Main Dishes and Soups


Little Dumpling

Angela Lopez - Monday, June 10, 2013

I've never met a dumpling I didn’t like. But I still remember my first attempt at chicken and dumplings as a young bride wasn’t too great. I put pieces of chicken, pre-cut from the store, in a pot of plain water and boiled it for a long time. I probably added some salt and pepper, but that was about it. When the chicken was done I didn’t debone it, I left it in the pot, skin and all. I then whacked open a can of biscuits and plopped them in with the chicken and cooked them until they turned into big puffy hunks of bread. I was quite proud. My “Mr.” had quite a shock! It turns out there are other ways of making chicken and dumplings that I had never heard of. His mom took the chicken off the bone and rolled out little thin noodle-type dumplings she made from scratch. This was all news to me.

 

Later on, I would learn the other ways of the world (and of my grandmother), but I still love the biscuit dumplings, and so do my kids; my daughter recently asked me for the recipe. I said, “Honey, those just come out of a can.” She said, “I know, but I need to know just how you do it.” I explained that I pull each piece of biscuit dough into 4 parts, and I’m careful not to cook them too long in the boiling broth; when they rise to the top of the liquid they are just about done. I’m much more experienced now with canned dough, as if it would take experience! And, oh yes, I do debone the chicken now-a-days. 

I’ve also tried another quick version that one of my grandmothers taught me. She said to cut prepared flour tortillas into strips and drop them into simmering broth. The first time I tried it I made the mistake of stirring the pot and they broke up and turned to mush. The next time I resisted stirring and they turned out a little better. 

Although I love eating the easy dumplings, I’d rather be known for making the “made-from-scratch” kind. Maybe someday I will do justice to this heirloom, scratch recipe belonging to my grandmother. Grandma Lowe was inventive and fun in the kitchen. She was creative and thrifty and made everything taste good – even stale saltine crackers she would re-toast in the oven. She made delicious bread pudding and delectable peanut patties. And thank goodness I learned about her dumplings. I do aspire to be like this sweet, talented lady. Enjoy food made fresh!

Grandma Lowe’s Dumplings

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons shorting

Enough milk to make a soft dough

 

Mix dry ingredients well and then cut in the shortening. Gradually add milk a little at a time until you form a soft ball, not too sticky. Drop by rounded tablespoons into a pot of simmering chicken broth and cook 15 to 20 minutes on medium heat. Keep covered. Makes 6 servings.

 


Tex-Mex Cassoulet

Angela Lopez - Sunday, October 28, 2012

The appeal of fall is all around us - pumpkins, hot chocolate and football games, Frito Pie, cool mornings, early evenings. The first burst of warmth in the spring feels so good but what I really love is that same feeling of warmth in the fall. The cool air comes in and feels nice, but the left over warmth of summer fights hard to stay in place; it seems like the warm air battles to shine brighter than the cool air. That feeling is unmatched. But when warmth does give way to cool, it’s time to start thinking of soups and stews simmering in the kitchen. We often look to this kind of soul warming one-pot meals during fall and winter.  

How ‘bout a big, warm bowl of Tex-Mex Cassoulet? It may sound like a contradiction of terms – Tex-Mex and French Cassoulet, (Julia Child would probably want to give me a spanking). But hey – we make posole in the Southwestern part of the US, which is a thick Mexican soup made with hominy and pork. Cassoulet originated in the Southwestern region of France and is a bean stew or casserole often containing pork. ‘Sounds like a great marriage to me. And forgive me, but we really put the pig to work in this one with cubed pork chops and bacon! But I think you’ll like the union of flavors. Now if you have anyone in your household that refuses to eat hominy, substitute it with 1 ½ cups frozen corn, or 1 to 2 diced potatoes. Enjoy food made fresh!

Tex-Mex Cassoulet

1 cup dried Pinto or Anasazi beans, sorted and rinsed

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces4 boneless, center-cut pork chops, cubed

1/3 cup flour

1 medium onion, diced

1 teaspoon salt

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped - divided

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons chipotle pepper paste*

1 teaspoon cumin

5 cups chicken broth

1 cup dry white wine

1 - 15 ounce can of hominy, drained

Cornbread croutons**

 

Rinse beans and place in bowl; cover with water and soak overnight or about 8 hours. Drain water from beans and set aside. Heat Dutch oven over medium-high heat and begin to brown bacon pieces. Toss pork chop cubes in flour. Add cubed pork to bacon pieces and continue browning. Add onions and salt and cook until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Next add beans, garlic, 1 tablespoon cilantro, tomato paste, chipotle paste, cumin and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour or until beans are tender. Stir in wine and hominy and place Dutch oven in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Top with remaining cilantro and cornbread croutons before serving. Makes 8 servings. 

 

*I make chipotle paste by smashing diced chipotle peppers with a fork and some of the adobo sauce they are canned in. Chopped peppers work fine but I like the chipotle flavor without biting into a piece of the hot pepper

**Cut cornbread into small cubes and toast in skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of melted butter. Toss to coat all sides with butter, and brown for 3 or 4 minutes


Lasagna and Pasta Dough

Angela Lopez - Saturday, July 21, 2012

I’ve tried my hand at making pasta dough – nothing complicated, just a very basic dough recipe, rolling it out paper-thin and cutting it into squares to make ravioli – Sometimes with success….sometimes not. So that I wouldn’t have to roll it by hand, my sweet daughter gave me a beautiful, shiny, red pasta rolling machine and a wonderful pasta encyclopedia for Christmas last year – Love it!  My first try out of the gate was not too shabby but I recently spent an afternoon trying it out again. I worked in small batches, dividing the dough into 3 equal parts. As I worked with the first batch, I began to see how to work out the kinks, literally. But I felt like I needed about 8 hands……one to feed the dough into the machine, one to turn the crank, one to help advance the dough as it came out of the machine, and one to hold the machine down (it came with a counter clamp, but I couldn’t find a good place in my kitchen to attach it). Ok, I think that was just 4 hands that I needed, not 8. But I have to tell you, by the time I got to the second batch, the process began to fall into place with just 2 hands. At this point, I was starting to daydream about being some kind of pasta expert! I had visions of sunlight streaming into my kitchen where large wooden racks would be filled with long noodles drying in the windows. A nice big kitchen in a beautiful villa in the Italian countryside would be nice too.

 

My task that day was to make fresh Lasagna noodles to use in our favorite lasagna recipe for a Sunday afternoon family dinner. I have used this recipe for years, tweaking it from time to time.  Some use cottage cheese rather than ricotta so make it your own, adjusting the ingredients the way you like it best. Enjoy food made fresh!


Basic Pasta Dough

3 ½ to 3 ¾ cup all-purpose flour

4 whole eggs, plus 1 yolk

1/4 cup olive oil

1 pinch Kosher salt 

2 to 3 tablespoons water


Pour flour on clean, dry work surface. Make a hole in the middle of the flour. Crack eggs and yolk into the hole and add olive oil, salt and water. Beat eggs, oil, water and salt with fork inside the well. Gradually begin to incorporate the flour into the egg mixture; being careful not to break the sides of the well until enough flour has thickened the egg mixture that it will not run out. Use your hands to start bringing the mixture together.This process can also be done with an electric mixer that is equipped with a dough hook. I think the kneading process is better if done by hand. Knead for approximately 10 minutes achieving a very smooth consistency. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Roll and cut into desired shapes. Cook in salted boiling water for approximately 3 to 4 minutes or if you are baking a pasta dish, such as lasagna, pre-cooking will not be required. Makes approximately 1 pound.


Traditional Lasagna

1 pound lean ground beef

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 onion, diced

28 ounces whole tomatoes (splurge for the good ones)

8 ounce can tomato sauce

2 cups water

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Pinch of black pepper

1 pint part skim ricotta cheese

2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

12 large lasagna noodles (fresh or not, but if out of the box, cook per package directions)


Brown ground beef in oil with onions and garlic over medium heat in large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add seasonings, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water. Simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 hours. Mixture will cook down and thicken. Place enough sauce in 9x13 baking dish to just cover bottom. Next, layer 4 noodles, side-by-side then spread on half of the ricotta and 1 cup mozzarella. Now layer half of the remaining sauce then 4 more noodles, remaining ricotta, and 1 cup mozzarella. Last layer will be 4 remaining noodles, remaining meat sauce, last cup of mozzarella, then top with parmesan. Cover with foil and bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes (remove foil for last 5 minutes). Serves 8 to 10.