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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pasta Fagioli

Now that my preschooler is into soup, I'm all about making it as much as I can.  There's nothing cheaper, easier, or more delicious.  This recipe for pasta fagioli from Family Circle was the latest soup that we tried.

Pasta Fagioli

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
2 cans (14.5 oz) reduced sodium chicken broth
8 oz (about 2 cups) small pasta shells
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 bunch fresh kale, tough stems discarded, cut into 1-inch pieces and washed*
2 cans small white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Grated Parmesan, for serving

(* I wasn't impressed with the selection of kale and used baby spinach instead)

1.  Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onion and cook 5 minutes.  Add garlic; cook 1 minute.

2.  Stir in tomatoes, broth and 3 cups of water.  Bring to a simmer over high heat.  Add pasta and Italian seasoning.  Cook, stirring, 5 minutes.

3.  Stir in kale; cook 5 minutes more.  (If using spinach, cook for approximately 2 minutes.)  Reduce heat to medium and stir in beans, tomato paste, salt and pepper.  Heat through.

4.  Ladle into bowls; garnish with Parmesan.

The Verdict:  Quick, easy, delicious.

This is another soup that's great for the toddler to preschool set as you can ladle out more beans and pasta than broth, making it easier for them to eat.  Of course, if your kid is my kid, you have to spend a few minutes picking out bits of floating green.  While that was annoying, he did proclaim this recipe to be "delicious" (or "deeyishis" in Amir speak).

The combination of tomatoes/beans/pasta is always a hit in our house.  It's satisfying and keeps well for leftovers; just add a little more water and broth to the next day's pot. 

While this isn't the best recipe ever, it is good.  And fast.  And vegetarian.  And, most of all, the kiddo likes it. Which means that I might just make it again. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Crock Pot Coq au Vin

Before the birth of my newest child, I spent a great deal of time cooking and freezing food.  If you follow this blog you already know this.  I have a good recipe for coq au vin, as well as a new one from a Good Housekeeping cookbook that's cooked in a crock pot.  It was a giant cooking conundrum.  I know and love my recipe for coq au vin, but thought that since it is slow-cooked in the oven, wouldn't a crock pot work just as well or better?  My gut told me not to fool with the French and use a Dutch oven.  But laziness overruled and I decided to go with the crock pot recipe instead.

Crock Pot Coq au Vin

3 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces
1 package (10-oz) mushrooms, cut in half
2 cups frozen pearl onions
1 cut-up chicken (4 lbs) skin removed from all pieces except wings
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup chicken broth

1.  In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until browned.  With slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain; set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine mushrooms and frozen pearl onions; set aside.

3.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  In skillet with bacon fat, cook chicken (in 2 batches, if necessary) over medium-high heat until browned, 10 minutes.  Place chicken over vegetables in slow cooker.

4.  Discard drippings from skillet.  Reduce heat to medium; add onion and carrot, and cook 2 minutes or until onion softens, stirring frequently.  Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute.  Add wine, tomato paste, and bay leaf; heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve tomato paste.  Pour wine mixture and broth over low setting 8 hours or on high setting 4 hours.

5.  To serve, discard bay leaf.  With large spoon, transfer chicken and sauce to deep platter; sprinkle with bacon.

The Verdict:  Damn it!  I hate crock pots!

The funniest part of this story is that I made a double batch.  And, of course, all that chicken didn't fit in my crock pot so I borrowed a second one from my friend across the hall.  So I've got dueling crock pots going in my kitchen, taking up half my counter space.  Now, the reason I was so hesitant to use the crock pot in the first place was because it turns to a giant vat of liquid.  Coq au vin is not supposed to be a broth-based soup.  So I prepared myself: I did research and learned that to reduce liquid you should put your crock pot on high for the last hour and cook with the lid off. 

Did it work?  Of course not!

This means that I'm standing in front of my stove, covered in sweat, while ladling cup after cup of liquid into roux to form a sauce.  Which was so convenient. 

After making the sauce, the finished product was delicious.  Lots of flavors with nice, moist chicken.  But unless you're willing to create the sauce "by hand," I wouldn't try this recipe.  Or use it and cook it in the oven instead.  While the crock pot allows you to leave the house, it also doesn't make real coq au vin, which kind of defeats the purpose.

We have a giant bag of this left in the freezer and I'm looking forward to digging into it.  But I'll certainly think about my loathing for crock pots the entire time I eat it.  Harumph.