Spinach Salad with Bacon-Honey Mustard Dressing

Most salad dressings have a fat and an acid (e.g., Olive oil and vinegar).  The king of “fats” is of course, bacon grease.  This is a relatively simple salad, but warm dressing is always a nice touch with fresh spinach, and the bacon crumbles and red onion slices bring a cool punch of texture.  Makes enough for 4 people.

  • 6 pieces bacon (center cut if you prefer)
  • Fresh spinach leaves, stems removed
  • 4 T shallots, minced
  • 1 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 4 T Olive Oil
  • 1 T honey
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion

In a medium saucepan, sauté bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and pour out most of the bacon fat, leaving 3-4 T. on medium heat, sauté the shallots in the bacon grease for 2 minutes, then pour in champagne vinegar. Add sugar, Dijon, olive oil, honey, and salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate. Bring to boil and reduce slightly. Pour over spinach while hot, top with crumbled bacon and red onion slices.

Sausage Pizza with Arugula and Parmesagn

Spicy Sausage Pizza with “Salt and Pepper”

This is a great recipe for several reasons:
1. Homemade pizza is great, cheap, and can feed a crowd.
2. Anything with sausage is always good.
3. The peppery arugula and the sweet salty Parm-Regg make a great combo to begin with, but really comes into its own when you layer it on top of the sausage pizza.

Ingredients

  • Pizza dough – Make it yourself, or buy it from a grocery store, e.g. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc. I usually cut their dough into 3 separate pieces for smaller pies with thinner crusts.
  • Red pizza sauce – I like Trader Joe’s pizza sauce.
  • Shredded Fontina Cheese – I almost always use Fontina instead of shredded mozzarella
  • Spicy Italian Sausage, crumbled and cooked
  • Fresh baby arugula leaves
  • ¼ lb fresh Parmesagn-Reggiano – shaved or thinly sliced.

Directions

Heat a pizza stone to 550° for at least 30 minutes. If you don’t have a stone, use a durable cookie sheet, and get the oven to at least 400°.

Stretch out the pizza dough to your desired size and thickness.

Drizzle with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil, spread pizza sauce around to edges.

Top with the Fontina to your liking – don’t over do it on the cheese.

Spread sausage on top of cheese.

Cook on the stone or in the oven for 5-8 minutes, long enough to melt the cheese and brown the crust.

Remove the pie from the oven and top with arugula and shaved Parm-Regg. Slice and serve.

Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

There are a million gumbo recipes out there, but the key to making a good gumbo is to make a good roux, and then use good stock. It’s fun to make a big batch around lunchtime on a football Saturday or Sunday, and refill your bowl throughout the afternoon. The roux is a little time-intensive up-front, but it’s well worth the effort.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 c flour + 1.5 c Oil (for a roux)
  • 1 lb Okra, sliced and sautéed in a little butter on medium heat for 10 minutes
  • 2 white/yellow onions, diced
  • 2 bell peppers (mixed colors of your choice), diced
  • 2-3 quarts shrimp stock (preferred) or chicken stock
  • 1.5 lbs shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1.5 lbs chicken (optional) cubed
  • 1.5 lbs sliced cooked andouille sausagesalt/pepper to taste
  • Cajun Seasoning – as much as you want….I keep a batch of home-made Essence on hand
  • File powder (to taste – 2-4 tablespoons)
  • Sliced green onions and chopped parsley to garnish
  • Cooked white rice (I prefer sushi rice for this)


1. Make the Roux
Heat the oil to medium high, then stir in the flour. Keep the heat at medium high and stir constantly until it becomes a chocolatey brown color. Don’t let it get so hot that it sticks to the bottom of the pot – if that happens, you have to start over again.

2. Add the vegetables
Once the roux is a nice deep brown, add the chopped onions & peppers, and a good dash of Creole seasoning. Most traditional gumbo recipes call for chopped celery at this point, too, but I usually skip it. Stir in the veggies to coat with roux, and let cook 5 minutes or so. Enjoy the sound and smell!

3. Add the stock
Pour in 2+ quarts of stock and stir to incorporate. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium low. After 20 minutes or so, there should be some oil/fat that has risen to the top. Skim this off with a ladle.

4. Add the goodies
Now is when I like to add the sausage and okra. If you are going to use chicken as well, sauté it with some oil and Cajun seasoning. When it is cooked through, add it to the gumbo. Keep heat on low, and skim fat again after 20 minutes. At this point, you can reduce the heat to a minimum and keep it warm or go ahead and serve.

5. Cook shrimp and thicken
Add file powder and shrimp to the gumbo and stir. Increase heat to medium to just cook shrimp through, usually 5 minutes. You’ll want it to get a little thicker from the File Powder. Add more if necessary, but don’t over do it.

6. Serve
Put a scoop of rice in the middle of a large soup bowl. Ladle gumbo around the rice, including plenty of the good stuff. Sprinkle some green onions and parsley for garnish, along with more seasoning if you like. Pass around extra file powder, and hot sauce of your choice.

Filet, Gorgonzola, and Sweet Onion Jam Crostini

“If I could eat just one food for the rest of my life, this would be it.”
— Chris Richardson.

These hors d’oeuvres are a huge hit at parties big and small.  Toasted sliced baguettes, (Crostini), topped with onion jam, a slice of seared filet mignon, and some gorgonzola cheese.  Make a bunch…

Ingredients
1 lb Beef Tenderloin (Filet Mignon)
1 french-style baguette, cut into 1/3 inch slices
12 oz gorgonzola cheese (more than you need, but a little extra won’t hurt…)

Onion Jam ingredients:
4 T butter
2 T olive oil
3 mixed onions (red, yellow, white)
2 T sugar
2 T chicken broth
3 T white wine
2 T balsamic vinegar
3 T orange juice


Slice the onions, cut into various sizes, halves or quarters.
Melt butter in olive oil on medium heat
Sauté onions for 10 minutes, add 1 T sugar, broth, OJ, wine and vinegar
Reduce liquid by 75% and lower heat to low
Add 2nd 1 T of sugar, let simmer for 20 more minutes
Remove from heat, let cool.
Transfer to food processor, pulse 4-5 times to achieve jam-like consistency

Filet Mignon
Season filet(s) with salt and pepper
Heat Olive oil in medium saucepan on high heat
Sear filet in oil for 2 minutes on each side
Transfer to oven; bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes
Remove from oven, let cool, and slice into thin bite size pieces

Assembly
Note:  you can toast the baguette slices with olive oil for crunchier slices
Spread a spoonful of onion jam on each bread slice
Place 1 or 2 steak pieces on top of the onion jam

Cover steak with 1-2 t of gorgonzola (slices recommended)
Place on parchment-covered baking sheet
Bake 5-8 minutes at 350 until cheese is fully melted, or broil for 2 minutes.
Serve immediately…