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Category Archives: side dishes

Crispy Baked Onion Rings


We love restaurant style onion rings! The whole fresh made rings are best. The chopped onion version is not as good. Too bad they have to be deep fried and are so greasy! 

But now you can make home made crispy onion rings without all that fat and mess!

1 large white onion, about the size of a softball!

2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, beaten

2 cups original panko style breadcrumbs

3 1-gallon size Ziploc storage bags

Spray vegetable oil

1 Parchment paper lined baking pan

  • Take the large white onion and slice off the ends and the outer peel
  • Slice the onion horizontally into 4 even slices, about 1/2-3/4 inch wide. Slice carefully so the rings stay together.
  • Seperate the rings where they naturally break apart. Try to keep at least 2 layers in each ring
  • Place the buttermilk in a medium bowl. Add the onion rings and let sit 30 minutes. Mix around a few times.
  • While the onions marinate get your Ziploc bags ready.
  • In one Ziploc place 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • In another bag place 3 beaten eggs 
  • In the last bag place 2 cups panko style breadcrumbs
  • After 30 minutes drain the onion rings in a colander
  • Add half the onion rings to the bag of flour, zip closed and mix around well. 
  • Shake off the excess flour.
  • Add the floured onion rings to the bag of eggs. Zip closed and mix around until coated
  • Shake off the excess egg and place the onion rings in the breadcrumbs. Close bag and mix around until coated.
  • Place the panko coated onion rings on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Repeat with the other half of the onion rings.
  • Place the smaller rings and inner center pieces inside the larger rings so they all fit in one baking pan.
  • Spray with vegetable oil until lightly coated
  • Bake at 375-385 degrees for 30 minutes. The onion rings will be lightly browned. If the oven is too hot they will blacken or brown too quickly!
  • Serve immediately
  • Voila!

Arancini, a Sicilian Rice Ball, Cajun Style

  

Arancini are rice balls famous in Sicily. They are made from leftover rice and risotto. The center is traditionally filled with a bit of ham and cheese or a ragu of meat and vegetables. The large fist size balls are breaded and deep fried. It’s a fast food you can pick up at a take away or order at a restaurant . We tried the traditional and gourmet varieties in Sicily this past spring. The gourmet type can be filled with anything from shrimp to pistachio!

Arancini from Palermo filled with ham and melted soft cheese. Notice the saffron color of the rice.   

These Arancini are filled with a ground meat and vegetable ragù.  
 
 I made Cajun Dirty Rice this week and had a lot of leftovers, so my husband was inspired to make Arancini!

First he molded a snowball size ball of Dirty Rice by taking a handful of rice in one hand and then placing a tablespoon of chopped andouille sausage in the middle of it. Then he took another handful of rice to combine with the first to make a  ball. 

Rice balls ready for the bread coating

  

Arancini ready to bake instead of frying

Next he rolled them in 3 layers

1st: rolled in flour

2nd: rolled in beaten egg

3rd: rolled in Panko breadcrumbs 

Next he placed them on a baking sheet lined with a rack 

Finally he sprayed them with olive oil

Baked at 350 for 40 minutes

  

Voila!

Dirty Rice

  

This is Dirty Rice, Baked Spicy Cajun Chicken and Gingersnap Gravy.

Dirty Rice is a Cajun recipe that Paul Prudhomme made famous with his spicy style of cooking!

The Cajun people originated in southern France, emigrated to Nova Scotia in the early 1600’s, and settled in a colony that became known as Acadia. In the 1700’s the British drove them out and many migrated to Louisiana where they were well received by the French population there. Many settled along waterways and became farmers, trappers and fishermen.

Chef Prudhomme developed his skills and shared his love of Cajun food with the world.

So what’s the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking? Both cuisines were based on the use of local fresh products. 

Creole originated in New Orleans and is a mixture of the traditions of French, Spanish, Italian, American Indian, African and other ethnic groups.

Cajun is very old French country cooking which began in France, moved to Nova Scotia and then came to Louisiana. Creole is more sophisticated and complex than Cajun. It’s city cooking.

Creole cooking was prepared by the cooks and servants for the changing aristocracy of New Orleans. Cajun was prepared by country folks for their own families.

Here’s the ingredients

  
Paul Prudhommes recipes usually have a seasoning mix. My recipe is 1/3 the salt, cayenne and black pepper he uses. I like hot spicy food, but Paul’s heat is too much for me. Our Louisiana friends tell us the Cajun food does not have as much heat as Prudhommes. 

  • Combine these seasonings in a small bowl:

1 and 1/3 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/3 teaspoons black pepper

2 and 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • In a large saucepan combine over high heat:

1 pound chicken gizzards and hearts, ground

1 pound ground fresh pork

4 bay leaves

  

  • Cook and stir until meat in thoroughly browned and broken up into tiny pieces with your spoon, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the seasoning mix and stir well
  • Add:

1 cup finely chopped onions

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

4 teaspoon minced garlic

  

  • Reduce to medium heat. Cook and stir 10 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups chicken stock and simmer with the lid partly on, about 10 minutes.

   
 

  • Add 1 and 1/2 cups uncooked rice.

  

  • Stir, cover and reduce to the lowest heat possible. Cook 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and keep covered 10 minutes or until rice is done. 
  • Serve immediately alone, as a side dish or with  Gingersnap Gravy and Spicy Baked Chicken

  
This rice a very meaty. Yummy as a main dish or a side. Traditionally the rice is served in a rounded form. I spooned some in a small cup and then inverted it on the plate. Gingersnap Gravy is a surprising addition, but not essential

What do you think?

Farro Risotto with Hard Apple Cider, Fennel and Apple

  
Farro is a grain very similar to barley and is also rich in fiber and protein. Farro is also called spelt. It’s extremely comman in Italy, especially the region of Puglia, which is located in the heel. 

This recipe is an adaption of a Food52 recipe. The apple and fennel is sautéed separately and added to the cooked farro. This risotto uses hard apple cider and chicken stock as its liquid. You can make your own hard cider with a non-pasteurized cider that sits in your frig a couple months!

1 cup of dry farro cooks to about 3 cups. A more simple way to cook farro is just as you do pasta, in a large pot of water. The cooking time is longer, 30-45 minutes. Then drain in a colander as you do pasta.

You can also cook it like rice. Add twice as much water or broth as farro. Cover. Bring to a boil. Simmer 30-45 minutes till firm to the bite.

Serves 10-12 side dishes

2 cups farro

1 small onion, chopped fine

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups hard apple cider, heated

4 cups chicken stock, heated

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 fennel bulb, sliced or chopped

3 apples, chopped, about the same quantity and size as the fennel

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup white wine

Preparing the apples and fennel:

  • In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil and butter. Add apple and fennel. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Sauté the apple and fennel until browned and carmelized.
  • Deglaze pan by adding white wine
  • Set aside

Preparing the farro

  • In a large saucepan heat olive oil and butter.
  • Add farro. Saute and stir until slightly toasted, several minutes
  • Stir in the wine.
  • Continue stirring close to constantly, add 1/2 cup at a time the cider and stock.
  • It’s time to add more liquid when the spoon leaves a path in the bottom of the pan when it’s pulled through.
  • The risotto takes at least 30 minutes or more to cook.
  • When tender, but firm to the bite, add the prepared apple and fennel.
  • Heat through and serve hot
  • If the risotto becomes dry, add more cider, stock or water.

Thanksgiving Stuffing

The stuffing is my favorite part of the Thanksgiving dinner. Most people agree! I’ve made many variations of stuffing with ground beef, diced giblets, dried fruit…. The recipe here is our family favorite! It’s a classic stuffing with dried bread cubes, sautéed vegetables, herbs and turkey broth.

   
   
I’ve been following Martha Stewart since she began her empire. This stuffing is based on her recipe.

At least a day before prepare a cornbread recipe in an 8×8 inch baking pan. I use a Martha recipe. The recipe on the yellow cornmeal container is also good 

I use a local bread called Spatz white bread. A sourdough also is good. It needs to be dried out on a rack at least a day before.

I also make my own turkey  stock. At least 2 days before, follow my recipe for Chicken Soup with Vegetables. Make the stock only and roast 2 turkey wings and 2 drumsticks.

Also a day ahead I like to sauté the vegetables and herbs together. 

In a large saucepan melt 4 tablespoons butter. Sauté the following:

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

4 carrots, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

1 fennel bulb, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

When softened add these herbs:

2 teaspoons each dried sage, thyme and marjoram

2 tablespoons each fresh rosemary and parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Sauté another 5 minutes. Cool and refrigerate overnight.

On serving day put the stuffing together.

  
In a large mixing bowl combine the dried cornbread and white bread that has been sliced into cubes.

Mix in the vegetables.

Optional is to add 1 cup dried Michigan cherries. I usually don’t.

Lastly, take 4 cups turkey stock that has been heated and mix into stuffing. 

  
Pour into a buttered 9×13 baking dish. Cover with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes. It only needs to be heated through and slightly crisped up. Over baking will dry it out. 🦃

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

The ultimate comfort food for all ages!

  
My young grand kids were coming so I prepared this for them. It was a family favorite when I was a child and when my children were young. Everyone loves it!

This is from a Chicago cooking school back in the day, The Francois and Antoinette Pope School Cookbook, where my mom took lessons. This was before Julia Child, post WWII.

1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked in salted water and drained

In a large saucepan melt 2/3 cup butter

Whisk in 2/3 cup flour and simmer a few minutes.

Whisk in 2 tablespoons dried mustard and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Simmer a minute.

Gradually whisk in 4  1/2 cups hot milk. Stir constantly and simmer 5 minutes.

Add 12 ounces American cheese or Velveeta cheese. Stir until melted.

In a buttered 2 quart casserole layer the macaroni and cheese sauce in several layers. Top with sauce.

Layer 5 American cheese slices on top and bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until browned.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Watermelon Radish, Walnuts and Cranberries

Brussels Sprout Salad with Watermelon Radish, Walnuts and Cranberries

Brussels sprouts are quartered and lightly roasted. The bright red watermelon radishes are sliced thin. Also add coarsely chopped walnuts and quartered dried cranberries. Then toss with olive oil and champagne vinegar. So colorful and delish!