Sweet Potato Soup with Candied Bacon

Here’s a recipe for those of you who find yourself with a half a bag of leftover sweet potatoes after the holiday! It was a real hit at our house, and I hope you enjoy it.

Beware: the candied bacon is addictive.

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 white onion, finely diced
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
two pinches of Old Bay
splash of bourbon
~2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream (or to taste)

12 bacon rashers
brown or natural raw sugar

1. In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion and cook about five minutes until just translucent, stirring occasionally. Add sweet potatoes and sauté for a further 10-15 minutes, while you prepare the bacon, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325°. Add bacon to a large plastic bag, leaving the top of the bag open wide. Sprinkle in sugar, seal the bag, and shake vigorously to cover each piece of bacon. You want each piece to be nicely covered in a thin layer of sugar, not clumping. I use just about 1/4 cup of sugar for a whole package of bacon.

3. Remove each bacon rasher from the bag and spread out flat on a cooking rack. Place a foil-lined cookie sheet under this to catch the bacon fat, and place the entire thing into the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is nice and crispy. Check it at 15 to see if it’s done. Do not raise the temperature to speed cooking.

4. While the bacon is baking, spices and salt to the sweet potatoes and stir thoroughly. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add a splash of bourbon to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Stir again, then pour in vegetable broth. Raise heat to high and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Allow to cook for about 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft and easily crumbled with the back of your stirring spoon.

5. Pour sweet potatoes and broth into a large food processor or blender and blend to desired consistency, doing two batches if necessary (simply pour half in, process, and then remove to a bowl; pour other half from stock pot, process, and then return to pot along with the half in the bowl). I like my sweet potato soup a little chunky, so I processed about 3/4 of the pot, and smashed the remaining large pieces of potato up with the back of my spoon before returning the blended soup to the pot.

6. Stir thoroughly, taste to adjust spices and salt, and continue to simmer over very low heat until the bacon is cooked. Remove bacon from oven, allow to cool, and break into edible pieces (not bacon bits, but small enough to scoop up with a soup spoon!). Drizzle cream into soup and stir thoroughly.

7. Ladle soup out into bowls and top with candied bacon pieces. Serve immediately, while piping hot.

Serves 4.




Cider and Sage Pork Loin

As you may’ve noticed, I eat a lot of bacon.  But, otherwise, I am not a huge fan of pork. I’m always trying to find ways to incorporate it into dinner dishes that don’t leave me “meh.”

The boy harvested a bumper crop of herbs from our allotment this week, and I had a lot of sage to get through.  And we always have beer on hand (I’ve been on a cider kick for the past few months).  So I threw this together, and it was so delicious, I had to share. The pork turned out perfectly tender and succulent, and paired nicely with the sweet and tangy sauce.

It’s also super quick! From prep to plate should take a half hour—another great recipe for weeknights.

We used organic Niman Ranch sliced pork loin from Wheatsville; a mixture of homegrown and frozen organic green beans; fresh sage; and prepared, low sodium, organic chicken broth.

For a twist, you might try substituting coconut milk for the sour cream, and cilantro for the sage! It’s also tasty served over a bed of rice.

1 lb. sliced pork loin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 tsp olive oil, halved
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
~2 Tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider (alcoholic or non)
1/2 chicken broth
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 heaped Tbsp sour cream, plus more for garnish if desired
fresh sage leaves for garnish

1. In a large skillet (preferably cast iron), heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add pork, salt, and pepper. Turn pork over in oil mixture so that both sides are coated with salt and pepper. Cook for about five minutes, or until cooked through, turning once or twice; cooked pork turns light grey.

2. Remove the pork and set aside in a warm spot; I take the medallions out when they are just done and put them in a smaller pan, covered, over low heat on another burner. For this recipe, I threw in a drizzle of olive oil and the green beans, so that they would be lightly steamed and absorb some of the pork juices. You might also simply wrap the pork in foil and set aside.

3. Add remaining olive oil, onions, and chopped sage to the original pan. Cook for just two minutes over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk vinegars, cider, broth, and mustard in a measuring cup. Add to pan. Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce heat to simmer and stir thoroughly. Remove pan from heat and stir in sour cream.

5. Plate pork (and any vegetables, as applicable) and pour sour cream and sage mixture over the medallions. Garnish with additional sage leaves (and, if you’re a sour cream fiend like me, a dollop of sour cream!), and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4.

Farfalle with Chorizo and Cream

Here’s an easy, ridiculously satisfying dinner for any budget: a simple, quick pasta dish that’s creamy and comforting while delivering a little kick of spice.

Adding some diced cremini mushrooms, onions, or fresh chopped basil would also be great!

1 lb. dried farfalle (bowtie) pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil, halved
15 oz. Mexican chorizo
1 tsp garlic powder
8 oz. tomato sauce
2 Tbsp Cholula sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
~15 black olives, sliced
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese (optional)

1. Bring a medium sized pot of water to the boil and add pasta. Boil for about ten minutes, or until al dente.

2. Meanwhile, warm half the olive oil in a large frying pan. Squeeze chorizo out of its casing into the pan and break up with a spatula or fork. Cook over medium high heat for about ten minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium low.

3. Add garlic powder, tomato sauce, and Cholula and stir. Allow chorizo to simmer until the liquid is well mixed and absorbed, about another seven minutes. Add heavy cream and olives, stir thoroughly, and reduce heat to simmer.

4. Drain pasta, return to pot, and then stir in the remaining olive oil and the black pepper. Add cheese and turn over repeatedly with a large wooden spoon until the cheese has fully melted into the pasta.

5. Spoon pasta out onto your serving plates and top with creamy chorizo. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.

I like to make a big pot of this, have it for dinner with the boy, and then put the rest in Pyrex leftover bowls in the fridge, for workday leftovers or a lazy weeknight dinner.

Stella’s Salmon Croquettes

When I created this recipe for salmon cakes, I couldn’t help but think of the ones my mom and stepdad used to make when I was growing up, which they called “salmon croquettes.”

I suspect the recipe came from the deep recesses of some 1950s dinner party guide.  It was a meal we had fairly often, never with fresh salmon.  I didn’t see any fresh salmon until I moved to the UK in 2001 (and, oh, how I loved the fishmonger, who would fillet the giant, red heap right in front of you, to your specification!). And I didn’t realize until I made these that the ones I grew up eating were always burned.

As you may’ve noticed, we’ve been eating more fish around here lately, so I decided to diversify my repertoire from baked lemon and herb fillets to fish cakes!  Since Eric spent five years in Baltimore, I thought these would be right up his alley, and I was right.  They were a big hit, especially with my quick, spicy, and creamy relish sauce.  I served these with my Pecan-Stuffed Delicata Squash, and we were so full.

Stella’s Salmon Croquettes
4 heaping Tbsp coconut oil
~1 lb cooked salmon (I baked a large, de-boned fillet)*
1 cup Italian bread crumbs (fine)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 heaping tsp Old Bay
1 tsp dried dill
1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 lemon, zest and juice

Stella’s Spicy Fish Sauce
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1 Tbsp horseradish sauce
1/2 cup Cholula or Tabasco sauce (the latter is spicier)
1 heaping tsp pickle relish

1. Wash your hands. In a medium mixing bowl, mix cooked salmon and breadcrumbs with your hands.

2. Add eggs and mix lightly until evenly absorbed. Add Old Bay, dill, peppers, and lemon zest and juice. Mix again with your hands until well combined. If the mixture is too clumpy, add a little water; if it’s too wet, add more breadcrumbs.

3. Using your hands, roll mixture into balls and flatten. Each one should be about one inch thick and about three inches in diameter. You’ll have about eight cakes. Place each one on a plate as they are formed and set aside.

4. Melt coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Gently slide each cake into the pan and fry about five minutes on each side until crispy, golden brown. You may want to add additional oil as you fry; make sure it’s hot before adding the next round of cakes. As they are done, remove them to a plate and place them between paper towels to drain and cool.

5. Meanwhile, combine the sauce ingredients in a measuring cup and stir vigorously until well combined.

6. Once the croquettes are all done, serve immediately with a generous drizzle of the spicy sauce.

A nice, simple side salad with vinegar and oil dressing complements this meal perfectly.

Serves 4.

These will keep for a couple of days if refrigerated, and can be reheated. Be careful not to overcook, or they will become rubbery. For best results, reheat in an oven for ten minutes at 300°.

Enjoy!

Pictured here with Pecan-Stuffed Delicata Squash.

* Brush your salmon with a little olive oil or melted butter and bake for about about 20 minutes at 400° in a very lightly oiled baking pan or Pyrex dish, skin side down. When it’s done, it will be pink and flaky. If using several smaller pieces of fish, the baking time will be less.

You can also used canned fish if you want to be more authentically East Texas! Use about 16 ounces of quality canned salmon.

Sunday Morning Migas

I throw some migas together at least once a week, usually for a weekend brunch.  Since I don’t like tomatoes, I usually don’t have any on hand, but you might want to include some diced tomatoes for a more standard result.  Instead, I focus on an assortment of peppers and making the scrambled eggs perfect.

Traditional Tex-Mex migas not only include diced tomatoes, but also strips of corn tortilla, diced chiles, onion, cheese, and salsa.  They’re usually served with refried beans and warm tortillas on the side.  Sometimes, they’re served with fried potatoes.

I serve mine with whatever I have on hand. I try to make my Frijoles Negros Refritos at least twice a month, and they’re a perfect complement. If you eat meat, you can also throw in some sausage, bacon, or chorizo!

Without further ado, here’s the easy recipe!

1 heaping tsp bacon fat (or butter)
4 regular-sized corn tortillas, cut intro 1/4″ strips
6 large eggs
1/4 cup cream
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
2 finely diced chiles (hot or sweet or a mix, to taste!)
1/2 white onion, finely diced (sometimes I use red)
1/2 tomato, seeded and diced (optional)
1 cup grated cheese (Monterey Jack is best, or try Pepper Jack)
jar of salsa, to garnish
sour cream (optional)

1. Melt bacon fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tortilla strips and fry until just crispy, stirring occasionally (about 8 minutes). Remove strips to a paper towel to drain. Turn stovetop heat to low.

2. Meanwhile, crack eggs into a medium mixing bowl. Whisk lightly until yolks are broken, then drizzle in cream, continuing to whisk. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin, and whisk lightly to mix. Then add chiles, onions, and tomatoes (if using). Stir lightly and set aside.

3. Using the leftover bacon grease still in the pan, you will now scramble the eggs. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Allow to sit for just about one minute, then begin to stir. The mixture will quickly begin to firm up. Continue to lightly fold the eggs over repeatedly until they reach the perfect consistency (about three minutes).

4. Here, you can either add the tortilla strips back into the pan and mix them in with the eggs (traditional), or you can plate the strips and serve the eggs on top (deconstructed). I usually do the latter, because I like really crispy tortilla strips, but you may prefer them mixed. Try both and see!

5. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top of the eggs. Then add a generous dollop of salsa to the top of the migas (and sour cream, if using). Serve immediately, while still hot.

Serves 2.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you these migas are also great for dinner.