Archive for the ‘Savory Main Dishes’ Category
An Italian restaurant that is not too far from my neighborhood makes a pizza that they call The GCOP. This pizza may have a funny name, but it has a lot of fans. The GCOP stands for goat cheese, caramelized onions and pancetta. I’ve never been sure whether the “c” in the name comes from the cheese or the caramelized onions, but one thing I am sure of is that this is a fantastic combination of flavors for a pizza to have.
Naturally, I wanted to give this pizza a try in my own kitchen so that I could make it any time I was in the mood for a slice – or any time that I had all of the ingredients available and ready to go! I started with my favorite pizza crust recipe. The recipe uses a technique that was developed by America’s Test Kitchen. It produces a light crust with just the right combination of chewy interior and crisp exterior in a very short period of time – and it is all done in a food processor. I definitely recommend this crust, but you can use these toppings with another dough recipe if you have a favorite.
Pancetta is frequently known as Italian bacon. It is cured with salt and seasoned with pepper and other spices, but it is not smoked like American bacon is. Pancetta is typically sold in sausage-like logs, and it can be cut thick or thin, in rounds or in strips, depending on what you want to do with it. In this case, I cooked some small cubes of pancetta in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil until they were crispy and removed them to a paper towel to dry. Then, I added the my onions (and some butter, but you don’t need to add extra) to the fat left in the pan and caramelized them over a medium heat. I put a very small amount of marinara sauce on my dough, topped it generously with pancetta and onions, and then sprinkled on some goat cheese and a little shredded mozzarella. It isn’t exactly like what I had in the restaurant, but it was a great way to top a pizza. The salty cheese melds well with the slightly salty, porky pancetta and the sweet onions, and the tomato sauce adds some extra sweetness and a nice backdrop that brings everything together.
The amounts given below are approximate, as you can add as much or as little of these elements to your pizzas as you wish. They can all be easily doubled, too, if you’re doing a big batch. Feel free to add some red pepper flakes for heat or omit the mozzarella if you want more goat cheese, too.
Whether you’re working with freshly roasted, leftover-from-Thanksgiving turkey or simply sliced turkey meat from your neighborhood deli counter, there is no better use for it than being put into a turkey club sandwich. A club sandwich consists of layers of bread, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon and turkey, with a little bit of mayonnaise to hold it all together. It’s a great combination and a very impressive sandwich the way it’s usually served: with three layers stretching far above the plate.
Although club sandwiches are most often associated with delis and diners, they are great sandwiches to make at home. The components are all things that we often have in our kitchens already (you keep bacon on hand, don’t you?). Freshly roasted, sliced turkey is going to make the very best sandwich so the day after Thanksgiving is the perfect day to make one. That said, go for good quality deli meat and you can still make this delicious sandwich any day of the year.
There aren’t any tricks to making this sandwich perfectly as long as you use good quality ingredients and fresh, crispy toast. The only thing you can do to improve on that is to try and get your bacon as flat and crispy as possible, so it fits into the sandwich easily and adds crunchy contrast as well as flavor. Get thicker bacon if you can get it. Starting your bacon in a cold pan will help keep it relatively flat while you cook it, and in just a few minutes you’ll have perfect bacon for your perfect turkey club.
When you think of pesto, you probably think of a basil-heavy green sauce made with pine nuts and garlic. This is indeed a pesto, and it is probably the most common type of pesto out there. What you might not know is that these ingredients do not define “pesto.” The name “pesto” means “to crush” and it refers to the fact that nuts, herbs and spices are ground up (often with a mortar and pestle) to make a sauce. You can use all kinds of different ingredients to make a flavorful pesto sauce to top off pasta, pork, chicken or even to simply serve with crostini as a snack.
This particular pesto uses walnuts where other pestos might use pine nuts. Walnuts are a good choice for a pesto because they have a slightly sweet, nutty taste to them ( I find pine nuts often to be on the bitter side) and a really nice buttery flavor that melds well with the olive oil in the pesto. The walnuts are combined with a sharp, dry cheddar
as well as shallots, salt, pepper, vinegar, mustard and olive oil. Don’t use a yellow cheddar for this pesto, as it has the wrong texture and flavor. If you can’t find a good dry, white cheddar, use a harder cheese like Parmesan instead and you’ll still get great results. The pesto is the walnut-colored mixture pictured below, with some basil pesto for contrast.
In addition to dessert, I do eat dinner once in a while and I generally like things to be nice and easy to make on any given weeknight. I’m a big fan of enchiladas, but they’re one of those dishes that I never really tried to make at home because they seemed like they’d be time consuming. Fortunately, they’re not at all difficult to make and the homemade versions taste better than many of the restaurant versions I’ve tried (and were at least as satisfying as some of the best I’ve had). I also like the fact that you can play around with the filling for these enchiladas to come up with a combination that suits your tasted, whether you like them meatier or cheesier.
I used chicken for these enchiladas. They start out with a spicy tomato-based sauce that is based on an Emeril Lagasse recipe that I like. I make it a little bit spicier, but feel free to go with the original if you like it mild. The sauce is cooked in a saucepan to thicken it a bit. For the filling, you can either poach some chicken, use leftover chicken or go out and buy an inexpensive rotisserie chicken to start. The meat is shredded and mixed with some of the sauce, then wrapped in corn tortillas and packed into a big 9×13-inch pan to be covered with cheese and more sauce, then baked until everything comes together.
This recipe makes a pretty big batch, but is easy to double if you need to feed a bigger crowd. Don’t worry about trying to halve it for smaller servings because it makes great leftovers. I serve this with guacamole and sour cream, and always put out some tortilla chips to scoop any of the filling that falls out onto the plate as you eat.
Lasagna is one of those dishes that seems like it is going to be tricky and time consuming to make, but is actually quite easy to prepare. It makes a big batch, so it is a great dish to make to feed a crowd, but it is also a good option for a smaller group, since you can slice it up and freeze portions, ready to reheat a few days or weeks down the line for a quick (yet still homemade) dinner!
I’m not a big fan of lasagnas that go overboard with cheese. Instead, I prefer lasagnas that have a good balance of meat, veggies and spices in them to keep them interesting. This lasagna is a good example, as it incorporates ground beef, spinach, mushrooms, onions and garlic into it. It isn’t heavy on cheese, although it does use ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, which I think keeps it a little lighter and a little healthier than some other recipes. I cheated a little bit and used good quality jarred marinara sauce as a base, as well as no-boil lasagna noodles, which saved on prep time.
About 1 hour after you start cooking, you’ll be ready to sit down to eat. The sauce for this lasagna is meaty and flavorful, with lots of nice garlic flavor and a hint of spice from the red pepper flakes. Add in more pepper when you’re preparing the sauce if you like things spicier. You can actually taste the spinach in the spinach filling because the ricotta and parmesan cheese that it is mixed in with don’t overwhelm it. Mozzarella on top, of course, adds a classic lasagna look to everything.