Pasta e Fagioli

April 4, 2020

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Ok…so things have really changed…for everyone…everywhere! And these changes are not going to be changing back anytime soon from the looks of it. Covid-19 has hijacked life as we know it. The world is pretty much on pause and folks everywhere are sheltering in place. At first, what I will call Stage I of my quarantine/lockdown, I was very motivated. I went on a cleaning spree, did loads of paperwork I had procrastinated on and finished our taxes. Then I totally organized my pantry, making an inventory of all that we had available and then sat down to plan out what meals were possible with the ingredients we had on hand.

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I wondered how easily it would be to have groceries delivered, so I signed up for Peapod through Giant groceries stores. Well, I found out that Giant did have quite a few items, no toilet paper mind you, but fairly well stocked all things considered. The a-ha moment came when I went to schedule a delivery. Not one time slot was available for three weeks! Yes. Three! Luckily our pantry was pretty full to begin with so three weeks was actually not a problem for us. Now, just because I put those items in my cart, doesn’t actually guarantee that I will get them. Giant does let you know that they may remove items from your cart if they are not available at the time of your delivery. So I don’t actually know what I will be getting. It will be a surprise. You know, kind of like opening Christmas gifts. So wish me luck! But let me get on with today’s recipe: Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans). This dish is also known as Pasta e Fasule (pasta fazool), which is its Neapolitan name.

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My pantry held almost all of the ingredients needed to make this hearty and filling traditional Italian soup. What I did not have, I was able to easily sub in alternatives. For instance, I did not have a yellow onion, but did have a package of pearl onions. Problem solved! Not to mention, there are many variations of this soup found in Italy. Sometimes it is completely vegetarian, sometimes it is made with sausage or beef, sometimes it has a tomato base and sometimes it doesn’t. So feel free to cook up your own versions depending on the ingredients you have on hand.

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This recipe that I’m sharing today makes a flavorful, fresh, creamy, and somewhat thicker soup with pancetta, white wine, carrots, cannelleni beans, lentils and pasta.

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And good news! This soup freezes very well. So if you are quarantined alone, you can freeze the soup prior to adding the pasta, which once added, tends to soak up a lot of the broth. When you are ready to eat it, just defrost and add the pasta before serving. It is a wonderfully delicious and comforting meal to warm you up on these still chilly Spring days! Stay safe out there and remember to wash your hands!

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Pasta e Fagioli

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Once Upon a Chef

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 110 grams pancetta, diced (could sub in bacon)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 medium ribs celery, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 120 ml white wine
  • 1.5 L low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (439 gram) cans cannelleni beans or chickpeas (or combination), rinsed and drained
  • 50 grams dried lentils, rinsed (preferably French green lentils, but any green or brown lentils are fine)
  • 230 grams diced or chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices (I only had a really spicy chili blend on chopped tomatoes – so our soup had quite a kick to it!)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary (I did not have any rosemary, so substituted in fresh basil)
  • 105 grams dried pasta, such as ditalini (or whatever you might have in the pantry)
  • 35 grams freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving

Directions:

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat begins to render, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot and celery and increase the heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

Add the wine and cook until it has nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, salt, pepper, beans, lentils, diced tomatoes, bay leaves and rosemary. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are just tender, 15-30 minutes, depending on the type of lentils you used.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer 240 ml of the bean mixture and a little liquid to a blender. Remove the center knob so steam can escape. Hold a paper towel or kitchen towel over the opening to prevent splatters. Purée until smooth and set aside. An immersion blender would work here as well.

Add the dried pasta to the pot and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat up to a gentle boil and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on the type of pasta you used. The soup will thicken a bit by the time the pasta is cooked. Fish out and discard the bay leaves.

Stir the reserved puréed bean mixture into the soup. (If you’re having a hard time getting the mixture out of the blender, remove as much as you can with a rubber spatula, then add some of the hot soup broth to it and swirl around to loosen it up; it should come right out.) Cook briefly, until the soup is heated through.

Remove the soup from heat and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano. If the soup seems too thick, gradually add 240-480 ml of water or more chicken broth and thin to desired consistency (note: the longer it sits on the stove, the thicker it will get). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle each portion with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired.

Note: This soup is best served immediately; as it sits, the pasta and beans soak up the broth. If the soup gets too thick, you can thin it with a bit of broth or water.

Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The soup can be frozen, without the pasta, for up to 3 months. Defrost the soup in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until simmering, add the pasta, and cook until the pasta is tender. (The beans may have soaked up some of the broth while frozen, so add more broth to thin out the soup, if desired.)

Enjoy!

Pasta e Fagioli brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Useful links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Pasta e Fagioli:

Le Creuset 5 1/2 qt. dutch oven
Breville Immersion Blender

Chef Armstrong’s Chicken Casserole (aka President Obama Stew)

March 12, 2017

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So I know I’ve been all about my mate Theresa’s gorgeous debut cookbook: Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen. And a lovely book it is. However, that is not to say that there aren’t other lovely cookbooks out there…and another one I’m all about is: My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve by Cathal Armstrong & David Hagedorn.

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I have not had the pleasure of meeting Chef Armstrong, but I am certainly a big fan. Chef Cathal Armstrong, originally from Dublin Ireland, has a culinary empire here in Northern Virginia  which includes Restaurant Eve, the Majestic Cafe, two branches of Eamonn’s – A Dublin Chipper, PX cocktail lounge and Society Fair a gourmet emporium and wine bar. He is an internationally recognized four-star chef and leader in the sustainable food movement which he attributes firmly to his Irish upbringing. Chef Armstrong has brought forth this cookbook which contains a collection of family recipes and Irish inspired dishes from Restaurant Eve. It is from this cookbook that I take this recipe for Chicken Casserole, which he fondly calls “President Obama Stew”. According to Chef Armstrong, it seems that on Saturday October 9th of 2011, while taking a little time off of work and preparing his mother’s chicken casserole for a family dinner, he received an unexpected call from his restaurant manager at Restaurant Eve. The Obamas were coming for dinner. And it wasn’t just any old dinner for them, that night they would be celebrating their nineteenth wedding anniversary. Well, needless to say, the family chicken casserole was forgotten as he rushed back in to the restaurant. The recipe I give you today is that casserole. Now I would definitely be a bit remiss if I told you that i wasn’t a little bit sorry that the Obamas didn’t dine on this casserole. Nevertheless, this is an amazing dish!

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Cooked low and slow, this chicken is so savory, so succulent and so all around spectacular it is definitely elevated from a mere casserole rating. Now I will admit, I did make a couple of wee changes. The Chef does call for the use of an entire cut up chicken. I did decide to go with solely chicken thighs – less choice but better for consistency in cooking. That being said, when I cook this again- oh and I will – I will use skinless boneless thighs and will remove the bones and shred the chicken once the casserole is cooked through. But to each his own. I also LOVE mushrooms and decided to throw in some portobello mushrooms. I hope the Chef will forgive my adaptations. I will tell you this casserole, or stew even, is brilliant all on its own – so savory, thick and hearty with just the right amount of spice (who would’ve known 20 cloves of garlic was just the right amount…) but it is absolutely amazing when served over mashed potatoes.

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A feast worthy of St. Patrick himself I tell you! I assure you folks will be over the moon if you serve up this feast on St. Patrick’s Day. Heck with the 20 cloves of garlic in this baby, you wouldn’t go wrong serving this up on Halloween – t’would definitely keep the vampires at bay! Though seriously, if you want to treat yourself to some amazing Irish recipes, beautiful photography and various cooking tips in general, invest in a copy of Chef Armstrong’s My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve.

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Chef Armstrong's Chicken Casserole (aka President Obama Stew)

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland & Restaurant Eve” by Cathal Armstrong & David Hagedorn

Ingredients:

  • 1 (3 1/2 pound ) chicken – cut into 14 pieces – (or….I just used 3 1/2 lbs of chicken thighs)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, very coarsely chopped
  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch coins
  • 6 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 – inch dice
  • 8 oz. portobello mushrooms, washed and sliced (*optional – my addition)
  • 20 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped (yup…not a misprint….20!)
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), coarsely chopped, and their juices
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 large fresh bay leaves
  • 1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped, with seeds
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • Leaves from 1 large bunch fresh bails (1 cup loosely packed) coarsely chopped.

Directions:

If the chicken you purchase is not already cut up into pieces, then cut your chicken in 14 pieces, making 6 breast pieces, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs and 4 wing joints. (Or just use a big old package of thighs – this is per me-not Chef Armstrong). Season them well with salt.

Brown the chicken in a large pan over high heat. Arrange all of the chicken evenly in the pan skin-side down and cook for 5 minutes, until golden brown. The pieces should release easily from the bottom of the pan; if they don’t , let them brown longer until they don Transfer the pieces to a flameproof casserole, arranging them skin side up. ( I used my largest Le Creuset dutch oven.)

Add the onion, carrots, celery and mushrooms (if you are adding them) to the sauté pan, stirring to combine them. Sweat the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes until they are translucent but still bit firm. As they cook and water releases from them, use a flat edged wooden spatula to deglaze the pan by scraping up the brown bits from the bottom. Stir in the garlic (seriously…don’t be scared- use all 20 cloves – the stew will taste amazing and somehow not over garlic-y) and then the tomatoes and flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the bay leaves, serrano chile, chicken stock, thyme and rosemary.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to the casserole. Bring to a boil then decrease the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer slowly for 45 to 60 minutes, until the chicken and vegetables are very tender. Remove the stew from he heat. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper if you like. (Truth be told – here is where I would recommend removing the chicken pieces from the stew. Shred the chicken meat from the bones and stir the meat back into the stew mixture.) Stir in the basil leaves at the last second before driving. The stew can be made a day before and gently reheated on the stove or in a 300°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

I have served this chicken casserole all on its own or over mashed potatoes and I gotta say – Mashed Potatoes are the way to go. I am sure it would also be good over rice, but again go with the Mashed Potatoes for the win!

Enjoy!

Chef Armstrong’s Chicken Casserole brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Chef Armstrong’s Chicken Casserole (aka President Obama Stew):

My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve by Cathal Armstrong & David Hagedorn

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Oval Dutch oven – 8 quart

Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Potato Ricer – The key to perfect unbelievably creamy – dare I say dreamy – mashed potatoes every single time. Well, this and a good amount of butter and cream…

 


Irish Stew

March 14, 2014

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I can’t believe I’ve never gotten around to blogging an Irish Stew recipe before, but better late than never. And I guess technically, I’m not late. There are still 3 more days until St. Patrick’s Day arrives, so that leaves you tons of time to gather the ingredients. Though I should probably confess straight from the git-go that this is not a traditional Irish stew recipe. Some liberties have been taken with it, but I believe that they are upgrades from the traditional recipe.

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Not that the traditional version is bad. I’ve eaten some delicious bowls of that robust stew. However, I may have had a bowl or two that were definitely suspect. You know what I mean…tough, stringy meat surrounded by mushy veggies in a watered down broth. Boo! Perhaps I should have thought better of ordering this particular dish when visiting particularly dodgy pubs…but I’ll just chalk it up to life experience. This version of Irish Stew remains true to the original version in that it still contains lamb, potatoes, onion, carrots, parsnips and parsley. It veers from the traditional recipe in a couple of ways. Traditional Irish Stew is a white stew, meaning that the meat is not browned. Well, the meat is browned here. I feel this not only improves the appearance, but also serves to really deepen the flavour. That and the long slow cooking time results in a rich tender meat which seems to nearly melt in your mouth. The second big deviation is that a bunch of bacon has been added into the mix. What can I say? Everything is better with salty, smoky bacon and this hearty Irish Stew is no exception.

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I knew this recipe was a winner when I fed it to the musicians that play in a band with my husband. I usually use them as guinea pigs for the various recipes I’m trying out. I didn’t think they’d be very excited about Irish Stew for dinner, but much to my surprize, they went wild for it.

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Four of them neatly polished off a huge pot of stew before I could blink twice! “Some of the best stew I’ve ever had” was heard a couple of times. Ahhhh yes! Irish Stew Success!

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Irish Stew

recipe from: The Runaway Spoon

yield: 8 servings ( only four if serving hungry musicians)

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds lamb stew meat, in 2-inch cubes (you can also use lamb shoulder or leg cut into cubes)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 parsnips
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 – 3 yellow potatoes
  • chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Directions:

Pat the lamb cubes dry with paper towels.  Mix the flour, salt and pepper together in a large ziptop bag, then drop in the lamb and shake it around to coat each cube with flour.

Cook bacon over medium high heat until the bacon is crispy.  Remove the bacon to paper towels to drain.  Crumble bacon. Let the bacon grease cool a bit, then very carefully pour it into a glass measuring jug.

In a large Dutch oven, heat ¼ cup of the bacon grease.  Remove the lamb cubes from the bag, shaking off any excess flour and cook them in the bacon grease until browned on all sides.  You will need to do this in batches, removing the browned pieces to a plate.  If needed, add a little more bacon grease to the pot and heat it up between batches.

When all the lamb is browned and removed from the pot, add 2 more Tablespoons of bacon grease and the chopped onions and cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.  When the onions are soft, add ¼ cup of red wine or Guinness stout and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Cover and cook until the onions are soft and caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook a further 2 minutes.  Return the lamb and about ¾ of the cooked bacon to pot.  Pour in the beef broth, add the bay leaves and thyme and bring to a boil.  Stir the stew well, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 1 ½ hours.

Peel the parsnips and carrots and cut into bite-sized chunks.  Add to the simmering stew.  Scrub the potatoes, but do not peel, and cut into nice chunks.  Add these to the stew as well, give it all a good stir, cover the pot and cook for a further 1 1/2 hours or until the potatoes, carrots and parsnips are tender.

At this point, the stew can be made up to a day ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated.  Reheat over medium just until warmed through.  Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems before serving.

Serve in big bowls, topped with the remaining bacon pieces and a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.

Enjoy!


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