Caramelized Cabbage Sausage

Today is the first day of Advent. For the last couple of years, I’ve posted a recipe each day during Advent as a way to honour the memory of my mum when she passed away in 2011. She was deeply religious and revered the time of Advent leading up to Christmas.

One of the dishes we’d always make around this time of year was Cabbage Rolls (or commonly called Stuffed Cabbage). It was hearty and warming in the winter. It was one of those dishes that warmed you not only from its temperature, but from its comfort.

A common thing that accompanied our cabbage rolls was sausage. Our family recipe (which I’ll post soon) had sausage simmered in with the cabbage rolls to impart an extra meaty note to the dish.

I thought, why not try to incorporate the flavours of a nice cabbage roll into a sausage so you get that experience in a sausage slider, or sausage roll (recipe coming for that) or as a flavouring component in a larger dish.

Caramelized Cabbage Sausage:

For the Caramelized Cabbage:

1 tsp cold pressed canola oil

1 cup finely grated green cabbage

1 tsp salt

   In a medium pot over medium high heat, add the oil. Once the oil heats to a smoulder but not smoking, add the cabbage and salt. Stir occasionally for 8-10 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot as necessary. As the cabbage dries slightly and sticks, you may need to add a few tablespoons of water and scrape the bottom further, incorporating the “brown bits” into the slowly browning cabbage.

   Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook the cabbage, stirring more, scraping more and repeating the addition of water if it gets too dry for a further 7-10 minutes.

   Reduce the heat to medium low and stir the cabbage more. It should be getting a pale brown colour, losing most of its remnant green colour. As it dries again (about 5-7 minutes later), add a bit more water, scraping the bottom of the pot once more, stirring the cabbage until it is a deep golden brown colour and remove from the heat. Set aside for 20-30 minutes to cool

For the sausage:

Reserved Caramelized Cabbage

1/4 cup tomato sauce

450g/1 lb ground pork

3 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika

2 tsp caraway seeds, coarsely ground

2 tsp salt

   In a large bowl, add the Caramelized Cabbage, tomato sauce, ground pork, paprika, caraway seeds and salt.

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Using your hands (there’s no better tool for this, plus it’s fun!!), combine the ingredients until uniform.

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At this point you could keep the mix in your fridge for 5 days or wrap it in parchment paper and then with plastic wrap and freeze for a month.

   Tonight, I made a simple sausage slider.  I pan-fried a 1/4 cup measure of sausage, formed into a small patty over medium heat (the cabbage component is delicate and can burn if you’re not careful) and when it was brown on both sides I added it to a bun. I added a dressing made with a bit of extra Caramelized Cabbage that was stirred into some sour cream and called it dinner. Sometimes simple is best 🙂

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Roasted Bacon Meatball Pizza with Caramelized Onion and Roasted Peppers

Yes, I like to make things in large volumes sometimes. Or repeatedly. It’s part of the perfecting process when I develop recipes. If I’m giving a recipe, it’s because I know that the measurements are well tested, not just some random handful of this, pinch of that. I tend to do the “handful/pinch” approach after doing a recipe a few times because I have a feel for the repetition, but for the initial development stages, I’m precise with my measures.

With my most recent batch of Roasted Bacon Meatballs, I like to keep them as is, without sauce for certain things. And my regular pizza night on the weekends is one of those reasons. I also like to think of toppings to compliment it and prepare them while my dough is rising. So within the hour rise time that it usually takes to wait for dough, I can roast peppers (since the oven is on anyways to give a uniform warm environment to my kitchen to have even rising) and caramelize some onions.

The rest is pretty instant. Shred some cheese, whip together a quick pizza sauce and you’re ready to stretch some dough.

Roasted Bacon Meatball Pizza with Caramelized Onion and Roasted Peppers

For the Red Fife Wheat Flour Dough:

2 cups red fife wheat flour (or whole wheat bread flour)

3/4-7/8 cup warm water

1 tsp maple syrup

1 tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp salt

   In a large bowl, add the flour. Make a depression in the centre of it, sprinkle the salt around the outer edge of the flour and add the warm water to the centre. Whisk in the maple syrup and yeast into the warm water. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or until frothy on top. Slowly work the frothy yeast mixture into the flour and salt until a soft dough starts to come together. Turn on to the counter and start to knead with any residual flour left from the bowl. Gradually, knead until the dough is soft, slightly sticky and smooth. This will take at least 10 minutes for a smooth dough. Place in a large bowl that has been lightly oiled with 1 tsp oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise next to the oven for an hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 190C/375F.

For the Roasted Peppers

1 sweet bell pepper

   Place the pepper on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until deeply browned/nearly blackened on the skin on all sides. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap to steam the skin away for 10 minutes. Peel the skin, remove the stem and seeds and tear the roasted pepper into strips. Set aside.

For the Caramelized Onions:

2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped

1 tsp cold pressed canola oil

1/2 tsp salt

   In a small pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and salt. Stir over medium high heat for about 7-8 minutes. As it starts to soften and lightly brown, lower the heat to medium. Sauté for a further 7-10 minutes and as the onions begin to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan, add a few tablespoons of water. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and incorporate the sticky, brown bits from the bottom of the pan into the onions. Gradually lower the heat to medium low and continue to caramelize for another 13-15 minutes or until the onions are deeply golden, adding a few tablespoons of water throughout the process as needed. Don’t worry, the water will incorporate into the onions and reduce to leave a sweet, jam-like texture to the onions. When they reach your desired level of browning, remove from the heat and set aside.

For the pizza:

5 or 6 prepared Roasted Bacon Meatballs

Prepared Roasted Peppers

Prepared Caramelized Onions

5 or 6 Tbsp pizza sauce (I generally whisk together 1 small can tomato paste, 3 Tbsp water, 2 tsp soy sauce, 4 tsp dried oregano and 2 tsp garlic powder for a quick version)

100g/4 oz gruyere cheese, shredded (or mozzarella)

50g/2 oz herb/garlic-flavoured gouda cheese, shredded (or your favourite flavoured cheese)

Prepared Red Fife Wheat Flour Dough

   Take a baking sheet, invert it so the bottom is facing up. Drizzle it with 1/2 tsp cold pressed canola oil and rub it over the surface of the bottom of the pan to evenly distribute it. Divide the dough in half. Stretch each half into 25 cm/9″ rounds. Lay on the prepared baking sheet. Spread half of the pizza sauce on each stretched circle of dough. Sprinkle half of the shredded gruyere over each pizza. Cut the meatballs into 1 cm (1/2″) thick pieces. Spread them evenly around each pizza. Layer strips of roasted peppers in between the meatballs and dot little bits of caramelized onions over both pizzas. Top with herbed gouda and bake on the middle rack in the preheated oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, turn the pan around and bake for another 8-10 minutes until it is uniformly golden along the edge of the crust and the top of the cheese. Makes 2 25cm/9″ pizzas.

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Spaghetti and Roasted Bacon Meatballs

After making a pile of Roasted Bacon Meatballs, I had the immediate plan for the classic, spaghetti and meatballs. In Italy, spaghetti and meatballs are two separate courses, but in North America we generally enjoy them as one dish. There’s nothing like a tangy tomato sauce to pair with a hearty meatball, Roasted Bacon or otherwise, to enjoy with pasta.

I take a few approaches to tomato sauce depending on what I’m doing and the time involved. Sometimes, I make a Roasted Tomato Sauce that is a nice, relatively quick approach to tomato sauce. I tend to have it prepared and in my freezer at any given time, but other times I like the stewed flavour of a slow simmered tomato sauce, especially in the cooler months approaching winter. I’ll infuse it with the flavours of onion, carrot and celery like a normal sauce, but I’ve been quite taken with the addition of parsnips as well. It adds a different dimension of sweetness to balance the tangy flavour of tomatoes.

This is another sauce I like to have prepared ahead and in my freezer. Yes, I’m that guy with stacks of prepared stuff in containers in my freezer. It makes life a lot easier when I need something quick and easy. A little extra prep on a given day goes a long way. It’s that boy scout in me that never left….at least I’m not lashing people together anymore….I mean….off to the recipe!! 😉

Spaghetti and Roasted Bacon Meatballs

For the Tomato Sauce:

2 tsp cold pressed canola oil

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped

1 large (796 mL/28 oz liq) can whole tomatoes, hand crushed

1 small (156 mL/5/5 fl oz) can tomato paste

5 cups water

3 Tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

   In a large pot over medium high heat, sauté the onion in oil until softened but not browned (about 5-7 minutes). Add the celery, carrot and parsnip and sauté to soften them as well (another 7-9 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, water (I generally fill the empty cans with water to rinse out any tomato-y residue left in the can and add it to the pot), oregano, salt and half of the chopped garlic. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 2-3 hours. The longer the better. Add the remaining garlic because I like the fresh hit of garlic in the finished sauce along with the simmered flavour that has infused in the simmering process. Purée the sauce with a hand blender or in a regular blender in batches until smooth. Set aside.

For the Spaghetti and Roasted Bacon Meatballs

10-12 Roasted Bacon Meatballs

200g/8 oz dried spaghetti

Prepared Tomato Sauce

   In a large pot of boiling water, add 2 or 3 Tbsp salt. Add the spaghetti, stir with tongs and reduce heat to medium. Cook the pasta for 8-10 minutes or until just cooked.

   While the spaghetti is cooking, heat 2 cups of prepared Tomato Sauce in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the prepared Roasted Bacon Meatballs. Stir to cover the meatballs in sauce, reduce heat to medium low, cover with a lid and simmer for 7-10 minutes.

   Strain the spaghetti and add to the pan with the simmering sauce and meatballs. Stir to coat the spaghetti and divide over two plates. Arrange the meatballs around the plate how you like. If you want to place it more artfully in a spoke pattern around the sauced spaghetti, great, if not, just a random placement is great too. Serves 2.

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By the way, if you just cover prepared Roasted Bacon Meatballs with the finished sauce in a container with a tight-fitting lid, this also freezes incredibly well for a near instant dinner on any given night 😉

Roasted Bacon Meatballs

So I’m saying meatball in the title, but there’s a slider in the picture. What gives? Don’t worry I’ll get to that.

The origins of this recipe, besides “it’s a good idea,” goes back a few months when one of my favourite food trucks, Little Village, made an appearance on the local news talking about his signature Kefteddy Burger. Basically, he took the Greek idea of keftedes, or Greek-style meatballs, formed them into burgers and topped them with an herbaceous cabbage slaw and tzatziki. There’s a link here of him going through his recipe (sorry if there’s country coding to limit visibility).

Shortly after seeing his Greek meatball infused with bacon, one of my favourite local butchers, Acme Meat Market, were making their Ultimate Breakfast Sausage. It’s basically a sausage with bacon and pork ground together with an added hint of maple syrup. The two ideas clicked in my head, the bacon and pork in the sausage plus the burger idea from Little Village made for a twist on a meatball. That could also be a burger.

I approached it with an Italian method of making meatballs. In Italy, they tend to soak bread in milk and work it into the mixture. Instead of milk, which admittedly adds a nice richness, but little extra flavour, I like to soak the bread in chicken stock. I also like to toast fresh bread instead of using stale bread for this step. Stale bread tastes stale and if I toast fresh bread, I get the deeper flavour from the toasting step before being a dry medium to soak up as much of the savoury stock as possible.

Today, I’m going to show that the same mixture can be formed into meatballs and burgers and roasted together to have options available to you as leftovers to make a few things throughout the upcoming week.

Roasted Bacon Meatballs

450g/1 lb lean ground beef

300g/12 oz Ultimate Breakfast Sausage meat, crumbled out of the casing (or use 225g/8 oz ground pork and 3 slices of bacon, finely chopped)

4 tsp dried oregano

1 cup toasted bread chunks (2-3 slices of whole wheat sandwich bread, torn into chunks and toasted in a 200C/425F oven for 12-14 minutes or until deeply golden)

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 egg

1/2 tsp salt

   Preheat oven to 200C/425F.

   In a small bowl, combine the toasted bread and chicken stock. Allow to sit and let the bread soak in the stock for 10 minutes.

   In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, sausage meat, dried oregano, egg and salt. Squeeze out the excess stock from the bread and add the bread to the mixture. Divide the mixture in half. Form half into meatballs and set them about 2 cm/1″ apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Form the other half into ball shapes about the size of a small orange. Press them flat into patties and set them on another baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press your thumb into the centre of each burger to make a depression. This prevents the burgers from swelling too much and will maintain their flatter shape better. Place both baking sheets in the preheated oven and roast for 8-10 minutes. Take them out, turn them and return to the oven for a further 7-9 minutes to cook through completely.

   You can make only meatballs if you wish, or only burgers. If you make meatballs about the size of a golf ball, you’ll get about 30 meatballs. If you make these smaller burgers (more of a slider size), you’ll get about 15 slider burgers. Feel free to customize the size you like.

   When I made them, on the first night I just had them as basic sliders with tzatziki sauce, a Greek cucumber-yogurt sauce that’s traditional with keftedes and put them on slider buns. There’s a great place here that makes awesome tzatziki so I tend to buy it, but if you want a more creative twist on tzatziki, try either my recipe for Caramelized Cabbage Sour Cream Dressing (kinda what happens when a Hungarian boy makes tzatziki haha) or Roasted Garlic Tzatziki.

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Spinach Lentil Chicken Pizza

To close out the peak of this past week’s foundation of flavours, I always love a good pizza. Both words together being important: good pizza. There’s a lot of mediocre or just plain dreadful pizzas out there. I was spoiled in a way growing up because we always made our own pizza every Saturday. We used it as an opportunity to use up what ever ends of peppers and onions or various meats were around the house.

This past week, after making Garlic Oregano Roast Chicken, I proceeded to Spinach Lentil Chicken. A new way to look at your leftover chicken and gravy. Today I look at that same Spinach Lentil Chicken and see it as more than a great accompaniment to a barley polenta, I look at it as a base of a pizza instead of regular tomato sauce.

This past week I also picked up a wonderful cheese that accompanied the flavours of the Spinach Lentil Chicken perfectly. A local cheesemaker starting doing a gouda infused with nettles and celery seed. That deep savouriness and slight natural saltiness from the celery were perfect for this pizza.

And, as always, I do my own dough, feel free to talk to a nice bakery about a bundle of dough if you’d like, but seriously, dough is an exercise in focusing. It makes your meal that much better when you feel the dough loosening and stretching. The smell of the yeast as it blooms and helps the dough to rise. You’re literally feeding the yeast with what’s in your kitchen’s atmosphere. You’re putting a piece of your home into your pizza. Smile and enjoy! 🙂

Spinach Lentil Chicken Pizza

For the pizza dough:

1 cup spelt flour

1 cup red fife flour (a heritage variety of wheat. A whole grain bread flour would be okay)

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup warm water

1 tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp maple syrup

   In a large bowl, combine the spelt and red fife flour. Make a depression in the centre of the dry ingredients. Sprinkle the salt around the outer edge of the flour. Add the water to the centre of the depression, along with the yeast and maple syrup. Stir the yeast and maple syrup to dissolve in the warm water. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes or until the yeast is very bubbly.

   Preheat oven to 190C/375F.

   Stir together the bubbly yeast into the flour and salt until a dough forms. Turn on to the counter and start to knead. Knead over the course of at least 10 minutes to ensure the dough is soft and elastic, adding a bit of flour or water as needed. Place in a clean, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise near the oven until doubled in size (about an hour).

For the pizza:

Prepared dough

1 cup leftover Spinach Lentil Chicken

1/2 cup shredded leftover roast chicken, optional

100g/4 oz nettle-celery gouda, or any flavoured cheese you like (a garlic or Italian herb flavoured cheese would be great), shredded

   Flip a baking sheet upside down and drizzle with 1/2 tsp of oil. Spread it out evenly with your hand to lightly coat the bottom surface of the pan.

   Divide the dough in half. Stretch each half gently with your fingers to a desired thickness. As the weather gets colder here, I tend to make a thicker pizza, just shy of 2cm/1″ thick. In warmer months, I’ll stretch to half of that thickness. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Spread each pizza with the Spinach Lentil Chicken mixture. Scatter with more shredded roast chicken, if desired and top with cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 16-18 minutes or until the edges of the crust are golden. Makes 2-22cm/9″ pizzas.

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Spinach Lentil Chicken with Paprika-Sour Cream Barley Polenta

When I made the Garlic-Oregano Roast Chicken the other day, I had plans beyond the immediate meal, I just didn’t know what exactly. It became one of those situations where I let ideas ruminate for hours, into the next day and finally thought of the classic flavour combination of spinach and lentils.
I also wanted to make a barley polenta. I’ve done it before and thought the deeper flavour of barley versus corn would compliment the autumn flavours in the spinach and lentil component that would go over top. And with the addition of paprika to the barley polenta, besides my obvious affinity to my dad’s Hungarian heritage, it made the polenta a wonderfully autumn orange colour.

Spinach Lentil Chicken with Paprika-Sour Cream Barley Polenta

For the Spinach Lentil Chicken:

1 tsp cold pressed canola oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, stem and seeds removed, chopped
2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup whole lentils
2 cups packed spinach
1/2 cup leftover gravy from Garlic-Oregano Roast Chicken (or any leftover gravy from a roast chicken/turkey dinner)
1 cup leftover roast chicken (I used Garlic-Oregano Roast Chicken, but again, any leftover roast chicken or turkey would be great)

In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the garlic, chilli and parsnips. Sauté for a further 3-4 minutes to soften the ingredients. Add the water and lentils and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 35-40 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. While the lentils are simmering you can get a start on the Paprika-Sour Cream Barley Polenta.
Take the lentil mixture off the heat, add the spinach and allow the residual heat to wilt the spinach. Transfer to a blender, with the leftover gravy, and purée until smooth. Return to the pot, add the leftover roast chicken and heat through. Keep warm while you prepare the finishing touches on the Paprika-Sour Cream Barley Polenta.

For the Paprika-Sour Cream Barley Polenta:

2-3/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup barley, ground in a blender until a fine flour is achieved (the occasional “corn grit” or “cornmeal”-like texture is okay)
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp cold pressed canola oil
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp salt

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil over medium heat. Gradually whisk in the barley flour and continue to whisk regularly until the polenta starts to come together. Switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon and stir occasionally over the course of the next 35-40 minutes or until the polenta is smooth.
Blend together the oil and garlic until mostly smooth. The occasional chunk of garlic is ok. Stir into the prepared polenta.
Whisk together the sour cream and paprika. Stir into the prepared polenta. If the polenta becomes too thin, return it to a pot and simmer over medium heat to get it back to a desired thickness.
Season with salt, as needed.

To serve:

Ladle the prepared Paprika-Sour Cream Polenta over two or three plates, depending on the appetite of the diners involved. Make a small depression in the middle of the polenta and ladle some of the prepared Spinach Lentil Chicken in the centre. Serves 2-3.

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There will be leftover Spinach Lentil Chicken with this recipe. Don’t worry, there’ll be more ways to use it in my next post. It’s about having a foundation of flavours to draw from to enjoy for days without feeling like it’s “leftover.” It’s something new each time. Stay tuned!!

Garlic-Oregano Roast Chicken

As autumn advances, my cooking habits shift from an orgiastic frenzy of enjoying the summer bounty of freshness to a slower, more relaxed enjoyment of comfort foods. I’ll make one foundational staple, like roast chicken, and use elements of that meal into other meals throughout the week.

Cooking leftovers? In a sense, yes, but more like using some components to enliven a future meal. Over the course of the next while (not really sure about a fixed time period because Canadian winters are looooong lol), I’ll start with a basic element and give options on how to dress up the rest of the week with a variety of meals to make the idea of “leftovers” more interesting.

This is Dinner Foundation.

Garlic-Oregano Roast Chicken

For the Garlic-Oregano Wet Rub:

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 cup, loosely packed fresh oregano, or 1/3 cup dried oregano)

2 Tbsp softened butter

4 Tbsp cold pressed canola oil (or extra virgin olive oil)

1/2 tsp salt

   In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, oregano, butter, oil and salt with a fork, mashing and stirring until uniform. Set aside.

For the chicken:

2-1/2 kg (5-6 lb) whole chicken

Garlic-Oregano Wet Rub

1 large or 2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped

2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 medium parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup water

   Preheat oven to 190C/375F.

   In a roasting pan, scatter the chopped onion, celery, carrot and parsnips in an even layer over the bottom.

   Tuck the wing tips under the rest of the wings and rub the wet rub under the skin of the breasts, massaging it down over the entire length of the breasts. Rub more inside the cavity and over the top of the skin. Tie the legs together with string.

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   Pour the stock and water along the edge of the pan to just fill the pan halfway up the vegetable layer. Place the roasting pan in the oven for 30 minutes. At that point, baste the chicken with the roasting juices (which will be a mixture of the stock, and beginnings of the chicken’s roasting juices). Return to the oven and baste every 15 minutes. After 90 minutes of total cooking time, or until the juices run clear from a knife being inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. I transfer the whole chicken to a tray while I prepare the gravy from the pan drippings and roasting vegetables.

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For the gravy:

Pan drippings and roasting vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, parnips)

1 cup chicken stock

2 Tbsp softened butter + 5 tsp flour, worked together with your fingers into a “beurre manie” used to thicken, as needed (you may not need all of the prepared beurre manie, but it’s good to have enough. You can refrigerate the rest for up to two weeks for future thickening)

   Transfer the vegetables and pan drippings to a blender and purée until smooth. Pour the purée into a small pan and whisk in the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp of the prepared “beurre manie” at a time, ensuring the gravy returns to a simmer and thickens before adding more. Add enough to achieve a desired thickness.

To serve:

   I tend to serve this simply over a batch of mashed potatoes. This chicken is rather large for a reason. It’s designed to have leftovers. If you have a big family, you may want to roast 2 chickens. Trust me, there’s more recipes to come to use up the chicken and gravy. Stay tuned!

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Did I mention this recipe makes LOTS of gravy, so go nuts! 😉