saturday - comfort food weekend

skipped breakfast, although i had planned on steaming up a bowl of oatmeal, and concentrated on my croque monsieur for lunch--which prompted a revelation. i was using a martha stewart recipe--it was closer to hand than my grilled cheese book--and i realized that she’s sort of the like ATK. efficicent, works every time, but sort of soulless. and her macaroni and cheese is not nearly as good.

but i’m really getting good at whipping up a bechamel. and kings to me for not setting the oven on fire when i melted the cheese under the broiler!

finally up and made the autumn stew with potato topping tonight--a sort of a shepherd’s pie, i suppose. the prep was easy enough, and i did it this afternoon so as not to be bothered after av left. i regret to say that the result was not at all what i had hoped for! there were, i think, several factors--firstly, i put too much liquid into the mix, and perhaps not enough cornstarch. i don’t think i cooked it long enough, and i forgot to spray the top with some cooking spray, so it didn’t brown or crisp at all.

but mostly, i just didn’t like the flavor. i felt like i was eating mush that mostly tasted of sweet potato and apple, with the occasional bite of sausage (although i am pleased that i got the chicken apple sausage for the dish, because that flavor was quite lovely). i’m not really sure what to make of it. i nearly threw it away, but decided that it might work with some of the leftover macaroni, or perhaps some chicken, or as a quickie side dish during the week.

i also made a batch of brownies, the recipe from my ‘passion for desserts’ book. it’s my plan to whip up a batch of mascarpone-base ice cream and make a sort of black forest gateau flavor. these brownies are much fudgier than my usual preference, so i’m excited to see how the ice cream works out. i’m usually on the cakey side of the brownie fence.

For the Vegetable Stew:
(adapted from a recipe at Je Mange la Ville)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium leek, cleaned well and sliced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
15-20 button mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 apple, grated
1 ear of corn or 1/2 cup frozen corn
3 cups vegetable broth (+ 2 tbsp more)
3 chicken apple sausage
2 fresh sage leaves, chopped
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon corn starch
sprig of fresh rosemary and 3-4 sprigs of thyme, bundled together by a little string if you are feeling very organized or — just loose if feeling lazy
salt & pepper
For the mashed Sweet Potatoes:
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon butter
2% or fat-Free milk
Fresh sage leaves
Fresh thyme leaves
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs
cooking spray

This starts like many stews start, by adding the olive oil to a large soup pot, over medium heat. Toss in the onions, garlic and mushrooms. Let it all cook for about 5-6 minutes, then add the stock. Stir.

Next comes most of the vegetables. Add the carrots, squash and grated apple. Also add the poultry seasoning now along with the fresh herb sprigs. Let the stew simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are getting pretty tender.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, brown the veggie sausage. When it’s done, crumble it and set aside.

Add the spinach and corn kernels next. Also, mix in the veggie sausage. Combine the cornstarch with the extra broth and stir that in as well. It should thicken a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste and also the chopped sage leaves now.

Adjust the other seasonings and fish out your herb sprigs. Next, ladle the stew into small oven proof bowls (this will make at least four servings with some likely leftovers) and set aside.

You can also do this while the stew simmers…
Add the sweet potatoes to a pot of water and let simmer/low boil until the potatoes are done — about 12 or so minutes. Test with a fork to be sure. Drain and either use a potato ricer to mash or a potato masher.

Myself, I couldn’t love my potato ricer more. It is my best friend at Thanksgiving. Well, the ricer and my oven, actually. They are my best friends. Oh, and the wine. The wine is a very good friend at Thanksgiving.

Anyway, add the butter, milk, salt and pepper to the potatoes. You want the potatoes creamy but not soupy. Add enough milk to do that. Add fresh thyme and sage. Fresh chopped chives would also be nice if you have some.

Let the potatoes cool a little and then spread some on top of each stew bowl. Try and get it even, this is best achieved by dropping little spoonfuls of potatoes over the whole top and then spreading it out. Cover each with a little bread crumbs. You can either bake it now at 375 for about 20-25 minutes or you can let it cool completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Before you do bake the stews, hit the to of each with a a little cooking spray. This will encourage browning. From the fridge give them about 35 minutes in the oven.

When done, top each with a sage leaf and serve.

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