Lentil, Sausage, Potato, and Greens Soup

This is one of my favorite soups. As soon as the cold weather sets in, I make this at least twice a month.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sausage, casing removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 leeks, chopped. You can use a regular onion if you don’t have leeks.
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 medium potatoes (or 5/6 small, 2 large), diced
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 cup red lentils, picked over for rocks
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 cups chopped greens. I used tatsoi here, but often use kale or spinach.
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Instructions

  1. Brown the sausage in a large pot. I prefer my enamel Dutch oven, but a stock pot works, too. Break it up as you brown it.
  2. Add in the onions and carrots. Let them sweat/get soft without burning. If you are adding other aromatics like parsnips or celery, now is the time to add those, too.
  3. Add in the potatoes and let them get a little soft, too.
  4. Add in the chicken broth. If you make strong homemade broth like I do, adding one quart of broth and one quart of water is okay, too.
  5. Add in the lentils and thyme and bring everything to a boil.
  6. Cover and turn the heat down to low.
  7. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add in the chopped greens.
  9. Simmer for 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  10. Taste and add salt/pepper as needed. I usually add a healthy amount of both.

If at any point it looks like it is getting thicker than you like, add more water. If it is too soupy for you, cook it longer.

I regularly improvise on the ingredient list here. The only constants are sausage and lentils. Sometimes I leave out the potatoes. Sometimes I add parsley or parsnips or both. Sometimes celery or celeriac. Sometimes I use leeks instead of onions. Red lentils are my go-to, but I use whatever I have on-hand. Red, green, brown, yellow, black all work, but some types cook faster than others. Greens other than kale work, too. I use whatever I have on-hand: Spinach, bok choy, tatsoi, etc. In fact, in these photos I used tatsoi.

To spice it up, I love adding a teaspoon of harissa powder to my bowl. The coriander and red chili powder give it a great flavor.

Instant Pot Apple Butter

Amanda and I started a tradition the first Autumn after we got married: Go apple picking, make apple pies, and make apple butter. We look forward to it every year.

We started out making apple butter in a crock pot, but last year I switched to making it in an Instant Pot.

Why?

  • The crockpot took about 12 hours to cook down the apples, which limited us to starting it early in the morning or late at night and locked us into canning it 12 hours later. Since prep takes about an hour and canning (sanitizing, filling, and boiling) takes about an hour, this cramped our style.
  • The Instant Pot cooks down the apples in about an hour, which means we can make two batches from start to finish in one day. Or we can do a single batch in an afternoon without much stress.
  • The Instant Pot breaks down the apple skins and large chunks much better than the crock pot did, so we don’t have to peel them. We just wash, core, and roughly chop. The extra pectin from the skins also means we don’t need to add gelatin.

My recipe is still pretty close to the original crock pot recipe. Last year I used half brown sugar and half molasses. This year I used honey and molasses, which I’ll probably stick with.

Ingredients

  • 5.5 lbs apples
  • 2 cups honey
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (I prefer to grate my own with a micrograter)
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup apple cider

Instructions

  1. Wash the apple and dry them with a towel. You want those peels shiny, not dull.
  2. Remove the cores and roughly chop the apples. Large chunks are fine, the pressure will break them down easily.
  3. Mix all of the ingredients together in the Instant Pot.
  4. Seal and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. Turn off the “Keep Warm” setting.
  5. Let the steam release naturally. If you are short on time, quick releasing it is fine.
  6. Remove the lid and purée the cooked apples with a hand blender. If you don’t have a hand blender, a regular blender is fine, but remember that the apples are hot, so work in small batches and make sure the steam can escape the blender. You don’t want a Jackson Pollack on your ceiling.
  7. If your apples have too much liquid, put the apples back in the Instant Pot and turn on the Sauté setting (medium) to cook them down a little more until they reach your desired consistency. We prefer it pretty thick. I put a lid from one of my other pans over the pot to make sure it doesn’t splatter while it is cooking down.

If you are going to give it out to family and friends, I highly recommend you can and process it.

One batch makes approximately 5 pint jars/10 half-pint jars.

Tipple Tuesday: Dirty Negroni

It is Negroni week!

I’m not obsessing over it here because I’ve covered them before (aged negronis, boulevardiers, French negronis and other variations), but I’m certainly drinking a few this week.

Here is an uncommon one that I really enjoy: A Dirty Negroni. It doesn’t contain any dry gin, vermouth, or Campari. But it tastes like it does.

Instead, we use 2oz of Cynar, that delightful artichoke-based amaro, with 1oz of Old Tom-style gin. It sounds funky, but it works. The traditional sweetness from the red vermouth now comes from both the Old Tom gin and the Cynar. The bitterness comes from the Cynar, and the botanical bite of the gin now comes from both the Old Tom and the Cynar.

Bonus: It is even easier to mix than a regular negroni. Build it in a rocks glass with ice and stir it briefly with your finger. Everything about this drink is dirty.

Rabbit Stew from Heritage by Sean Brock

I first heard about Sean Brock five years ago when I first watched his season of Mind of a Chef. I admire his dedication to reviving heirloom ingredients and techniques, which is probably his defining characteristic as a chef and restaurateur. I still haven’t had a full meal at his flagship Husk in Charleston, only drinks and appetizers at the bar. I’ll get there soon!

I picked up Brock’s Heritage shortly after it came out and have only cooked a few things from it because I can’t reliably source most of the heirloom ingredients he uses in most of his recipes. The ones I can get ingredients for are wonderful, and I love flipping through this book to look at the gorgeous photos and read Brock’s commentary and farmer profiles between the sections.

When I discovered that I could get high quality local whole rabbits from Campbell Meats in Dobbs Ferry, I decided to make Brock’s Rabbit Stew with Black Pepper Dumplings when our dear friend Kat came to visit.

You should definitely plan to make this on weekend, not a Thursday night like I did. It isn’t particularly difficult, but it is time consuming for one person to make the stew: Boiling for an hour and a half, pulling and shredding the meat, making the roux, chopping and adding the veggies, then putting it all back together. Next time I’ll make the stew a day or two ahead of time and reheat it while we make the dumplings.

I put Kat to work helping make the dumplings. I’m a big fan of giving guests a job so they don’t feel like they have to just sit there and twiddle their thumbs. It also gives you more time to talk and catch up. You get help and they feel invested in the final outcome. Win/win.

This recipe alone warrants buying this book. It is fantastic. Perfect for a chilly evening and good friends. Everyone ate multiple helpings and Amanda and I both took it for lunch later in the week.

I’m glad I picked up this book again. While I can’t make most of the main dishes out of it, I certainly can make some of the sides, condiments, and pickles Husk uses to accent their main dishes. I also missed the drinks and bitters section the first time around, which I’m keen to dive in to. Did you know that the Queen Anne’s Lace flower is a wild carrot? By the time the flowers come out, the carrot is bitter enough to make a tincture with.

That is exactly why I’m doing this Cooking the Books challenge – Revisiting old things that I missed and getting more out of them. More to come soon.

Cooking the Books: Hungarian Cookery Book

I picked this book up at Bruised Apple Books in Peekskill, NY, a fantastic independent used bookstore with a strong sci-fi section. The colorful cover caught my eye and the content sold me. My grandmother on my Dad’s side is Hungarian and I love her cooking, but I wondered: What else is out there? What else in the traditional Hungarian culinary landscape am I missing? This book looked like it had the answers. I paid $4.50 for it.

This is a collection Károly Gundel’s recipes. Gundel was the leading restaurateur in Budapest during the first half of the 20th century. He is probably responsible for driving forward and popularizing much of Hungarian cuisine during that time. He started the prestigious Gundel Etterem in Budapest in 1910 and ran it until it was nationalized in 1949. He also ran the official restaurant of the Hungarian Pavilion in the New York World’s Fair in 1939.

Gundel put together this book for the UNESCO Hungarian National Commission in the early 1950s, just before his death. My copy is a later edition from 1976. The forward itself is worth buying this book for. It goes through the history of what we now consider Hungarian food and its influences from the original Magyars, to the conquering Turks, the Spanish, and the French and Austrian nobility. Here is an excerpt:

Karoly Gundel

To return to modern Hungarian cookery, I must first of all point out that its most characteristic features are the abundant use of lard, onions and paprika, that sour cream (replaced today in many restaurants by heavy cream) is a favorite ingredient.

What I am going to say about paprika will, I am sure, come as a great surprise and disappointment to a lot of people. I must confess that this condiment, which is recognized far and wide as the Hungarian national spice, was not generally known and used in Hungary till almost a century ago. In Hungary cookery-books of the first half of the nineteenth century we find scarcely any mention of paprika, to say nothing of the fact that it was completely unknown in books dating from the eighteenth century.

So where did it come from? Paprika is originally from the Americas and Persia. It was introduced to Europe from the west by Christopher Columbus and crew at the beginning of the sixteenth century and from the east by Turkish traders who got it from Persia.

Going back to the book, this caveat in the introduction is my approach to cooking and recipes in a nutshell:

Now to the recipes. It is very difficult to be precise in giving exact directions. Take salt for instance. Think of the difference in the taste and saltiness of bay salt and rock salt: even the salt mined in different places differs in quality and iodine content. The same is true, to an even greater degree, of paprika and other condiments.

For this reason the recipes, however carefully they have been compiled, must not be accepted as hard and fast rules. I confess to my own limitations. No painter can describe the exact blend of colors he uses to produce a certain shade; no poet can express adequately in words what makes a perfume enchanting; and no cook can give perfect, infallible directions about the method of achieving a certain flavor.

My thoughts exactly. Recipes are general guides to be tinkered with and adapted to suit your ingredients and taste.

The Recipes I Chose

I noticed a lot of similarities to dishes my grandmother makes, as well as things I can never imagine her making. Jellied Carp, for example. I decided to go with a fairly standard gulyás for my first go-around. I usually don’t reprint the recipes due to copyright and respect for the author’s livelihood, but neither concern is relevant here. This book is long out of print, and the author has long since passed on. I suspect many of his children and grandchildren have as well.

Gulyás de Luxe

  • 2 lbs loin of beef
  • 12 oz onions
  • 12 oz potatoes
  • lard
  • 1/2 dram of garlic
  • 1/2 dram of salt
  • 1/2 dram caraway seed
  • 1 1/3 oz paprika
  • green paprika, tomatoes

Cut 2 lbs loin of beef into 1/2 oz cubes and wash well. Chop the onions very fine and fry them a delicate brown in lard. Sprinke (sic) a little salt on the meat, put it into the pan with the onions and stew with the lid on for 30 minutes. When the water evaporate, a little water or stock may always be added. Cut the potatoes into cubes the same size as the meat, add the caraway seed, and the paprika. Pour in sufficient eater to cover the meat. In summer 2 green paprikas, from which the seeds have been removed, and a tomato may be added (all sliced). Bring to boil again and let summer till the potatoes are done.

Before serving boil some fine csipetke and add it to the gulyás.

Csipetke

Make a dough of about 6 oz of flour, one egg and a pinch of salt. Roll out very thin, cut into small squares and boil in the soup for a minute to two before serving.

This book is riddled with typos (likely from the translation), unused ingredients, skipped steps, and unclear cooking time. No matter. That is how my recipes are, too. You have to get a gameplan before starting to cook.

Notes

  1. Gulyás is basically a kind of stew and csipetke is very similar to small dumplings or spaetzle.
  2. I ended up simmering the gulyás for about two hours because it took us a heck of a lot longer than expected to make the csipetke. I don’t know how my grandma makes giant bowls at a time around the holidays. Must take all day. The extra simmering time was good good because the beef was pretty tough when I tasted it early on.
  3. The type of paprika was unspecified, so I used a mix of hot and smoked paprika since I didn’t have sweet on-hand.
  4. The recipe doesn’t say what to do with the garlic, so I included it with the onions at the beginning.
  5. I included green peppers (paprikas, not to be confused with paprika, which actually is confusing) and tomatoes, despite it not being summer.
  6. I found three different competing conversions for drams, so I basically guessed. Roughly 1 scant teaspoon per dram, so I used about half a teaspoon each for the items above.
  7. The csipetke definitely needed some water in the dough. One egg alone didn’t cut it. I had to add water. We ended up making two batches.

Results

The dish turned out great! I’m glad I made it. Next time I’ll start a little earlier in the day instead of waiting until 6pm to start it. There are a dozen more recipes in this book that I want to try, so it might be a while before I make this specific recipe again. The csipetke is definitely going to be a regularly occurring side, though. I didn’t realize how easy it was to make. That is dangerous.


Join us!

If you want to join us in the Cooking the Books challenge, pick a cookbook you haven’t used in a while and make a recipe. Then fill out this form and I’ll guest post it here on Cook Like Chuck.

Let’s dust off those cookbooks and put them to use this year.

Cooking the Books: Once Upon a Chef

This is a guest post from another Chuck, my Dad. This is his second post in the challenge. Here is the first.

If you want to join the Cooking the Books challenge, see the details at the bottom of this post.


The older I get it seems that my food preferences have changed. I have to admit, when I was younger my preference was burgers & pizza, meat & potatoes.

I grew up with a full-blooded Hungarian mother. Every evening it was a meat, potato, salad, and bread. According to my DNA profile it seems that I’m mostly European some British, some English and very little Mediterranean. I’m really not sure if this is accurate, but my love for Mediterranean food has increased tenfold over the past 5 to 7 years. 

When the hard questions come up at the end of the week, my wife asking me “What do you want for dinner?”, one of my two choices will either be gyros or Aladdin’s, our favorite local middle eastern restaurant. They make a really good dish called the Flavor Saver Special. The Flavor Saver Special consists of kofta, grilled chicken, a Middle Eastern chopped salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing, and a big dollop of hummus, all served with warm freshly baked pita. Delicious!

For this week’s entry in the challenge, I decided to make a similar meal at home for the first time: Kofta, tzatziki, Middle Eastern Chopped salad, and pita.

Today’s recipes come from Once Upon a Chef by Jennifer Segal.

Persian Kofta

  • Milk
  • Bread crumbs
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Lemon Zest
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Ground Beef (80/20)
  • Fresh mint
  • Gelatin

I was skeptical about the gelatin because it was kind of weird to add gelatin to a meat mixture (in my opinion). I’m not professional chef, but I just thought it was kind strange. I found out it actually does help the meat hold together.

When you press them together on skewers, I recommend using metal ones instead of wood or bamboo. Wooden skewers incinerated on my grill, even after soaking them in water.

When grilling, keep a close eye on them! They tend to flare up. I noticed that the gelatin actually caramelized, like a sugar mixture, on the outside of the meat.

Middle Eastern chopped salad with lemon vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • Lemon juice
  • Garlic
  • Sugar
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Bell pepper
  • Cucumber
  • Chickpeas
  • Scallions
  • Mint
  • Feta

The simple salad would go with just about any dish. There are many variations of the salad, depending on the country and cookbook, but the base is usually diced cucumbers and tomatoes. We used the vegetables that we had on hand. Along with cucumbers and tomatoes, we included red and yellow crisp bell peppers, fresh feta cheese, chickpeas and mint.

This meal is not complete without warm pita bread. Let’s make it!

My pita recipe comes from Baking with Steel, which I wrote about last week. The pita recipe is an easy one. It only has four ingredients.

Baking pita at home is easy and fun to do. I encourage you to have your children and family take part. Watching the pita pop up in the oven like a balloon is amazing.

Now the meal is complete!

As the BBQ Pit Boys would say:

“Were gonna be eat’n good tonight Martha!”


Join us!

If you want to join us in the Cooking the Books challenge, pick a cookbook you haven’t used in a while and make a recipe. Then fill out this form and I’ll guest post it here on Cook Like Chuck.

Let’s dust off those cookbooks and put them to use this year.

Cooking the Books: The Art of Simple Food

This week’s selection for Cooking the Books is The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. It is one of my favorite cookbooks and I use it all the time. Alice’s simple preparations let the ingredients shine through. I’ve given this book out as a gift at least five times and I fully expect to give it out again. I want everyone to know about this book.

Recipes

Braised Duck Legs with Leeks and Green Olives

  • Duck legs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Leeks
  • Green olives
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Bay leaf
  • White wine
  • Chicken Broth
  • Lemon zest

Carrot Puree with Caraway and Cumin

  • Carrots
  • Garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Onion
  • Cumin
  • Caraway
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  • Cilantro

Why I chose these

I did not have a hard time picking something new from this book because we want to try pretty much everything; the question was whether or not we had the right ingredients since so much of it is seasonal.

I picked the duck because I’ve never actually prepared duck at home and was eager to try it. Everything I needed for it is either easy to get or I already had on-hand.

Once I picked the duck, I picked four side dishes I thought would be good and had Amanda settle on the final one. We had a lot of carrots and cilantro on-hand, so it worked out well.

Results

The meal was fantastic! The skin on the duck legs was crispy, the meat was tender, the olives stayed firm, and all of the flavors complemented each other well. The lemon zest and the brininess of the olives cut the fat from the duck. The caraway + cumin was a great combination with the carrots. Definitely a dinner for a cold winter evening and a glass of wine.

The carrots probably would have been a little better had I used the food processor to puree them instead of just mashing them by hand. The recipe took quite a while to cook, so it is a good fit for a weekend. Other than that, I’d definitely make this meal again! I have four more duck gets in the freezer, so I’m contemplating it 🤔.


Join us!

If you want to join us in the Cooking the Books challenge, send your posts to cagrimmett@gmail.com! I’ll guest post them here on Cook Like Chuck. Here are some guidelines:

  • Send me a decent photo of the book to use as the featured image
  • Send me photos of the meal you cooked
  • Write a little bit about the book, why you chose it, and how the meal turned out
  • Send me a photo of the recipe

Let’s dust off those cookbooks and put them to use this year.