Fresh Tomato Sauce with Chorizo Sausage Over Penne

Problem: Needed a good home-cooked meal for Sunday, something fun to prep, slow to cook, and with a smell to fill an apartment all afternoon while football is on.

Solution: Fresh tomato sauce with chorizo sausage over penne, with ricotta cheese on the side.

Details: Sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil, cooking the sausage over medium heat to brown the sides. Add some fresh basil leaves and chopped fresh tomato, with some spices and black pepper. Add a can of chunky crushed tomatoes for more volume and substance. Let simmer for a few hours.

Plate: Mix some of the sauce with the penne, pour some more sauce over the top, garnish with fresh basil leaves, and have the ricotta on the side. Grated cheese and fresh ground black pepper on top.

Beverage: 2% milk or glass of red wine. Both incredibly satisfying and pair well with the dish.

BBQ Boston Butt (Pork Shoulder) with Peppers and Onions

BBQ Boston Butt (Pork Shoulder) with Peppers and Onions
Difficulty:
VERY Easy
Prep Time:
15 Minutes
Cook Time:
8 Hours

Description

First of all, read up on Boston Butt. It’s essentially a specially-named cut from the upper part of the front shoulder, and it’s the perfect cut for slow cooking. Best bet is to talk to the butcher. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for the best Boston butt he’s got. Virtually no prep here, flavorful as hell.

Ingredients

Pork Shoulder (4-6 lbs)
2 Green Bell Peppers
1-2 Medium Onions
Barbecue Sauce (2 bottles) – I used Sweet Baby Rays Honey Chipotle…
Other Flavors (Bourbon, Hot Sauce, Black Pepper, Mustard, etc.)

Directions

1. Slice the onions and peppers. Put half of them at the bottom of the crock pot, then put the pork on top of them, then put the other half of the peppers and onions on top/around the pork.

2. Throw a full bottle of barbecue sauce all over the pork. I used Sweet Baby Rays Honey Chipotle, but you can use whatever flavor you like best! I added other flavors too such as a little bourbon (or beer is good), fresh ground black pepper, mustard seed, worchestire sauce, and hot sauce. Cover and cook on low in the crock pot for 6-8 hours or until very tender.

3. Drain all the juice from the crock pot (I used a colander to do this) and remove the peppers and onions to whatever extent possible. Shred the pork in the crock pot by pressing a fork against it. I like mine pretty chunky but you can completely shred it if you want.

4. Douse the shredded pork with another half bottle of barbecue sauce and continue to cook on low in the crock pot for at least another hour.

5. Serve on potato rolls with the peppers and onions (and chesse too!) on top, with your favorite hot sauce. Eat as much as possible!

Ham and Vegetable Orzo with Parmesan Cream Sauce

Ham and Vegetable Orzo with Parmesan Cream Sauce
Difficulty:
Easy
Prep Time: 20-30 Minutes
Cook Time: 20-30 Minutes

Description

This is a great example of two things: (1) Flexibility in cooking, and (2) Letting leftovers drive your next meal. Cream-based sauces are nice because you can control the thickness of your sauce/sauté relatively easily. Orzo is nice because it’s that often-forgotten rice-ish pasta shape that never overpowers yet still plays Italian. This dish is easy because you can really throw in whatever vegetables you want along with your leftover ham or chicken, spice it how you want, and eventually arrive at the perfect balance of flavors to fit your mood that night. You can go through the same process the next night and arrive at a totally different mix of flavor and texture.

Ingredients

Orzo (4-6 oz dry)
Ham
Tomato
Yellow squash
Onion
Peas
Parmesan cheese
Cream (can substitute half-and-half, whole milk, or even 2%)

Directions

1. Chop all vegetables. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan/wok/etc.
2. Sauté the onions and squash. Flavor with garlic and juice of a lemon if desired.
3. Add the chopped-up ham (or chicken or other meat) to the pan. Add the peas and chopped tomato.
4. Begin to cook the orzo. If you are using chicken as your meat, you can cook the orzo in chicken stock. Otherwise, just use water.
5. When the vegetables/ham are mostly cooked, begin to slowly add cream/milk to the pan. Stir to mix together. Add some fresh ground black pepper and/or parmesan cheese here to flavor.
6. Bring the mixture to a good heat where the cream begins to bubble/simmer. You can control the thickness of this sauce by adding less or more cream and by turning up the heat to simmer some of the liquid out.
7. When the orzo is done, drain it and add it to the sauce/sauté mixture. Keep on low until it is all evenly mixed and let sit for a few minutes before serving.
8. Serve with fresh basil leaf and parmesan cheese on top. To drink? A nice glass of milk, perhaps.

Remember, this recipe is flexible. Add whatever vegetables you want, add more tomato if in a red sauce mood, flavor with chopped basil if feeling pestoey. Up to you, no rules in the kitchen!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup
By Kevin Berardinelli
Difficulty: Medium
Prep Time: 30 Min
Cooking Time: 2-3 Hours

Description

I’ve never made chicken soup from scratch before, so I figured it was about time. Looking at a few different recipes online, it seems one can get as creative as desired and there is no way to really mess up – perfect guidelines for a first time recipe!

Ingredients

1 Whole Chicken
Chicken Stock
Baby Carrots (half a small bag or so)
Yukon Gold Potatoes (a few small ones)
Egg Noodles (1/2 lb or so)
1 Large Sweet Onion
Fresh Parsley
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Marjoram, Rosemary, Thyme, Garlic Powder, Salt, Fresh Ground Black Pepper (to taste)

Directions

1. Rinse off the whole chicken (make sure innards bag is removed from inside). Place whole chicken in large soup pan/pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a very low/slow simmer. Cook the whole chicken as slow as possible to keep tender.

2. When the chicken is mostly done, you have a couple options. The first option is to drain all the water and leave just the chicken – replacing the liquid with chicken stock after fat & bones are removed. The second option is to skim the fat off the top of the water and keep the chicken stock you have made, using that as your broth. Either way, you’ll have nice chicken flavor. I went with option #1 to start fresh and remove excess fat from the liquid.

3. Chop all the vegetables and potatoes and add to the pot of broth/stock. Keep on a low simmer. Keep in mind you can add whatever vegetables you want here – mushrooms, squash, peppers, celery, etc – you choose the combo that best fits your appetite!

4. Remove all the bones and fat/skin from the chicken and break the meat into small shreds and chunks. Put all the meat back in the pot.

5. Add all the spices, including fresh chopped parsley. Keep at a low simmer. You can control the thickness by adding more water if necessary, covering the pot, and/or turning up the heat a bit to steam some out.

6. Add the egg noodles when you think you have about 20-30 min left.

7. Keep stirring and on a low simmer. Add some parmesan cheese towards the end for the best flavor in the entire universe.

8. Garnish with fresh parsley leaf, fresh ground black pepper, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Serve with a cold glass of milk (duh!).

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 4-8 hours

Ingredients

2-3 lbs beef (boneless pot roast)
4-6 bacon strips
4 cloves garlic
1 onion
2 handfuls baby carrots
2 handfuls mushrooms
1-2 cups red wine
Herbs de provence
Fresh ground black pepper
Parsley
Salt

Directions

Lay 2-3 strips of bacon in the bottom of the crock pot with the minced garlic and onions (cut in 1/3″ wide rings). Place the beef (cut into 4 large slabs if desired) into the crock pot. Throw mushrooms and carrots on top. Pour in the red wine and add spice to the desired taste/smell. Cook on high in crock pot for 4-5 hours or low for 6-8 hours or until meat tender and carrots soft.

Enjoy with fresh buttermilk biscuits and whipped, buttery mashed potatoes on the side.

The Secret Sauce

Everyone needs a secret sauce, a blend of ingredients that when experienced, defeats all stress and evokes bliss.

Every palate is unique. The perfect combination of flavors is different for every person. The feelings evoked by a single bite may be bliss or miss, depending on a multitude of factors. As a result, every palate has its own “secret sauce”. This is that perfect combo that trumps everything.

For me, my secret sauce is exactly that – a sauce. My Nono (grandfather) has made hundreds of pans of his sauce over the years, filling his house with the smell of awesome and the aura of glee. It’s a perfect blend of vegetable and meat, spice and heat, tang and sweet. I, like so many, have taken his recipe to try and duplicate it, but to no avail. That’s a distinguishing characteristic of the secret sauce – it’s part sauce and part human. What makes it so great is that my Nono makes it and nobody else. The flavor can be closely duplicated, but the feelings and the experience as a whole cannot. I love the fact that it is made by him, he has been making it for so long, and it has made so many people full and happy over the years. That combination, with the flavor, makes me as happy as can be.

And so there’s a secret sauce of life; a secret sauce for personal delight. For each and every individual there is a unique combination of feeling and experience, not to be duplicated by any other individual, that defeats stress and evokes pure, inner bliss. Surely it could require some physical component such as a a place or a meal or a friend or a game, but it’s not about the food but the mood. The feeling and experience, like that which I own when having my Nono’s pasta sauce, is unique to me and is all I need. For you, maybe it’s Ragu. But it doesn’t matter. We need to know what our secret sauces are and how we can find them. Only then are the ingredients of the world used for the most genuine condition, the most fundamental of purposes, the being of happy.

Links

spaghetti squash with meat sauce and zucchini

Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce and Zucchini

Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 60-80 Minutes
Difficulty: Easy/Medium

Background
So my father has been telling me about his spaghetti squash revelation and now he’s finally (and thankfully) forced it upon me. Upon arrival to the train station for my return trip to DC, he shoved a nice sized spaghetti squash into my bag and sent some accompanying instructions later that night via email.

Spaghetti squash is very unique. It’s a vegetable but looks, feels, and even pretty much tastes like real spaghetti. It’s also quite healthy – only 75 calories per 8 cooked ounces and full of vitamins (folic acid, potassium, vitamin A, beta carotene). Check the Wikipedia article here.

Squash Prep & Baking
1. Wash the squash.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Cut the squash in half the long way. It’s tough to cut so use a sharp serrated knife but be very careful.
4. Scoop out the seeds and stringy innards into the garbage.
5. Place the squash halves face down onto a cookie sheet that is lined with a piece of aluminum foil.
6. Put the squash into the oven on a middle rack. It’ll take at least 50-60 min so now you should make your sauce/sides (see below).

Sauce & Side(s)
7. You can use any sauce you’d enjoy with regular spaghetti, and any sides too. I made a nice meat sauce with ground beef, garlic, sauteed onions, fresh tomatoes, and Italian seasoning (let me know if you want specific recipe).
8. For the side, I sliced a couple zucchinis, browned them in a frying pan with butter, salt, and ground black pepper.

Spaghetti Removal
9. The spaghetti squash should cook about an hour in the oven, or until a fork can break the outer skin and it feels almost like sticking a fork in a cooked potato. When done, let the squash sit and cool for about 20 minutes.
10. Holding the skin side of the squash in your hand (use pot holder or towel if still too warm), scrape out the strands of the inner squash, down to the harder outer skin. The strands should fall out nicely and look just like spaghetti strands. Scrape the spaghetti right into your plate.

Plating/Presentation
11. Put the meat sauce on top of the spaghetti. 
12. Surround the spaghetti in the dish with the zucchini.
13. Top with ground black pepper and lots of parmesan cheese, and garnish with fresh basil leaves…

…and don’t forget to pair with a nice glass of your favorite red wine and some great company! Enjoy!!!