Archive for the ‘Budget Meals’ Category

Greek Yogurt Waffles

Friday, September 16th, 2016

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It seems like everyone wants waffles these days, from the Teen Titans song to our little friends from Stranger Things.

And though these take more effort than popping an Eggo into a toaster, they’re significantly more rewarding.

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And they’re definitely a new house favorite.

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These waffles are a denser, eggier, and crisper version of our old-timey waffle recipe.

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And because they’re made with Greek yogurt, they’re also packed with more protein than your average breakfast quick bread.

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The dough is super simple to whip up. You mix all the ingredients in a single bowl. This is one of our go-to weeknight dinners.

Behold: The Ultimate Waffle Sandwich

Since these waffles are more substantial, they’re the perfect candidate for The Angry Chef’s Toasted Waffle Dinner Sandwich (smoked turkey, prosciutto or bacon, and muenster, smoked Gruyere, and American cheeses).

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Check out the texture on these little guys:

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Alrighty, to the waffler!

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Greek Yogurt Waffles

3 large eggs
2 cups of Greek yogurt (I use full fat yogurt)
1/2 cup water or milk
2 tsp. white vinegar
6 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
spray oil, for waffle iron, optional

Makes 6-8 four-inch waffles

Do a little prep

Plug in your waffle iron to heat it up. If you like, preheat your oven to about 200 degrees F, to keep the waffles warm before serving.

Make the waffle batter

Put the eggs, Greek yogurt, water or milk, vinegar, and olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until uniform. It’ll be very thick. That’s just fine.

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Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix with a wooden spoon (a whisk will get too glopped up) until uniform.

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The dough will be very thick, almost like drop biscuit dough.

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Make the waffles

Spoon the batter into your hot waffle iron according the manufacturer’s instructions (yours may take a different amount of batter). My waffle iron takes about 3/4 – 1 cup of batter per waffle.

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Cook until crisp and brown.

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When they’re done, remove the waffles from the waffle iron and transfer to a wire rack, or slide onto a pan in a 200-degree F oven to keep them warm while you make the rest.

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Enjoy!

Serve immediately with butter and maple syrup—or however you like them best. (Leave a comment below, let us know what you do!)

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Spicy Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

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Seriously, guys, this is so easy. It’s one of my favorite ways to bang out a delicious, stick-to-your ribs meal on a weeknight.

Season the shrimp, cozy a half a slice of bacon around it, and fry in a really hot pan. By the time the bacon is crisped on each side, the shrimp will be cooked inside.

Easy, peasy.

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I usually season the shrimp with my favorite cajun spice blend, but feel free to mix it up. I’m thinking green herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage), or garlic and lemon zest, or even curry powder. Whatever you use, go easy on the salt if you’re sensitive. Bacon is plenty salty on its own.

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I used beautiful jumbo shrimp I got at a local fish market in the next town.

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Don’t use thick-cut bacon

I love thick-cut bacon as much as the next red-blooded carnivore, but for this kind of thing, you want to use regular bacon.

Thick-cut bacon can take too long to crisp (so you’ll overcook your shrimp) and won’t stay in place nicely around the shrimp (unless you toothpick it).

Spicy Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp

12 jumbo shrimp
3 Tbls. cajun spice blend
dried parsley
6 pieces regular-cut bacon (not thick)
Olive oil

Serves about 2 for dinner, or about 4 for an appetizer

Shell and clean your shrimp

If your shrimp still have their jackets on, you need to take them off 😉

I shell my shrimp in the sink, under running cold water. For detailed pics on how to shell and clean shrimp, check out my post on how to shell shrimp for shrimp cocktail.

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You’ll wind up with a beautiful bowl of clean shrimp.

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If you dig on seafood chowders, freeze the shells and toss them into homemade fish stock the next time you make some.

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Season and wrap the shrimp

Take your cleaned shrimp and toss them in a zip-top bag. Dump in the cajun spices (or whatever other spice mix you’d like), seal the bag, and shake it around to coat the shrimp as evenly as you can.

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Once you’ve seasoned your shrimp, it’s time to wrap them up! Cut each slice of bacon in half. Wrap each shrimp in a half a slice of bacon. Wrap on the tighter side, so the bacon stays on while it cooks, like this:

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Sprinkle with a little dried parsley, and you’re ready to get cooking!

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Fry the bacon-wrapped shrimp

Set a large, non-stick pan on the stove over high heat. I like to drizzle in a little olive oil to get the frying started. (If you’re fat-averse, you can totally skip this step. But hey, this isn’t exactly diet food to begin with, right?) When the oil starts to shimmer, the pan is hot enough to add your shrimp.

 

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Fry the shrimp on one side until the bacon is nicely browned and crisp. (Keep an eye on the pan. They cook quickly, don’t walk away from the stove.) When they’re browned underneath, flip the little guys over.

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Fry on this side until the bacon is browned and crisp. Shrimp cook quickly. When they’re done underneath, they’ll be cooked through on the inside.

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Serve, inhale & enjoy!

When they’re done, transfer the shrimp to a serving plate. I’ll admit it: Half the time, we eat these standing up in the kitchen as soon as they’re cool enough to touch. When we’re feeling more civilized, I like to serve with buttery saffron rice and a big salad.

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Sriracha & Honey Sticky Wings with Basil

Friday, June 26th, 2015

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If you know me, you know that I love Sriracha. Like, LOVE the stuff.

It’s hot, it’s spicy, it’s got that great peppery taste.

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You also know that I’m a huge fan of throwing chicken in the oven like, 8,000 different ways.

These wings are a house fav, second only (at least right now) to my Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken. That’s this bird here:

The Hungry Mouse Oven Baked BBQ Chicken

 

This wing recipe combines fiery Sriracha with sweet honey and earthy mushroom soy sauce for the perfect trifecta of flavors.

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You can also use the marinade to cook other chicken parts (full drumsticks, leg quarters, even a cut up whole chicken). Just scale the cooking time up to account for the thicker pieces of poultry.

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It makes a holy mess in the pan, but the chicken is well worth the clean up. (Protip: If you’re having trouble getting your pan clean, soak it overnight, then scrub with half a lemon and a handful of kosher salt.)

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Sriracha & Honey Sticky Wings with Basil

1.5 lbs. chicken wings and drumettes
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1-2 Tablespoons Sriracha, to taste
1/2 cup mushroom soy sauce (or regular soy if you don’t have the mushroom)
1 cup honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 handful of basil leaves, sliced into ribbons right before serving

Serves 3-4 as an appetizer

Do a little prep

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Grab a 9 x 13 baking dish and set it aside. (You want to use a deeper pan like this because your sauce is going to bubble up like mad in the oven.)

Whisk up the marinade

Toss the sesame oil, Sriracha, mushroom soy sauce, honey, and minced garlic into a small bowl. Whisk it together until the honey has dissolved and the mixture is uniform.

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Sauce and bake the chicken

Grab your chicken wings and drumettes.

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Arrange them in your baking dish. Spread them out as best you can, it’s just fine if they touch a little.

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Pour your marinade over the chicken.

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Flip the chicken pieces over a few times to coat.

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Pop the pan into your preheated, 400-degree F oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken starts to brown on top.

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Like this:

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Not so exciting looking yet, right? Just you wait.

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Flip the chicken pieces over to complete their glorious, sticky transformation. Slide the pan back into the oven for about another 20 minutes, or until they’re a nice mahogany color.

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Your finished chicken will look kind of disastrous in the pan. (Right? I KNOW.):

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That’s just fine. Remove the pan from the oven onto a rack.

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Transfer the chicken from the pan to a serving plate. (Looks much better, right?)

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Sprinkle with thin ribbons of basil for some color contrast and a fresh punch of flavor.

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Serve, inhale, and enjoy!

Old-School Buffalo Chicken Wings

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

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These are awesome. They’re exactly what you think of when you think buffalo wings.

They’re hot and buttery. They’re crispy. They’re so orange.

You’ll make a bloody mess eating them. And? You won’t care because they’re that good.

A quick search of the internet produces more chicken wing lore than Bigfoot stories. These wings are based on a version of the legendary recipe from the Anchor Bar, in Buffalo, NY, where they originated.

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These wings get their hot, spicy kick from a generous dose of Frank’s® Louisiana Hot Sauce. If you’re looking for authentic buffalo wing flavor, this is your sauce. Most supermarkets should carry it. (And no, that’s not a paid endorsement. 😉 )

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These buffalo wings are baked, not fried

When it comes to buffalo wings, some peeps deep fry them, then sauce them. I like to bake them, then sauce. Baking them gets the skin plenty crispy. If you’re serving these at a Super Bowl party or some such, it will save on stove space—and there’s less mess.

Baking them also makes them way easier to make in volume at home. Just pop a few pans in the oven, and get on with the rest of your party prep.

Scale this recipe up or down to fit your crowd. As written, it serves about three people.

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Serve these babies with celery & blue cheese dressing

Unless you’re a nerd like me, and you forgot to grab some celery at the market. I improv’d with fresh broccoli. Wasn’t traditional, but worked out just fine.

Old-School Buffalo Chicken Wings

For the wings
12 chicken wings, whole or separated into wing and drumstick
2 Tablespoons olive oil
pinch of salt
1 cup flour
Oil or butter to grease the pans

For the sauce
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
pinch of salt
1/2 cup Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce
1 stick butter

For garnish
Celery sticks
Blue cheese dressing

Serves about 3

Bake the chicken wings

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with foil. Spray lightly with oil, or grease with butter. Set aside while you prep the chicken.

Throw your chicken wings in a big bowl. Toss with olive oil to coat. Then, add the flour and salt and toss to coat.

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Space the chicken wings out on your prepared pans.

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Pop the pans into your preheated, 425-degree F oven. Bake for about 20 minutes.
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After about 20 minutes, your wings should be starting to get brown.

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Flip them over, then bake for another 20 minutes at 425-degrees F until nicely browned and cooked through.

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After the second 20 minutes, they should be golden brown and crispy. Yank the pan out of the oven and set on a rack for a minute while you whip up the sauce.

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Make the buffalo wing sauce

This sauce is so simple.

Put all of the sauce ingredients in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a simmer on the stove over medium-high heat, whisking frequently. Simmer for a few minutes uncovered.

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When it’s done, it will be pretty thin. That’s just fine. Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning if you want (now’s the time to do it).

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Sauce and serve your buffalo wings

Put your wings in a large bowl. Depending on how many you make, and how big your bowl is, do this in batches.   IMG_6773

Pour the hot sauce over the wings and toss to coat.

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Serve immediately, garnished with celery, blue cheese dressing, and whatever else you like.

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Enjoy!

We hope you have fun watching the Super Bowl! How do you like your wings? Leave a comment below, let us know.

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Want more wings?

Coming right up. Try these other tasty wing recipes from our archives.

Ginger and Maple Glazed Chicken Wings

Ginger and maple glazed chicken wings the hungry mouse recipe

Chai Ginger Hot Wings

The Hungry Mouse Chai Ginger Chicken Wings

Sweet Chili Chicken Drummettes

Sweet Chili Chicken Drummettes

Lemon Buttermilk Fried Chicken Wings

The Hungry Mouse Buttermilk Lemon Fried Chicken Wings

County Fair Special: Homemade Corn Dogs

Friday, September 6th, 2013

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Corn dogs are one of those great polarizing foods: Peeps either love ’em or hate ’em.

Me? Call me a savage, but I need once like once or twice a year, usually in the thick of summer, right around Labor Day. They remind me of steamy August afternoons spent at town carnivals. Corn dogs. Cotton candy. Ferris wheels. The whole shebang.

It’s hokey and awesome, not to mention that I’m a sucker for almost any kind of food on a stick.

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These little pups are easy breezy to make at home.

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I use a modified tempura batter with fine cornmeal in it, then deep fry them to give them great toasty corn flavor and a nice crunch.

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What’s in a corn dog, anyway?

I used Hebrew National hot dogs, as part of the promotion and recipe development gig I’m working on right now. (Thanks, guys!)

To enter to win free franks, become a fan of Hebrew National on Facebook and tell them why you love Hebrew National hot dogs. (Me? They’re all beef.)

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I also used fine corn meal. You could sub in coarse cornmeal for more texture. And I always roll my dogs in a little corn starch before dipping them. Helps the batter stick initially.

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For flour, I like to use cake flour. It’s finer, and gives you a slightly lighter crust than regular. If you don’t have cake flour and you’re having a corn dog emergency, don’t sweat it. Use regular. You’ll be just fine.

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Alrighty. Let’s get frying. This is super simple.

Homemade Corn Dogs

2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 cup fine cornmeal
2 Tablespoons corn starch
6 hot dogs
Oil for frying
Skewers or popsicle sticks

Makes 6 corn dogs

Make the corn dog batter

Grab your egg yolks.

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Slide them into a large bowl.

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Drizzle in the cold water slowly, whisking as you go to emulsify the yolks.

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Dump in the flour and the corn meal.

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Stir until the batter just comes together. Some little lumps are just fine (break up the big ones). The more you work the batter, the denser the coating will be on the finished corn dog.

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Batter your hot dogs

Grab your hot dogs. Pat them dry with paper towels. Whenever you’re deep frying something, you want it to be as dry as can be. (Wet = splatters and coating that doesn’t stick.)

I did four today, but this recipe will batter about 6 hot dogs, if not 7, depending on how thickly you coat them.

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Toss the corn starch onto the hot dogs and roll them around to coat them completely.

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Insert a skewer or two or a popsicle stick into one end of each dog. I used 2 skewers here because these hot dogs are longer, and my skewers were pretty thin.

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When your hot dogs are corn starched and your batter is made, heat up the oil for frying.

Batter & fry the corn dogs

I like to fry these one at a time. Put too many in the pot at once, and they can stick together before the outer crust hardens, which is just a mess.

Put about 2 inches of oil in a wide pot. (It needs to be wide enough to fit the whole hot dog/stick configuration.) Heat the oil over high heat until it hits about 370 degrees F.

IMG_2926When the oil is at temp, take one hot dog and roll it in the batter to coat completely. Glop it on for a nice thick coating. Be more reserved if you want a thinner coating.

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Carefully lower the battered dog into the hot oil. (I held them by the stick with tongs.)

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Fry for your corn dog for 5-7 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. When he’s done, remove him from the oil gently with tongs and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Repeat with the rest of your corn dogs until you’ve fried them all.

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And…voila! Homemade corn dogs, just like you used to get at the county fair.

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Serve and enjoy!

Serve hot out of the fryer.

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Me? I like to dunk mine in spicy mustard.

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A Message from Hebrew National

Hebrew National tastes great because, for more than 100 years, we’ve adhered to the highest quality standards. Hebrew National Franks are made with premium cuts of 100% pure kosher beef, and contain no artificial flavors, no artificial colors, no by-products, and no fillers. Premium taste and high quality every time, for any occasion. That’s our guarantee. Learn about even more reasons to love Hebrew National, and tell us why you love them, too! 

Disclosure

Compensation was provided by Hebrew National via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Hebrew National.

Easy Roasted Five-Spice Chicken

Monday, July 12th, 2010

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Seriously, I don’t know how I like this better: Hot, the night it’s made—or cold, the next day.

I’m definitely a cold chicken lover.

Case in point: Remember that Purdue commercial from a thousand years ago? You know the one I’m talking about:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWX6FpQmzxw[/youtube]

It’s kind of like that at The Mouse House when the fridge is full of cooked chicken.

Much like my Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken, this is an easy (borderline lazy) way to get dinner on the table. Sure, it would be easier to order takeout, but just by a little.

In my book, that makes this a good candidate for a weeknight dinner for the family—as well as a casual weekend get-together for a bunch of friends. It’s also really easy to scale it up to feed a crowd.

Because it’s roasted bone-in with the skin on, the chicken is moist and really flavorful. The skin gets wonderfully crispy and fragrant with spices. Depending on your oven, the raw garlic *might* burn a wee bit. If you see it starting to get too dark, just toss a sheet of aluminum foil over the chicken in the last minutes of roasting.

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I like to marinate the chicken overnight to let the flavor really penetrate the chicken. That way, all I have to do is preheat my oven, slap the chicken on a pan and stick it in, and make the rest of our dinner while it’s roasting.

I usually wind up with time to spare to crack open a bottle of wine and sit and shoot the breeze while I wait for the timer to go off.

I love chicken leg quarters because they’re so flavorful, and they’re usually really cheap.

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This recipe will work with a whole, cut-up chicken, as well. If you do that, just keep an eye on the breasts if you wind up with a really plump chicken. They may need a little more time in the oven.

What is five-spice powder?

Good question. Five-spice powder is one of my favorite Asian seasonings. (Try my Rustic 5-Spice Potato Chips.)

Typically composed of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and szechuan peppercorns, five-spice powder is used extensively in Chinese cooking, and is a great way to add spicy, earthy flavor to both savory and sweet dishes. Sometimes it includes ginger, or other spices.

You can find it in the spice aisle of most major grocery stores, at Asian markets, or online at Penzey’s (my favorite spice shop).

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How to make your own five-spice powder

If you don’t have five spice powder, but you do have all its components stashed away in your cupboard, try making your own.

Combine equal parts of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and szechuan peppercorns in a spice (a.k.a. coffee) grinder, or a mortar and pestle, if you’re feeling like giving your arms a good workout.

Grind to a powder. Give it a taste to see if you’re happy with the blend. Adjust as necessary. (You may want to add more of one spice, depending on your particular taste.)

When you’re done, store it in a bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Garlic: To press or not to press

Now, I know some folks are super particular about how they prep their garlic.

Here’s the deal with garlic, at least according to the fabulous Harold McGee (if you haven’t read his book On Food and Cooking, I highly recommend it): The more you smash it up, the more of that pungent, garlicky flavor you release.

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Personally, I love garlic, so when I’m in a rush, I’ll use a garlic press. I know, call me a heathen. It’s OK. (I’ve also been known to thinly slice it, or mince it to a paste with salt and my big knife).

Check out this article for an interesting (and very entertaining) take on garlic presses. In the end, prep the garlic however you like.

The short version of this recipe goes like this

Mix up the marinade, toss the chicken in it, let it sit overnight (or not), then roast for 50 minutes at 425 degrees.

Read on for details of what that looks like.

Easy Roasted Five-Spice Chicken

4 garlic cloves, minced or put through a press
1 Tbls. kosher salt
2 Tbls. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. five-spice powder
1 Tbls. rice wine vinegar
6 chicken leg quarters, 4 1/2 – 5 lbs.
chili flakes, for garnish
minced parsley and/or sliced scallion, for garnish

Serves about 4

Make the marinade

Grab your garlic. Mash it up and toss it in a large bowl. Throw in the salt.

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Add the sesame oil (I love Kadoya brand)…

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make the marinade for the chicken

…and the five-spice powder.

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Toss in the rice wine vinegar. (I like Marukan brand. Rice vinegar comes plain or seasoned with salt and sugar. Use the plain kind for this recipe. The sugar in the seasoned version might burn. Rice vinegar gives the marinade a little acid, which balances the flavors.)

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Whisk to combine.

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Marinate the chicken

Grab your chicken leg quarters. Give them a quick rinse under cold water, then pat them dry (get them as dry as you can).

Toss each piece of chicken into the bowl and roll it around to coat in marinade. (You can also transfer your marinade to a few gallon-sized, zip-top bags if you prefer to marinate that way.)

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coat the chicken in marinade

Let the chicken sit (covered, in the fridge) in the marinade for a few hours, or overnight, if you like. If you don’t want to wait, roast away!

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Roast the chicken

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and/or parchment paper (on a weeknight, I’ll double line like this for easy cleanup). Spread the chicken out in a single layer.

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Roast the chicken for about 50 minutes, until the skin is golden brown and crisp, and the chicken juices run clear.

(On a meat thermometer, you’re aiming for about 155-160 degrees…be sure you’re not hitting a bone when you take its temp.)

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Let the chicken sit, loosely tented under a piece of foil, for about 10 minutes to let the juices settle. Don’t tent it tightly…you want to keep the skin crispy.

Serve and enjoy!

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Sprinkle with chili flakes and chopped parsley (or sliced scallion).

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Enjoy!

crispy asian chicken

roasted chicken leg quarters

Rustic 5-Spice Potato Chips

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

asian spiced potato chips

It’s easier than you might think to make potato chips at home. These particular chips are skin-on, thicker than usual, asian-spiced crunchy bliss. And? They take about 10 minutes to make.

The short version of this recipe goes like this: Slice. Fry. Sprinkle. Inhale. Read on for detailed instructions.

single homemade potato chip

You only need a one or two potatoes to serve four people as a side. I like to dust my chips with hand-mixed Asian 5-Spice salt. They make a totally great accompaniment to burgers—or a pan-roasted sirloin.

How thick should you cut your potato chips?

I like them a little bit thicker than a standard potato chip. I also like to leave the skin on the potato. If you prefer, though, peel the potatoes before slicing.

hand cut potato chip

I’m really good with a knife, and some of mine still came out uneven. You want them to be the same thickness so they all cook evenly.

potato and cleaver

Generally speaking, I like to cut the potatoes so that they’re a little on the thicker side, but they’re still thin enough to see through. Too thick = floppy chips.

transluscent potato slice

All that said, I’d recommend using a mandoline to cut these. Or a food processor fitted with a thin slicing disk. Trust me. It will save you time and hassle.

How to buy a mandoline

If you haven’t seen one before, a mandoline is a hand-operated machine that you use to uniformly and precisely slice firm foods (fruits, veggies, etc.).

The blade is housed in the body of the mandoline, and you slide the food over it to make your cuts. You can adjust the height of the blade to change the thickness of the slices.

Mandolines usually fold up, and come with a nifty little guard to hold the food so you don’t slice your fingertips off. (I’ve done that before. Use the guard. It’s not worth the risk.) For more info on how they work, check out this in-depth description of the different parts.

Now, a high-quality French mandoline is a beautiful—but pricey—thing. I’m talking about one of these babies, the Bron Original Stainless Steel Mandoline, which will run you just under $200.

Bron mandoline

There are a bunch of in-between models, too.

If you don’t want to spend a ton of money, you can pick up a Japanese beniriner for about $20.

It’s missing some of the bells and whistles of the French model above (folding legs, etc.), but it delivers where it counts—i.e. it’s compact and sharp. It accomplishes most of the basic cuts for a lot less money.

I’ve had one of these for years. I picked it up in Boston’s Chinatown, and it’s been indespensible to me. I highly recommend it.

Alrighty. To the hot oil!

Rustic 5-Spice Potato Chips

1-2 large russet potatoes
canola oil for frying
1 tsp. five-spice powder
1 tsp. kosher salt

Serves 2-4 as a snack

Slice and rinse the potatoes

Grab your potato(es). Scrub them. Peel them if you like.

unpeeled russet potato

Slice them into thin rounds.

If you have the time, soak them in ice cold water for about an hour to leach out some of the starch. (Less starch = crispier chip.)

If you don’t, put them in a colander or strainer and give them a good, long rinse under cold, running water.

pile of potato slices

Shake them around under the water to get them good and wet.

rinse potato slices under cold water

Pat them dry with paper towels. You want to get as much water off them as possible. (Water splatters when it hits hot oil, and nobody likes a grease burn.)

thinly sliced potato

Make the Five-Spice Salt

Do this before you make the chips. You’ll want to season the chips when they’re hot out of the oil—which is when the seasoning will stick best.

Put the salt and five spice powder in a small bowl. Whisk together to combine until relatively uniform. Set aside.

five spice powder and salt

Fry the potato chips

Line a baking sheet with a few paper towels. Set a rack on top. Set it aside.

Put about 2 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Set it on the stove over high heat. Heat the oil to about 380 degrees, if you have a candy thermometer handy.

pour the oil into a large pot

If you don’t, heat the oil until the surface shimmers, then start testing it. Dip (carefully!) the edge of a potato slice into the hot oil. If bubbles start to form furiously and immediately, the oil is hot enough to fry. If not, wait a minute or two, then test again.

test how hot the oil is

When your oil is hot enough, add a handful of potato slices to the pot.

fry the potato chips in batches

Stir them around with a skimmer or slotted spoon, so they fry on both sides.

turn the potato chips in the oil

Pull them out of the oil with your skimmer or slotted spoon when they’re light brown and crisp. This should take about 2 minutes, depending on how thick your chips are.

remove the potato chips from the oil with a spider

Season the potato chips

Transfer the hot chips to your prepared rack. Sprinkle with five-spice salt to taste.

drain the potato chips on a rack

Repeat with the rest of the potato slices until you’ve fried them all.

sprinkle the potato chips with salt when hot

Enjoy!

bowl of handmade potato chips

Mini Meat Loaves

Monday, January 25th, 2010

I’ll spare you my standard speech about miniature food. Suffice it to say: If it’s small, I’m all over it. These mini meat loaves are no exception.

Based on Ina Garten’s fabulous recipe, these meat loaves pack huge comfort-food goodness in a small package. They’re a great thing to serve at a dinner party. I mean, come on: Who wouldn’t love a little meatloaf, made just for them?

Ina’s original recipe calls for all chuck (which is cheap and delicious).

I used a more traditional meatloaf mix of beef, pork, and veal. Use any mix of meat you like. Just be sure you wind up with 2 1/2 lbs. For the beef, definitely get ground chuck if you can. It has tons of flavor.

ground pork ground beef ground veal

I also swapped in panko bread crumbs for regular, which provide a nice texture.

Panko are Japanese bread crumbs (made from crustless white bread). Most major grocery stores carry panko these days. If you can’t find them in your area, hit up an Asian market or order some online.

panko breadcrumbs

Panko bread crumbs

These little loaves are moist and meaty and all-together nap inducing, like all good comfort food. They have a subtle sweetness from a few cups of caramelized sweet onions, and mellow, earthy notes from mushroom soy sauce and a generous amount of fresh thyme.

fresh thyme

The top gets covered in regular old ketchup. I like Heinz, but by all means, use your favorite.

heinz-ketchup

Barbecue sauce would work, too, though the flavor could be overpowering depending on what kind you use.

Command your own little meatloaf army

Even if it’s just for a little while. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Seriously, though, they’re kind of fun to make. Tell me I’m wrong. (Smoosh, form, paint with ketchup…)

unbaked mini-meat-loaves

Alrighty. To the kitchen!

Mini Meat Loaves

Based on Ina Garten’s recipe

1 Tbls. olive oil
3 cups sweet onions, chopped (from 2-3 large onions)
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
3 Tbls. mushroom soy sauce
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 Tbls. tomato paste
1 lb. ground chuck (81% lean)
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup ketchup
fresh parsley, minced, for garnish

Yields about 6 mini meat loaves

Preheat your oven to 350.

Caramelize the onions

Grab your onions.

sweet-onions

Remove the peels and chop them up.

chopped sweet onions

Put the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over medium heat. Measure out 3 cups of onions. Toss them in the pan.

Add the thyme, black pepper, and a little kosher salt. (Go easy on the salt because you’re going to add mushroom soy, which is plenty salty, later on.) Stir to combine.

saute the onions with thyme, salt, and black pepper

Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent and brown. (Keep an eye on your heat and turn it down if need be. You want them to brown, but not stick to the pan and burn.)

caramelized onions

When they look about like this, yank the pan off the heat.

caramelized onions

Add the mushroom soy sauce, tomato paste, and chicken stock to the pan with the onions.

caramelized onions, chicken stock, soy sauce

Stir to combine. Set the pan aside for a minute or two while you deal with the meat.

stir the caramelized onion mixture

Make the meat mixture

Grab your meat. Toss it all in a large bowl.

ground meat

Add the panko bread crumbs.

add the panko to the ground meat

Quickly beat the eggs.

beat the eggs

beaten egg

Pour the beaten eggs into the bowl.

add the egg to the meat

And add the onion mixture.

add the onion mixture to the meat

Now, here’s the trick to making meatloaf that’s light and fluffy (i.e. not dense, thick, and heavy). Are you ready?

*dramatic music*

Don’t overmix it.

In fact, handle the mixture as little as possible—only enough to combine the ingredients together. Kind of the same way you make biscuits. That’s what you want to do here.

meatloaf mixture

So, with your hands (or a fork, if you’d rather not get your paws all gooey), gently mix the ingredients together until just combined.

gently mix the meatloaf mixture

Like this:

meatloaf mixture

Line a baking sheet with foil, then set a piece of parchment paper on top (if they stick, they’ll be much easier to get off the paper than the foil).

Form the loaves

Measure out 1 1/4 cups of meatloaf mixture. Plop it on your pan.

Shape the mixture gently, so that it resembles half a football. Again, you want to go easy here. Don’t mash the mixture together, which can make it tough and dense.

form the mini meat loaves

Repeat with the rest of your mixture, until you have 6 mini loaves.

six mini meat loaves

I made mine a little smaller, so I could have enough to experiment with baking them in ramekins.

meat loaves in ramekins

Grab your ketchup. Plunk a generous tablespoon on top of each loaf.

spoonful of ketchup

top the meatloaf with ketchup

With your finger (or the back of a spoon), spread the ketchup around so that it covers the top.

spread the ketchup on the meatloaf

Repeat with all your loaves.

top each meatloaf with ketchup

ready to bake meatloaf

individual meatloaf

Bake the meat loaves

Pop them into your preheated 350-degree oven. If you’re baking them in ramekins, set the dishes on a pan to catch any drips (mine bubbled over a little).

bake the meat loaves

Bake 40-45 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 155-160 degrees. Start checking them after about 30 minutes, as your final cooking time will depend on how thick your particular loaves are. When they’re done, yank them out of the oven.

160 degrees on an instant read thermometer

Now, depending on how fatty your meat is, your meat loaves are going to let out a little—or a lot—of juice. Don’t be alarmed if yours look like this. It’s kind of gross, I know. But it’s just fine.

meatloaf hot out of the oven

Just scoop them off the pan with 2 spatulas.

remove the meatloaf from the pan

Transfer them to a serving platter, and…presto! Little, picture-perfect rustic meat loaves. Sprinkle with minced parsley.

Oh, the meat loaves in the ramekins. They were good, but a wee bit on the greasy side. I’m not sure I’d do it again.

meatloaf ready to serve

Let me tell ya: These are fabulous straight out of the oven. I swear, though, they’re even better the next day, reheated with cheese on a toasted bulkie roll.

Enjoy!

Sunday Pot Roast (a.k.a. Beast in a Pot)

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Before I start, I have to say: This is not the most photogenic dish. That aside, it’s hard to argue with a good, homemade pot roast—also known as “Beast in a Pot” here at The Mouse House.

Pot roast is stick-to-your-ribs, winter home cooking at its coziest. It’s also an economical way to feed a crowd when you’re on a budget. All you need is a big hunk of beef, an even bigger pot, a handful of ingredients, and a little patience.

This particular recipe gets its rich, deep flavor from the combination of red wine, tomato puree, and beef broth. The sauce is infused with fresh rosemary, thyme, and bay—not to mention a hefty amount of garlic. Fresh fennel adds spicy, licorice undertones.

Pot roast is inexpensive. It’s also not fast.

Pot roasting is basically braising—that magical technique of cooking food slowly in liquid in a tightly covered pot—which transforms a tough hunk of meat into a sublimely tender, melt-in-your-mouth meal.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Low and slow cooking breaks down all the fibrous, connective tissue in the meat—those gristly ribbons that you’d never in your life want to chew on—leaving you with meat that practically falls apart when you wave a fork over it.

This is a take on Ina Garten’s recipe, Pot Roast for Company. (If you don’t know Ina Garten, you should. She’s the fabulous Barefoot Contessa.)

What kind of beef is best for pot roast?

Good question. These days, most butcher’s cases are packed with all manners of meat marked “roast.”

Ina Garten’s original recipe is dead on (of course!), and calls for chuck roast—the King of Flavor where beef is concerned. It comes from the shoulder section of the cow. Because this area gets a lot of exercise, it’s very flavorful but also very tough.

Moo!

Top and bottom round roasts (which come from the hindquarters of the animal), are also good choices for pot roast. Brisket works well, too, though it’s a little flat for slicing.

Basically, buy a roast that looks good to you (bright red flesh, clean white fat) and is reasonably priced. You shouldn’t pay a lot for a hunk of pot roast meat. That’s part of the beauty of the dish.

I didn’t like the look of the chuck at the market, so I opted for this boneless top round instead.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Most roasts will come pre-tied with butcher’s string. This isn’t essential, but helps them keep their nice, plump shape as they cook (which makes for easier slicing later). If yours isn’t tied, tie a few loops around your beast with kitchen twine. Or skip it entirely. It’ll be just as delicious.

Beast in a Pot, with Fresh Herbs

For this recipe, I used herbs from my kitchen container garden, which I recently moved indoors before the first real frost of the season.

The Hungry Mouse's Kitchen Garden

My kitchen container garden, shortly after planting this summer

So far, my plants seem to be really happy indoors, in our sunny library.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

I also used bay leaves that my dear friend Mrs. Toast brought me from her two huge bay trees the last time she visited. Fresh bay leaves have a wonderful flavor. If you can’t find them, though, you can definitely substitute dried leaves.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Sunday Pot Roast

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Company Pot Roast

1 (4 to 5-pound) boneless top round or beef chuck roast, tied
Kosher salt
Olive oil
2 cups carrots, chopped
2 cups onions, chopped (about 2 onions)
2 cups celery, chopped (about 4 stalks)
2 cups fennel bulb, chopped
7 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cups red wine
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
1 cup beef stock
4 – 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 large bay leaf (fresh if you can find it, dried if you can’t)
1 Tbls. butter

Serves 6-8

Prep the veggies for the pot roast

Before you start on the meat, get all the veggies (carrots, onions, celery, fennel) chopped. For the fennel, chop up the white bulb and stalks. Save the green frond-y parts for another use.

Put them in a large bowl and set it aside.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Gather your fresh rosemary and thyme together…

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

And tie them into a bundle with kitchen twine. This makes them easier to fish out and remove at the end.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Set the herbs aside and grab your roast from the fridge.

Sear the meat

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Drizzle a little olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pot. (I used my Big Red Pot, a 7-quart enameled cast-iron dutch oven that I’ve had for years.) Set it on the stove over high heat for a minute.

Sprinkle the meat on all sides with kosher salt. When the oil is hot, put the meat in the pot.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Cook for a few minutes on high heat (throw open a window, there’s going to be some smoke), until the bottom has a nice brown crust, like this:

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Repeat this browning process on all sides, until the meat is wearing a lovely brown jacket.

Transfer the meat from the pot to a large plate for a minute while you deal with the veggies.

Assemble the sauce for the pot roast

Start by cooking the vegetables. Dump your chopped veggies (carrot, onion, and fennel) into the same pot that you used to brown the meat.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Saute over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, until they’ve started to soften and brown a little. Stir occasionally, scraping at the bottom of the pot as you go to loosen any brown bits. (As they cook, the veggies will let off juice which will help deglaze the pan.)

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

After about 15 minutes, pour in the wine.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

And the beef stock.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Add the tomato puree to the pot. Stir to combine everything well.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Toss in the herb bundle, bay leaf, and chopped garlic. Stir to combine.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

And finally, add the browned meat back to the pot.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Spoon a little of the sauce over the meat.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Cover with a tightly fitting lid. Pop the pot into your pre-heated 325 degree oven. Cook for about 2 1/2 hours.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Carve and serve the beast!

Yank the pot out of the oven after about 2 1/2 hours. Give the meat a test. It should be so tender that it comes apart when you pull at an edge with a fork.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

To serve, transfer the meat from the pot to a platter or large plate. Cut into thick slices, across the grain. (I don’t have a good picture here, but take a peek at my Deli-Style Roast Beef recipe for a decent explanation of how the grain runs in a piece of meat.)

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Fish out your bundle of herbs and the bay leaf. Pitch them (they’ve given up all their flavor).

Toss the butter into the pot and swirl it around. For a thicker sauce, puree half the sauce in a blender and return it to the pot, stirring to incorporate it.

Ladle the sauce over the sliced meat. I like to serve this pot roast with thick hunks of garlic bread.

Sunday Pot Roast at The Hungry Mouse

Enjoy!

Bacon & Potato Leek Soup

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse


Ah, soup weather in New England. The air in Salem is finally turning a little colder, at least in the evenings. There are few things I love more on a nippy night than having a steaming pot of soup bubbling merrily away on the stove.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

For this soup, I started with Julia Child’s famous Potato Leek Soup—the same basic Potage Parmentier that transported Julie Powell at the beginning of her Julie & Julia Project.

And I can see why. The fact that you can coax a bagful of regular ole potatoes and pointy leeks into a such a velvety, luxurious soup is kind of unbelievable. That’s a special kind kitchen magic.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Of course, it’s hard to argue with Julia’s recipe. It’s simple and delicious. But autumn’s coming, you know. Which means I’m inclined to toss bacon into everything I responsibly can.

For this version, I used a combination of butter AND cream, instead of one or the other. I garnished the soup with crispy bacon cooked with fresh thyme. I deglazed the bacon with a little cognac—then drizzled a little extra into the serving bowls for good measure.

The results were absolutely sublime.

This soup is thick, creamy, and slightly smokey. You can do without the cognac, but a little splash before serving gives the soup an extra punch of warmth, flavor, and downright decadence.

For a budget version of this soup, omit the cognac and the bacon. You’ll still wind up with a pot of stick-to-your-ribs, creamy yumminess.

Serve it with a few hunks of crusty garlic bread.

How to clean leeks

Don’t skip this step. It doesn’t take long, and if your leeks are really dirty it can totally spoil your soup.

Leeks are like onions, and have layers that trap and hold grit easily.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

This means you have to rinse the filthy little beasts well before using them. In case you don’t know how, I’ve included instructions on how to clean them. It’s really easy.

Oh, one quick note on pureeing hot soup

This soup is pureed. You can accomplish that a number of ways.

With a blender (which can be messy, what with transferring the hot soup to and from the blender).

With a couple of forks or a potato masher (for a rougher textured, more rustic soup).

Or with an immersion blender (for an easy, practically mess-free, smooth puree).

Now, normally, I’m not one to go in for a lot of specialized kitchen gadgets. But, hands down, my immersion blender is one of my favorite tools in the kitchen.

Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick Hand Blender

It’s basically a stick with blender blades on one end, and it works just like a powerboat motor. Drop it in the drink, turn it on, and puree away.

I can’t say enough about mine. I use it all the time for sauces and soups. It makes weeknight soup making really easy. You can pick up a similar Cuisinart model for just about $30 on Amazon.

OK. To the kitchen!

Potato Leek Soup

4 cups white potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
3 cups leeks, cleaned and finely sliced (1-2 leeks, depending on their size)
7 cups water
1 Tbls. kosher salt
3 Tbls. butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
2-3 slices of bacon, diced
1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
2 Tbls. cognac + more for garnish
fresh parsley, minced, for garnish

Serves 6-8

Clean the leeks

Skip right on ahead if you know how to do this. Otherwise, grab your leeks.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Nip off the root ends.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Whack off a few inches at the green end.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Then slice each leek lengthwise down the center, like this.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

You’ll see all those layers, and depending on how dirty your leeks are, you may see why you need to clean them.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Rinse each half under cold running water.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Spread the layers apart a little with your fingers, so the water can run between them.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Pat them dry with paper towels, then slice them into thin half moons.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Repeat with the rest of your leeks until you have about 3 cups. (This is one of those recipes that’s forgiving and kind of imprecise. Don’t make yourself nuts if you have a little over or under.)

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Peel and dice the potatoes

Dice your potatoes on the small side.

As a general rule, I’m not much for measurements like “a quarter inch dice,” because I’m not sure I’d ever bust out a ruler in the kitchen to double check my work. (Though, admittedly, there are times when precision matters.)

For this recipe, cut your potatoes about the size of a piece of Bubble Yum. Basically, you just want them small enough that they cook evenly and relatively quickly.

Here’s one on the end of my 10-inch butcher’s knife.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Simmer the potato leek soup

Put the leeks and potatoes in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the water.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Toss in the salt.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Give it a stir to combine. Then bring it up to a boil over high heat.

Once it boils, drop the heat to medium and cover the pot, leaving the lid cracked (so the soup reduces as it cooks). You want the heat high enough so that you maintain a simmer.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Simmer for about 45 minutes.

Puree and finish the soup

After about 45 minutes, the liquid should have reduced some and the veggies should be fork tender. It will be fairly watery and sad looking, though your kitchen should smell heavenly.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Take the soup off the heat.

Puree the soup however you like (with an immersion blender, traditional blender, or potato masher) until it’s smooth.

If you’re using an immersion blender, be sure the soup is deep enough to cover the blades (otherwise it will splatter all over). If it isn’t, just tip the pot a little.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Add the butter, cream, and white pepper. Stir until well combined. Cover it up while you make the bacon garnish.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Garnish the soup, serve, and enjoy!

Dice the bacon up and put it in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the minced thyme. Stir to combine.

Fry the bacon until it’s crisp.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons of cognac. (Be careful, there will be a poof of steam.) Scrape at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen all those flavorful brown bits.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Cook for another minute over medium-high heat, stirring until most of the liquid evaporates. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

To serve, drizzle a little cognac in the bottom of each soup bowl. Use a tablespoon or two per bowl, depending on your taste. (If you’re unsure on this part, start with less.)

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Fill bowls with soup. Garnish with crisp bacon and chopped parsley.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Enjoy!

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Check out a reader’s twist on this recipe

Update�October 21, 2009�Take a peek at Annelle’s take on this recipe. (She added cheese!)

Annelle's Table: Creamy Potato, Leek and Bacon Soup