In winter I want comfort food. Soups and stews homemade in the crockpot, warm one-pot meals from the stovetop or oven and quick breads that can be just stirred together in a few minutes and popped in the oven top my list. A key ingredient in many is carbs. Yes, I said the dirty "C" word of the current diet industry and I honestly don't care. In the summer I can happily munch away on fresh salads and fruit, but in the winter I need my comfort food to fuel the fire and potatoes, pasta and bread fresh from the oven fill a need like no other. Today I'm going to share two dishes I made this week - one potato, one pasta. In a future blog I will have a column on my favourite quick breads including a recipe I found after having lost it many years ago.
Potato and Ham Scallop
|Not photo of actual dish|
10 Yukon Gold Potatos (1.75 KG) - I substituted red and white new potatos
1 tsp Dried Thyme
3/4 tsp Salt
3/4 tsp Pepper
1/4 cup Butter or Margarine
1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
2-1/2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 T Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup Butter or Margarine
2 cups Coarse Fresh Bread Crumbs (process 3-4 slices of bread in a food processor)
1/4 cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
Pre-heat oven to 375 F (190 C) Thinly slice potatos and onions (a food processor is a god send to accomplish this). The original recipe says to peel the potatos, but alway leave the skin on and just scrub them. In a greased 9 x 12 pan (Note - I found this a bit small and would go one size up), spread half the onions and top with half the potatos. Sprinkle with half of the thyme, salt and pepper. Repeat layers. Sauce - In saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and blend in flour. Slowly whisk in the stock and cook stirring until thickened. Mix in vinegar. Pour over potatos. Cover and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tender. Topping - melt butter in sauce pan, stir in crumbs and parsley. Sprinkle over casserole and broil for 2-3 minutes until golden.
Notes to add ham -
Sauce - Increase to 1/3 butter, 1/3 flour and 3 cups of broth. Add 3 cups of diced ham to the layers: onion-ham-potato-onion-ham-potato. You definitely will need a larger pan if you do this variation.
Spicy Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Chopped Olives
This recipe is from Weeknight Dinner by Fine Cooking. It has a nice little kick of spice without being overly hot. Originally they asked for 1/2 lb. chicken, but that seemed not enough for 1 lb. of Penne, so I doubled it and it seemed just right. This says it serves 4 to 6, but it would have to be 4 really hardy eaters. 6 is about right, depending what you serve with it. I just added a great green salad and we were stuffed. Also, I love cheese so doubled it, a personal choice. Remember, that's what cooking should be about. Don't be afraid to adjust things to suit your personal taste. We're all different.
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 lb. penne
1/2 lb. broccoli florets, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, heat the oil and garlic in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring gently so the cloves don’t break up, until they become light brown in places and very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rosemary and red pepper flakes and cook until they start to sizzle, about 15 seconds. Add the chicken, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring often, until the chicken loses its raw color, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives.
Note - I put this dish into a 9 x 13 casserole dish, THEN sprinkled the remaining cheese on and tossed it in a warm oven for just a couple minutes to heat the pan and start the cheese melting. It kept the food warm at the table for those who wanted seconds.
So go ahead, risk it, and let a few carbs back into your diet. It's all about balance and if you're eating right over the course of the week, a great carb dish on a cold winter night will warm you up and nourish you, body and soul.