Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Soup
2 free-range chicken breasts from U.S. Wellness Meats (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
4 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
3 tablespoons Kerrygold unsalted butter (grass-fed)
2 leeks, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced, washed thoroughly and dried
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
10 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used a mixture of cremini and shiitaki)
1 tart apple, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pour the chicken broth into a large, heavy pot. Rinse the chicken breast halves with cold water, and place in the pot with the chicken broth. Bring the broth to a simmer, and cook the chicken for 15-20 minutes at low heat. As the chicken is cooking, periodically skim the foam from the broth and discard. Move the chicken to a dish to cool. Pour the chicken broth into a bowl through a fine-mesh strainer, and set aside. Wipe out the pot with paper towels.
- Using the same pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Sauté leeks and celery until soft, but not browned, for around 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes, then add the apple cubes and cook for another few minutes until the mushrooms and apples are soft. Return the strained chicken broth to the pot with the vegetables; stir in apple cider vinegar, cream, and dried thyme. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, partially covered.
- In the meantime, cut the chicken into smaller pieces, then shred each piece by hand. Cover the shredded chicken so it doesn't dry out, and set aside.
- After the broth and vegetables have simmered for 20-30 minutes, use an immersible hand-blender to puree the vegetables to a finer consistency. (I like to leave it a little chunky.) Add the shredded chicken to the soup. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat on low for at least 10 minutes. Serve hot, and enjoy!
Well, this soup ain't funky at all, but the music selection sure is! Do The Funky Chicken by Rufus Thomas is guaranteed to get your feet dancing. Thomas hit the charts with "Walkin' the Dog" in 1963, and it was one dance floor hit after another for the Stax Records artist. Do the Funky Chicken!
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Beef Chili Rellenos
Stuffed poblano peppers are a great way to make a pot of chili more interesting, whether you're having guests or just using up some leftovers. This is not a quick recipe because there is a lot of preparation, but your hard work will pay off!
The chili in this recipe is mildly spicy. If you'd like for it to be hotter, stir in a chopped chipotle pepper (in adobo sauce) to the chili mixture before it goes into the oven.
3 lbs U.S. Wellness Meats Grass-fed Stew Beef, or Chuck Roast (cut into 1-inch cubes)
2-3 tablespoons U.S. Wellness Meats Beef Lard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder (recipe for Nancy's Chili Powder below)
2 cups diced tomatoes or tomato puree
2 cups beef broth
6 large poblano peppers
10 ounces Queso Quesadilla, grated (or another Mexican melting cheese)
Condiments for serving: fresh lime, sour cream, extra cheese, pumpkin seeds
- Preheat oven to 350F. Place the stew beef in a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss well. (NOTE: if you are using chili powder containing salt, you may want to omit the salt in this step.)
- In a large Dutch oven (or other oven-proof pot), heat 2 tablespoons of beef lard over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the stew meat in the lard. Do not crowd the beef in the pot or it will steam instead of browning. Remove each batch of browned beef to a clean bowl. Add more lard to the pot, as needed to brown all the stew beef.
- After browning the beef, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Sauté the chopped onion until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to loosen the fond (browned bits on the bottom) from the pot. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant (about a minute). Return the stew beef and accumulated juices to the pot. Add the chili powder and stir well so that the chili powder coats the meat. Stir in the diced tomatoes and beef broth. Bring to a simmer, then cover and move the pot to the oven.
- Cook the chili for around 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Close to the end of the cooking time, partially uncover the pot so that the liquid will reduce, but do not let the chili become dry. It should be saucy, but not soupy. When meat is done, remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to comfortably handle.
- In the meantime, roast the peppers. Wash the peppers and dry thoroughly. Turn on the exhaust fan if you're roasting on the stovetop. (If you don't have a gas range, you can also put them under the broiler in the oven, or use a grill outdoors.)
- Using tongs, place the pepper over the flames (or under the broiler). Turn frequently, until the entire pepper is charred. Place the blackened peppers in a paper bag (watch out that there are no embers on the peppers!) and roll the top of the bag closed. This will allow the peppers to steam and continue to cook. Put the bag aside and allow the peppers to cool. [If you don't have a bag, you could wrap them in paper towels and place in a glass bowl to cool.]
- When cool enough to handle, peel the charred skin from the peppers with your fingers. It may help to use some running water to get the skin off, but be careful not to get the peppers too wet or you'll dilute their flavor. It's okay if there's some charred skin left here and there on the pepper, and it's okay if they tear a little in places. Slice the peppers open on one side, remove the stem, and lay them out flat to scrap out the seeds and white ribs. Dry the peppers with paper towels.
- When ready to assemble, heat the oven to 400F. Fill each pepper down the center with chili; fold the pepper "sides" over the top of the chili so that the pepper envelops the chili. Place each pepper into a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle cheese over the peppers (reserve some cheese for serving). Return to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until hot throughout and the cheese is lightly browned. (There may be leftover beef chili – perfect for lunch on another day!)
- Serve hot, with limes, sour cream, additional cheese, and a sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds. Enjoy!
Nancy's Chili Powder (no-salt)
2 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
3/4 teaspoon hot, smoked, Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 1/2 teaspoons raw (turbinado) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in a lidded glass jar at room temperature.
A bit of "south of the border" spiciness in our dinner, and in the music to boot! Mexican-American Border Music, Vol. 1: Pioneer Recording Artists (1928-1958) is a great collection of early Tex-Mex music. You can hear strains of Tejano and country music in it, and it's passionate and vibrant- sorta like the peppers!!
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Pork Chops with Sweet Potato and Fennel Hash
Brining the pork chops not only infuses more flavors into the meat, but it helps ensure that the meat will stay moist and juicy when cooked.
4 bone-in U.S. Wellness Meats pork chops
3 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
6 cups water
2 bulbs fennel (stems removed)
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 sweet onion, cut into large dice
3 slices U.S. Wellness Meats bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper or pepper blend
- In a one-gallon re-sealable bag, mix 3 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt with the maple syrup and water. Shake well until the salt has dissolved. Place the pork chops in the bag, press out air, seal, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Remove the outer, tough layer from the fennel bulbs. Cut each bulb in half lengthwise (top to bottom). Place cut sides down, then slice the bulbs lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips.
- Place the fennel, sweet potato, and onion into a shallow roasting pan. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Gently toss with just enough olive oil to coat the vegetables and the pan. Arrange the bacon pieces over the vegetables. Roast at 400F, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are browned in places and bacon is cooked (approximately 40 minutes).
- Dry the pork chops with paper toweling. Season with freshly ground black pepper. (No additional salt should be needed due to the brine.)
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a thin layer of olive oil to the skillet, and sauté two of the pork chops for approximately 4 minutes per side, until nicely browned. It's best to do this in batches – don't crowd the pan or the chops will not brown quickly and will get overdone. Set the cooked pork chops aside in a warm place, and repeat for the last two pork chops.
NOTE: Take care not to overcook. Pork chops are done when they reach 145F, if using a meat thermometer, and are safe to eat when slightly pink in the center.
- Serve the pork chops with the sweet potato and fennel hash...and enjoy!
Dire Straits kicked off the 1980's with what many feel is their masterpiece, Making Movies. Guitarist Mark Knopfler hit the mark on such songs as "Romeo and Juliet", "Tunnel of Love" and "Skateaway", which still sound fresh 30 years later.
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Lamb Chops with Moroccan Spice Rub and Apricot Risotto
These grass-fed lamb chops from U.S. Wellness Meats are rich in taste and perfect for grilling. We marinated the lamb chops in a wet spice rub of classic Moroccan herbs and spices, and paired the grilled chops with a creamy risotto spiked with Turkish apricots and pistachios for a dinner worthy of any special occasion. This recipe would also work with a full rack of lamb.
The choice of rice for the risotto is essential for the best texture and flavor. The most widely available rice suitable for making risotto is Arborio white rice. Carnaroli is also very good, but is more difficult to find. Risotto takes about 15-20 minutes to cook - the rice is done when it is al dente - firm to the bite, but tender all the way through. It should be creamy in texture, but not mushy.
This recipe is for 2 generous servings.
Lamb Chops with Moroccan Spice Rub Ingredients
Small bunches of fresh cilantro and parsley, large stems removed (about 1/2 cup, packed)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 tablespoon raw (turbinado) sugar or honey
2 packages U.S. Wellness Meats Lamb Rib Chops (each package contains approximately 4 chops, cut into couplets)
- In a small food processor, pulse together the cilantro, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, ginger and olive oil. Add the remaining ingredients (except lamb chops) and process until a pesto-like consistency is reached. Add more olive oil, if needed. Rub the spice paste over all surfaces of the lamb chops. Allow to marinate in refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Remove from refrigerator about an hour before grilling.
- Set up a grill for direct cooking at 400F. When coals are ready, place the rib chops on the grill, fat side down, for 5 minutes. Flip the chops over and grill, rib side down, for 5 minutes. Finish by grilling the chops on each side for approximately 2 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature at the center of the chop is 125-130F. Remove the chops from the grill, tent with foil to keep warm, and allow to rest for ten minutes.
NOTE: These grilling times are for chops cut into couplets - 2 bones per chop. Shorten cooking time if grilling individual chops, or adjust as needed if cooking an intact rack of chops.
Apricot Risotto Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
4 - 5 cups of light meat broth (you will probably not use all the broth)
6-7 dried Turkish apricots, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
A drizzle of high quality extra-virgin olive oil
Chopped roasted pistachios, to garnish
NOTE: Some cooks keep the broth at a simmer on the stove while cooking the risotto, which helps keep the cooking temperature for the rice constant. I have found that this is not completely necessary for good risotto. It is okay to use broth that is at room temperature.
Using a large, heavy-bottomed pot (such as a Dutch oven), heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallots for several minutes, until softened. Add the rice and continue to sauté until the rice is coated with the butter and becomes partially translucent (about 2 minutes).
Reduce the heat to medium. Add about 2/3 cup of broth to the pan while stirring (just eye-ball the amount). Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the broth is mostly adsorbed. Add another portion of broth and simmer, stirring frequently, until the broth is nearly adsorbed again. Keep repeating this for about 15 minutes before tasting the rice to check doneness. The rice should be still firm, but tender all the way through, when done (al dente).
Toward the end of the cooking time, stir in the chopped apricots. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
When the rice is done, remove from heat and stir in the cream and Parmesan cheese. Allow to rest for a couple of minutes, then stir again vigorously before serving.
Serve the lamb chops over the risotto. Drizzle with a little high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, and garnish with chopped pistachios.
Sitting in an unmarked box in the Library of Congress, only discovered in 2005, the The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall is a landmark event in recorded jazz. Finally, these two titans of modern music captured in all their glory. Coltrane was soon to leave to join Miles Davis, but before he did, he and Monk created magic.
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