Sunday Chefs – Holiday Edition

My dad was a Sunday Chef. He discovered a love of cooking in his 40’s after his doctor told him to find a hobby to deal with his stress. He tried model ship making but that didn’t last long. His path to a great Sunday Chef was not without its pitfalls. Our family will never stop laughing about the 18 Sundays in a row we had Fettuccine Alfredo until he got it right and then never made it again or the French apple chicken he only made for me on my birthday because he knew it was my favorite but the smell of the apples and onions cooking together always made him feel ill. And none of us will ever forget the family attempt at making Limoncello!  It was obvious we were Irish/Scottish and not Italian, but a fabulous memory all the same.

Every Sunday was an event… all day experiments of food from all over the world. Some Sundays just one course, other Sunday’s five or six. My husband jokingly tells me this is why he married me so he could keep coming to Sunday Dinner. My father passed on his love of cooking to his son-in-laws. My brother-in-law was fully entrenched at a young age and he continues to amaze us. Christmas Day is his show! This year was an amazing display of five courses and not one them disappointed.

When my husband and I got engaged my dad gifted my future husband with a cookbook and a welcome to the Sunday Chefs Club. Christmas Eve is his show! He makes a massive pot of marinara sauce. This years included 14 shelled lobsters, mussels, shrimp and little necks!  It was amazing.

I love to cook, but I love the tradition that these wonderful men have chosen to embrace and follow in the footsteps of my amazing father. My children are growing up with this wonderful tradition and the people that my daughters choose to marry will be getting cookbooks. I am sure he is smiling and toasting us with a glass of Limoncello!

Marry someone who knows how cook. Looks go away but hunger doesn’t …. Unknown

Cooking Trick – Soaking Fish or Shrimp in Milk

My mother Patsy (she hates that name) taught me this trick and it has helped so much over the years. We have all experienced how when you get the fish home from the market sometimes it smells a little fishy. I always smell the fish before I buy it , but occasionally when I get home it still smells. I am not talking, time to throw it out fishy, just a little.

Well if you put it in a bowl and add cold milk, cover it and let it sit in the fridge for about a half hour the smell goes away. Then just rinse it off, pat it dry and cook as you normally wood. I have used this trick on haddock, cod, swordfish and shrimp. I have never tried it with salmon or anything else.

I don’t know why it works, but it does!

Chicken Cacciatore

I was feeling nostalgic today and missing my late father. This dish always reminds me of him. Everyone should know how to make a good Cacciatore!

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food – Hippocrates

  • 4 Chicken Breasts (Bone In – chicken thighs or even boneless breast could be used to)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • One red bell Pepper, chopped
  • One small onion, chopped
  • One shallot, chopped
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (No salt added)
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 cup good white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Parmesan rind – about a tablespoon equivalent (whole)
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. pasta (pasta of your choice depending on allergies – gluten free works great here)

Heat a deep, heavy pot over medium heat until very hot. Add olive oil and chicken breasts. Brown for about 4 minutes or until the chicken releases from the bottom of the pan. If it is still stuck, give it a few more minutes. Just leave it, do not mess with it. Flip the chicken and repeat on the other side.

Remove the chicken from the pot and put aside. Now add the onions, shallots, and peppers to the pot. Saute’ until onions are translucent. Now add the mushrooms and garlic and cook a few minutes more.

Add the wine, broth, tomatoes, salt, pepper, Parmesan rind and red pepper flakes.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the chicken back to the pot, cover and simmer for at least an hour. Some will say quicker, but I think the extra time makes all the difference. Add more wine or chicken broth if needed.

Serve over pasta (regular or gluten free) with some crusty bread.

Allergens: Dairy

The Best Beef Stew

My kids Aunt Pam is a great cook and you will see a lot of her recipes here. I wish I had her talent. She is very brave and will try anything.  I am not so brave, but I will gladly copy her tried and true recipes and allow her to have all the glory.

The people who give your their food give you their heart – Cesar Chavez

img_6104

  • 5 lbs. sirloin tips (sometimes I use leftover roast beef cut into chunks and it is great)
  • 1 10z. package white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon flour (or corn starch to make it gluten free)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large can tomato sauce (i.e. Hunt’s)
  • 1 large turnip (I prefer 1 small)
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 6 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced

In large, heavy pot, brown sirloin tips, add mushrooms and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook a few minutes more. Add flour (or corn startch) and mix well. Pour water over the beef mixture.  Add the can of tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and turnips.  If you are gluten free, leave out the flour and add a little cornstarch instead. Add more water and salt and pepper to taste.  I like to simmer for a few hours.

img_6113

YOU DEFINITELY NEED SOME BREAD TO GO WITH THIS STEW!

 

Allergens: Carrots, Gluten (unless switch flour for corn starch)

Perfect Roast Chicken

I spoke before of the fact that you need to learn how to cook three things in order to survive….one good breakfast, one good lunch and one good dinner.  Well this is the dinner. Roast Chicken is something I can make and be confident of.  Everyone is always so impressed and it is really quite easy.  Plus you can also make a great chicken soup after, which I will show you later. Here is a simple version for you to try….

You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces. Just good food from fresh ingredients – Julia Child

Ingredients:

  • Roaster Chicken 7-8 lbs.
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • Softened butter
  • Lemon

Preheat the over to 375 degrees F. Remover the giblets (I have to admit, I did leave these in one time and the whole meal was ruined. I believe more people have done it than they care to admit). Rinse the chicken inside and out. Pat dry with a paper towel. Put the chicken in a heavy duty roaster pan on a rack.

DSC05587

Salt and pepper the chicken well, inside and out. Loosen the skin on the breasts and insert some lemon slices under it.

DSC05599

Add the remaining lemon (cut up) into the cavity.  Rub the softened butter all over the chicken (Messy, but worth it!). Add some water to the bottom of the pan, (this helps with broth for soup later on).


DSC05607

Cook for approximately 2 hours until juices run clear when the leg is cut or pulled on. (Internal temperature should be app. 165 degrees at breast and 175 degrees at thigh).

I usually shoot for 170 degrees at the breast, but that is my preference.   Let the chicken sit for a bit before cutting into it. Everyone in my family loves this and that is very hard to do with five picky eaters. Serve with rice or potatoes and some seasonal vegetables. Great for leftovers also
roast chicken

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Corned Beef and Cabbage is that once a year meal I think I don’t like and then I make it and it’s great! I think the problem is, it’s not the prettiest meal to make. But it wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day in this Irish House without it.

 

May you be in heaven a full half hour before the devil knows your dead – Irish Blessing

 

Ingredients: 

  • Corned Beef- 3-4 lbs in Brine with spices included
  • 4 potatoes, quartered
  • 5 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • One large onion
  • 1 medium size green cabbage
  • Mustard (optional)

Put the corned beef in a large heavy pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Drain off the water and cover it again with cold water. My friend Kristen gave me this tip and I don’t know what I did before. It takes a lot of the salt out. Add the seasoning packet. Bring to a boil again and then lower temperature and simmer for about 2 hours.

Add potatoes, carrots and onions. Bring to a boil again, then lower to simmer for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add the cabbage and cook for about another 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve warm. Enjoy!

Just remember….everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

Additions: Mustard for Corned Beef

Allergens: Gluten Free, Nut free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Peanut Free, Soy free

Spinach, Lemon and Bacon Risotto

My first attempt at Risotto! Do you believe it? I have always been a big fan, but very intimidated to make it. It was so worth it.

No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing – Julia Child

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
  • 4 cups of low-salt chicken broth (plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup for the end)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
  • Zest of the lemon
  • 1 cup of cooked chicken (chopped)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 3-4 cups of fresh spinach
  • 1 roasted shallot (chopped)
  • 1/2 -3/4 cups of freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large, heavy, oven-safe pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.

Add the onions and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook for about 3 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add the lemon juice and 4 cups of the chicken broth. Stirring frequently, bring to a boil. Cover the pot and put in the oven for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and return to stove top over medium-low heat. Now add the spinach, chicken and roasted shallots and remaining chicken broth. Stir for about 2 minutes (until spinach is wilted). Add more broth if needed. Add the bacon, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese and stir until creamy.

Garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

 

Allergens: Dairy

 

Carbonara

When the recipe card is as old and worn as this one, you know it’s good. Not even sure where I got the recipe, but it is a staple in this house. At my bridal shower, oh so many years ago, the guests all brought me a recipe, it might be from there. This is the ultimate pantry meal.

I split this recipe in two and make half with regular pasta and half with gluten free to accommodate my whole family. It is great both ways!

Life is a combination of Magic and Pasta – Federico Fellini

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 lb. spaghetti, cooked (regular or gluten free)
  • 1/3 lb. bacon
  • 4 or 5 cloves garlic – chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper (I like it spicy, so I add a little more)
  • 1/2 cup white wine or chicken stock
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup boiling pasta water
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Coarse salt and pepper

Cook pasta Al Dente.

In large skillet over medium high heat. Saute bacon until it browns. Remove bacon and put aside. Drain the bacon oil and then add two tbsp. olive oil, garlic and red pepper. Saute two minutes. Add wine and reduce by half.

Beat eggs vigorously and stir in a ladle of pasta water. Drain the pasta and to bacon pan and remove from heat. Add egg mixture, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper and toss until well combined and cheese has melted. Serve with extra cheese.

Allergens: Dairy, Egg, Wheat (can make gluten free)

Sharing the Sunday Fun

 

I just love that my family is embracing all this. My sister and her husband have always made Sunday Dinners a priority and I have been so jealous. With the loss of our father, who was such a fabulous cook, I feel that my children have been missing out on this wonderful tradition. My brother-in-law made this very impressive Ginger Swordfish on Sunday and he got the recipe from the fabulous website Yummly. I will need to make this soon. Pair it with a great wine and you are good to go!

My hope is for family and friends to share their stories of fun Sunday Dinners …the good, the bad and the ugly! Thank you Kathy and Ron, Hopefully this is the first of many….

Swordfish courtesy of Snug Harbor Fish Company. Wine courtesy of Snug Harbor Wine Company. 

A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal – Pat Conroy

 

 

Banana Bread

There are days when cooking is just not my thing and the first time I made banana bread was one of them. Even now…… twenty five years later, I still feel the sting of humiliation.  I was newly married and wanted to make it for my husband.  My sister had given me one of those homemade cookbooks, that you buy at church fairs and school fundraisers, and it had a recipe I thought I would try.  As I was reading it, even I thought maybe 5 tbsp. of baking powder was a little much, but hey, what did I know?  I am alone in my apartment experimenting and at the exact moment I add the baking powder, it begins to rise like Mt. Vesuvius into some strange, freaking, elementary school science project! As it overflows the bowl, onto the counter and then the floor, the front door opens and who walks in… my husband and is brother!  I must have looked like a deer in the headlights, because they saw their prey and pounced. These are the two most hilarious, sarcastic men I know and they had a field day.  This is one of the many cooking disaster stories that they tell and even I have to say, if it was anyone else but me, it would be hysterical.

After all these years, and lots of practice, I make a great banana bread and they both will agree.

Don’t be afraid to take whisks – Unknown

Banana Bread

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed

DSC05819

The bananas need to be ripe….not pretty, just over ripe.  I actually freeze the bananas, so I always have some available.  The skin will turn black, but they are perfect inside.

DSC05812

Sift all dry ingredients. (Hint: if you don’t have a sifter, use a whisk and very carefully whisk the dry ingredients together).

DSC05821

Add in all the other ingredients.

DSC05827

Pour into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for at least an hour.  Check with toothpick and if it comes out clean, it is done.

DSC05830

Allergens: Eggs, Gluten