Between Seasons with Jacques: Hominy, Cilantro and Cumin Stew

Shhh… don’t tell Julia, Ms. Jeannie’s got another favorite French chef!

Julia & Jacques
Julia & Jacques

Practically equivalent in the incredibly delicious food category, the culinary wonders of Jacques Pepin are a constant source of inspiration when it comes to time spent well in the kitchen. In a lot of ways he’s the opposite of Julia Child. She was an American that moved to France. He was a Frenchman that moved to America. Julia learned the classics of French cooking, Jacques created original recipes. She developed her interest in cooking later in life while Jacques grew up in his family’s restaurant in Lyon. But for all their opposites they shared many things in common – their passion for food and fun being two.

Claudine & Jacques in 1994.
Claudine & Jacques in 1994.

Like Julia, Jacques had his own cooking show on PBS which aired every Sunday afternoon in the late 1990’s. Jacques was not only fabulous in the kitchen but he was funny too! The whole precipice of the show was him trying to teach his adult daughter Claudine how to cook. Claudine was an everyman (everywoman?!) in the kitchen, and although she was the daughter of an FFC (famous French chef) she didn’t know much about cooking.

For her, techniques were troublesome, flavor pairings were confusing and certain preparations were downright intimidating. But In Cooking with Claudine, Jacques was there to teach and Claudine was there to learn, sort of. They were cute together. She’d make her own shortcuts, he’d quibble with her about the proper way to cut an onion or smash some garlic. Often times she’d humor him and then do it her own way. They laughed with each other and in the end they both learned from each other. Dad and daughter cooking up some fun. This camaraderie turned into quite a few television appearances over the years. If you are lucky you can still catch dad and daughter whipping up something delightful at a food festival or special event.

Here they are sharpening knives in Aspen in 2012…

Jacques maybe French by birth but his heart and home are here with us in the States.  He has surrounded himself with American culture and cuisine since he first came to the U.S. in the 1950’s. And guess where one of his first jobs were, dear readers? Before earning his masters degree at Columbia University, Jacques helped develop menus for the restaurant of this famous mid-century travel icon…

Howard Johnson's
Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge and Restaurant circa 1960’s!

Immersed in the everyday palate of the American culture, Jacques’ recipes pull from cultures around the world. They may have French foundations but they are built with a variety of different cuisines which make for unique arrangements in the flavor department.

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Hominy, Cilantro and Cumin Stew

One recipe Ms. Jeannie tried recently featured an international concoction of ingredients. Pulling from Mexican, Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern staples, this springtime stew is perfect for the hot/cold/hot/cold temperatures of March. When the weather is as indecisive as your appetite and you can’t choose between something warm, light, fresh or substantial –  Jacques’ Hominy, Cilantro and Cumin stew is the way too go.

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It utilizes three springtime ingredients – onions and herbs – yet is packed with the warm, smoky flavor that suits a sweater and a scarf. It also involved this most mysterious ingredient…

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Hominy, thought Ms. Jeannie, was the same thing as as polenta which is the same thing as grits – a Southern staple here in the South. But not so, dear readers! Hominy is actually a corn kernel plumped up to the size of a chickpea and sold in cans not at all like its flour sacked cousins.  A whole  lesson was to be had at the grocery store. Polenta and grits are the same thing. Hominy is an entirely different matter altogether. Same family, different form.

Hominy comes in two varieties – white and yellow. And as you can see from this picture – when compared to a popcorn kernal it is quite plump. The recipe calls for both colors which gives it an attractive color palette.

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Because of its distinct flavor, there is not a lot of variety when it comes to cooking with hominy. Ms. Jeannie was surprised to find just a few different types of recipes online. Jacques loves to cook with these little corn puffs, and now thanks to his delicious recipe, Ms. Jeannie does too!

Hominy, Cilantro and Cumin Stew

(serves 6)

2 tablespoons canola oil (Ms. Jeannie used olive oil)

1 medium onion

6-8 scallions – washed, trimmed and chopped

2 small zucchini – washed, trimmed and diced

5-6 medium mushrooms – washed and chopped

5-6 cloves of garlic – peeled, crushed and finely chopped

1.5 teaspoons ground cumin

.25 teaspoons crushed red pepper

1 can (15.5 oz) white hominy

1 can (15.5 oz) yellow hominy

1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped (because it is not tomato season here yet Ms. Jeannie used 7 oz. of canned diced tomatoes)

1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

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Heat the oil in a large pan. When it is hot, saute the onions and scallions for one minute. Then add zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, cumin and pepper flakes: cook for 3-4 minutes.

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Add the hominy (with liquid from can) to the pan and bring mixture to a full boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Check the consistency after 10 – you don’t want it to be soupy, nor do you want it to be dry. If it is too liquidy – let it simmer until mixture is just moist. If it is too dry add a few tablespoons of water.

Stir in tomatoes and cilantro, and let the mixture come to a boil again. Let it cook for one more minute before ladling into serving bowls.

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Jacques makes this as a side dish but you could also have it it on its own as a vegetarian lunch or dinner, which is what Ms. Jannie did here. Serving it with a few tostadas gives it a nice bit of crunch but also it would be great with poached chicken or a simple white fish. You could even serve it as a chunky dip for your Cinco de Mayo party!

Happy hominy dear readers! If you have any great recipes featuring this flavorful fella please post it in the comments below.

PS. If you are loyal to Julia Child, Ms. Jeannie has one of her vintage cookbooks for sale in her shop. Click the photo for more info!

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Monday in the Kitchen: It’s Sopa de Fuba Season!

Simple ingredients for a simple soup!
Simple ingredients for a simple soup!

As the outside temperatures start leaning towards Autumn, Ms. Jeannie starts dreaming about soup in all its different variations. Undoubtedly one of her most favorite things to make in the cold months, she was practically giddy today in anticipation of inaugurating the season with one of her very favorites…Sopa de Fuba, a native recipe to this gorgeous place…

Can you guess where there is? Photo via pinterest.
Photo via pinterest.

Can you guess where in the world this picture was taken? If you guessed Brazil then you are right! To be more particular it is Minas Gerais – the fourth largest state in Brazil, known for it’s precious gem, diamond and gold mines, its historic colonial charm and a certain something special in the warm and hearty soup department.

Sopa de Fuba combines just a few simple ingredients in an unusual manner which makes it fun to cook and a bit out of the ordinary to serve.

It starts with the browning of cornmeal on the stove…

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And then the sauteing of sausage…

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You can use any variety of sausage from kielbasa to ground from pork to turkey depending on what you prefer. In this case Ms. Jeannie used organic hot Italian chicken sausage. Eventually you will wind up with slices or crumbles…

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The trickiest part of the whole production is when you incorporate one cup full of cornmeal broth to two lightly beaten eggs…

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The slower you whisk the hot broth into the cold eggs the better so as not to curddle the eggs. By drizzling instead of pouring and whisking quickly with a fork  its easier to incorporate the two and makes for a nice, thick, creamy looking mixture instead of thin and runny with floating flaky egg bits.

In the very end you wind up with this dreamy concotion that tastes like it has been cooking for days and feels like you have sweatered your insides in something soft and warm like cashmere.

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Taking about 90 minutes from prep to table, it is a robust rainy day recipe that makes you feel like you have spent some satisfying time in the kitchen yet doesn’t take all day nor the use of every dish. Pair it with  a nice glass of wine and some crusty bread or a warm dressing salad and you’ll be fortified for hours when it comes to the task of raking leaves, shoveling snow, or hiking mountains to find that one perfect Griswold worthy Christmas tree:) It also freezes well so make a big batch if you are so inclined and dinner will be taken care of down the winter road.

Here’s the recipe breakdown from start to finish. Ms. Jeannie adapted this just slightly from the original saveaur.com recipe. Her alterations are in italics.

Sopa de Fuba

SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

½ cup yellow cornmeal
2 tbsp. canola oil (Ms. Jeannie uses olive oil) 
6 oz. kielbasa sausage, cut diagonally into ¼”-thick slices (you can use any kind of sausage here ina ny style from pork to turkey to chicken from italian sausage style to ground!)
7 cups chicken stock (you can also use beef broth, turkey stock or veal broth)
4 oz. collard greens, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat cornmeal in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat and cook, swirling pan constantly, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 3–4 minutes. Transfer cornmeal to a bowl; set aside. Heat oil in skillet and add sausages; cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

2. Bring chicken stock to a boil in a 6-qt. pot over high heat. Whisk in reserved cornmeal, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, whisking often, until cornmeal is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in reserved sausages and collards and cook, stirring occasionally, until collards wilt, 15 minutes. Place eggs in a medium bowl and add 1 cup cornmeal mixture; whisk until smooth. Return mixture to pot and stir until incorporated; cook for 1 minute more and season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into 6 serving bowls and garnish with scallions; serve hot.

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And that dear readers is Sopa de Fuba! Fun to say and delicious to eat;) If you feel the winter blues coming on – make a batch of this, picture yourself here and you’ll feel instantly restored. Like a mini vacation to an ancient city…

photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest

Happy Autumn eating all you hearty ones!

 

 

 

Thursday in the Kitchen: Creamy Potato Soup – A Recipe from Ireland

Spring is waking up slowly here in the South. The nights are still cold but the afternoons reach into the early ’60’s on most days now. This afternoon warming makes for delicious stolen moments around the 4:00pm hour when Ms. Jeannie likes to take a cup of coffee  outside with her and dream about all the potential and possibility for her garden plan this coming season.

In anticipation of all this gardening, Ms. Jeannie has been going through some of her favorite recipes so that she can figure out what she needs to grow so that she’ll have the freshest ingredients possible. One of her most favorite things to make is soup, so you’ll be sure there will be a variety of vegetables popping up!

In anticipation of such gardening delights and in anticipation of the upcoming Irish holiday, Ms. Jeannie cooked up one of her most favorite soups…potato!

Creamy Potato Soup
Creamy Potato Soup

This recipe came from her Irish Isles cookbook, which was a birthday gift this past summer from her dad.

Straight from Ireland - music and recipes!
Straight from Ireland – music and recipes! Photo courtesy of irishshop.com

Not only was it a gift of recipes – but it also came with a cd of classical Irish music, which made for a well-rounded cooking experience!

This was a very sentimental gift for Ms. Jeannie. Many years ago, she took a father daughter trip to Ireland and together, they explored the Southern countryside for 10 days. They stayed at 3 different hotels and visited about half a dozen cities and towns. There were sheep (so many!), crazy drivers, the perilous N7 , endless Frank Sinatra on the radio, fabulous museums, trips to the lace-makers, dinners in castles, driving tours of coastal fishing villages, a wet and wild tour of the Cliffs of Moher, lunches in pubs and a million miles of laughter in-between. It was a fantastic trip – one of Ms. Jeannie’s most favorite of all  her travel adventures.

This cookbook is a compilation of recipes from the country hotels and manor houses all over Ireland. There are even some recipes from the places where Ms. Jeannie and her dad stayed!

The Leek and Potato Soup Recipe that Ms. Jeannie just made comes from Newport House in County Mayo.

Newport House, County Mayo. Love all that ivy!
Newport House, County Mayo. Love all that ivy!

Built in the 1700’s, the country estate is now part of the Relais & Chateaux distinguished hotel group. It is a small, luxury country inn known most for its location overlooking the Newport River and its salmon and sea trout fishing, both in the river and in nearby waterways. The current owners, who were originally guests at the hotel, so fell in love with their accommodations  they bought the hotel in the mid-1980’s to ensure that they would always have a fishing retreat to “come home to.” Imagine that! Going on vacation and purchasing your vacation destination because you loved it that much! Ms. Jeannie can totally understand – Ireland is magical like that:)

Here are some interior photos. The owners have decorated the hotel in a variety of antiques including Regency style mirrors. It looks like it has a lot of character!

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The waterways surrounding the town of Newport. Photo courtesy of australliantraveller.net
The waterways surrounding the town of Newport. Photo courtesy of australiantraveller.net

It’s no wonder that soup is on the menu at Newport House. After a cool day of fishing on the water, Ms. Jeannie bets that a cup of hot potato soup is just what you’d want to have! She was delighted to see that it is still on the menu in the hotel’s dining room!

Ms. Jeannie's Leek and Potato Soup...
Ms. Jeannie’s Leek and Potato Soup…

Ms. Jeannie modified the recipe just a tad to incorporate items she already had on hand, which included a few bunches of fresh spinach tossed in at the very end.

Here’s the recipe, with Ms. Jeannie’s substitutions in parentheses…

Leek and Potato Soup – Serves 4

4 tablespoons butter (Ms. Jeannie used 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter)

1 1/4 lbs. leeks, cleaned and sliced

1 cup onion, chopped

3/4 cup celery, chopped

4 cups homemade chicken broth

8 to 10 oz. potatoes, peeled and chopped (Ms. Jeannie used 2 large russet baking potatoes)

1 spring fresh thyme, leaves pulled

1 fresh sage leaf, whole

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (Ms. Jeannie used 1/2 cup of 2% milk)

2 large handful bunches of fresh spinach

1. In a large saucepan melt butter (and oil, if using Ms. Jeannie’s version) over medium low heat. Add leeks, onion and celery and saute until onions are translucent but not browned (about 5-7 minutes).

2. Add the chicken broth, potatoes, thyme and sage. Simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender.

3. Transfer to a blender and puree. Return soup to original cooking pot,  add cream (or milk) and salt and pepper. Fold in spinach and cook over low heat for 5 more minutes before serving.

Ms. Jeannie served her soup with a multi-grain baguette which was good for dipping! And, despite having only a 1/2 cup of cream (or milk in Ms. Jeannie’s case) this is an incredibly creamy soup once it is pureed. And it is quick to make with few ingredients! Thank you Ireland for making dinner simple and delicious!!!

Over the next couple of weeks, leading up to St. Patrick’s Day (Mr. Jeannie Ology’s heritage day!),  Ms. Jeannie will be trying the recipes in the cookbook from the hotels and country houses she and her dad stayed in on their vacation. These are sneak peeks of three of them…

The Park Hotel in Kenmare, County Kerry
The Park Hotel in Kenmare, County Kerry (Ms. Jeannie’s favorite!)
Dromoland Castle in County Clare
Dromoland Castle in County Clare
The Shelbourne Hotel on St. Stephens Green in Dublin
The Shelbourne Hotel on St. Stephens Green in Dublin

Until next time…Slainte, dear readers! Which means cheers in Irish:)