Stella’s Garlic Cashew Dressing

garliccashewdressing

This stuff is addictive. You will be tempted to eat it with a spoon. Or pour it straight out of the jar into your mouth.

And it’s okay if you do, because it’s super healthy and packed full of good stuff, like turmeric–a powerful anti-inflammatory, packed with antioxidants, that’s good for digestive and liver problems, as well as skin diseases. Garlic, in addition to being one of the tastiest foodstuffs in existence, is also very healthy. Cashews, like all nuts, are packed with protein, and they’re also rich in iron and zinc. The FDA calls them “brainpower boosters.” Their rich, sweet flavor makes a great base for sauces and soups. I think cashews are my favorite nut (sorry, pecans!).

1 cup cashews
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste
water

1. In a small electric mixer or blender, mix cashews, garlic, turmeric, and half the olive oil. Stop mixing; use a spoon to scrape down any chunks from the sides of the bowl/blender. Continue mixing. Drizzle remaining olive oil slowly into the mixer.

2. Add a pinch of salt and blend some more. Taste; add more salt if desired. Mix again.

3. Add water as needed to achieve desired consistency.*

4. Pour into an air-tight container and store in the fridge.

Twists: add fresh herbs like basil or cilantro, or some curry powder for an even richer, more complex flavor.

 

*I usually use about a half cup of water per cup of nuts, but you might add more for a thinner dressing. A thicker sauce can be used as a dip for raw vegetables–mmm! I also like to leave it just the tiniest bit crunchy (see the photo below), but if you blend it a bit longer, you can make it nice and creamy-smooth.

garliccashewdressing2

Stella’s Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

This isn’t a proper chile relleno recipe, as my poblanos aren’t battered, nor are they served with a typical tomato-based sauce. But they are super flavorful and deceptively easy, and I’m positive you’ll be as hooked as we are if you try this recipe!  We’ve been making these often lately because they’re is so quick and painless; I was prodded by followers on Instagram to share the recipe.

Of course, you can play around with the fillings, but these are my favorites. The rich, mature flavor of the asiago cheese pairs perfectly with bacon and cream cheese, and this hearty, slightly spicy beef transforms humble chiles into a meal.  Feel free to top with salsa or crema mexicana for extra decadence.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

6 large poblano chiles
4 bacon rashers
1/2 white onion, finely diced; halved
1/2 lb. ground beef
2 Tbsp Cholula or other hot sauce
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
splash Worcestershire sauce
2 cups asiago cheese, grated
4 oz. cream cheese

Also needed:
latex gloves
toothpicks
broiling pan or cookie sheet
aluminum foil

1. In a large skillet (I used a cast iron), cook bacon over medium heat until crispy, turning a few times. Set bacon aside on paper towels to drain. Pour bacon grease into a mason jar and save for future cooking, reserving about 1 teaspoon in the skillet.

2. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about two minutes. Remove half the oven from the pan and set aside. To the rest of the onion, add beef, breaking it up with your spatula, and continue to sauté until cooked through, about ten minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and add spices, Cholula, and Worcestershire sauce. Continue to cook for a further five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

3. Meanwhile, wearing latex gloves, cut the tops off the poblanos and seed them. Cut out the ribs, as well. Rinse thoroughly with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

4. Once the beef is done, drain the juices and set the meat and onion mixture aside in a bowl. In another medium mixing bowl, combine the previously cooked onion, 1 cup of the grated asiago, and the cream cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon, then crumble bacon into the bowl. Continue to stir until thoroughly combined.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

5. Stuff the poblanos: take one pepper, and stuff it full with the cheese and bacon mixture, compressing the cheese down with a spoon as you stuff. Place the top back on the pepper and secure it with two toothpicks, pushed through the flesh of the pepper’s side and cap (see below). For the other four poblanos, alternately stuff with the plain grated asiago and beef mix until they are also full. Secure tops with toothpicks.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

6. Carefully move all the peppers to a broiling pan or foil-lined cookie sheet. Set oven to broil and cook on each side for two to three minutes, turning over once (again, carefully) with a large spatula. The peppers will darken and bubble a bit.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

7. Remove the pan from the oven and allow peppers to cool for a couple of minutes before gently removing them from the pan. Plate as-is and serve immediately with any garnish desired.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

To eat, simply remove the toothpicks and dig in!

Serves 3 as a main, 6 as an appetizer or side.

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

Stella's Stuffed Poblanos

Southwestern Chicken Salad with Homemade Mayo

Southwestern Chicken Salad

I’ve been thinking about making homemade mayonnaise for a long time.  But I hadn’t gotten past thinking about it until I used my Barnes and Noble Christmas giftcard to buy Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain.  Not only do I highly recommend the latest cookery book (as they say in the UK) from the good-natured Essex maverick, but I also insist that you make this mayo immediately!

Other food-obsessed friends had been telling me for years.  But I don’t eat that much mayo, and figured it wasn’t worth the trouble.

I was wrong.

Not only was it quick and easy, the result was so rich that Eric and I were desperately trying to think of things to use mayo on or in!  We ended up making a huge bowl of chicken salad, and it was so good, I had to share the recipe (see below).

I also used Eric as a food taster, making him do a blind test.  It was quite simple to tell the difference between the mass produced, processed mayo in our fridge and this stuff.  I was afraid the olive oil would be too overpowering (you can cut it with half rapeseed oil for a less robust flavor), but we really liked it.  I’m going to make some of Jamie’s variations soon: basil, garlic, and curry!  Mmm, curry.

Somehow, I didn’t take any pictures of the process; but it’s so straightforward (really, stop worrying and just whisk!).  Here it is.

Stella’s Homemade Mayonnaise
adapted from Jamie Oliver
3 egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1.5 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
juice of one lemon
salt, to taste

1. In a medium mixing bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks and Dijon mustard. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, only a little bit at a time, while continuing to stir. It’s best if you take up to ten minutes to do this, so the ingredients won’t separate.

2. As the mayo begins to thicken, add the vinegar and lemon juice while continuing to whisk. Continue until it is well mixed and smoothly textured.

3. Add salt to taste; scoop mayo out into a Mason jar or other sealable, refrigerator-safe container.

Yields approximately two cups of mayonnaise. Will keep for two weeks in the fridge.
 

Southwestern Chicken Salad
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup homemade mayo (see above)
1/4 white onion, finely diced
handful cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp Cholula hot sauce
dash of balsamic vinegar
2 tsp chili powder, plus more to garnish
4 Tbsp crushed pecans
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Meanwhile, prep other ingredients.

2. Bake chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet for approximately 30 minutes, or until fully cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about five minutes.

Southwestern Chicken Salad3. Chop or shred chicken to desired consistency. Sometimes, I pull it by hand; for this dish, I cubed it on a cutting board with a knife. Place cubed chicken in large mixing bowl.

4. Add mayo, onion, cilantro, and lemon juice, and mix thoroughly. Then add hot sauce, vinegar, and paprika, and stir again. Taste, then add salt and pepper as desired.

5. Spoon out chicken salad onto serving plates and garnish with a dusting of chili powder, crushed pecans, and additional cilantro sprigs. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6. Refrigerates well; eat within a couple of days.

Southwestern Chicken Salad

How to Roast a Duck

Roast duck

Yes, that’s a duck’s beak.

1. Procure a duck.

8403790201_72db80a5fe_nWe’d been talking about how great it would be to get a whole duck and roast it. Our friend Jeff has recently taken up duck hunting, but hasn’t had much luck so far.

We heard that there might be a duck purveyor at the Mueller Farmer’s Market, so we went there one Sunday morning. We grabbed some coffee and cash and spent a good hour browsing the stalls; they have so much good stuff!

After fearing we’d have to settle for an eight dollar jar of duck fat, we finally noticed that the Countryside Farm stand was selling duck in addition to chicken, eggs, and charcuterie. Sebastien Bonneu sells whole ducks (complete with their heads, as above), breasts, and legs.

We pondered the options for about ten seconds before putting our money down on a whole duck. It was $42.00 and weighed nearly seven pounds. Keep in mind as you read on that duck fat usually runs about a dollar an ounce, and duck broth goes for about three dollars per ounce!

2. Roast the duck.

If your duck is frozen, let it thaw out overnight (or up to 24 hours, depending on its size) in a refrigerator, in its original wrapping.

When it’s fully thawed, preheat your oven to 325°.

If necessary, gut the duck.

After much hand-wringing and YouTube-video-watching, we finally stuck a hand in our duck and realized that it had been gutted, its guts stored neatly in plastic bags inside the cavity. We took those out and set them aside for later (duck pâté, anyone?).

Rinse the duck and pat dry with paper towels.

Slice off any excess fat (with special attention to the duck’s hind quarters). Set aside for later.

Grease a large roasting pan (we used olive oil).

Place the duck in the roasting pan, breast up.

Stuff the duck with the spices or other foodstuffs of your choice. We used lemon, orange, roughly chopped garlic, and sprigs of homegrown rosemary and thyme, tied with twine. Do not overstuff your bird, like a Thanksgiving turkey. You want air to get in and around the seasonings for even cooking.

Truss the duck with twine. Grab both legs, pull tight, crossing one over the other, and tie. This will still leave an opening to the cavity, which is what you want, as previously discussed. You can also tie the wings, if desired; I left the wings and head as they were.

A note about the head: You can remove the head before cooking, if desired. There’s not much use for it, as it has little meat (aside from the brain and tongue), and, if used in a stock, will impart a slightly metallic taste (or so I hear). We decided to leave the head on, Chinese style.

Score the skin diagonally as below—just through the skin, not into the flesh. Then use the tip of your knife to poke a few tiny holes in the skin, like you would a potato! This will allow the bird to release more fat, making for a crispier skin.Trussed duck

Add a light glaze of olive oil to the skin using a medium pastry brush, and roast the duck in the oven for an hour.

e. basting the duckRemove the pan, and turn the duck over so that it’s breast-side-down.

Baste the underside in the juices from the pan, and roast for another hour.

Remove the pan again, turning back over so it’s breast up, as it to serve.

Your duck will now be getting nice and crispy. Remove most of the liquid fat from the pan and set aside.

Glaze the duck. We used a mixture of orange glaze: the juice and zest of one orange and one lemon, 2 tablespoons of raw honey, salt, and pepper. Again, baste in any remaining pan juices.

Return the pan to the oven and cook for another 30-60 minutes, depending on bird size.

After a total cooking time of two and a half hours, check the internal temperature periodically using a meat thermometer. The duck is fully cooked and ready to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°. This will probably take at least three hours.

Roast duck

3. Render your own duck fat.

While your duck is roasting, you can make your own duck fat!

First, strain the liquid fat from the pan. We strained the fat into a wide mouth Mason jar, using cheesecloth to separate the fat and crispy pieces from the liquid. If your fat is still a little cloudy, feel free to strain it again. Leave the resulting liquid fat uncovered while you render the rest of the fat from the bird.

Take the solid pieces of fat you sliced off the duck earlier and chop them up into smallish pieces. Place these in a pan with a little water—enough to entirely submerge the fat. Simmer over medium low heat until the liquid is a nice golden color.

Rendering duck fat

Time will depend on how much fat you have, but it took me about 30 minutes to render the fat from our seven pound duck. Watch the fat boiling, and note the color. It will get darker, and the simmering bubbles will get much smaller as the water escapes the pan. Be careful not to burn it—this stuff is premium.  Our bird resulted in about a cup and a half of rendered fat!

Duck fatFollow the same process from earlier, straining the fat through cheesecloth, allowing it to cool for at least a half hour, then seal and place in the refrigerator.

Now you have delicious duck fat, which can be used for any high temperature frying for which you’d use bacon fat or schmaltz (like my Schmaltz Roasted Potatoes with Crunchy Sage). It should keep for a few months in the fridge, or up to a year in the freezer (however, you’ll eat it way before you get to that point!).

4. Carve the duck.

When you’ve determined that the duck is done—golden brown and crispy on the outside, 165° and juicy on the inside—, remove it from the oven and turn off the heat.

Duck carvingAllow the duck to sit for about ten minutes.

Carve the duck as you would chicken or turkey. Everyone wants the succulent breast pieces first, and I don’t blame them!

If using a sauce, drizzle it over your duck (I whipped up a quick, thin sauce using additional orange juice and honey, plus a little tamari), and serve immediately.

Shred any leftover meat and save for later. We ate duck salad, duck with collards, and duck scrambles for a couple of days before freezing the remainder.

Fresh roasted duck breast

Freshly roasted duck breast, with crispy skin.  Delicious.

5. Make duck broth.

Duck carcassUsing a large butcher knife, chop up all the bones and any meat leftover from your duck carcass. Chop into medium to small pieces, to release as much flavor as possible.

Place all of this in a large stock pot, along with any vegetables or vegetable scraps (I used a mirepoix put together specifically for this purpose, purchased from Johnson’s Backyard Garden the very same morning I picked up the duck).

Add a sprig of herbs (I again used homegrown, fresh thyme and rosemary, tied with twine).

Cover with water and bring just to a boil, then immediatey reduce heat to a simmer.

Simmer, uncovered, for three to four hours.

Skim off any soapy residue as it rises to the top.

Duck broth

After three to four hours (your kitchen will smell amazing by this point), you’re ready to strain. Start by removing all the large pieces of bone and veg with a large slotted spoon. Set aside.

Once all the large pieces have been removed, it’s time to strain. I put a large plastic strainer in an even larger plastic mixing bowl, then lined the strainer with cheesecloth. I then poured the broth through the strainer. If you have a proper sieve, even better! Use that, pouring the strained broth into another bowl. As with the fat, strain multiple times if necessary. If the cloth becomes clogged with duck debris, rinse it and reuse.

Straining duck broth

If you want an even more concentrated broth, pour this first broth into a new pot and simmer down to desired strength.

Note: I did not add salt or pepper to this broth, so that the result would be neutral and useful for a variety of purposes. Salt can be added to taste in cooking.

Duck brothPour the broth into a sealed container (or containers, as at left—we ended up with more than ten cups of broth!). It will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Or you can freeze it (as I did); it should last for at least six months, maybe up to a year.

Finally, use the boiled-down bits of carcass as a fertilizer for your garden!

And that is how you make the most of a duck. I’d say it’s well worth the $42.00 and time, wouldn’t you?

Garlic Cauliflower Mash

1 large head of cauliflower / 1 lb bag of frozen cauliflower
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 large onion, widely sliced
~1/2 tsp raw, brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sour cream
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Drizzle a little olive oil in a medium baking pan; grease the pan with your fingers. If using frozen cauliflower, defrost first; otherwise, place de-leafed, chopped cauliflower and garlic in pan. Add salt and pepper and turn over a few times so that the veggies are nicely mixed and coated with oil. Bake for 20 minutes, turning over with a spoon halfway through for even roasting.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Add onions and sugar and stir. Sauté for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are nicely browned, fragrant, and caramelized.

3. Add caramelized onions, the remaining tablespoon of butter, sour cream, and a drizzle of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon) to a food processor. Once the cauliflower is done (you want it cooked through and just roasted—crispy but not deeply browned), add it to the food processor, too. Make sure you get all of the garlic out of the roasting pan and into the mixer. Mix with other ingredients until smooth (about three minutes). Use a spoon to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl if necessary.

4. Spoon out and serve immediately with butter, cheese, or gravy.

Serves 2.

Shown here with bangers and Stella’s Special Mushroom and Onion Gravy.