Easy Pork and Cabbage Goulash

With the weather now turning chilly and fully autumnal, a hearty goulash fits the season well. Here’s a relatively easy one to make for a very tasty meal. Accompany with buttered noodles, boiled or steamed potatoes, or a rice dish. A simple green salad makes a fine accompaniment.

The recipe serves six generously.

1 small onion, diced
3 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
Dish by Maria Dondero, Marmalade Pottery, Athens, GA
1 small head cabbage, quartered, cored and thinly slices across
1 pound ground pork
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons paprika, Hungarian if possible
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon marjoram or oregano
Large pinch cayenne
1 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon tomato paste (keep the rest in a zip-lock bag in the freezer for other use)
1 cup low-salt chicken broth or water, plus more as needed
1/2 cup sour cream, plus extra for serving

Fry onion in the oil, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to turn golden. Add cabbage and fry, stirring frequently, until starting to get a little golden. Add pork and stir and fry, breaking up the lumps, until color has fully changed. Add seasonings, salt, and tomato paste. Stir and fry for one minute.

Add broth or water and mix well. Lower heat and simmer, covered but stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes. Add a little broth or water as needed to keep the mixture moist.

Stir in sour cream and bring back just to a boil. Remove from heat. Taste and add a little salt if needed. Remove bay leaves.

Serve with noodles, potatoes or a rice dish. Offer more sour cream for diners to spoon onto their goulash. Accompany with a salad.


Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Cream (or Balsamic Vinegar)

As autumn is finally here with some moderately chilly weather and dry air, autumnal dishes seem right. Here is rich-flavored European dish for a hearty cold-weather dinner.

The recipe serves four to six as a side dish.

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar 
1 pound Brussels sprouts (smaller firm ones preferred)
2 tablespoons minced shallot or onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Small pinch grated nutmeg (optional)
Water as needed
Either 4 tablespoons light to heavy cream or 2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar

Cut off bottom 1/4 inch of stem from sprouts. Slice sprouts lengthwise into 4-5 slices, about 1/8-inch thick, or put trimmed sprouts through 2-millimeter shredding blade of a food processor.

Mince shallot or onion and add them to pot with butter or olive oil. Heat over medium burner until just starting to sizzle. Add sliced sprouts, 1/2 teaspoon salt and spices. Stir frequently and fry, covered, just until beginning to turn golden, 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Add 2 tablespoons water, and stir to moisten. Cover, and let sprouts simmer, stirring frequently, until they become tender but are still fairly green (total of 8-10 minutes cooking time from first frying).

Stir in cream or balsamic vinegar. If too dry, moisten with a little water. Bring just back to a simmer and remove from heat. Taste, and add salt if needed.


Roasted Acorn Squash – in the Microwave Oven!

With autumn finally here, we’re enjoying cold-weather produce. Baked acorn squash is a fall treat from my childhood in Connecticut, and just seems perfectly New England – which my mother symbolized. And my father, originally from New Hampshire, used to grow the squash. This fairly unique vegetable makes a great side dish for a roast or meatloaf.

Of course, in those days, my mother baked the halved acorn squash in the oven, which we would still do if there are many squash to bake. But if cooking for two people, or a very small group, baking squash (like baking potatoes and sweet potatoes) in the microwave oven is a time and energy saver.

Here’s baked acorn squash, as tasty as I remember from my childhood, but cooked in little more than ten minutes. The butter and brown sugar in the hollow of the squash still makes it a winner. A bit of spice, like cinnamon or nutmeg, could traditionally be added during the cooking, but as much as I love spices and herbs, I prefer this squash simple.

Be sure the squash are very ripe and hard – grown in the north (rather than California or Mexico) is a good start, and with a hardened stem and some orange showing on the dark green skin.

For each two diners:

1 medium-large very ripe, firm acorn squash
4 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Cut squash in half lengthwise with a chef’s knife on a cutting board. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp with a spoon. Sprinkle cavities and cut edges of the squash generously with salt. Place cut side up on a microwaveable plate.

Microwave until tender when pierced with a fork on the inside, 8-10 minutes, depending on the power of the microwave. Test after 8 minutes and if not done, microwave another two minutes, then test again.

When flesh is reasonably tender, add 2 teaspoons butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar to the cavity of each squash. The butter will melt quickly. With spoon, smear the butter-sugar mixture all around the cavity and all over the cut edges of the squash. Microwave another two minutes. Test once more with a fork to be sure the flesh is tender.

On dinner plate, scoop up the flesh with a teaspoon and eat it directly.


Sesame-Marinated Broccoli, Korean inspired

There are dozens of small savory dishes served before a Korean meal. This sesame-dressed broccoli is patterned after some of those. Broccoli is relatively new in Asia, so this specific dish would not have been traditional in Korea, but the style is. In any case, this bright, tasty dish our restaurant, Donderos’ Kitchen, is sometimes asked to make for catering. 

Makes enough for 6 servings as side dish
1-1/2 pounds broccoli crowns, about 2 medium-large crowns

Cut off all except 1 inch of stem. Cut through the stem parts then pull apart to make even-sized flowerets, each including some stem.

To a large pot of boiling water, add 2 teaspoons salt. Blanch broccoli, stirring almost constantly, until bright green and just starting to become tender, 60 seconds. Drain and cool thoroughly with running water.

In bowl, mix the marinade:
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds (toast in frying pan, shaking constantly, until golden)
1 tablespoon soy sauce, Japanese or Korean style preferred
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon canola or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Toss drained broccoli with marinade, using two large spoons, being careful not to break the pieces. Toss several times over 10 minutes, then again before serving or plattering.


Green Vegetables stir-fried with Chicken and Garlic

This Chinese manner of quickly cooking leafy green vegetables until just crisp-tender, and seasoning with chicken, shredded pork or peeled shrimp, is widely popular in Southeast Asia, including in Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Virtually any of the leafy Asian greens or broccoli are delicious and easily prepared this way. Oyster sauce makes the dish richer. These are typically small dishes to accompany more complicated ones. They would be served with unsalted white rice.

The recipe serves six.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast
1 pound green leafy vegetable (baby Shanghai bok choy, nappa, or Chinese mustard -- yu choy sum)
3 large cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons canola, sunflower or other oil (not olive)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus to taste
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (from Asian food store)
1/4 cup water

Trim excess fat off chicken. Cut it into angular chunks about an inch long and half an inch thick. Set aside.

Trim off roots and the very base of the stems from the vegetable. Rinse leaves well in water to cover to remove any sand. Let drain, and cut into 2-inch pieces.

Mince garlic.

Heat a wok or large frying pan to medium hot. Add oil and while stirring fry garlic a few seconds, until fragrant but not beginning to turn golden. Immediately add the chicken plus 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir and fry until raw color changes.

Add vegetable plus an additional 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir-fry briefly, then add 1/4 cup of water. Stir and fry until vegetable is just becoming crisp-tender and the color brightens. The cooking time will depend on the tenderness of the vegetable, some cooking very quickly. Add oyster sauce. Add a little more water if mixture is dry. Stir and fry very briefly to just heat. Remove pan from heat.

Taste a bit of the sauce and a piece of vegetable. It should taste very slightly salty (because more salt will be absorbed by the vegetable, and it will be served with unsalted rice). Sprinkle with a little salt if needed, and stir it in.

Serve on a platter, mounding it up slightly in the middle. Accompany with white unsalted rice.


Chicken Breast Medallions Dijon

Dishes labeled “Dijon,” like “devilled,” usually mean “seasoned with mustard,” since the south-eastern French city of Dijon, in the heart of Burgundy, is famous for its mustard seed and its prepared mustard. The region is also famous for its rich foods and its fine wines, notably reds made from the Pinot Noir grape and whites from Chardonnay and Aligoté grapes. This dish combines all three features of Burgundian cuisine. The recipe serves six to eight, accompanied by noodles, potatoes or rice.
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons butter for frying
1 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil for frying
2/3 cup white wine, such as Chardonnay
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup sour cream or heavy cream
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Finely minced parsley for garnish

Trim away excess fat and any tough parts of chicken breasts. Cut them on a bias into medallions 1/2-inch thick by 1-1/2-inch square. Pat dry with paper towels. Mix flour with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt plus the pepper on a plate. Lightly dust chicken pieces on both sides with the mixture. If not ready to cook the chicken, refrigerate it at this point.

In a large non-stick frying pan, heat the butter and oil together over medium heat. Fry chicken pieces, part at a time, turning occasionally, until golden on both sides, about 4-5 minutes. Test chicken for doneness by sticking the end of a knife into a thick part and twisting the knife gently. No pinkness should remain in the meat or in the juices. When done, remove chicken to a bowl.

To make the sauce, add wine to deglaze the frying pan over medium heat, stirring well to get the crusty bits mixed into the wine. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt plus the sugar. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Remove pan from the heat. With a whisk or fork, stir in sour cream or heavy cream plus mustard until smooth. Taste and add salt, if necessary.

Add chicken pieces back to the pan containing the sauce. Heat very briefly. Dust with a little finely minced parsley to garnish.

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