Pasta and Bean Soup with Sausage

Ingredients

  • 2 Smoked Ham Hocks
  • 3 Yellow onions diced
  • 2 Cups of Leeks diced, rinsed, drained
  • 4 Carrots peeled, diced
  • 8 Stalks of Celery diced
  • 1 pound Crimini mushrooms sliced
  • 1 pound Hot Italian Sausage (casing removed if using links)
  • 1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage (casing removed if using links)
  • 1 28oz. Can of Diced San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 3 TBSP Tomato Paste
  • 11 Cloves of Garlic minced
  • 3 Qts. Chicken Stock
  • 12 oz. Chick Peas (Garbanzo Beans) cooked
  • 12 oz. Kidney Beans (or other bean; Cannelini, Borlotti, etc.) cooked
  • 2-3 TSP Fennel Seed
  • 3-4 TBSP Fresh Rosemary chopped fine
  • 3-4 TBSP Fresh Oregano chopped fine
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste

*1 Pound Ditalini Pasta cooked al dente

*Extra Virgin Olive Oil to taste

*Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese to taste

Method of Prep

  1. In a large pot, sweat the onions, leeks, carrots and celery with the ham hocks. When these vegetables soften, add the mushrooms and garlic, stir often.
  2. Once the mushrooms have softened, begin to add in the sausage a little bit at a time and stir in. The smaller the sausage is; the better, as it will be more evenly distributed in the soup at the end.
  3. After the sausage, add the tomato paste and fennel and stir to evenly incorporate.
  4. Now add the chicken stock and diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for no less than 30 minutes or until sausage is thoroughly cooked.
  5. Shortly before serving (15 minutes) add the beans, chick peas, rosemary and half of the oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Add some pasta to each bowl of soup (amount based on preference) then drizzle with a good quality olive oil and top with fresh oregano and Parmesan cheese.

Note- The ham hocks are there for flavor, not necessarily to be eaten (unless you’d like to). Also, it is best to separately cook the beans and pasta so that they maintain their texture and don’t overcook. Always keep the pasta separate and heat up with each serving.

Roasted Oxtail and Barley Soup

Oxtail is not actually from an ox anymore. It is beef. When it is braised properly, it is very similar to the consistency of short rib; tender, moist and practically melts in your mouth. This soup is meant to be very rustic so that each serving will have one or two pieces of oxtail that will still be attached to the bone, similar to the way veal or lamb shank is typically served.

Ingredients

  • 6 lbs of Beef oxtail
  • 2 TBSP Bacon fat, or high heat oil
  • 2 Large Onions peeled, diced
  • 4 Carrots peeled, chopped small
  • 8 Stalks Celery chopped small
  • 8 cloves of garlic (slivered)
  • 2 Cups Dry White Wine
  • 3 Qts of Meat Stock
  • 2 TBSP Tomato paste
  • Fresh Rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley (chopped)
  • 2 Cups Barley cooked
  • Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Prep…
1. Season with salt and roast oxtail pieces at 500F until you’ve attained some good caramelization; about 20-30 minutes.
2. Cut your onions, celery and carrots to a ½ inch dice and set aside. In the soup pot, sauté your vegetables on high heat with some oil until they start to brown. Turn down the heat and add your slivered garlic and tomato paste. Stir and cook for 10 minutes, then add wine and simmer for five minutes.
3. Add your stock and bring to a simmer.
4. When your oxtail pieces have finished roasting, remove from the oven and add to the soup. This includes the fat and pan drippings from your roasting pan!
5. Simmer until oxtail becomes fork tender; roughly four to five hours. Add your chopped herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Add a serving of cooked barley to each bowl.

Note: There is no measurement for the herbs and seasoning because that would be your preference based on your taste. I used about 3 sprigs of rosemary, 10-12 sprigs of thyme leaves, and about a ¼ cup of loosely packed fresh, chopped oregano and parsley.

There will be some fat (as this is a fatty cut of meat) which can be skimmed off with a ladle, or, wait until the soup is cold, and remove if that is your preference.

I prefer to add the barley to each serving as opposed to cooking in the soup. This way it will maintain its texture especially since the soup will likely be re-heated and served again.

White and Sweet Potato Hash with Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

  • 4 Sweet Potatoes peeled, cubed
  • 4 White Potatoes peeled, cubed
  • 1 Onion diced
  • 2 TBSP Bacon Fat
  • 3 Garlic cloves minced
  • 1 TBSP Fresh Thyme
  • 1 TBSP Fresh Parsley
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method Of Prep

  1. Using a cast iron skillet over med-high heat, heat bacon fat until the pan becomes very hot but not yet smoking.
  2. Add the onions and potatoes at the same time so that both the onions and potatoes will caramelize. Stir occasionally, making sure not to let them burn. About half way through cooking, add the garlic.
  3. When potatoes become tender and have developed some crispness, remove from pan and turn into a mixing bowl. Dress with lemon, herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.

*Note; be careful not to try to make a large batch unless you are using a very large pan. Over-crowding your pan will lead to too much moisture and more of steamed, mushy potatoes with no flavor development through caramelization. 

*Try experimenting with this recipe as the base. I’ve added chicken/ duck leg confit, or crisp bacon. Or, in the summer, fresh diced tomato as part of the final seasoning.

How to Prioritize Nutrition

I’m sure most of you reading this have been told that certain diets and foods are bad for you, while others are optimal. I was one of those people once. I can remember a point at which I bought into the idea that bread would kill me, grains would give me cancer, etc. Of course with this came the idea that you could eat as much bacon as you want. I ate sandwiches but replaced the bread with bacon. I was ‘above’ eating dessert and pretty much stopped drinking delicious beer, replacing it with hard cider because I thought it was more ‘natural’. I actually still prefer Harpoon Cider over most drinks because it is pretty delicious but, that’s neither here nor there.

I’m not really preaching to anyone about nutrition, just stating some observations based off of the reading I’ve done and real-life conversations I’ve had with people on the subject. As of the past couple years, I have followed some pretty well known people in the nutrition world; Layne Norton, Alan Aragon, Abbie Smith-Ryan among others, some of which were brought to my attention through a friend. Some of them are also very outspoken about their thoughts on certain dieting practices, training theories, etc. making it so they are either loved or hated. They question anything that isn’t science based and are not afraid to call out the bullshit. There are a lot of things that I once thought were correct, which I have found are actually very incorrect. Much of the time I enjoy finding these things out because at least I know I am staying up to date.

Within the past couple years and more recently the past few months, I have been following the work of the crew behind Renaissance Periodization; a team of strength coaches, PhD’s and doctors who have basically outlined a practical approach to health and body composition through diet and exercise without creating more stress from overly strict diet practices. The priorities are outlined in order of importance as it relates to food intake. The first and foremost objective they recommend is;

‘Are you eating enough? Or, too much?’

Secondly, in order of importance, ‘Are your total daily calories relatively balanced from a macro-nutrient standpoint based on your activity level, type, and individual needs?’

In other words, “Do you get enough protein, carbs and fat to support your goals and if so, how much of each?”

I found this extremely interesting as it created a ‘duh’ moment for me. It brought me right back to the basics of which I studied in college. Through conversations I’ve had with people who have asked my advice, these first two questions listed above are what stumps them. In general, all of them believe that carbs are bad, grass-fed meat, bacon, and fresh vegetables are optimal, and that butter in your coffee is a miracle. Tracking my intake was a real eye-opener for me as I thought I was eating “healthy”. As it turns out, I found that I was consuming roughly 40-45% of my calories from fat and 30% give or take, from protein. The rest came from carbs (under 40%). Much too high in fat and too low in carbs for my goals of staying lean but also, improving my strength with weightlifting. On top of that, I still wasn’t getting enough calories to support my training!

At this point, I don’t really track anymore as I have learned what I need to eat to support my training and maintain adequate energy levels. Every once in a while I may go back and log it to check and make sure I’m on track, but have also since learned about the difference in the way my body feels and how I’m able to recover from workouts, based on how I eat.
What I am suggesting to anyone wondering about nutrition is that it is optimal to know how much energy you consume based on how much you expend. From that point, how much of that energy should come from protein, carbs and fat to support your goals. At the beginning, it is very likely that those individual numbers for most people will be far off from where they should be. Getting those in line first, would likely make the biggest improvement in health before stressing about whether or not your meat is grass-fed or that you should substitute your breakfast with a cup of coffee that has a quarter of a stick of butter melted into it.

Sweet Potato Pie

For the Crust:

  • 4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 lbs. Butter (3 sticks)
  • 8 TBSP Bacon Fat- (can just use all butter if bacon fat is unavailable)
  • 1.5 TSP Kosher Salt
  • 1/3 to 1/2 Cup Ice Water

Sweet Potato Filling:

  • 8 Sweet Potatoes baked, skinned, riced/ run through a food mill to remove fibers
  • 1 TBSP Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 TSP Allspice
  • 1/2 TSP Nutmeg
  • 1 TSP Cinnamon
  • 1/2 TSP Kosher Salt
  • 1 TBSP Real Maple Syrup

Custard:

  • 1.5 Cups Whole Milk
  • 1.5 Cups Cream
  • 5 Eggs
  • 1 TBSP Real Maple Syrup

Method Of Prep:

1. Using a food processor or mixer with a paddle, (or the old fashioned way) cut cool butter and bacon fat into flour with salt. Do this until mixture becomes mealy and there are no more visible pieces of butter/ fat and flour that is not mixed together. Try to do this quickly so that the fat doesn’t melt.

2. If using a food processor; turn this mixture onto a flat surface and create an indentation in the middle (kind of like a volcano). Start to drip in the water and fold mixture together until it becomes a dough. Also do this quickly so as not to melt the fat. If your using a mixer with the paddle, this step can be done in the mixer. Knead for only maybe 15 seconds after it comes together, if even that long. If it is over-mixed, you will end up with a tough, rather than flaky crust.

3. Shape dough into two discs and refrigerate for about 1/2 hour before use.

4. Put milk and cream into a sauce pot and scald. Set on med-high heat and bring up to temp without letting it boil. A “skin” will form on the surface, remove from heat and let cool for 15 min.

5. With a blender, add eggs and then slowly temper in milk/ cream mixture while blending over med-high speed. Add syrup. Blend until new mixture becomes frothy.

6. In a large bowl, fold custard into sweet potato filling until uniform. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

7. Grease 9 inch pie plates with a little butter and roll out crusts to roughly 1/8 inch thick to fit pie plates. Place a piece of parchment paper into the pie shell and fill with dried beans or ceramic pie weights (if you have them). Bake at 350F until the crust starts to turn golden brown.

8. Remove from oven and remove the weights and parchment. Let cool before filling with the sweet potato mixture. Turn the oven down to 325F.

9. Fill the crusts with the sweet potato mixture and bake until the filling doesn’t jiggle when the pie plate is moved. This will be roughly an hour.

10. Remove pies from the oven and let cool completely before serving. Sprinkle some nutmeg across the surface. When served, the pies should be slightly chilled.

Garlic & Truffle Aioli Roasted Turkey Breast

The idea for this recipe comes from one of the worlds best chefs; Thomas Keller. Famous for The French Laundry, Per Se, and other restaurants as well as his cookbooks, he is someone every cook and chef would aspire to be. It is amazing in it’s simplicity and turns out some of the tastiest, juiciest, holiday turkey I’ve ever had!

Start by breaking down your thawed turkey. I cut off the ends of the wings, legs, and took out the pelvis and back bone to roast for the gravy with the neck. I also boned out the legs.

Using the poultry brine recipe from this site; Poultry Brine. Completely submerge your turkey in the brine and refrigerate for no more than 12 hours and no less than 8 hours. After it has been brined, remove and pat dry with a paper towel. As shown in the picture, stand up on a lined sheet pan. Let sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes before putting in the oven.

Use a spatula to coat the entire turkey breast with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick layer of a good quality store-bought mayonnaise, or make your own; Garlic and Truffle Aioli. Slide into an oven set at 350F, and cook to an internal temperature of 155F. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

 

Roasted Garlic & Truffle Aioli (Mayonnaise)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Head of Garlic roasted
  • 2 Lemons juiced
  • 4 Egg Yolks
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Cups Canola Oil
  • 2 TBSP Truffle Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Black Pepper to taste

Method of Prep

1. Using a food processor, add egg yolks, lemon juice, and a few grinds of black pepper. When the head of garlic is cooled, squeeze until the soft garlic cloves slide out. You will be left with the skin in your hand; discard.

2. Start the processor and slowly drizzle in olive oil. Then slowly drizzle in canola oil. If it starts to become too thick, adjust with a very little bit of water. Think about the consistency of mayonnaise… and constantly taste to adjust consistency and flavor. be careful not to add too much oil at once, or the emulsion will break and separate.

3. Season with salt and truffle oil, blend again for a few seconds.

*Note: I didn’t have lemons for this particular recipe. I substituted with vinegar, but would have preferred lemons. Also, you may not need all of the canola oil for this recipe, depending on the consistency you prefer. Use it as a guideline. This recipe can also be a base for different flavors. Try substituting different ingredients based on your preference. Egg yolks, oil, acid, garlic, salt and pepper are what make up the base, which then can be customized.