Main Course Recipes
Stuffed shells used to be the Wednesday special at the pizza place near my office.
Shells and two sides for $6.50. Couldn’t beat that.
It was a family-run place that was there for years.
And I don’t think I’ve had stuffed shells since then.
These were in the NY Times recently and it seemed like the right time to give it a try.
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- 1 pound baby spinach, rinsed, or 2 pounds bunch spinach, stemmed and washed thoroughly
- 12 ounces giant pasta shells
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, cut in half
- 10 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons minced chives
- 2 ounces Parmesan, grated, about 1/2 cup
- 2 cups marinara sauce
Bring a large pot of well-salted (“it should taste like the sea”) water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Cook the spinach until just wilted (about 30 seconds) and transfer to the ice water, then drain. Squeeze out excess water.
Bring the water in the pot back to a boil and add the pasta shells. Cook about 10 minutes, until al dente, drain and toss with the olive oil. Set aside.
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade chop the garlic. Add the spinach and pulse to chop finely. Add the ricotta and the egg and process until well blended.
Add 1/3 cup of the Parmesan, the chives, and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse until well blended.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Oil a large baking dish (or two 2-quart dishes), big enough to fit the shells in one layer.
Fill each shell with a scant tablespoon of the filling.
Arrange in a single layer in the baking dish.
Top with the tomato sauce and cover the dish with foil.
Bake 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan, serve and enjoy!
My verdict: Delicious! On Frank’s request, I added some hot Italian sausage that I’d removed from the casing, chunked up and browned.
Because making and stuffing the shells was enough work on a weeknight, I used a Tomato and Italian Olive sauce I was given to try. It’s made in Barcelona by Delicious & Sons, but packed and shipped from Poughkeepsie (more about that and them at a later date). It was well named as it was delicious – a good tomato taste and a nice bite of olive here and there (and once I recycled the jar, no one would know it wasn’t homemade)! All the ingredients are organic and there’s nothing your nonna wouldn’t use. My thanks to Ricky for that and an assortment of other goodies I haven’t had time to enjoy!
Back to the shells. I didn’t have quite a pound of spinach, but I did have a lot of ricotta.
Even with that, I had a ton more shells than stuffing. They’re now in a bag in the freezer, waiting for another batch of stuffing.
The Accidental Locavore came across these Indian lamb shanks searching for something else on the Internet.
Has that ever happened to you?
They looked like a nice switch from my usual way of doing lamb shanks and I had some nice ones from a local farm. Serves 2 or more depending on the size of your shanks. The lamb needs to marinate, so plan accordingly.
Indian Spiced Lamb Shanks
For the lamb:
- 2 lamb shanks
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1” ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
For the sauce:
- 2” piece of cinnamon
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 5 whole cloves
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
- 2 large onions, finely sliced
- 2 green chilies (serrano or jalapeno) slit lengthwise
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- A small can of tomato sauce
- 3-4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, grated
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 3 sprigs of fresh cilantro, finely chopped for garnish
Blend garlic, ginger, curry and ground coriander with a bit of water into a paste.
Season the lamb shanks with salt and cover with the spice paste. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight if possible.
Bring the lamb to room temperature.
In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and ghee on medium heat.
Coarsely crush the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns and add to the oil. Allow to sizzle on low heat for a few seconds before adding the sliced onions.
Sauté the onion till light brown and then add the slit chilies. Stir and continue to sauté till the onions turn dark brown.
Add all the spices and the tomato puree. Sauté for another 2 minutes taking care that the spice mixture does not stick to the bottom.
Add the lamb shanks and the marinade to the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes turning occasionally, Take care that the spice mixture does not burn.
Remove the pan from heat and stir in the yogurt a little at a time to make a thick sauce.
Place the pan back on the heat and add 2 cups of water. Season with salt, mix well and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Remove the lid, add the grated nutmeg, stir and cook uncovered for another 20 minutes until the meat becomes really tender. The sauce will also thicken and develop a deep rich color.
Stir in the lemon juice, garnish with cilantro and enjoy!
My verdict: This was really good! We served it with basmati rice to soak up the sauce. The only issue we both had with it was that you kept biting down on bits of cinnamon, etc. which wasn’t terribly pleasant. Next time, I think I’ll make a little bundle with cheesecloth that I can remove at the end.
If you don’t have ghee floating around your kitchen, microwave some butter until it’s all melted, skim off the white stuff on the top and what’s left is clarified butter.
I just used one large jalapeno and it was a little spicy but probably could have been spicier.
There was lots of sauce left because our shanks were a little small, so I got some lamb for stew, browned it well, added it to the leftover sauce and it made dinner for another night later in the week. If you’re not a fan of lamb shanks (congrats for reading this far), a couple of pounds of lamb or beef stew meat would work well.
I know that saying this recipe gives you the crispiest chicken skin ever is going to be controversial.
Wait until you try it!
You need a little time for it to marinate, so plan ahead.
Chicken Thighs With the Crispiest Skin Ever!
- 12 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
- 24 sage leaves
- 16 garlic cloves—6 cut into 4 slices each, the rest gently smashed and peeled
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 slices
- Strips of zest from 2 lemons
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Kosher salt
- 12 fresh bay leaves (optional)
- 1 lemon, cut into 1/2-inch slices and seeded
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped oregano
- 1/4 cup chopped mint
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 anchovy fillet
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped drained capers
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Run your fingers under the skin of each chicken thigh to create a pocket. Stuff each pocket with 2 sage leaves, 2 slices of garlic and 1 slice of butter. Transfer the stuffed thighs to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, stir the lemon zest strips with the smashed garlic, olive oil, chopped herbs and crushed red pepper. Pour the mixture over the thighs and gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 450°. On a small baking sheet or oven proof dish, toss the lemon slices with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread the lemon slices in an even layer and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until charred on the bottom. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for 5 minutes. Chop the slices into 1/4“ pieces and set aside.
Leave the oven on.
In a mortar, or mini-chopper, mash the oregano and mint with the chopped garlic, anchovy, capers and 1 teaspoon of salt until a smooth paste forms. Slowly drizzle in the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil. Stir in the chopped lemon a little at a time, to taste.
Heat a large ovenproof skillet, big enough to put the chicken in a single layer (or do it in batches) over medium heat. Season the thighs evenly with salt; remove the lemon zest and smashed garlic from the marinade and set aside. Arrange the chicken thighs skin-side down in the skillet. Cover it with another large pan or pot weighted down with a few heavy cans. Cook over moderate heat until the skin is golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes.
Remove the weight and turn the chicken. Scatter the chicken with the reserved lemon zest, garlic and the bay leaves, if using. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Discard the bay leaves. Transfer the chicken to a platter, serve with the salsa verde and enjoy!
My verdict: As I said in the intro, we were shocked by how crispy the chicken skin was! I’m definitely going to try this the next time I make a roast chicken.
I used half the chicken (6 thighs), half the sage, garlic, butter and lemon zest but made the whole recipe for the marinade and salsa. Rosemary would work well under the chicken skin too.
I left out the parsley and the bay leaves and don’t think either of them was missed (not sure what would happen with dried bay leaves). I also left out the thyme because I forgot to buy it – that would have been a nice addition. And I zested the lemon on my microplane rather than zesting it into strips.
In three months, all of these herbs will be growing in my garden, so this will definitely get made again (maybe on the grill).
Because the chicken was so good on its own, the salsa verde was a nice but unnecessary addition and might actually be better on some lamb or fish. I’d slice the lemons thinner next time and if I was doing it on the grill would definitely grill them.
Short ribs are a great winter food and the Accidental Locavore has worked and eaten my way through a lot of short rib recipes.
This one from Gordon Hammersley’s Bistro Cooking at Home has become my go-to recipe.
You can make them in the oven, or a slow cooker, your choice–this is for the oven. Serves 6 but you can easily cut it back to 2 or 4.
Use 1-2 short ribs per person depending on size. When I cut down the recipe, I usually just cut down on the vegetable oil, beer, and broth, everything else just adds flavor.
Short Ribs Braised in Beer
- 6-8 pounds beef short ribs
- Salt & pepper
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 pound bacon cut into 1″ pieces
- 2 medium sized red onions sliced into 1/2″ rounds (cut across the onion to make rings)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste (if you buy it in a tube it costs more, but you always have it for weird amounts like this)
- 2 bottles stout beer (like Guiness)
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 cups beef stock (1 cup, and some water is fine)
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Generously salt and pepper the short ribs.
In a large heavy ovenproof pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil until very hot.
Sear the ribs (in batches if you’ve got a lot of them) until brown on all sides.
Remove the ribs from the pan, and pour off the excess oil, but don’t clean the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the bacon, and cook until the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes.
Add the onions and cook until lightly browned, about 6 minutes (don’t worry if the onions start to fall apart–they will).
Stir the tomato paste in and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.
Add the beer, vinegar, beef stock, and the ribs. Bring the liquid to a boil.
Cover the pot and cook in the oven until the short ribs are fork tender, about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
When you’re ready to serve, remove the ribs, and onions from the pot and set aside.
Bring the liquid to a boil and cook until it’s reduced by at least a third (or as thick you want the sauce). Skim fat off.
Taste and check for seasoning. Add the ribs and onions back to the sauce, serve and enjoy!
My verdict: This has become our favorite short rib recipe. I serve them with mashed potatoes, usually with horseradish added. It really brings out the flavor and helps to cut some of the richness.
Figure on 1-2 ribs per person, depending on the size (and whether you want leftovers).
If you want to use your slow cooker for these, instead of covering the pot and putting it in the oven, just dump everything into the pot of a slow cooker, cover and cook on low.
Like most braised meats, these are even better the next day (and you can get a lot more of the fat off).
How could you resist a mash-up like spare ribs vindaloo, recently in Food & Wine?
And then, spare ribs were on sale.
This made a lot of ribs and the Accidental Locavore only bought a single rack. It may look like a lot of ingredients, but you probably have most of them.
Spare Ribs Vindaloo
- A 2-pound rack St. Louis–cut pork ribs, halved
- Salt and pepper
- 2 dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed and broken into large pieces
- 2 tablespoons cumin seed
- 3 whole cloves
- One 1-inch cinnamon stick
- 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar (mixed use)
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 1/4 cup silver tequila
- 3 tablespoons finely grated jaggery (or brown sugar)
Season the spare ribs with salt and pepper and let stand for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a spice grinder, grind the dried chiles with the cumin seeds, cloves and cinnamon stick until finely ground.
Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the chile powder, turmeric, cayenne, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon of pepper until a paste forms.
In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the red onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 minutes.
Add the garlic, ginger and the spice mixture and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until deep red in color, 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the stock, tequila, jaggery, the remaining vinegar, add the ribs and bring to a simmer.
Cover and cook over moderately low heat until the ribs are very tender, about 1 hour.
Transfer the ribs to a work surface and let cool slightly; cut into individual ribs.
Simmer the sauce until thickened and reduced by half, about 10 minutes; season with salt.
Return the ribs to the sauce and stir to coat. Serve with steamed basmati rice and enjoy!
My verdict: I think we were a little underwhelmed by these the first time around. However, like a lot of slow cooked food, they were much better the second night and Frank gave his “you can make these any time” seal of approval.
We both thought they could be hotter and the next time, I’ll add some minced serrano, or jalapeno.
There was a lot of sauce because I didn’t halve the sauce recipe (too lazy to do math) just the ribs, but it just meant more sauce for the rice.
I didn’t have any jaggery (do you?) so just used some brown sugar. If I get some, I’ll let you know if I think it makes a difference. However, this seems to be one of those stealth trendy foods for 2017, so you might want to be one of the cool kids and find some.
The Accidental Locavore thinks that roasting meat (or vegetables) is one of the easiest ways to get an impressive dinner on the table.
Don’t be afraid of roasting. If you have the right tools, it’s a snap.
Roasting in 10 easy steps:
- Remove the meat from the fridge about an hour before you want to start.
- Make sure oven racks are in the middle of the oven and you have enough room for the roasting pan and its contents. If not, lower the rack until you do.
- Preheat the oven: 350° for most meats, 250° if you’re doing a slow roast duck, hotter for chickens and vegetables.
- Speaking of vegetables, tossing them in olive oil, salt and pepper and throwing them on a sheet pan in a 400° oven always works.
- And don’t forget potatoes! Cut in chunks, boiled until just tender and tossed into the bottom of a pan about 15 minutes before the meat is cooked, makes wonderful roast potatoes (especially good under chickens and ducks!).
- While the oven is heating, pat the meat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper liberally (i.e. use more than you think), inside and out.
- If you’re using a rack a quick spray or a light rub of oil makes clean-up easier.
- Place your meat on the pan (or rack) and put it in the oven. The length of time your meat will need to cook depends on the size of your roast and how well cooked you like your meat. This is where the instant-read thermometer will save the day. Click here for a handy chart and remember to always stick the thermometer in the thick part of your roast (for chicken it’s the thigh).
- When the meat is cooked to your liking, remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. This is not about torturing you or your guests, it’s about letting the juices re-circulate, making the meat tender and juicy.
- Carve, serve and enjoy!
See, wasn’t that easy? What are your best roasting tips?
This slow roasted duck is the Accidental Locavore’s favorite way to roast a duck.
If you’ve got an afternoon, and need an excuse to binge watch ______, this is your meal.
The fact that it couldn’t be easier, or more delicious, are just bennies.
A V-shaped roasting rack helps, but you can do it with a regular rack and roasting pan. Clean-up is much easier if you lightly oil the rack.
Slow Roasted Duck:
- 1 whole duck
- Salt & pepper
- Garlic cloves, peeled (optional)
- A lemon or orange cut into chunks (optional)
- Fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme (optional) or a spice rub of your choice
Preheat your oven to 250°
Salt and pepper it, inside and out, and if you’re using them toss some peeled garlic cloves, orange or lemon chunks and herbs inside.
Prick the duck all over with a fork, and put it on the rack in the roasting pan.
Roast for an hour.
Remove it, turn it over, and prick it with the fork.
Do this total of 4 times (4 hours).
After the last time, turn the oven up to 400°, and put the duck back in for 15-30 minutes, depending on how crispy you like the skin.
Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this duck. It’s great and foolproof!
You can rub the duck with any spice mix, or just simply salt and pepper.
I happen to like barbecue sauce with duck, the plum hoisin sauce is also great with it, and often take some of my cousin Ellen’s amazing clementine marmalade, warm it with some citron vodka, and a tablespoon of maple syrup to thin it down with, making a my version of duck à l’orange.
Don’t forget to save the fat (run it through a fine strainer or coffee filter) to sautée some spinach or roast potatoes with.
Speaking of potatoes, some par-boiled chunks of potatoes tossed in the bottom of the roasting pan for the last 15-30 minutes, are always incredible!
I had some quince from our CSA and didn’t have a clue as to what to do with them.
It was a box of beautiful quince, so I asked what to do with them.
There were a bunch of great ideas.
My favorite was a lamb and quince tagine.
Turns out it’s a very popular Middle Eastern dish.
This is my version of it. Probably serves 4.
Lamb and Quince Tagine
For the lamb:
- 2 pounds lean boneless lamb shoulder cut into 1’ pieces
- 3 medium red onions, peeled; 1 grated, 2 finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1⁄2 teaspoon hot paprika
- 2 tablespoons. finely chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 18 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1⁄4 cup tomato paste
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (more or less to taste)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
For the quince:
- 3 fresh quinces
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch saffron threads
In a large pot over medium heat, stir lamb, grated onion, olive oil, saffron, ginger, paprika, cilantro, parsley, garlic, and 1½ tsp. salt in large pot over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Add tomato paste and 1 cup water; raise heat, and bring to a boil.
Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, turning meat occasionally. Add chopped onions, jalapeño, and cumin, and simmer 45 minutes more.
While the lamb is cooking, cut each quince into 6 pieces (skin on) and cut away core. In a skillet over medium heat poach the quince in 4 cups simmering, salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Pour off all but 2-3 tbsp. poaching liquid; add butter, sugar, and cinnamon.
Cook quinces flesh-side-down until glazed brown, about 20 minutes. Turn, and glaze 5 minutes more.
Serve the lamb garnished with the quince and enjoy!
My verdict: Made a fan out of me! I made extra quince since I had a bunch of them. Used some for the lamb and saved the rest for a future tagine. They’d be good with pork or maybe even chicken-could even be dessert topping for ice cream or accompany cheeses.
The tagine comes together easily, and since as usual there wasn’t any parsley chez moi, it was left out. I served everything over couscous with some harissa for those who like it hotter.
Have you made anything with quince?
5 ingredient sausage and cabbage seemed like a good fall dish, since I had a couple of those cute pointy cabbages from my CSA and sausage in the freezer.
Then it was 80°.
The Accidental Locavore waited until the temperature shot back down and gave this a try.
Putting it together is quick and easy, but it needs 2 ½ hours to cook, so plan ahead (or save for a weekend).
5 Ingredient Sausage and Cabbage Casserole
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 pounds fresh sweet Italian pork sausages or bulk sausage
- 1 large green or Savoy cabbage, about 4 pounds, cored and thickly shredded
- Freshly ground black pepper
Heat oven to 300°.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish.
Place cabbage in boiling water, cover, and let water come back to the boil. Uncover and boil for 3 minutes. Drain cabbage in a colander and run cold water over it to stop cooking.
Remove sausage casings and crumble the sausages in a bowl.
Put about 1/3 of the cabbage in buttered dish and cover with 1/2 the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and dot with butter. Repeat, ending with a final layer of cabbage, and dot top with butter.
Cover dish tightly with a layer of parchment paper, cut to the shape of your dish and top with a lid or a layer of aluminum foil.
Cook for about 2 1/2 hours, until cabbage is soft and sweet, and top is lightly browned.
After 2 hours, uncover the dish: if there is a lot of liquid in the bottom, leave uncovered for the rest of the cooking time. If not, re-cover and finish cooking.
Serve with mustard and some crusty bread and enjoy!
My verdict: Who knew 5 ingredients could be this good! I’m not sure if these “conehead” cabbages we’ve been getting are sweeter than the normal green cabbage, but they are cute and really tasty! If you can find them, try them (the cores are almost non-existent for easy prep). I had two of them, about 2 pounds, and a pound package of Boerewors, a South African inspired sausage from Jacuterie, so halved the recipe and it easily fed two.
It was delicious and buttery and the sausages were great with it! You could use almost any sausage, so feel free to improvise. A strong Dijon was a nice addition but even a milder coarse mustard went well.
Give it a try when you have a couple of hours to cook it. If you didn’t care about browning the top, it would probably work well in a slow cooker.
Let me know what you think.
There are certain recipes you just don’t mess with.
Pumpkin stuffed with everything good is not one of them.
It actually begs to be messed with.
And is a great way to use up some of those bits of leftovers in the fridge.
Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good
- 2 small pumpkins
- A handful of croutons
- 2 cooked Italian sausage, sliced
- 3 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
- ½ cup thinly sliced leeks (green tops fine)
- ¼ pound any cheese cut into ¼” cubes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 sage leaves, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment and set aside
Carefully cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (like you were carving a Halloween pumpkin), clean off the bottom edge and set aside.
Clean out the seeds and guts of the pumpkin. If you want to roast the pumpkin seeds just put all the stuff in a bowl for later. Salt and pepper the insides of the pumpkins.
Toss everything except the heavy cream and nutmeg in a bowl and toss.
Pack the mix into the pumpkins. They should be well filled because some of the stuffing will condense when it’s cooked.
Mix the cream and nutmeg together and pour into the pumpkins. You don’t want the stuffing to be drowned in cream, but you want it be moist.
Put the caps back on and bake for 90 minutes.
Remove the caps and back for an additional 20-30 minutes. The pumpkins should be tender and easily pierced by the tip of a knife.
Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: This is a great way to use up leftovers and it tastes great! You can use a single (larger) pumpkin and either serve it in wedges or just bring the whole thing to the table and let everyone scoop out a serving (much more impressive). It takes time to cook and a little prep time to clean the pumpkin, but that can be done ahead of time.
Let me know if you try it and what you put into it.