Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Soup

We’ve made a few scrumptious spicy soups on this blog already – oh boy, have we.  Habanero Pepper Soup and Smoky Jalapeno Cheddar Soup are two crazy-good soups I crave on a regular basis.

This soup comes from a fresher angle; it’s essentially a soup of pureed roasted red peppers. Not a heavy cream base, or a cheese base. But I’m sort of lying. Because there is heavy cream in this, but not as much as I’d usually pour in. Unheard-of on this blog, I know.

And no bottled roasted peppers here. These are roasted in your oven, done the right way, because it’s super, super dummy-proof.

You know those recipes you cook over the course of the day that seem so effortless? Any crockpot recipe feels like this, and so does any bubbling braised beef short rib recipe with a bunch of leftover vegetables from the produce bowl on the counter, and even simple roast chicken.

There’s a reason to do this recipe while you’re in between laundry loads, cleaning out your junk drawer, or opening your Comcast bill. First, you’re going to get your oven nice and hot. Takes a while, at least for my hard-working apartment-grade oven. Then you’re roasting the peppers in the oven for 40 minutes or so, and letting them sit in a plastic Ziploc bag to steam, allowing for easier removal of the skins.

That’s another 15 minutes to do, well, god knows what. In my case, it’s probably something preposterous like organizing my bookshelf by color.

Finally, when you have 10 minutes to spare after you’ve responded to that month-old email you’ve been meaning to send, comes the cooking part, which takes hardly any time at all. By this point, your kitchen is smelling super aromatic. With the fire-roasted flavor of the peppers already achieved, there’s little need to keep the soup simmering for long to develop a richness of flavor.

You know what really sets a soup over the edge? Those final garnishes. But not just the garnishes that look good – it’s the ones that look good AND taste good that deserve that place at the top of your soup. For me, that’s usually something pourable – whether it’s a long squeeze of sriracha, a hefty drizzle of posh olive oil, a spoonful of sour cream that is almost cheese-like, or in this case, and thick pour of heavy cream and some minced, raw habanero.

Easy days at home should be just that – easy. We shouldn’t try to force effort when we’re not feeling it. Whether that’s in the kitchen, or when life’s endless to-do list beckons you away from deserved “me” time.

You can fit in delicious, gorgeous meals minimal effort – this recipe is proof of that!

Happy souping! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

(If you are sensitive to heat, I would recommend leaving out the habanero in the soup recipe altogether. I know that raw habanero can be too much for some folks, so tread lightly!)

Serves 1.

  • 4 red bell peppers
  • 2 habaneros, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 /2 shallot, minced
  • 1 / 2 cup heavy cream, plus additional for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Pinch of sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 400*. Place the bell peppers in the oven on a sheet pan and roast for 40 minutes or so, until the peppers are charred in most places.
  2. Remove the peppers from the oven, and place them directly in a Ziploc bag. Allow to steam for 15 minutes or so.
  3. Remove the peppers from the bag, cut the tops off, remove the skins, and de-seed the peppers using the back of your knife. Cut the roasted peppers into large chunks, saving some of the pepper for garnish.
  4. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and the butter in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and shallots, and sauté for 4 – 5 minutes or so, stirring often, being sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
  5. Add the roasted red peppers, 1 pepper’s worth of the minced habanero, heavy cream, a heavy pinch of salt, a heavy pinch of pepper, and a small pinch of sugar.
  6. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Remove from the heat, and add the mixture to the food processor, processing batch by batch until all the soup is pureed, adding the pureed soup back into the pot as you go.
  7. Once all the soup has been pureed, bring the soup to a boil. Remove from the heat.
  8. Plate the soup, garnishing with a pour of heavy cream and a sprinkling of fresh habanero, if desired.

 

 

 

 

White Pizza with Clam, Garlic & Parsley Oil

What’s white pizza in a few words? Indulgent and sinful – and it’s super in my face about it. When I’m looking at that by-the-slice menu board or ravenously scrolling through UberEats at 11:30 PM, white pizza always ends up a final contender.

I still love a classic cheese pie. Tomato sauce tastes delicious – but sometimes, I just want cheese, carbs, and nothing even remotely vegetable-derived to spoil my good time.

White pizza comes from Italy, obviously. But the recipe here, with clams and herbs, more closely mirrors a version of white pizza which has its roots in the American Northeast – where they developed what they call a white clam pizza. We have the brilliant Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, Connecticut to thank for that.

Their clam pie toppings involve more ingredients than I have here – there are vegetables, seasonings and starch fillers that are mixed with the clams to create a filling, that is then baked onto the dough.

I elected for a simple, flavor-packed drizzling of olive oil infused with chopped clams, parsley and a &$^%-load of minced garlic. The way that oil settles into the pockets on the pizza makes me swoon. I don’t know about you, but I love a substantial slathering of grease on my pizzas.

How much does humanity love pizza? I’ll tell you.

My brother doesn’t like cheese and hasn’t for a very long time. When we probe him, I completely understand where he’s coming from. It smells bad – that is indisputable. It’s fresh dairy product that has been aged, often with mold added to it.

But, he still eats pizza. On multiple occasions, his orders for a meat-lover’s pizza, no cheese, have been met with hang ups from Dominos and Pizza Huts. Because that has to be a prank call, right?

That’s just how damn good pizza is. He orders pizza, without the cheese. Here I am, on my fifth or eight slice of pizza, thinking the cheese was the whole point. Nope. It turns out, pizza is just plain good. No matter what you put, or don’t put on it.

I N G R E D I E N T S

F o r  t h e  P i z z a  D o u g h  ( A d a p t e d  c / o  t h e  B a r e f o o t  C o n t e s s a )

  • 2 / 3 cups warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 teaspoons salt

F o r  t h e  T o p p i n g s

  • 1 / 2 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1 / 4 inch thick discs
  • 2 / 3 cup parm reg, grated
  • 2 / 3 cup gruyere, grated
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

F o r  t h e  O i l

  • 1 / 2 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 / 4 cup clams, minced (fresh or high-quality canned clams with do)
  • 1 / 3 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 500*.
  2. Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1 1 / 2 cups flour, then the salt, and mix.
  3. While mixing, add 1/ 2 more cup of flour.
  4. Knead the dough on low speed for 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
  5. Remove the dough and put on a floured board or stone countertop, and knead by hand a dozen times.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil.
  7. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  8. Roll and stretch the ball into a rough 16-inch circle using a rolling pin, and place it on a floured pizza baking sheet.
  9. In the meantime, heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the garlic, clams, salt and pepper, and allow to heat through and simmer on low for five minutes. Off the heat, add the parsley, set aside and allow to cool.
  10. Use a brush to spread the olive oil evenly over the pizza. Do not oil the crust. Sprinkle the pie liberally with salt and pepper.
  11. Layer the cheese. First sprinkle the parm reg, then the gruyere, then the mozzarella cheese evenly across the pizza.
  12. Bake the pizza for 13 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling, and the dough is lightly browned.
  13. Allow the pizza to cool for 5 minutes. Drizzle the clam, garlic & parsley oil over the pizza, keeping extra on hand for additional garnish, if desired. Use a knife or a pizza roller to divide the pie into 8 slices, and serve hot.

 

Vinegar Roast Chicken

Poulet au Vinagre, or vinegar chicken, is a famous Paul Bocuse recipe. A genius, genius recipe. His features tomatoes, which serves as a great acidic counterpoint to the vinegar.

Before I knew that this was in fact a world-famous concept of his, I cooked up a recipe for vinegar chicken years ago, found somewhere on Pinterest when I would spend hours a day pinning other bloggers’ posts.

Because this has the right elements, this roast chicken realizes the vinegar sauce from my memory. And I’ve regularly been making vinegar-y chicken, usually served with basmati rice, ever since.

I love vinegar. And brine. Pickled, salty anything and everything. By a quick scan of the recipes I post here, that’s pretty obvious. The reason I’m telling you this? To reinforce that if you like the same flavor profiles I do, trust me, this recipe will scratch your proverbial itch for vinegar.

I recently heard from someone on a health kick who said that they started adding vinegar to chicken and other saucy, red meat-based dishes. It’s a flavor booster, much like adding spices. It seems like vinegar does something to bolster protein, almost making them taste more calorie-heavy than they actually are.

I think that’s what this sauce does. It’s one of those “magic” sauces. The honey, garlic, chicken stock, tomato paste, butter and vinegar all condense down to this perfect combination of sweet, sour, salty and garlicky. With an added emphasis on the sour. Take out the butter, and I’m pretty sure it would be just as damn good.

Alas. This blog isn’t about leaving out the butter. Not here. This place is holy ground as far as butter is concerned, and I’m planning on keeping it that way.

With this relatively simply-prepared chicken and buttered rice, you really get a taste for the sauce. You will end up spooning more and more of it over additional helpings. Or at least I do.

Do you cook any meat-based recipes that have vinegar as a secret ingredient? I’d love to hear about them!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 4 to 5 lb. chicken, giblets removed
  • 1 1 / 2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 3 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bulb garlic, plus 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 / 2 large yellow onion, small diced
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature, salted or unsalted
  • Lemon slices, for garnish
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups water, plus 1 cup
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Take the chicken out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Pat the skin dry, including the cavity, with a paper towel.
  3. After an hour, sprinkle the cavity liberally with salt and pepper, and put a garlic bulb, cut in half lengthwise, in the cavity of the chicken. Truss the chicken legs with kitchen twine, and tuck the wings under the body of the chicken.
  4. Take 1 / 2 stick of softened butter, and rub all over the chicken. Slide your hands under the skin on either side of each breast, making sure to coat the top breast meat with the softened butter as well. Heavily sprinkle the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper.
  5. In the meantime, heat the red wine vinegar, tomato paste, chicken stock or broth, 1 cup water, honey, minced garlic and diced onion over simmering heat for 5 minutes or so, until reduced slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  6. Nestle the chicken in a small pan, barely big enough to hold the chicken. Pour the sauce in the pan around the chicken (not on top of the chicken), put lemon slices down the spine of the chicken, if desired, and place in the oven. Roast the chicken for 1 hour to 1 hour & 30 minutes, until the temperature of the chicken reaches 165* or you cut the groove between the leg and the breast and the juices run clear.
  7. In the meantime, run the rice under cold water in a sieve for a few minutes to remove extra starch. Put the rice in a small saucepan with 4 cups water, and simmer on medium heat until al dente consistency, about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the rice cooking instructions. Strain, return the rice to the pot, and add the remaining half of the stick of butter, stirring until melted. Set aside covered with a lid to keep warm until serving.
  8. Remove the chicken from the pan, turning the chicken upside down to allow any remaining juices to pour out of the cavity. Carve the chicken using Julia Child’s technique (carving starts at about 26:00). Retain the lemon slices and garlic bulb for garnish on the serving platter, if desired.
  9. Pour the roasting pan sauce into a pourable serving dish. Serve the chicken on a platter family style alongside a serving bowl of the buttered basmati rice.

Pork Chops with Horseradish Cream Sauce

There’s a restaurant called The Pig, self-dubbed the Nose to Tail restaurant, here in D.C. – and all their menu items feature – you guessed it – pork products.

Garden salad? House-made bacon bits.

Burger? That’s going to be ground pork. Yum. Pork chop? That’s wrapped in bacon for some double pig action.

Order a Bloody Mary? You’re getting a strip of bacon in that.

These are just examples, and the only one I can attest to being true is the bacon Bloody Mary, but you get the point.

I don’t buy or cook pork chops regularly. I actually totally forgot about pork chops.

But during a routine trip to the butcher counter to leer at the meats, my eyes settled on a very thick, bone-in slab of pork. It was love at first sight at the butcher counter.

I love strong, woody herbs and garlic with pork, but I wanted some to add an unexpected, punchy element. Enter horseradish.

Pork chops want to be crunchy and seared so juices lock in, just like steak – so achieving that is priority number one.

The sauce starts with the juices from the pan the chop is broiled in, so you’re losing zero percent of that flavor that seeps out from the meat while roasting.

From start to finish, you’re really only turning on the oven and smashing a couple garlic cloves to pull this dish together. And you’re getting a restaurant presentation with little to no effort. That’s a loveable, go-to recipe in my book.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 thick, bone in pork chops
  • Approximately 20 stems thyme
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 6 tablespoons grated horseradish
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • 1 / 3 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Pat dry the pork chops. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet, large enough to hold both pork chops. Add the garlic cloves and the stems of thyme.
  4. When the oil is very hot, almost smoking, put the pork chops in the skillet so they are settled amongst the herbs and garlic cloves. Allow to sear on one side for 4 to 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Flip the pork chops, sear for 2 minutes, and place the skillet in the oven.
  5. Bake the pork chops for 25 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness, until the pork chops are cooked through. The meat thermometer should reach *160.
  6. Remove the pork chops and thyme stems from the pan, leaving the garlic. Add the cream, butter, horseradish a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper to the pan. Scrape up the brown bits from the pan while the sauce reduces for 5 minutes or so.
  7. Pour the sauce over the pork chops, and serve hot.

Green Bay Cheddar Fondue with Soft Pretzels & Beer Sausage

Fondue is a amazing concept. I feel like I’ve said that already.

We don’t eat it frequently because we think of it as a special occasion dish, something for a crowd.

In reality, it’s so much less complicated than many recipes we make on a regular basis. And because the dippers are up to you, the whole process can be as simple as you want it to be. My whole point being, I think I’ll be making fondue more regularly, because I &^%*ing love it. And I can.

During our trip to Lexington, VA, I was brought along to a local country shop near the Natural Bridge landmark by my parents – they were right in thinking I would love it there. I walked out with a locally packaged version of HamBeen’s 15 Bean Soup, some blue raspberry jam, and most importantly – a just cut-off-the-wheel wedge of Wisconsin-sourced Hoop cheese.

I had big plans for this cheese. My boyfriend is a Packers fan – I mean it. All the TV yelling, furor over bad calls, and green and yellow trinkets in our living area. I’ve never seen anyone like something, so much.

The cheese’s meltability wasn’t the best – but all that meant was that we were going to have to eat the fondue screaming hot, to allow for the cheese solids to remain pull-able.

I had to bake soft pretzels to bring home this Bavarian-esque theme, along with beer-flavored sausages. Had to.

For the soft pretzels, having never made them before, I went with Alton Brown’s recipe. For some reason, I trust the guy on baking-related escapades like these. I am not a baker, so I rely heavily on well-tuned recipes when I do. They turned out great. Except, the portions of liquid to flour were a bit off, and I ended up adding about a half cup more flour than suggested. In the event anyone wants to make them, I’d recommend doing the same and it’s reflected in the recipe.

This recipe go-round was a fun test for me. First, making soft pretzels for the first time, which reminded me of the Amish store owners and bakers in Germantown, MD who can twist pretzel dough into shape in half a second and throw others into the baking soda water bath simultaneously with their other hand. Mine did not come out as uniformly as theirs. Next time, maybe.

The second lesson – a rule in melting down cheese. Not all cheese is going to get to that gooey state. There were several rounds and strategies used to melt the cheese that turned into the pot of scalding gold you see here.

Ultimately, know that the more notoriously meltable, softer cheeses – mozzarella, gruyere and processed stuff are your safest bet, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have your cheddar cheese and melt it too. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4 to 6. Soft pretzel recipe makes 8 pretzels.

  • 1 lb. cheddar cheese, of your choosing, grated
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 / 4 bottle Heineken beer (3 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter, salted or unsalted
  • 4 beer-flavored sausages
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse mustard, if desired

F o r  t h e  S o f t  P r e t z e l s ( a d a p a t e d  c / o  A l t o n  B r o w n )

  • 1 1 / 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1 / 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 1 / 4 cups flour
  • 2 ounces butter, melted
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 / 3 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt or kosher salt, as needed
  • Vegetable oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

( S o f t  P r e t z e l  D i r e c t i o n s  a d a p a t e d  c / o  A l t o n  B r o w n )

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Brown the beer sausages on medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, turning often, until all sides are deep brown and the sausage is cooked through. Remove from the heat, and slice on the diagonal. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  2. Preheat oven to 450*. Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with oil. Set aside.
  3. Combine the 1 1/2 cups warm water, the sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 minutes, or until the mixture foams.
  4. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl, then oil it well. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. Bring the 10 cups water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large saute pan or a roasting pan (something wide and shallow is best).
  7. Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, and, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place on a half sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  8. One by one, place the pretzels in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return them to the sheet pans, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture, and sprinkle liberally with salt.
  9. Bake until dark golden brown in color, 12 to 14 minutes. Allow to cool.
  10. To make the fondue, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet. Add the garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes or so. Add the heavy cream, beer and cheese, and allow to melt, stirring constantly. Allow to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. While the cheese is scalding hot, serve the fondue, and eat with the soft pretzels, beer sausage and coarse mustard.