You’re A Wizard, Harry! – Butterbeer Pancakes & Hagrid’s Hungryman Stew with Pumpkin-Potato Mash

Fall’s right around the corner folks. We’re almost there.

The thought prompted an idea for a Harry Potter movie binge watch this past weekend – with Harry Potter-themed food and all.

Honestly, though, this was all just a poorly veiled excuse to not leave the apartment.

I give us a B, because we were conked out by The Half-Blood Prince. But we did much better than I thought – and when I wasn’t watching, I was cooking. It was a very magical day.

I love the fairy-tale food you see in movies and shows – doesn’t butterbeer sound like it should exist? J.K. Rowling is a genius. Side note – if you look closely, I think the stage drink is actually orange juice.

If I were to guess the flavor profile of butterbeer, I’d think it would be butterscotch-y.  I used butter flavoring – but there’s also some cream element from the foamy topping you see in the movies. And I’d think it would have spices in there like vanilla, honey, nutmeg and cinnamon.

I don’t know what the hell is in butter flavoring, and I don’t want to find out. But I think it’s an underused additive – super, super savory, and reminiscent of breakfast foods. We should all use it more often.

The night before we packed it in, I gave always-hungry Matt his run of the produce section and butcher counter to pick out the foods he’d like in a meaty, vegetable-y stew – believing that as long as I added enough beef stock, tomato paste, garlic and herbs, we’d probably be in OK shape.

The day of, I threw the meats and vegetables in a crockpot to go low and slow. I served it over a pumpkin-potato mash, and it was super rustic and awesome-tasting. He went heavy on the mushrooms, which is never a bad idea. And it’s named in honor of my favorite oaf Hagrid, the cutest man-giant alive today.

I hope you HP fans enjoy. 😊

F o r  t h e  B u t t e r b e e r  P a n c a k e s

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  P a n c a k e s

  • Prepared pancake mix of your choosing (other ingredients per package directions)
  • 1 tablespoon butter flavoring
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted

F o r  t h e  W h i p p e d  C r e a m

  • 1 / 2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon cinnamon

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Mix the ingredients (per package instructions), adding the additional ingredients spices the end. Combine vigorously with a whisk. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes so the batter has a chance to thicken.
  2. To make the whipped cream, put the heavy cream in the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment, and run on high speed for 5 or so minutes, until the cream is whipped. Stir in the remaining spices and let sit in fridge while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  3. Heat a griddle and add the butter. Once the butter is foaming, pour a ladle-full of pancake batter into the hot pan. Once bubbles appear in the center of the pancake, flip it to the other side to finish cooking. Repeat until all batter is gone.
  4. To serve the pancakes, add a dollop of the whipped cream on top of stacks of four pancakes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve with maple syrup, if desired.

F o r  H a g r i d ‘ s  H u n g r y m a n  S t e w  w i t h  P u m p k i n – P o t a t o  M a s h

Serves 2 to 4.

F o r  t h e  P u m p k i n – P o t a t o  M a s h

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & cut into quarters
  • 1 28 oz. can unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 1 / 2 stick butter, salted or unsalted, melted
  • 1 / 2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 / 2 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Put the quartered potatoes in a large pot of boiling water. Cook until tender and drain.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the potatoes and the rest of the ingredients. With a hand mixer, combine the ingredients on high speed until few potato chunks remain. Taste for seasonings, adjusting as necessary.
  3. Set aside until stew is ready or eat on its own.

F o r  t h e  S t e w

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 2 lbs. boneless stew meat of your choosing, cut into large cubes (red meat is preferred, we used beef ribeye)
  • 3 lbs. hearty vegetables of your choosing, cut into large bite-sized pieces (we used small Vidalia onions, quartered Spanish onion, sliced carrots, whole white button mushrooms and fresh spinach leaves)
  • Approximately 1 liter beef stock (enough beef stock to cover halfway up meat and vegetables)
  • Approximately 10 stems thyme, 5 stems sage, 3 stems rosemary tied into a bouquet garnier (tied together with kitchen twine for easy removal)
  • 1 head garlic, skins removed and cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Shredded parm reg, if desired
  • Minced rosemary, if desired

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Put all the ingredients in a crockpot, stirring so everything has a chance to combine. Put the slow cooker on high, cover with the lid, and cook for 4 to 5 hours, until the meat is falling apart.
  2. Serve ladlefuls of the stew over the pumpkin-potato mash, sprinkling with parm reg and minced rosemary, if desired.

 

Smoky Jalapeno Cheddar Soup

Another rainy day, another bowl of bubbling hot spicy soup. There’s not much else to do when it’s pouring out, and who doesn’t love an excuse to stay at home and cook all day?

I bought too many jalapenos and wanted to find a way to make them the centerpiece of a soup. So here we are – with jalapeno two ways – fresh and smoked.

Smoked jalapenos, if you’re not already familiar, are called chipotle peppers. You can find them canned in their sauce in any grocery store.

Chipotle, as it so happens, is also the namesake of my favorite fast food restaurant. As in, “If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you eat?” – my answer would be Chipotle.  No really – I ate Chipotle 4 to 5 days a week in high school for two years.

The flavor of chipotle is smoky, incredibly hot, and very addictive. I keep bags of it frozen in my freezer. Throw it in anything Tex-Mex – it’s like the Tex-Mex equivalent of barbecue sauce, incredibly versatile.

Your start to this soup is a roux, much like any chowder. It creates a thicker, stewy feel to the soup. I bet chicken and beans would be great in here as well if you wanted to bulk it up a bit, but I’m happiest when I get the full flavor of the cheese and the spices.

What’s your favorite go-to rainy day soup?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 / 3 quart whole milk
  • 1 1 / 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 / 2 small onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced (from the can)
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle pepper sauce (from the can)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Once melted, add the flour, stirring for a couple minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add the milk, whisking until there’s no visible clumps of flour. Continue to cook on medium heat until it thickens and the mixture coats a spoon.
  2. Add the onion, jalapenos, garlic, chipotle peppers, chipotle pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Cook on simmer for 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the cheese, and stir until completely incorporated. Serve, garnishing with additional jalapeno slices and a drizzle of extra chipotle pepper sauce, if desired.

Spicy Dill Pickle Potato Salad

Good old, classic American potato salad doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

It’s gotten a bad rap for being bland, unexciting and outdated. But I think it belongs right at the top of the list with the other star members of the comfort food group.

With potatoes and mayonnaise acting as ingredients number one and two in this dish, potato salad lends itself to flavor-boosting ingredients.

I’ve seen variations like bacon-ranch potato salad, green goddess potato salad, cobb potato salad, and tons of other ingenious recipes on Pinterest. This gives me hope that potato salad has officially made a comeback and is here to stay.

This spicy and pickle-infested variation of potato salad checks two important boxes for me: spice and brine.

I always find ways to sneak pickled vegetables, capers, olives or cured salty fish into dishes that lack a “salt & vinegar” vibe. Does anyone else do this?

Quick-pickled red onion and habanero peppers, along with a hefty amount of spicy dill pickles, juice included, do a good job of cutting through gloopiness and high fat content of the mayonnaise dressing. I also used Peewee potatoes, which are ultra-velvety and the perfect size for biting into.

Once it’s all had a chance to meld together in the fridge, you can’t go wrong with the combination of the mayonnaise tang, zippy pickles with their garlicky juice, and a flaming hot pickled habanero bite. If these potatoes were potato chips, they would be McClure’s Pickles Spicy Pickle Kettle Potato Chips.

I didn’t go homestyle with this recipe, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have a place in my heart for the usual stuff. It’s instinctual food that serves a purpose. Like when you mechanically grab that pre-made container in the grocery store on your way to the cash register.

Sometimes, you just need the predictability that potato salad provides. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4.

  • 2 lbs. Peewee potatoes, cut in half, or 2 lbs. Yukon Gold if you can’t find Peewee potatoes, cut in small cubes
  • 6 spears McClure’s Spicy Pickles, small diced, plus 4 tablespoons juice
  • 1 habanero, minced
  • 1 / 4 red onion, small diced
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 / 2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 / 2 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small saucepan until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour into a bowl. Add the diced onion and minced habanero and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Cut the Peewee potatoes in half. Bring a large pot to boil, adding a tablespoon of salt. Add the potatoes, and boil for 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes are fork-tender. Strain the potatoes and cover with a clean dish towel to steam while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. In a large bowl, add the mayonnaise, sour cream, 5 spears’ worth of diced pickles, pickle juice, 3 tablespoons dill, and pinches of salt, pepper and sugar. Add the potatoes and combine. Once 30 minutes have passed, add the pickled peppers, discarding the brining liquid.
  4. Once all the ingredients have been thoroughly combined, taste for seasonings, garnish with the fresh dill & pickles, and let sit in fridge for as long as possible so the sauce has a chance to seep into the potatoes.
  5. Serve chilled.

Labor-Inducing Beef Stroganoff

My mom first went into labor with me while she was eating beef stroganoff.

Forget pickles. Forget donuts. No ice cream. No bon bons – whatever the hell those are.

Beefed-up stroganoff is what she’d eaten over the course of her entire pregnancy.

My understanding is it came into fashion a few decades ago. Now, I see it making a comeback at high-end restaurants. It makes sense because it’s one of the home-iest dishes around.

That, and there’s like a pint of sour cream in it.

Chefs around the world practice the art of mise en place – which is ensuring you have all your ingredients washed, chopped and within hands reach before starting to cook. It will make cooking this dish, and for that matter every dish, so much more expedient and effortless.

I also bet you could pull all the meat & vegetable ingredients together in a crockpot, cook for hours while you’re at work, and spoon over cooked egg noodles when you get home.

I’m not one of those people, though. For now, this is a start to finish recipe for those of you, like me, who are not morning people and don’t do things like “meal plan.”

This is a classic American variation of stroganoff, similar to what my mom made for us growing up. It was the rare occasion that she did, because the male members of my family inherited the most abhorrent food aversion known to man – a dislike of dairy.

There are Finnish versions that include chopped pickles, Brazilian versions that substitute shrimp or chicken for beef, and British versions that gravitate toward a white sauce infused with wine.

You can’t go wrong or screw up this recipe. It’s impossible. Take a deep breath, and realize the only thing you have to do right now is cook, then eat this crazy-good food when it’s done.

You don’t have to delivery a baby either, so that’s another plus.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 really hungry people.

  • 1 1 / 2 lb. sirloin steak, cubed
  • 1 lb. egg noodles
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 / 2 pint full-fat sour cream
  • 1 / 2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 / 2 white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, minced
  • Salt (used throughout)
  • Pepper (used throughout)

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan. Dry the beef cubes well. Season liberally with salt and pepper on all sides. Once the oil is very hot, put the beef cubes in the pan. Don’t crowd the beef, otherwise they will not brown. In batches, brown the cubes on all sides. Set the meat aside. The beef will not be fully cooked through at this point.
  2. In the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of butter. Throw in the mushrooms, onions, thyme, and a heavy pinch of salt and pinch of pepper, sautéing until the vegetables are translucent and the mushrooms have shrunk and released most of their liquid.
  3. Add the beef cubes back in, juices and all, as well as the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Let this cook uncovered for 30 minutes on medium-high heat until half of the liquid remains.
  4. While the stroganoff sauce is reducing, heat a pot of water to boil and cook the egg noodles according to package instructions. Drain, and throw the pasta back in the pot, adding 4 tablespoons of butter and mixing until the butter melts. Set the pasta aside.
  5. After 30 minutes, add the sour cream and Dijon mustard. Stir until incorporated. Cook on medium-high heat for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. To plate, put egg noodles in the bottom of a wide shallow bowl, topping with the stroganoff sauce and plenty of beef cubes. Don’t be shy about adding more spoonfuls of sauce. You cannot have too much of the stuff. Sprinkle each plate with minced parsley.

Beef Bourguignon-Inspired Risotto

Cold weather food. There must be something instinctive about craving it. Even two hundred years ago, if you wanted fresh produce in the winter, you were probably shit out of luck.

Instead, you were most likely consigned to eat some stew with tough cuts of meat from the animal you slaughtered last season, and cooked it for hours or days with a bunch of vegetables and dried herbs.

Speaking of, have you ever heard of perpetual stew?

My appetite has recently led me to cook stewed beef and warm, tomato-y pasta dishes. Things that cook low-and-slow, and have little bit more oomph than yet another “30-minute meal.” Although, I know those recipes have their time and their place. No judgement here.

As I’ve been doing lately, I frankensteined two of my favorite dishes together – this one satisfies the craving for both beef bourguignon and risotto.

I basically drew out the elements of beef bourguignon – the traditional vegetables, herbs and beef – and put them into a red-wine and beef stock infused Arborio rice, cooked in the same style as traditional Italian risotto.

Let the vegetable sautee meld flavors together!

This of course can and should be tweaked according to your own favorite, passed-down beef bourguignon recipe, if you have one. I’m using a variation of Ina Garten’s beef bourguignon here, which if I remember correctly she adapted from Julia Child.

Trust me, when you serve this dish at the right time in the right place, it will hit the spot.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This recipe serves 2, double the recipe to serve 4, and so on. 

The only caveat is the more rice you add, the longer it takes for the risotto to cook, so adjust accordingly.

  • 2 high-quality beef filets
  • 4 oz. good quality bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 lb. porcini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and medium diced
  • 1 / 4 cup water
  • 1 / 2 bag frozen pearl onions (or fresh pearl onions, if you can find them)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 cup dry red wine (Cote du Rhone is best for this dish)
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 / 2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for vegetable sautee
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon black pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 375*.
  2. Remove the filets from the fridge and allow to sit until they are room temperature. Pat the filets dry and season liberally with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  3. Brown the bacon on medium low heat until crispy in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the butter. Once melted, stir in the rice, and cook for 2 – 3 minutes or so until the rice has had a chance to warm through and toast.
  4. In the meantime, pour the beef stock into a small saucepan and heat until just simmering. Keep it at this temperature throughout the cooking process.
  5. Next, add the red wine, thyme and minced garlic to the pot with the rice. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until most of the wine has been absorbed.
  6. Start ladling in the warmed beef stock, one ladle at a time, waiting until the rice gets slightly dry to add the next ladle of stock.
  7. In the meantime, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a small sauté pan. Add the water, and sautee the carrots on medium heat until they’ve tenderized, stirring often, for about 20 minutes or so. This is where, if you have fresh pearl onions as opposed to frozen pearl onions, you would add them as well to give them a chance to cook through. Salt the vegetables liberally.
  8. Add the mushrooms after 20 minutes of cooking the carrots and onions, and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. Set aside the vegetables and juices to a separate plate.
  9. Heat a cast iron pan until searing hot. Add the vegetable oil to the pan. Just before the oil begins to smoke, add the filets and cook on each side for approximately 1 to 2 minutes, so that the filets achieve a dark crust on all sides. Make sure you turn your overhead vent on, it will be smoky!
  10. Finish the filets in the oven and cook until desired doneness – for medium rare, this will take about 7 to 8 minutes.
  11. Once all the beef stock has been incorporated into the risotto, start to test the rice to make sure it’s achieved al dente consistency. This entire process should take anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes.
  12. Once the rice is done, add the carrots, mushrooms, 1 / 2 bag frozen pearl onions (if using), all but 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano Reggiano, stirring lightly until everything is heated through, about 10 minutes.
  13. Remove the filets from the oven and let sit on a plate covered in foil. Once the steaks have set for 5 to 10 minutes, slice thickly against the grain.
  14. Serve the dishes hot topped with the sliced filets, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and a sprinkle of fresh minced parsley.

La Tur-rific Macaroni & Cheese

There’s a cheese called La Tur that you should know about. Full disclosure – it is one of those smelly and bloomy kinds.

The small, circular crottin is derived from sheep’s, cow’s and goat’s milk and has a semi-soft center, oozing outer rim that’s enclosed in a wrinkled rind.

At room temperature, you slice into it and the cheese comes pouring out of its mold. Like slightly thickened cream.

If this appeals to you, keep reading.

Luckily you can almost always find it at Whole Foods, and more often than not I have luck at specialty cheese shops or gourmet markets.

Because I want to give you a reason to go out and buy this cheese, I combined two of my favorite foods, one of which is ubiquitously loved, probably by you too. So you have no excuse. Let me just acknowledge out of the gate – saying macaroni and cheese is your favorite food doesn’t make you unique.

It’s like, no shit, we all do.

I just winged it with this dish, and it turned out great. How couldn’t it though? To amplify the funkier flavor I replaced cow’s milk for goat’s milk, and it took it to another level.

We should rethink macaroni and cheese entirely, because there is so much you can do with it– why don’t we try swapping out American or cheddar for the good stuff we like to eat on its own? Not to say American processed cheese product does not have its own home in my heart. Sometimes, only good old Velveeta will do.

Meltability and retaining moisture in the oven have something to do with why some cheeses are better than others, but try this dish with La Tur (or something you’re partial toward that’s a little out of left field), mix it with some melty cheese go-to’s, and you’ll regret not doing it earlier.

Carbs and cheese, people. Divinity in food form. Hallelujah.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This makes enough for several people, probably 4 to 6 – but again, how bad could leftovers be? Or just cut the recipe in half. Instead of reheating leftovers in the microwave, try reheating in a toaster oven. It’ll revive more of that crispy on the top / bubbly on the inside texture.

  • 1 lb dried short pasta of your choosing
  • 1  La Tur crotin, crumbled
  • 4 cups high-quality aged cheddar or another high-quality cheese, or a combination of cheeses, grated (I used 2 cups aged Cabot cheddar I had in my fridge and 2 cups good-quality Gruyere)
  • 1 quart goat’s milk
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons salt, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted), plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 / 4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and finely minced
  • 1 / 2 cup panko breadcrumbs

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Butter a 12 in. by 9 in. casserole dish, although a smaller casserole dish will work as well (i.e. a 9 in. circular casserole dish). You could even split it evenly amongst smaller gratin dishes for a fancier presentation, if you wanted.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt to flavor the water.
  3. Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter and add the 1 /4 cup of flour in a separate heavy-bottomed large pot, stirring constantly with a whisk on medium heat until lightly browned to remove some of the raw flour taste.
  4. In the meantime, in a small pan, warm the goat’s milk on medium-high heat until just before simmering, when there are small bubbles on the sides of the pot. Do not boil.
  5. Cook the pasta until al dente or slightly before al dente if you prefer your pasta to have even more of a bite. That’s how I like it. It will cook more in the oven.
  6. Once the roux has been whisked for a few minutes, add the quart of the warmed goat’s milk, stirring constantly until no lumps of flour remain. If you’ve warmed the goat’s milk enough, the mixture should start to thicken relatively quickly. Keep stirring and turn the heat up to medium high if need be to speed up the thickening process. You’ll want to get to a consistency where the mixture lightly coats a spoon.
  7. Off the heat, add the grated cheeses, the nutmeg, the minced thyme, the 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 / 2 teaspoon of pepper.
  8. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture. If you can time the pasta so that it goes straight from the cooking water into the cheese mixture, it will be that much better. Taste for seasonings once combined, making sure it has enough salt.
  9. Combine the 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 / 2 cup panko breadcrumbs. Evenly top the dish with the buttered panko crumbs.
  10. Place the casserole dish on a larger baking sheet, covered with foil to eliminate the need for clean-up. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the edges of the casserole are browned and the dish is bubbling hot.