Here is the "cassoulet" that I made with one half of the bacon that we made a few weeks ago. This is not a traditional cassoulet by any stretch, lacking the French garlic sausage, tarbais beans and duck confit that are the hallmarks of the real deal. That said, this was a remarkably tasty dish that allowed for the use of a few meat scraps clogging the freezer (the Italian sausage and cooked chicken), and also helped me put a dent in the silly amount of Lentils du Puy I have in the pantry. It seems I can't pass by a box of them without tossing it into my shopping cart….it's a sickness I have.
Soups + Stews
Over the past year or so I've fallen into the habit of posting on Tuesdays and Fridays. I'm not entirely sure why, it just seemed to work out that way without too much thought. Sadly, that meant that I fell out of the habit of posting a Meatless Monday dish here, even though we have been incorporating more meatless meals into our weekly menus. Of course, I could just as easily post a Meatless Wednesday dish, but I do like the idea of dedicating a day each week to not just eat meatless, but to really recognize that fact, and if we're going to do that then I think Meatless Monday has a much nicer ring to it. Don't you?
Jasper White is a culinary icon here in the Northeast. He was one of a handful of chefs back in the 1980s who helped to elevate Boston's restaurant scene from 2 star to 5 star status. His fine dining restaurant, Jasper's, quickly became the pinnacle of seafood dining in the city. When he tired of the Michelin Star demands of his success, he closed Jasper's and became the Executive Chef of the famed Legal Seafoods group, helping them expand their offerings from stodgy fish and chip fare to a more modern, healthy take on all things from the sea.
These days Jasper is at the helm of his Summer Shack restaurant chain, family friendly joints that once again highlight his mastery of seafood, but this time stripped of all the pretense of his fine dining days. Suffice to say, Jasper White has become a trusted source for us in all matters fishy, and his recipes never…ever fail.
No, this isn't a belated Halloween post just uncovered from beneath the pile of crap on my desk. This is a soup I crafted out of two left over sugar pumpkins that received a last minute stay of execution from Jack Skellington himself. You see, this year we bought three smallish pumpkins for seeds and to be converted to Jack-O-Lanterns to display for the exactly ZERO kids that visit us for "Tricks or Treats" on Halloween night (I don't even know why we bother). I topped and cleaned out all three of the pumpkins, then carved one into a fearsome looking squat demon of a thing, the other two I set aside for the girls to carve. Sadly, they never got around to carving theirs (too busy costuming for their candy confiscation tour, I guess), so ferocious ghouls they were not to be.
Good…… because as long as you do this will be the easiest recipe you'll ever find here at Oui, Chef. Without a blender you'll be in a bit of a pickle, but with one you can have this delicious soup sitting in a bowl in front of you no more than 10 minutes after reading this post. As this is a chilled (or room temperature soup) there is no cooking involved, you simply toss the whole ingredient list into a blender and blitz all the goodies into silky submission. Taste to check for seasoning, make a few balancing adjustments, and you are home free.
It's been an interesting summer around here dinner-wise, with just three of us at the table most nights we've gotten pretty fluid with our meal planning. For the first time, four of the kids have had rather long-term commitments that took them away for a chunk of the summer. Grid is in Manhattan working an internship for a cool tech start-up. Peyton is off to a six week camp in upstate New York, Arthas did the People to People student ambassador thing for three weeks, travelling to Greece and Italy, and Boris huffed his way through a month long NOLS course hiking and rafting in Idaho.
Cooking for the three of us remaining homebodies has meant that a late afternoon stop at the farm stand, or a serious pre-meal craving could easily inform what hit the table on any given night. Advanced meal planning has taken a back seat to spontaneity in a way that's just plain hard to manage when you're cooking for a family of seven.
One of the lessons I return to again and again when teaching Cooking Matters courses, is the idea of planning for leftovers. One way to do so is to make large batches of certain foods say on a Sunday for the express purpose of feeding the family in the subsequent days. Another way of looking at leftovers is to have a few recipes (or more accurately, techniques and concepts) that you can readily turn to when you find your fridge full of leftovers that you hadn't necessarily counted on.
Unlike years past where we've cooked steaks, ribs and lobsters for our 4th of July feast, this year we planned to keep things a little simpler (but no less delicious), by grilling up some burgers and dogs, and steaming up some fresh ears of corn for our crowd.
Except, in the bustle and excitement of our 4th of July celebrations (also my sister's birthday!), I totally forgot about the corn and it sat chilling in bags in our basement while the party raged on above.
As much as I've enjoyed pho over the years, up until now I'd never made it myself. Now that I've seen first hand how easy and truly delicious this Asian soup can be when made at home, I certainly won't be waiting years before making it again.
The other day when I was at my butcher shop buying the skirt steak for our last post, I bought a little extra planning to toss it in the fridge after cooking and slicing it a few days later to use in this pho. As I always share with my students, cooking extra one day with a planned left-over meal in mind is smart weeknight meal planning, and with a recipe like this pho in your repertoire, it's a tasty plan as well. Left-over pork, shrimp or chicken would all be awesome in this dish.
A few weeks back I cooked a dish very similar to this for a Cooking Matters class I was teaching in Charlestown. The theme for the week was how to incorporate more vegetables in our cooking, and it was a recipe I hadn't yet taught to a class and so was excited to try it. My friend, and class coordinator extraordinaire, Michelle brought along a sweet potato which wasn't called for, but really added to the dish….it was awesome, and all of our students raved about it.