Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo

Gumbo seemed like another great food to send over to Frances after the birth of her cute new baby girl. It travels really well and the brown rice is a great source of fiber.

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo
¼ cup oil
¼ cup flour
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 red peppers, seeded and chopped
4 ribs of celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
32 oz chicken broth
1 lb chicken andouille sausage, sliced
1 lb shrimp, shells removed
16 oz package frozen sliced okra
1 tablespoons gumbo file
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
cooked long grain brown rice

In a large heavy pot, on medium low heat, stir together the oil and flour. Keep stirring over the low heat until the mixture turns a dark brown but does not burn. Add the onions, peppers, celery and garlic to the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high and cook, stirring, until the vegetables get soft and translucent. Add the seasoning and tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Ass the chicken broth, and sausage, shrimp and okra. Cook the soup, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp is fully cooked. Add gumbo file and salt and pepper to taste and to thicken the soup. Before servicing, stir in the fresh parsley. Serve the gumbo with a nice mound of brown rice.

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Wild Mushroom Farro Risotto

When my good friend Frances had her baby, I wanted to bring her tasty meals that she could heat and eat but still feel like she wasn’t missing anything. Farro risotto holds up much better to reheating than does regular rice risotto.

Wild Mushroom Farro Risotto:
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
17.6oz package farro
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup dried morrell mushrooms
1 cup water
6 oz mixed wild mushrooms
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
32 oz carton chicken broth
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and stir until the onions turns translucent. Add the farro grain and stir to coat in the oil and cook. Add the white wine and stir till its absorbed.

In a separate pot, heat the dried mushrooms and water until the mushrooms are soft. Add the mushrooms and water to the pot with the farro and stir till the liquid is absorbed. Add the rest of the olive oil to the separate pot and cook the rest of the mushroom and the thryme until browned. Stirring on occasion to make sure they are browned on all sides. Take the mushrooms off of the heat and set aside.

Add a small portion of the chicken broth, about 1/2 cup, to the farro. Keep stirring until liquid is absorbed. Add more broth and stir to absorb until all of the broth is gone. If the farro is still not done enough, repeat this process with addition water until the farro is cooked through but not too mushy. Add the mushrooms, parsley, parmesan and salt and pepper to the main pot. Stir to combine all of the ingredients and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately.

Cassolette

A hearty French Cassolette is the best food to get you through the winter. It requires a bit of work, but you can leave it in the over to finish on its own. This version has a bit extra vegetables with the addition of the baby squash. If you don’t want to use sausage you can use duck legs, chicken legs or thighs or any other meat that will hold up to a braze in the over.

Cassolette:
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 ½ lb pork sausage, cut into chunks
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 10oz packages of mushrooms
2-3 cups chicken broth
½ cup white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 lb baby squash, cut into bite size pieces
10 sprigs of thyme
2 – 15 oz cans of white beans
Salt and pepper

In a large cast iron Dutch oven, over medium high heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside. Add the sausage and let it brown on one side. Stir and let it brown on the other side. Remove the sausage and set aside with the bacon. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the onions and garlic to the oil in the pot. Sautee in the oil until clear and translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned. Add the chicken broth, wine and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Add the squash, thyme and beans and stir. Add back in the sausage and bacon. Mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper and taste the broth to make sure it is salty enough. Put the lid on the pot and cook in the over for 1 hour.

Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Ricotta Gnocchi

Gnocchi is truly a comfort food. The best thing is that it feels really special but is really fast and easy to make. You can flavor it a million different ways, but when I crave it, the classic mozzarella, tomato and basil takes the cake.

Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Ricotta Gnocchi
2 large eggs
15 oz ricotta, just under 2 cups
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup flour
8 oz can of tomato sauce
½ lb mini mozzarella balls, quartered
1 bunch basil leaves, chiffonade
4 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
salt and pepper

Heat a large pot of lightly salted water, to boil on high heat.

In a metal bowl, beat the eggs. Add in the ricotta, cheese and spices. Mix thoroughly with a fork, make sure to break up all of the cheese clumps. Add in the flour and stir to combine. Generously flour your work surface then finish mixing the dough with your hands, it will be pretty wet. Cut the dough in half and roll it in the flour, to coat the outside. Then roll it out into a long snake, till it is about 1 inch in diameter. Using a small paring knife, cut into 1 inch pieces.

Once the water comes to a boil, drop the first batch of gnocchi into the boiling water, making sure not to over crowd the pan. Let it boil for about 5 minutes till done. It will all rise to the top and the water will start to boil higher. While the first batch is cooking, roll out the other batch and cut it. Remove one piece of gnocchi and run it under cold water and taste it to make sure it is cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, drain the first batch to a colander, rinse quickly in cold water to keep it from sticking. Add more water to the pot and return it to a boil. Once boiling, add in the second batch of gnocchi and cook it till done. Drain the cooked gnocchi.

Heat the can of sauce on medium high heat. Taste it and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the mozzarella, basil, grated cheese and gnocchi into the sauce. Toss everything together and serve immediately.

Butter Pecan Caramel Cupcakes

For my birthday I invited all of my friends to toast me at the Bourbon bar in Brooklyn. It took me a long time to think of the type of cupcake would go best with Bourbon but then it became crystal clear. Caramel will match the caramel tones in the Bourbon and butter pecan will pair great with the smoky notes.

Vanilla Cake:
2 3/4 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
½ cup butter flavored shortening
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the shortening, eggs, milk and vanilla and turn the mixer on low. Once the flour is combined turn the mixer on high and beat for at least 5 minutes so that the batter gets fluffy.

Pour the batter into the cupcake liners and bake for at least 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in the pan for 5 minutes transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, cut a cone into the top of each cake. Cut off the point of the cone to form a cap for the whole in the cakes. Fill each cake with cooled caramel. Place the cap back on top of the caramel to seal. Cover with a mound of icing and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Caramel:
1 cup sugar
½ cup cream
1 teaspoon sea salt

Heat the sugar in a heavy medium size saucepan on medium heat. Swirl the sugar occasionally until it liquefies and turns golden brown. Quickly add the cream and salt and return the mixture to the heat. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Let it boil to combine about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Butter Pecan Icing:
½ cup egg whites
1 cup sugar
3 sticks butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons butter flavoring
½ cup chopped pecans

Combine the egg whites and sugar in a metal bowl. Beat with a balloon whisk to combine. Place the bowl over a pot filled with water and heat on medium heat. Keep beating the eggs to dissolve the sugar and the mixture will start to thicken and turn white. When the grit is gone from the eggs, about 20 minutes later, transfer the egg whites to a stand mixer and beat on high to form soft peaks.

Fold the room temperature butter into the eggs and continue to beat on high. Add the salt, vanilla and butter flavoring and beat one last time to combine.

Southern Biscuits

When I visit my sister and brother-in-law I always like to cook a big Sunday breakfast. They love it when I make a giant tray of biscuits that they can feast on all week after I’m gone. This are a true southern staple.

Southern Biscuits
2 sticks butter, room temperature
4 cups flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
3 teaspoons salt
1 cup cream
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, flour, baking powder and salt with a fork. Once the butter is fully incorporated into the flour and resembles course meal, add the cream and milk. Quickly mix the liquid into the dry ingredients and turn out onto a floured surface. Squeeze the dough together until it forms a full mound of dough. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin to 1-inch thickness. Using a glass or a biscuit cutter cut out biscuits and re-roll the dough after each round of cuts until the dough is all gone. Place the biscuits onto a silpat baking mat on a cookie sheet. The edges of the biscuits should touch. Paint the top of the biscuits with the melted better and a pastry brush. You can sprinkle the biscuits with parmesan cheese, cracked pepper or herbs if you want. Cook the biscuits in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.

Miso Black Cod and Soba

My Valentine’s date this year was my best girlfriend Gaby. I went back to DC to give my sister a birthday and Valentine’s night out with her husband. We put my two cute nieces to bed and then I made a nice healthy meal for the two of us. It went great with rose Champaign!

Miso Black Cod
1 ½ lbs Black Cod, scaled and de-boned, skin on
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic
¼ teaspoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons yellow miso
¼ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil

Season the cod with the salt and pepper, garlic and ginger. Spread 1 tablespoon miso all over the fish. Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium high. Place the fish in the pan skin down and cook until the skin is brown and crispy. Flip the fish and add the chicken broth and remaining tablespoon of miso. Mix the miso into the broth and cook until the fish is just cooked and the sauce has thickened.

Zucchini Soba Noodles
1 small zucchini
1 small sweet onion
1 package buckwheat soba noodles
salt
soy sauce
sesame oil

Cut the zucchini into thin julienne strips. Put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles. Slice the onions very thin to match the zucchini. In a frying pan heat a tiny bit of the sesame oil. Add the veggies and season with a bit of soy sauce. Sautee the veggies until they are cooked but still crisp. Season the boiling water with a bit of salt and cook the soba noodles according to package directions. Immediately drain the noodles and mix in the veggies. Serve immediately as a bed for the cod. Spoon the extra sauce over the noodles.