Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Everything is better with bacon"

The son of the food critic is fond of saying "everything is better with bacon". I was googling for a pasta dish using bacon and crab when I tripped across this recipe on the Dallas/Fort Worth Local News site. All I can say is WOW! If you are a bacon lover, you are definitely gonna like this chowder. We had ours with Ciabatta bread.

Crab and Bacon Chowder

4 ozs. Bacon, diced
½ cup Onion, diced
1 Tbl Garlic, minced
2 Tbl Flour

1 pint Chicken Stock
½ cup White Wine, dry
1 cup New Potatoes, medium diced

1 cup Corn kernel, fresh or frozen
1 Tbl Basil, fresh, shredded
1 cup Crabmeat, claw or lump
¼ cup Milk, hot
¼ cup Heavy Cream
Salt & White Pepper to taste

Sauté bacon on low heat until crispy and fully rendered.
Add onion and cook until translucent.
Add garlic and flour, cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
Add wine, stock, and potatoes. Cook just until potatoes are done.
Add corn, basil, crabmeat, milk, and heavy cream.
Bring to a slow simmer, season and serve immediately.
Garnish soup with additional shredded basil and French bread slices.

Recipe from Chef Bryant Currie of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute

Note my substitutions: I diced up pepper bacon from my local grocer, gave the chowder a nice 'bite'. The corn is local from the Coit Road Market that I put up last summer. Not having fresh basil, I used one teaspoon of dried. I also used whole milk instead of cream.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Its the economy stupid!

We are all dietetic sinners; only a small percent of what we eat nourishes us; the balance goes to waste and loss of energy. ~ William Osler

With food prices spiraling out of control, it is more important than ever to shop smart. Many of us are being squeezed by the economy these days, but cooking tasty, frugal meals is still possible. How? Watch for those sales specials (usually around the 1st of the month). I especially watch for the pasta sales (yes I know I need to learn to make my own) my family-owned grocer will sell boxes of pasta 10 for $10, since I cook 1/2 pound at a time for our family of three, this provides the base for 20 meals. A little olive oil, some fresh herbs and vegetables and you have a dinner for four. Lots of whole wheat pastas are available now, I am still working on converting my guys over to the "healthy side".

Another way to shop smart is to buy "in season". Buying in bulk from the farmers markets and preserving your fruits/vegetables will stretch those pennies. Freeze, dehydrate or home-canning provides your family with food during the cold months. Returning to a sustainable way of life is good for us and the environment.

The great thing about mushrooms is they are available year round, that is what I chose for dinner paired with, of course, pasta.

Roasted Marsala Mushroom Pasta

1 pound portabella mushrooms, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Minced Garlic
1/4 cup dry Marsala
1/2 cup broth
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh Parsley
1/2 pound Penne pasta

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, cook pasta according to package directions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle olive oil (about 2 Tbsp.) over mushrooms, add salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a deep oven-proof skillet and roast for 15 minutes. Transfer pan to top of stove, add wine and garlic and simmer till liquid is almost evaporated. Add broth (I used my homemade veggie broth, but you can use chicken etc) and tomato paste, simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and toss with pasta and parsley. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Tip: Most recipes call for 1 Tbsp. of tomato paste leaving you with leftover paste. Do not toss it, place the remaining paste in a freezer bag, press flat to get all the air out. Place in the freezer door. When you need some for a recipe, just break off the amount you need.