Thursday, October 29, 2009

easy as (punkin') pie (spice)

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So the crusade of Fall cuisine continues here on Porky Dickens. How can we deny it? Fall is super sweet. Plus cooler weather makes you want to eat, right? Even if you prefer Summer, you can still at least appreciate Fall in all its glory, right? For one, it’s the season of harvest, it’s the start of the school year, it’s a good time to reincorporate scarves back into ye olde wardrobe, it can be brilliantly beautiful, you get to make Halloween costumes and also, everything and anything that isn’t nailed down gets the pumpkin spice treatment. Between pumpkin donuts, lattes, muffins and candles, Fall is the time when we are stretched to our collective pumpkin tolerance limits. It’s almost a bit much for me, because I live with a certified Fallcoholic. If there is something on your menu that involves pumpkin, is made with pumpkin or has spent any amount of time in, at or around a pumpkin patch, this woman is going to order it. She’s nuts for all things punkin’ (and you have to say it like that, too ‘punkin’).

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Sometimes I roll my eyes, but I must admit that for some reason this year, I’m heavy into punkin’ myself. I’m ready to sprinkle pumpkin pie spice on everything that passes across my kitchen counter until at LEAST the day after Thanksgiving. When you’re baking with punkin’ and the related spices that hang with same, it smells like absolute heaven in your house. Last Friday I came home after work and set to work making these pumpkin muffins and a batch of homemade granola. On a whim, I decided to mix up my spices in the granola and add some pumpkin pie spice, as well as a little molasses, since I had to replace the brown sugar with regular sugar. Can I just tell you? Best. Granola. Eva. And the punkin’ muffins you ask? Easiest thing you ever saw and this is coming from an admitted total spaz when it comes to baking. About half way through any involved baking recipe, my kitchen looks like a tsunami of King Arthur Flour just rolled through and I’m at the point where I don’t care if it’s mixed right, I just want the dadgum thing in the oven already.

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But these muffins are a dream. Make them. Your roommate will thank you. When I told Erica I had whipped up a batch she declared it the best Friday night of her whole life. If that makes us seem like pathetic old ladies, then I thank you to keep your judgment to yourself. These muffins have stayed moist and delicious all week long. Do yourself a favor and add a little punkin spice to your life. Also, while you’re at it, make my homemade granoler, and add punkin pie spice. You won’t regret it.


(slightly tweaked from a few different recipes found on Gourmet, smitten kitchen, and serious eats)

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 can solid packed punkin’

1/3 cup olive oil

2 eggs

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 cup sugar

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin cups. Whisk pumpkin, oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt until smooth. Add in flour and baking powder and stir together until just combined.

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Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. A little scoop with a scraper if perfect for this and measures it just right. Batter should be about ¾ of the way up the cup. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. Side note: I also think you could put together a nice streusel topping for this and they would be even more amazing, but I didn’t think of this until after mine were done.

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Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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Oh say, speaking of punkins check me out circa ‘ween of 85. Nice specs, right?

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

mass pike masala

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Last week I checked something off my list that I have been dying to try for a while. I finally made Indian food at home. Let me just say that the spices in Indian food make me go weak in the knees. I am in love with them. But I never really thought I could possibly reproduce the flavors in my very own kitchen.

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This love affair with all things saag is a pretty recent development in my life. I mean, I had Indian food before the spring of 2007, but I never really got into it until then. I have NO idea why… I mean I guess I’ll just chalk up my lack of interest in Indian cuisine right up there with my former penchant for cargo pants: I was young, stupid and inexperienced hence, I had no taste. And jeez, let me just tell you that now Indian food is at the tippity top of my ethnic food echelon. Which is saying a lot because I have never met a drunken noodle that I didn’t like.

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Fast forward to present day, when Paul and I go out for Indian food almost once a week. My spiral into malai kofta addiction has been aided in no small part by the fact that Paul’s apartment is within spitting distance to the ORIGINAL, as in very first, Indian restaurant in all of Cambridge. Sweet, sweet India Pavilion. When a place has been dishing out anything since the early 1970s and still draws a crowd: that my friends, is the place you wanna be. The Pavilion is our textbook Old Married Couple spot, where we, without fail, order the same thing every time, scrape our plates clean and are in and out of there in under 45 minutes for less than 40 bucks, with tip. Booyah. It’s a thing of beauty.


So eventually I just knew I would have to try my hand at making this cuisine in the comfort of my own home. And so I have been gearing up to make some homemade Indian food ever since my birthday when my dad’s girlfriend got me the best spice kit eva. I mean, it’s like a starter kit for all those great heady spices, and I love it because it means that I didn’t have to go to the exotic spice store and drop a mortgage payment picking up more packages of spices than I would ever rightly need and then ending up with them languishing on my spice rack for eternity if I failed at making anything palatable. This kit was like Indian cooking training wheels and I’m all about it. It also meant that when I once again came across this dope recipe for Chana Masala that I had every single one of the spices it called for.

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Now it’s no secret that I really, really, really admire Orangette, the gorgeous, brilliantly written blog of Molly Wizenberg, and this here recipe is one that her main squeeze made for her and she in turn posted up on her site. Their love story is too cute for words and their collaborative recipes like this one are downright ridiculous. I made this last Thursday night after my millionth yoga class of the week. I felt so pious, sweating out my toxins with a few billion chattarungas and then whipping up some delicious Indian cuisine in my kitchen. I was a little nervous, I mean, what if it didn’t come out good? But I followed this recipe to a T and it was so delicious! See that picture below? That is me running into the living room to sit down and eat this. You can actually SEE my idiotic little foot sprinting towards the couch. The only modification that I made to this is that at the end, I dashed in a bit more cayenne and coriander and also, I did not use any cilantro; because cilantro is my mortal enemy. Also, I opted for the variation with yogurt. Meaning I spooned about two tablespoons of Greek yogurt in right before I ate it. It was SO good this way. This recipe is so spot on and detailed, I’m not going to muck it up by offering my own interpretation, I simply wanted to point you in its direction and urge you to make this. It’s also probably the cheapest thing I’ve ever cooked for dinner, I mean alls I needed was a can of tomatoes and two cans of chickpeas, hello! Perfect for the New Depression lifestyle.

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Why Mass Pike Masala you ask? Oh I’m just realizing right now that my title is kind of random and odd because I rambled so much about Indian food, I didn’t even mention the Mass Pike. However, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you to go where we went on Sunday: out to North Adams in the Berkshires. It’s a heck of a drive but the towns in that area are quaint to the max and you absolutely have to go to Mass MoCA at some point in time. It’s such an excellent museum. The two main exhibits this time around were not as great as we had hoped (Hello, can some one put a ban on video art? Because I just feel like most of it sucks. Maybe that’s the jaded media studies student in me. My apologies). But regardless, it’s a beautiful drive and such a cool town and museum space. Let’s just say I highly recommend. Also, on the way home you can stop for a couple pudding pops in Shelburne Falls, Bill Cosby lives there.

More recipes to come, later on. I swear it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

how to make pizza and lie to your friends


Sweet mother of god, I have reached a new pizza utopia and its name is Skillet Pizza. (Infomercial voice now) What if I were to tell you in less than five minutes you would have a hot piping, cheesy slice of heaven in your hand without ever dialing the phone or having to tip a delivery man? What if I were to tell you that you would need only ONE PAN for the job. Ladies and gentlemen, Skillet Pizza has arrived.

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Last Saturday night I was in charge of getting one of my main homies to her surprise 30th birthday party. As part of the web of lies that I spun trying to make this Saturday night out seem as natural as possible, I used this here blog as an excuse. “Say, I have to make something to post on Porky Dickens. Maybe instead of going out for a full dinner we could just eat some snacks at my house and then go out for dessert drinks and cocktails?” See, I had to occupy my friend’s time from 5:30 until 9: when we were scheduled to arrive at the party. BUT, in the interest of getting the surprise to go forward on time, we couldn’t take the risk of going out to dinner. And I dunno about your friends, but with my friends if we are hanging out together for a three hour stretch and one of the three major meals is not involved, it’s seriously suspect. So cheese, crackers and skillet pizzas to the rescue because if I’m lying to a dear friend, I’d at least like to be eating pizza while I’m doing it.

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Only in recent years have I gotten into making pizza at home. It was always one of those dishes that I sort of felt like “why would I do this when [insert pizza place nearest my house] can do it so much better? And I don’t have to do dishes.” And I haaaaaaaate doing dishes because I’m allllwwaaays doing dishes. Enter THIS homemade pizza can be made in FIVE minutes, which means that you don’t have to sit in the pizza place waiting for it AND it means that you can drink wine while making it, which is something that most pizza places might frown upon/judge you for doing. Oh AND it’s ONE pan. Which is CAST IRON, which you don’t technically WASH! Dishes problem solved! Huzzah! (SO MANY CAPITALS! I FEEL STRONGLY ABOUT THIS PIZZA!)

Enough of the Caps Lock key, to the process:
(originally found on

Preheat broiler. Pour a tiny bit of olive oil into your skillet, spread evenly over the entire bottom of the pan in a thin coating. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Have all of your toppings ready to go. Once these things get sizzling you won’t have much time. I used store bought pizza dough (for shame) and I split the package in two in order to make two, thin-ish, round-ish pizza shapes. On a floured surface, roll out your dough to ½ or ¼ inch thickness and to a shape that resembles or at least fits in the confines of the pan you are using. Mine pizza was a bit on the thicker side despite the fact I had let my dough sit at room temperature for like, ever (which FYI makes it so much easy to roll out and handle). BUT, our apartment was without heat last week despite the temperature plummeting to 30 degrees in Massachusetts. So I prepared dinner in a coat and scarf and the preparation was peppered with awkward conversations with our landlord. Later in the evening, we offered our guests complimentary scarves and socks upon entry to our freeze box. Being a renter is so glam.

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Place dough in hot skillet and let cook for a few minutes (about two). Lift corner of the dough and check for crispiness, it should be good and brown, maybe with some nice char in spots. If it’s ready, flip the dough over and add your toppings. Now, to cook the toppings and melt the cheese, you can do one of two things: you can place a lid on your pan to melt them (which I did not do because I don’t have a lid that fits on my awesomely ginormous skillet); or, alternately, you can place your skillet under the broiler and keep a close eye on it. Watch for your toppings to brown and your cheese to bubble. Take her out and slice her up.

Top your skillet pizzas with anything your little heart desires. I wanted to do a traditional pizza and a funky one. My first, I topped with pesto, roasted tomatoes and mozzarella and the second I topped with matchstick apples, bacon crumbles, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese. The apple bacon was ah-mazing. Be creative, be traditional, maybe just smear it with some butter and cinnamon and sugar and call it Poor Man's Fried Dough. Do whatever you want, just make sure to invite me over.

Friday, October 16, 2009

spicy white bean and tomato sauce

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One medium white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Hot Italian chicken sausages
Salt, pepper, dried sage, crushed red pepper flakes (a good pinch of each)
½ cup white wine
1 large can cannellini beans, drained and briefly rinsed
1 large can crushed tomatoes, or whole peeled tomatoes in sauce

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Remove sausage from casing, or, slice into chunks, brown for a few minutes, until almost cooked through. Add chopped onions and sauté for another few minutes. Add garlic, salt, pepper, sage and crushed red pepper. Turn heat up just a touch and pour in wine. Stir to get browned bits off bottom of pan and let wine reduce (about 3-4 minutes). Add tomatoes and season to taste. Let simmer for about 30-40 minutes, while you prepare the rest of your dinner. I seasoned this quite a bit, because the tomatoes I had weren’t the greatest. So my sauce needed a big pinch of sugar and even more of salt for the tomato flavor to taste right to me. If you had some good tomatoes like San Marzona, this probably wouldn’t be necessary. I served this over wheat spaghetti, with whole grain bread and some sautéed spinach. It was a very filling and tasty dinner. Also, just the sauce heated up and spread on toast is a great partner to a salad for a healthy lunch the next day.

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apple crisp


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4-5 apples, peeled and sliced into smallish chunks
Equal parts light brown and white sugar (about 1/3 cup total)
Generous teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Zest and juice from half a lemon


Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg
½-1 cup brown sugar
Dash salt
Handfull rolled oats
1 package instant oatmeal, preferably in a flavor like cinnamon or maple Generous
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 375. Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl. Toss and let sit while you prepare the crisp. Combine first four topping ingredients in a medium bowl. Add small cubes of cold butter and using a pastry blender or two knives combine into crumbles. Pour filling into a buttered baking dish, by now it should be nice and gooey and juicy. Top with crumble. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if you know what’s good for you.

*Disclaimer: every single thing about this recipe is an approximation. I used way more sugar originally, so in my directions above I scaled it back. I’m also writing this from memory and it’s Friday morning, so no guarantees on my recall abilities. Any crisp could be made with a general combination of the ingredients listed above. In a pinch, you can even make a crisp for two with only a packet of instant oatmeal, some brown sugar and a few dabs of butter.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

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Do you know what it’s like to live your whole entire life in a constant state of flinch? Well, I do. My sister can not help herself but to throw things. Perhaps you know a person like this. When we were little and my mom would bake bread or make homemade pizza dough she would use our big kitchen counter as her work space. There would be scraps, hunks and balls of dough lying around all over the place. If you thought perhaps you would be able to visit my house without being beaned off the top of the head with a hunk of raw dough, well, you had another thing coming.

Heather has, since my earliest memory, been throwing things at my head. For a lefty, she has a pretty good aim and almost always makes her mark. The process goes a little something like this: throw, (thud) when dough/roll hits person (usually me) in head, Heather then lets out a loud cackle and, depending on her liquid intake that day, pees her pants. This sequence happens in short order and it is as much a family tradition as French donuts and quiche on Christmas morning. Her arsenal of good-throwin’ objects includes, but is not limited to: raw bread dough, fully cooked dinner rolls, play dough, bouncy balls (any size) and on one unfortunate occasion, a breakfast sausage link. Visiting friends and family members alike have become accustomed to her. Either they develop faster reflexes or they just learn to fight back.

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Now if you know someone like my sister, probably the last thing you’re ever going to want to do with them is take them to an apple orchard. There is ammunition EVERYWHERE, all of which is in varying stages of decay. The decay ups the chances that the apple, when it comes into contact with your skull, will splatter. This is hugely awesome for someone who likes to throw things at other people. Something hits you in the head while you’re unsuspectingly picking apples: awesome. Said something that hits you in the head splatters apart: double awesome. Fallen apples are by far one of the most disgusting, and therefore highly sought after, forms of ammunition for someone like my sister. Heather doesn’t say “let’s go apple picking” she says “I can’t wait to go apple hucking.” So much so that the term apple hucking has become part of our fall vernacular.

Me I don’t so much like to huck apples. Partly because I am such a bad throw, I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, but also partly because I’m mostly trying to get through the apple picking part of the day as quickly as possible so I can get to the donut eating, cider drinking part of the day, and then later the part of the day where you make something delicious with your apples that fills your house with cinnamon-y smells. So if you come apple picking with me, don’t expect to get beaned off the top of your head with apples. Instead, if you find me ‘round the orchard, no need to flinch, I will be too busy doing any of the following activities:

Enlisting the help of some pint sized assistants:

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Becoming obsessed with the wee baby apples:

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Thinking to myself “good lawd, how is it possible I am this pale already?”

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Taking more pictures of apples than the average parent takes of their first born children.

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Baking those very apples into tiny hand pies. Maybe channeling a little Martha and wrapping those pies with wax paper and string for a photo op. Jeez, so corny, I might as well have dressed the pies up in a doggy tutu or some other ridiculousness.

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You might also see me getting so lazy and tired of folding together tiny pies that I scoop the remainder of the crust/ apple filling up and dump it all into a rather messy galette-ish type creation.

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You might also see me dropping said galette face down onto the filthy stairs of my apartment as I try to carry in the groceries, laundry, lunch bag and (unused) gym clothes in one carry. You might also hear some swear words.

But then the next night you might see me fearlessly tackle yet another apple dessert. Opting this time for the easy peas-y crowd pleasing, cheap, I-have-all-the-ingredients-right-here Apple Crisp.

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You might hear me say multiple times while peeling, coring, chopping, sugaring and crumble-making say something to the effect of “I got her numbah. How do you like them apples?” You might think I am complete tool for this, but I will say it approximately 14 times. And maybe even once more while writing this.

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You might also hear me being a total dork and saying "apples, prepare to meet your maker" while staging the above photo. I mean what do you expect? I titled my last blog post "Porky Chickens" for god's sake. I'm a total corn ball.

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You might see me do all of these things with apples, but you won’t see me throwing them at your head. At least, you won’t see me hitting you in the head, like I said, I’m a bad shot. Luckily I’ve got my sister for that.

Recipes to come.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

porky chickens

Last Saturday night I wanted to cook dinner and I wanted to do something sort of easy. I teetered and tottered back and forth between making meatballs and sauce or roasting a chicken. In the end chicken won because we really were feeling like eating something healthy. And if you don’t eat a load of cheese and crackers before dinner (guilty) munch on the salty, crispy chicken skin (double guilty) and dip hunk after hunk of bread into the pan drippings (thrice guilty) this is sort of a healthy dinner?

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You will need:

One whole chicken, preferably free range, organic, steroid free (seriously, I could go on about this but read Fast Food Nation, see Food, Inc. and you will never mess with chicken of unknown origin again. You might even become a vegetarian, but I am just not that good). A 3-4 pound gal will feed two to three people. There were four of us for dinner so I bought a 6 pounder.

Olive oil
One lemon
One white onion
A few gloves of garlic, peeled but not smashed or diced
Carrots (optional)
Salt and pepper
Old Bay Seasoning (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Open your chicken over the sink, letting all the gnarly chicken water run down the drain. Remove the giblet bag (shudder) and toss. Some people save this for gravy because they know what to do with it, I am not one of those people. Pat chicken dry both inside and out and let sit while you prepare the vegetables. Now normally, I’m not much of a carrot fan. My mantra when it comes to carrots is “it’s not that I hate them, I just don’t prefer them” especially when they are julienned and therefore, impossible to remove from your salad plate in their entirety. My exceptions when it comes to carrots are this: perfectly roasted ones and carrot sticks are cool with me. Otherwise, I won’t make a stink if they’re in a dish but expect to see them laying in a limp reject pile on the side of my plate. I digress. But anyways, on Saturday I came up with another exception to my dislike-of-carrots rule: I like them if they’re cute. I happened to find some adorable Bugs Bunny style cartoon carrots, complete with leafy greens attached. I decided that they would go well with some hunks of onion as a make-shift rack for my chicken to sit on while she roasted.

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So I trimmed the ends of my carrots, peeled my onion and cut it into large chunks. I then quartered a lemon. The lemon quarters, along with a few of the chopped onions and few peeled garlic cloves (I used 4 or 5) went into the bum of my chicken.


The remaining onions and carrots were tossed with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and they got placed into a roasting pan in a single layer.

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Once the veggie “rack” was in place, I tended to my chicken. If she’s still a bit damp pat her dry one more time, drizzle olive oil over and rub it into her skin. Follow with generous shakes of salt and pepper. Normally all I use is salt and pepper on my birds and really, you can’t go wrong. This particular go-round I decided to also dust her with Old Bay Seasoning as well. It was good, but I can’t say I’m totally sold. It made the skin almost too salty. Completely oil, salt and pepper all sides of the chicken. Then place your chicken on top of your veggies and send her into the oven. Cooking times will vary according to the size of your bird, but it usually works out to about 20 minutes per pound. My bird was 6 lbs. so she took about two hours to cook (obviously use a meat thermometer you don’t want undercooked chicken). This is what I call hands-off cooking. Your house smells delicious, a meal is forthcoming but you have plenty of time to indulge in a nice Syrah and the Top 100 Hard Rock Videos of All Time on VH1 Classic. I served my chicken with some garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. By the time the bird was cooked through the carrots and onions in the pan were melt-in-your-mouth caramelized, which made for some incredibly delicious pan juice to spoon over mashed potatoes and dip loads of bread chunks into.

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Now when you eat a homemade chicken, chances are you’ve got a picked over, relatively meatless chicken carcass in your fridge. Do not throw it away, in a few hours you can have great homemade chicken stock and you will feel so superior to your store-buying counterparts every time you defrost a container of Your Very Own Stock, I promise you it’s soooo worth it. No but seriously though, it’s cheap! And easy! And less waste! And, between you and me, you can do it while you waste away on the couch watching DVR’d episodes of Bridezillas (we all have our guilty pleasures).

Simply take your chicken bones/body/carcass and place her into a large stock pot. Top with water and add a few whole black peppercorns, a few peeled, whole cloves of garlic and some dried parsley or thyme. You can use a bundle of herbs of your choice, but in my opinion, just the peppercorns, garlic and parsley do the trick, along with a good dose of salt and pepper. Another option is to add vegetables like carrots, celery or onion to the stock as well.

Bring your pot up to a boil and then turn all the way down to a simmer. Let simmer for a few hours. Last time I think I cooked mine for about three. Allow the stock to cool, skim any pools of fat off the top and transfer into Tupperwares to store in the fridge or freezer. Or, if you are like my friend Michelle, be extra Martha-y about it and freeze into ice cube trays so you have individual stock portions ready to go for when a recipe calls for it.

P.S. When you get a pickin’ chicken pre-made from the deli at your supermarket (you know what I’m talking about, right?) you can use those to make stock too! I did. The first time I ever made my own stock it was from one of those birds and it came out just great.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

believe in butternut squash

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Butternut squash is one of those things that I feel like even if you think you don’t like it, I’ll bet that you will, you just haven’t had it the right way. I know because until recent years, I was pretty much positive that I did NOT like butternut squash, or any squash or squash-related vegetables. Then something changes, either you grow up and get better taste in food or you give it one more try and the right kind of cooking method, or the right amount of saltiness changes your mind. This is the way I feel about almost all of the vegetables I love now that I hated for most of my life. When prepared just right, they’ll make you into a believer.

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So anyways, when I think of fall cuisine my mind gets all sorts of butternut squashy. And I have been thinking extensively about all things fall cuisine lately. Call it an end-of-summer coping mechanism. On the down side, I have to retire my flip flops and once again fade into a nearly translucent shade of pale BUT on the other hand there’s soups and pies to be made and eaten and those ridiculously ah-doorbell baby white punkins at the grocery store again (do you know by the way that the technical name for those is “munchkins”? Come on! If they were any cuter I’d punch them!) You ever wonder if baby punkins and apple cider donuts are god’s pacifiers to ease us into the long dark winter months? Like “here, quit your fussing, eat this donut.” I dunno about you, but a distraction of the fresh baked donut kind works on this lady every time.

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This Sunday afternoon I had a hankering for something light but snuggly. Does that make sense? It was a raining sideways and I wanted something savory and warm BUT something healthy, since I ate my weight in chips and onion dip while playing Balderdash the night before. A nice fall supper was in order.

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Plus when I got to the grocery store guess who called out to me? Look at this guy. He actually ASKED me to take him home! How could I refuse his giant chin? A clearer look:

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So butternut squash soup it was and now I’m here to share. This has got to be one of the easiest soup recipes going. Actually, I want to take this opportunity to share my opinion that soup may possibly be the best thing about fall/winter cooking. It’s cheap, easy and delicious and you always have a truckload of leftovers. I’m thinking about starting a sub-segment on here exclusively dedicated to soups. We’ll call it “Nuts about Soup: A Soup to Nuts Guide to Cooking Soup” (too much?) or I could just call it “Soupy Dickens” I’m open to suggestions, either way.

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One butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into (approx.) 1” cubes
Two Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced into (approx.) 1” cubes
Two shallots, thinly sliced
Two small cloves garlic, chopped
One large container (or about 32 ounces) chicken (or veggie) stock
Splash half and half
Salt and peps
Olive oil
1 teaspoon butter

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium to med-high heat. Drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add shallots and sauté until translucent, stirring often. Add garlic and butter, let butter melt and garlic turn golden, but do not burn the garlic! Add diced squash and potatoes and stir everything together. Pour in chicken stock. Turn heat up to medium-high and bring to a healthy simmer. Cook until the vegetables are fork tender (I let mine cook for about 40 minutes, periodically testing my veggies. You want them very tender, since you will be blending them. Plus it makes all the flavors much tastier, the more they meld together).

Now you’re going to want to blend everything together. The best thing about using starchy veggies like butternut squash and potaters is that when blended they make a deliciously creamy soup, without adding say a roux or a truckload of heavy cream or any other diet destroyers. You can do this one of two ways: the first is to remove your soup from heat and then carefully, in batches, puree in your blender. Don’t use a food processor because they can’t handle huge volumes of liquid. The second, and my preferred way, is to turn the heat off of the soup and use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables. You have to be thorough and hit all the sections of soup and take care not to just swish your blender about all willy nilly. Seriously though, BE CAREFUL! Or you may (as I did) end up with teensy squirts of searing hot soup on your delicate neck meat. Once your soup is pureed to your desired consistency, add salt and pepper to taste. I used homemade chicken stock, which tastes more chicken-y but less salty so I added a good dose of salt to this. Then, to finish I swirled in just a tiny bit of half and half. Ladled the soup into some cute bowls my Ma bought me and topped each bowl with a parmesan sage crouton.


Sliced ciabatta bread
Shaved parmesan cheese
Dried sage

Since parmesan and sage pair naturally with butternut squash, I thought it might be nice to make a oversized, cheesy crouton to garnish the soup. This soup would also pair well with any kind of grilled cheese sandwich, but letsbeserious, what wouldn’t pair with a grilled cheese sandwich on a rainy Sunday? So I fired up my broiler and toasted a thick slice of ciabatta bread. When side one was done, I toasted the second side and then topped it with some shaved parmesan and just a little sprinkle of dried sage. Popped it back under the broiler until the cheese melted and then topped each bowl of soup with one of the croutons. These were so tasty and they happen to work nicely as makeshift edible spoons for the first half of your bowl of soup. For the second half you may use a traditional spoon or you may cut off another hunk of bread and get down like that. Heck, I know I did.
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