George’s Favorite Shepherd’s Pie

George’s Favorite Shepherd’s PieMy Foodie Valentine
In all of the years that I have known him, I’ve probably made thousands of meals for my Valentine. Strangely enough, I think the first legit meal I made for him wasn’t actually for him. It was a dinner for his best friend’s 30th Birthday. Prime Rib and a Turtle Swirl Cheesecake. Epic…

I’m not sure if he understood when we started dating that, among other things, he was now my official taste tester and culinary lab rat. Not that he ever considered that to be a hardship. But, with this marriage came the legal requirement to be my taster. (It was in the vows.)

The good news is that he really isn’t picky. My Valentine is happy to eat whatever I put in front of him—mostly because it means he doesn’t have to make dinner. Rarely has he taken a bite and spit it out. But, there have been a few over the years and plenty of so-so meals….

The first time I blew his mind, I made a Brazilian Bahia-Style Seafood Stew that had coconut milk and all sorts of good stuff in it. It was tasty, though not exactly healthy. When I introduced him to Moroccan food he ate so much I found him was lying on the couch moaning in pain. It’s a toss-up as to whether to take that as a compliment or pity his lack of self-restraint. More often than not though, it’s the simple dishes that send him into dining rapture.

Among his favorites are chicken cutlets with milk gravy, Red Beans and Rice, and a perfectly grilled steak. Paella is another as is a my Green Chili Rice Casserole. And, don’t forget the Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinade

The other night I made a Shepard’s Pie and you would have thought I got takeout from the French Laundry. I mean, it was good. But, I wouldn’t have anticipated the fight for the leftovers the next day. Frankly, I think it was more that it was the perfect dish at the perfect time.

So in honor of my Valentine of 20 years, here is the Shepherd’s Pie I made that blew his mind. May your sweetie enjoy it as much as mine did…

George’s Favorite Shepherd’s Pie

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Korean Style Fried Chicken

Korean Style Fried Chicken

Olympic Fusion Food
The Olympics start this week. Opening ceremonies are Friday night but there are some events that have already started a competition. If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time you will know how much I love the Olympics. Especially the Winter Olympics.

Why do I love the Winter Olympics? Because you get to watch sports that at any other time you would never watch. I’m not saying that I am setting my alarm so that I can sit down and watch a curling match but I AM interested in the biathlon and speed skating. Sure figure skating is cool and downhill skiing is always exciting, but ever since Eddie The Eagle, I am a fool for the ski jumping competition.

The best part of watching the Olympics is that I know for a couple of hours each night, my entire family will be in the same room watching the same thing. That may not sound like a big deal but getting everyone in the same place doing something together (and not on their phones) is a rare thing. So, since I will have their undivided attention, I plan to make the appropriate fare for watching the competition.

For watching the Opening Ceremonies It makes sense to make something with a Korean flavor. Since it is Friday night, there won’t be any time for an elaborate dinner but a little pre-made Kim Chi from our Produce department is a good start. Of course, you could always go the bulgogi route because its quick, easy and tasty but I want to do something a little different.

While searching for recipes I found this one which is perfect. It’s a nod to the host country but still allows for a little national pride ‘cause what’s more American than fried chicken? I like the boneless skinless thighs because they cook quickly but you could easily do this with whole chicken legs or even wings. Traditional recipes call for the chicken to be fried twice but I’m not that patient….

Korean Style Fried Chicken
Adapted from NY Times Cooking recipe by Julia Moskin

Fried Chicken, or chicin, became popular in Korea because of American cultural influence around the Korean War. In South Korea, fried chicken is consumed as a meal, an appetizer, or as an after-meal snack.
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Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers for the Superbowl

Amy's Juicy Lucy BurgersFor Better or Worse…or Football
My husband is a Patriots fan. Sigh. A real one, not part of the bandwagon folks who jumped on at the beginning of what has been there dynastic dominance. Born in Rhode Island, he has been a fan since birth. And, he prefers the old minuteman logo to the current slick modern version. To be fair, he’s pretty low-key in his fandom. Living in an area heavily populated with Raiders fans will do that. But still…the Patriots? Anyone but those guys.

My husband is not low key at home. The Patriots could be down 21 points but I get the constant update as to when Tom Brady will kick it in gear and start the comeback.

As you may have guessed, I am not a fan of the Patriots. In the beginning of our relationship, I was, frankly, indifferent. I even wore the Patriots shirt my beloved gave me as a show of support. (We were newly married then.) As the Patriots’ continued, I got tired of seeing the same faces and jerseys every year. Give someone else a chance, right? This year is no different. I was Jacksonville’s biggest fan in the conference championship. (They had it! The game was in the palm of their hands!) Alas, it was not to be. So now I am the world’s biggest Eagles fan. Fly Eagles Fly!

Usually, I try to do appropriate regional foods for the Super Bowl depending on who is playing, ‘cause I’m just weird that way. Not gonna lie though, as much as I love New England Clam Chowder, this year I just can’t seem to muster the energy and make myself do it. While I am not entirely opposed to making cheesesteaks (because who doesn’t like cheesesteaks?) there is a good chance that we will be at a volleyball tournament and have to DVR the Super Bowl. This means whatever we have will need to be quick or made ahead. And, we won’t be able to look at our phones ‘cause we don’t want to ruin it.

So what’s a girl to do? The answer is a family favorite that happens to be hugely popular in Minnesota, which satisfies my weird regional Super Bowl food requirement. (Also, it’s meat and cheese so it’s kinda like a cheesesteak, maybe?).

I give you Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers. I love these as do my boys. There are really easy to slap together ahead of time. Use whatever cheese you prefer but I will say that good old American “cheese” really is the best choice for authentic flavor. You could also do them as sliders if you are looking for more of a bite-sized snack.

Happy Super Bowl watching and eating! May you enjoy the wacky commercials and not have the urge to strangle your favorite Patriots fan even though he is the love of your life….

Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burger
Serves 4 Read more…

Maple Brined Stuffed Pork Chops

Maple Brined Stuffed Pork ChopsIt’s A Small World
One of the strangest things about working at Piedmont Grocery is that no matter where you are or what you do you will run into someone who knows, shopped, or worked here. When I was on my honeymoon in Europe, I ran into one of our long-time customers. And, I can’t tell you how often it has happened when I traveled back East.

This past weekend, it happened again…

My sister and I share a love of cooking. And, if we can find a way to spend a day together, just the two of us, and do something food, cooking, or wine-related we’ll do it. The problem is we have taken pretty much every cooking class known to man and it can be hard to find classes that spark our interest. This is why when I found a butchering class that would teach us how to break down a pig into all of the different cuts we jumped at the chance. It helped that the chef teaching the class served for two years as the meat cutter for the French Laundry. (Anyone who worked under Thomas Keller for that length of time is someone I would like to meet and have a conversation with.)

The class was fantastic and we definitely learned a lot about the different cuts of pork. (And, that some of the best tasting cuts of pork are not necessarily the most well-known cuts.) After the class was finished we enjoyed some of the fruits of our labor in the form of fresh Bratwurst and some crispy-fried pork cutlets with applesauce. It was during this time that our chef shared some of his background and how he got where he is now.

That’s how we found out that he grew up in Oakland—off of Grand Ave..—and worked for Piedmont Grocery in the late 90s…

Maple Brined Stuffed Pork Chops
Adapted from Boulangerie on Food 52
Yields 4 Servings Read more…

Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage

Chicken Stew with White Beans and SausageSoup’s On!
The fact that the rest of the country is enduring record-breaking cold temperatures has inspired me to ramp up the soup making. Well, this, and the fact that it is the New Year and I can’t just go on eating the way I did through the holidays. I have found that soup is a satisfying way to fill you up with a lot of veggies without feeling like you haven’t eaten anything.

I have a number of go-to soups that I make all the time. This Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup one is a staple as is my Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt Pork from our cookbook club. Chicken Noodle Soup with Dill is a no-brainer this time of year—as it seems everyone is catching a cold. and of course, it’s a favorite with the kids.

This is also the time of year where I find myself using dried beans in the slow cooker during the week, or filling the house with wonderful aromas on the weekend. Gam’s Navy Bean Soup Soup is perfect for cold winter evenings. But, a little spice can be welcome too in our Spicy Chicken and Rice Flu Chaser Soup or Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup.

If you are one of those who is part of the Instant Pot craze (or maybe you got one as a gift for Christmas) they are great for producing tasty, authentic-tasting Pho in half the time. Check out this article on Epicurious.

With the rain moving in this week (Finally!), it’s the perfect time to stock your freezer with healthy and hearty soups for the new year. For me, I am breaking out the crockpot this weekend and making this oldie but goodie…Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage .

Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage
Recipe adapted from of Slow Cooker Revolution
From America’s Test Kitchen
Serves 6 to 8

This Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage is inspired by a classic Tuscan white bean stew—we added sausage. Browing the chicken, sausage, and aromatics makes for a richer, deeper flavor. The abundance of spinach wilts down substantially.  Read more…