Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Italian Sausages with Peppers, Potatoes and Cheese

Italian sausages, colorful fresh peppers, onions and potatoes topped with melted cheese. Better than pizza ...

Necessity is the mother of invention ... or, to put it another way, recipes are born from stuff in the fridge and close-dated tins in the cupboard.

I had several links of sweet Italian sausages, some leftover tri-colored peppers, a bit of cheese and a can of sliced new potatoes. I put it together into this ... And been living off of it for a few weeks ... minus any tweaks.

This is one of those recipes that is more of a "process" than a step-by-step set of ingredients and instructions. Because everything is really cooked in the pan, it doesn't need much time in the oven other than for everything to kind of meld together and then for the cheese to melt. I use a pre-grated, packaged Italian cheese blend.

Feel free to add other ingredients, such as what you would like on your personal pizza: mushrooms, black olives ...

  • 3-4 Italian sweet sausage links
  • 1 - 2 peppers, seeded and sliced, (red, green, yellow, orange ...)
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon lightly crushed fennel seed
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1, 14.5 oz. can sliced new potatoes, drained
  • 3/4 to 1-cup packaged Italian cheese blend, grated
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed oregano leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons water or dry wine (red or white)

Add just a bit of olive oil and butter to a medium-sized pan over medium-low heat. When melted, add the peppers, onion, fennel seed, red pepper flakes, garlic and saute being careful not to burn the garlic. Just as peppers begin to soften, add the drained potato slices and oregano and warm through. Remove to a casserole dish. I use one that measures about 6 x 8 inches.

Add whole sausages to the-now-empty pan. If necessary add a drizzle more olive oil. Brown sausages on all sides over medium-low heat, turning often. It's not necessary to cook them through since they will bake in the oven. If you add a bit of butter, the skin of the sausage will brown even more.

Remove sausages from pan and nestle into the pepper-onion-potato mixture.

Deglaze the yet-again empty pan with water or wine, scraping up the good bits. Scatter over the sausage/pepper mixture.

Place, uncovered-casserole dish into a pre-heated, 350-degree F. oven. Bake about 15-20 minutes, sprinkling with cheese the last five minutes or so until it melts. If desired, place under broiler to slightly bubble and brown the cheese

OR ...

... and here is what I do ...

Bake casserole 15 - 20 minutes without cheese. Remove from oven and allow to rest about ten minutes. Plate to individual oven-proof plates. Generously garnish with grated cheese. Place under broiler just until cheese melts ... a tad longer if you want it to bubble and just begin to brown. NEVER EVER walk away from anything under the broiler ... Watch it like a hawk or it will burn.

Either way, garnish with a few springs of oregano or thyme ...

(Been living off this for several weeks now. Just love it. Hope you do, too. If so, comment. Click on the links below to share ... It helps me a lot ....)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Simple Baked Drumsticks

If it looks beautiful before it goes into the oven, chances are
it will taste even better than it looks when removed from the oven.

Drumsticks are a staple in my life. They are meaty, inexpensive and easily lend themselves to interpretive creativity when it comes to ingredients. Here I've done just the basics. Easy-peasy, a complete meal in one pan. Feel free to add your own ingredients, such as fresh mushrooms. With so many fresh, clean herbs, I wanted a bit "salty," for background contrast, so I settled on a handful of pitted Kalamata olives which melded beautifully with the tomatoes and potatoes. Add the grape tomatoes and olives during the last half of the baking process so they don't overcook.

This is more of a "process" than a recipe and it is similar to my recipe for Chicken Provencal (which I highly recommend), but without the onions and fennel seed ...

5-6 meaty drumsticks, washed and patted dry
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons melted butter
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
6-8 fresh sprigs thyme (be generous)
5-6 garlic cloves, unpeeled, slightly crushed (one clove per chicken leg)
Onion powder
Pepper, fresh-grated
Kosher salt
Old Bay's seasoning
10 - 12 grape tomatoes
2-3 red, new potatoes (or golden), about 2-3 inches in circumference, cut into large chunks
1/4 - 1/2 cup liquid ... white wine ... chicken stock (combination is BEST!) Maybe a bit more butter .... or you can just use water ...

In a 9x9 or 12 x 9 pan, mix the melted butter and olive oil. Roll drumsticks and potatoes in oil/butter mixture and then generously season with onion powder, pepper, salt, Old Bay's. Pull fronds from rosemary and tuck in around the drumsticks along with the fresh thyme sprigs.

Place pan in a pre-heated 400-425 F- degree oven and bake/roast for about 20-25 minutes. Remove. Turn chicken over. Add tomatoes and olives. Pour in liquid (and a bit more butter, if desired) and return to oven for another 20-25 minutes.

Remove and allow to rest a good 15 minutes. Be sure to allow one garlic clove per drumstick. I like to squeeze it out to smear over the chicken. Sprinkle with a bit more Kosher salt if needed (potatoes take a lot of salt).

Notes: If you'd like a spicier chicken, add a bit of red-pepper flakes.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Easy Beef and Mushroom Rice

Somewhere in my childhood, most likely on a holiday, this dish appeared to rave reviews. And then it disappeared to be resurrected every few years or so. I thought it time to actually write it down with instructions.

It is, as the title says, "easy." Nowadays, the dried soup mix has been replaced with French onion soup. I made it that way but found it too sweet. Stick with the dried stuff. The mushrooms and thyme are optional, but I highly recommend using both. Don't bother adding salt, the ingredients already have plenty. Do give a good grind or two of pepper. Sometimes I'll take a tiny clove of garlic, smash it a bit, and place in the center of the dish before cooking. Before serving, I remove it. It just adds a lovely garlicky hint.

This is great alternative to potatoes and a great side for a grilled steak or any cut of beef. Simple to prepare a day ahead and then just re-heat. Sometimes this recipe is called "Stick of Butter Rice."

  • 1 heaping cup uncooked white rice, (not instant), about 1 1/4 cups
  • 1 package dried onion soup mix
  • Dried thyme flakes -- about two pinches
  • 1, 10 1/2 can beef broth
  • 1 4 oz. can sliced mushrooms, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
  • Pepper to taste
  • Water

In a 9 x 9 baking dish (I use a 9 x 12 pan) combine the raw rice, dried onion soup mix, thyme flakes and several grinds of black pepper. Mix in the mushrooms. Slice the butter into pieces and randomly place on top of rice mixture. Add the beef broth. Add the mushroom juice to the now-empty can and then finish filling to the top with water. Add to rice/broth mixture. Cover (tin foil in fine, just make sure it's secure) and bake in 350 F-degree oven for about 40-50 minutes. The last 15 minutes or so, uncover, stir, and  allow some of the liquid to cook away.  Allow to rest 10-15 minutes before serving. If desired, give a sprinkle of fresh-grated Parmesan.

There will be no leftovers. Trust me.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chicken with Cheese--"Chicken Rarebit"

Ridiculously easy. Great tasting. And a stunning presentation. As the English would say, "Scrummy!"

The word "rarebit" has everything to do with Brits and melted cheese ... A Welsh Rarebit  (often called Welsh Rabbit even tho there is no rabbit) is a combination of cheese, beer and spices and served over toast.

In this recipe, it is simply cheese grated over thin chicken breasts and topped with cherry tomatoes still on the vine. Also, this is one of those recipes open to a zillion interpretations. Don't stop at sharp cheddar. What about smoky-bacon cheddar? Or basil-tomato cheddar. For this particular write-up, I used razor-thin ribbons of Prosciutto. Lovely! I also scattered thinly-sliced onions on the bottom of the dish and tucked in a few nibs of garlic. 

Serve with a side of pasta, rice or potatoes to mop up the cheesy/tomato mixture. I used thin-cut, skinless/boneless breasts, but you could simply slice a regular breast yourself.

  • 3 thin-cut skinless/boneless chicken breasts
  • 3-4 ounces extra sharp cheddar (white or yellow) coarsely-grated (figure about 2 tablespoons or so per chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • Cherry tomatoes on the vine

The following is optional:

  • Prosciutto
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Fresh thyme
  • Smoked paprika

Lightly season the chicken with a bit of salt, pepper, onion powder and, if not adding fresh garlic, a bit of garlic powder. I also use a bit of Old Bay's for a bit of "heat."

Lightly spray grease a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken. If using onion sprinkle razor-thin slices on the bottom. This does not bake for long, so you don't want onion that is cut too thick. Place chicken in the dish. If using Prosciutto, layer a few slices on top of chicken.

In a small bowl, add the grated cheese and cream and stir well. I just use my fingers. Evenly distribute cheese over each breast. If desired, grate a bit more (I usually do). Tuck in some nibs of garlic. Sprinkle with a bit of smoked paprika. 

Place tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with a few stems of fresh tomatoes. I give them just a sprinkle of  olive oil.

Bake in a 400 F degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden. Allow to rest 10-15 minutes before digging in. This is even better served cold the next day!

You really need to make this!