Archive for: main dish
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.
Chicken and dumplings is classic American comfort food. It’s one of those dishes that you just want to curl up with on a cold winter night since it’s hearty, flavorful and can be very easy to make. If you’ve never had it, chicken and dumplings is a lot like chicken soup (very heavy on the chicken) with steamed biscuits floating in it. The chicken and broth portion of the dish already has a comforting, homey flavor to it and adding steamed biscuit dough makes the dish filling and lends a nice buttery flavor to everything.
This version of chicken and dumplings – and you should know that there are as many ways to make this dish as there are ways to make a chocolate chip cookie – is a quick one-dish meal that you can make in less than an hour from start to finish. I start with a whole rotisserie chicken and shred the meat. I make a chicken soup base using onions, carrots, celery, garlic and chicken stock (storebought, but homemade is good if you have it) and add the shredded chicken into it. I make homemade biscuit dough, drop it in small chunks into the boiling soup, then put the lid on the pot and cook everything until the biscuits are soft and tender.
I think that the homemade biscuit dough is the key to this dish. The finished dumplings are so buttery and flavorful, and they even have a bit of a flaky texture to them that you’re not going to get from a can of biscuit dough dropped into the soup. It’s worth noting that you’re not going to get the same kind of rich, buttery flavor from canned dough, either, since most are made with shortening. The dumplings will be done when they are cooked through and fluffy, no raw dough in the center; you will probably have to cut one open to double check and can cook the whole dish a few minutes longer if you need to. It reheats well, but is best fresh!
When I was a kid, macaroni and cheese was one of my favorite dinners. I suspect that there are lots of former kids out there who would say the exact same thing. Everyone has a different “type” of macaroni and cheese that they favor. I know some people who like it go be gooey, with strings of melted cheese coming off of every forkful. I know some people who like the boxed stuff, neon food coloring and all. Personally, I prefered – and still prefer – the kind of macaroni and cheese that was saucy, not gooey, with a good cheese flavor, like Stouffer’s frozen mac n’ cheese.
The only thing that I would change about the frozen type I used to scarf down would be to add a crispy topping to provide some additional contrast to the dish. I haven’t seen a frozen version that does such a thing, but my homemade macaroni and cheese certainly does. This baked macaroni and cheese is a variation on one of Mark Bittman’s recipes from the book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It starts with a roux (a mixture of butter and flour) that is used to thicken some milk. I add lots of grated, sharp cheddar cheese to that milk mixture before adding partially-cooked pasta. I rarely have macaroni on hand, so I tend to use cavatappi as a substitute and think that any tube-like pasta works well. I also add in some Parmesan cheese for flavor.
The finished macaroni and cheese is not quite as creamy as the kind I loved as a kid, but it has great flavor to it and I love the crispy topping. Fresh bread crumbs make the best top layer, but crispy panko breadcrumbs will work if you’re looking for more of an actual crunch. As for cheeses, sharp cheddar is always a favorite of mine, although mixes of cheese work well in this recipe, too. If you’re looking for something that is really gooey, try a blend of shredded cheeses that includes a really melty cheese, like swiss or a little mozzarella.
Chicken pot pie is comfort food, no doubt about it. As with all types of comfort food, everyone has their own way of making it – and there are tons of freezer-read options available that try and entice people not to make it themselves. Chicken pot pie is definitely worth making at home because it is so much better than the frozen pies you can buy and you can always customize it to suit your own tastes.
For me, chicken pot pie should be kind of like a very hearty, creamy chicken soup that happens to be in pie form. I don’t want it to be so thick that it slices like custard; my pie needs to be scooped out of the pie dish. I also don’t want the crust to overwhelm the pie; I use only a single top crust to cover my filling. Elise has an excellent chicken pot pie recipe, and I base my pie off of hers. The biggest change I make from her recipe is that I usually start with a rotisserie chicken and shred up the already cooked meat, rather than starting with raw chicken and making the stock for the pie myself. It’s very convenient this way, and it is a great use for leftover chicken if you have a lot to use up. I often go out and buy a chicken from the market right before I make a pot pie because I like a lot of chicken in mine and don’t usually have that much laying around as leftovers when I cook chicken at home!
My “secret” to pot pie is to use homemade pie crust for the top. It always comes out flaky and crispy, and it really doesn’t take very long to make it. I usually mix up the dough, chill it for only a few minutes while I cook the filling, and then roll it out before the pie goes into the oven. That said, it’s not necessary to use homemade pie dough. A sheet of puff pastry works well as a topper for this dish, too.
The filling for this pie is rich and creamy, with a consistency like a medium-thick gravy (thicker than I make gravy, thinner than the gravy you’ll find at your average diner). Its subtly spiced with thyme, which leaves lots of room for the flavor of the chicken to come out and shine. This recipe makes enough to fill up a deep dish pie plate and will definitely overfill a smaller one. You can use a casserole dish if you don’t have a smaller pie dish. If you must use a smaller pie plate, put the leftover filling into a ramekin, top with its own piece of puff pastry, and bake it off, too.