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Author: Mike

Southern Cornbread

Makes one 8″ skillet of cornbread. Double this for a 10″ skillet.

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon melted butter (or 4 tsp bacon drippings)
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup boiling water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 450°. Place 8″ cast iron skillet with oil & butter (or drippings) in heating oven.

If you use butter, you will need to keep a close eye on it or it will burn even with the oil tempering. You can also just add the butter to the skillet right when you take it out of the oven to put the batter in.

Measure 1/3 cup cornmeal into a medium bowl. Mix remaining 2/3 cup cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.

Pour boiling water all at once into the bowl with 1/3 cup cornmeal; stir to make a stiff mush. Whisk in the buttermilk gradually, breaking up lumps, until smooth. Whisk in the beaten egg.

When the oven is preheated and skillet very hot, stir dry ingredients into the mush mixture until just moistened. Carefully remove skillet from the oven. Pour hot butter/fat from the skillet into the batter and stir to incorporate, then quickly pour batter back into the heated skillet.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and instantly turn cornbread onto a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes.

Winter Minestrone

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces pancetta, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
2 carrots, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
2 cups butternut squash, chopped (½ inch cubes)
1½ tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
¼ to ½ cup dry white wine
28 ounces canned chopped/crushed tomatoes
6 to 8 cups chicken stock (beef broth works very well too)
1 (1-ounce) Parmesan rind
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 fresh rosemary sprigs (or Italian seasoning)
1 bay leaf
15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¾ cup dry tube pasta, like macaroni or ditalini, cooked & drained (about 1 ½ cups cooked)
6-8 ounces baby spinach
1 cup (4 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh chopped parsley.

Note: This works well with heartier greens, like Swiss Chard. Trim the stems and leaves sliced. Add these greens earlier in the soup, when you add the tomatoes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add wine and scrape the bottom of the pan.

Optional: Add half of the tomatoes, half of the beans, and 1 cup of stock to a blender and puree.

Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the chicken stock, the bay leaf, parmesan rind, salt & pepper, crushed red pepper, and herbs to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf, rosemary stems, and rind. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through, about 2 minutes. This is a thick soup, but if too thick adjust with extra stock. Just before serving, stir in the spinach and cook just until the leaves are wilted. Check for salt and pepper seasoning. Serve with grated Parmigiano cheese and parsley.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

1 pound Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts or walnuts
3 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 lemon (zest and juice)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Thinly slice leaves of Brussels sprouts into a medium bowl with a mandolin (a food processor slicing blade works well too). Add nuts and grated cheese. Finely grate lemon rind into bowl; halve lemon, and squeeze juice into bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. You can make the salad up to 20 minutes in advance.

Black Bean and Sausage Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound smoked pork sausage, such as andouille, sliced into half moons
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 medium cloves garlic, crushed
4 cups (1.5L) low-sodium chicken broth, or water
3 (16 ounce) cans black beans, drained
2 while chipotle peppers, minced, plus 1 Tbsp of sauce
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sausage and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 6 minutes or until nicely browned. Add onion, celery, carrot, pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes.

Add chicken stock, beans, remaining herbs & spices and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Place 1-2 cups (depending on desired thickness) of soup in a blender. Blend on high until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Stir mixture back into pot. Serve with rice, cilantro, avocado, green onions, lime wedges, etc.

Fried Rice with Kale and Shiitake

2 tablespoon coconut oil or vegetable oil
1/4 cup diced pancetta, prosciutto, or bacon
4 oz cooked pork or poultry, diced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
6 scallions, thinly sliced (greens and whites separated)
1 shallot, mined
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup corn kernels
2-4 oz (about 1 cup) shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
3 cups kale, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cooked rice (day-old or air-dried)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce

In a wok or very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Of moderately high hear Add the ginger, scallion whites, shallot, peppers, pancetta, and cooked meat. Cook over, stirring constantly, until veggies are tender, about 2 minutes. Add the sliced shiitakes and corn, sprinkle with a little soy sauce, and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the kale and stir-fry until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the cooked rice and stir-fry until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Make a well in the rice and add the sesame oil then the eggs. Cook without stirring until the eggs begin to set at the edge. Using a spatula, scramble the eggs until just set. Stir the eggs into the rice along with the vinegar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Top with green scallions. Serve immediately.

Weeknight Bolognese

1 pound 93% lean ground beef
2 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp baking soda
salt and pepper
4 cups beef broth
OR 4 tsp Better than Bouillon Roasted Beef Base + 2 cups water
6 ounces pancetta, chopped course
1 onion, chopped coarse
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped coarse
1 celery rib, copped coarse
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
1 pound tagliatelle
* less than 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
* basil
* 1/4 tsp thyme
* 1/4 tsp oregano

Toss beef with water, baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper until thoroughly combined.

(Note: If using bouillon + water, this step can be skipped) Bring broth to a boil over high heat in large pot (this will be used to cook pasta later) and cook until reduced to 2 cups, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Pulse pancetta in food processor until finely chopped, 15 to 20 pulses. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and pulse until vegetables are finely chopped and mixture has paste-like consistency, 12 to 15 pulses, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Heat butter and oil in large dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. When foaming subsides, add pancetta-vegetable mixture and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Spread mixture in even layer in bottom of pot and continue to cook, stirring every couple minutes, until very dark browned bits form on bottom of pot, 7 to 12 minutes longer. Stir in tomato paste and cook until paste is rust-colored and bottom of pan is dark brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium, add beef, and cook, using wooden spoons to break meat into pieces no larger than 1/4 inch, until beef has just lost raw pink color, 4 to 7 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping up and browned bits, and begin to simmer. Cook until wine has evaporated and sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth and Parmesan. Return sauce to simmer; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauce will look thin at this point.

Rinse pot that held broth. While sauce simmers, bring 4 quarts water to boil in now-empty pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, then drain pasta. Add pasta to pot with sauce and toss to combine. Adjust sauce consistency with reserved cooking water as needed.

Carrot Fries

1 pound of whole carrots, scrubbed, but not peeled
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon spicy seasoning blend (or make the spice blend recipe below)

Spice Blend:
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cumin
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
⅛ teaspoon white pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut carrots into french fry-sized sticks (e.g., cut in half lengthwise, then quarter each half). Combine olive oil and spice mixture. Pour olive oil mixture over carrots and toss to thoroughly coat.

Spread carrots on a large baking sheet that is lined with parchment or greased. Roast carrots for 30-40 minutes, turning halfway through. Thickness of carrots will determine doneness so check often to avoid burning

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 oz. pancetta, diced, with visible fat discarded
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, then lower to 400 while sprouts are actually roasting.

Trim off the sprout stem and remove any yellow outer leaves. Toss the halved sprouts with the other ingredients in a bowl until evenly coated.

Spread in a single layer on a large sheet pan (do not overcrowd). Reduce oven to 400 degrees and bake in the upper 1/3 rack, for 30-35 minutes. The exterior should be crisp, with edges browned, and the inside still tender. Toss/stir halfway through for more even browning.

Salt & Vinegar Sweet Potato Chips

Salt & Vinegar Sweet Potato Baked Chips
2-3 medium-large sweet potatoes
1/4 cup white or malt vinegar
2 teaspoons sea salt

Preheat oven to 375. Scrub sweet potatoes and pat dry. Thinly slice sweet potatoes into round discs (with a mandolin is best). Place all of the potato discs in a large Ziploc bag. Add vinegar, close bag, and shake to coat the potato slices. Allow to rest at room temperature 10-15 minutes.

Line a large baking sheet with nonstick foil and spray generously with cooking spray (or use a silicone baking mat). Drain the bag, and place all of the potato discs in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with half of the salt and spray generously with cooking spray.

Bake 15-20 minutes. Use a thin spatula to flip the chips over, and sprinkle with remaining salt. Bake another 15-20 minutes until chips are crispy but not burned.

Broiled Hot Pepper Wings

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
5 pounds chicken wings, split and tips discarded
salt and pepper to taste, about 1 tsp each
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup hot pepper jelly (Tabasco Pepper Jelly, Stonewall Kitchens, or Braswell 10 oz jar)
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 4 limes)
1/2 cup Frank’s hot sauce

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil, lightly oil, and place rack in the middle.

Toss wings with 2 Tbsp of oil. Sprinkle wings with salt, pepper, and baking powder, toss to coat. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning half way through.

In a small saucepan over moderate heat, whisk the pepper jelly, lime juice, and hot sauce until smooth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer 1-2 minutes.

Adjust rack to about 6 inches and set broiler to high. Brush the cooked wings with 1/4 cup sauce and broil 1 to 2 minutes. Brush with 1/4 cup sauce again, flip wings, brush with 1.4 cup sauce. Broil until crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Brush with remaining sauce before serving.