Category: Stew

Instant Pot Beef Bourguignon

I have an Instant Pot. Yes, I do. For the past couple years I have been using it to cook dried beans, some long-cooking vegetables such as beets, and I make yoghurt on a regular basis. I also tried an “all in one” meal with mashed potatoes, beets, and meatloaf… yes, cooked together ALL IN ONE POT. And do you know what?!… it was pretty good! I have been quite happy with my Instant Pot but people online can’t seem to stop talking about how amazing it is to cook almost ANYTHING (seriously… cheesecake?) so I need to branch out.

Some time ago I spotted this recipe for pressure cooker beef stew and it got me thinking about beef bourguignon with the wine and pearl onions and mushrooms. Mmmmmmmm, rich comforting flavourful beef stew in about half the time? Count me in, man! (Did I just say “man”?!?!).

The inspirational stew made (almost) according to the recipe was very good but I have continued to fiddle with it because I wanted something much closer to traditional beef bourguignon and I still don’t COMPLETELY trust the “dump and go” method in most Instant Pot and slow cooker recipes. I think flavours need to be layered. My favourite part of beef bourguignon are the little onions braised in dark stock and the mushrooms fried in butter so instead of simply cooking them in the stew I used Julia Child’s recipes for Oignons Glaces a Brun (brown braised onions) and Champignons Sautes au Beurre (sauted mushrooms in butter) and add them in at the end to re-heat. Granted it does take extra work, but not extra time because you do it while the beef is cooking.

The inspirational recipe calls for 4 packets of gelatin which gives body to the stew but I cut this down to one packet because my stock is homemade and already has the velvety mouth-feel. You can increase this if your stock is store-bought. I also nixed the extra carrots, potatoes and celery because those are not traditional in beef bourguignon but I did keep the soy sauce, anchovy paste and fish sauce… also not traditional but I think they really add to the umami quality of the stew. I also threw in some frozen green peas just because I like them. :)

Despite failing to jump on the whole “all in one” bandwagon, I think my recipe is now pretty close to traditional beef bourguignon while streamlining the process to use only one additional saute pan (with no washing in between) for all the searing, braising of onions, and frying of mushrooms. I have divided the ingredient list below into the separate cooking steps to help you organize better as you cook. It’s still probably not a weeknight meal but it will definitely cut your weekend beef bourguignon down to at least half the time letting you arrive home mid-afternoon (after a day of skiing? mountain climbing? parasailing? reading a good book that you can’t put down?) and still deliver a meal to the table that looks and tastes like you cooked all day… win, win!

2 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
1 packet powdered unflavored gelatin (7 g) (you can use up to 4 packets if your stock is store-bought)
2 TBS tomato paste
1 TBS soy sauce
2 tsp anchovy paste, or 2 mashed anchovies, or 1 TBS Asian fish sauce (I used both anchovy paste and fish sauce)
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce

2 TBS vegetable oil
3 pounds whole boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3 steaks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS flour

1 large or 2 medium carrots, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 large or 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half pole to pole
3 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 cup red wine or sherry (or a mix of both)
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme

1 cup (about 6 ounces) frozen or fresh pearl onions (thawed if frozen, peeled if fresh)
1 TBS butter
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 cup beef stock (ok to be made from good bouillon)

10 ounces white button mushrooms, quartered (or in sixths if large)
2 TBS butter

1 cup (about 4 ounces) frozen peas (optional, but I like them)

Fresh chopped parsley to garnish (optional)

Put stock, gelatin, tomato paste, soy sauce, anchovies and worcestershire sauce in a bowl or large measuring cup and whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat 2 TBS vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Season beef on both sides with salt and pepper and sear on each side until a nice dark brown crust forms, about 5-6 minutes per side. Remove from skillet into large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 TBS of flour, stir and set aside.

In the same skillet (add another splash of oil if necessary), add carrots, onion (cut side down), and garlic cloves. Turn vegetables as they start to brown. Once they are browned on a couple sides, remove and set into Instant Pot.

Add sherry and or wine to skillet. Scrape up any fond and let alcohol reduce about one-third. Pour into Instant Pot over vegetables. Set skillet aside without cleaning… you’re going to use it again soon.

Cut seared beef into largish chunks (about 2 inches) and add to Instant Pot along with any beef drippings. Pour stock mixture into Instant Pot and add bay leaves and thyme. Set on manual high pressure for 35 minutes. (If you are using a stovetop pressure cooker, process for 30 minutes).

While the meat is cooking, make your pearl onions. If you are using fresh I have found the easiest way to peel is to blanch for 1 minute, then run under cold water until they are cool enough to peel. Melt 1 TBS each butter and oil in your skillet over medium-high heat until foamy. Add onions and let cook, tossing every couple minutes until they have started to brown. Add in beef stock and let simmer until the onions are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. If you are using frozen this takes about 10 minutes, fresh can take 20-30 minutes depending on their size. Scrape onions and any leftover liquid into bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet add 2 TBS butter and let melt until foamy. Add mushrooms and toss every couple minutes. They will first absorb the fat, then let go of their liquid and become quite wet, and finally the liquid will evaporate allowing the mushrooms to brown. This takes about 10-15 minutes for me. Set mushrooms aside.

When the beef has finished in the Instant Pot allow the pressure to naturally release for at least 15 minutes, after which you can manually release if the pin hasn’t dropped. If you have time, you can let sit up to a couple hours until you’re ready for dinner.

Remove the whole onion, bay leaves, and garlic cloves from stew and discard. Let sit for a couple minutes to let the fat rise to the top and skim. (Tip: If you find the thin layer of fat on top hard to skim because those pesky vegetables are getting in the way, just lay a paper towel across the top of the stew and it will soak up the fat!) Turn on saute function and add reserved mushroom, pearl onions, (and green peas, if using) to heat through. At this point you can also adjust the thickness of your stew if desired by making a slurry of flour or corn starch and water and stirring into the stew. Now is also the time to taste and re-season. I find a TBS each of fish sauce and balsamic vinegar really brighten the flavour and add depth to the final dish.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread and a salad or over potatoes or pasta. Leftovers are even more delicious. Yum!

Chicken and Dumplings

Have I complained enough about mentioned the rain? Here on the west coast we usually enjoy mild, albeit somewhat soggy winters but spring arrived a couple weeks ago and along with it, the beautiful clear blue sky, the sun creeping under my skin and making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the flowers bursting forth, the…

ummm, what? That didn’t happen?

That pitter-patter on my roof are not birds dancing in the sun? The sound of gushing water is not my washing machine? (I DID wonder how my clothes made it from the bedroom to the laundry room without me). The wet ground is not because my lovely neighbour watered my yard?


Ok. Well, the only way I can see to combat a late spring is to revel in the last few weeks of eating comfort foods. If I’m not warm on the outside I can be warm on the inside.

This is one of my faves and because I know much of the country is still experiencing some winter it may become a new favourite of yours as well. It is is based on my chicken pot pie but I got lazy and decided that making the pastry was waaaay too much work so I opted for dumplings. Soft, fluffy pillows of goodness.

I think we should eat this every day until the REAL spring arrives and I think we should start now!

The stew is on the thinner side (but not watery) which I like with the dumplings. The flavours and method are much like the filling for my chicken pot pie, the perfect thing to let bubble and brew on a chilly afternoon. The dumpling recipe is compliments of Joy the Baker, who uses them in her chicken soup recipe here.

Go forth and… ummmm… stay dry (insert rolling eyes here).


Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 – 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 8 pieces)
couple glugs of vegetable oil

12 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces

2 small or 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch slices
1 large onion, diced small
1 stalk celery, diced small

1/4 cup sherry (optional)
3 cups chicken broth (you know I prefer homemade but whatever you have will be enhanced by simmering the chicken in it)
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
1 bay leaf
couple sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

3 TBS of fat (schmaltz from your fried chicken, or butter at room temperature)
4 TBS all-purpose flour (use 6 TBS if you like a thicker, more gravy-like consistency)

2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp anchovy paste or white miso
1 cup frozen green peas
1 or 2 carrots, diced small
couple shakes of hot pepper flakes, to taste


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 TBS butter, cold
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup buttermilk, cold

To make the stew:
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a glug of oil over medium-high heat in the bottom of a Dutch oven or large heavy pot. Brown chicken thighs skin-side down until golden, flip and brown the other side. You will want to do this in two batches because crowding the chicken will steam it rather than fry it. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Pour off most of the fat (reserving it to use later in this recipe) leaving enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the mushrooms and fry until they release their liquid, it evaporates and they start to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Set aside.

Use some of the fat you poured off the chicken or heat another glug of oil in the same pot. Add onions, leeks and celery, season with salt and pepper, and saute until softened, about 7 minutes. If using, pour in the sherry and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer until most of the sherry has cooked off and then add chicken broth, milk, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Nestle the browned chicken and any accumulated juices into the pot. Cover and GENTLY simmer 30 minutes, after which the chicken should be fully cooked and tender.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool slightly. Discard the bay leaves and sprigs from the thyme if you used fresh. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon and set aside.

In a small bowl, using a fork, mash 3 TBS of the fat from frying the chicken and what you skimmed from the stew (replace any or all of it with butter if you prefer) with the flour into a paste. Ladle some of the warm liquid over it, and stir until smooth. Add a second ladle and stir again. Return this flour mixture to the larger pot, stir to combine. Add the diced carrots, soy sauce, anchovy or miso paste, and hot pepper flakes. Shred or dice the chicken, discarding the bones and skin and return the meat to the pot along with the reserved mushrooms. Bring back to a simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To make the dumplings:
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, thyme, and pepper. Add the butter and use your fingers or a pastry cutter, break it down into the flour mixture creating small flecks of butter throughout. Add the beaten egg and buttermilk and stir until just combined. Do not to over-stir or the dumplings will be tough.

Bringing it together:
Make sure your stew is at a VERY gentle simmer. Drop generous tablespoon-sized dollops of dumpling dough on top of the stew, about a half inch apart. Cover the stew and continue to let simmer very gently for 10-12 minutes. By that time the dumplings should have risen to double their size and be completely cooked through.

Spoon into bowls and enjoy!

Dijon Mustard Stew

Well apparently Spring arrived last week but she’s sure taking her sweet time showing it. We had a couple sunny days where the crocuses and daffodils finally showed their pretty faces and I did manage to get one gardening box planted with radishes and peas but the weather had turned rainy and chilly again. Cue the comfort food. I wanted something that would warm up the house with its delicious aroma all afternoon but have a bit of pizzazz.

I’ve been eyeing this recipe for at least a month or so. Originally published in the New York Times here many years ago, it’s been written about by various food bloggers since then. It appealed to me because of the copious amount of Dijon mustard. Have you ever really tasted good Dijon? Go grab a spoon and take a taste. It’s smooth and creamy, bold and thick, a little bit salty and tart, with a subtle spicy wasabi-horseradish thing going on. It’s delicious and adds a lovely depth and warmth when braised in a stew.

I’ve switched up the original recipe quite a bit by almost doubling the meat, adding a cup of wine to the braise (really, no red wine in a stew?), adding things like tomato paste, and finishing with fish sauce and balsamic vinegar to give more layers of flavour. I also played around with the method by braising in the oven instead of the stovetop. As well, I brown my meat by cutting a chuck roast into steaks and browning those, letting them rest, and then cutting into 1-2″ chunks. It just works better. This is why.

3-4 pounds beef chuck, cut into steaks
2 tablespoons flour (optional, your preference whether you brown steaks with flour or not)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, diced
3 shallots, chopped
glug of oil (I used leftover fat from frying various meats I keep in my fridge)
1 TBS tomato paste
2 TBS flour
1/2 cup Cognac or Brandy
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock (preferably homemade)
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
2 TBS grainy (ancient) Dijon mustard, divided
4 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1/2 – 3/4 pound mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and quartered
2 TBS butter
1 TBS fish sauce (optional)
1 TBS balsamic vinegar (optional)

Give your steaks a light dusting of flour mixed with a bit of salt and pepper if you like. This will help a nice crust to form on the meat but isn’t necessary. Heat oil (or other fat) in dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add meat in a single layer. Let the meat brown without moving until a nice dark crust forms. Flip and brown the other side. Set aside to let let rest. You may have to do this in two or three batches.

Preheat oven to 300F.

Add onions and shallots to the pot adding a bit more fat if necessary. Turn down heat to medium and let cook until softened but not browned, about 10 minutes. The moisture from the vegetables will also help to gently scrape and lift the fond from the pot. Once the vegetables are soft, add tomato paste and sprinkle with 2 TBS flour and stir for a minute or two. Pour in the Cognac or Brandy and gently finish deglazing the pan. Add the red wine and let simmer for a couple minutes.

Add stock, Dijon mustard, and 1 TBS of grainy mustard. Stir to blend. Cut beef into 1-2″ chunks and add to the pot. Bring to a simmer and place in oven.

At the 2 hour mark, check the beef. If it is on it’s way to being tender, add in the carrots. If it’s still quite tough, give it another 30 minutes then add the carrots.

While the carrots are cooking, melt butter to a frying pan over medium-high heat and saute mushrooms until liquid has been released and the mushrooms are brown and tender.

At 3 hours, check to ensure the beef is tender and carrots are cooked. Stir mushrooms and last TBS of grainy mustard into the stew and taste for seasoning. At this point I add about 1 TBS of fish sauce and 1 TBS balsamic vinegar (layers of flavour!).

We enjoyed this with some new boiled potatoes but it’s equally as good over pasta. Enjoy!

French Lentil Sausage Rapini Stew

I have something to tell you guys. I did something a few nights ago that scared the heck out of me. Are you ready?… I catered my first dinner. I mean for real! SOMEONE ACTUALLY PAID ME TO COME TO THEIR HOUSE AND COOK FOR THEM! And it was a big success! I still can’t believe it. It was sooooo much work and so stressful and even if I never do it again I feel like I left my safe little world and wandered out into the dark night and KICKED BUTT!


And now we return you to our regular programming…

I am still recovering from cooking for 3 days straight so I decided to do a one-pot dinner last night and holy, it was gooooood! I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (love the Deb) as my inspiration but made my usual tweaks.

I reduced the oil to fry the sausage because isn’t sausage “self-oiling”?? I used chicken stock instead of plain water and reduced the amount of liquid to make a thicker stew rather than soup. I amped up the flavour with cheese rinds* and used French lentils because I love the way they keep their shape after cooking and don’t go mushy. Oh, and the biggest change, rapini instead of chard… hello! I LUUUUUV me some rapini. The tasty green bitterness makes my mouth happy. And think of finishing almost any soup or stew with a squeeze of lemon as pixie dust, just a little bit o’ magic to take it over the top.

*(You ARE saving your cheese rinds from your Parmesan and Pecorino, aren’t you? Throw those suckers in the freezer and add them to your soups and stews!)

one glug plus 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 large links of Italian sausage (I used one hot and one sweet), casings removed
1 medium onion, diced (or 1/2 onion plus 1 shallot)
1 celery stalk, sliced or diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into half-moons or diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (reserve half for later in recipe)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup French green lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 bay leaves
1 28-ounce can good quality whole tomatoes (Italian plum or San Marzano)
4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
parmesan or other cheese rinds, if you have them
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 bunch of rapini, stalks separated from the leaves, everything chopped into 2″ pieces
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
1/2 fresh lemon to finish

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot on medium heat and add sausages, breaking up until it starts to brown, about five minutes. Add the onion, celery, carrots, first two garlic cloves, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the vegetables soften a bit, another 5 minutes. Add the lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, stock or water, cheese rinds if using, and more salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to a VERY gentle simmer and allow to cook uncovered until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 30-40 minutes. If your soup starts to get dry or too thick, add some water.

When the lentils are cooked, taste and add a pinch of red pepper flakes if you would like more spice. Add the rapini stalks and cook for 2 minutes until just tender. Add the leaves and stir until they are softened, just a minute. Discard the bay leaves and any cheese rinds that haven’t melted into the stew.

To finish, put the 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 garlic cloves in a small skillet over medium heat until the garlic softens and barely starts to brown. Ladle the stew into bowls and drizzle the garlic oil over the top. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon and garnish with the grated cheese. I like to serve with grilled bread or toast.

Cumin Chicken with Squash, Fennel and Grapes: Another One Pan Miracle

miracle-chicken2-4Remember this from a couple months ago? It was my spatchcock chicken “one pan miracle” dinner and I have another one for you! I followed the latest inspiration recipe pretty closely except I used a whole spatchcock chicken instead of just thighs (I am LOVING the spatchcock chicken) and I added leeks (how many forking leeks did I plant this year?!?!).

The roasted fennel adds a lovely unique flavour and the grapes soften into little pillows of yummy-ness (technical term). If you don’t have leeks I suggest adding wedges of onion or shallot to the veggies to balance the sweetness of the fennel and grapes. Next time I think I will also throw a teaspoon of smoked paprika into the rub to deepen the flavour just a touch.

It’s important to use a pan big enough so the vegetables can be spread out in a single layer to ensure they brown and caramelize rather than just steam. I had more vegetables than I needed so into the fridge they went and the next morning I used the saved chicken bones, the wings and the excess veggies to make a chicken vegetable stock. Shazam! (Sorry, I’ve been watching too many superhero movies…).

1 small 2 1/2-3 1/2 pound chicken, spatchcocked
1 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS ground cumin
1 TBS kosher salt (or 2 tsp table salt)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 acorn or delicata squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise, seeded, cut into 1/4″ half moons
1 fennel bulb (about 1/2 pound), cut in half lengthwise, sliced into 1/4″ wedges with core intact
3 or 4 leeks, white and light green part only, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 pound seedless red grapes (a very generous cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
small bunch torn fresh mint leaves

Make your rub by combining the brown sugar, cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne.

Just in case you’ve forgotten how to spatchcock, place the chicken breast side down on a work surface. Starting at the thigh end, cut along one side of backbone with kitchen shears. Turn chicken around and cut along other side. Discard backbone or save for stock. Flip the chicken, open it like a book and press firmly on the breastbone to flatten (before flipping, I sometimes help the chicken breast crack by using my knife to make a cut in the thickest part of the bone). Sprinkle both sides with half your rub and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400F.


Toss vegetables with olive oil and the other half of the rub and place on a large rimmed baking sheet, arranging in a single layer. Place the chicken, skin side up, on top of the veggies and fruit and roast for 20 minutes. At this point I like to gently lift the chicken with some tongs and give the vegetables a stir to ensure they are all getting nicely browned. Return the pan to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through (internal temperature should be 165F).


Remove chicken from oven and let rest 5-10 minutes. I like to keep the veggies warm during the resting period by turning off but leaving them in the oven. Cut up the chicken and serve family style or in individual bowls garnished with torn mint. I served this with wild rice and it was delicious.


Chicken and White Beans: A One Pan Miracle

chicken white bean6We were at a friend’s place for dinner last year where another guest regaled us with the story of a previous thanksgiving fiasco when he had been put in charge of roasting the turkey on the BBQ but instead of watching the bird, decided to work out instead. When he returned the turkey was burnt to a crisp and it was about 2 hours before their guests arrived. Wife was still at work and would not be amused. He ran out to the local grocer and paid waaaaay too much money for another turkey and long story short, they didn’t eat until midnight. I wanted to ask why he didn’t spatchcock the bird but that wasn’t the point… it was a funny story.

But, seriously, why didn’t he spatchcock the bird? I cooked a 12 pound turkey for thanksgiving last year in 90 minutes. It’s not magic!

Spatchcocking (or butterflying) is a technique used most often for grilling but it’s ideal for roasting as well. A whole chicken or turkey in its natural form takes a long time to cook because the inside must reach a certain temperature to safely eat. The problem with this is the exterior (and especially the breast) often becomes overdone and dry before the inside is cooked. Opening it up and laying it flat by removing the backbone positions the breast at the centre of the meat which protects it while the darker meat takes most of the heat. It doesn’t make for a very amusing story, but it produces a heck of a tasty bird!

chicken white bean1

The balance of this dish is really just another attempt by me to use up some of my garden vegetables along with another healthy filler… beans. My first thought was to use chickpeas which I think would be a great substitute, but I usually cook my chickpeas from dried (I think they taste better) so I didn’t have any canned in the pantry. I did however have some canned white beans. And, as always, use whatever vegetables are handy. Squash would be great, sweet potatoes, peppers, zucchini, brussels sprouts in the winter. You could substitute rosemary or sage for the thyme. It’s very adaptable. If you’re not using harissa as I did (which has a nice spicy kick), sprinkle over a few red pepper flakes as well.

The miracle part of this recipe is laying the chicken over the vegetables to cook which bathes everything in those rich drippings and multiplies the flavour of this meal by, oh… I don’t know… a thousand?!!! And having only one dish to wash after making dinner?!?! It’s a festivus miracle times two. :)

1 small 2 1/2-3 1/2 pound chicken
1 tsp harissa spice mix
1 tsp za’atar
1 tsp salt
(Or substitute 1 TBS of your favourite rub for the 3 spices above. You could use organo for Greek flavour or a rub with smoked paprika and cumin for southwestern BBQ. Just make sure 1/3rd of your rub is salt.)

olive oil
a few cups sliced mixed veggies (I used carrot, baby golden beets, a leek, shallot, a few little potatoes and the greens from my beets)
few sprigs of thyme
1 pint small tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 can cannellini (white) beans (rinsed and drained)
1/2 cup white wine (or chicken stock)
salt and pepper

cilantro, chopped

Place chicken, breast side down, on a work surface. Starting at the thigh end, cut along one side of backbone with kitchen shears. Turn chicken around and cut along other side. Discard backbone or save for stock. Flip chicken and open it like a book. Press firmly on breastbone to flatten. Sprinkle both sides with your rub and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

Separate veggies into two groups, veggies that take longer to cook (carrots, beets and potatoes) and veggies that don’t take as long (leek, garlic, tomatoes).

Put the longer cooking veggies in your cooking vessel along with the sprigs of thyme, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 15 minutes.

chicken white bean2

After 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and add the softer vegetables (except beet greens), tomatoes, white beans, and wine. Re-season with salt and pepper and stir. Brush or drizzle the chicken with olive oil and place, skin side up, over the vegetables and return to oven to roast for about 20 minutes.

chicken white bean4

At this point I like to gently lift the chicken with some tongs and give the vegetables a stir to ensure they are cooking evenly. Return the pan to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through (internal temperature should be 165F). I check the internal temperature every 10 minutes and once it’s getting close, I stir in the beet greens. When the chicken has hit desired temperature, remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut up the chicken and serve family style or in individual bowls garnished with a wedge of lemon and chopped cilantro.

chicken white bean5

Summer Stew

veg stew4Well that doesn’t sound very tasty. Summer stew? Hmmmph.

Wait! Don’t go yet!! It’s not as dull as it sounds!

My garden is overflowing with gorgeous little tomatoes as sweet as candy, summer squash, carrots, garlic, leeks and a variety of herbs. I wanted to use up a bunch at once and I’m sort of over grilled vegetables for a while. This stew was just the ticket. It is very lightly seasoned which allows the fresh vegetables to shine. I had some leftover bits (a few mushrooms and a cup of corn kernels) hanging around the fridge which I threw in as well but those ingredients are optional… use what you have! We ate this spooned over quinoa and it was a lovely summer meal, even if it was *stew.

*this reminds me of a story. I invited a friend over for dinner many years ago and told her I would make curry. She told me she hated curry. Really? Why do you hate curry?! It turned out that when she was little her mother would clean out the fridge every Friday and throw all the leftovers into a pan, heat it up, and call it curry. My curry was not THAT curry, and this stew is not a mash of overcooked vegetables… really.

veg stew1

1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
2 TBS olive oil
2 yellow squash (or zucchini)
1 red onion
1 red pepper
1 large or 2 small carrots
1 leek
2-3 garlic cloves
1 generous pint of small tomatoes
couple sprigs of fresh dill (to taste)
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground fennel
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
handful of fresh chopped herbs (I used basil and shiso leaf)
grated pecorino or parmesan to garnish
mushrooms (I had a few hanging around my fridge)
Corn kernels (I had about a cup leftover from making this salad the previous night)

Cook quinoa according to package directions (I usually use 1:1 seed to water or stock ratio, plus a quarter cup of liquid “for the pot”).

Cut squash, onions, and red pepper into bite size chunks. Slice carrots, leeks (and mushrooms if using). Mince garlic and chop fresh dill.

veg stew2

Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a frying pan. Add carrots and red onion and fry until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add red pepper and leeks and continue to fry until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add squash (and mushrooms if using) and continue to fry until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, dill, stock, and spices and continue to cook until tomatoes have started to break and release their juices and veggies are done to your liking… mine took about 5 minutes more.

veg stew3

At this point you can also throw in any leftovers you have in your fridge to re-warm. I had a cup of corn kernels. You could also add leftover bits of protein such as sausage or shrimp, etc. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Spoon over quinoa, garnish with cheese and herbs and serve.

White Bean Soup

bean soup finishI’m baaaaack! I had an amazing time in Paris with my best friend and then in Venice and Rome with Husband. I saw my favourite painting again (I will never tire of sitting in front of it), found the third Statue of Liberty, explored two new (to us) cities, and walked until we thought our feet would fall off. We had some incredible food (that minted pea soup in Paris… I will never be the same), and ate in a 3-star Michelin restaurant. I have tons of new recipe ideas but, today, I am seeking comfort food. Fall somehow arrived while we were away… how did that happen?!?! I need a food hug to help get over the jetlag, my disappointment that summer is over (wahhh), and the fact that I have to go back to work (blechh).

I’m not using a recipe… just winging it with some basics picked up on our 7:00am trip to the grocery store (one thing about jetlag, it does make you efficient) and what I have at home.

This is your chance to use whatever herbs you have growing in your garden as well as that parmesan rind you have sitting in the freezer. If you don’t have a parmesan rind, you can substitute 2 TBS of finely grated parmesan into the soup at the end (but, Lordy, please not the stuff in the green can).

1 pound dry cannellini beans
12 cups water
1 meaty smoked ham hock (mine was so big, 3 pounds, I had the butcher cut it in half, but you can use a 1-2 pounder)
Fresh herbs to taste (I used several small sprigs of thyme, 3-4 sage leaves and a small handful of oregano. Use whatever you have in the garden. Fresh Italian parsley would also be good.)
2 medium carrots, medium dice
2 medium stalks of celery (I like to peel mine to get rid of the strings), medium dice
1 medium union, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1-2 bay leaves
1 parmesan rind or 2 TBS finely grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1 tsp sea salt, plus more as needed
1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
juice from 1/2 lemon to finish

Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak overnight. Alternatively, you can boil a pot of water, remove from heat, add the beans and allow to soak 1 hour. Drain and set aside.

Put ham hock and 12 cups of water in a large, heavy-bottomed pot on high heat. Bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to simmer gently for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, add the soaked beans, the fresh herbs and bay leaf to the pot. Continue to simmer until the beans are almost tender (they will cook more later), approximately 45 minutes. During this time, skim the surface with a spoon if any scum forms.

bean soup simmer

Add diced carrots, celery, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt to the pot (add the parmesan rind here as well, if using). If it looks like too much water has evaporated, feel free to add another cup to the pot at this point. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans and vegetables are tender and the meat is falling off the bone. Approximately another 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

bean soup simmer2

Remove the ham hock to a cutting board and let sit until cool enough to remove and dice the meat from the bones. Discard the skin and bones. Remove the thyme stems, bay and other leafy greens, and parmesan rind from the soup. If you didn’t use a parmesan rind and want that wonderful, deep umami flavour, add a couple tablespoons of finely ground parmesan cheese at this point.

Using a potato masher, lightly mash some of the beans and vegetables to thicken the soup to the consistency you want. Stir in the diced pork. Squeeze in juice from 1/2 lemon. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper.

bean soup with meat

Not Authentic Slow Cooker Indonesian Beef Rendang

rendang finishedI have been DYING to try a rendang (essentially a fragrant, spicy beef stew) for a while but it’s just been too darned hot to turn on the oven or stand over a burner for several hours. Then a miracle happened (really, really). A rendang recipe appeared in my “in box” on the exact day the temperature dropped 10 degrees and it used a slow cooker to boot! No oven or hot stovetop! See???… a miracle! And guess what, the results were even better than I had hoped. I am still smarting after Husband’s remark last week about “bland”. Well, things were far from bland tonight, buddy! Cha-Ching!

I don’t know about you, but I keep frozen lemongrass and lime leaves in my freezer (a habit from the “olden days” when these ingredients weren’t so easy to find) so I had most of the ingredients on hand except fresh red chillies for which I substituted red chilli flakes, and red onion for which I substituted white. I cut back dramatically on the salt and added fish sauce for an additional umami, funky sort of flavour.

I’m calling this recipe “not authentic” because, slow cooker. For any traditional nay-sayers out there, I’m sorry you have to wait until winter for your rendang fix. That said, I DO think the inspiration recipe ends too soon. Traditional beef rendang is quite dry and for anyone who has ever used a slow cooker, you know the longer you cook, the saucier it seems to get. So after about 5 hours when the meat was falling apart tender, I removed it to a separate bowl, skimmed the fat, and cooked down the sauce on the stovetop to about half its original volume. I then adjusted the seasoning by adding a touch of brown sugar, another splash of fish sauce, and a tipple of sambal oelek for some instant heat. Easy peasy and Husband loved it. The original recipe says it serves 4… not in our house. I know this recipe will be going into my regular rotation.

2 red onions
1-2 TBS fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves of garlic
2 red chillies (or 1 tsp hot red chilli flakes)
2 sticks of lemongrass (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
6 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp palm (or brown) sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground turmeric

a glug of vegetable oil
2 – 2 1/2 pounds stewing beef (shin, shank, chuck or shortrib) cubed
1 can (400 ml) full fat coconut milk
1 TBS fish sauce
1 cinnamon stick

To finish:
2 TBS tamarind paste

Additional adjustments I made once sauce was reduced (taste sauce and adjust to your liking):
~1 tsp brown sugar
~1 tsp fish sauce
~1/2-1 tsp sambal oelek

handful of cilantro, leaves picked and chopped
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
lime wedges
Jasmine or Basmati Rice (I added a pinch of turmeric, a few cardamom pods, and a star anise while cooking)

Cut the beef into bite-sized pieces, heat vegetable oil in a pan and sear in batches until the outside of the beef is a lovely dark brown. Transfer the beef to a slow cooker as it’s done. Do not wipe the pan clean. You will be pulling up all that beautiful caramelized flavour in the next step.

rendang beef

Peel and roughly chop the onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chillies (or chilli flakes). Throw them all into the food processor with the kaffir lime leaves, spices and palm or brown sugar. Blitz to a paste. Add another glug of oil to the pan you used to brown the beef and add spice paste, frying for 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and cinnamon stick and gently scrape up all the goodness at the bottom of the pan.

rendang paste

rendang fry paste

Add the paste/coconut milk mixture into the slow-cooker with the beef and cook on a low heat for 5-6 hours until the meat is really tender.

rendang slow cooker

Remove the beef to a separate bowl and pour the remaining sauce from the slow cooker into a sauce pan on your stovetop (skimming the fat if you wish). I had about 4 cups of sauce. Add the tamarind paste, bring to a slow boil and reduce to approximately 2 cups of sauce, ensure you are stirring every few minutes so the bottom doesn’t burn. Taste and re-season if necessary. Add the cooked beef back into the sauce and heat through. Serve with aromatic rice (I used basmati and added a pinch of turmeric, a few cardamom pods, and a star anise). Garnish with chopped cilantro, finely sliced green onion, and a wedge of lime.

rendang fork