Very Cheddar Potato Gratin

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: Very Cheddar Potato Gratin! It’s no secret some of us have a love affair with cheese. It’s not enough to sprinkle a handful of cheese on top of scalloped potatoes before sliding them into the oven. Sometimes you have to be downright sneaky about it. And you can blame me for it, if need be. By hiding grated cheese between two layers of sliced potatoes, and then sprinkling more cheese across the top of these mini casseroles, you not only guarantee a cheesy, ah-mazing dish, you have one that is comfort-food all the way to your favorite spot on the couch. Now where’s the remote?

VERY CHEDDAR POTATO GRATIN

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup light cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Everything But Bagel seasoning

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray single two serving pans with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a bowl, combine chicken broth, light cream, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, black pepper, and thyme. Mix well. Layer half the potatoes in the prepared dishes. Sprinkle half the cheese over each; divide half the liquid over top. Repeat with remaining potatoes, cheese, and broth. Transfer cookware to a baking sheet. Cover each pan with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 30 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender when tested with a knife. The top will be crispy. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Cool slightly before serving.

Pinto Bean Cottage Ham Stew

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Pinto Bean Cottage Ham Stew! Whenever I make a main course meat, I usually have enough excess to freeze a portion or two for recipes down the road. It keeps us from growing weary of eating the same thing over and over until it’s gone. This recipe is one of those “second meals” from the cottage ham dinner recently. It can easily be substituted with ham or completely omitted for a vegetarian meal. It’s nice to have options, isn’t it?

PINTO BEAN COTTAGE HAM STEW

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1/4 cup celery, diced

6 mini carrots, sliced

15-ounce can pinto beans, with liquid

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon thyme

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups water or broth from cottage ham*

1 cup cottage ham, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces

1-2 bay leaves

Instructions:

In an iron skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion, diced celery, and sliced carrots. Cook 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the pinto beans with liquid, garlic powder, marjoram, thyme, liquid smoke, and black pepper. Stir. Slowly add water and cottage ham pieces. Stir to combine. Place the bay leaves on top. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover. Cook for 30 minutes. For a thicker stew, lightly mash some of the pinto beans. Remove bay leaves before serving.

*Broth was saved from the original preparation of the cottage ham.

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Xmas Pear Pupus

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Xmas Pear Pupus! A popular Polynesian appetizer, served hot or cold, comes from the Hawaiian word “pūpū”. It can be anything from a buffet table of skewered meat, tempura veggies, raw fish, and other finger foods to simple cold trays of tropical fruits, deviled eggs, edamame, and smoked salmon. Remember to make everything bite-size when planning an informal gathering. Because pear trees live such a long time, their fruit is very symbolic during the holiday season. The pear often represents immortality, wisdom, and health; a treat fit for royalty. By creating a pear pupu platter, you’re giving your guests a gift of intangibles they may treasure for years to come. Get the conversation started. Serve freshly sliced ripe pears and cinnamon dusted pear chips with a wheel of warm Brie. How festive!

XMAS PEAR PUPUS

Ingredients:

2 pears, thinly sliced for baking

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 wheel Brie cheese, warmed

2 tablespoons cranberry relish

2 tablespoons sugared pecans

2 pears, cut into wedges for eating

Instructions:

Cinnamon Dusted Pear Chips must be made in advance. Preheat oven to 225°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Pat dry sliced pears. Place them on the parchment paper in a single layer. Dust with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake 3 hours until dried and crisp. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

For Pear Pupus, warm a wheel of Brie cheese in a 350°oven for 5-10 minutes to soften. Spread cranberry relish over top. Sprinkle with sugared pecans and chopped pears. Serve with pear wedges and cinnamon dusted pear chips.

Yams in Pecan Glaze

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Yams in Pecan Glaze! Oh. My. Gosh. You have got to make this recipe. There’s still plenty of time before the holidays to switch back to your traditional family favorite if you don’t like it, but think about this a moment. By using canned yams, or sweet potatoes, preparation is a snap. Who knows? You could end up making both. Remember what I said about “Start Smart”? Sometimes that means taking advantage of the numerous products that eliminate the extra leg work. Sugared pecans are such a gourmet treat. Pick up a package of those to add to the decadent pure maple syrup sauce. Read on if you’re curious.

YAMS IN PECAN GLAZE

Ingredients:

29-ounce can cut sweet potatoes in syrup

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon sage, finely chopped

1 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Fresh thyme sprigs, for garnish

For Pecan Glaze:

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup sugared pecans

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Drain liquid from sweet potatoes into a saucepan. Carefully slice and arrange yams in a casserole dish. Set aside. Boil the liquid over medium heat until only 1/4” covers the bottom of the saucepan. Add butter, sage, thyme, cinnamon, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Mix well. Pour over sweet potatoes. Bake 15 minutes. While potatoes are baking, make the pecan glaze. Add butter to a skillet over medium heat. Add sugared pecans. Toss to coat. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add pure maple syrup. Cook 5 minutes longer, or until the pecans are caramelized and syrupy. Pour over sweet potatoes. Return casserole to the oven and bake 5 minutes longer, or until the glaze becomes thick. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs before serving.

Juicy Roast Turkey

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Juicy Roast Turkey! There’s nothing worse than dry-as-dust turkey, around the holidays. Watch your guests if they keep asking you to pass the gravy. Today I’m going to give you a few tips to keep that from happening. You can thank me when it’s your turn to host the holiday meal. Number one: Truss loosely, or not at all. The secret is to allow heat to get to all sides of the legs. Cooking the turkey until the legs are done may result in overcooking the breast meat. Number two: Don’t overcook. The timetable on the package is an estimate. Always use a meat thermometer, even if the turkey comes with a pop-up version. Always. Number three: (and this one is the hardest for me) Let the turkey “rest” before carving. I’m talking 20-30 minutes. Evidently, during the roasting process, the oven heat forces all the juices to the center of the turkey. When you allow it to “rest”, after it’s done, the juices seep back into the cavities and make the turkey moist. It’s definitely worth the wait.

JUICY ROAST TURKEY

Ingredients:

10-15 pound turkey, thawed

1/2 cup butter

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 teaspoon thyme

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Wash the turkey, pat dry, and transfer to a roasting pan with a roasting rack. Stuff the turkey as desired. Otherwise, salt and pepper the inside of the cavity. In a small saucepan, warm the butter over low heat. Add the lemon juice, zest, and thyme. Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone. Cover the roaster with the lid. Transfer pan to oven. Bake for two hours, basting the turkey every half hour. This insures even browning of the skin. Remove lid and roast turkey an additional 1 1/2 hours, continuing to baste at half hour intervals. When the meat thermometer reads 185°, remove the turkey from the oven. Transfer it to a cutting board; cover with foil. Let it rest for half an hour. This makes carving easier and produces a juicy roast turkey.

Turmeric Chicken Curry

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Turmeric Chicken Curry! For those who dabble in traditional ethnic dishes, turmeric is a well-known spice that typically gives food a rich golden yellow hue. Although turmeric has a slightly bitter taste, curry powder combines it with cumin and chili powder to catapult the flavor from mild to very spicy. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way when adding flavor and color. I find turmeric mildly aromatic with a slight scent of ginger, which is appealing when added to chicken. Also, it can jazz up boring white rice by making an ordinary dish look a bit fancy.

TURMERIC CHICKEN CURRY

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound boneless skinless chicken

1 onion, chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 cup crushed tomatoes

4 teaspoons turmeric

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken to brown, turning once. Add onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Sauté for 5 minutes until onions are soft and fragrant. Add chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, turmeric, cloves, thyme, sea salt, and black pepper. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Perfect Pot Roast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Perfect Pot Roast! Today all chefs get the day off from cooking. Seriously. This one-pot meal will turn out perfectly, as long as you ignore it. Use a slow-cooker or a Dutch Baker in a low temperature oven. I actually begin with a frozen chuck roast and forget about it, that is until the savory aromas lightly waft throughout the house. The liquid turns into a pleasant au jus or can be thickened into gravy. Personally, I ladle the juice into a food storage container to use as a sauce for beef carnitas, but that’s another story. Leftovers promise delicious options.

PERFECT POT ROAST

Ingredients:

3-4 pound chuck roast, frozen

3/4 cup vinegar

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup kosher salt (or less)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon oregano

1 pound baby carrots

3-4 white potatoes, skin on, quartered

2-3 sprigs thyme

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 275°. Place frozen roast in Dutch Baker. Combine vinegar, orange juice, and melted butter. Pour over roast. Sprinkle roast with kosher salt, garlic powder, and oregano. Lay thyme sprigs across the top of the meat. Put the lid on the Dutch Baker and bake for 4 hours. Then add carrots and cut-up potatoes to the pot. Reduce oven temperature to 185°. Bake 4 hours longer. The roast is fall-apart tender and ready to serve.

Xtra Tender Grilled Radishes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Xtra Tender Grilled Radishes! If you’ve avoided radishes because of their bitter earthy taste when eaten raw, perhaps it’s time to give them another chance. Keep in mind radishes are simply a root vegetable, no different than a potato or turnip. Once they are cooked, a natural sweetness emerges. Surprise! The slightly crisp outer core reveals a nice soft middle that makes your mouth go “Mmmm.”

XTRA TENDER GRILLED RADISHES

Ingredients:

4 cups radishes, stems removed and halved lengthwise

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

Warm an iron skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Toss the radishes in olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with garlic and herb seasoning. Reduce the heat to medium. Place the radishes, cut side down, on the iron skillet. Sear the radishes for 3-4 minutes per side. They will start to soften without losing their crunch. Remove pan from heat. Drizzle the radishes with melted butter. Sprinkle with chopped thyme leaves, sea salt, and black pepper. Serve immediately.

Zinfandel Pairings

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Zinfandel Pairings! Just when I thought I’d seen it all, there in the produce department perched on the bottom shelf below its green and red cousins, was a small bin of larger-than-life black seedless grapes. Immediately I was intrigued. The hand-scribbled sign boasted sweet and tart beyond your wildest dreams. That’s it. Nothing more than “Product of USA” on the package. It didn’t matter. It was love-at-first-sight. I knew immediately that a Zinfandel wine and tangy cheese would join the impromptu Date Night that was forming in my mind. Later on, after I got home, I read all kinds of powerful benefits these precious little gems do for the body, mind, and soul. What a perfect prologue for guilt-free delicacies.

ZINFANDEL PAIRINGS

Ingredients:

1 pound black seedless grapes

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 ounces feta cheese, block

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup honeycomb

Multigrain French Bread slices, lightly toasted

Raw Honey, for drizzling

Lemon Thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In a small dish, combine olive oil, sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper. Wash cluster of black grapes; pat dry. Place grapes on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, generously coat the grapes with the olive oil mixture. Roast for 30 minutes. Grapes will release juice and begin to wrinkle. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Break the feta cheese into rough chunks. Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon zest. Drizzle with raw honey. Bake for 15 minutes until softened. Broil until slightly golden. Watch carefully. To serve, spread warm cheese on toasted baguette slices. Top with a piece of honeycomb. Place a roasted grape over the cheese. Drizzle with raw honey. Garnish with lemon thyme. Serve with a slightly chilled glass of red Zinfandel.