Paleo Shepherd’s Pie

My love of leftovers has been well documented here — you get all of the cooking fun without a lot of drudgery because at least some of the meal is already prepped in advance. And when you’re dealing with leftovers from a holiday meal, well, that’s the best situation ever. For Easter, I prepared a semi-boneless leg of lamb for dinner with our neighbor’s family. The night before, I scored the fat and rubbed a paste of anchovies, garlic, salt, pepper and minced rosemary and thyme all over it, then set it on a rack in a large roasting pan, covered it with foil and refrigerated it overnight.

Always a mistake if you don’t like smelling garlic before your morning coffee.

But it turned out great. I roasted it at 325°F for about 20 minutes per pound until the thermometer read 130°F when inserted into the thickest part of the meat. I tented it with foil and brought it next door and it was perfectly done and ridiculously savory when we sat down to eat a few hours later. But there was also a rib roast on the menu, so we came home with quite a bit of lamb. And when I have a lot of leftover lamb, we have shepherd’s pie a few days later.

This time around, I also had about half of a medium spaghetti squash in the refrigerator, so I thought I’d give a paleo version a go. I’ve made shepherd’s pie with sweet potatoes, which are lovely, but still pretty high in carbs, so spaghetti squash didn’t seem too “out there” to consider. And it was a lovely dish. I seasoned the spaghetti squash with garlic butter and quite a bit of salt, but forgot to account for the water the spaghetti squash would give off in the oven even though it was already cooked. The dish was more soupy than stew-like, but still tasted great. Next time I’ll either add extra flour to the lamb or will toss the squash with some flour before layering it on.

Paleo Shepherd's Pie Detail | Minimally Invasive
Mmm, tasty, tasty lamb soup.

So it might have been more work than simply reheating the lamb, but now we have an entirely new dish to nibble on for a couple of meals. And it isn’t carb-heavy, so I’m not feeling the need to nap, even an hour after lunch.

Who Doesn’t Love a Meatball?

I’ve been sitting on this post since summer, but now that the most revered holiday of leftovers is approaching, I thought it was a good time to bring it out. This is one technique you’ll want in your arsenal the day after Thanksgiving.

We’ve been making an effort to cut down on our meat consumption at Casa Roth, either by eating fully vegetarian meals or by consuming less meat in relation to vegetables at any given meal. The vegetarian option works especially well in the evenings when a big hunk of meat can weigh you down and disturb sleep almost as well as a nice cup of coffee. Portion control is easy to do at home, but when you’re out at, say, your favorite BBQ spot and faced with an abundant serving of glorious smoked animal flesh, you can either double-down or bag that meat up for later. The doggie bag presents a small problem only because those leftovers don’t necessarily reheat well and have a tendency to overcook or dry out, so it’s always nice to have another trick up my sleeve for them.

Enter the meatball.

Many meatball recipes rely on a large amount of breadcrumbs and egg to bind the cooked meat together, but gluten-free breadcrumbs are overpowering, so I got the idea from an article in the New York Times to combine my leftover smoked chicken with an equal part of raw thigh meat for succulence (one pound of each, as it turned out). The article suggests finely chopping the cooked meat instead of using the food processor to ensure a good texture, so that’s what I did, though I pulsed the raw chicken in the food processor, figuring it would be beneficial for binding. I sautéed some onion and garlic in a little bacon grease then let it cool to room temperature before adding the mixture to the meat along with a dollop of Dijon mustard, an egg, a tiny amount of gluten-free breadcrumbs and salt & pepper for seasoning. I formed golf-sized meatballs with wet hands — very important to keep them from sticking — then baked them for about 25 minutes at 450°F.

They didn’t even need sauce, but I wanted to come up with something a little smoky and a little vinegary to complement their origins as barbecue. For sweetness, I sautéed some onion and garlic in olive oil, added a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes, salt & pepper, some hot Pimentòn for smokiness, a pinch of red pepper flakes for heat and some red wine vinegar to bring all of the flavors in bright relief, then let it simmer for about 30 minutes. I added a big pinch of brown sugar at the end when the sauce seemed a little unbalanced, but that really was it. Very simple, but perfect with the meatballs.

Meatball Splat | Minimally Invasive

In fact, we liked these meatballs so much that I always order extra chicken when we visit The Wood Pit, just for the leftovers.

Day 2, Smoked Turkey Gumbo

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 2

When a gumbo craving strikes, even the flimsiest of pretexts will serve to start a roux. One tossed around with abandon in this house is “gumbo weather” — any temperature dip below 65 degrees, at which point this hothouse orchid laments the long winter ahead and dons long sleeves, if not layers. A slight shiver may also manifest, which can be reliably removed by a large bowl, as anyone who’s had the gumbo sweats after eating too close to bedtime will tell you. (Guilty!) Other acceptable excuses for indulging include:

  • The game is coming on (choose your team/bowl),
  • I have all this chicken/sausage/andouille/game/seafood in the fridge,
  • The rice situation is getting out of control,
  • It’s Saturday.

While no rhyme or reason is necessary for gumbo, holidays demand it in some form, whether a hearty chicken and andouille version for Thanksgiving or a more celebratory seafood version for Christmas dinner. My parrain made The Best seafood gumbo, and one of my fondest annual Christmas memories is of hanging out with him in the kitchen while the gumbo was warming, catching up, and sharing a few off-color jokes.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 2

How gorgeous is that bird? The stars aligned for me this year when Lawrence at The Wood Pit planted the idea to order a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving. His brisket, pulled pork and chicken wings are nothing short of amazing, so putting our dinner in his hands seemed a wise choice. And it was. While I knew that one turkey, no matter how small, would yield far too much food for three people, my ulterior motive was gumbo, so leftovers were welcome.

Once the remainders of the meal were packed away and our dear friend Mark was heading back to the city, I stripped the carcass of skin and much of its meat, broke it apart at the joints and started the stock. I’ve used Michael Ruhlman’s oven method of making stock for the past few years and it’s a complete joy, especially after two long days of cooking. I just put the bones in a large pot, covered them with an inch or two of water, then placed it in a low oven (180 degrees F is ideal, though my oven’s minimum 200 degrees F seems to work for me) for about 14 hours. I continued with the recipe the following morning to add a little flavor to the stock, then refrigerated it for a couple of days until I had time to complete my plans.

I based the gumbo itself on Donald Link’s recipe from Real Cajun and altered it for my purposes. I like to use Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose GF Baking Flour for a gluten-free dark roux, but this blend doesn’t behave the way a roux with regular white wheat flour does. It darkens much faster (a wonderful thing, in my opinion), but doesn’t lose any of its thickening power as it does. I forgot this salient fact and used the full amount of roux which rendered a gumbo nearly thick enough to be a stew, but still delicious. I haven’t tried any of the other gluten-free flours for roux, but if you have, please leave a comment to let me know how you liked it.

We ate like kings for nearly a full week from this one pot, which seems to make it ideal for an open house this time of year, if you do that sort of thing. If not, you know gumbo weather is the perfect excuse to indulge.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Day 2, Smoked Turkey Gumbo”

Your Thanksgiving leftovers

This year’s Thanksgiving feast could only have been more low key if we’d gone the TV dinner route. My mother-in-law wasn’t able to visit, so I planned to simply roast a chicken and serve a few veggies for the two of us, but ended up doing even less than that when our neighbors invited us to share dinner with them. It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve lived here for four years as of this weekend (which reminds me, this blog just turned three!) and haven’t managed to get to know them yet. I blame Gil for not introducing me around when I moved.

Not wanting to go empty-handed, I pulled out the bag of almost-overripe persimmons I’d been storing for a couple of weeks and got to work on an upside-down cake that sounded like a perfect ending to a Thanksgiving meal — with two sticks of butter, it was possibly the most indulgent cake I’ve ever made.

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I did a quick google search when the idea for the cake hit me (my standard approach, since very few ideas are truly new), and found only a couple of recipes. Joanne Weir‘s parmesan flan has been one of the highlights of my summer for the past two years, so I opted for her version of the cake and came away very, very happy indeed.

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Her secret for keeping things light and airy in such a rich cake? Whipping the egg whites, then folding them into the rest of the batter. Even so, the cake was much more soufflé-like in the pan than I expected:

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Anyway, we had a wonderful time with the Edwards family and I feel like I finally have friends in the neighborhood, which is no small thing. They’re a creative family, into drawing, painting, photography, music, fashion…so you can imagine how much I enjoyed myself. Oh, AND I finally got a house tour with details of the major renovation they did last year! So we have lots of inspiration for our own house project, whenever we start.

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The next day, I roasted the Zuni chicken (with bittersweet pimenton added to the salt & pepper rub) originally intended for Thanksgiving and made a bread-based dressing with roasted acorn squash on the side. Nothing terribly exciting, but repurposed as breakfast this morning, I fell in love:

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I pan-fried some of the leftover dressing, served it atop a thin drizzle of gravy and topped it with a fried egg. “X + egg = heaven” is undefined for Gil, so I waited till he was running an errand to work it up. (How anyone can snub a runny egg yolk over just about anything is beyond me, but hey, in sickness & in [mental] health, etc…)

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For Saturday’s dinner, there wasn’t a hint of Thanksgiving left over in the leftovers, though I forced myself to use the contents of my fridge and pantry in a stab at eating down the house. We ended up with a North African-inspired couscous dish that took maybe 30 minutes to make, but had a great depth of flavor mainly because it relied so heavily on leftovers.

To start, I made a quick harissa paste and set it aside for the flavors to develop while I worked on the rest of the meal. I hit the freezer for a package of caramelized onions, which I browned in some olive oil, then added two thinly sliced cloves of garlic, and reinforced the warm spices from the harissa — ground cumin, caraway seeds and ground coriander — in the sizzling oil. When the spices were fragrant, I added a package of Israeli couscous, bite-sized pieces of dark chicken, chopped roasted acorn squash, leftover chicken stock and two tablespoons of harissa paste. Only 15 minutes later, we were sitting down to a meal I wouldn’t even mind making from scratch someday.

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I hope you add had a filling and fun-filled Thanksgiving. Now I need to figure out a way to work from home, because the last four days spent with all of my boys has been too good to miss again for 13 hours a day or more.

recipes and sweet doggy pictures after the jump

Continue reading “Your Thanksgiving leftovers”

Leftovers, schmeftovers

That thing I had against leftovers? Not a problem anymore. No sirree, not after last night, at least.

I had quite a bit of filling left after adapting the Plump Pea Dumplings recipe from 101 Cookbooks, so I pondered for a while what exactly to do with it. Then I remembered another recipe I’d bookmarked from Delicious Days (whose photography just kills me) for Egg Yolk Ravioli and dinner was taken care of!

So I mixed together a double recipe of pasta in my food processor (if it’s good enough for Lidia, it’s good enough for me!) and kneaded it until it was pliable, then formed it into a ball before setting it in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.

Making ravioli from scratch meant digging out the pasta maker we received as a wedding gift and only used once. Not exactly sure why it isn’t in the rotation more often because it turned out nice, thin sheets of ravioli dough.

First, I quartered the dough and ran half of it through the machine to make sure the rollers were completely clear of metal shavings before I got down to it.

And then slowly I rolled, step by step, inch by inch.


Oh yeah, that’s why I don’t use this more often! My arm nearly fell off.

But, as I said, it turned out nice, thin sheets, which I then topped with about a tablespoon of leftover dumpling filling per egg yolk I planned to use. This left me with four frankly not-very-attractive balls of green stuff, into which I formed little craters so the egg yolks wouldn’t escape.


See? Unattractive, but just you wait.

Then I used the egg separators right at the end of my arms to separate the yolks from the whites. The whites went into a bowl and the yolks just sat very perkily atop the green mounds.

Well, ok, not ALL of them were so perky…


That guy at left? He was trouble.

After that balancing act was done, I brushed the dough all around the fillings with egg white and set the other strip of dough on top, carefully sealing each ravioli and doing my best to squeeze out all of the air. Not sure I succeeded on that count, but none burst in the water, which is all I need to consider myself a culinary genius. Set the bar low, kids.


I’m no Martha, but I do love a scalloped edge.

So these babies boiled for 2-3 minutes while I scurried frantically around the kitchen, warming the plates, melting the truffle butter (yeah, you heard me), and getting out the microplane grater so I could top each eggy pillow with cheese before it had a chance to cool off.

I’d say it all turned out well, wouldn’t you?