penne with chinese sausage and flowering chives

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There is no recipe for this dish. I used up a bunch of leftovers and fried up a couple of Chinese sausages (fah chung in Hakka Chinese). To make this dish, I also used two kinds of penne, onions, and flowering Chinese chives. I also tossed in a couple handfuls of shiitake mushrooms and 1/3 cup of sesame sauce–like I said, leftovers. Then I seasoned the dish liberally with salt, pepper, and fish sauce or nam pla. The flowering Chinese chives  are called dok gui chai in Thai and taste faintly of onion with a crisp texture even after stir-frying. Combined with the sweetish taste of the Chinese sausage, this was a satisfyingly hearty dish that was perfect for Sunday lunch.

italian sausage with peppers and onions over cheese grits

Italian sausage with peppers and onions over cheese grits

We’ll be going back to Thailand in two weeks’ time, interviewing movers, and I’m on a rampage to clean out the kitchen cupboards. Cross off corn grits! This dish is hearty and salty, crunchy and onion-y. I’m adding it to my list of comfort foods, along with macaroni and cheese, Chinese barbecued spare ribs, and banana bread.

Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions over Cheese Grits

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 2-4

For the grits:
2 teaspoons chicken broth base
4 cups water
3/4 cup yellow corn grits
1/2 cup nonfat milk, optional
1-2 teaspoons unsalted butter to flavor, optional
1 cup part-skim grated mozzarella cheese

For the sausage
1 package sweet Italian sausage
1/2 sweet red pepper, cut into strips
1/2 sweet green pepper, cut into strips
1/2 onion, sliced

Make the grits: Put chicken broth base and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the grits and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. When it is thickened, if desired, thin the grits with milk, up to 1/2 cup. If desired, add 1-2 teaspoons butter for flavor. Add the mozzarella cheese and stir. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

About 20 minutes before the grits cook, brown the sausages in a skillet with three tablespoons water, over medium heat. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Turn frequently until browned. Remove the cover and continue cooking an additional 10 minutes. Remove the sausages and slice on the bias. Don’t discard the oil in the pan.

Add peppers and onions to the skillet and cook over medium heat until the peppers are crisp tender and the onions are wilted, about 10-15 minutes.

Spoon the grits onto a plate. Top with sausage and peppers and onions.

the fourth of july paella

fourth of july paella

The Fourth of July Paella (really, The Minimalist’s Paella)
Everybody is blogging red white and blue today but not me. I’m so oppositional. It’s also hot and muggy, temperatures in the upper eighties in NY, and what do I decide to cook but The Minimalist’s Paella from The Essential NY Times Cook Book, that requires nothing less than a 500˚F oven. The temperature in the kitchen rose to ninety-six! It was worth it. Called The Minimalist’s Paella, this dish is so simple, with just four main ingredients: rice, broth, shrimp and chorizo. I added the peeled shrimp shells to the broth to flavor it. The slight shrimp flavor it added to the broth was delicate. As the rice absorbed the water in the hot oven, it became crusty without being burnt at the edges, and the chorizo was toasted without being charred.

Prep time: 30 minutes (those shrimp take time to peel and devein!)
Cook time: 20 minutes
Resting: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

1 pound shrimp-in-the-shell (I used medium shrimp but I think jumbo shrimp would be outstanding!)
4 cups chicken broth
pinch of saffron
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice (no substitutions!)
12 oz chorizo, mild or hot
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped scallion and cilantro, for garnish

Preheat oven 500˚F. While it is heating, peel the shrimp and save the shells. Devein the shrimp and set aside. Slice the chorizo on the bias and set aside.

In a small pot add the chicken broth. I used chicken stock paste because it’s more convenient. It tends to be salty so I only used half the recommended amount. Add the shrimp shells and saffron to the chicken broth. Let it come to a simmer. Strain the broth and discard the shells. Set aside the broth. The broth will be a pale yellow color from the saffron.

In a large oven-proof Dutch oven, heat the oil and when it is hot, add the onions. Cook until nearly transparent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir occasionally. Cook the rice until it looks shiny, about 1-2 minutes. Add the broth, shrimp, and chorizo. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook’s Note: Arborio rice’s unique property is the ability to quickly absorb liquid whether it is cooked on the stove top for a risotto or in the oven for The Minimalist’s Paella. Because of this,  I do not recommend any other rice substitutions for this dish.

Bake 20-25 minutes, uncovered. The liquid should be absorbed and the paella will be dry on top. Stir, and let rest 10 minutes before serving. Garnish each plate with scallion and cilantro. I served the paella with a minimalist’s accompaniment, quartered avocado pear.