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panade

After my last throat-clearing post, I’d wanted to return with something really lovely and inspiring to share with you.

Instead, I have one of the most homely dishes ever to appear in these digital pages.

I’m glad I’m posting it nonetheless for a few reasons. Blogging, like cooking, entails a good deal of putting oneself “out there.” It can be a risky transaction, the self-exposure. G3 has been blessed with gracious readers and commenters (food blogs, like many online spaces, aren’t always so lucky), so I’ve never been terribly afraid of censure from our audience or readers. It’s that I’m typically a harsh self-critic, so posting a picture of something as humble – and homely – as this dish is a good way for me to tell that critic to hush up.

Let me assure you: this dish makes up in flavor what it lacks in beauty. This is oozy, hearty stuff — even a little decadent. Somewhere between onion soup and a casserole, it’s the perfect thing for the wintery weather that’s undeniably upon us here in southeast Michigan. Making this with the last of the Tantre winter share greens, as well as some bits and ends of day-old bread that I’ve been throwing in the freezer for the past months, eases my conscience (I’m not wasting!) and domestic tensions regarding our over-stuffed freezer. Relieving us of a few bags of bread means it’s less likely that we’ll be assaulted by projectile paths of bags of frozen Locavorious produce.

Yep, it makes E happy on a few levels, and that makes me happy.

Onion, Greens, and Gruyere Panade

1 ½ lbs yellow onions, preferably a sweet variety, thinly sliced
About ½ cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, slivered
Salt
1 lb or so of winter greens – kale or chard are my favorites – cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
Water
10 ounces day-old chewy artisan bread, cut into rough 1-inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
About 2 loosely packed cups good-quality Swiss gruyère

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook the onions in lots of olive oil — about 1/4 cup or so. I use my Dutch oven for this, but a deep saucepan would work well. Cook until golden on the edges for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then lower the heat and add the garlic and some salt. Let cook until the onions are a nice amber color, for about 15 mins or so.

Heat a little oil in a large skillet and saute the greens for a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt and stir. Set aside.

Toss and massage the cubed bread with 2 or 3 Tbs olive oil, ¼ cup of the broth, and a few pinches of salt.

Now, I usually assemble the panade in my Dutch oven (the same one I used for the onions, above), but you could use a souffle dish if you like. Start with a good smear of onions, followed by a loose scattering of bread cubes, then a little more onion, some greens, and a handful of cheese. Repeat, continuing until all ingredients are incorporated and the dish is full. Aim for 2 to 3 layers of each component, but don’t fuss over it. This is peasant food, and as I already mentioned, it’s not going to end up pretty.

Pour the remaining broth and water in slowly over the assembled panade, drizzling it down the sides of the dish. The liquid should come up nearly to the top of the layered ingredients.

Set the dish over low heat on the stovetop, and bring its liquid to a simmer. Cover the top of the dish with parchment paper, then with the lid of your Dutch oven or with some foil. Place the panade on a baking sheet in the oven, and bake it until hot and bubbly, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. The top should be pale golden and a bit darker on the edges.

Uncover the panade, raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and leave until for another 10-20 minutes, to brown the top a bit. Remove from oven, and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

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mushroom bourginon

Upon ordering roasted marrow bones and toast at an Ann Arbor restaurant recently, the waiter asked me if I was from France, or had lived in France. When I told him that I had studied there years ago, he said, “Well that explains it. Only people who have spent time in France ever order marrow bones.” “Ah, but I was a vegetarian when I lived in France!” I thus confounded his theory. (The story of how I went from eating no meat to loving marrow bones is perhaps for another day. Let’s say that bacon played a key role.)

Since I learned my way around the kitchen during the years when I was not eating meat, vegetarian cooking is my foundation. I don’t really feel like anything is “missing” from a dish if it lacks meat. That said, I had been on quite a tear lately with the heavy, meat-laden dishes: in the space of about two weeks, I had made braised short ribs, cassoulet, roast chicken, coq au vin, and a meaty lasagne. I think this is my way of battling the brutal Michigan winter: spend hours in the kitchen, tending to something steamy and comforting in the oven or on the stovetop. This has the lovely effect of filling the house with awesome smells and the belly with hearty fare. It also has the unlovely effect of fattening up both me and E.

Something had to give.

The dish I want to share with you is the best of both words: a traditional French dish, sans beef. It’s great for when you want something that will sustain you on a cold February night, but don’t have the time or will to go to the gym twice a day to pay for it.

pearls

Mushroom Bourguignon
[Modified version of the recipe from Smitten Kitchen]

2 T or more olive oil
2 T or more butter
2 pounds mushrooms (I used some portobello and button, but crimini would be nice as well)
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
2 cups broth (veg, chicken, or beef – whatever you have on hand)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)

Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in two batches. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.

Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Add carrots, onions, thyme, salt and pepper into the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn up the heat until the liquid reduces by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes. Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir in. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, continue to boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.

Spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles and sprinkle with chives or parsley; add some sour cream if you like, though I don’t think it’s all that necessary.

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The prodigious amounts of leftovers from our Thanksgiving feast are tucked away in many (dozens?) of tupperware containers or wrapped in various layers of foil and plastic. I indulged with such abandon yesterday that today I wasn’t even tempted by the possibilities of turkey sandwiches or any creative way to use up what remains. I was, however, seduced by the pan of noodle kugel my mom made this afternoon — one of her standbys, a traditional dish she learned how to make from her mother-in-law. It was due to accompany my sister back to school tomorrow, and I had to plead with her to let me have some. She finally relented, and I savored this pudding which I have never thought to make myself. I’m not sure why, exactly, except that it’s one of those special things I look forward when I come home. It’s my mom’s dish, but I think it’s time I add it to my repertoire. Tasting it today, I was struck by the small but unmistakable miracle of such humble, traditional foods — how a few eggs and noodles and cheese and butter, sweetened with some sugar and spice, becomes something so much greater than the sum of its parts.

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Lokshen Kugel (Noodle Pudding)
8 oz. broad noodles, cooked and drained (we use Mrs. Weiss’s broad egg noodles)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cottage cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased 8 x 8 pan. Bake, uncovered in 350 F oven for an hour.

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It’s Thanksgiving Eve and I’m back in my hometown. I walked in the door with armfuls of groceries, including big stalks of Brussels sprouts. My father screwed up his face in a “I hate those things” expression and my mom exclaimed “I’ve never seen how Brussels sprouts grow! How unusual!” So I’m dealing with some skeptics here. But you’ve asked for Brussels sprouts recipes and I won’t let you down.

I’m making Molly Orangette’s recipe this year. I’m thinking that the lemon and poppyseed flavors will contrast nicely with of the heavy meal. It was a toss up between this one and a recipe featuring currants and chestnuts. Claire suggests cutting the sprouts in half, lengthwise, and roasting in some olive oil, and tossing the lot with some blue cheese and some pine nuts. My friend Liz made the recipe below for the pre-Thanksgiving meal, with one modification: substituting chicken broth for water. For tomorrow, she’ll try caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar as substitutions.And Maria is making their household classic, braised with bacon, shallots and chestnuts.

That’s a whole lot of choice in good autumnal flavors for the Thanksgiving table. So defy the skeptics and break out the sprouts. They’ll win the hearts and minds of your dinner guests.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Bon Appétit, via Epicurious
November 2007
Molly Stevens

Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, divided
1/2 pound shallots, thinly sliced
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup water

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes.

Halve brussels sprouts lengthwise. Cut lengthwise into thin (1/8-inch) slices. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sprouts; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown at edges, 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 3 tablespoons butter. Sauté until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, 3 minutes. Add shallots; season with salt and pepper.

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Photo used under a CC license, courtesty of that blonde girl on flickr

Photo used under a CC license, courtesty of that blonde girl on flickr

It’s taken a lifetime for me to get around to eating greens, especially any green other than lettuce. Growing up, greens were just not part of my vegetable lexicon (not much was).  In college, I started to eat some varieties of lettuce and learned to appreciate spinach, but for years I contemplated the acres of leafy green stuff in the produce section at the supermarket with incomprehension. Who, I wondered, really ate that stuff? Surely it was merely decorative, but if so, did it actually get replenished, or did it just languish there, somehow, miraculously and perpetually green?

But thanks to my CSA box, the past few years I’ve undergone a conversion experience.  The first year, I admit, a lot of green stuff found its way into the compost heap. But my guilt got the better of me, and in year two, I started tentatively exploring some ways to cook greens.  The third year was the turning point.  When CSA season had passed, I actually went to Whole Foods and plunked down money for kale. There’s been no going back. This year? Bring on the greens, baby.

Once you’ve learned to appreciate kale, you can feel really smug, because it is indisputably good for you. Vitamin A? Check. Antioxidants? You betcha.  Fibrous? Oh yeah.   But like so many of us, kale’s a little hard to learn to love.  A ways back when I wrote about our CSA, my niece Elsa, the coolest United Church of Christ minister in the state of Maine and young single person learning to cope with her first CSA box, said something along the lines of “I sure need those recipes for kale.” I failed her, until today.

So Elsa, this one’s for you, and for all those who are finding their way into the kale fold.

I had two gateway drugs:

The first is a non-recipe, really.  Remove the tough stems of the kale, chop what’s left, saute it in some olive oil at medium high heat until it’s melted down,  pour a little liquid in the pan, enough so the kale steams a bit in it, cover and simmer for five minutes. Meanwhile, saute some garlic, onion and crumbled hot Italian sausage in some olive oil; at the same time prepare some pasta — I like penne for this dish.  When the sausage has cooked through, add the kale and cook together for a few minutes.  When the penne is done, drain, reserving some of the pasta water, add the penne to the sausage and vegetables and moisten with the pasta water as desired.  Grate a ridiculous amount of fresh Parmesan cheese on top.

The second, and I’ve turned this one out week after week after over the summer, is a frittata recipe over at Orangette. Eggs, cheddar, red onion and kale. What’s not to love? The kale you say? Try it and see.

Kale actually seems to be quite trendy now.  I think the turn toward local sourcing has made necessity the mother of invention. Kale is easy to grow in cool climates and has a long growing season, so it’s often readily available when the more glamorous vegetables are gone.  If you’re ready to move on to greater kale adventures, try one of these:

Danny Meyer writes on Bitten about the Wonders of Stale Bread. One of those wonders? A bread soup with lamb sausage and kale, a simple soup of sautéed sausage, carrots, celery, onion, kale and garlic, simmered in crushed tomatoes and water (or stock) with chunks of crusty bread stirred in right before serving.

A couple of days before, on the same blog, Emily Weinstein explored three kale recipes: with a poached egg on top of toast, flash-fried and in white bean soup.

And just today, The Wednesday Chef cooked up some Taglietelle with Braised Kale and Ricotta

Work your way through those, and you, too will be thinking “kale, it’s what’s for dinner.

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Since sharing with you some stupid things I do in the kitchen, I’m finding myself in a rather tell-all mode. Don’t worry, I’m not going all truth & dare on you, but I do want to confess my undying affection for all things pickled. Since I was a little girl, kindergarten-age or so, one of my favorite snacks was kosher dill pickles. My brother and I were so into them that my mother had to keep gallon-size containers in the fridge just to support our habit. Strange, I know, but also typical of my and my brother’s weirdness as kids. (I.e., we were known in our teenage years to engage in screaming fights over whether the U.S. constitution should be interpreted according to the founders’ original intention (him), or whether it was a “living document” whose meaning would change over time (me). But I digress.)

We didn’t make our own pickles at home. That practice didn’t start for me until, after a visit to Seattle’s Boat Street Cafe and savoring a plate of assorted pickles that is a specialty of this Provencal-inspired restaurant. Each vegetable and fruit was pickled in a different brine, and I was blown away by the strong yet subtle and nuanced flavors in each. They were beautiful to boot.

I recently discovered that Boat Street is now selling their pickles to the world, not just to those lucky Seattleites, which is super exciting to me. Check it out: pickled figs, raisins, red onions, and prunes. I hope Zingerman’s is reading this.

So until I place my order, or until my local gourmet food emporium starts carrying them, I’ll continue making refrigerator pickles chez moi. Until the other day, I had only made quick vegetable pickles. I was a little skeptical of giving the pickle treatment to fruit–in this case grapes–but I needn’t have been. Making pickles out of fresh or dried fruits makes you feel like you’re tasting that fruit for the first time. It tempers and heightens the sweetness of the fruit, confusing your tastebuds a little bit but only in exciting, tangy ways. I’ve been eating these pickles with pork and duck, and I have a mind to serve them as a bold alternative to the canonical Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. Renegade pickle-lover that I am.

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Pickled Grapes
Adapted from a recipe in The Times Picayune, which I tracked down after reading about Orangette’s adventures with quick pickles

Makes about 3 cups

1 pound seedless grapes (I used a combination of red and green)

1 cup white wine vinegar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon allspice

1 (2 1/2-inch) cinnamon stick

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Rinse and dry the grapes, and pull them carefully from their stems. Put the grapes into a medium bowl, and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then pour the mixture immediately over the grapes.

Stir to combine. Set aside to cool at room temperature.

Pour the grapes and brine into jars with tight-fitting lids (or cover the bowl with plastic wrap), and chill at least 8 hours or overnight. Serve cold. Keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, if you can leave them alone for that long.

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