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Pesto Cauliflower Soup

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If you are like me, you make lots of pesto in the Fall and then need lots of recipes. When I discovered some cilantro almond pesto in the back of the freezer, I went on the search for a new recipe. The Washington Post has an easy and delicious solution, pesto cauliflower soup. I used chicken stock instead of veggie and added a can of cannelloni beans and lots of crushed red pepper. Lovely. Photo: Becca Henry.

CAULIFOWER PESTO SOUP

Braised Leg of Lamb with Provencal White Beans

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Sweet Mary had a little lamb leg and I ate it. Jesus, it is good. And the Provencal white beans are like little fluffy, garlic clouds of comfort. Photo: Becca Henry.

INA GARTEN’S LEG OF LAMB and PROVENCAL WHITE BEANS

Lusty Pumpkin Sausage Soup

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a keeper….sausage pumpkin soup with a sprinkle of queso fresco. Made with the help of bacon, onion, serrano, chipotle, garlic, chicken stock and unabashed food lust. I don’t know what it is about this soup; it gives me the same feelings as when I watch Outlander….rawr.

R E C I P E

1 pkg (12 oz) of your favorite sausage (I used Aidells Spicy Mango with Jalapeno)
4-5 strips of bacon, cut into lardons
Any onion, medium, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper minced
1 tbs of chipotles in adobo
1 small can (15 oz) of packed pumpkin
1 box of chicken stock
2 bay leaves
crushed red pepper
1 chunk of crumbled queso fresco or feta

1. In a dutch oven or stock pot, saute the bacon until cooked, not crispy. (I bought cooked sausage and added it in step 2. If you are using raw, brown it with the bacon in step 1.)

2. Add onion with a pinch of salt and crush red pepper and saute until softened. Then add garlic, serrano, chipotle and cooked sausage. Cook a minute or two.

3. Add pumpkin and chicken stock and more salt. Scrape up any bits on the bottom. Bring to a low boil then simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Serve with crumbled queso fresco. Or try feta, goat cheese or ricotta. Tastes even better reheated.

Photo: Becca Henry

Roasted Chicken and Tomatillo Soup

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Check out my tomatillo soup. I seared and roasted the chicken legs. Charred all the tomas, jalas, onions and garlic. Pureed all the veg, shredded the chix. Simmered and added more chix stock. Added black beans. And yes, I could have stopped there. Oh no. I then fried corn tortillas in the chix fat for a garnish. I could be satisfied, but no. I then fry the chix skin to a bacon-like crispness and you can see it nestled in the dollop of greek yogurt. I am overwhelmed. My eyes are watering from the spice; I’m hiccuping from the tart, sweet ‘n sour flavor of tomatillos. It’s not pretty but dang, I’m happy. Photo: Becca Henry.

TOMATILLO SOUP

Potato Gratin

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This is probably a lighter version than you’re used to. I used milk versus cream and less cheese, but I did add layers of mushrooms and onions sauteed in duck fat and topped it with fresh baguette crumbs also sauteed in duck fat. Lighter…really? Regardless, it’s one delicious little potato lasagne. I also added some herbs like chive and lavosh from the garden. Best tip…don’t be stingy with the salt! Those taters are thirsty. Photo: Becca Henry.

Ideas for the next attempt.
1. Add a layer of bread crumbs inside as well as on top to absorb all the milk.
2. Flavor the milk with spice like nutmeg and bay leaf. Maybe try half and half.
3. Add a layer of greens like spinach or kale.

POTATO GRATIN

Pulled Pork with a Red Chile Sauce

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I endeavored to make a red chile enchilada sauce with some dried poblano and other chiles. It was a quite an ordeal with the roasting, stemming, steaming and puree-ing. What I got was a beautiful red earthy sauce with a slight bitter taste. Drat. When I searched the net to find out why, I got all sorts of reasons: not being diligent with getting all the seeds and membranes removed, letting the water boil, and stirring the sauce counter-clockwise. Okay, that last one is not true, but jeesh.

I proceeded to try to sweeten the sauce, adding tomato paste, honey, agave syrup, and who knows what. It did help, yet that bitterness was still slightly there. Double Drat.  So, here I am with this huge pot of sauce and a lost afternoon. What to do?

Well, make pulled pork sammies is the obvious answer to that question. I theorized a sweet pork butt would take my slightly bitter sauce and wear it like a mink coat. And I was right. This was the tastiest mistake ever, and I want to make it again. My no-longer-bitter baby is shown here on a multi-grain hoagie roll, with red cabbage slaw and jalapenos. Photo: Danie Woodward.

RED ENCHILADA SAUCE SLOW COOKER PULLED PORK

Spicy Braised Beef Brisket

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For the Superbowl (and to test cooking large hunks of meat) I decided to braise a beef brisket. Brisket is a huge piece of beef best slow cooked to tenderness. It is touted as inexpensive, but I wonder if anyone has done a cost analysis when you factor in the 6 hours of oven time. Is it still a deal?  Regardless, it was delicious. Photo: Becca Henry.

Here’s a few tips.  
1. Cook the day before. I sampled the beef right out of the oven and thought it was okay. The next day, however, after shredding the beef, blending the drippings into a sauce and reheating it, it was amazing.
2. Trim any excess fat, you want some fat, but not the four cups I got. To defat the drippings, let them cool and pour them into a bowl and let chill in the fridge overnight. The next day, you can easily remove the top layer of congealed fat from the bowl. Pour the sauce into a blender and puree and add back to your shredded brisket. 

SOUTHWESTERN PULLED BRISKET