Archive for the ‘Sides’ category

Chicken gravy without a chicken

March 4, 2020

When I roast a chicken, I really  like to have gravy with it. But you won’t have the carcass to make stock until the chicken’s been eaten, and in my experience there are never enough pan drippings for good gravy. There’s no need to resort to the jarred stuff, here’s how to make your own before you cook the chicken. I use wings for this because, weight for weight, they have more skin, and they are usually cheaper than other cuts. You can finish this recipe in a slow cooker, on the stove top, or in a pressure cooker.

2 to 2-1/2 lbs whole or cut up chicken wings (about 12 wings)

Put the wings in a single layer in a roasting pan and pop into a 450° oven. Roast undisturbed until the wings have turned a lovely dark golden brown. Remove the wings to your stock pot, don’t worry if some skin sticks to the roasting pan.

If more fat has accumulated in the roasting pan than you want, pour it off. Put the roasting pan over low heat and add 2 c water. Bring to a gentle simmer while using a wooden spoon to scrape up all the lovely bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour this liquid into the stock pot.

1 large carrot in big chunks. No need to peel if the carrot is clean.
1 celery rib in big chunks
1/2 a medium (baseball size) onion cut in 2 pieces. No need to peel if the onion is clean.
2 halved garlic cloves, unpeeled (optional)
1/2 tsp rubbed sage OR 1/2 tsp dried thyme OR 2 bay leaves (optional)
6 whole peppercorns
Big pinch of salt

Put all the above in your stock pot and add water to cover by about an inch. Cook as follows:

  • Pressure cooker: Cook for 1 hour once the cooker has reached pressure. Let pressure release on its own for 15 min then release the remaining pressure manually.
  • Stovetop: Bring almost to a boil and then cook, partially covered, at a gentle simmer for 4 hours.
  • Slow cooker: Cook on the high setting for 10-12 hours.

Use a spider or slotted spoon to remove most of the solids. You can pick the meat off the bones for your dog or cat if you wish, but otherwise discard–99% of the flavor has been cooked out. Strain the liquid thru a fine-meshed strainer. If there’s more fat than you want, use a fat separator to remove it.

This recipe makes 2 c of gravy. You can scale it up or down as needed. Leftover stock can be frozen almost indefinitely. If you have saved some of the chicken fat, you can use it in place of the butter. For a cream gravy, replace 1/4 c of the stock with half and half.

2 TB butter
3 TB all-purpose flour
2 c stock

Melt 2 TB butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the flour and stir over medium-low heat until completely combined. Add 1/4 c stock and stir until you have a smooth paste–the mixture should be gently bubbling through all this. Continue adding stock in 1/4 c increments, stirring each time until completely smooth. A small whisk is ideal for this. Once you have added 1 c of stock, add the rest all at once. Stir and simmer until completely smooth and thickened. Taste for salt and correct if needed.

Hash browns at home

October 8, 2019

A lot of folks, myself included, would think of these as a treat to have when eating breakfast at a diner. But they are so easy to make at home, so why wait? They are a simpler version of the classic Latkes and are a favorite accompaniment to breakfast.


2 c finely chopped potatoes*
2 TB minced onion (optional)
2 TB bacon fat or vegetable oil (not butter)
3 TB heavy cream (optional)

If using onions, mix with the potatoes. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet, medium heat. When a speck of potato starts to sizzle, add the potatoes. Use a spatula to shape and press them into a pancake no more than 1/2 inch thick. Let cook, undisturbed, until the bottom is nicely browned, 5-10 minutes. Flip over (easier if you cut the pancake in half first). If using cream, dribble over the potatoes. Continue cooking until the 2nd side is browned. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

* about the size of a raw navy bean, or a bit smaller

Chick peas with sesame and honey

December 7, 2016

There’s a definite oriental theme to these beans. They are quite strongly flavored and could make a meal on their own. Serve on plain white rice.

2 c dried chick peas (measure when dry) cooked, or 2 – 15 oz cans chick peas
1 medium onion chopped fine
4 large or 6 small garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 c honey
2/3 c soy sauce (Kikkoman is excellent and widely available)
1/4 c toasted sesame oil
1/4 c vegetable oil
2 TB rice wine vinegar
1 TB grated fresh ginger
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Optional garnishes: Toasted sesame seeds and/or thinly sliced scallions

Put all ingredients except chick peas in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring now and then. Add the drained and rinsed chick peas and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. If the sauce seems to be getting too thick, add a bit of water. Serve over white rice.

Roasted sweet and spicy squash

November 29, 2015

My favorite squash for this is kabocha, but any orange-fleshed variety should do (acorn, butternut, delicata, etc.). In my experience the skin is perfectly edible although it has a slightly chewier consistency than the flesh.

  • One 2 lb squash, washed, quartered, and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1 tsp sriracha or similar hot sauce
  • big pinch salt
  • 1/4 c neutral oil (peanut, canola, etc.)
  • 1-2 TB white sesame seeds
  • black pepper
  • cilantro leaves

Heat oven to 450 degrees

In a large bowl, whisk the soy sauce, honey, hot sauce, salt, and oil together.  Add the squash to the bowl, grind some pepper over, and toss to coat. Arrange in one layer on an oiled baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes until soft and starting to brown. While baking, toast the seasame seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium heat, shaking often, until lightly browned. When the squash is done, transfer to a serving bowl, top with the sesame seeds and cilantro, and serve.

Scalloped tomatoes

August 24, 2015

This is a true summer recipe, when the flavor-bursting tomatoes are in great abundance at the farmers market. I have adapted it from a recipe on the Smitten Kitchen website, which is worth a look if you can get past the way-too-many photos and the overly cutesy text.

You do not want second-class toms for this, the recipe depends on the excellence of the ingredients. This includes the Parmesan cheese. May the lord have mercy on you if you use the pre-grated sawdust in the cylindrical containers! Buy the real stuff from Italy, Parmesiano Reggiano, it tastes so good.

  • 3 TB of good olive oil
  • 3 c of bread cubes, about 1/2 inch on a side, from a  loaf of hearty white bread (such as a french boule), crusts removed. Please don’t give me this whole wheat nonsense, whole wheat it has its place but not here.
  • 3 c of your best most lovely and flavorful tomatoes in 1/2 inch dice.
  • 3 large or 4 small garlic cloves, minced finely.
  • 1 TB sugar.
  • 2 tsp salt.
  • About 10 grindings of black pepper. Maybe 12.
  • 1/2 c thinly slivered basil leaves, Thai basil is good as well as the “regular” basil.
  • 1-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Heat oven to 350 f.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the bread cubes and toss until toasted, lightly browned, and crisp—perhaps 5 minutes. While the bread is toasting, toss the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl. When the bread cubes are ready, reduce the heat to medium and add the tomato mixture. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes then stir in the basil. Pour into an oiled baking pan that will hold the mixture in a 1-1/2 to 2 inch layer. Sprinkle the Parmesan over and bake for about 30 minutes or until the ingredients are bubbling and lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature—the leftovers make a great omelet filling.

Marinated vegetables Mediterranean style

August 14, 2015

These have become a favorite, easy to make and delicious in many situations – as an accompaniment to meats or cheese, on sandwiches, with eggs, by itself on small toasts. It is technically a pickle, but it is very gently picked, the sourness is very subtle and the taste is more of olive oil and spices.


1 c tasty olive oil
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/2 c white wine vinegar
1/2 c dry vermouth
1 quart water
2 TB kosher salt
1 TB whole coriander seeds
1 TB whole fennel seeds
2 whole dried chilies or 2 tsp chili flakes
4 whole bay leaves
1 TB brown sugar
1 tsp saffron threads. This is optional, but it is a nice addition.
Several sprigs of fresh thyme, or 2 tsp dried

Put all the above in a large saucepan over low heat while you prepare the vegetables.

The goal with the vegetables is to have about 2 quarts, or perhaps a little more, of cut raw veggies. The exact proportions are not critical and the amounts given below are suggestions. As you prepare the veg, keep them separate.

1 medium onion peeled, halved vertically, and sliced thinly
1 large fennel bulb, sliced thinly vertically
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias
1 c or so of small cauliflower florets
2 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced on the bias
8 cremini mushrooms, trimmed and cut in half

Starting with the onion, then the fennel, cook each vegetable individually in the now-simmering spiced liquid until crisp-tender. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon and set aside. Continue with each veg until all are cooked. Let the veg and cooking liquid cool a bit.

Put the veg into two 1-quart jars. You can be fancy and layer them for a pretty appearance, or just stuff them in as I do. Pour the unstrained cooking liquid into the jars to cover the veg. Cover and refrigerate for up to a month – as if they will last that long!

White bean and celery root puree

February 16, 2015

This simple and delicious dish is a welcome alternative to mashed potatoes, and I think it goes particularly well with lamb.

1 c dried navy or great Northern beans or 2-15oz cans of beans.
1 medium size celery root
3 TB good olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Several grinds of black pepper
Salt to taste
Parsley for garnish

If using dry beans, cook according to package directions until quite soft.

Drain the beans and reserve the liquid. Peel the celery root, cut into 1 inch chunks, and simmer until soft. Combine celery root, beans, and all other ingredients (except parsley) in a food processor and  zap until smooth. If the texture is too stiff (not likely), add a bit of the bean liquid. Scrape into an oiled baking pan and bake as 350 degrees until heated through. Remove from oven, drizzle a bit more olive oil on top, and garnish with parsley.

Macaroni and cheese

November 30, 2014

Forget those boxed mixes with the mystery yellow powder, and put away your Velveeta. This is real mac and cheese, a bit more work, but well worth it.

1/2 pound cavatappi (preferred) or elbow macaroni (see note below)
3 TB butter
3 TB flour
2 tsp powdered mustard (Coleman’s preferred)
2-1/2 c milk, warmed
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp paprika (preferred) or a couple of dashes of hot sauce
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp, good quality cheddar cheese, grated or diced
Salt and pepper to taste

The topping:

1c panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 TB butter

Cook the pasta al dente and drain. Rinse with cold water, drain again, and set aside.

In a 2 qt saucepan, melt the 3 TB butter and add the flour and mustard powder. Stir over medium heat for a few minutes until completely blended with no lumps. Do not let the flour brown. Stir in the milk, onion, paprika/hot sauce, and bay leaves. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add a healthy grinding of black pepper. Beat the egg and stir it in rapidly so that it does not set before mixed. Add 3/4 of the cheese and stir, over low heat, until it is all incorporated. Remove from heat; taste for salt and add some more if needed. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the pasta and pour into a greased casserole dish. Distribute the remaining cheese on top.

Melt the 2 TB butter and stir in the panko. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

Bake at 350 f for 45 minutes or until the top is starting to brown and the casserole is bubbling gently. Let cool for 10 minutes then serve.

Note: I think of cavatappi as elbow macaroni that went to finishing school. They are a bit longer, and sort of spiral in shape, and the outside is ridged, better to hold sauces and the like. De Cecco is one brand that is widely available.

Quick Cuban black beans

October 27, 2014

I love Cuban black beans, but preparing them from scratch is time-consuming. Here’s a recipe that gives you perfectly acceptable results in 15 minutes.

2-15 oz cans of seasoned black beans
1/4 c diced onion
1/4 c diced green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a saucepan, sauté the onion, pepper, and garlic in  the oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin and pepper and, a minute later, the beans (with their liquid). Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Serve over white rice.

Half-sour kosher dill pickles

September 20, 2014

When I was a kid, I remember that some of the delis in NY City would bring a bowl of these to every table, and they would quickly disappear. Crisp, only mildly sour, with a nice garlic flavor, they have been a favorite of mine for years. And, they are ridiculously easy to make at home.

These are fresh pickles, not heat-treated, which accounts for their delicious crispiness. And they contain no vinegar, with the mild sourness coming from natural fermentation. The cucumbers are important. You want firm, fresh cukes a maximum of 4 inches long. “Pickling” cukes are ideal but not required. I provide 2 slightly different recipes.


For half-pickles, which develop their flavor faster:

2 lbs cukes washed and halved lengthwise
2-1 quart widemouth jars. They can be “canning” jars but do not need to be because there is no heat processing involved.
10 whole black peppercorns or whole coriander seeds
5 large or 8 small cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp dried dill
1/4 c kosher salt
2-1/2 c water

Divide the cuke halves between the jars. Pack them in vertically and rather tightly, which will keep them in place below the surface of the brine. You may have some extra, save them for a salad. Push 2 garlic cloves down between the cuke halves in each jar. Divide the dill and peppercorns between the jars. Dissolve the salt in the water and pour over the cukes. Make sure all the cukes are submerged. Cover the jars and let sit at room temperature. The brine will get slightly cloudy, a sign that the fermentation yeast is active.

After 24 hours taste the pickles. If they are not “pickley” enough for your taste, let sit for a while longer, tasting every 12 hours or so. When ready, transfer to the  fridge, where they will continue to develop, but much more slowly. Keep up to 3 weeks.

For whole pickles, which take a little longer to develop but are preferred by some:


You’ll need a 2 quart widemouth jar.

Follow the above recipe, but do not cut the cukes. Make the brine using 1/3 c kosher salt and 1 quart water.. Pack all ingredients into the jar and pour in the brine. Fill a zipper bag with water and insert it to keep the cukes submerged.

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