Comfort food for spring
Well, most food bloggers, columnists and magazines are focusing on lighter fair for spring….but not this writer. I had to laugh at a recent lifestyle magazine cover showing all kinds of cucumber dishes and proclaiming they were in season! I don’t know about where they live, but around here cucumbers won’t be “in season” for at least another four months so while I can find them in the grocery store, I won’t be declaring them in season in this column any time soon. Given the fairly typical Wyoming spring we have been having, including over 30” of snow in 48 hours I’m not quite ready to give up on my comfort food yet. These recipes are some of my family’s favorites and I like that they use pantry and freezer staples so don’t require an extra trip to the grocery store.
Cheesy sausage skillet
I like that I don’t have to precook the rice for this one. If you don’t have instant rice that’s okay, just add another cup of chicken broth and bake a little longer.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ring (13.5 ounces) smoked sausage, or kielbasa sliced
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas (optional)
1 cup frozen asparagus pieces (optional)
1 cup broccoli florets (optional)
2 cups instant white rice
2 cans (10.75 ounces each) cream of chicken soup
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups mild cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, sliced into 4 pats
parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Add olive oil to a 15-inch oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the sausage and sear it on each side until browned, 2-3 minutes on each side.
Remove the skillet from heat and add the onion, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, vegetables, garlic, rice, cream of chicken soup, chicken broth, 1 cup of cheese, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
Top with pats of butter (evenly spaced) and the remaining shredded cheddar cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake another 20 minutes, or until cheese is hot and bubbly.
Top with parsley. Salt to taste.
Everything Potato Pie
This makes a great side dish or a main dish with a good side salad. I also love eating it at room temperature. I keep puff pastry in my freezer pretty much at all times for fast and easy meals.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 tablespoons butter
7 slices bacon (thick-cut slices), chopped
5 potatoes, (or 4 large) peeled and sliced thin
1 onion, peeled and sliced thin
1 tablespoon fresh dill (or one teaspoon dried dill)
1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
Salt and pepper
Chives or scallion for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the thawed puff pastry in an 8 or 9-inch tart pan and crimp the edges down. Remove the excess dough to help fill in gaps to make the rim all even. Place the crust in the fridge until you are ready to fill it.
Put a skillet on the stovetop, over medium-high heat, and add in the butter and bacon.
Saute until the bacon is crispy, then add in the onions, potatoes, and dill. Season the mixture with plenty of salt and pepper.
Gently stir the mixture for 3 to 5 minutes to mix the onions and potatoes and make sure that they are coated in the bacon grease. (The potatoes do not need to be cooked through.)
Spoon the mixture into the crust and drizzle it with the heavy cream.
Bake on the low rack of the oven for about 35 to 45 minutes. The potatoes should be fork-tender and the crust should be golden.
Rest for 10 minutes then sprinkle with chopped chive and serve.
I love olives, my husband, not so much BUT he does like this pasta. The flavors of the olives are mellowed out with the heat of cooking and if any whole olives are in the sauce he just eats around them. I have been known to add in anchovies as well (3-4 fillets from oil pack, smashed up). You really can’t taste them but my husband swears he can still smell fish, so I usually omit them if he is eating with us. This comes together so quickly that its a typically lunch for the girls and I.
1 pound long pasta noodles (spaghetti, bucatini, etc)
4 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 anchovy fillets mashed (optional)
32-ounce can crushed tomatoes
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup Kalamata olives, sliced
¼ cup capers
Parsley, Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes, for garnish (omit cheese for vegan)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (about 1 tablespoon kosher salt). Boil the pasta until al dente.
Meanwhile, mince the garlic. If the olives are not sliced, slice them in half. In a separate large pot or saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and cook until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt, and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.
Add the olives and capers to the tomato sauce. Continue to simmer until the pasta is done.
Drain the pasta and stir it into the tomato sauce. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsley, and additional red pepper flakes to taste.
Enjoy these cozy comfort foods as you watch the snow melt away….hopefully.