Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday Supper: Italian Style Pot Roast

I have to admit- I've been feeling a bit like I've cheated you. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. I was young and naive in the world of Pretty in Pork. You may recall, if you've been here since the beginning, that my very first post was regarding pot roast. It was a delicious pot roast, but I'll be honest, it was a bit of a cop out being that I used a jar of basting liquid instead of making it from scratch. So alas, I've decided to redeem myself, and redeem myself did I ever! I will go ahead and toot my own horn and tell you that I made the most delicious pot roast for a lovely Sunday supper at the farmhouse this past weekend. It was the perfect slow cooked meal on an even more perfect fall Sunday.

Now, please don't judge this dish by the ingredients. It calls for golden raisins and pine nuts- I know, weird right? Or so I thought. I don't typically eat raisins. It's not that I don't like them, its just that it makes me feel like I'm 4 years old and in Kindergarten again (which I guess, once in a while, isn't a bad thing). And pine nuts- well I've only heard of them in pesto sauce, which I don't particularly love. So, needless to say, I was a little hesitant. But, like me, don't let the raisins and pine nuts fool you. It seems strange to say, but the raisins give the slightest bit of sweetness to the cooking liquid and ultimately to the meat and I promise you, it's so good! And the pine nuts cook till they are a bit soft so the texture is actually a nice un-crunchy compliment to the rest of the dish. All in all, the dish was absolutely to die for. This pot roast is definitely going down in my "It's Sunday and I feel like a yummy, hearty, slow-cooked, cozy comfort food" book.

Italian Style Pot Roast

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 3lb chuck roast
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 yellow onion, finely minced
1 carrot, peeled and finely minced
1 stalk celery, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28 oz can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped, liquid reserved
2 cups red wine
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter with olive oil in a dutch oven over high heat. Season the roast with salt and pepper and add to the pot. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side, until browned. Transfer meat to a plate. Discard all but 2 tbsp of the oil from the pot. Add onion, carrot, celery and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in garlic. Add tomatoes and reserved juices and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add meat, raisins, and pine nuts to pot, cover and bake for 2 hours until meat is tender, turning pot every 30 minutes or so to ensure even cooking.

Remove meat from oven and skim away and discard any of the fat that has risen to the top. Cook the liquid over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until thickened. Transfer meat to a cutting board and cut into thin slices. Arrange on a warm serving platter and spoon sauce over top.

Modern Housewife tips:
1. I added 1 8oz package of mushrooms. I let them cook about 2 to 3 minutes before adding the tomatoes.
2. This recipe calls for finely mincing the veggies but I love all of these veggies and think next time I'll try chopping them into larger bits so that I get more of the taste of the veggies with each bite.
3. I served the post roast along with garlic mashed potatoes which I threw together about 15 minutes before I took the roast out of the oven.
4. The chuck roast was good and I think is the classic meat for pot roasts but next time I might try a leaner cut of beef such as a top round roast. The chuck tended to be more fatty than I like.

Recipe Adapted from The Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Cookbook

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Having Fun with Furniture (but don't worry- food is still my first love!)

ALERT: I'm about to veer away from the world of food for just a moment because I HAVE to tell you about my latest project. But, if you embrace your modern housewife role as I do then hopefully you'll find this inspiring.

Now that I'm a homeowner, I have a new found urge to do anything and everything I can myself. Assuming that all works out favorably, I'm finding that we can save lots of money and I actually found it to be a fun, productive way to spend a Sunday. My latest pride and joy is my first attempt at furniture refinishing.

We were in desperate need of a dresser and I figured, rather than paying almost $1000 for a new beautifully crafted dresser, I'd give a shot at updating one that wasn't quite as beautiful. I found this used dresser for $150 at a consignment store in Princeton.

The green drawers and reddish hued stain wasn't exactly cutting it so I took a trip to Home Depot, picked up an electric sander and some stain, and spent the following Sunday afternoon in the garage hard at work. I have to say, I'm pretty darn proud of the finished product and am excited to find my next project!

My most favorite part are the super cute mix and match crystal knobs I found at Anthropologie. Unfortunately, its hard to see in the photo but they are all different shapes and add a cute, quirkiness factor to the dresser that fits our little farmhouse so perfectly.

Thanks for baring with me and allowing me to share a new found love with you. Be back soon with a yummy, perfect Sunday supper recipe.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall at the Farmhouse: Savory Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding

As usual, I am never happy to see the weekend come and go, but I have to say I am particularly sad to see this weekend go. I had such a great weekend at the farmhouse! An old friend of mine, the original Jersey girl, came down with her hubby on Saturday night and we had a great night catching up over wine and some yummy food. I'll admit, I'm paying for it a little today, hence the photo of the Phat Lady to you're right (which may actually be the absolute best hangover cure known to man) but it was all worth it, as it usually is! I haven't seen my Jersey girl in quite some time, but we picked up right where we left off. There was plenty of laughter, even some touching moments, and it made me really happy to be an east coast resident again.

My girl is vegetarian and as you already know, I love fall vegetables, so I took the challenge of cooking for a vegetarian as the perfect opportunity to make a savory bread pudding. I love love love sweet bread pudding and have wanted to make it before, but for some reason I thought it was going to be much harder. I stumbled upon this recipe for butternut squash and cheddar bread pudding and so I figured I had to go for it. It sounded absolutely perfect for the occasion- delicious seasonal Jersey fresh squash and hearty enough to make a meal for my favorite all veggie loving friend. And, I was completely wrong, it wasn't hard at all! It took some work but nothing a modern housewife like yourself can't handle! 

Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding

1 large butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 6 cups)
3 tbsps olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt plus more for sprinkling
7 large eggs
2 1/4 cups half and half
6 tbsp dry white wine
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 day old baguette (do not remove crust), cut into 1 inch cubes (about 10 cups)
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4 large)
2 bunches kale (I actually used spinach which was a great choice!!)
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash with 1 tbsp oil on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt; bake until squash is tender, turning occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add half and half, wine, mustard, and 1 1/2 tsps salt; whisk to blend. Add baguette pieces and fold gently into egg mixture. Let soak 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add shallots and saute until soft, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add kale (or spinach), cover and cook 2 minutes. Uncover and stir until kale is wilted but still bright green, about 5 minutes.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter 13x9x2 inch baking dish. Using slotted spoon, transfer half of bread from egg mixture to prepared baking dish, arranging to cover most of dish. Spoon half of kale over bread. Spoon half of squash over bread and kale; sprinkle with half of cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, kale, squash, and cheese. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread pudding. 

Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, bake uncovered until custard is set and bread feels springy to touch, about 20 minutes longer. Preheat broiler; broil until cheese browns slightly, about 2 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and serve.  

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit November 2009

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall at the Farmhouse: Cornbread Stuffed Cornish Game Hens with Roasted Root Vegetables

I have to tell you that I had the most fabulous weekend! My mama came down to visit for the weekend while the hubs was away on business. We did a whole bunch of antiquing and went to a whole lot of thrift stores. I even stumbled upon a gorgeous vintage faux fur leopard print double breasted coat- something I've been pining for, for at least the last year or two- all thanks to the mama! I gotta tell you, the girl knows how to shop when it comes to re-sale shopping! I can remember being a kid and hating when she dragged me to every garage sale and every antique shop. Funny thing is- the tables have turned! I dragged her to every antique, resale, or thrift store I could find this weekend. And we had the most fun along the way!

Maybe the best moment of the weekend (it's tough to choose because there were so many great moments!) was when we made a fabulous fall dinner at the farmhouse together. We chopped, cooked, chatted, drank plenty of wine, and even had The Golden Girls playing in the background. I don't think it gets any better! The weather was cool, crisp, and sunny and I was craving Fall flavors so we searched for a yummy fall recipe. We stumbled upon this dish on my Epicurious app on the ever trusty iphone and it was just what the doctor ordered.

Chicken isn't my favorite protein, but I love Cornish hens. They have more dark meat and are slightly richer in flavor, but still so much like chicken. I absolutely die for cornbread and stuffing so when this recipe called for cornbread stuffing- put a fork in me! I was done!! Nothing says fall like apples, cornbread, and stuffing! As for the roasted root veggies- it's nothing special, but when fall and winter come around, I can't wait to smell carrots, potatoes, parsnips, squash, and rutabaga roasting away in the oven. So as the cooler weather draws near and your craving the tastes of fall, give this menu a shot. It'll make your evening cozy and comforting, even if it ain't that cold out!

Cornbread Stuffed Cornish Game Hens

3 tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups diced, peeled, cored Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples
2 tsps chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups 1/2 inch cubes cornbread (about 11 ounces)
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1/2 cup (packed) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
6 tbsps fresh apple cider or fresh apple juice

Game hens:
4 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
2 tsps coarse kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
4 bacon slices, each halved crosswise

For stuffing:
Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and celery. Saute until beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Add apples, saute until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Mix in sage, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Transfer to a large bowl. Let stand until almost cool, about 10 minutes.

Mix cornbread into vegetables. Add egg and toss to blend. Mix in cheese, then enough apple cider by tablespoonfuls to form stuffing that is moist but not wet.

Game hens:
Sprinkle cavity of each hen lightly with salt and pepper. Pack 1 cup stuffing into each (place any leftover stuffing into buttered ramekins and cover with foil). Skewer cavities closed with toothpicks. Tuck wing tips under; tie legs together to hold shape. Mix sage, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over hens.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Place 2 hens in skillet. Saute until brown, turning often with wooden spoons, about 10 minutes. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet, breast side up. Repeat with remaining hens. Drape 2 bacon strip halves over breast of each hen. Using kitchen string, tie bacon strips in place. (Place any ramekins of stuffing on baking sheet with hens.)

Place hens in oven. Roast until cooked through and juices run clear when thigh is pierced, about 45 minutes. Cut string off hens. Transfer hens to plates and serve- about 1 hen per guest depending on size.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Any selection of root vegetables such as the following:

Peel and chop into large chunks. Mix with enough olive oil to coat. Toss with your favorite herbs. This time around I tossed with some Emeril's Essence and some fresh sage which we had leftover from the game hens. Roast in pre-heated oven at 375-400 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until vegetables are tender but not mushy.

Modern Housewife Tips:
1. Typically you would serve 1 hen per guest, but depending on your side dish and size of the hen, one hen for every two people could work. The mama and I shared one and it was just enough for the two of us.
2. This recipe calls for apple cider to mix with the stuffing to make it moist. I followed the recipe and found that the stuffing was a bit on the sweet side between the cornbread and the apple cider. Next time I'll try using chicken broth. I think the cornbread adds enough sweetness that it will be much more balanced if cut with a little bit of saltiness.
3. The recipe calls for bacon to be draped over the hens before you put in the oven. We weren't really feeling the bacon so I topped each hen with about a half a tbsp of butter- just enough to brown the skin and also give it a bit more flavor.

Recipe adapted from Bon Apetit, October 2008 by Bruce Aidells