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.

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!!!

homemade pesto tortellini with jerk chicken breast and fried red peppers

Homemade Pesto Tortellini with Jerk Chicken Breast and Fried Red Peppers
Prep/Cook Time: 1 Hour
Difficulty: Medium-Easy
Homemade Pesto Sauce
Garlic
Juice from 1 lemon
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese
Ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes
Directions: Combine all in food processor, drizzling in olive oil until desired consistency is reached.
Tortellini
Frozen Tortellini
Cherry Tomatoes
Directions: I buy the pasta frozen… follow directions on the packaging. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and set aside until plating.
Jerk Chicken Breast
Thin-cut chicken breast(s)
Cajun/jerk seasoning (Emeril’s Essence works great – make it or buy it)
Directions: Rub the spice on the chicken and press it in good. Use the excess spice. Grill on med-high heat. Alternatively, fry them on high heat in a pan on the stove in a little bit of olive oil. I used the same oil I used for frying the peppers…
Fried Red Peppers
Red Bell Pepper(s)
Directions: Slice peppers about 1/4″ thick and 2″ long. Fry in olive oil and a touch of salt until skin is black and peppers are relatively soft.
Mix the pesto with the drained tortellini in a big bowl/pan. Slice the chicken almost all the way through so it still stays together a bit. Plate as shown in picture with cherry tomatoes, leaf of fresh basil, fresh ground black pepper, and grated parmesan cheese as garnishes. Serve with lots more parmesan cheese.
Drink: Glass of red wine, ice cold Amstel Light, or glass of cold 2% milk. Holla.

three great flavors

I admit that I am seriously addicted to spices and condiments. It’s not that most food is bland to me, but I love the inclusion of and mixture of many flavors. Spices and sauces and condiments, to me, are the window to infinitesimal permutations of flavors that will never leave the palate bored.

That being said, I want to hit on three great raw spices/herbs. What makes a great spice? A great spice can either be very versatile, or so infrequent in use that when that time comes around to use it, you find yourself in a daze. A great spice is one that you can long for by just thinking of it. A great spice is one that you can associate with events, pictures, places, or feelings.
#1) Basil – The “king of herbs”. Literally, the word basil comes from the Greek “basileus” which means “king”. Although there are several varieties of basil (lemon, thai, etc) I tend to stick with sweet basil in my cooking. The scent is strong yet it does not overpower a dish (unless you want it to). Love me some pesto. Love me a caprese salad. Reminds me of walking through my grandfather’s front door to the kitchen where he always has a big italian feast ready. Great color and shape, and goes well with many dishes. And because bay leaves make me very mad, I’m glad I can eat a whole leaf of basil and be happy.

#2) Cumin – It’s biblical so it has that going for it (Isaiah 28:25). Such a distinct smell. Love it on chicken, love it in chili, love it with hot sauce, great in/on burgers, and unique in salads. Good sprinkled on grilled corn on the cob too. Reminds me of summer cookouts making our own fajitas on the back deck. A good spice to take out of the depths of your cupboard and place near the stove. You’ll find more opportunities to try it out in soups, salads, sandwiches, and other dishes. I’ve probably opened it up just to take a whiff more than any other spice.
#3) Saffron – Although not very well known and very expensive to buy, saffron is purely awesome. It takes a football field of flowers (50,000 – 75,000 flowers) to produce one pound of saffron. One pound of saffron costs at least $1000 (compare to $10-20 for dried basil). It reminds me of New Year’s Day where my grandfather makes huge pans of spanish rice (paella) for the family. I remember when my father bought a few ounces for my grandfather for Christmas and had the tin of saffron sitting in his trunk. Within 30 minutes, we could smell that great aroma in the car in the dead cold of winter. Pretty powerful stuff. Flavor is unreal in any rice dish and great with some seafood dishes as well.

Note: I know there are lots of cilantro haters out there but for me it gets a close honorable mention. Let this be my official declaration of awesomeness to cilantro, for its unique and lovely flavor.

These days, easy access to food should be considered a privilege. For that reason, it’s certainly a privilege to have easy access to a variety of foods with a wide variety of spice and herb options to boom up a nice dish. Thanks, Earth, for making nice flavors and letting me love them when I want and as much as I want.

pop’s baked ziti

Below are the instructions from my dad on how to make a huge pan of baked ziti. I’ve made baked ziti for the past few years for St. Calzone’s Day and it has been pretty tasty. But like many dishes my father has taught me to make, it’s one of those that gets infinitely close to tasting like his, but never gets there. He’ll say the same thing about his father’s (my Nono’s) dishes too.
As a note, this picture has three of my all-time favorite things: Baked ziti, beef cutlets, and sausage and pork. Apparently my Nono made some spider potatoes too which nobody can beat.

“I bought at Walmart what was called something like a huge disposable “Hefty brand professional catering pan”. It was $2.98. If you can’t find that, then from having checked the sizes and volumes of the pans that were available at Walmart, a large, deep turkey roasting pan is almost the same size (3/4 – 7/8 the size of the catering pan). I used 3.5 lbs of ziti, but I suggest you use 3 lbs. and it would be just right. I didn’t use Barilla and the Anna brand I used was fine, but Barilla just holds up better in the long run and suggest using Barilla. To mix in with the cooked pasta you will need the equivalent of 5 jars of sauce, then have another 1/2 jar reserved to spread on the top of all it before baking to make it look good (plus some grated cheese sprinkled on top), and then the remaining half jar plus a sixth jar to have heated and in a pan or bowl on the side for optional use when served.

I used Francesco Rinaldi Original jar sauce (was .99 a jar at Price Rite), but their Marinara is great too. You just need to add more grated cheese (mixed in after it’s all in the big tray pan) if using the Marina because original has grated cheese in it already and Marinara doesn’t. FR brand is great because they don’t use high fructose corn syrup in it. More on the sauce in a bit.

I also used 4 lbs. total of whole milk ricotta and almost 2 lbs. of shredded mozarella (used about 1 2/3 lbs. out of a 2 lb. bag). I didn’t put any mozzarella on top after it was all mixed in the pan because that always goes to waste by sticking to the foil after baking.

In preparation, the day before I baked 4 lbs. of hot italian sausage and used 3 lbs. low fat ground beef to make and bake meatballs. I sliced up the sausages lengthwise and then across. I used a potato masher to crush up/break up all the meatballs after they cooled and after removing the grease from the pan..

I then ate 2 sausages and 2 meatballs for a late lunch on Saturday while they were still hot. Mmm…they were sooo good! Highly recommended.

After the sausage and meatballs are all set, here’s my sequence of events including the very important special sauce process. This time I bought a package in the produce area of already peeled garlic cloves – there were approx. 30 but 20 or 40 would be just fine (a jar of already crushed or minced garlic would also be fine). While a fairly generous amount olive oil was heating in a VERY large pot, I used the mini processor to grind up all the garlic (not necessary if your using jar garlic) and then sauteed in the oil at a med temp making sure not to burn, just soften. Then I added all the cut up sausage and meatballs and sauteed it with the garlic till it was all heated through and sauteed a bit. Then I added the 5 jars of sauce, mixed and stirred a lot and let that heat on low on one of the smaller burners while I got another LARGE pot to cook the pasta ready with hot water from the faucet so that it would boil faster. I salted the water.

Once the sauce and meat was all heated through together, I put a small amount in the bottom of the tray pan and when the pasta was ready and drained I dumped the pasta in the tray pan from the colander (took 3 times to drain it all because my colander isn’t very big). Then I added a bit of olive oil to the pasta and mixed. Then I added all the ricotta, mozzarella and a little grated cheese (grated cheese amount depending on if original or marinara sauce used or how your judgement depending on the sauce you make/use). After all the cheeses and pasta are roughly mixed together, I added all of the sauce/meat mixture and mixed all together well. Once mixed, I spread the 1/2 jar of sauce on the top, sprinkled some grated cheese on top, covered with foil and then baked in pre-heated oven at 325 for approx 1 hour 15 min. Took it out when I was ready to leave for Nono’s house so I’d say it’s OK for it to sit for at least an hour – 1 1/2 hours before serving and it was still very warm.

With these approx. amounts of ingredients it fed close to 20 people on Sunday as the main meal (although I had an additional 1/2 lb. of cooked pasta but if you have a turkey pan instead of the catering pan, then the reduced amount of pasta should make it all just about fit. It’ll be close. If it’s not all fitting, take some of it out at the point you realize it and refrigerate for your use another day). After the feeding frenzy, along with Uncle Mark’s cutlets (were awesome), additional sausage and pork that Nono made and some spider potatoes (the extra meat items were not really necessary because there was a lot in the baked macaroni), there was still somewhere between 1/2 and 1/3 of the pan left over and that was without even having appetizers first). Everyone took some home and I too had enough that I took home for lunch on Monday and dinner Monday night and tonight!”

stomach rumblin, mind a tumblin

I love the feeling of going to the grocery store with not a clue what to get: Stomach rumblin’, mind a tumblin’. Fortunately, most grocery stores are designed in the same way, and I have to give Lord Henry von Supermarket the kudos for smart design.
Most grocery stores will have the produce section first. For someone with no idea what to make for dinner, I think this is ideal. It gives off the nice colors and smells and aura of freshness that get the mind thinking of some good combinations: potatoes and corn, tomato and basil, squash and pepper, onion and garlic, are some traditional ones. But then I usually take that all in and move right to the butcher. Meat is the simplest way to begin designing a dish. I like to think of flavors and meats, marinades and spices. If I’m not in a hurry, I’ll take a gander around the hot food and international food sections to gather up some more flavorful ideas as well. Then back to the butcher.
Last night I wanted something simple, flavorful, and mixable. I’m the type to take a little bit of everything on my plate onto each bite and kick it up with some sauce/condiment/spice before devouring. Here’s what came out:
Center cut boneless pork loin (cut about 3/4 inch thick)
Yellow squash
Sweet potato (California yams)
1. Make a spice rub for the pork. I used cajun blackening spice, fresh ground coarse black pepper, salt, rosemary, thyme, savory spice mix, and a bit more garlic powder. They say not to over-spice your meat? I disagree with that one. The only rules in cooking is to eat or share all that you make and to make sure the kitchen is clean before and after cooking.
2. Rub the spice into the pork, on both sides and edges too.
3. Chunk up the raw yams and boil. You’ll lose some sugars by boiling but you can always add it back in! When potatoes are cooked, drain the hot water, add a big chunk of butter, some brown sugar, and mix. Keep the skin in there, it’s the best part.
4. Chop the squash and cook in a frying pan in butter on med to med-high heat. You’ll get some good brown edges which have the best flavor.
5. Cook the pork. There should be some leftover butter in the pan after removing the squash, but if not, add some butter or a little bit of olive oil and heat it up. Toss the pork in and cook a few minutes on med-high heat. Flip and cook until middle is barely pink / white.
6. Frank’s Red Hot sauce is perfect for this and/or throw some applesauce on your plate too.
I served with a random on-sale cabernet sauvignon called Pepperwood Grove (2006, California). Don’t listen to wine rules, just get what you want. If you don’t want wine, 2% milk hits the spot.
Main advice here is you don’t always have to pre-plan. Try the walk-in approach and let your senses guide you to dinner preparation. Then you won’t be a rumblin’ no more.