Monday, April 20, 2009

Ham Tetrazzini

My older brother and I were rather picky eaters. I won't lie. My mother wanted to be much more adventurous than we would allow her to be. (I particularly remember one fateful Christmas when my Mother cooked up Aebelskivers instead of the customary cinnamon rolls. We were not very appreciative of her efforts, much to my shame. Poor Mom...)

Ham Tetrazzini, or "Ham Tet" as we have come to call it, is one thing that would be sure to please. It's a little like pasta carbonara, with salty ham and creamy sauce, but it uses kid-friendly cheddar and condensed soup. Now that I'm the cook in my own home, it's a staple of the recipe box that definitely serves me well in a pinch. Plus, I always have the ingredients on hand -- frozen peas, dried pasta, canned soup, frozen diced ham -- making it that much easier to whip it up in a pinch!

Ham Tetrazzini

1 lb. dried pasta, any shape (my favorites are farfalle (bowties), shells, and campanelle)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup diced ham
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (two big handfulls or so)
salt and pepper
1/2 - 1 c. frozen peas (optional but recommended)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
In large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent.
Add ham, and cook until slightly browned.
Stir in soup and milk.
Add cheese, salt and pepper. Let simmer until sauce is thickened. Add peas, if desired and let simmer until peas are heated through.
Toss with pasta and serve.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Chicken Stock Tutorial

Chicken stock is a basic in pretty much every kitchen, and homemade is always the best.
Follow these simple steps to make your own.

bones of 1 or 2 chickens
8 - 16 c. water
1 medium onion
2 medium carrots
2 stalks celery
15 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf


Clean bones of as much fat as you can. Place in bottom of large stock pot and cover with water. Heat on high until mixture doesn't quite come to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour and 15 min. Try not to let the mixture boil. Fat from the chicken will rise to the surface and you can skim it off as you go.

While you are waiting, prepare the veggies. Quarter the onion and cut the celery and carrot into large pieces. The vegetables will simmer with the broth for a long time, so don't make the pieces too small.

After the stock has simmered for an hour and 15 min., Add in veggies, peppercorns and bay leaf. Let the stock and veggies simmer for 45 minutes more. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

At this point your stock is ready to use, but you can also put it in the refrigerator and skim off any additional fat that rises to the top as it congeals.

A few tips:

* If you don't buy bone-in chicken very often (I don't really ever...), get a rotisserie chicken from the store. Strip the meat and you can use it for salads or soups. Save the bones for making stock.

*You can use the skin of the rotisserie chicken, too. And don't chuck the wings, just toss them in skin and all.

*Bones can be saved in the freezer until you are ready/have enough to make stock.

* Adding a few whole cloves to the stock lends a richer, more complex flavor. (It won't make your stock taste like spice cake, I promise.)

* To store stock for a long while, freeze it in ice cube trays. When you need some stock, or want to add some extra flavor to a dish, just pop one out! (Though I would recommend freezing them in the trays and then transferring to a ziplock bag to avoid freezer burn.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oven-Puff Pancake

Our little family will never be accused of not liking pancakes. I am always on the lookout for fun ways to make them.

Some, like me, call these "German Pancakes". Some, like P, call them "Swedish Pancakes". (Though I am loathe to inform him that Swedish Pancakes are flat and floppy, much like crepes or blini.) I have also heard them called "Dutch Babies". I've settled on the term "Oven-Puff" -- being descriptive of the pancake, not its origins-- in an attempt to avoid taking sides.

Whatever you call them, they're a staple at our house on nights when chopping and sauteing don't appeal.

Oven-Puff Pancake

1/2 c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. butter

Heat oven to 425. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except butter. Beat with a wire whisk until smooth.
Place butter in 9" pie plate or cake round and melt in oven until butter sizzles (2-4 min.)
Remove pan from oven and tilt to coat with butter.
Immediately pour batter into hot pan and return to oven.
Bake for 14-18 min.

There are many ways to top this pancake. Traditionalists favor a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. I like maple or fruit syrup (Mmm... boysenberry) or a shake of cinnamon sugar.

We make a double batch and do two pans at a time. A very quick weeknight supper. (I suppose you could have them for breakfast, too, but we don't.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Balsamic Roasted Pork

Pork Roast was on sale at the store, and I was feeling spunky. I found this recipe on and gave it a try.

We saved enough to send some home with my Mom, who had just returned from a trip that had been something of a nightmare... It was, by her account, love at first bite.

She has since requested this dish at every opportunity, and I am happy to oblige, as I love it, too. It's lovely and moist. It has a little hint of heat from the steak seasoning, and a tang from the balsamic.

Balsamic Roasted Pork

2 Tbsp. Montreal Steak seasoning (McCormack)
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar (high quality, please!)
1/2 c. olive oil
2 lb. boneless pork roast or pork loin

Dissove steak seasoning in balsamic vinegar, then stir in olive oil. Place pork and marinade in ziplock bag and let marinate at least two hours (overnight is best).
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350. Place pork and marinade in glass baking dish. Bake 1 hour, basting occasionally, until pork reaches internal temp of 145.
Let roast rest 10 minutes or so before slicing.

Serve with roasted root veggies. I like to toss potato, onion and carrot chunks in a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with the steak seasoning -- or coat them in a little of the marinade-- and stick them in the oven alongside the roast. Turn them a couple times and pull them out when they are tender.