I don’t usually go for impulse buys at the grocery store. Trader Joe’s has certainly gotten me a few times with some sort of dark chocolate treat, but mini cookbooks of 100 Jello recipes and the “extreme values” that Jewel cashiers mumble about (like a crumpled bag of Teddy Grahams) are pretty easy to pass up. Sometimes, though, a totally random item will catch my eye and I have to have it. Like today, when I went to Gene’s Sausage Shop for eggs and yogurt and came home with a giant $10 horseradish root.
The jibarito (pronounced “hee-bah-ree-toe”) is a very Chicago-style Puerto Rican sandwich. Instead of bread, the sandwich is held together with plantains. Traditionally, the plantains are deep-fried, not once but twice. That’s a little much for my home cooking – or at least a little too smelly for my kitchen. So for this version, the plantains are roasted, flattened and then pan-fried into a sandwich. The result isn’t quite as crispy as the original, but it’s a lot less mess and a bit lighter.
This jibarito-style grilled cheese is filled with Monterey Jack that’s flecked with spicy habanero peppers and sweet, tangy guava paste. Look for guava paste in Latin markets or the Hispanic ingredient section of your grocery store. As for the plantains themselves, choose the ripe yellow ones, not green. They’re sweeter and juicier and will provide a better texture for this preparation.
I wrote about this soup two years ago when I first found the recipe in the New York Times. Since then, I’ve made it many times, making a few tweaks here and there. It’s definitely remained a favorite – in fact, it’s one of two soups that I constantly go back to. You know, the ones I know I can really nail.
That’s why I decided to take this soup to The Hideout’s Soup & Bread night this week. If I was going to be manning a Crock-Pot next to other food bloggers and even some professional chefs, I didn’t want to mess around with something untested. But then I picked up a copy of the Soup & Bread cookbook and read some of the recipes from last year. There were all kinds of interesting broths and dumplings and garnishes. And the lineup of soups this week was equally impressive. My little red lentil soup started to seem a little … pedestrian.
I decided a garnish was in order. Lately, I’ve been pureeing this soup completely, so a little something crunchy would add some nice texture. Emily’s recipe for Dukkah at The Kitchn seemed intriguing and I loved that you can really adapt it to fit a specific dish or use whatever you have in the pantry.
The mixture I chose echoed some of the flavors in the soup itself – cumin, smoked paprika and lemon – and added a nice crunch with hazelnuts, pistachios, coriander and sesame seed. It’s incredibly easy to whip up and can make something so simple – like red lentil soup – a little more sophisticated. But most importantly, it’s really, really tasty.
Brie-style cheese might not come to mind when you think about macaroni and cheese. I often reach for the sharpest variety when making a batch, but a soft-ripened cheese like Crave Brothers Les Frères is a great, super-creamy alternative. Especially when it’s paired with earthy mushrooms and a little white wine.
Think about eating a Brie-style cheese on its own – it’s great with white wine, and its flavor is accentuated by walnuts and mushrooms. On a cheese board, I might pair it with a sharper cheese to add some variety.
I approached our macaroni and cheese the same way and incorporated these elements into the dish. If the other cheese we used aren’t available in your area, try something aged and a little nutty like Gruyère.
The result was wonderfully creamy and deeply flavorful. It’s comfort food that’s a little sophisticated and perfect for a cold winter evening.
The rind of Les Frères Cheese is perfectly edible, but best removed if you’re going to be melting it into a sauce. I wanted to save every last bit of the creamy interior, though, and grating the rind off with a microplane was the best way to do that.
I also took the extra step of pre-toasting our bread crumbs. Sure, it might be a little fussy, but only takes a couple of minutes and provides a really satisfying crunch with each bite.
Les Frères Mac & Cheese with Mushrooms
1 pound package shell pasta
2 slices whole wheat sandwich bread
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 8-ounce wheel of Crave Brothers Petite Frère Cheese OR another Brie-style cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound mushrooms, quartered
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Saxon Green Fields or Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve, shredded OR Gruyère
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat; add pasta and cook to al dente texture, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, using a food processor, grind bread slices into crumbs. Add the nuts and pulse until well combined. In a skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add the breadcrumb mixture and cook for about three minutes, or until the breadcrumbs begin to brown, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook an additional 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.
There should be a small amount of liquid and some garlic remaining in the pan. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute over medium heat. Add milk, and whisk the mixture until the flour has dissolved and the liquid begins to thicken. Remove from heat and mix in Petit Frères and Green Fields or Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, stirring until melted.
Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture and stir in the reserved mushrooms. Divide the pasta into 6 oven-safe individual-serving bowls. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Place on a cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes.
You can find this recipe and 29 others at 30 Ways, 30 Days with Macaroni & Cheese.
Note: This recipe was developed in partnership with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board for their 30 Ways, 30 Days with Macaroni & Cheese blog. A small stipend was provided to cover groceries.
“The very act of doing something, no matter how small, is a step away from hopelessness and despair. And no matter where we stand in the concentric circles of support surrounding a difficult situation, we cannot afford hopelessness and despair.”
That’s my Kitchn colleague Dana Velden on “The Bake Sale Response.” Last Friday morning, I was reading Dana’s eloquent post about groups in cities around the country organizing bake sales to raise money for disaster relief in Haiti.
As I was reading, a tweet popped onto my screen about a benefit show at The Hideout planned for Monday and I thought perhaps some sweet treats would be a good addition to the event. A few quick emails later and we had ourselves a bake sale. A good, old-fashioned bake sale.
We started spreading the word and volunteers came streaming in all weekend, offering all sorts of wonderful treats. By Monday night, we had nearly 24 contributors on board. Thanks to the generosity of this group and those in attendance at the show, we raised more than $700 close to $1,000 with our little bake sale. In all, the event raised nearly $8,000 for Partners in Health, an organization that has been on the ground in Haiti for more than 20 years.
A huge thanks to everyone who jumped on board with the sale and donated their talents and energy to the event. Every little bit helps.
Also! There are still some treats available from the bake sale. We will be selling them tomorrow evening (1/20) at The Hideout’s Soup and Bread night.
I’m organizing a bake sale for the Benefit for Haiti at The Hideout on Monday, January 18. And I’m looking for bakers.
This is all coming together pretty last minute, but I’m not looking for huge quantities. A dozen or two of your favorite sweet treat would be so greatly appreciated.
As for the logistics, if you’re coming to the benefit, you can just bring your treats along with you and get there just a bit early. If you can’t attend, I’m happy to arrange pickup/drop off on Sunday (1/17).
If you’re interested or have any questions, leave a comment here, or email me at email@example.com.
Here’s more info on the benefit show at The Hideout:
BENEFIT FOR HAITI AT THE HIDEOUT THIS MONDAY 18TH JAN
THE WACO BROTHERS
ELEVENTH DREAM DAY
Special Guest TBA
Show starts 8pm
Eleventh Dream Day at 8.15pm
Wacos at 9.15pm
$20 admission. All door proceeds go to Partners in Health.
Advance tix and info at hideoutchicago.com.
It’s two days into the new year, and I haven’t quite rid my apartment of holiday indulgences. There are still some treats from my stocking lingering in the pantry, a few Christmas cookies in the freezer, a bottle of Champagne in the fridge and a big box of Belgian truffles that just arrived today (sigh).
I am, however, trying to ease my way into healthier eating. This simple soup has helped get me on my way. It’s made with a handful of ingredients and just makes me feel good. Not in the same way a big wedge of brie or a scoop of gingerbread lemon cream trifle make me feel good – and, believe me, they do.
It’s the kind of good that comes from knowing I’m eating something truly healthy and inspires me to do more of the same. And that’s the kind of good I can really use right about now.
Spinach and Leek Soup with Cumin
2 leeks, cleaned and tops removed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 quart vegetable stock
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh spinach (or 1 cup frozen)
juice of 1 lemon
In a heavy pot, heat olive oil. Add leeks and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add stock, cumin and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Mix in spinach and simmer for another 2 minutes. If desired, blend about 1/3 of soup. Mix in lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Happy eating in the New Year!