup fresh, Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 bunch fresh rosemary or thyme, tied with kitchen string
2 bay leaves

For the Polenta:
1 cup whole milk
1 1/3 cup quick cooking polenta
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  In a Dutch oven, heat 2 TBSP of the oil over medium-high heat.  Season the ribs with 2 tsp salt and the pepper.  In batches, to avoid crowding, add the short ribs to the pot and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 5 - 6 minutes per batch.  Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 TBSP oil to the pot and heat.  Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir well.  Slowly stir in the wine, then the stock.  Stir in the tomato paste, plum tomatoes, rosemary or thyme, parsley, basil and bay leaves.  Return the short ribs to the pot.  The short ribs should be barely covered with liquid.  If not, add hot water as needed.  Bring the liquid to a boil.  Cover the pot, place in the oven and cook, moving the position of the ribs every 45 minutes or so to be sure that they are covered with liquid and are cooking evenly, until very tender, about 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hours.  Transfer the ribs to a deep serving platter (don't worry if the meat separates from the bones), and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Let the cooking liquid stand for 5 minutes.  Skim off the fat from the surface and discard. Bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook, stirring until reduced by about one-fourth, about 10 minutes.  Discard the bunch of rosemary or thyme and bay leaves.  Return the short ribs to the pot.

Just before serving, make the polenta:

In a heavy saucepan, bring 3 cups water, the milk and the remaining 2 tsp salt to a boil over high heat.  Slowly whisk in the polenta and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook, whisking often, until the polenta is thick, about 2 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan.  Divide the polenta among warm serving bowls, top with ribs and sauce and serve at once.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sara's Sauerkraut, Sausage and Pork Chops

So here we are a few days before the Super Bowl is being hosted here in Dallas, Arlington and Ft. Worth and we're in the midst of a severe ice and snow storm, in fact we're at 16 degrees as I write this, which is the coldest weather we've had in Dallas in 15 years.  The Green Bay Packers are practicing only a few blocks away at Avery's high school, Highland Park High School in their indoor field and the SteeIers are practicing at TCU.  Needless to say, its an exciting week for all of us Dallasites.  Pete Delkus, our favorite weatherman is predicting more snow flurries on Friday with temperatures not expected to climb above freezing until Friday afternoon.  It's supposed to be sunny and a mild 59 degrees for the big game on Sunday, then on Monday another storm is blowing in with more snow.  8-{

Much to my delight, the kids and David were all home due to this wintery day and the perfect meal for dinner tonight was my Mother-In-Law, Sara's recipe, which is one of our family's favorites.  This stew consists of various kinds of sausage, thin pork chops, sauerkraut, shredded cabbage and veggies that are cooked low and slow in a broth consisting of V-8 vegetable juice.  It will seem like a lot of cabbage at first, but once it starts to cook the cabbage shrinks.  Serve over mashed potatoes and with your favorite bread and you got yourself a hearty meal that is comfort food that will soothe anyone's soul.

1 jar sauerkraut, drained and rinsed well
1 head of cabbage, shredded
1 onion, diced
4 carrots shredded
4 or more trimmed, bone-in, thin pork chops
2 - 3 kinds of cooked Bratwurst, polish and/or knockwurst sausages
1 large can of V-8
2 beef bouillon cubes
3 - 4 bay leaves
mashed potatoes

Put all of the ingredients into a large pot.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Turn down heat and simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  Serve with mashed potatoes and a good, crusty French bread.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

It was a nice lazy day around our household on Sunday, which always means we will be feasting on all kinds of fabulous foods.  After David boiled up some crawfish and steamed up some crab, Cassidy decided to make a Red Velvet Cake for dessert that turned out beautifully.  The perfect accompaniment to a slice of this moist, chocolaty cake was a big glass of ice cold milk.  Here's the recipe Cassidy used, which I highly recommend if you're a fan of RVC.  We will be making this again soon, perhaps for Cassidy's birthday that's sneaking up on us.  Happy early "Sweet 16" beautiful Cassidy!  We love you!

1 TBSP unsalted butter
3 - 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 - 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups canola oil
2 - 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
6 TBSP red food coloring
1 - 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 - 1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tsp baking soda
2 - 1/2 tsp white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put tsp of butter in 3 (for 3 layers of cake) - 9" round pans.  Melt the butter by placing pans in the oven for a few minutes.

In a bowl whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt together; set aside.

In another bowl mix sugar and oil together with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Turn beater to slow and add food coloring.  Add vanilla; mix well.  Slowly add the flour mixture alternating with buttermilk.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat just long enough to combine.

Place baking soda in a small dish.  Stir in vinegar and add to batter with mixer running. Beat for 10 seconds.

Divide batter into 3 buttered pans.  Bake for 40 - 45 minutes.  Let cool in pans.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix cream cheese and butter in a bowl.  Electronically mix.  Beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add sugar and vanilla.  Beat on slow speed.