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.

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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.

Beef Stew

For me, beef stew is one of my comfort foods. It is an incredible source of nutrition, and when done right, makes for a delicious meal. As a great source of protein, it only gets better with age. When a roast is made, whether it be beef, lamb, pork, chicken, etc., that’s as good as it’s going to get. You have one chance to taste that meal at it’s best. The best part about stews and braises is that in the following days, they are just as good, if not a little bit better than the first meal.

There are three ingredients that I feel are essential to a good beef stew. They are; Red wine, Dijon mustard, tomato product, and fresh herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. These ingredients alone, help to really build some depth of flavor and make the taste interesting to the palate.

Ingredients

4 pounds of stew meat (beef)
1 Bunch Celery rough chop
6 Carrots peeled, rough chop
4 Medium sized White onions peeled, rough chop
8 Cloves of garlic peeled, minced
4 pints Crimini Mushrooms cleanedquartered
1 28oz. can Organic Tomatoes
1 bottle of decent Dry red wine
2 TBSP Dijon Mustard
Rosemary, Thyme to taste
Salt, pepper to taste
3 TBSP Canola Oil (to sear beef)
*Beurre Manie

Method of Prep

  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, season and sear meat with canola oil and brown on all sides then remove and set aside. Be sure to do in batches to maintain the proper heat. Over crowding the sear with too much meat will lower the temp and cause the meat to just sweat and turn gray.
  2. Add vegetables except for tomatoes and garlic to the pot and season, stirring occasionally. As the vegetables start to soften they will release water that will help to de-glaze the bottom of the pot from the meat drippings. After roughly 5-10 minutes when the vegetables have softened, add the garlic, mustard, tomatoes and red wine. Stir and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Return the meat back to the pot, mix into the stewing liquid as evenly as possible with half of the fresh herbs.
  4. Cover pot with lid or a piece of foil. Turn heat down to a slow simmer and cook for at least three hours.
  5. Before serving, adjust seasoning and add the second half of the fresh herbs. Vigorously stir in beurre manie and cook for another 5 minutes while the stew thickens up a bit.

*Note- A beurre manie is a “dough” made from equal parts of butter and flour that is kneaded together by hand. The result should be “crumbly” with no visible butter or flour. In French cooking it is used to thicken soups and sauces, similar to a roux. It also provides a delicious, buttery finish. For the entire batch of stew, which by volume, was more than a gallon at the end, I used about three to four TBSP of butter and just over 1/4 Cup of flour. For something like this, I don’t necessarily measure out the beurre manie as it can be more of a personal preference.

The above recipe can really be used for any type of red meat that’s made into a braise or stew. Some herbs may go better with different meats and again, that is up to individual creativity and preference as well. This could be served with a starch of choice, based on preference. I used potato, which can be added to cook with the stew as part of the vegetables in the beginning.

Pollo alla Cacciatore (Chicken Hunter Style)

Chicken Cacciatore has been done more ways than one can count. Some people use the chicken breast, and others the legs. Some use both. I prefer chicken legs to the breasts simply because they taste better and stand up to a variety of cooking methods much better in my opinion. For the recipe and preparation below, I would suggest the legs only because braising or stewing chicken breasts will usually leave you with a chewy, dry, un-appetizing piece of meat and a sore jaw.

Cacciatore‘ means; hunter, in Italian. As was mentioned above, there are a variety of different ways to prepare chicken in the style of the hunter. Traditionally, the recipe will usually always include tomatoes, mushrooms, olive oil, onions and herbs. Having made this dish multiple times, my adaptation below has been my favorite. This particular recipe contains a valuable source of protein, mono and polyunsaturated fat.

Ingredients

8 Chicken Legs (organic, free range)
2 White onions (diced)
8 Celery Stalks (diced)
6 Carrots (diced)
8 Cloves of Garlic (minced)
2 Cups Mushrooms (any kind available, washed, rough chop)
2 Cups Kalamata (or similar, pitted) Olives
1 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Tsp Red Pepper flakes
¼ Cup Capers
½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Herbs (oregano, rosemary)
6 Cups of a combination of crushed and diced, organic canned tomatoes

Prep

  • In a large pot or Dutch Oven, season and sear your chicken legs for a crisp skin. Use a high heat fat like beef tallow, clarified butter, bacon fat or avocado oil.
  • Once all chicken is seared sauté and season your vegetables. When vegetables are tender, add the garlic, pepper flakes and white wine. Stir and cook for 5 minutes to reduce wine a bit, then add the tomato.
  • Add the olives and capers.
  • Return the chicken legs to the newly made stew and simmer for 3-4 hours in a covered pot or until the chicken legs are fork tender.
  • Just before serving add the chopped herbs and olive oil to each serving. Try serving with olive oil and herb roasted potatoes.

Fall Cooking

The cool, crisp air has begun to change the colors of the leaves. It smells like fall, and that smell always triggers very vivid memories for me. Growing up, the woods was where I spent a lot of my time so I became very aware of the smells of the different seasons. One fragrance in particular was the smell of wild grapes, which I was introduced to by my dad while we were upland bird hunting in the woods surrounding Lake McDonough in Barkhamsted, CT. I must have been around 10-12 years old at the time. That nostalgic scent of wild grapes always brings me right back to that point with my dad.

Fall always brought excitement for me because I hunted a lot growing up. I enjoy being outdoors in the cool weather. And, I enjoy the changing of the locally available seasonal ingredients, much like the spring brings on the asparagus, fava beans, ramps and morel mushrooms. In the fall we get apples, beets, celery root, figs, cranberries, cabbage, broccoli rabe, most other wild mushrooms (except morels), pumpkin, etc. The hearty stuff! A time for soups, stews, and foods roasted in the oven. Whether it is fall cleanup/ yard work, hunting, fishing, hiking, football or anything else done outside in the cool air, there is nothing better than that hearty meal.

One of my favorite big meals to make is roasting a whole chicken over seasoned, diced potatoes and sweet potatoes. I made this last night for my wife and I (with a little extra for the week). We also had it with a fresh, back yard-garden tomato salad…

Roasted Chicken over Potatoes

Prep Time: 15 Minutes or less

Cooking Time: Roughly 2.5 hours

Ingredients

2 Whole, Air chilled (good quality, organic, free-range) Chickens

5 White Potatoes (chopped, roughly 1 inch cubes)

4 Sweet Potatoes (chopped, roughly 1 inch cubes)

Salt, Pepper

1 Head Garlic (skinned,minced)

1 TBSP Honey

1/3 Cup Canola Oil

Herbs: Rosemary, Thyme, Dry Mustard

Method of Prep

1. Dry off chickens (inside and out) with a paper towel, the drier the better. Let sit out on the counter for about 20-30 minutes to allow the temperature to come up closer to room temp. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Wash and chop potatoes. Put them into a mixing bowl. Add oil, honey, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning to preference. Toss and incorporate seasoning well. Turn onto a foil lined sheet pan and spread evenly.

3. Truss chicken. If unsure how, tuck the ends of the wings behind the back pointing inward and tie the feet together with butchers twine. Liberally season on all sides with salt, pepper, and dried herbs if you like.

4. Lay the birds breast up on top of the potatoes, with the legs pointing in the same direction. Place in the oven with the legs toward the back of the oven.

5. In roughly 45 minutes or so, when the chicken begins to turn golden brown, turn oven down to 375F.

6. To check when the chickens are done, insert a thermometer into the meatiest part of the thigh between the breast and leg (you should feel the bone). Chickens are done when the thermometer will read 155F.

7. Remove from the oven when internal temp is 155F and let rest for 10-15 minutes. During this time, the internal temp will reach 165F. The resting period will also allow for the juices to settle, keeping the meat moist.

If the chickens are of good quality, this is one of the tastiest “one pot meals” simply because the potatoes end up cooking in the drippings of the roasted chicken. Good luck finding a more tasty piece of roasted potato!