2.04.2016

Three Day Cassoulet, or "Project Cooking"



In recent weeks, we have not had much free time. Not enough to put our culinary skills to task and make something good and tasty, anyway. Then suddenly we were faced with Snowzilla 2016. Even if we weren't expected to get a whole lot of snow, we decided to take advantage of the situation and cook. Really cook. "Project cooking."



What's project cooking, you wonder? It's when you decide to make a recipe that is really involved. One that takes time. One that has lots of ingredients and lots of steps. One that maybe takes...three days to make? Yep. A recipe that is, in a word, a project. Does it seem daunting at first? Sure! But like any project, with prior planning, pre-shopping and the blessing of some time in your schedule (like one whole weekend with nothing to do but wait for snow that never comes because it all fell on New York and Jersey) you will have accomplished something spectacular.



The perfect project this particular weekend was that something spectacular we call "Three Day Cassoulet." Cassoulet is a slow-cooked casserole that originates in France and traditionally contains beans and meat, usually duck or goose confit and some type of pork.


And it is a project to make. However, in reality, the first two days' work is pretty light, especially if you do a little cheating, as we did. Use prepared stock and buy your duck confit - that will significantly shorten your efforts. Still, on the third day, the care and time spent on this recipe yields a hearty soulful dish, filled with spicy meats and creamy beans and a depth of flavor that is unmatched. So. Worth. It.


Three Day Cassoulet
Serves 6-8

Cooks' Notes: Try your best to find duck stock and duck fat, but if you can't, use chicken stock and unsalted butter instead. D'Artagnan makes an amazing duck confit that we often find at our grocery store for about $5-6 per leg. Finally, you can make this in one pot and serve it, but we like to make them in individual lidded dishes (it's fancier). 

Ingredients:

3/4 pound dry flageolet beans or small white beans
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic
6 stems of thyme
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
1 carrot, peeled and cut in half
2 ounces salt pork
1 quart duck or chicken stock
2 tablespoons duck fat or unsalted butter, divided
1/4 pound andouille sausage, diced
2 legs of duck confit
3-4 cloves garlic confit, smushed with a spoon
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup Panko-style breadcrumbs
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley

Day 1: 
Place beans in a glass bowl and cover with room temperature water; allow to soak overnight. That's it!

Day 2:
Drain beans and discard the water. Place beans in a large soup or stock pot. Place the peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic cloves, and thyme in a cheesecloth and use twine to close it - a bouquet garni. Throw this into the pot, along with the onion, carrot and salt pork. Cover with the stock. The liquid should cover the beans by an inch. If there's not enough stock, add water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer uncovered until beans are tender. This could take up to 2 hours. Allow to cool entirely, then refrigerate the beans and liquid overnight.

Day 3: 
Drain the beans, reserving the stock, but discarding the vegetables, pork and bouquet garni. Bring the stock to a boil and reduce by half; set the stock aside once it is reduced. Heat 1 tablespoon duck fat in a large skillet and brown the andouille sausage; set aside. Then heat the duck confit in the duck fat so it is warmed through and brown on both sides. Shred the duck with two forks and set it aside with the sausage. Whisk the smushed garlic confit, mustard and butter into the reduced stock. Add the beans, shredded duck and pieces of sausage. The mixture should be moist, so if it isn't, drizzle with additional stock or water. Heat the other tablespoon of duck fat in a clean skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and toast, stirring often, until browned. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley. Either leave the mixture in one serving pot, or divide into individual dishes, and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for additional 15 minutes until thoroughly hot and golden brown. 





2.03.2016

The Beauty of Blood Oranges


One of the things we look forward to every year is winter citrus, those exquisite jewels of the coldest of seasons. No matter how early the sun sets, satsumas, clementines, kumquats, and (our favorite) blood oranges brighten our days with their sun-kissed skins. Citrus fruits enliven a host of dishes, both savory and sweet. And it's fun (and easy!) to substitute one citrus for another in order reinvigorate a favorite dish. This time of year, we push our grocery carts past the familiar old lemons and steer it straight for the blood oranges. We need to take advantage! They won't be around for long.



We bought a dozen, but only needed eight for this recipe for Blood Orange Soufflés that found its way into our email box at just the perfect moment. Sure, there's only two of us, but we have neighbors, so why not make all eight? We texted neighbors J and B the minute-by-minute countdown so they wouldn't end up with sunken desserts. Then the four of us relished each warm, slightly eggy spoonful of tangy, orange-scented clouds. 


Here are some other recipes we've made with blood oranges, each one as gorgeous and delicious as its main ingredient.







1.28.2016

Garlic Confit



The term "confit" is thrown about these days almost as much as the term "steak." But if such culinary powerhouses as Epicurious, TheKitchn, and the New York Times can publish recipes for Cauliflower Steaks, we can publish a post on the smooth, silky magic of Garlic Confit. 

Typically, when people think of confit, they think of duck, or goose, or some other type of meat that has been cooked in its own fat for the purposes of preserving it. It is a pre-refrigeration technique, much like salting or pickling. Only here we are using it to keep garlic, and the fat is olive oil.


Think of it like an easy garlic spread, one that secures all that sweet, fresh garlic flavor without adding the toastiness of roasting. After you've made it, you realize how versatile it can be. Smear it on grilled Italian bread. Toss it into a pot of steamed veggies. Add it to your favorite soup or chili. Rub it under chicken skin before roasting. The tender cloves, as well as the infused oil, have any number of uses, none of which will include the sharp bitterness of raw garlic. Added bonus? It will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator, so go ahead and make a double batch.

Garlic Confit

Ingredients:

1 head of garlic
olive oil, as needed

Separate the cloves of one head of garlic and peel each clove. Cut the root end off of each clove and place them in a small saucepan. Add enough olive oil to cover the cloves by an inch. Set the pan over the lowest possible heat and cook for an hour, until cloves are tender when pierced with a fork (but not brown). Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool, in the oil, for an hour. Pour cloves and oil into a jar, cover with a lid, and keep in the refrigerator up to a month. 



1.25.2016

Ham and Eggs en Cocotte



We are quite familiar with the drill: meteorologists hype the storm for days, everyone heads out to the store for bread and milk, all is quiet during the storm, and then the cleanup begins. What's our favorite part? The quiet. We are encouraged to stay home. We are specifically asked not to be on the roads. You don't have to ask us twice. We are all too happy to cook, eat, binge-watch, repeat. Let it snow! 

We started with Saturday brunch. The air smelled of snow, but there wasn't a flake in sight...yet. No matter. We planned to be in for the day. We took some leftover ham, potatoes and asparagus and transformed them into a beautiful brunch plate Ham and Eggs en Cocotte with homefries and asparagus.

Eggs en Cocotte are named after the individual serving dish in which they are made. We make ours in ramekins, although those gorgeous little Le Creuset and Staub versions are definitely on our wish list. And Eggs en Ramekins just doesn't sound as nice, does it?

It's not the ingredients that matter here, rather, it's the technique. The possibilities are endless. Place your choice of ingredients at the bottom of the cocotte dish, making a little nest for your eggs, which you gently lay on top. Top with cheese or herbs if you like, and bake for 15-18 minutes at 325F, until the egg whites are set but the yolks are runny (bake longer if you like a harder yolk). Make sure to serve them with something to dip into them - toast is a good choice, but so is asparagus spears.

Ham and Eggs en Cocotte
(serves 2)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup diced cooked ham
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 onion, diced
4 eggs
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Divide the ham between two cocotte dishes/ramekins, then set them aside. In a small skillet, heat the butter and cook the onions until translucent and slightly caramelized (5-7 minutes). Divide the cooked onions between the two dishes. Gently break two eggs into each dish on top of the ham and onions. Top with cheese and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 325 for 15-18 minutes, until the whites are set, then serve.

1.07.2016

Happy New Year and an Update


HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

The past few weeks have been extremely busy, but we wanted to check in with our readers with an update of what we've been doing.

This month, we are making our second "appearance" in Go Local MagazineGo Local Magazine is a local lifestyle magazine showcasing life around the Massachusetts/Connecticut line. Its mission is to improve the community by promoting the region (which includes the towns of Stafford Springs, Somers, Enfield and Suffield, CT; and Hampden, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow and Agawam, MA) as a destination to live, play, shop and eat, and to showcase the citizens who make it great. 

Not only is our award-winning recipe for Fried Crab and Avocado Wontons being featured in the current (January 2016) issue (perfect for your Super Bowl party!), but Amy also wrote the article featuring Simpaug Farms in Suffield, CT (their Facebook here). You can get a free copy of Go Local at many businesses around these towns (go here for a list) or read current and past issues on their website. The recipe is on page 24 and the article starts on page 29 in the January issue. 

In a few days, we head to New York to enjoy our Grand Prize in the IKEA Together, We Eat Contest, which includes a $1,500 shopping spree at IKEA, a video shoot at the Paramus store, and a photo shoot with O, The Oprah Magazine. 

Obviously, we have much to be excited about, and thank you, our readers, for your continued support and inspiration.

CHEERS!




12.19.2015

Together, We Eat


It has been quite a couple of weeks for A Couple in the Kitchen. Namely, we were named as Grand Prize Winners of the IKEA Together, We Eat Contest, "Serving Up Spring" with our Spring Onion and Ricotta Fresca Tart.

See the announcement, our "Together, We Eat" story, the recipe, and some photos here: Together, We Eat. Soon we'll be heading to NYC for our video shoot with IKEA and our photo shoot for (wait for it...) Oprah Magazine! Woot!

As always, thank you for reading about our foodie adventures. Cheers!



12.11.2015

A Couple in the Kitchen Featured in Go Local Magazine



Go Local Magazine is a local lifestyle magazine showcasing life around the Massachusetts/Connecticut line. Its mission is to improve the community by promoting the region (which includes Stafford Springs, Somers, Enfield and Suffield, CT; and Hampden, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow and Agawam, MA) as a destination to live, play, shop and eat, and to showcase the citizens who make it great. 

A Couple in the Kitchen is being featured in the current (December 2015) issue - Go Local's largest issue to date. You can get a free copy at many businesses around these towns (go here for a list) or check it out online (here). We are on page 36!


12.06.2015

The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook: Q and A with Author Tracey Medeiros and Book Giveaway


The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook (The Countryman Press, May 2015), co-authored by Tracey Medeiros and Christy Colasurdo, skillfully celebrates and honors the various flavors and food traditions of the Nutmeg State. Connecticut has over 360,000 acres of farmland, and with dynamic communities devoted to it, it is one of the hubs of the farm-to-table movement in America. This is the book's focus, featuring 150 recipes culled from the state's own farmers, fishermen and chefs, and bringing a true taste of Connecticut to its readers. Along with each recipe, there are inspiring stories about the farms, individuals, and/or ingredients that created it with stunning photographs that grace nearly every page. The cookbook is a must-own, not only for CT natives, but for anyone passionate about making inventive seasonal food with locally produced ingredients. 


We had a recent Question-and-Answer with author Tracey Medeiros, a food writer, food stylist, and recipe developer and tester. She writes "The Farmhouse Kitchen: A Guide To Eating Local" column for Edible Green Mountains magazine, and is also the author of The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook (The Countryman Press, May 2013) and Dishing Up Vermont (Storey Publishing, April 2008), honored as 2010 National Indie Excellence Awards Finalist and 2009 Best Books Award Finalist (USA Book News). She travels regionally as a guest cooking instructor sharing her commitment to the sustainable food movement while providing skillful cooking demonstrationsTo learn more about the author go to: www.traceymedeiros.com or The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook’s YouTube ChannelAlong with co-author Christy Colasurdo, an award-winning CT food writer, she now turns her attention southward toward the Constitution State in The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook:

Q.  Why did you decide to write this book?

A.  My inspiration for writing all of my cookbooks has always been the desire to promote community wellness through the process of growing food in a healthy, responsible way.  This has been my message in each of my books and a lifelong purpose. Every person that has been featured in my cookbooks has deeply inspired me by the work that they do. Their dedication and strong commitment to preserving their state’s agricultural way of life through the support of the local food culture is truly amazing.

I met my coauthor, Christy Colasurdo, at the Simon Pierce retail stores in Connecticut during a day of promotional touring. At that time I was hosting book signing events for my first cookbook, Dishing up Vermont. Christy was at the events promoting her business. She had contributed a recipe for my second cookbook, The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook, and thought it would be great if we both joined forces to collaborate on a cookbook that celebrated Connecticut. If not for Simon Pierce, The Connecticut Farm Table may not have become a reality. Thank you, Simon!

Q.  What exactly do you mean by “Farm Table,” or what types of recipes would you characterize as “Farm Table” recipes?

A.  For me, the term "Farm Table" embraces the various stages of food production before it reaches the consumer's table. It illustrates a direct link between the farm and the use of the freshest ingredients - highlighting seasonality, local availability, and a relative ease of preparation.

Q.  What was your favorite part of writing the book?

A.  Writing The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook has given me the joyous opportunity to connect with many of the Nutmeg State’s hardworking farmers, chefs, and food producers. Their passion for what they do shines through in their strong commitment to preserving Connecticut’s agricultural way of life by supporting the local food culture. Receiving deliciously creative recipes, which demonstrated how others use locally sourced ingredients, was the other favorite part of writing the cookbook.

Q.  Was it difficult to convince these restaurant chefs to “give up” their recipes?

A.   Due to the generous nature of the farming community, it was not difficult to convince farmers and chefs to contribute their recipes for the cookbook. These talented individuals believe in, and support, all that is Connecticut whenever possible.

 Q.  In what ways have you noticed the CT food scene changing over the last few years?

A.  The catch phrase, “Buy Local,” has become the mantra of both farmers and chefs.  Knowing that there is a conscious effort on the part of the consumer to maintain a healthier lifestyle, the Connecticut food scene is evolving, embracing the virtues of local, organic, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients. Because of its flourishing food community, Connecticut is the perfect place for the Farm to Table movement to grow and prosper. Its food and farm scene is alive and growing empowered by a mutual desire to bring together consumers, farmers, and food producers in a way that benefits all.

Q.  How can people in CT procure the best ingredients for home cooking, especially in the winter?

 A.  Of course, Farmers' Markets are a wonderful resource for procuring the best and freshest local ingredients for home cooking. Fortunately, these markets are held indoors during the winter where folks can buy a variety of root vegetables, winter squash, and an assortment of other produce that keeps well into the winter months.  In addition, canning and pickling are  fun ways to enjoy local ingredients during the winter months.

Q.  If you were to create the perfect CT Farm Table-inspired 3-course menu, what would it be?

A.  There are so many delicious recipes to choose from in the cookbook, which makes choosing just three a difficult decision.  However, if I had to create a winter inspired 3-course menu it would be:
  • Baby Kale “Caesar” with Fried Capers, Anchovies, and Herbed Crostini found on page 42 in The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook
  • Caseus Mac ’N Cheese found on page 156 in The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook
  • Maple Bread Pudding found on page 282 in The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook



A few days ago, we took Tracey's suggestion and made the Caseus Mac 'N Cheese, perhaps the richest and cheesiest mac we ever had. Here are our photos:






The Book Giveaway
The Countryman Press, publishers of The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook, generously provided us with an extra copy of the book to give away to our readers. 
To enter, leave a comment on this post and/or follow us on Twitter and/or like our page on Facebook (if you are already following us on Twitter or Facebook, tell us so in a comment).
No purchase necessary to enter or win. Void where prohibited by law. Open to legal residents of the United States only. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Winner will be chosen at random. Giveaway ends on Sunday, December 13 at 11:59:59 p.m. ET. Winner will be contacted by email.

UPDATE: GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. CONGRATULATIONS TO CAROLSUE! 

12.01.2015

Turkey Pot Pie Soup



Behold the day-after-Thanksgiving sandwich. Juicy turkey breast, a layer of stuffing (or dressing, if you're a Southerner) and a touch of cranberry mixed into the mayonnaise recreate the holiday dinner bite after glorious bite. However, you can only have so many turkey sandwiches before the glory subsides and it's just another plate of leftovers.


When you are at that point and you still, somehow, have turkey meat left, it's time to try something new. Soup? Been there. Pot pie? Done that. In the spirit of the "cronut," the "stuffle," and countless other hybrid foods, we give you (the not-so-cleverly-named) Turkey Pot Pie Soup.


A touch of flour and some half-and-half transports this concoction from mere soup to pot pie territory. Otherwise, the ingredients are the same. Why sage? Because it's still thriving in our garden. Dried herbs (parsley, rosemary, thyme) or whatever you have on hand will work just fine. We made a homemade stock from our turkey carcasses, but go ahead and allow yourself to use store-bought turkey or chicken stock or broth.  If you're feeling creative, get out a cookie cutter and bake some puff pastry into festive shapes. Or be lazy like us and serve it with bread or biscuits.


Turkey Pot Pie Soup
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cups turkey stock
1 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 cups your favorite (or your leftover) vegetable (we used a can of peas, drained)
3 cups leftover turkey meat, chopped into bite-sized pieces
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a large soup pot. Add onion and celery, and cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add flour and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in sage and carrots. Pour in broth and half-and-half, cover, and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 10-15 minutes, until carrots begin to soften. Add the peas (or other vegetable) and turkey and cook about 5 more minutes until meat is warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


11.10.2015

Goodfellas, New Haven, CT

What is there not to love about a restaurant called Goodfellas that has a continuous loop of its namesake movie on various screens throughout the bar and dining room? Regardless of the punctuation in that last line, that is certainly not a question. Because, in fact, there is much to love about Goodfellas, a dependable Italian favorite located on State Street in New Haven.




At Goodfellas you will find beloved traditional Italian dishes thoughtfully elevated with locally sourced ingredients. For instance, there's the amazing starter, Fiore di Latte, which takes prosciutto and handmade mozzarella to new levels by wrapping it in escarole and drizzling it with aged balsamic. Or the Pork Chop Milanese, at many places served as a simple lightly breaded center cut chop, here it is topped with arugula, fresh mozzarella and tomato chutney with flavorful results. The myriad pastas are fresh and cooked al dente with stunning, savory sauces. At lunch, there are gangster-inspired paninis, such as the aptly named Lucabrasi, made with white albacore tuna, onion, and Swiss or American cheese. You know. Because he "sleeps with the fishes." Bah dum ch. Anyway...

The usual lunch and dinner menus are full of such surprises, but the special Restaurant Week menu is a steal, with three courses (appetizer, entree, and dessert) offered for the wallet-friendly price of $32. And there were ample choices, as compared to other, more limited Restaurant Week menus found in the Elm City.



I (Amy) dined at Goodfellas solo last week, before heading to my 5:30 Artisan Breads class at Gateway Community College. I was thrilled that they were open, as New Haven restaurants tend to close between lunch and dinner, making it difficult to find a decent meal before class. I sat alone at the bar around 3:45, and by the time 5:00 rolled around, the bar and most of the tables in sight were filled. The bartender, Bobby, worked alone, but he handled the business without leaving a lone diner like myself feeling ignored or unimportant. While I sipped my Chianti, I watched the muted screen, supplying the curse-laced dialogue of the movie in my own head. (As Goodfellas is in my top five movies of all time, I know every line. "Now go home and get your #!@$'in shinebox!")

For dinner, I decided to do my own play on surf and turf and ordered the Oysters Rockefeller and "Chef Gennaro's signature dish" the Filet Cognac. I was served three sea-salty oysters swimming in a vaguely sweet herby Pernod-laced bechamel sauce topped with bitter spinach, sharp cheese and crunchy breadcrumbs. They were beautiful and I was transported to my first Oysters Rockefeller, from Antoine's in New Orleans, where they were invented. The Filet was composed of two perfectly peppered medallions that were sooooo tender, I had one of those "Aha!" moments about how filets are tenderloins. Duh. There was enough lobster meat topping the steak to make me feel like I was getting a bargain. The side dish, silky mashed potatoes, were seasoned only to enhance the potato flavor itself, and the entire dish was finished in a velvety Cognac cream sauce that made me wish I had a spoon. 




And yet, there was still dessert to come. Bread class was beckoning, so I asked barkeep Billy what he would choose. Without hesitation he said, "The cupcake," and I said, "Sold!" I requested it to-go and enjoyed it later that night after class. The moist chocolate cake was layered with cannoli cream and covered with a sheen of dark chocolate glaze. Luscious.

All for $32?!?! What a meal. Oh, New Haven, please bring back Restaurant Week soon. Until then, I will be content to dine at Goodfellas no matter the price. ("For us to live any other way was nuts."

Goodfellas Restaurant is located at 702 State Street in New Haven, CT and further information, including hours, menus, events, and more can be found on their website.