Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cream of Asparagus & Broccoli Soup

This is basically a "we're broke and gotta do something with leftovers" soup that came out fantastic!  Very rich, creamy soup and surprisingly, neither the asparagus nor the broccoli are overwhelming.  As Justin just said, it's a stick-to-your-ribs soup.  Now, I actually made this soup with some of Justin's homemade pork broth which gave it this great, smokey, ham or bacon flavour.  However, since I know most people don't have pork broth hanging around in their freezer, I'm going to post the recipe with chicken broth, which is perfectly acceptable.

I'm going to be honest here with the music - I was in a retro mood and listening to my Rosemary Clooney Pandora station (even my garnish got retro!), but this is a rock'n'roll blog and I just can't bring myself to post one of her songs.  So I'm going with a song that came across my ears yesterday that I hadn't heard in years!  T.S.O.L.'s "Black Magic"!  I remember loving this song the first time I heard it and then playing it over, and over, and over, and then over again!   Hard to find a video of this song at all!  -jen

Time: 45-60 minutes total
Serves: 6-8
Difficulty: Easy 
  • 1.5 pounds of asparagus
  • 1 pound of broccoli
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on taste)
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove woody ends of asparagus and discard; chop the asparagus into 2" pieces.  Chop broccoli into about 2" pieces, including the stems.  Lay out on a baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil, then toss to coat all vegetables.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat butter in stock pot over medium-high heat and saute onions until soft and transluscent, 5-10 minutes.  Add minced garlic and cook an additional 3 minutes.  Add flour and stir until combined, cook another 5 minutes.  Whisk in chicken broth and milk until all clumps have disappeared and sauce begins to thicken.  Add roasted asparagus and broccoli, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, tarragon, and cayenne pepper.  Taste soup to see if it needs additional salt and pepper.  Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.  (If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender or food processor, but do it in batches and be careful because the soup is hot!)  Stir in sherry and serve.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Creamy Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

I love making stuffed mushrooms all kinds of different ways!  Mushrooms rock!  Usually I do a crab-cheese-breadcrumb stuffing, but last night we had some leftover spinach in the freezer and I was thinking of going a little creamy with it.  I've tried doing creamy stuffed 'shrooms before using cream cheese, but I didn't really care for the way it came out... a little too rich and stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth. Thinking there must be a better way, I tried a bechamel and cheese sauce and I loved how these came out!  They might even be better than the crab stuffed 'shrooms!  Oh man... now I'll have to try making crab and spinach stuffed mushrooms using this recipe!!!

How about a little Face to Face doing a cover of Popeye!  Eats your spinach!  -jen

Time:  20 prep, 20 baking
Serves: 5-7
Difficulty: Easier than Pie!
  • 12-15 large white mushrooms, cleaned
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1.5 cups shredded Fontina cheese
  • 1.5 cups frozen spinach, thawed (squeeze all the juice out!  Do it!)
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh, chopped basil (love having the AeroGarden!)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs 
  • non-stick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Prepare a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

Using your hands, gently tug the mushroom stems away from the caps, careful not to break the caps, and dice the stems finely.  Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over a medium-high heat and saute the mushroom stems, diced shallots and garlic until tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3 minutes.  Quickly pour in the milk and whisk to remove all lumps.  Continue whisking until sauce becomes thick, another 3-5 minutes.  Add the cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste (I think I used about a teaspoon of salt and probably 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper.)

Once the sauce has thickened, remove from heat and add about 1/2 of the shredded Fontina, stirring until the cheese is entirely melted.  Stir in the spinach and the basil until entirely incorporated, then add the remainder of the cheese and set aside.

In a small bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave.  Add the Panko to the melted butter and toss until entirely coated.

Spoon the spinach mixture into the mushroom caps.  Since the mixture is creamy, you don't want to go too far over the top of the cap or it will just ooze and melt when you bake it.  Top each mushroom with a generous portion of bread crumbs, gently pushing the crumbs into the spinach mixture.  Place mushrooms on the prepared baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, until breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Accordion Potatoes

We started out the new year with a great brunch with new friends (new for me, anyway).  I'd been wanting to try my hand at some sliced baked potatoes because I had a ton of different ideas for them.  Our friend Mike had made some a while back, showing us pictures - they looked great!  Then we saw some made on television and decided we had to make them.  Today presented a perfect opportunity, as we were hosting brunch and needed something to go with the Greek frittata that Justin was making. 

I'm not a huge fan of potatoes - baked, mashed, scalloped.  It's not that I dislike them, they just don't do a whole lot for me.  Until... today.  These potatoes were so freaking bomb ass, I ate two servings at brunch, and went back for a half of a potato for a snack.  I want to make more right now... we just don't have any potatoes left.

C'mon.  Irish.  Accordion.  Potatoes.  This was a total no brainer for music.  Flogging Molly's "Drunken Lullabies".  I love these guys.  -jen

  • 3 large baking potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 1-2 lemons, sliced super thin
  • 1-2 shallots, sliced super thin
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Scrub outside of potatoes clean.  Lay potato on cutting board and slice into 1/8-1/4" slices, not slicing through the bottom of the potato.  You can use two wooden spoons on either side of the potato as a bumper to stop you from cutting through it like in this photo.

Drizzle all but a teaspoon or two of the melted butter over entire top of potato, using your fingers to separate the pieces and get butter down into the crevices.  Sprinkle seasoning salt and dill over potatoes, separating pieces again to make sure seasoning gets into all the slots.

Squeeze sliced lemon and shallots, alternating, in between the potato slices.  Brush the tops of the potatoes with the remaining butter.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 60-80 minutes, until potato is tender.  (Timing depends on how large your potatoes are.  Test a middle piece with a fork - if it slides in easily, it's done.)

Remove and serve.  Don't forget to pull out the lemon wedges if you're not into eating lemon rind.

You could really season the potatoes with anything you wanted.  I actually used Penzey's Forward spice mix, some salt, and the dill.  Next time I'd like to use one of our chile-based spice rubs we make, and sprinkle some shredded cheese on during the last 10-15 minutes.