Sunday, November 11, 2012

Baked Apples with Savory Pork Stuffing

I can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving. The school year is flying by. Being a first year teacher has its moments to be sure, but most of the time I'm just laughing. Here are some sound bites from inside the hallowed walls of middle school:

5th grader #1: Ms. Cassidy, you look pretty today! You never wear eye makeup. Do you have a date?!
5th grader #2: Ms. Cassidy, are you dating an astronaut?
5th grader #3: Oh! Can he take us to space?

6th grader, after school: Ms. Cassidy, can I ask you a question? If you were dating a guy, would you like, get mad, and stop liking them, if they got in trouble with their parents for doing something stupid and got punished and couldn't go on their date with you? Oh, hold up. Is that Schrödinger on your wall? He invented the electron cloud, you know.

5th grader #1: Ms. Cassidy, I need help. This question doesn't make sense.
5th grader #2: Life doesn't make sense - get used to it!

Me: Sorry, class. I wrote down the wrong assignment on the board. Please erase and copy down this new homework assignment.
5th grader: Get it together, Ms. Cassidy! Did you eat your greens today?

5th grader #1: Ms. Cassidy, Ms. Cassidy! He just made fun of my ethnicity! (points to 5th grader #2)
Me: Explain to me what happened.
5th grader #1: I told him I'm Jamaican and he asked if I be bakin'!
5th grader #2: we're jammin' jammin' jammin' jammin'...

8th grader #1: Ms. Cassidy can I come after school for help today? What time will you be here until?
Me: I'll be here until about 7.
8th grader #2: Ms. Cassidy you need to get a life! You've got nice hair for a white lady - people will be your friend.

Priceless. As is this pumpkin a student gave me <3

Although my kids keep me smiling with their enthusiasm, creativity, and hilarity, I find myself falling into bad cooking habits this autumn, as personal time is eaten away by grading and lesson planning. I'm trying to be better about meal planning on the weekends and eating leftovers throughout the week.

This recipe for baked apples stuffed with pork and breadcrumbs in particular caught my eye because A) it's delicious, B) it's a potential Thanksgiving side dish, and C) it's perfect individual portions for a quick lunch or dinner with some salad (side note: D) I've been grading multiple choice physics tests).

The sweetness and acid from the apples combined with the savory and sumptuous pork, onion, and celery are a feast in one bite. The herbs are what give the stuffing its rich flavor, so make sure not to skimp on those particular ingredients. I can't wait for you to try this one. Enjoy.

Baked Apples with Savory Pork Stuffing
adapted from Canal House Cooking Vol. No. 2

yields 8 - 12 stuffed apples (depending on the apple size)


4 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
1 pound ground pork
6 to 8 fresh sage leaves, chopped
leaves from 2-3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
8 to 12 apples
fresh parsley for topping

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Cook pork, breaking the meat up with the back of a spoon until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Sir in the herbs and generously season with salt and pepper.  Add the breadcrumbs and toss to combine.

Cut off the top fourth of each apple. Using a small spoon, scoop out the center, removing the core, seeds, and just enough of the flesh to make a nice hollow for the stuffing. Divide the stuffing evenly between the apples, packing it into each hollow. Transfer the stuffed apples to a large baking dish. Dot each apple with a small knob of the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Bake the apples until the flesh is tender and the stuffing is golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve each apple with a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley.
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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sautéed Figs with Balsamic Bourbon Glaze and Fresh Ricotta

I can't even begin to describe how amazing this is. So I won't. Just make it. Sooner rather than later.

Sautéed Figs with Balsamic Bourbon Glaze and Ricotta
adapted from Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster

yields 4 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 small fresh figs (I used Mission figs), halved lengthwise
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 shot of bourbon
fresh ricotta cheese
freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt but do not brown the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling. Place the figs, cut side down, in the butter and sauté for about 1-2 minutes, until they just begin to soften and give off juice. Sprinkle the sugar over the figs and shake the pan to distribute sugar evenly.

Add the balsamic vinegar and bourbon to the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil the liquid for 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan constantly, until the liquid becomes slightly think and syrupy. Serve immediately with fresh ricotta cheese and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Enjoy.

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Chicken Fricassée

Winter is coming. The fall crisp in the air is beginning to dig deeper. Scarves serve a purpose rather than merely to add color to daily wear. I find myself lighting candles and sipping on cider to ease into the cold -- reminders that I'm not in Tucson anymore.

This Chicken Fricassée recipe caught my eye last month in Martha Stewart Living. It's all of the familiarity of chicken noodle soup, just a little fancier (and French-er) and without with starch. The mirepoix and herbs given this dish wonderful flavor, while the mushrooms, wine, and chicken add the earth and girth to the meal.

With only about an hour of combined prep and cook time, Chicken Fricassée can easily be a weeknight meal. I'll be eating it for the rest of the week to be sure.

Chicken Fricassée
adapted from Martha Stewart

yields 4 servings

2 lbs of chicken pieces
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced (1 cup)
3 carrots, diced (1 cup)
4 celery stalk, diced (1 cup)
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Season chicken on both sides with 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Preheat a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add butter and the oil to pot. When butter melts and foam subsides, add half the chicken, skin side down, in a single layer; do not crowd pot. (If butter begins to blacken, lower heat.) Fry chicken, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes total, and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Reduce heat to medium, and add mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) to pot, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Saute mirepoix, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown in places, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms darken, become glossy, and begin to release liquid, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in flour, and cook until flour is absorbed by vegetables and is no longer visible, about 1 minute.

Add wine to pot, and bring to a boil, stirring until liquid just thickens, about 45 seconds. Add broth, and stir.

Place chicken, skin side up, in a single layer on vegetables; pour juices that have accumulated on plate into pot. Add the thyme and bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover partially. Cook until internal temperature of thickest part of chicken registers 165 degrees, about 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a clean plate. Simmer liquid, uncovered, until reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Discard herbs.

To make the liaison (sauce thickener), whisk together egg yolks and cream in a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, pour 1/2 cup cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, into liaison to temper it. Stir tempered liaison into pot.

Return chicken to pot. Add tarragon and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, stir gently to combine, and serve. Enjoy.

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