club chowder

I should probably save this recipe for the day after Thanksgiving. You should make it when you have a turkey carcass in the fridge, a few potatoes left over, and are totally sick of eating turkey sandwiches. But I have no patience. And this chowder is so comforting, so hearty and chunky, that I could not wait an entire two months to share it with you.

When I found myself inexplicably creating a Thanksgiving feast a few days shy of October, I didn’t anticipate having an entire 7 lb turkey breast leftover. Despite my days of brining, careful oven roasting and diligent basting, the bird still turned out dry as a popcorn fart. You win some, you lose some. And then you buy a new thermometer and give dry turkey new life in delicious chowder.

My plans for mile-high club sandwiches being thwarted, I decided to make a soup version of the famed turkey and bacon sandwiches. I began by simmering stock from the turkey carcass (Elaine at Simply Recipes has a great tutorial on how to make stock), which perfumed the house all day long. For vegetables, the traditional lettuce and tomato of the club sandwich would just not do in a soup. So I opted for some yukon gold potatoes for thickness, a little garlic and a leek. You could substitute an onion, but I just love the subtle flavor that leeks add to soups.

The chowder comes together quickly but tastes like it’s been cooking all day long. Bacon adds a richness to the broth that coats each bite with a subtle smokiness. My turkey was made moist again by the broth, and the potatoes and leeks provided a nice balance to the meaty flavors.

I used tomato as a garnish, sliced up some warm, crusty bread, and crowned myself victorious over a seemingly inedible turkey.

Come a few days after Thanksgiving this chowder will grace my table again. This time using what is hopefully a remarkably edible, moist turkey. Fingers crossed. And new thermometers purchased.

-RDG

Club Chowder

If it’s not turkey time around your house, substitute chicken stock and chicken pieces. Serves 6-8 as a main course.

  • 6 strips good quality thick-cut bacon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 4 1/2 cups homemade turkey stock
  • 1 1/2 lbs yukon gold potatoes (roughly 4-5 potatoes)
  • 3 cups chopped cooked turkey
  • 1 c half and half
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • several turns freshly ground black pepper

First, grab a large cutting board and a sharp knife to prep your ingredients with. Run your knife lengthwise down the center of the bacon, then dice widthwise into 1/2″ pieces. Mince the garlic. Slice the leek into 1/4″ rounds. Chop the potatoes into a 1/2″ dice.

Place a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat (you’ll be making the chowder in the same pot, so make sure it is large enough). Cook the bacon pieces, stirring occasionally, until it begins to crisp and turn brown, about 6-7 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the bacon grease in the pot.

Add the garlic and leek to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is aromatic and leek begins to brown around the edges, about 1-2 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the leek/garlic mixture. Stir in the stock, whisking rapidly, until flour dissolves. Add the potatoes and bacon, bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 10-12 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender and broth has begun to thicken. Stir in the turkey, half and half, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5-6 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with a warm, crusty bread for dipping.

slow-cooked applesauce

I have a confession to make. I didn’t make anything but this applesauce with my apple bounty. 13 pounds of freshly-picked beauties and not a single pie or tart. No fritters, no apple butter, no cider.

What did I do with all of them? Well, I ate them. Raw. In front of the television. Late at night. Not all at once, but three or four at a time. Sure, they’re very tiny apples, but still, this was gluttony of pregnant proportions.

Last pregnancy it was oranges late at night watching Gossip Girl. This time it’s apples watching True Blood. Last pregnancy was tolerable, this one is excruciating. Apples and oranges.

But before I discovered that these apples were just too good to cook, I had my heart set on applesauce. So I experimented in the crock pot, thinking that it would bring out the natural sweetness of the apples without having to add a ton of sugar.

I was right. I used about 14 small apples and only needed to add 1/4 cup of sugar.

It tasted fresh and tart but still rich—it would be perfect over pork chops and amazing over ice cream. It’s also pretty damn good on its own. And best of all, besides prepping the apples there is very little work involved. Compared to the grocery store variety of applesauce, this easy homemade version is night and day. Or—and please forgive me— apples and oranges.

-RDG

Slow-Cooked Applesauce

Make sure you’re using a tart variety of apple that is good for cooking. If you don’t have dark brown sugar, which tends to be more potent than light brown, adjust the amount of sugar by taste.

  • 10 cups peeled, chopped apples (from approximately 7-8 large or 12-14 small apples)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 pinch salt

Place apples in a slow cooker and pour in water. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.

Mash apples with a fork or potato masher. Stir in cinnamon, sugar and salt. Serve.

Yield: 4 cups applesauce.

a giveaway

I get a lot of promotional emails. People offer me everything from free cookbooks to kangaroo burgers (yes, I’m serious), as long as I review and/or plug their product on this blog. Most of them I ignore. Some of them I giggle at. But a few I take advantage of, and today it could be you reaping the benefits!

Jamie from CSN Stores is offering one lucky winner a $55 gift certificate to any of CSN’s online stores (including Cookware.com!). You could use it for anything from dining chairs to high chairs, but naturally I’d use it for some new kitchen gadgets.

Here are some of my favorites under $50:

Le Creuset baking dishes. Colorful and they last forever.

A pretty tea towel…

…or some pretty kitchen towels.

A hefty cutting board with a juice tray, perfect for carving meat or anything messy.

A toaster oven. Just because I want one.

A set of silicone spatulas. This one’s a little over the $50 mark, but so worth it. They’re very durable unless you leave them over an open flame. Then they will catch on fire. Not that I know from experience.

To enter:

1) Browse Cookware.com or any CSN store.

2) Leave a comment below telling me what you’d use the $55 for.

The winner will be randomly selected on Monday, September 27th (no more entries after 10 pm Sunday night). One entry per person, please. U.S. and Canadian residents only.

Good luck!

-RDG

We have a winner!

Author: Jennifer McLachlan 
Comment: i would love to get the Rachael Ray Lasagna Lover™ and 2 Piece Set Bubble & Brown™ Individuals – 55735

Congratulations, Jennifer! Looks like you’re going to order yourself some new bakeware. Thanks everyone for entering!

weekend adventure: apple picking

That old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, it’s not true. I’ve been eating an apple nearly everyday since I was a teenager. Not in an attempt to stay healthy, but just because I love the damn things. Living in Washington I’m spoiled to be able to find decent apples most times of the year, so it’s no surprise that I’m heavily addicted. But nothing can beat fresh fall apples, so this weekend the family and I decided to go out and pick some for ourselves.

We landed about an hour from the city at Jones Creek Farm, which boasts 140 varieties of apples and pears in their never ending orchards.

After being greeted with hot apple cider and given the lay of the land, we got to work. Dave got the raw end of the deal: he toted Lucy and the heavy cart, while I roamed the aisles snapping photos and tasting apples. He’s a trooper, that man o’ mine.

Roughly 30 of the 140 varieties were ripe for picking at the time of our visit. The farmers encouraged us to pick one, take a bite, and see if we liked it enough to take some home. If not, we just tossed it under the tree with the fruit drop. I had no idea that such small trees could yield so many apples—the amount of fruit on the ground was astounding.

We meandered through the orchards, sampling and picking Honeycrisps…

…Spartans (my favorite)…

…Asian pears (the crispest, juiciest, most flavorful Asian pears I have ever tasted), and dozens more.

Lucy delighted in the chance to eat so many apples, and quickly learned to pick them from the tree instead of the ground.

She can count to ten, but this one-and-a-half thing is getting tricky.

When the day was through, we had picked over 13 pounds of apples. That is, after Lucy scarfed about half of our take. At $1.25 per pound, I wish we would have picked more. I’m used to paying $3 to $4 for organic local apples in stores and at the farmer’s market.

I’ve been smiling every time I open the refrigerator, smelling the sweet smells from the fruit drawer and plotting what I’m going to do with all of these apples. I’ll get to some recipes later in the week, if I can ever stop eating them raw.

Plus seeing those bags of ripe fruit remind me of the Saturday I spent with my family, wandering the orchards in the sun, picking apples, and making memories that I’ll remember everyday. Everyday when I bite into my apple.

-RDG

p.s. I’m told that by the end of October, nearly every variety of apple and pear will be ready for picking. Jones Creek Farm has a pumpkin patch, too. If I were you, I’d pack up the family, a picnic and some rubber boots stat. We’ll definitely be going back for more before the season is over.

blue cheese chicken alfredo

I crave creamy pasta pretty much constantly. There is nary a time I would turn it down, and I often search high and low for an acceptable version. If we are to go out for Italian, I’m ashamed to say that I don’t want to dine at the “authentic” Italian place full of red sauces and uber-thin crust pizza. I want to go to the American-Italian joint that serves noodles drenched in creamy cheese sauces, garlic bread, and crappy iceburg lettuce salads with ranch dressing.

I know, I know. I’m a bad foodie. I’ll say 20 Hail Mary’s and whap myself with a Le Creuset spatula.

Since I like to dine at these less-than-reputable “Italian” eateries, it shouldn’t surprise you that I sometimes leave disappointed. And it’s always for the same reason: the pasta sauce. I like my alfredo cheesy and thick. Not under-salted, not bland, and not runny, as lots of restaurants serve.

It should cling to the noodles, wrapping them in a thin layer of salty creaminess. This sauce’s hint of blue cheese is more of a flavor enhancer than the dominant taste—a sauce of entirely blue cheese would be too rich. Instead, it plays up the decadence of the sauce while keeping it interesting. I like to add chicken, peas and broccoli to this pasta, but feel free to play around with whatever combination you like best.

If you’ve never attempted a creamy sauce at home before, don’t be scared—it’s so easy. And once you learn how, the possibilities are endless. The flour and butter mixture that you’ll start with (called a roux) serves as a sauce thickener. Just stir in your milk and cheese, season, and you’re ready to eat. Easy enough for a last-minute meal, but tasty enough to serve to your family every night of the week.

Well, not every night. But once in a while as a decadent, fattening pasta treat.

This little one can’t get enough. But she needs not watch her girlish figure. No you can’t read her pasta face…

Best of all, we eat it together at home at the dinner table. No crappy Italian restaurants, no overpriced check, and no disappointments.

-RDG

Blue Cheese Chicken Alfredo

The blue cheese flavor in this pasta isn’t overwhelming—it just gives the sauce a nice tang. For some, this recipe may make more sauce than you’d like to use in one batch of pasta. If so, reserve some of the sauce for another use. Yield: 6 servings.

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 c half and half
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 c blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 lb fettucini or other flat pasta
  • salt and pepper

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink in the center, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.

In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Cook broccoli and peas, stirring occasionally, until broccoli turns bright green and peas are no longer frozen, about 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a plate.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, stirring constantly, until a smooth paste is formed. Stir in the milk and half and half and bring just to a simmer, stirring frequently. Stir in cheeses and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you would like the sauce thicker, keep sauce simmering for a few more minutes, stirring frequently. If not, remove from heat.

Toss sauce with pasta, chicken and vegetables. Serve garnished with parmesan or blue cheese.

top 10 food movies

After I walk out of a movie, I probably can’t tell you the lead character’s name. But I can tell you what he ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack. Food is my favorite part of a film. It draws me in. It keeps me interested. There is something so visceral about what a character cooks, eats, orders—food reaches us on a level that cinematography and dialogue just can’t touch. We can be comforted by a father sharing a slice of cake with his daughter. Amused by a grandmother pouring a huge glass of chardonnay before noon. Tempted by pie, repulsed by a “secret ingredient,” enveloped by the steam rising from a cup of coffee.

This list isn’t composed of food movies per se—it’s more like a list of movies where food plays a necessary role. They range from award-winning to total flops. Some of my favorite movies aren’t even all that good, they just keep me coming back for those small moments of shared cake. Of course I enjoy films like Eat Drink Man Woman and Like Water for Chocolate and, but they’re not the most meaningful food films for me. Here are my top 10, with varied cinematic value:

10. Pulp Fiction

Tarantino inextricably links food with blood and guts. It’s not for the faint of stomach, but if you can handle it there are hilarious scenes describing McDonald’s in France (“Royale with cheese”), $5 milkshakes, and Samuel L. Jackson slurping his victim’s Sprite. Tasty.

9. 50 First Dates

Adam Sandler meets amnesiac Drew Barrymore while she’s building houses out of waffles. I can’t help falling in love with this movie every time, along with its pineapples, Spam and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

8. Ratatouille

A rat with a passion for cooking becomes the new head “chef” at a famous Parisian restaurant (with the help of a human busboy, of course). I never thought an animated film could make me drool. I hope that this movie has inspired kids to start cooking.

7. Because I Said So

Mother and daughter reveal the intricacies of their relationship through cooking and baking. They learn that they’re not as different as they would like to think, and there are lots of pretty cakes, wine drinking and catered affairs along the way. I adore the scene where they are both at home, preparing their pasta for one in exactly the same manner.

6. Spanglish

Adam Sandler is a successful chef who only wants a few moments to himself. But his wife is a controlling type-A, his daughter is struggling with self-esteem, his new housekeeper is hard not to ogle, and his mother-in-law wanders around the house drunk most of the time. Watch for the sandwich scene and the hilarious Chardonnay clip.

5. It’s Complicated

A girlfriend told me yesterday that she woke up in the middle of the night craving a chocolate croissant after watching this movie. I’m not surprised. Meryl Streep (who can do no wrong, ever, period) owns a gorgeous bakery and is adjusting to being divorced from her jerky ex (Alec Baldwin). She’s finally coming into her own when she falls for her architect (Steve Martin), and there are many delicious, naughty encounters along the way. I never seem to watch this movie without making chocolate cake or roast chicken afterwards. And could the set designer come re-decorate my house, please?

4. Julie and Julia

Alright. This one is obvious. But see my note about Meryl Streep in #5. Not only is it about food blogging (yay!), but it features a dazzling array of tempting food (and a few dishes that I wouldn’t touch, namely aspic). If I were ever to move to France and gain 10 pounds in pure butter, it would be because of this film.

3. Something’s Gotta Give

Diane Keaton bonds with her daughter’s (much, much older) boyfriend, Jack Nicholson, over midnight pancakes. The plot plays out over glasses of wine, picnics on the beach, ice cream and French bistros.

2. Fried Green Tomatoes

A film that is simultaneously heartbreaking and empowering. Dual plots take place in the deep South: one of Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy bonding over candy bars and cellophane, the other of Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary Louise Parker as young depression-era diner owners trying to cover their tracks. If you’ve never seen it, have a box of tissues handy. And keep your eyes peeled for my favorite characters (Smokey Lonesome and Big George), and a gorgeous scene in which the girls throw food from a train to the hungry homeless.

1. Waitress

Jenna Hunterson (played by Kerri Russel) is stuck in a dead-end job with a deadbeat husband and an unwanted baby on the way. Her life gets a ray of sunshine when she falls for her doctor (played by Nathan Fillion). It’s sweet, sometimes hard to watch, but filled with hilarious moments of Jenna’s inner dialogue as she waits tables (“I Don’t Want no Baby Earl Pie”). Food brings Jenna closer with her doctor, farther from her husband, and helps her to accept the daughter that is soon to come.

What are your favorite food movies?

-RDG

Disclaimer: The photos in this post aren’t mine. Duh. I snagged them from various places on the interwebs. Just thought I’d say that in case anyone wanted to sue me.

farmville

This morning I went head to head with two of my biggest fears: dead things and spiders. The dead thing was a rat, discovered under a tarp while I was helping to renovate the play yard at Lucy’s school. The spider was small but ominous-looking, and I cringed and silently screamed as I moved it out of the immediate area with a shovel (good thing I used the shovel, as I found out later it was a black widow). Now I’m home, over-washing my hands, trying to stomach lunch and forget about every creepy-crawly disease-carrying creature I have come into contact with today.

Writing this post comes at an opportune time because I needed to remind myself that not all animals make my skin crawl. This is one of the reasons why I’m most comfortable in the city—there are minimal bugs, rodents, and general pests to deal with in this wet metropolis. But once in a while, in small doses, I like to kick off my heels (if I wore heels), strap on some boots and tread (lightly, avoiding cow pies and snakes) into the country.  Last weekend was our final opportunity to experience the pungent glory of the Evergreen State Fair, so Lucy, Dave, some friends and I fearlessly entered the land of fried Twinkies and live bacon.

Normally, this would have been a food post. Normally I would have ordered that Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich and deep fried Oreos and reported back. But sadly, I’m stuck in week 12 of everything-makes-me-want-to-hurl. Everything except a corndog. For some unholy reason, that sounded delicious. So I got one. I took one bite. And then my daughter snatched it from my hands and gobbled the whole thing with such gusto that I couldn’t have stopped her if I tried. It was like a pit bull tasting a steak for the first time.

She may have a future in competitive hot dog eating contests, that girl.

The idea of fair cuisine always sounds more appealing than it actually is, anyway. That cotton candy sounds like a brilliant idea at first, but after two rounds on the Tilt-a-Whirl you’ll end up regretting it.

But onto more important (and cuter) things. We saw an array of adorable animals at the fair, starting with pygmy goats. I don’t know if there is any cuter miniature animal than a pygmy goat. They fight like toddlers, gallop like (pygmy) horses, and butt heads like bulls. If every spider in the country was a pygmy goat, I’d move in a heartbeat.

Ducks. I’m not a fan of fowl in general (except for eating), but this little white guy was so fluffy I could have taken him home.

Pigs. Baby pigs. Well, maybe adolescent pigs—I don’t know what the protocol for pig age is. But those little pink ears with their fuzzy hair and black spots just made my heart give way.

More pigs. Big pigs. I believe this gal was 300 pounds. I love how it looks like they’re smiling when they sleep.

Pig pile. A really really big, bone-crushing pig pile.

And a teeny tiny pig pile. These baby pigs were about 10 days old. I wanted to cuddle them but the sign assured me that if I tried, their 400 pound mommy pig would crush me like a fly.

Baaah Marley. Dave’s joke, not mine.

Pygmy Goat Gruff. I couldn’t decide if he wanted to bite me or if he was smiling. Maybe both.

And last but not least, the rare and majestic Lucy riding an elephant. Seems as though she’s a natural at riding pachyderms, too. Maybe my daughter is destined to be a carny.

We had a fun time at the fair, mingling with the country folk, visiting with the animals, admiring the fattening fried treats. But in the end, I was glad to return to the city. Had I known a dead rat and a black widow were awaiting me a few days later, maybe I would have stayed with the pigs and goats. I suppose you can’t win them all. But you can come prepared with a long shovel and lots and lots of hand sanitizer.

-RDG