Monday, April 22, 2013

Visit my newly redesigned blog - Pancakes & Paella

Welcome to the newly redesigned blog, Pancakes & Paella!

I started this blog almost 3 years ago after taking a vacation of a lifetime with my husband to Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Napa Valley in 2010.  We made it a point to eat new and exciting food, gourmet and simple.  The blog was my husband's idea, a way to chronicle our dining experiences on the trip.  At that time I wasn't quite sure what else I would do with the blog, but soon we both started chronicling dishes we were making at home as well as nights out to local restaurants.  Since its inception, the name of the blog has been "Adventures in Food", because, well, we really were having adventures eating new dishes, trying new ingredients, learning new cooking methods, mostly successful and tasty but sometimes disastrous. The mission for the blog remains the same - chronicle the culinary adventures of the McCrary family, both good and bad.   I came up with the new title based on the range of dishes we like to eat, from the epitome of comfort food for me, simple pancakes, to new and exciting dishes like paella (with saffron, something we'd never cooked with before).  So thank you for stopping by, and I hope by reading my blog you are inspired to have your own culinary adventure!

Paella - April 2009

Turkey Sausage and Spinach Ragu over Parmesan Polenta

I recently discovered a food blog call Eat.Drink.Smile.  The blog post for that particular day was regarding the sad state of hunger in America, and the new documentary film "A Place at the Table: A Call to Action" that was just released.  The recipe on that day's post was focused on a simple, healthy, and inexpensive dish for a typical family of four - turkey sausage and spinach ragu on parmesan polenta.  Sounded tempting, and last night we made the dish.  It is delicious!  We like to make this type of dish, but would typically put the ragu on top of pasta (which would also be good). But the variation of using polenta as the base was a good change, and something we will repeat from now on! I put ALOT of cheese in the polenta, probably 1-1/2 cups vs the 1 cup in the recipe.  Can't have too much cheese (except it does make it a little less healthy).  We served it with sliced French bread drizzled with EVOO, salt, and pepper, and put under the broiler for a couple of minutes until brown.

As promised, this was a very easy dish to make, I had everything on hand already except the polenta (I do have grits, could have used those instead).  I started the polenta first becuase I bought Red Mills regular yellow corn polenta, and not the instant kind. Cooking time for the regular variety was 30 minutes, which worked out perfectly with the rest of the dish.  While the polenta was cooking, we chopped, cooked the sausage, sauteed the onions (and I added a shallot I had on hand), and simmered the ragu.

Recipe, copied from Eat.Drink.Smile website:

turkey sausage and spinach ragù on parmesan polenta


3 (4-ounce) links sweet turkey Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
2 1/3 cups water, divided
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup instant polenta
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage; sauté for 8-10 minutes, until no longer pink, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan; drain all but about 1 tablespoon of liquid. Return to medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in sausage, marinara, and 1/3 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes. With about 3 minutes remaining, add chopped spinach to the ragu. Stir to combine.
Bring remaining 2 cups water and milk to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; reduce heat to low. Gradually add polenta, and cook for 3 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in cheese, salt and pepper. Serve with sausage mixture.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Poached Salmon with Saffron Rice - Recipes by Thomas Keller

Sunday afternoons are our favorite time to cook, especially new recipes using ingredients or new cooking methods we may not have used before.  Last weekend was no exception.  We enjoy looking through our cookbooks by Thomas Keller, and we zeroed in on his Poached Salmon dish and Saffron Rice.  They are both in his cookbook Ad Hoc at Home.

The poaching liquid for the salmon is Court Bouillon, a relatively easy quick vegetable stock with wine. The court bouillon consisted of carrots, leeks, fennel, onion, and a sachet with herbs, peppercorns, and garlic. 

After the court bouillon is made, strain and lower the heat to approx 200 F.  Now it is time to poach! Put the salmon in a large heavy pot or pan so there is enough room to cover with the liquid.  Chef Keller has many suggestions in his book on poaching for serving the fish hot or cold.  We chose hot.

While we were making the salmon we also cooked Chef Keller's Saffron Rice.  The recipe calls for a short grain rice that I could not find at my local supermarket, so I had to settle for risotto style short grain rice.  

Overall poaching turned out to be a very easy cooking method, kept the fish very moist, and infused the fish with flavor!  

We served the fish over the rice, with some of the court bouillon vegetables and fresh peas on the side.  Delicious!