Butternut Squash, Chicken and Sausage Cassoulet

I am drawn to all the squashes being stocked at the groceries and markets. They are not only tasty, but pretty as well. There are tons of creative ways to incorporate them into your holiday décor. I am definitely partial to food that I can decorate with!

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I love that they are play the role of both vegetable and starch. It’s sneaky, they go both ways. In fact they double their character by being used in both savory and sweet sides of the kitchen.  This week though I stuck with the savory side, a cassoulet type soup/stew.  Rich and hearty and packed with fall flavors.

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1 pound raw chicken breast, diced into 3/4 inch cubes
1 tablespoon Herb de Provence
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 red pepper, roasted, seeded, skin removed and diced
1 green pepper, roasted, seeded, skin removed and diced
12 ounce sausage crumbles, turkey or pork
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and diced in to 3/4 inch cubes
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon chopped sage
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup sliced green onions

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Start by marinating the chicken with the Herb de Provence, salt and pepper. Allow the chicken to marinate at least 1 hour. Roast your peppers in high temp oven or over a grill and remove seeds and skin, then dice and reserve.

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Place a heavy bottom stock pot over medium high heat and add sausage crumbles. While stirring sausage add in the chicken, squash, onions, celery and sage. You may need to add a touch of oil depending on how much fat leeches out of the sausage. When onions are translucent and there is a bit of color on the squash and chicken pour in the chicken stock.

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Turn the heat to medium and allow to simmer for another 20 minutes. Add in the roasted, diced peppers and adjust with salt and pepper to your taste. Before serving add the green onions.

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Serves 4-6 guests

This is a quick and easy fall dinner, one that gets better with age, so it’s a perfect do ahead meal for your busy weeks coming up! Just have to sacrifice one of your display squashes!

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Warm wishes and happy Thanksgiving!!

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Corn Season Kick Off: Mexican Corn and Poblano Chowder

The start of all seasons is inspiring to chefs, but for me the spring and fall seasons really get me going.  Grilling and porch drinking are in full swing, taking advantage of the moderate temperature before the Florida  temperatures rise and push us indoors.   I especially love when the first crop of corn hits the market, as if it’s the symbol of all good summertime events.   Let the corn cooking begin.   

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I saw this recipe in January using frozen corn and marked it for the start of corn season.  I also have recently fallen for Crema Mexican, thinner version of crème fraiche, sour cream.  The flavor is rich and provides an added depth to many dishes, with it slightly sour flavor, and resistance to breaking when heated.  It is now a stock item in our refrigerator.

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Recipe has been slightly modified from Martha Stewart

Ingredients 

  • 3 scallions
  • 1 large white onion, quartered lengthwise, root end kept intact
  • 2 large fresh poblano chiles (8 ounces)
  • 3 1/3 cup corn kernels, 4 ears, divided
  • 1 tablespoon smoked sea salt
  • 4 cups plus 3 tablespoons water, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fine cornmeal or masa harina
  • Crema Mexican

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Directions 

  1. Cut dark-green tops off scallions, and finely chop. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place scallions, onion, and chiles in skillet, and cook, undisturbed, until charred on bottom, about 5 minutes. Turn vegetables with tongs, and cook, undisturbed, until charred on other side, about 5 minutes. (Vegetables can also be broiled on a baking sheet.) 
  2. Transfer scallions to a blender. Continue turning and charring chiles and onion until charred on all sides, 5 to 10 minutes more. Remove skillet from heat. Transfer onion to blender.
  3.  Transfer chiles to a bowl, cover immediately with plastic wrap, and let steam 15 minutes. Peel and discard charred skin from chiles, and remove stems and seeds. Halve chiles lengthwise, and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips.
  4.  Add 2 1/2 cups corn, the salt, and 2 cups water to blender. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer puree to skillet. Stir in remaining corn and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 8 minutes.
  5.  Whisk together cornmeal and remaining 3 tablespoons water. Stir into soup along with chiles, and simmer until it has the consistency of porridge, about 2 minutes.
  6.  Divide soup among 6 bowls; garnish with chopped scallion greens, and add a scoop of crema mexican. Soup can be refrigerated 2 days; let cool completely before refrigerating. Gently reheat in a covered pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

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Back yard gardens are growing, farmer markets are getting in new local goods, sun is setting later, charcoal grills are burning, sprinklers are being run thru, cookouts are the new social scene! Cheers to all things spring blossoming!

Spanish Turkey Meatball Stew

The last few months of the year always seem to fly by for us and most people I know.  That school thing, all the holidays to celebrate, after school activities, birthdays, family visits, busy work seasons, ect, ect, ect…. This year is no different, so we try to come up with some dishes that can work with our busy schedules.   Soup is always a great option for quick and tasty meals, stews and chilies as well.  

I am not a big beef eater, but you could substitute your favorite meatball recipe if you like.  Change the tomatoes and chicken broth to low sodium and make it even healthier.  I never notice the change in flavor when using low sodium items, as long as you pack the dish with full flavor fresh veggies and herbs.

Inspired by Food Network Magazine, October Issue

  • 1 ¼ pound ground turkey meat
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed and chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoon diced onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 green onion, sliced fine
  • 3 tablespoon breadcrumbs
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup diced yellow onion
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 14 ounce can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 15-ounce can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can hominy, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro

Start by forming the meatballs, by combining the turkey meat, jalapeño, 2 tablespoons of diced onions, egg, green onion, breadcrumbs and a dash of salt and pepper.  Mix very well and form into 2 ounce, quarter size meatballs.  Set aside and prepare stew.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onions, garlic and a sprinkle of salt and sauté for a few minutes.   Add the paprika and carrots and sauté another minute.  Pour in tomatoes, chicken broth, chick peas, hominy and cilantro and bring to a gentle simmer.  Gently add the formed meatballs into the simmering stew and allow to cook thru- about 6-8 minutes, rotating half way thru. 

Serves 4 and reheats with even more flavor!

This stew is a great answer to late days on the job, afternoon soccer practices, Friday night football games and lazy Sundays!

Enjoy!

Newsworthy Ginger Pumpkin Soup

I had dinner with a few clients last week that were not only interested in planning their potential event; they also loved food- what a great conversation we had!  One of the questions they asked was how all the food based reality shows affect us, as Chefs.  I told him that most of us love it; the rise in foodies is great, as we now have even more opportunity to talk about our trade, our passion!  Most Chefs love what they do; they have to love it to be ok with the lifestyle it provides and we are more than happy to talk food with anyone and everyone. 

Another question that was asked was what dish am I known for, as a chef.  I’m not sure if I was just nervous, or my mind went blank but I really struggled with this question.  I gave a few answers after stumbling for a couple moments, but the question stayed with me causing me to think about the years of my career that led me to where I am, and what dishes or events stood out to me as milestones. 

Way back in 2006, I was working at the Disney’s Contemporary Resort, which not only catered in the convention center, but Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, Richard Petty, and the Polynesian as well.  And in some cases we also would travel to one off locations- Orlando Science Center, private homes, even to the trails of Disney’s Wilderness Preserves.   One event in particular that stands out to me is a backyard holiday party that we catered.  It was at a lovely private home in downtown Orlando, with a beautiful yard and the most gracious hosts.  We drove our huge truck thru the old narrow neighborhood streets, and unloaded a kitchen, bars and tables up thru the driveway into the backyard which was transformed into a gorgeous dining venue under the old oak trees. 

A few hours later as the guests arrived, we were filling the backyard with scents of seared lamb and grilled beef.  I was busy roasting mini pumpkins and filling them with the soup I had made, which the guest adored.  Seconds and thirds were donned out with such pleasure.  There is no better reward for a chef then to have someone comeback for more, especially when you are just in the beginning of your career.  After the party came to a close, we packed the trucks up and drove back to the resort to unload.  Sitting next to the chef on the way home, he put his hand on my shoulder and told me I had done an incredible job, that’s all I needed to hear to fuel the culinary passion. 

The next week came and Chef asked me to write down my recipe for the soup; there was a food writer at the event and they wanted to share the recipe with their readers.  After I was sent a copy of guidelines for published recipe writing, something I still use today, I quickly sent off the recipe.  When I saw the recipe here I was pleased as punch. 

I would say this is one of my first dishes that I have been known for, and the best part is that today, almost 6 years later it still is a timeless dish! 

 Ingredients

  • 8 mini pumpkins
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallots
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • 2-3lb pumpkin peeled, seeded, and diced ¾ “pieces
  • ½ cup brandy 
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ¼ cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon white wine
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

 

Method: 

  1. Cut small round in pumpkin and remove the top.  Clean out the seeds and pulp.  Brush with a bit of olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Roast in the 400 oven for about 20-25 minutes before serving.
  2. Sweat the shallots in oil until translucent.  Add the fresh pumpkin and sweat until fork tender.  Add brandy and allow to cook, reducing volume by half.  Add chicken broth and pumpkin puree; simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Puree the garlic and combine with the wine and set aside.  Puree soup with hand held blender in batches.  Adjust to desired consistency with more chicken broth or water.
  4. A ½ hour before serving add a couple of tablespoons of the ginger and wine combo, cinnamon and fresh grated nutmeg to reach desired flavor.
  5. Serve with a spoonful of mascarpone cheese on top.

 Serves 8

** Note:  Adding the ginger to early or using the powder form can result in a spicier soup. With the dry ginger the longer a soup cooks with it the more of a peppery flavor it gets.

 Serving the soup in a mini roasted pumpkin is not only a creative vessel; but the flesh of the pumpkin enriches the soup adding an earthy complexity.

 To answer the question of what dish am I known for, this may be one of them, but to me it is more of an accomplishment that encouraged me to continue the path I was on.  We all have points in our career that are highs and lows, I would like to think both the highs and lows are equally important as lessons. 

Welcome to pumpkin season!

Bloodymary Gazpacho

Happy Mother’s day to all the Momma’s, the Grandmothers, the Doggie Momma’s, the Single Dad Moms, the Stepmoms and the Soon to be Mommies out there!    I live about 7 hours away from my Mom, so we wont be spending the day together, but she knows I am thinking about her.  The last time we were together on Mother’s Day was about 8 years ago and we celebrated by going to a fabulous brunch.  I think the meal of brunch belongs to Mother’s Day, and I love it because it is where absolutely anything goes!  

Happy Mother’s Day Queenie!

I’ve mentioned my mother, Queenie, not being the most skillful in the kitchen, but I haven’t given her credit to the Bloodmary’s that flow from her pitchers (my Dad may argue that he makes them, but I know she drinks them…).  In fact, she likes them well enough to have taken Bloodymary’s as her Fantasy Football team name as well as her email address.

Thinking about my mom, and what I thought she might like, and what she could actually make I landed on Bloodymary Gazpachos.  The vegetables in the gardens are hitting their stride, the cucumbers are fully grown, the tomatoes are ready, we have peppers we don’t know what to do with, and corn is hitting the bins….spells out gazpacho to me. 

Mise en place, mostly from the garden!

When you have a Mother’s Day brunch to bring something to why not make it Bloodymary Gazpacho.  Serve it in a rocks glass over ice, or if drinking at brunch doesn’t fit the crowd, just put it in a soup cup and watch the guests relax!

Bloodymary Gazpacho

  • 3/4 cup diced green tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup, peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
  • 2 Tbsp diced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 Tbsp diced jalapeno
  • 4 Tbsp corn kernels, raw
  • 1/2 lime, zest and juice
  • 10 oz bloodymary mix
  • 8 oz vodka
  • Kosher Salt
  • Granulated Sugar

Method

In a food processor or blender add the tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, corn and lime zest and juice.  Give only a few pulses, keeping a “gazpacho consistency”.  Add in your favorite bloodymary mix and preferred vodka and quickly mix.  Adjust flavor with salt and sugar; all bloodymary mixes are different so only add a pinch at a time.  Refridgerate until ready to serve, overnight will allow the flavors to meld.  Pour over ice in a rocks glass or as a soup shooter.  Garnish with your favorite pickled vegetable, a stalk of celery, a stuffed olive,  or a spicy pepper.  This recipe also makes a fantastic shrimp cocktail dip!

Makes 4 cocktails

Summer Garden Vegetables

Cheers to all the Momma’s- may your day be filled with love, memories and celebration!

Happy Mother’s Day Queenie! Love you!

Garlicky Chicken Soup- The Best Cold Blocker!!!!!!!!

As the year opened I closed the door on a huge part of my life for the past 12 years.  I said goodbye to a job and a kitchen I gave my heart to, to friends that have the same battle scars as I, to hallways that I have hurried back and forth countless times and to an experience I would never trade.   So many memories, laughs and tears- My love for cooking and catering proved limitless in that old building.  So in the last few weeks, as I transitioned into my new role at Park Events I thought a long way back about my times at the Contemporary.   There certainly are a lot of good memories, I will miss that family but am happy to be welcomed into a new family and onto a new adventure.

Upon my trip down memory lane, I recalled one of my favorite family meals- one that exemplified a “Family Meal” in a kitchen.  There are a few dishes that each of us shared frequently when it was our turn to cook for the kitchen, this one coworker had two of my favorites- Strawberry Cinnamon Milkshakes and Garlic Chicken Potato Soup.  Jose would make this soup every time that one of us walked into work with a sniffle or a cough- it was the “Ultimate Cold Remedy”.   Though Jose left many years ago, his Milkshakes and Garlic Chicken Soup lived on! 

Better then Mom's Chicken Soup!

With or without a cold, this soup will lead you to a second cup and a clear sinus, “Extreme Mom’s Chicken Soup”!!

Ingredients

  • 4 ½ lb whole chicken, broken down
  • 12 cups cold water
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 carrots, cut in thirds
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in 2 in pieces
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. whole peppercorn
  • 1 spring rosemary
  • 2 tbsp. sliced garlic
  • 3 large baking potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp. slice garlic

    Chicken Soup Mise En Place

     

 

Method

First make sure chicken is cut into equal size pieces, cut the breast into three pieces and the thigh into two.  You can either buy a whole chicken and break it down yourself or buy one already broken down into 8 pieces.  Either way cut the breast and the thighs further, so they cook evenly. 

Put the chicken into a large stock pot, along with the water, vegetable, spices and the first 2 tablespoons of garlic and simmer for about 25 minutes.  Turn off the heat and remove all the chicken from the pot.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the skin and bones and return the skin and bones to the pot.  Continue to simmer stock about 4 hours.  Cut chicken meat into ½ inch pieces and refrigerate.   Strain the stock and return it to the pot, bring it back to a slow simmer and carefully skim fat off of the surface with a ladle. 

Cooked and Deboned Chicken

Peel and dice the potatoes into ½ cubes, and add to the pot along with remaining garlic.  Bring the stock back to a low simmer and cook potatoes until they are tender, about 20 minutes.  Add reserved cooked chicken and return the soup to a simmer.  Add salt and pepper to taste and you are ready serve. 

Goodbye Cold!

Yield is 1 gallon, about 16 servings.

Kiss it Campbell's!!!!

Soups on!

Ginger Chicken Noodle Soup

 
Ginger Chicken Noodle Soup

I love soup in the fall weather, warm and satisfying.  This is one of my favorites- Chicken Noodle meets China Town.  The flavors are layered so well and seems to hit all notes.   Pretty easy and pretty tasty…a win!

  • INGREDIENTS
  • 60 oz chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Sriracha sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 -inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut in 8 slices
  • 3/4 pound raw boneless chicken breasts, cut in thin 3-inch-long strips
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms (or white button mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 oz rice noodles (I used an individual packet like Ramen, but left out the seasoning)
     

    Mise en Place- Give me cilantro and I am happy!!

Shitake Mushrooms- When you clean the stem, take it completly out of the mushroom, it tends to be tough.
 
Combine broth, soy sauce, sugar, Sriracha sauce, lime juice, and ginger and boil 5 minutes. 

Sliced Chicken

 

Chicken tossed with cornstarch

  Meanwhile, toss raw chicken with cornstarch until completely coated.   Add chicken and shitakes to broth and simmer 15 minutes.   Remove the pan from the heat and stir in tomatoes and noodles.  Top with cilantro and Sriracha sauce.  Let soup stand 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

Ginger Chicken Noodle Soup

Happy Fall!  Happy Eats!