Friday, 2 December 2016

Cheesy Baked Tortellini

I've heard - and talked about - that blogging about recipes you don't LOVE is against all the blogging rules. 

In the past, I've tried recipes and cooked things I wasn't wild about and posted about them.  But at some point along the way, I decided that you didn't want to hear about stuff I hated or was ambivalent about.   You wanted to hear about the dishes that made me smile, the ones that warmed my ribs, the ones that made my tastebuds pop.

I think you can tell - I have LOVED everything I've posted about lately.  So, goal achieved!!

Before I start here.  There's something you need to know.  The original recipe did not meet the criteria above.

So I changed it.  And it was the perfect pasta casserole for a freezing winter afternoon.

It's fairly involved (it'll definitely need to be started early in the day), but when it's -30 degrees C outside, I figure we've all got a little extra time on our hands in the house. 

The reason this takes so long is because you have to start by making a meat sauce.  Which cooks for quite some time. Also, the recipe calls for veal, but I couldn't get veal so I just upped the beef and

Let's kick it into gear.

Heat oil in a large pot and add the meats.  Cook until browned, breaking up the chunks of meat with a wooden spoon.

Add the garlic.

Add the onion.

Cook until the onions are translucent.  Add the salt and pepper.

Then the basil.

Followed up by red wine.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes and the tomato purée.  Stir until combined.  Simmer on low for 2 - 3 hours.

The best part is that this recipe makes a REALLY BIG batch.  The tortellini recipe calls for 3 cups of sauce, so the rest can be portioned into freezer bags and saved for a rainy day.  Which is so great.

You can also plan this so that as the meat sauce is finishing, everything else is ready to go. Totally your call.

Next up is the béchamel sauce.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

Then add the flour.  Whisk together and cook until the flour is golden brown.  Don't let it burn!

Then add the milk slowly, whisking constantly.  

Heat the mixture until it is simmering.  Cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly so it doesn't burn or cook to the bottom of the pot.

The mixture should thicken (you can see how it has on the sides of the pot in the picture below), then add in the provolone cheese and stir until it's melted.

Then add the Parmesan cheese and stir until melted.

Add in salt and pepper.  I usually go for about 1 teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. 

Then stir in 3 cups of your prepared meat sauce.

Put the pasta in a really, really big bowl.  I used my 32 cup Tupperware bowl and it was perfect.

Pour the prepared sauce into the bowl with the tortellini and stir to combine.

Transfer the pasta and sauce into a 9 x 13 baking dish and top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

Cook.  Wait.  Cook and wait.  Get hungry. 

I loved everything about this.  The sauce, the cheese, the pasta.  How it all came together and warmed the frozen cockles of my heart.

You could use any pasta you like.  I do recall seeing a bacon and cheese tortellini pasta and that would be probably wildly delightful.  I used a package of beef/cheese and a package of plain cheese. 

Serve with a Caesar salad and The Bread and that's a meal that is family friendly that will keep bellies full for days.  Or in my case, until dessert.

Xoxo - Heather

Friday, 7 October 2016

French Onion Soup au Gratin Meatballs

I'm starting to "winterize". 

The perennials are starting to turn brown and get cut back.  The oil in the lawnmower is changed.  I got the dirt in the backyard garden turned up and two ugly plants removed.  And then.  There was the snowblower debacle.

The snowblower was purchased in February of 2011 after a ridiculous amount of snowfall in the few months leading up to "the last straw".  The snow was over my head on the lawn!  So, the snowblower came into my life.  And - well.  I just got around to changing the oil in it - this year.  Oops.

Being an individual of somewhat handy means, I checked the instructions and proceeded.  The oil drains from a pipe that about 5 inches long and has a cap on it.  I was unscrewing the cap and it seemed to be taking an amazingly long time.  But I persevered and suddenly, the drain pipe falls COMPLETELY off the snowblower (into the pan I was using to catch the oil), and oil starts going EVERYWHERE.  Ugh. 

So I slammed the pipe back into the machine and screwed it into place.  For whatever reason, the cap was completely stuck in place and I needed to use a pair of vice-grips to hold the drain pipe still while unscrewing the cap. 

Tip from me to you.  Kitty litter will soak up oil like nobody's business.  It's amazing.

Then, after letting the machine sit for a few days to see if the drain pipe was set properly and the cap was tight, I went ahead with starting the stupid thing to see if it would leak when it pressured up.

I hit the primer button, the tilted the machine to roll it closer to the open door so that I wouldn't suffocate and gas dripped on the floor.  So I pressed the primer button a few mores times and MORE GAS leaked out.  Naturally, I needed to rip the thing apart to find out if a piece of tubing had blown apart.

After monkeying around for a little while (and basically emptying the fuel tank into a Ziploc bag), I gave up and headed inside.  After a little bit of research, I discovered that "over-priming" causes the carburetor to over fill and spill over. 

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the snowblower.  Since then, I've moved it around, started it up, and let all the parts move.  With no problems at all.

Tip from me to you.  Research before ripping apart a machine. 

And with that.  The winterizing continues.  Gardens are being cut down, tulips are being planted for the spring.  The garage is getting cleaned out.  I'm surprisingly busy!

So - with the winterizing in progress, it is with just the slightest chagrin that I'm going to slightly switch gears from the summery fun of BBQ to more..... wintery type of meals.

But though the snow and cold is coming to stay - there is totally nothing wrong with the deliciousness that I'm about to share with you.

These French Onion Soup au Gratin Meatballs are beyond unbelievable.  Caramelizing the onions and stuffing the meatballs is somewhat time-consuming - but WORTH IT.

So let's start with the onions. 

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add in the onions.  To get them super-even, I used my mandolin.  But if you have killer knife skills and can slice those onions up evenly - knock yourself out.  

Add the salt and pepper.  And then let cook over medium heat for about 15 - 20 minutes.  Stirring frequently.  You don't want those babies to burn.

Once the onions are caramelized, add in the thyme and cook for another minute or two.

Then add in the red wine.

And add the beef broth.

Stir to coat the onions and cook until the liquid is nearly reduced.

In a medium bowl, combine the beef.

And the bread crumbs.

And the parsley and egg.

Salt and pepper.  And combine.

Cut (about) 2 ounces of mozzarella into half-inch cubes.

Divide the beef mixture into sixteen equal-sized pieces.  Flatten each piece into a patty.

Then stuff with a half tablespoon of the caramelized onion.

Then add in a cube of mozzarella.

Wrap the patty around the onions and cheese and seal as much as possible - rolling into a ball.

Then you're going to brown the meatballs in a skillet.  I would absolutely recommend being lazy and using the skillet that you caramelized the onions in. 

Next is to make the sauce.  Combine beef broth, red wine, and cornstarch and whisk together.

Now.  If you're lucky enough to be using an oven-safe skillet, pour the sauce over the meatballs in the skillet, top with the remaining 6 ounces of cheese, and bake in the oven.

But - if you're like me and you haven't yet acquired a skillet like that, you can transfer the meatballs to a casserole dish, top with the sauce and cheese, and bake in the oven.  I would say that a 7 x 11 inch dish would be just the right size.

Oh, the cheese.  Oh, the meatballs.  Serve them on rice.  Serve them on mashed potatoes.  Top with fresh parsley if you happen to remember.  

But mostly, the glorious, glorious cheese.

The sauce thickened while it was baking, the meatballs came out tender and juicy.  The cheese..  I mean - I'm probably boring you with the cheese business, but if you lust after cheese the way that I do, this meatball dish will be totally perfect for you.

I hope your lawnmower is put away, and your snowblower is all ready for the new winter season.


Friday, 23 September 2016

Drunken Cherry Galette

Let's talk about galettes.

Galettes are basically just a fancy name for a pie that is "ugly".  Except these galettes are SO PRETTY.

Straightforward ingredients...  Sugar, flour, salt, butter, water.

In a large bowl, combine the flour,

With the salt and sugar.

Then add in the pieces of butter.  It's best if the butter is cold.  For the majority of baked goods - butter should be at room temperature (or melted if the recipe indicates).  But for pie - COLD.

Then, using a fork or a fancy schmancy pastry cutter if you have one, cut the butter into the flour until it is about the size of peas.

I prefer my pastry cutter - but a fork works just as well.  Though it might take a little longer.

Then you're going to add in cold water (again - pie crust ingredients must be cold), and stir the mixture until it comes together.  Knead it until it holds together in a dough ball and then refrigerate.

On to the filling.

Remove the stems and pit the cherries.  I used a chopstick to remove the pits and it worked really, really well.  Just press the chopstick through the cherry from the stem end and the pit will pop out the other side.

Once all the stems and pits are removed, put the cherries in a shallow dish.  I used a pie plate.

In a measuring cup, combine the wine, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Then add in the sugar.

Stir the wine, lemon, and sugar mixture together and pour over the cherries.  Stir around to coat the cherries.  I would probably use a different vessel for this next time.

Let sit for about an hour.

After the hour is up, strain the liquid from the cherries and transfer into a pot.  The recipe says to remove 1/4 cup of the wine mixture from the pot, but I didn't.  And it turned out just fine.  Just took a little longer to cook down.

Start simmering the wine mixture until it is reduced to 1/4 cup.  (Mine was only a couple of tablespoons because I halved the recipe).  Then stir in the cherries and add in 1 teaspoon of cornstarch.  Stir again.

The get your dough ready.  Split the dough into equal portions and roll out to desired thickness. 

Top with the cherry mixture and fold the edges up and over the cherry mixture.  It doesn't need to be perfect!

Brush the top of the crust with an egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Then bake.

I topped mine with freshly whipped cream.

Oh - MY this turned out so good.  It's slightly time consuming - but altogether worth it.  

I loved a number of things about this recipe.  1 - the crust was so easy to put together.  2 - the wine, lemon, and cherries came together completely perfectly.  3 - it is easily halved.  4 - It is BEAUTIFUL in its imperfection.

The last thing.  Probably that I abandoned my fork and ate it like a pizza.  I have no shame.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!  xoxo - Heather