Sunday Family Dinner

Brother’s “Simple and Easy” Family Dinner

November 2018 Fam Din
Us: “Brother, what do you want for your birthday fam din?”

Him: “Um…I don’t know. Let me get back to you.”

November 2018 Fam Din

Two weeks later….

Us: “Brother, you’ve got to decide what you want for fam din…it’s in a couple of days.”

Him: “Um……”

Us: “Yes?”

Him: “Um….how about something simple and easy, like Italian?”

November 2018 Fam Din

Us: “Itallian…simple and easy?? But ok, Italian it is!”

Brothers…..what are going to do with them?

But at least we had a theme so we were off to the races compiling an Italian feast for him.

November 2018 Fam Din
The day of I decided to bake up a tray of Rosemary Focaccia for us to munch on….and mostly because I’m a carboholic and love bread.

November 2018 Fam Din
While the focaccia dough was on its second rise, N made us a few cocktails using Italian sodas. These were her Blood Orange Spritzers and they went down way too smooth!

Dangerous!

November 2018 Fam Din
Of course, because it’s us, there was a Cheese and Charcuterie Board.

November 2018 Fam Din
Some classics you just can never have enough of.

November 2018 Fam Din
By then I had pulled the Rosemary Focaccia out of the oven. After it rested for a few minutes, we sliced it up and dipped it into balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

November 2018 Fam Din
Along with the rosemary, you may have noticed the large flakes of salt on the top of the focaccia. We’re BIG fans of Maldon and love putting it on everything– but if you’re not into it, a light sprinkle of fine sea salt would be fine, too.

November 2018 Fam Din
Nice little bites for appetizers, right?

But hang on…THERE WAS MORE!

November 2018 Fam Din

V & L brought made two more dishes for us to nosh on as appetizers.

First, was a big ol’ pot of Meatballs with Marinara Sauce. The meatballs were perfectly bite-size and tender!

November 2018 Fam Din
And second, they made Zuppa Toscana – a warm and comforting soup that had goodness like bacon, sausage, potatoes, kale and chicken stock.

November 2018 Fam Din
We hadn’t had a soup at Fam Din for quite awhile and we all loved it!

November 2018 Fam Din

Yes, for those of you that are keeping count–that’s a total of four appetizers.

Gluttons? Maybe.

But we REALLY like leftovers.

November 2018 Fam Din
Believe it or not, as soon as we finished with the last appetizer, we jumped back into the kitchen to get dinner ready.

Okay…so maybe “gluttons” is more appropriate.

But we’re 100% alright with that.

November 2018 Fam Din
T took the lead on the pasta dish for the evening. She was interested in making some variation of stuffed shells and when given the choice for protein, Brother went for seafood.

And man oh man…was it decadent!

November 2018 Fam Din
The filling consisted of lump crab, shrimp and scallops—of which the latter two were blanched in lobster stock! There was also aromatics, seasonings, mayo and the tamales from the shellfish.

HELLA RICH and oh so delish!

November 2018 Fam Din
In addition to the stuffed shells, I made crispy Pork Milanese….because why not make another entree right?

November 2018 Fam Din
Though I did realize that we needed some greens to offset the richness of both of the entrees.

November 2018 Fam Din

With Nini’s help, I pulled together a quick salad of Arugula with Citrus and Parmesan Shavings.

And yes, it did make us feel better.

November 2018 Fam Din
Oh man…we were stuffed. And there was still the birthday dessert!

So we sent the humanlings off to walk the fur babies for awhile to burn off some of the dinner.

November 2018 Fam Din
Bella looks like a zombie.

November 2018 Fam Din
These two Cousies really like this pose a lot.

November 2018 Fam Din
Back in the casa, seester N put the finishing touches on the dessert she made – Tiramisu!

Her desserts are always so purrrrty.

November 2018 Fam Din

And Molto Delizioso!

November 2018 Fam Din
Happy Birthday V!

November 2018 Fam Din
And when all was said and done, we had a good laugh as we recalled all of the dishes we had made for Brother’s “simple and easy” dinner.

Brothers….what are you gonna do with them, right? ❤
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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Blood Orange Spritzers, Various Wines
Appetizers: Rosemary Focaccia, Cheese & Charcuterie, Meatballs with Marinara Sauce, Zuppa Toscana
Entree: Seafood Stuffed Pasta Shells, Pork Milanese
Sides: Arugula with Citrus and Parmesan Shavings
Dessert:
Tiramisu

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Pastas/Noodles · Pork · Soups/Stews

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli

I’m kind of in love.

With this soup, that is.

It’s warming and fulfilling with tons of veggies, beans, sausage, and pasta. I also threw in some beautiful Swiss Chard at the end for some added texture and flavor— but any type of dark, leafy green could do the trick. Extra veggies never hurt a gal, right?

Depending on how you like the consistency of your soup, you can either add or limit the amount of chicken broth. I personally like mine on the soupier side so I can dunk some crusty bread in.

But one thing is for certain. No matter how you prefer it, this Pasta e Fagioli is the ultimate comfort food.

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Pasta e Fagioli
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup white onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, finely minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups low sodium chicken broth, or more depending on desired consistency
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 dried bay leaves
¾- 1 cup macaroni noodles, or other short pasta
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 cups Swiss Chard, cleaned and roughly chopped
kosher salt and black pepper

In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium. Add sausage and use a wooden spoon to crumble up the meat. Continue browning until the sausage is barely pink. Add the onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and sauté until the vegetables have softened. Add in the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes with its juices and Cannellini beans. Add chicken stock, thyme and bay leaves. Partially cover and bring the pot to a boil. Remove the lid and stir in the pasta. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until pasta is al dente—about 9-10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves and thyme stems. Stir in the cheese and Swiss Chard. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Pastas/Noodles · Poultry · Soups/Stews · Vietnamese

Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)

Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)

 

Chicken Noodle Soup…..what could be more comforting?

Cultures all around the world have their own spin on this soul warming dish. For the Vietnamese, we have at least two versions— Phở Gà and Miến Gà.

Phở Gà is the lighter alternative to the traditional beef Phở and follows a similar cooking method. Due to the slow simmering process of the broth and spices, it takes me a couple of hours to complete a quality Phở Gà. Miến Gà offers a lighter broth and is served with glass noodles (Miến). White on Rice Couple gives a great overview of Miến.

 


Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)

 

Both soups are delicious–especially on cold days. However, I find myself making Miến Gà more often. My version of Miến Gà can be done in a quick 20 minutes. In addition, you can tailor the ingredient amounts to make anywhere from 1 to 8+ bowls. Whereas with Phở Gà, you need a couple hours (at least) and are committed to a huge pot of it!

 


Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)
The key to my Miến Gà is homemade chicken stock—something I almost always have on hand.  That combined with a splash of what I call “Vietnamese Liquid Gold” and you will have a wonderful and clean broth for your Miến Gà.

Wondering what Vietnamese Liquid Gold is? Nước Mắm (fish sauce), OF COURSE! 🙂

 


Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)

 

Serve your Miến Gà with fresh herbs (cilantro, Thai Basil), a few slices of red chilies, and a squeeze of lime. The herbs, spice, and the tiny bit of citrus perfectly rounds out the flavors. This type of balance is the quintessential foundation in Vietnamese cuisine.

Miến Gà— now that is comfort food 🙂

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Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1.5 Quarts Homemade Chicken Stock
2 Tablespoons Nước Mắm (fish sauce)
1 Inch Fresh Ginger, peeled
1 Teaspoon Black Peppercorns
1 Boneless Chicken Breast
4 Ounces Dried Miến (glass noodles)
Hot Water
Garnish: Chopped Scallions, Chopped Cilantro, Thai Basil, Slices of Red Chilies, Lime Wedges

Fill a large bowl with hot water and add Miến. Soak Miến for at least 15 minutes until they have softened.

In a medium size pot, add chicken stock, Nước Mắm, peppercorns and ginger. Bring to a simmer and add chicken breast. Continue poaching chicken breast until it is fully cooked, about 8 minutes–depending on size. Remove the chicken breast. Once it’s cooled slightly, slice or shred the meat.

Turning back to the the broth, skim off any impurities that may have formed. Taste and adjust the seasonings—adding more pepper or a dash of Nước Mắm as needed. Keep the broth at a low simmer to ensure it stays hot.

Drain the Miến and add to bowls. Sprinkle with scallions, cilantro, and arrange chicken slices on top. Ladle hot broth over and noodles. Garnish with additional scallions, chilies, basil, and lime.

Note: It’s important that the broth remain piping hot when it’s poured over the noodles. The heat will finish cooking the Miến.


**This is my submission to Delicious Vietnam, a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese cuisine which was started by Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey and Hong & Kim of  Ravenous Couple. To participate,  please send entries to theculinarychronicles@gmail.com by March 13th! For more information, please visit Delicious Vietnam**

 

 


Soups/Stews

Corn Chowder and a Photo Quandry

In the age of Digital Cameras, photography novices (and I mean ME!) rely on taking hundreds of shots in hopes of getting 1 or 2 photos we like. It’s so easy to snap a photo, take a quick peak, delete, re-shoot….repeat.

Sure, I play around with aperture settings, ISO, composition, blah-blah-blah. But most of it’s trial and error. This especially occurs when I shoot food photos. I often torture loved ones by making them wait until I’ve snapped the thousandth photo before they can dig into their plates. It’s a sad thing.

So I decided to challenge myself the other day……. take only ONE shot of a dish. One quick click without any do overs.

The subject of the photo—a Corn Chowder to take the chill off the cold days we’ve been having.

Sadly, it definitely wasn’t a great photo.  But alas, I had to stick to my guns—- though I had a quandary on my hands. Even though the photo was BLEH the Corn Chowder turned out so darn tasty and tummy warming. If I scrapped the photo, I would have nothing to show you Friends.

Alas….here it is….

 

Corn Chowder

 

Meh……

Not my best work but I’m a work in progress. And although I’m glad to have challenged myself, next time I will continue to click away. Let’s face it….that’s why I bought a digital camera in the first place 🙂

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Corn Chowder
Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Cups Russett Potatoes, diced
1 Cup Corn Kernels
½ Cup Carrots, finely diced
½ Cup Celery, finely diced
½ Cup White Onion, finely diced
2 Whole Garlic Cloves, finely diced
3 Strips Bacon, finely diced
2 Dried Bay Leaves
1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme Leaves
1 Quart Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a heavy bottom pot, cook the bacon slowly until crisp and the fat has rendered out—about 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate covered with a paper towel.

In the same pot with the bacon grease, add carrots, celery, and onions and cook until they are translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, potatoes and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring liquid to a boil and then cover and lower heat to a steady simmer.

Continue to simmer until the potatoes become tender—about 15-20 minutes. Once this has been achieved, use a wooden spoon to smash some of the potatoes against the sides of the pot to release some of the starch into the liquid. Stir in the corn and cream and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and discard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle the tops with the crisped bacon.

Soups/Stews

Cream of Asparagus Soup

I’ve been on a soup kick lately….it’s all I want to eat and all I want to cook. I’m sure the nonstop rain we’ve been experiencing may have something to do with it, too. 🙂

So, this past Sunday, I thought I would make a Cream of Asparagus Soup. It sounded earthy, fresh, and somewhat “indulgent” because of the cream. I threw together some ingredients we had on hand and was extremely happy with the results. Not only was it quick and simple but it was also delicious! The crab meat added such a great “hmmmm” factor to the simple soup without deterring from the fresh produce. The lemon juice is also a must—as the acidity helps with it to not be over “creamy”.

Enjoy!

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Cream of Asparagus Soup
Serves approximately 3-4

Ingredients:

1 Large Leek, finely chopped and thoroughly washed
2 Large Shallots, chopped
2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
2 Garlic Cloves, minced finely
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
1 lb. Fresh Asparagus (approximately 1 bunch), cut into 1 inch pieces
4 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
½ Cup Heavy Cream (or Half & Half)
½ Cup Crab Meat
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a heavy pot, melt butter with the olive oil. Cook leeks, shallots, and garlic until ingredients are softened-but not browned. Add asparagus, thyme leaves and broth. Simmer with lid on. Cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Purée the items with the lemon juice in a blender until smooth. This may be done in batches. Be sure to take precaution blending hot liquids. Pour the puréed soup into a clean pot and stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently warm the soup until it begins to lightly bubble.

Ladle soup into bowls and place a heaping spoon of crabmeat in the center of the bowl. Serve with toasted bread.

Asparagus, Leeks, Shallots, and Lemon
Fresh Cream of Asparagus Soup with Crab. Served with Toasted Sourdough Baguette.