October 14, 2012

Smothered Perogy Skillet Dinner

Aaaaand this is barely a recipe, I know, but the rain has finally started here, and this easy, tasty dish feels oh-so-autumnal. Essentially, this is just a tweaked version of my all-purpose smothering sauce (mostly used for pork chops) re-purposed for perogies. For the hardcore and badass, or (badcore and hardass), make your own perogies (and wieners!) from scratch. Feel better? And then send me a picture, please! You can substitute kielbasa/kobasa for the european wieners if you like.

Smothered Perogy Skillet Dinner
Serves two greedy people

3 European wieners, sliced into chunky coins
18 bite-sized perogies, any filling you like (I used potato/cheddar/onion)
1 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup Mediterranee yoghurt (plain)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
3/4 to 1 cup chicken or mushroom stock/broth (at room temperature)

Saute the onions in the butter in a large skillet. Add the wieners and stir and saute until they pick up some colour. Lay the perogies (still frozen is fine) in a single layer throughout the pan.

Combine the yoghurt, mustard, flour, and stock (whisking really well) in a measuring cup, blending until smooth. Pour the sauce over the perogies and wieners, turn the heat to low (or move to an oven at 325F) and cook (covered) for 25 minutes. Stirring occasionally if you are going the stovetop route helps you keep an eye on the liquid level - if it's thickening too much, and not looking "saucy", just add a little water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, and stir it through. Fork-test a perogy (they should be tender), and dish up with plenty of black pepper.

We served this with a big tossed salad chock full of vegetables, to compensate for the lack thereof in the recipe.

Not a fan of wieners OR kielbasa? Fat slices of mushroom would be a great vegetarian switch-out.

October 06, 2012

Carrot & Fennel Soup

This soup has a remarkable, silky texture, even when simply pureed with a stick-blender (no chinoise or cheesecloth necessary). The fennel brings a lightness to the character of the soup, as well as a more complex, sophisticated flavour. The fennel also helps keep the sweetness from the carrots in check. This is one of those rare dishes that feels as healthy as it is, so you can feel comforted and virtuous at the same time.

Whenever I make this dish, I berate myself for not making it more often. It's easy, lovely, and very satisfying. As you can see, it doesn't take long to knock together - most of the total time is unattended cooking time.

Carrot & Fennel Soup
Serves 4 (6 as a starter)

1 fennel bulb, sliced
450 grams carrot, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth (or light chicken broth)
2 cups water
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

In a medium-large soup pot, over a medium flame, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic with the spices. Add the sliced carrots and fennel, and stir well. Add the water and the veggie broth, and stir well. Simmer gently, covered for 30 - 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Puree with a stick blender, being patient to ensure everything is finely pureed. Check seasoning to see if it needs more coriander seed or salt. If your vegetable broth is quite salty, it may not need either.

Serve with crusty bread. If you're not vegetarian, you might want some slices of chorizo on the side or floated on the top, too. For extra fancy presentation use some of the fennel fronds as a garnish instead of the token cilantro shown here. Very fine rings of red chile would also make a delightful finish.

You can also use curry masala instead of the whole spices, for a slightly more curried taste, and you can substitute a cup of the water with coconut milk for a creamier, more luscious effect.

This soup freezes very well, making it a great item to stash in the freezer for an emergency dinner, or as make-ahead lunches. It reheats nicely in the microwave, getting a meal on the table in minutes.