Archive for the ‘Casserole’ Category

Passover is one of Adam and my favorite Jewish holidays.  It is a happy holiday with a lot of celebrating, eating, and drinking wine.  Any holiday that invites eating and merriment, is a holiday for me!

Over the years, Adam and I have enjoyed sharing in each other’s family’s traditions and holidays.  The look on Adam’s face, our first Christmas morning, was priceless!  He couldn’t believe the abundance of gifts.  It made my mother so happy that he enjoyed himself!  My journey in learning Adam’s family’s traditions around the holidays, has been one that I have embraced whole-heartedly!  I love tradition.  I love the ritual of the holidays.  I love knowing what I can expect of the day.  This is why I love Passover so much.  There is a book – the Haggadah – a manual of sorts, describing what the holiday should be about – remembering and retelling.  This book, the Haggadah, tells the story of the Israelites exodus from Egypt.  It also tells how the Passover Seder should be conducted, special prayers and songs, and even some fun games for the children (hiding a piece of matzo for the children to search for).  The Passover Seder (ritual dinner) can take several hours to complete before the feasting begins.  Oh, and do we feast!

I began planning our Passover Seder a week before.  It is a challenge to plan a dinner party with a small oven that has only one oven rack (only one dish at a time in our oven!).  Since matzo, unleavened bread, is the focus and star of the Passover meal, I decided to make matzo ball soup.  I thought I had Adam’s grandmother’s recipe for matzo balls, until we were sitting down to dinner and realized that it was not his grandmother’s recipe, but one I had used 6 years ago, which I meant to throw out.  Oy vey!  They were still okay, but a bit too dense.  I won’t share the recipe, as not to perpetuate the cycle of a bad matzo ball.  I used my recipe for chicken soup but omitted the egg noodles.

For the main course, I made brisket.  Brisket and I have a long history.  Not a good one.  For Adam and my first Passover together, I decided to try to make brisket – something I had never done before.  I got a recipe from his family and bought a regular brisket from the grocery store.  It was amazing!  I mean, it was blow-your-mind amazing!  I felt pretty confident about my brisket, so the next year, I decided to go all out.  I went to Whole Foods and bought a $45 brisket – surely a grass-fed, pampered cow!  Okay, so expensive meat, great recipe, experience form last year should have yielded an out-of-this-world brisket, right?!   WRONG!!!  It was tough, almost inedible, and sitting in watery soup, not a tasty sauce.  Disaster!  Feeling completely deflated and a bit gun-shy, I didn’t make another brisket until a Hanukkah gathering a few years later.  Completely nervous, I forged ahead.  Hoping that a different recipe would produce better results.  The brisket was okay.  Not like the first time I made it, but okay.  This year, I decided to put my trust in The America’s Test Kitchen.  They haven’t failed me yet.  We did all of our Passover shopping at Fairway, and bought a fairly small brisket 2 1/2 pounds.  I cut the recipe in half hoping this would work!  I thought that by halving the recipe, I should also halve the cooking time – not so.  I have now learned the secret to cooking brisket, and I am going to share it with you.  Guess what it is?  Cook the crap out of it & keep the lid on!  Yep, low and slow forever!  On the internet, people suggest 1 hour for every pound & I now completely get it.  I checked my brisket at 1 hour, and it was rock hard, I checked it at 2 hours and it was getting softer!  2 1/2 it was even better, and at 3 it was almost falling apart, tender and succulent!  I even threw in some carrots and celery to add flavor.

For a side dish, I decided to use my trusty recipe from the New York Times for kugel.  Now, there is potato kugel and noodle kugel – there are savory and sweet kugels.  The one I make is a sweet noodle kugel with a cornflake topping.  It is perfection!

Braised Brisket
adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen

1 (4 to 5 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
salt and pepper
2 TBS vegetable oil
6 onions, halved and sliced thin
2 TBS brown sugar
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp tomato paste
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or 1/8 tsp corn starch and water)
1 cup beef broth
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
1 TBS cider vinegar
5 to 6 ribs of celery cut in 1 inch pieces
4 to 5 carrots cut into 1 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Pat the brisket dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until simmering. Brown the brisket on both sides, about 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate.

Add the onions, brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt to the fat left in the pot and return to medium heat.  Cook until the onions are well browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the broths, wine, bay leaves and thyme scraping up any browned bits.  Add the brisket, and spread the carrots and celery around the meat.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook in oven until fork slides easily in and out of the center of the brisket, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Transfer brisket to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes.  Let the liquid in the pot settle for 5 minutes, then skim any fat from the surface using a spoon.  Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, stir in the vinegar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the brisket thin across the grain.  If you are making the brisket the day before, return the meat to the pot, cover, and refrigerate over night.  Remove brisket from the refrigerator 30 minutes before reheating.  Reheat on stove top or in oven.  Remove and arrange the brisket on a platter, pour some of the sauce over the meat and arrange the vegetable around it.  Serve and enjoy!

Noodle Kugel
New York Times

Butter (for the dish)
salt, to taste
16 oz medium egg noodles
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup honey
5 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Cornflake Topping for Kugel

1 cup Cornflakes
1/2 stick butter, melted
3 TBS sugar
1/2 TBS cinnamon

Set the oven at 350. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the noodles according to package instructions until they are tender. Drain them and rinse with cold water. Spread them evenly in the baking dish.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese. Beat in the honey, followed by the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the sour cream. The mixture should be thick and creamy. Pour it over the noodles.

Bake kugel for 25 to 30 minutes.  Mix all ingredients for the cornflake topping.  Sprinkle cornflake topping evenly on kugel and continue baking for 25 minutes more, or until it is set and golden brown. Let the kugel sit for 10 minutes. Cut into squares.


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Do you ever have those nights when you think you have plans, the plans are canceled, and you are left with no dinner?  Well, this happened to me the other night.  I am trying to minimize the amount groceries I buy this week because ultimately Adam and I will have to move it next week.  I hate moving food.  It is such a production.  Loading bag after bag of dry goods, refrigerated items, frozen foods, into the car.  Driving to the new place quickly to then hike bag after bag up the stairs, and feverishly put the frozen foods in the freezer and other items in the refrigerator, while the dry goods sit on the floor in their bags until you are able to find a home for them.  Ugg.  I hate moving…

But I digress…no dinner plan, no ingredients, oh, and the grocery store was closing in 20 minutes.  Perfect!  I had some leftover pasta from the lentil soup, and found this recipe online for baked pasta with Italian sausage.  Yum!

It was quick and easy to make, and I managed to get it on the table only a few minutes after both Adam and his friend, Robert, walked through the door.  We sat around Robert’s newly constructed kitchen island…

Enjoyed a few beers, and devoured every last bite on our plates.

Baked Pasta with Italian Sausage
adapted from Week of Menus
Printable Recipe

1 lb of elbow pasta
1 lb of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
a few good handfuls of grated cheese (Italian mix) or 3/4 lb Fontina cheese, rind removed, sliced as thinly as possible
1/2 cup basil chiffonade (rolled into a “cigar” and sliced finely)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In large pot, cook pasta according to package directions, ONE MINUTE less than required. Drain pasta and set aside.

Heat 1 TBS oil in a large skillet or pan, add sausages and use the back of a spoon, or spatula to break up into small pieces.  Cook until evenly browned, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove sausage from the skillet and put on a plate, but leave the oil and fat renderings.  Add remaining 1 TBS oil to the pan, heat, and cook onions until translucent.  Add garlic and cook for an extra minute.  Add sausages back in and add tomatoes, dried basil, dried oregano.  Continue to cook until all the sauce is hot and bubbling.  Season with salt and pepper.  Taste sauce and adjust seasoning according to your taste.  Add pasta to the skillet and toss and heat through.  Pour out into a 3 quart casserole dish.  Top with cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is all melted.  Remove from oven and top with basil chiffonade.  Serve and enjoy!

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I have been making this lasagna for years!  It was the first thing of my mother’s that I learned to cook.  Back then, it felt like a huge task to make this dish, and a wonderful accomplishment when the lasagna came out of the oven bubbling, cheesy, and appetizing!  Now, this lasagna is something that I “have-in-the-bag”.  I can make it with little effort!  I decided to make this lovely layered pasta dish because soon we will be enjoying the feast of Christmas, and lasagna is not on the menu for our holiday dinner.

This lasagna is designed to be easy, quick, and flavorful.  I use store-bought spaghetti sauce to cut down on the preparation time, though I think it would be amazing to make your own sauce from scratch.  I also use frozen chopped spinach for the same reason.  After cooking the lasagna noodles, assembling it, you can just pop it in the oven and forget about it for an hour.  During that time, the house starts smelling of cheesy, saucy goodness!

Adam loves my spinach lasagna and I love making it for him.  It tastes just like my mother’s!

Spinach Lasagna
by Anne
12 lasagna noodles
1 -1 1/2 jars of spaghetti sauce
2 -3 cups of ricotta cheese
1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 egg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 13 x 9 baking pan with cooking spray, set aside.  Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions to just before al dente.  You’ll want to make sure the noodles still have a little “bite” to them because they will continue to cook in the oven.  Drain and let rest in the colander until cool enough to handle.

In a bowl, combine ricotta, egg, onion powder, garlic powder, Parmigiano Reggiano, and spinach until blended.

Spoon 1/4 of sauce into bottom of the baking pan. Place 3 lasagna noodles lengthwise on top of sauce, and one at the end crosswise and trim. Do not overlap noodles. Spread 1/3 of cheese and spinach mixture over noodles, top with 1/4 of sauce and 1/3 mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers, ending with noodles and sauce.  Sprinkle a little bit of mozzarella on top, reserving the rest of the mozzarella cheese for later.

Cover pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Top with remaining cheese and bake 15 minutes uncovered to brown-up the cheese slightly.  Let rest 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy with garlic bread!

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I have a lot to be thankful for this year.  I have an amazing, supportive family; understanding and caring friends; and a wonderful fiancé who has stood by my side during both good and difficult times.  We did have some family members pass-away this year – my grandmother (in her 90s), our family dog (18 years old), and the family cat (21 years old); and we had one new addition to the family, my parent’s new puppy, Molly.

This year, Adam and I spent a lovely Thanksgiving with my family in Vermont.  Though there were only four of us, my mother cooked for an army!  She ordered a 23 pound turkey, made five pies, and the usual side dishes.  Needless to say, she sent us home with leftovers.  Usually we just reheat the same foods until they are gone, but this year we just couldn’t get through the leftover turkey fast enough.  I started hunting for Thanksgiving leftover recipes, and was tempted by the soups, enchiladas, etc.  However, I’ve made a few soups and stews, quesadillas and burritos recently, so I thought I’d try something new – Turkey Tetrazzini.

I’m a huge fan of noodle casserole – I make a mean noodle kugel!  I love the crunchy topping with the creamy, cheesy, noodley goodness.  Some tetrazzini dishes are made with canned soup.  I wanted a bit more of a challenge, and chose a recipe from Simply Recipes, where the cream sauce is made from scratch.  I also liked the idea of adding Swiss cheese and peas to give depth to the traditional cream sauce and mushrooms.  I used Panko flakes instead of bread crumbs, though I think bread crumbs would have browned up a little better.  I added a little onion, I just think onions really help bring out the beauty of mushrooms.

My tetrazzini received rave reviews from Adam.  He was already done his first serving, before I finished the photo shoot!

Turkey Tetrazzini (adapted from Simply Recipes)
Printable Recipe

12 oz egg noodles, spaghetti, linguine or other pasta
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (about 4-5 cups)
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cups of milk
1 cup half & half
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine (or vermouth or sherry)
3 cups coarsely chopped cooked turkey
1 cup peas
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan (divided into 1/3 and 1/3 cups)
1/3 cup shredded Swiss cheese
juice from 1 lemon
Salt and Pepper
Ground nutmeg (optional)
1/3 cup Panko flakes (or bread crumbs)
1/2 of an onion, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish. Start heating 2 to 3 quarts of water for the pasta.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt for each quart of water.  Cook the mushrooms and onions in 3 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat, stirring, until all of the liquid the mushrooms give off has evaporated, 5-10 minutes. Set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of butter. Stir in the flour, and cook the mixture over low heat, stirring, for 3 minutes.

About now, put the pasta into the boiling water you’ve heated. Follow the package directions and cook until al dente. While the pasta is cooking continue on with the recipe.

Into the saucepan with the butter and flour, slowly whisk in the milk, half &  half, broth, and the wine. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 to 8 minutes.

When the pasta is ready, drain it. In a large bowl combine the pasta, the sauce, the mushrooms, the turkey, and the peas. Stir in 1/3 cup of the Parmesan and the 1/3 cup of Swiss cheese. Stir in the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add a pinch of ground nutmeg if using, again to taste.  Transfer the mixture to a buttered 3-quart casserole.

In a small bowl combine well the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and the bread crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the tetrazzini, and dot the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, cut into bits.  Bake the Tetrazzini in the middle rack of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is bubbling and the top is golden.  Enjoy!

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