Chicken Gumbo

A delicious stew for an autumn day, and very easy to make.

It’s yet ANOTHER recipe I’ve had in my binder for ages. It’s from Parade magazine, the Sunday insert in many newspapers, and it was from the late Sheila Lukins, the magazine’s former food editor and famed author of “The Silver Palate Cookbook.”

That book, and her New York restaurant that inspired it, ushered in a new style of cooking in the late ’70s and early ’80s — one that emphasized flavors and seasonings and was still easy to make. Although this gumbo recipe was printed in the magazine much later, probably around 1995, it is still a great example of that kind of cooking.

I simplified the recipe even further, using rotisserie chicken instead of the chicken she laid out in the recipe. But I’ve included her original instructions for that below, in case you don’t have a rotisserie chicken or you want to make it all from scratch.

The only tough part was taking a nice picture of such a basic dish — gumbo may be delicious, but it’s not elegant — so I have no photo to share. But I hope you’ll try it and see for yourself how wonderful Lukins’ cooking was.

Serves 4

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 green bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups sliced okra, fresh or frozen
1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded*
14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, juice reserved
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Place oil in a large, heavy pot. Add celery, onion, peppers, and garlic; cook over low heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. Raise heat to medium, add okra and cook, stirring an additional 5 minutes.

Add chicken, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover with reserved tomato juice, making sure that all chicken pieces are covered in liquid (if necessary, add a touch of water to ensure it’s covered).

Simmer over medium-low heat, partially covered, until chicken is thoroughly tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in half the parsley. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes longer. If gumbo begins to boil, reduce heat. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Garnish with remaining parsley. If desired, serve over hot rice.

*If not using a rotisserie chicken:
1 chicken, 2 1/2-3 lbs., cut into 8 pieces, wing tips removed
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. sweet paprika
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground pepper
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Preheat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Combine seasonings in a small bowl and rub over chicken pieces. Place chicken in shallow baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.

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Trail Mix

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Salted peanuts, raisins, almonds, cashews, and M&Ms are in this trail mix, a copycat of the prepared trail mixes you’ll find at the store. Bonus: Making it at home costs less, especially when you find some of these ingredients on sale.

This is a favorite of ours for lunch boxes, after-school snacks, and snacks at work.

Adjust the amounts here to your liking, but this mixture was the closest I came to store-bought. Just mix it all in a bowl.

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup cashews
3/4 cup M&Ms
1 cup raisins
1 cup salted peanuts

Tortellini in Brodo

Easy gourmet and perfect for a weeknight.tortellini

This is a dinner in itself. Just pick your favorite store-bought tortellini and boil it in a homemade bone broth with leafy greens, vegetables, and pork.

While the recipe isn’t quick, it’s certainly not difficult, and it’s easy to make ahead of time. I made the broth this morning and added the tortellini and pork just before dinnertime. The house smelled wonderful all day.

The recipe is another winner from the Food Network. The only thing I changed from the original was using chard instead of escarole. And I recommend using the Parmesan rind, which adds a rich flavor. A touch expensive but worth it.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced and rinsed
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 small celery stalks, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 small piece Parmesan rind
2 wide strips lemon zest (removed with a vegetable peeler)
1 12-oz. bone-in pork chop, meat diced and bone reserved
1 9-oz. pkg. refrigerated cheese or meat tortellini
2 large leaves of swiss chard, spine removed and leaves chopped

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks wilt, about 5 minutes.

Add 2 cups water, the chicken broth, Parmesan rind, lemon zest, and pork bone. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and take out the Parmesan rind, lemon zest, and pork bone from the pot with a slotted spoon.

(You can make the broth up to this point and save it in the refrigerator, proceeding with the next steps when you’re ready to prepare dinner.)

Bring the broth to a boil over medium heat. Add the tortellini, chard, and diced pork; season with pepper. Cook until the tortellini is tender, about 5 minutes.

Peach Cobbler

cobbler
The best way to enjoy peach cobbler is scooped in a bowl and topped with some vanilla ice cream. It ought to be golden brown on top, liberal with the fruit, and just mushy enough on the bottom to remind you this is comfort food best eaten with a spoon.

This recipe started with a version found on many websites that all credit The Salt Lick barbecue restaurant near Austin, Texas. I tried to do my own searching and couldn’t find the original, so I asked the restaurant — and it seems it’s not theirs, after all.

Now I don’t feel so bad about the tweaks I made. I slightly reduced the amount of butter and got specific about the peaches. The recipe calls for canned, but if you have a bounty of fresh peaches, by all means, use them instead.

One last thing — this is one baked dessert that doesn’t have to cool off before you serve it. Although you can make it ahead of time, this dish, even in the heat of summer, is best served warm.

FILLING
28 oz. peeled, sliced peaches (if using canned, weigh the peaches after draining — three 15-oz. cans should give the right amount)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

BATTER
6 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup room-temperature milk
1 room-temperature egg

Heat oven to 350F degrees. Meanwhile, prepare the peaches. Cut slices into halves or thirds, depending on size. In a bowl, combine peaches with sugar and spices.

Once oven is hot, put butter in a 9×13-inch pan and melt in the oven. Remove once melted.

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk and egg. Pour evenly over melted butter.

Spread peach mixture, including any liquid, evenly over batter. Do not stir.

Bake 35-45 minutes until batter is golden brown.

Note: I have updated this post to include the restaurant’s reply to my question about the recipe’s origin.

Blueberry Buckle

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Buckle, coffeecake, or cobbler. No matter what you call it, this is a great showcase for fresh blueberries and a wonderful, easy cake to make for friends.

I clipped this from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sometime in the 1990s. It was called “Blueberry Thing” which, if I remember, was because the person profiled in the accompanying article had always called it that and because it tasted good no matter the name. I wrote “coffeecake” next to the recipe.

I found a similar Blueberry Thing online recently, so the Thing must be a thing.

Officially, this is not a cobbler. I learned that from a helpful if not tiny bit snobbish article that explained the differences between cobblers, pandowdies, crisps, buckles, and slumps. (I know words mean things, Slate, but home bakers deserve a little more sweetness.)

So it’s officially a buckle, because the fruit is laid on top of the batter and allowed to sink during baking, making it appear that the batter has buckled.

You’ll need plump, fresh blueberries and a pan that’s either 9×9 or 11×7 inches.

And whatever you end up calling it, I hope you enjoy.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
2 eggs
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose (plain) flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
1 heaping pint of blueberries
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

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Preheat oven to 350F/175C degrees. Grease a 9×9-inch or 11×7-inch baking pan and set aside.

In bowl, cream together butter and 1 cup sugar; blend in eggs. Stir in 1 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. Put mixture into prepared pan.

In a separate bowl, mix together blueberries, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, lemon juice, remaining 1 Tbsp. flour, and cinnamon. Spoon evenly over cake mixture. Bake 35 minutes, then let cool in pan and cut into squares.

Optional: Turn cooled cake upside down and dust with confectioner’s (icing) sugar.

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

20180415_155748It’s hard to go wrong with carrot cake. Cream cheese frosting on top of a moist, cinnamon spice cake can be hard to resist. This version adds maple syrup to the frosting and uses pecans instead of walnuts. It’s easy to make, though grating the carrots and chopping the nuts takes a little extra time. Try doing those a day or two beforehand so you can have all the ingredients in place when you’re ready to bake.

You can also make these into cupcakes. The recipe will yield a little more than two dozen in standard-size muffin tins.

Cake:
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil (canola or sunflower oil if possible)
4 large eggs
3 cups peeled grated carrots (1 lb.)
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans
2-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and minced

Frosting:
10 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered (icing) sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Cut two circles of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pans. Butter and flour the paper, then place in the pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon to blend. In a large bowl, whisk sugar and oil until well blended. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, pecans, and ginger. Divide batter between prepared pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Peel off paper and cool completely.

(For cupcakes, line muffin tins with paper cups. Fill each about 2/3 full with batter and bake about 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Leave in pan for about 5 minutes, then let cool completely on wire racks.)

For the frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed until well blended. Beat in maple syrup. Chill until just firm enough to spread, about 30 minutes.

Place one cake layer on platter. Spread with about 3/4 cup frosting. Top with second layer, then spread remaining frosting on top and sides.

20180414_113042As you can see in the picture, I decorated the top with finely chopped pecans sprinkled carefully in a ring along the edge. Another idea is to leave the sides unfrosted and simply use more of the frosting on top. Placing pecan halves on top is another easy way to decorate.

I have a picture in my binder of a carrot cake with orange fondant carrots on top. I’ve always wanted to try that. Seems easy enough — just roll the fondant into little carrot shapes, place on the cake, and squirt some thin green frosting at the top of each one for the leaves. If I ever get around to making those, I’ll post the picture here!
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Fettuccine Alfredo

Simple, tasty, elegant, filling, and very much not healthy — but sometimes that’s a worthwhile tradeoff for an easy pasta dinner.

I had a recipe for this in my cookbook for years, but for some reason it stopped working for me. There was no creaminess and it didn’t mix well. This one I found recently on the Food Network site and it was perfect. My only addition is the garnish of fresh parsley.

I served this with small meatballs on the side.

Serves 6

1 lb. fettuccine noodles
1/2 cup (1 stick/110g) butter
1 cup heavy (double) cream
2 cups finely grated Parmesan
Handful fresh parsley, chopped

Start cooking pasta. In a small saucepan, warm butter and cream with a good amount of salt and pepper.

Put half of the cheese in a large bowl.

When pasta is about to finish, add the butter/cream mixture to the cheese in the bowl and mix well. Drain pasta and immediately pour into bowl. Toss well, then add the rest of the Parmesan. Toss to combine.

Garnish individual servings with parsley.