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Corn & Chile Strata with Mexican Chorizo

on Mar 11 in Breakfast, Featured Post tagged , , , , , by Lauren

For Christmas this year, my lovely sister Leah gave me a wonderful Williams-Sonoma cookbook full of recipes for the thing I love most in the world; brunch! Paging through page after page of beautifully shot photos, I finally settled on a recipe for a corn & chile strata with chorizo.

This is an extremely homey dish, and after refrigerating overnight, I absolutely could not wait to get this in the oven the next morning. Definitely worth the preparation because it was so light and fluffy the next day; satisfied my love of homemade brunch in a huge way!


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Fresh Pappardelle with PEI Mussels, Smoked Chorizo, Mushrooms & Tomato in a Saffron Broth

on Jan 09 in Entrees, Featured Post, Pasta, Rice & Grains tagged , , , , , by Lauren

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Preparing mussels at home has always intimidated me.  I’m not exactly sure why; I’ve done pretty well at my first attempts at Beef Wellington and Risotto Tortes, so why would the thought of preparing mussels at home frighten me?

Well, foodborne illness, for one.  Overcooking them, for another.  A laundry list of potential failures threatened my never-attempted mussels for years and years.

Until I swallowed my fears and went for it anyway.  On New Year’s Eve 2011.  And then again on New Years Day 2012.

Dare I say that now I’m slightly addicted?

To help clear the air about how to handle mussels and remove the fear, there are really only a few things you need to know before you start:

  • Scrub the mussels well under running cold water to remove any barnacles, etc.  A very stiff cleaning brush comes in handy for this.
  • Tap on any mussels that are open (they responded quicker/more fervently using the back of the cleaning brush), and if they don’t close, discard them.
  • Any mussel with a broken shell should be tossed out.
  • Each mussel has a beard which you can find sticking out of the side.  Pull this out in a back and forth wiggling motion to ensure you get it all off.

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  • Once the mussels are cooked, the shells should be open.  Any mussels that are close at this point should not be eaten.

I think the most important step to note is to not soak the mussels in water, and to not *accidentally* turn the tap water to warm and leave them for any amount of time in slightly tepid water.  Because that might cause you to freak out and think you ruined your *entire* New Years Eve dinner when they all open and you think they’ve all gone belly up.

Fear not, though!

One rather strong rap on the shell with the back of the cleaning brush will quickly have those mussels closing up shop and you can then proceed to make this meal.

Which is delicious, by the way.  And quick!


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Duck Fat Fries

on Dec 26 in Accompaniments, Featured Post, Vegetables tagged , , , by Lauren

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So, you know how there are just certain things you go to the trouble to prepare just to harvest the end result?  A whole duck just to capture the delicious rendered fat?  An entire pound of bacon to, once again, harvest the delicious fat?

This year, I knew I was going to be hosting two Thanksgiving meals, so I decided to roast a duck just for the fat.  I didn’t have any plans for that fat until Christmas day, when I decided to roast some potatoes in that delicious fat and then broil them until golden.  These are super easy to make, and really delicious hot from the oven kissed simply with sea salt.


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Homemade Green Bean Casserole

on Dec 26 in Accompaniments, Featured Post, General, Vegetables tagged , , , , , , by Lauren

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While very belated, I wanted to finally getting around to posting my first attempt at making a from-scratch Green Bean Casserole.  On our way home from visiting our family in Houston this Christmas Eve, W mentioned that he was once again craving GBC.  He wasn’t sure what he wanted as a main, but he absolutely knew he wanted this as a side.

Comfort dishes like this one always appear to be so much simpler to prepare when using a canned cream of something-or-other soup instead of just making your own cream sauce.  This one is as simple as melting some butter, whisking in some flour, and adding some liquid and combining the components into a baking dish.

Ditch the topping in favor of just the traditional French fried onions (if you want) and you have a quite simple make-ahead meal that will win over family and guests alike.


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Baked Brie with Chopped Dates

on Dec 10 in Accompaniments, Baked Goods, Bread, and Muffins, Featured Post, Starters tagged , , , , , by Lauren

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I started looking through the Starters/Appetizers recipe of my blog and realized “Sheeesh, for as much entertaining as I do, I sure don’t have a lot of quick and easy appetizers on the site . . .”

Sweet and salty inspiration then struck us; W and I decided to wrap some brie and some sort of fruit in some puff pastry, bake it, and call it a day.  But then the question came to us; Which fruit should we use?  There’s the ever popular preserves option, but we don’t keep a lot of preserves handy in the fridge, so that was out.  I thought, for a moment, about going savory with some sun-dried tomatoes as an excuse to use the last of our soon-to-be-dying basil due to the impending winter.  But, ultimately, we went with chopped dates since they were in our pantry and I had no impending plans for them.   The possibilities are endless here, so go nuts!


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