Delicata Squash Pasta with Lacinato Kale and Mozzarella

Baked Pasta with Delicata Squash Sauce, Kale, and Mozzarella

Baked Pasta with Delicata Squash Sauce, Kale, and Mozzarella

Hi all. So, it’s been a while. Work has, unfortunately, been getting in the way of play, so while I’ve still been cooking up a storm, the time I’ve had to actually write down my recipes and post them has been sadly diminished. Still, I had an Instagram follower ask for a recipe the other day, so I thought I could take the time to do a very quick post with that recipe. So here it is! Hopefully I’ll be back someday soon with more recipes. Until then, please follow me on instagram @vonclancy or on twitter @aptepicurean to see what I’m cooking up!

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Cover Cooking Challenge Week 6: Food and Wine’s Simplest Chicken-and-Leek Stew

Simple Chicken and Leek Skillet Casserole

Simple Chicken and Leek Skillet Casserole

Apologies for the long gap in posting. I was lucky enough to be cruising Alaska with Celebrity Cruises, seeing whales, hiking glaciers, and eating and drinking myself silly. (Seriously, do you have any idea how much they feed you on cruises? It’s amazing.) The worst part about vacation is that eventually you need to come back to reality. And, after a cruise, that reality includes the fact that you’ve eaten non-stop for a week and really need to go on a diet.

Leeks and mushrooms

Make sure your leeks are already cooked down and golden before adding your mushrooms. They need to cook a lot longer.

Most people hear “diet” and think, “there goes my enjoyment of food for the next few weeks.” But I’ve found that dieting can sometimes make my food even better. I have to get creative on how to keep calories low, flavor high, and vegetables plentiful, which makes me spend more time on meals. My first attempt at a diet dinner when I got back was a play on Food and Wine‘s Simplest Chicken-and-Leek Stew. To be fair, the recipe gave me a good head start—it was already pretty healthy to begin with. But I wanted to amp up the veggie content and also make it a one pot meal. I was both jet-lagged and craving home-cooking like crazy, and, in my world, nothing says comfort like a gooey, creamy casserole.

Cooking the chicken in with the leeks and mushrooms will add a lot of flavor, but only use this technique if you're cooking everything for a while. You don't want to end up with raw meat goo on your veggies.

Cooking the chicken in with the leeks and mushrooms will add a lot of flavor, but only use this technique if you’re cooking everything for a while. You don’t want to end up with raw meat goo on your veggies.

I kept the recipe very simple, but I made a few important changes. First, rather than cooking the chicken separately, I cooked it with the leeks and mushrooms already in the pot. I didsacrifice some of browning by doing this, but it allowed me to impart some aromatic flavors into the meat. It also saved me a little extra work, which was definitely a plus.

I also decided to add in some fresh spring vegetables to round out the meal and make sure all my essential food groups were covered. I love spring vegetables. Not only are they refreshing and welcome after a long winter, they are so sweet and mild that they can go with almost any flavor profile. I grabbed some fresh peas and some flat beans, but you can choose whatever you see at your vegetable stand or grocery store that looks good. In fact, I was initially thinking of using asparagus and fava beans, but the flat beans and peas were too fresh to resist.

flat beans, peas, chicken, leeks, and mushrooms

Cook the veggies until they’re just turning vibrant green, not until they’re soft. They’ll cook more in the oven, and you’ll want a little bite to them still.

Finally, I turned this into a casserole so I could get my home-comfort-food craving satisfied. Making a skillet casserole is a great trick for summer. Basically, you just have to reduce your portions down enough to fit into an oven-safe pan (I prefer coated cast iron because it makes it easier to clean at the end), and do most of your cooking stove top. It cuts down on oven time, which is great for when it’s hot, but it’s still a creamy, one pot meal that is easy to reheat for leftovers.

One quick note: the original recipe calls for mustard, and I completely forgot to add it in. I think it would be great with it (I’d use half Dijon and half grainy mustard to get those little pops of flavor in there), but my jet-lagged addled brain just missed that step and added in some red pepper flakes instead. It tasted amazing as it was, so it’s not necessary, but I’ll put a note in the recipe for a substitution if you want to give it a shot. It seems that jet-lag made me forget that there’s more than one angle to photograph food from, but that’s an issue for another day!

This meal is so warm and satisfying, you’ll feel like you aren’t even eating a diet-friendly dish—but each serving is only 450 calories,  so you may even have some calories to spare for a nice glass of wine!

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Super Easy Dinners: Ground Beef Stroganoff

Ground Beef Stroganoff

Ground Beef Stroganoff

Sometimes a girl just needs some comfort food. To me, that means warm, gooey, and earthy—exactly what a good beef stroganoff is. A real beef stroganoff takes a bit of time and money though. You are supposed to use a nicer cut of meat and many of the recipes call for cooking the meat low and slow to make it tender. Also, they require you to make a sauce, which can be a bit of work. When I want comfort food, I want it now, and I definitely don’t want to be working for it.

ground beef stroganoff

One-pot wonder!

Thus, the creation of my ground beef stroganoff. It’s cheap, it’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s delicious. Could it be a bit healthier? Sure, but it really isn’t that insanely unhealthy either. For the most part, it’s good ingredients: low-fat meat, fresh mushrooms, low-fat and salt broth and soup. Using myfitnesspal.com‘s calculations, it clocks in around 350 calories, which is not bad for a full meal! Best of all, it takes about 45 minutes total, most of which is just spent letting everything simmer together on the stove to get all those flavors melded together.

So, next time it’s rainy or you’re cranky or have a cold or just need to feel homey and happy, I recommend giving this a shot!

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Cover Cooking Challenge, Week 5: Bon Appetit’s Cleansing Ginger-Chicken Soup

Ginger Vegetable Soup and Chicken Fried Rice

Ginger Vegetable Soup and Chicken Fried Rice

If you live in Astoria, there’s a good chance you know about Yajai Thai‘s vegetable ginger soup. If you don’t, I’m about to change your world. This slightly sweet, slightly spicy, clear broth is swimming with lots of crunchy, fresh vegetables and fresh sticks of ginger—that’s right, whole matchstick-sized pieces of ginger. It’s intense, refreshing, and will cure pretty much anything that ails you. I’ve gotten it for a bad cold, food poisoning recovery, and (let’s admit) for a hangover. And I feel amazing every time I finish it.

The other night, I was craving ginger like nobody’s business, but I also had an urge to do some cooking. I wanted to try making my own version of Yajai’s amazing soup, but I had no idea where to start: enter Bon Appétit’s Cleansing Ginger-Chicken Soup. I took the same basic idea of making a gingery broth by simmering the aromatics for two and a half hours, but, from there, I went crazy on veggies instead of meat.

Separate the leeks into individual rings before cooking them. It's easier than trying to break them up later.

Separate the leeks into individual rings before cooking them. It’s easier than trying to break them up later.

First, because I didn’t really want a chicken soup, I substituted some chicken broth in for some of the water. That gave me a rich base without needing to actually cook chicken in the water—and made it very easy to convert this into 100% vegetarian recipe by just subbing veggie or mushroom broth in instead. Then, instead of celery, I used celery root, which I think has a more powerful flavor and a gorgeous aroma. I also added in a bay leaf just to kick it up a notch herb-wise. Then, I waited and salivated as the smell of ginger pervaded my apartment.

You can do your mise en place as early as you want. Just cover the bowls with plastic wrap!

You can do your mise en place as early as you want. Just cover the bowls with plastic wrap!

Then, I picked out some of my favorite soup vegetables to add to my broth: leeks, carrot, parsnip, mushrooms (using my trick of getting a bunch of buttons and just a few pricier oysters), and spinach. To make it like Yajai’s, I also cut up another few inches of ginger into matchsticks for that refreshing, surprising crunch. This recipe is a great one to do an intense mise en place on. You’ll have a lot of time before the broth is done, so take it to get everything leisurely chopped and ready. When it comes time to cook, you’ll have no fuss—just a few extra bowls to clean.

Move everything to one side of the pan cook the egg on the other. It's basically making a scrambled egg in half pan.

Move everything to one side of the pan cook the egg on the other. It’s basically making a scrambled egg in half pan.

The soup by itself is a little low-substance for a full meal, so I would recommend serving it with another dish. To keep things easy, I whipped up some chicken fried rice. I have never once measured how to make my fried rice, so the recipe below is a definite guesstimate. But it’s super quick, super easy, and super good every time, even if it’s different every time I make it.  Go easy on yourself and buy frozen mixed veggies like I do—otherwise, with all the chopping, fried rice can quickly become a labor intensive dish.

Spread the rice on the bottom of the pan. This will get it to toast and achieve that nice fried taste.

Spread the rice on the bottom of the pan. This will get it to toast and achieve that nice fried taste.

I’d recommend serving the soup with just a splash of sriracha sauce in it. It adds a little bit of heat which goes nicely with the fresh ginger. But only when serving! You don’t want the soup to lose its freshness in favor of spiciness.

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The Cover Cooking Challenge, Week 4: Food and Wine’s Mole-Spiced Roasted Turkey

Mole-Inspired Slow Cooker Turkey Tacos

Mole-Inspired Slow Cooker Turkey Tacos

I love turkey, but unless it’s Thanksgiving, I usually don’t have the patience to cook it except in ground form. However, the other day, I really wanted to use a protein I don’t normally cook with, just to mix up our usual routine. So I began scouting turkey recipes thinking that I could maybe take something I found and switch it around to be slow-cooker simple. Enter Food and Wine’s Mole-Spiced Roasted Turkey.

Turkey, before and after slow cooking

The turkey will be fall off the bone tender and easy to shred at the end of 8 hours.

One of the problems with cooking meat in a slow cooker is that it will fall apart. Cooking for that many hours over steam heat breaks the meat down to the point where some shredding is almost inevitable. But Mexican flavors and shredded meat mean one delicious thing: TACOS! And with Cinco de Mayo right around the corner, a slow-cooker based taco meat means that you don’t have to spend time in the kitchen during your Cinco party.

The "mole" will be a thick, messy paste. Try to get as much on the turkey as you can. Your hands will be a mess, but it washes right off so don't worry!

The “mole” will be a thick, messy paste. Try to get as much on the turkey as you can. Your hands will be a mess, but it washes right off so don’t worry!

A quick note on moles: contrary to popular belief, chocolate is not what separates a mole from other sauces. While chocolate is often added (usually at the end of cooking), a mole actually is defined by grinding up chilies with other ingredients to form a paste that is later simmered with liquid to form a sauce. Any other Chopped fans out there have, I’m sure, heard Aaron Sanchez mention this. So, I’m calling these tacos mole-inspired, because while they have a lot of the same flavorings, I didn’t technically make a mole.

The seeds and the white parts of peppers are where the heat comes from. So, if you want a milder pico, take those parts out.

The seeds and the white parts of peppers are where the heat comes from. So, if you want a milder pico, take those parts out.

Besides bumping up a few of the spices, my only real additions to this recipe were the beer (the original didn’t have any liquid so why not add some Mexican dark beer to make up the sauce) and to add some caramelized onions. I love adding caramelized onions to the bottom of the cooker when I’m making tacos or barbecue. They add a nice sweetness and a bit of that char that you don’t get in a slow cooker. The rest was just adapting the techniques for a slow cooker!

The tortillas will fold down as they cook! Don't worry about trying to mash them down. Just make sure they're in between the rungs of the rack, and they'll do the rest naturally.

The tortillas will fold down as they cook! Don’t worry about trying to mash them down. Just make sure they’re in between the rungs of the rack, and they’ll do the rest naturally.

I also opted to make my own salsa and taco shells. Making up a quick pico de gallo is super easy and will stay fresh for a day or two while you eat your leftovers (the recipe will be below). Just be sure to add in your jalapenos bit by bit, so you don’t end up getting too spicy too fast. Always remember, you can always add, but subtracting is hard. My husband also made his own taco shells using corn tortillas and this technique. It’s a fun simple “life-hack” that will save you some money, some calories, and some salt. I actually prefer our own taco shells to the store-bought ones now.

Serve with some guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce, lettuce, or whatever you like on tacos. We went with my pico, cotija cheese, and sour cream the first night and just tomatoes and hot sauce the second. It’s a delicious, mild, simple meat so you can play with it however you want. We ate the leftovers too fast to try, but I’m betting this would be wicked on nachos or in a quesadilla as well.

Buen provecho!

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The Cover Cooking Challenge, Week 3: Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington Patties with Pepper Gravy

Beef Wellington Patties with Brandy Black Pepper Gravy

Duxelles recipes often call for a food processor, but a large knife and a little patience will get the job done just as well.

Duxelles recipes often call for a food processor, but a large knife and a little patience will get the job done just as well.

Beef Wellington is a perfect food: rich filet, earthy mushrooms, and crispy, buttery puff pastry. I really couldn’t ask for anything more in life. However, actually making a Beef Wellington is torturous. I know at the end I’ll be happy, but, in between, there’s the pastry ripping, the duxelles not coating the meat quite right, the constant question of if it’s going to be raw, burnt, or, least likely, perfectly done. It’s too stressful, so I often opt for just ordering it whenever I see it on a menu out.

But Tyler Florence’s version of the dish has been calling my name for a while now. I love how he pairs the decadent protein with a sharp, spicy peppercorn sauce—absolutely inspired. So inspired, that it inspired me to attempt an easier-to-manage riff on his Wellington .

ground beef and duxelles

Make sure to let the duxelles cool before adding to the meat. You don’t want to cook the beef—or burn your hands while mixing!

First, I messed with the meat. As much as I love a good filet, they cost a lot of money, more than I try to spend on protein. Unfortunately, a lot of cheaper cuts of beef are too tough; I didn’t want to lose the satisfying smoothness of the dish. So I opted for ground beef. Ground meats often seem low-quality, but they’re actually great vehicles for getting a lot of flavors across while staying tender. It takes some effort to make a ground meat patty chewy, but to make sure my meat was extra moist, I mixed the duxelles and the other ingredients that would have coated the filet into my patty. The result not only kept my meat from drying out, it saved me extra steps by putting all my ingredients in one place.

Save the extras in a ziploc bag at room temperature. They aren't quite as good after a week, but they're not bad still.

Save the extras in a Ziploc bag at room temperature. They aren’t quite as good after a week, but they’re not bad still.

You can’t have a Wellington without puff pastry, and I didn’t intend to. But instead of battling with the tricky process of wrapping the meat up, I cooked the pastry separately. By doing so, I avoided any potential sogginess and hassle. Plus, the pastry “chips” made a great vessel for scooping up extra sauce.

Speaking of, rather than buying green peppercorns, I turned Florence’s sauce into a cracked black pepper version, to save myself a little money. I still got the spicy, peppery flavor but was able to just use pantry ingredients instead.

The result wasn’t exactly a Beef Wellington. It didn’t have the same decadence and chew. However, it had a lot of the same flavors and was about half the time and a quarter of the agitation. Definitely worth a shot for when you’re craving Wellington but don’t want to spend the time or money.

Also, this recipe calls for setting things on fire—which is always fun!

First ever flambé attempt! #homecooking #fire #apartmentepicurean

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Couple’s Cooking: Roasted Leek, Mushroom, and Fresh Pea Risotto

Roasted Leek, Mushroom, and Pea Risotto

Roasted Leek, Mushroom, and Fresh Pea Risotto

Fresh peas

Fresh spring peas are a bit of work, but they definitely are worth it. The starchy, green flavor is very different than that of a frozen pea.

I love spring. Food-wise, it’s my favorite season for produce. I’m a huge fan of peas, leeks, asparagus, arugula, greens, and radishes. So, when I saw a beautiful bunch of leeks at the farm stand this weekend, I couldn’t resist, even though I was still a bit tired from being ill earlier in the week. Luckily, leeks cook up into almost any meal beautifully. Also luckily, my husband will help me cook when I ask.

Make sure the leeks get nice and tender. It'll take a while, but you want that sweet, caramelization.

Make sure the leeks get nice and tender. It’ll take a while, but you want that sweet, caramelization.

We decided to go with a risotto for two reasons. First, risottos are a great one-pot meal that can be adapted for pretty much any ingredient and any flavor that you want to use. It’s a blank canvas. We were able to pick out what looked good at the market and plan from there instead of having to seek out certain ingredients. Second, risotto night is always a fun, collaborative experience for my husband and me. I do the prep, he does the actual cooking, and we both hang out in the kitchen, drink some wine (the wine needs to be opened for the recipe anyway—there’s no need to waste it), and listen to music . It’s a relaxing way to spend time together, and, at the end of it, you get a great meal.

Getting everything set ahead means that you won't be scrambling when the time comes to add ingredients in.

Getting everything set ahead means that you won’t be scrambling when the time comes to add ingredients in.

There are two main keys to risotto. The first is mise en place. If you’ll remember from The Apartment Epicurean Quizmise en place means “putting in place”—in layman’s terms, getting everything ready before you start. Risotto is a “hurry-up-and-wait” kind of meal. You’ll feel like you have plenty of time to get things done while you’re endlessly stirring, but, trust me, things need to get added when they need to get added. If you wait a few extra minutes because you’re chopping something up, your risotto might seize up and get too thick. If you have it all ready, you can just leisurely stir and add things as they come.

Adding the cheese will instantly thicken up your risotto, so keep some spare broth on hand for the very end in case you need it to loosen things up after adding the parm.

Adding the cheese will instantly thicken up your risotto, so keep some spare broth on hand for the very end in case you need it to loosen things up after adding the parm.

The other key is patience. This is where I fail, but my husband, thankfully, does not. Risotto takes time. You cannot rush it. You need to add the liquid bit by bit, stir constantly, and wait for the rice to cook and the starches to form the lovely gooiness we all love. If you add in the liquid too fast and don’t wait for it to incorporate, your risotto will not have the right texture. So wait. You really will be thankful you did.

Risotto always seemed scary to me, but it really isn’t. It’s just a labor of love. So, give it the time,  sip your wine while you stir, and just make an evening out of it. You’ll have a great time and get a decadent meal in the process.

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