Category Archives: Main Dishes

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

Here at A LA CARTE we are passionate about our Mac ‘n Cheese.

In fact, we have rules.

#1 Mac ’n Cheese must not be from a box. EVER.

#2 Mac ’n Cheese must be made with a quality aged cheddar.

#3 Mac ’n Cheese must not have unnecessary add-ins. No broccoli, no tuna, no bacon, no chicken, no lobster. No exceptions.

Classic Macaroni & Cheese
Makes about 8 servings

1 pkg. (16 oz.)  cavatappi pasta ( elbows, gemelli, or penne)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
2 cups milk
8 ounces aged cheddar, shredded

– Preheat oven to 375°.

– Grease bottom and sides of 2-quart casserole.

– Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to cooking pot.

– Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Using whisk, stir in flour, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until well blended.

– Slowly add milk to flour mixture, whisking constantly. When sauce begins to thicken, remove from heat. Let mixture cool for about five minutes.

– Stir in cheese until melted.

– Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta in pot. Mix well. Transfer to casserole.

– Bake uncovered at 375° for 30 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned.

In the photo above, we’ve used cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta and a 3 year old extra-aged artisanal cheddar from Grafton Village Cheese Company, called Grafton Gold.

We’d offer to share, but it’s all gone!

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Filed under Cheese, Main Dishes, Pasta, Side Dishes

Pick a Pepper, Any Pepper

I recently came across this artful display of jewel-like bell peppers at a fruit and veggie stand. I love the colors! I immediately started to think about inventing a new recipe for A LA CARTE Kitchen. There are a variety of ways to use bell peppers—you can roast, saute, grill, or blanch them, use them in salads, or eat them raw. After lots of ideas, I settled on creating a modern version of traditional stuffed peppers.  I have happy childhood memories of my Mom serving green

peppers stuffed with ground beef, rice and tomato sauce.  I am sure many of you have the same memories!  I put a spin on the traditional recipe by using red, yellow and orange bell peppers, flavored chicken sausage, butternut squash, fresh sage, yellow rice and blue saga  cheese.  I think the flavor combination is delicious, and really nice for autumn—let me know if you like it!

Twisted Stuffed Peppers

Makes 4 servings

4 red, yellow and/or orange peppers, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 flavored chicken sausage links, removed from casings  (about 1/2 lb. — I used sun-dried tomato and basil flavor)
1 cup diced butternut squash (about 1/2 small peeled and seeded)
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
5 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 package (8 ounces) yellow rice mix (I used Zataran’s, but you can use your favorite)
2 ounces Blue Saga cheese, cut into 8 slices

Parboil peppers until slightly tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.

– Preheat oven to 375F.  In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add sausage, breaking up meat with side of spoon, until browned.  With slotted spoon, remove sausage from skillet.

– To drippings in skillet, add  squash, onion, garlic and sage; cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Add rice mix, reserved sausage  and amount of water on rice package directions; heat to boiling.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is tender, following rice package directions.

– Arrange pepper halves, cut side up, in 13 x 9″ baking dish.  Spoon rice mixture evenly into pepper halves.  Top with cheese slices.  Bake, uncovered, until heated through and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.

Tips

– Add raisins or currants to mixture to add a bit of sweet to mixture.

– Not a blue cheese fan like me? Try shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, or mozzarella.

Peppers 101

Peppers come in all shapes, sizes and colors—large, small, red, green, yellow, orange, purple, oval, curled, bell-shaped and more.  They can be hot, mild, or sweet and have all sorts of names:  bell, chili, jalapeno, banana, habanero, cayenne, chipotle, cherry, fresno, mirasol, pablano, ancho, scotch bonnet, and serrano.

The most common is the bell pepper. They are the sweetest of all the varieties with green being the less sweet and slightly more bitter than the red, yellow and orange bell pepper. Red bell peppers also have more vitamins and nutrients and have twice the vitamin C content of green peppers.

Cathy


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Filed under Main Dishes, Sausage

Fig-mania

Okay, is it just me, or is there a fig craze afoot? From fig vinegars and fig chutneys to fig spreads and fig jams, I seem to be encountering figs everywhere I turn. Just yesterday I noticed pint baskets of fresh figs at my local supermarket. And last month, while driving to the beach in North Carolina, I stopped at Morris Farm Market and what was the first thing I spotted?  A gorgeous display of fresh figs!

I bought a quart and we enjoyed experimenting with them over the next few days…we tried them grilled on pizza, drizzled with olive oil and added to arugula salad, and we even invented a bittersweet chocolate & fig dessert sauce that we poured over vanilla ice cream. Today, I was walking along Canal Street in Chinatown and there among the dried lychees and live crabs were, yes, pints of fresh figs, at the very reasonable price of two for $3!

So, in the spirit of fig-mania, we present Cathy’s latest fig concoction. And if you have a favorite fig recipe, please share it!

Heather

Tortelloni with Sautéed Figs & Goat Cheese
makes 2 main dish servings or 4 appetizer servings

3 Tbs. butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
6 figs, quartered (I used Kadota figs)
2 Tbs. chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1 pkg. (9 oz) fresh portabello mushroom and cheese tortelloni (or your favorite
tortelloni or tortellini)
3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

– In large skillet, heat butter over medium heat until lightly browned.  Add onions; cook and stir until browned.  Remove onions from skillet.  To skillet, add figs, walnuts, salt and pepper; cook until figs just start to soften. Remove skillet from heat.

-Meanwhile, cook tortelloni according to package directions, draining and reserving 2 Tbs. pasta water.

– To skillet, add tortelloni, reserved pasta water, cooked onions, goat cheese and basil; cook over low heat just until cheese melts.  Serve immediately.

FUN FIG FACTS

The most common figs grown in the United States come from California, and are generally available from mid-May thru mid-December. The four common varieties include:

Mission: deep purple skin (darkens to a rich black when dried) with pink flesh; sweet
Kadota:  green skinned with amber flesh; practically seedless; slightly sweet
Calimyrna:  golden skin with pink flesh; nutty flavor
Brown Turkey:  brownish copper skin with pink/red flesh; mildly sweet

Use fresh figs within a day or so after buying them as they are very fragile!

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Filed under Cheese, Fruit, Main Dishes, Pasta

Cheese, Please!

On a gloomy & rainy spring afternoon a few weeks ago, I met a colleague for lunch in the city. She took me to Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro, a charming place just around the corner from her office on Park Avenue. “Everything’s good here,” she said as the waitress handed us menus, “but I usually  order the Cheese Board.”  I quickly scanned the menu and, although there were lots of tempting choices, I decided to take Helene’s advice and ordered the Cheese Board.

The waitress reappeared with a beautifully arranged plate featuring wedges of  three different cheeses, a halved fresh fig, a cluster of red grapes, pear slices, walnut halves, and delicate spring greens. Did I mention we also had a basket of fresh baguette slices? Mmmm. A little bite of cheese, a nibble of pear, a crunch of walnut, perhaps another slice of bread….just a happy mix of flavors and textures. So very civilized!  My day had brightened considerably by the end of this wonderful meal. Upon leaving, I requested the names of the three featured cheeses. They were Buche du Poitou (a French goat cheese), Coolea, and Cashel Blue (both Irish cow’s milk cheeses).

Try this at home… a Cheese Board is so simple to make. Start by selecting a couple of interesting cheeses—perhaps a sheep’s milk, a cow’s milk and a goat’s milk. Allow one ounce of each cheese per serving. Arrange your Cheese Board with the cheeses, lightly dressed (just a touch of oil and vinegar) greens, nuts, fruit, and of course, fresh French bread. Bon Appetit!

Note: the selection of cheeses in our photo are a Rosenborg Castello (Danish Blue), a Wisconsin Gouda, and a Chevre.

Heather

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Filed under Cheese, Entertaining, Main Dishes, Salad

Curry in a Hurry

I was driving home to Connecticut after a long workday in Manhattan, and I got a craving for curry.  Don’t ask me why, it has been a long time since I’ve had it.  Anyway, I had taken a few chicken breasts out of the freezer to defrost for dinner, so I knew I had that to start with when I got home.  I really didn’t want to stop at the store on the way home, because as it is, I feel like I live in the supermarket for work!!  So when I got home, I searched my cabinets and refrigerator to see what I could make that would satisfy my curry craving.  I had red peppers, potatoes, and coconut milk (the real stuff, not the pina colada kind!) and all the spices I needed.  I also found duck sauce which I knew would add a little bit of sweetness and a little bit of tartness.  I am all about quick meals during the week, so here goes—Cathy’s Curry in a Hurry!  Serve it over brown or white rice.

Curry in a Hurry

Makes 2 servings (recipe can be doubled)

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
4 baby Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound boneless, skinless, chicken tenders, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon duck sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk

– In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat.  Add potatoes, red pepper and onion; cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic; cook 1 minute.

– To vegetables in skillet, add curry powder, coriander, cumin and salt; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Remove mixture from skillet.

– Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet; heat until hot.  Add chicken; cook, stirring, until chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes.  Stir in duck sauce.

– Return vegetable mixture to skillet.  Stir in coconut milk; cook and stir until heated through.

Tips

– The next time you get a craving for something,  rustle through your kitchen and see what you can find. It’s creative and fun to put ingredients together—and even more fun to know you came up with your own creation!

– Real coconut milk can be found in Asian section of your supermarket.

– If you have frozen peas, throw a handful into the skillet with the coconut milk.

Cathy

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Filed under Chicken, Main Dishes, Potatoes, Skillet Dinner

Another Simple Skillet Dinner

Apologies for the lack of blogging—the holiday weekend was busy!  Anyway, I am a big fan of one-pot cooking whether it be in a skillet, a pan or a pot.  One-pot recipes are easy, quick, & versatile, plus the flavor combinations are endless.  You can start from scratch or with a packaged product such as rice, pasta, or vegetables.  During the week, I like to make dinner as easy as possible, especially since I spend my work day making and styling food!  Tonight, I am starting with Zatarain’s Red Beans and Rice (8 ounce package).  The Zatarain’s products are full of flavor.  They’re a great platform for other ingredients.  I have one pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, that I am tossing with a little olive oil and Cajun spice blend (any spice blend will do; there are so many intriguing blends on the market).  Saute the shrimp in a large skillet until they turn pink; remove from skillet. Add rice mix with the amount of water package suggests, and cook according to directions.  At the last-minute, stir in the cooked shrimp and serve!!  It’s that simple.

Tips

–  Sauté chopped onions, red or green peppers (or even jalapeno peppers) after the shrimp is sautéed and removed from skillet.

– Stir in a small can of corn to add color and texture.

– Use any protein you like—strips of boneless chicken, pork or beef, sliced andouille sausage, crumbled Italian sausage, chopped ham, scallops, or cubed tofu.

Cathy

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Filed under Main Dishes, Rice and Beans, Shrimp, Skillet Dinner

On a Roll with the Crock-Pot

I tell you, without a kitchen, my new found friend is the Crock-Pot. I made Pork Chops with Sauerkraut, a blast from the past from my childhood! My Mom used to make this in the oven. When I was a kid, I wouldn’t touch it, but today — I love it. And in the Crock-Pot, the pork is so tender, it slips right off the bone. Caraway seeds and bacon– my secret ingredients!!!  OK, I know that bacon is not the best thing for you, but boy, does it add great flavor. You’ve got to live sometimes!!!

Tips:

– I added some baby potatoes, halved to the sauerkraut mixture.  You can also add sliced carrots.
– If you are not a caraway seed fan, just eliminate them.
– Use turkey bacon if you don’t want the extra fat and cholesterol.
– Recipe can be doubled to make 4 servings.

Here’s the recipe:

Makes 2 servings

3 slices bacon
1 bag (16 ounces) sauerkraut
1 small onion, sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 center cut loin bone in pork chops (about 3/4 inch thick)

    – Cook bacon in skillet until crisp, reserve bacon drippings.

    – In 5 to 6 quart Crock-Pot, place sauerkraut, onion, brown sugar, caraway seeds and black pepper.  Crumble bacon over sauerkraut mixture and add reserved bacon drippings; stir well.

    – Place pork chops over mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW 7 to 8 hours.

    C

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    Filed under Crock-Pot, Main Dishes, Pork, Potatoes