Alterna-Burger Night

I have my family in town already for Christmas and have been cooking for a crowd. It has been fun to cook for them and thank goodness I have made recipes that they enjoyed! Last night I made a burger that is fantastic and flavorful. This is not your average burger and it actually looks elegant. It is a ground lamb burger wrapped in prosciutto and cooked on the stove (no one has to dare the 10 degree weather to grill!). I served it with a simple orzo salad with oranges. It was a great meal and I got lots of compliments. So thank you Giada for this lovely recipe and I hope your eves of Christmas are just as successful!

Prosciutto Lamb Burgers
Giada's Kitchen
serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs (I actually used Italian style and it was great)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons of whole milk (I used skim and it was fine)
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (I used Parmesan and again, it was great)
1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes (use the oil packed ones)
/34 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground lamb (ask your butcher to do this for you, I have yet to see it in the market)
6 large slices of Prosciutto, sliced medium thin (I used two think slices instead)
1/4 cup olive oil
Fresh basil leaves for topping burger
Fresh tomato slices for topping burger
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

In a large bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients. Stir to combine. Add the lamb to the bowl and gently combine all of the ingredients. (tip: I use a fork to do this or you can use your fingers. The harder you work the meat, the more dense your burger, so be gentle) Divide the mixture into 6 portions and pat each burger into a 1 inch patty. Place the prosciutto slices on a cutting board. Place 1 burger into the center of each slice or prosciutto and wrap the prosciutto around the burger. (My slices were short, so I overlapped them to make one long piece so it would wrap all the way around)

Place a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and heat for 2 minutes. Place the lamb burgers in the pan and cook half way until prosciutto is golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. (If you think the process is happening too fast, and the prosciutto is burning, turn down heat). Turn the burgers and cook an additional 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove burgers from the pan and place on serving platter or individual plates. Top each burger with a tomato slice, basil leaf, a drizzle of olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic. Serve immediately.

I served this with a orzo salad that I put together with the following. You can portion it out to however many people you are having and how hungry they are. I used 2 cups of Orzo for a hungry crowd of 5. Just toss all the following together and let sit until ready to serve. It is better if it sits for at least an hour.

Orzo: cook until al dente, drain, rinse with cold water until room temperature.
Orange segments: I cut the rind completely off the orange then cut the segments out of their rind so there is just orange.
Red Onion: sliced thin and roughly chopped
Flat Leaf Parsley: chopped
Celery: Chopped
Red Wine Vinaigrette: minced garlic, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, 1 part red wine vinegar, 2 parts olive oil whisked together



Banh Mi Baby One More Time

This recipe is a revelation. Seriously, I would usually never consider a meatball sub for dinner and here I was enjoying every minute of devouring this amazing sandwich tonight. This is a French-Vietnamese style sandwich, usually served on the streets, made gourmet and fabulous. The flavors are out of this world and you can do a lot of the work in advance. I will absolutely make this again and would serve to any company. It can be made to your taste (as you can see I like when you can play with recipes) and it would even be delicious if you served it as a salad for those of you out there trying to avoid baguettes. If you are that person, I am not sure that we can be friends.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi
Bon Appetit January 2010
Makes 4 Sandwiches

Pickled Vegetables
2 cups coarsely grated carrots
2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (I could not find this in my market and subbed in zucchini)
1/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
Directions: Toss ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, tossing occasionally

Hot Chili Mayo
2/3 cup Mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (like sriracha, but any hot sauce you like will do)
Directions: Combine all three ingredients in a small and season with salt. *Do Ahead: Can be made one day in advance, cover and chill

1 lb ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce (can find in the Asian food section of your market)
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Directions: Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Using moistened hands and a scant tablespoons for each, roll meat mixture into 1 inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. *Do ahead: Can be made 1 day in advance. Cover and chill
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs. Saute until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering the heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. (I took one out after they all felt firm and broke it open to make sure it was done) Transfer meatballs to another baking sheet and place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

4 10-inch long individual baguettes, or 4 10-inch long sliced pieces of a long baguette
thinly sliced jalapeno chilis (I removed the seeds, because it would be crazy hot with them!)
16 large fresh cilantro sprigs
Directions: Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally, but not through the other side completely. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2 inch thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo all over the sandwich. Arrange jalapeno slices, then cilantro in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of the meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on Baguette tops.



Bella Italian Wedding Soup

As the blizzard outside my window rages on, I continue to try to cook heart warming meals inside. This girl likes comfort in the cold and much of what I am cooking these days reflects that. This is one of my new favorite soup recipes from the Queen herself, Ina Garten. Many of you know her as the Barefoot Contessa. I use her recipes often and they always come out perfectly. This is another chicken soup made better by including flavorful meatballs and healthful spinach. The only thing I would do differently is make the meatballs smaller. Make sure that they are bite size when making them. Adjust cooking time as needed. I also added a few dashes of hot sauce to the meatball mixture. Hope this helps you stay warm!

Italian Wedding Soup
Barefoot Contessa 2008
serves 6-8

For the meatballs:

  • 3/4 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 10 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don't have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.



Is there anything better than Bacon?

Bacon is by far America's most loved ingredient. At least the America I know. Whether eating a crispy piece with your eggs in the morning, enjoying it on your BLT for lunch or finding a hint of it in your gourmet dinner out, bacon is everywhere and I love it. Here is a soup with just a bit of bacon. It is almost vegetarian, except for the Chicken stock and bacon. So I guess not really vegetarian at all, but close enough for me. This is a hearty vegetable soup that can fill up anyone, including your skeptical man (ie: my husband). And even though it has bacon in it, it is very healthful and low in calories. There is rosemary in this as well, and I don't even get me started on how much I am loving that herb right now... And my new trick that I incorporated into this soup is to add in a parmigiano rind while simmering. It brings a richness to the soup and that great flavor of the cheese.

Tuscan Peasant Soup with Rosemary & Pancetta
Serves 6-8

5 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 1/4 cups, about 6 oz. small diced Pancetta (regular bacon is totally fine)
4 cups large diced Savoy Cabbage (about 1/2 head, you can also use Napa cabbage)
2 medium onions, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary, plus 1 tsp.
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
8 cups chicken stock
Optional: Rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 15 1/2 oz cans, small white beans rinsed and drained (ie: Navy Beans)
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a 4 to 5 qt. dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, add the pancetta and cook until crisp, stirring often. Remove pot from heat. Remove pancetta from pot with slotted spoon and drain on paper lined plate. Pour off all but 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pot.
2. Return the pot to medium high heat and add the cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until limp and browned around the edges. Remove the pot form the heat and transfer cabbage to another plate.
3. Put the pot back over medium heat and add 2 Tbs. of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, carrots and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and vegetables start to brown around the edges. Add the garlic, 1 Tbs. of rosemary and the coriander. Cook, stirring until the garlic becomes fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, stir together and cook an additional 3 minutes.
4. Return the cabbage to the pan and add the chicken stock and parmigiano rind, if using. Stir well and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes to infuse the broth. Add the beans and return the pot to a simmer, cook for another 2 minutes. Remove pot from the heat, remove the cheese rind and discard. Stir in the remaining rosemary and let rest for 5 minutes.
5. Taste the soup, add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Serve the soup hot, garnished with pancetta and grated cheese.



One Juicy Bird

I have been working on my roast chicken now for awhile and have yet to really feel that I have mastered it. Roast chicken is one of those dishes to me that screams "home cooked." I know my mom made a delicious roast chicken, so I am sure that is where it comes from. There is just something about that crisp skin, juicy meat and beautiful pan sauce that I love. I think I am getting much closer to the perfect bird and this recipe really helped. I served this with a fall salad and dinner was complete.

Roast Chicken
Food & Wine: December 2009
serves 6

One 6 lb Roasting Chicken (I used a 3.5 and it was almost about the same cooking time, all other ingredients were the same)
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
6 rosemary sprigs
3 lemons, 2 quartered, 1 juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine, plus an additional 1/2 cup
1/4 cup of honey
salt and pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken stock, plus 1 additional cup

1. Preheat Oven to 425 degrees. Set the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and stuff the cavity with the garlic, rosemary and the 2 quartered lemons. Tie the legs together. Rub the oil over the chicken, pour the wine and lemon juice over the chicken, drizzle the honey all over the chicken and season with a generous amount of salt and pepper.
2. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes, uncovered. Add 1 cup of broth to the pan, cover with foil and reduce the oven temp to 375 degrees. Roast for 40 minutes. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of stock to the roasting pan. Cover and roast for 50 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted in an inner thigh registers 165 degrees. (If using a smaller bird, it won't take the full 50 minutes)
3. Transfer chicken to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes. Place the empty roasting pan on stove with 1-2 burners on med-high. Once pan is hot, add the 1/2 cup of wine and deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom. Add the 1 cup of stock and let reduce for 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Strain sauce into hot serving bowl and ladle over chicken when serving.

I hope that you find success with this recipe as well. Here's to comfort food!
PS: You can use the rest of the chicken and bones to make a lovely stock as well. Nothing goes to waste!


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