Weekly Main Course Recipes:  Sept. 20, 2013

One:  Smoked Salmon Pasta                                  Preparation and cooking time:   30 minutes
    I use crème fraiche for this.  You can substitute sour cream if you like - it will be a bit more tart; or heavy cream  - it will be a bit higher in calories.

1 1/4 cups dried pasta
3 shallots
1 tbs olive oil
4 tbs white wine
3 tbs fresh lemon juice, about 1 small lemon
3/4 cup (6oz, 180gr) crème fraiche or Greek yogurt
2 tsp dill weed 
6oz (180gr) smoked salmon, (the moist kind: Irish or Scottish)

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.
Thinly slice shallots and sauté in oil until tender.  Add wine and simmer until reduced by half.  Stir in crème fraiche and heat through. Squeeze lemon.  Slice salmon into strips.  Add 3/4 of the salmon, dill and lemon juice to the crème fraiche. Heat through but do not let boil. 
Add pasta and toss well to combine. Put it into a serving bowl, garnish with reserved salmon and serve.

Two:  Veal Chops Duxelles                                       Preparation and cooking time:  35 minutes
   Fall is the perfect time to make the classic Duxelles or minced mushrooms sauce. With shallots, a bit of wine and tomato, this is also excellent to serve with chicken breasts.

2 veal chops, about 1" (2.5 cm) thick
1 tsp olive oil
Duxelles Sauce
4 - 5 shallots, depending on slice, about 3/4 cup total
6oz (180gr) mushrooms, wild or not, try for something flavorful
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup (4oz, 120ml) white wine
1/2 cup (4oz, 120ml) beef stock
1 tbs tomato paste
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp cornstarch (maizena, corn flour) dissolved in 1 tbs white wine or water  

For the sauce:  Finely chop the shallots and mushrooms.  Heat the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat until bubbly.  Add shallots, mushrooms and sauté, until golden brown, 6 - 8 minutes.  Add the white wine and scrape up any brown bits.  Cook until wine is almost completely reduced, about 1 tbs left.  Add beef stock, tomato paste and herbs.  Stir well, bring to a simmer.  Dissolve cornstarch in wine.  Stir cornstarch mixture into sauce until thickened.  (You may not need all of it.)  Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. 
For the chops:  In nonstick skillet large enough to hold both chops heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add chops and brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Cover pan, remove from heat and let rest for a few minutes, until done to your preference, 2 - 3 minutes more for pink in the center.   Remove chops to a small platter, spoon half the sauce over and serve.

Three:   Butternut Squash, Mushroom Risotto     Preparation, cooking time: 30 minutes
As always, the end result should be creamy, smooth, almost soup-like, never stiff.  The squash gives a bit of sweetness to the risotto and the bacon a bit of smoke.

2/3 cup Arborio rice (or other rice specifically for risotto - Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
1/2 cup dry, white wine
2 1/4 cups (18oz, 540ml) chicken stock
1 onion
1 tbs butter
3/4 cup (3oz, 90gr) Parmesan cheese - freshly grated 
1 chicken breast, boneless, skinless
1 slice bacon
2 cups butternut squash, 8oz (240gr)
4oz (120gr) mushroom
2 tsp olive oil

Heat chicken stock and keep hot over low heat. 
Finely chop onion. 
In medium saucepan heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sauté 5 minutes.  Add rice and sauté stirring, for 2 - 3 minutes until rice has white center.  Add white wine and stir. 
Start condimenti. 
When wine is almost absorbed add a 1/3 cup of stock, stir.   When stock is almost absorbed add another 1/3 cup and continue adding 1/3 cup at a time and stirring.  Before the last 1/3 cup taste a few kernels of rice.  They should be just 'al dente' - slightly resistant to the tooth but fully cooked.  If more stock is needed add it 2 tbs at a time and waiting until almost completely absorbed.  At this point risotto will be thick but not stiff - there will still be visible liquid and it will not hold its shape on a plate.  Add the Parmesan and the condimenti, stir well, pour into a bowl or risotto platter and serve immediately.  It will continue to absorb liquid and the leftovers (if any) will be very stiff. 
Cut the bacon into matchsticks and chicken into small pieces.  Trim and slice mushrooms.  Cut butternut squash into small pieces.
Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet.  Add bacon and sauté until crisp, remove.  Add chicken and sauté until cooked through, remove.  Add mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned, remove.  Add butternut squash and sauté until cooked through.  Return mushrooms, bacon, chicken to skillet, cover and keep warm until needed.

Four:  Tuna Spaghetti Timbale with Ricotta            Preparation, cooking time: 50 minutes
    Pasta and tuna, but not with the usual cheese-y sauce.  Half of the ricotta and egg work with the pasta to make a 'crust' and the rest of the ricotta adds a creaminess to the tuna.  And there's a hidden layer of onion and mushrooms....

6oz (180gr) mushrooms
1 medium onion
2 ribs celery
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs olive oil
9oz (270gr) canned tuna, drained
4oz (120gr) spaghetti    make a circle with thumb & index finger,  app 1" (2.5 cm) in diameter
3/4 cup (6oz, 180gr) ricotta
1 egg
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup (2oz, 60gr) shredded cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. 
Chop onion, celery, and mince garlic.  Slice mushrooms.  Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, mushrooms, garlic and sauté until tender. 
Put tuna into a bowl and break it up with a fork.  Add half of the ricotta and mix lightly. 
In large bowl lightly whisk the egg.  Add the rest of the ricotta, herbs and whisk. 
When pasta is done, drain well.   Toss to cool a bit (do not rinse) then add to the egg mixture along with 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.   Mix well and put into a glass baking dish (mine is 9 inches square).  Pat into place.  Spread onion/mushroom mixture evenly over the spaghetti.  Spoon the tuna/ricotta mixture on top.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.   Bake, covered with foil (or lid) at 400 F (200C) for 20 minutes.  Remove foil (or lid) and bake 5 minutes longer.  Serve.  

 Five:  Baked Chicken Breasts / Mustard Crust     Preparation, cooking time: 40 minutes
  The key to giving these a crispy crust is to drizzle them with olive oil after breading, before baking.  You could also spray them with olive oil or other cooking spray if you have it.  The crust keeps the chicken moist and the mustard adds an unexpected hint of savory sharpness.

2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
2 tbs Dijon-style mustard
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
1 more tbs olive oil

In small bowl mix mustard, oil, tarragon and garlic.  Spread on a plate or flattish bowl.  Put bread crumbs on another plate.  Roll chicken breasts in mustard mixture to coat thoroughly.  Then roll in crumbs.  Brush a baking sheet with a bit of oil and place breasts on. Drizzle with remaining 1 tbs olive oil.  Bake at 400F (200C) for 30 minutes or until topping is light brown and chicken is done (test if not sure, see techniques). Remove and serve.

Note: If the stuffing doesn't all fit (depending on size of squash - mine fit) keep it warm and serve on the side. 

To toast sesame seeds:  Put them into a dry, nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Toss or stir them about in the pan until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.

Six:   Stuffed Peppers, with Sausage and Orzo       Preparation, cooking time: 40 minutes
   Sausage lends a different flavor than the traditional ground beef, and orzo a different texture.

6oz (180gr) sausage
1 medium onion
2 ribs celery
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 cup orzo
15oz (450gr) tomato sauce
1/4 cup (2oz, 60ml) beef stock
1/3 cup green, pimento-stuffed olives
2 nicely shaped bell peppers 
1/2 cup (2oz, 60gr) shredded cheese

Put a large pot of water on high heat and bring to a boil.  Cut peppers in half the long way (try to find the best flat sides before cutting so that they will lay nicely) and remove stem end and seeds. When water is boiling drop peppers in and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove (use tongs) and put into a baking dish that will just hold them (if possible). 
Keep water boiling and add orzo, cook according to package directions (usually 8 - 10 minutes) except drain when still al dente - about 1 minute less then minimum time. Drain in a strainer if your colander has big holes.
Roughly chop olives. Finely chop onion, celery and garlic.  In nonstick skillet heat oil over medium-high heat.   Add paprika, cumin, and sauté 1 minute.  Add garlic, celery and onion and sauté until transparent, about 5 minutes.  Add sausage and sauté until cooked through, breaking it up as it cooks. 
Add tomato sauce, stock, olives and orzo.  Stir will to combine.
Spoon mixture into the pepper halves.  Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 400F (200C).  Remove foil and top with cheese.  Bake, uncovered for another 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve.
Note: If all the stuffing doesn't fit into the peppers, keep warm over very low heat while peppers bake. 
To serve, spoon the extra sausage / orzo onto plates, and top with peppers.

Suggested menus:

One:   Butternut Squash and Mushroom Tart
Smoked Salmon Pasta
Hot Spinach Salad
  Butternut Squash Soup
Veal Chops Duxelles
Potatoes a la Two Fat Ladies with Fresh Herbs 
Balsamic Glazed Carrots
Three:  Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto
Fresh Fruit
Four:   Tuna Spaghetti Timbale with Ricotta
Green and White Beans with Tomatoes, Shallots and Sage
Five:  Baked Chicken Breasts with Mustard Crust 
Potatoes a la Two Fat Ladies with Fresh Herbs 
Green and White Beans with Tomatoes, Shallots and Sage
Six:  Stuffed Peppers, with Sausage and Orzo

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