Cheese Fondue

I start by saying I feel blessed by knowing my wife. We met moons ago but to this day my feelings for her have never changed. On a recent anniversary, porcelain was the deal. I think I was laid up sick (not unusual nowadays), but she delivered a couple of things that she knew I would love. Porcelain.  There was a lasagna dish, and a fondue item. I LOVE FONDUE. Many years ago, probably on the start of our marriage, my wife’s friend brought over a fondue kit and that is when it started. Granted I had fondue in prior to that, but the communal experience is one that I totally love(d). So when my wife showed my that love and thought, I was all in and really excited.

Cheese Fondue Recipe
Cheese Fondue Recipe

My kids have never had fondue, or if they did it was at a very young age.

Fondue is special. It’s fun and it is simple once you have everything in place. I believe it is derived from the Swiss, but being in Wisconsin and having great cheese, wine, and everything else, well it does add up to a great cold winter appetizer or dinner.

There are different kinds of fondues. Cheese, chocolate, or oil based pots for communal dipping. This is a simple cheese fondue and I’m certain there are so many different takes on it. Mine was simple. Bread and cheese on a cold winter day.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb bag of fondue cheese, or grate your own Swiss and Gruyere cheese
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • rustic bread, cubed or torn
  • Any vegetables you want (optional)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • pinch of cracked black pepper

I know there is probably a more traditional way to fondue using Kirsch, but to be honest who has Kirsch sitting around? I did once and it was consumed immediately. Wisconsin loves its brandy. This is stuff that is easy to get a hold of, and once you start mixing the cheese and keeping it warm, well it is so hard to not hit it every 10 minutes.

Cheese Fondue Ingredients
Cheese Fondue Ingredients

Start by rubbing your fondue pot with the clove of garlic. Don’t be shy. Rub that sucker. Then warm your fondue pot. You can buy the sternos at the store or online. Or if your fondue pot is electric, even better.

Once the pot is warmed, add in the cheese(s), wine, and lemon juice. Stir well. Toss in the pepper and stir some more. Once this begins to melt, keep stirring, and get ready to use your poker. The pokers are color coded. If you have a sicko around, no poker.

If your fondue starts to thicken, add a bit more wine, stir and loosen it up. Keep the heat on low and when eating, poke the break and stir that cheesey awesomeness up.

Dip and go. My wife and I love cheese fondue. The strength of the cheese kind of freaked out my kids, who love cheese, which was just fine because that meant more goodness for us. Go fondue! Hope you enjoy, and hope your new year is off to a great start.

 

Loaded Steakhouse Potato Soup

There is something about this time of year I love, and no it is not all the hustle and bustle at work or trying to get everything completed before the holidays. It’s actually a bowl of soup. Yep, pretty dang simple over here. I will have to admit however that my appetite or at least the ‘crave’ component is not what it was in the past. I blame cancer for that, but it is what it is. When I do get that urge though, I could not be more happy than with a bowl of soup. This is one of those recipes, the loaded steakhouse potato soup. Why steakhouse? When I think steak house, or supper club for those of us in Wisconsin, I think of not only a great steak, but that baked potato, those mushrooms, bacon wrapped whatever, and so I decided to make this style of soup for my daughter, only because she loves mushrooms and I wanted to bring that meatiness to the soup without the meat. Well, there’s bacon, but c’mon….

Loaded Steakhouse Potato Soup Recipe
Loaded Steakhouse Potato Soup Recipe

This has everything I love about a visit to a supper club, plus a great use of kale from my last harvest.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 6 russet potatoes, cleaned
  • 16 oz fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned, and quartered
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 slices of your favorite bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup of kale, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 7 cups of milk
  • salt, to taste
  • cracked black pepper to taste
  • water
  • 1 cup stock, optional

Now the only two choices you have at this time is do I leave the skin on, or remove the skin from the potatoes or do I boil or roast them? I’ll leave that to you. Me, I’m skin on and boil. The rest of the family is skin off. I’m out numbered so I leave one with the skin on.

Start by adding the potatoes to large pot filled with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook just until slightly tender, about 12-18 minutes. Once cooked, strain, cool, then cut into bite sized pieces. The potato will break down a bit to thicken the soup when you are ready to rock and roll.

During this time, cook the bacon. If you know me, I’m a fan of Nueske’s. Best stuff out there in my opinion. Once cooked, reserve the bacon fat, but remove the bacon and coarsely chop it.

Loaded Steakhouse Potato Soup Recipe Ingredients
Loaded Steakhouse Potato Soup Recipe Ingredients

If that was not enough for you, get another pan on the stove on medium heat, add a bit of that bacon fat, then toss in the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and get them nice and caramelized. There’s something about caramelized mushrooms if you know what I’m saying. Once those begin to caramelize, toss in the garlic, and kale. Give that a good toss, and remove from the heat.

SOUP ON!

Get your stock or soup pot on the stove on medium heat. Add all that bacon fat, then stir in the flour. Cook the flour and continue to stir for about 3-5 minutes, if that. You just want to cook the rawness from that flour.

Pour in the milk, continue to stir so that you break up the clumps of flour. This is your base for the soup. This will take about 10-12 minutes or so. You will see it get to a thickening state. If you want it thinner, add a bit of stock (optional).

Now add in your potatoes, and stir. Next add in the mushroom and kale mixture and give another good stir. Reduce to a simmer.

Now you are ready to serve. Ladle the soup into your bowls. garnish with cheese and bacon and dig in! This soup screams everything. Actually everyone who ate it was quiet (which is always a good thing)! You get everything comforting from the creaminess and the potato, then the crisp bacon pieces and awesome cheese note. Then what? KALE? Heck yeah, kale brings this over the top, and makes your feel good about yourself after that bowl (or two) of soup.

It’s a winning soup. It is the Loaded Steakhouse Potato Soup. Stay warm my friends.

 

Eggplant Parmesan

Unfortunately our local farmers market season has ended and for us Wisconsinites that means only one thing. Winter is on its way. It’s actually snowing out while I type this and looking out of the windows yields a heavy, thick snowfall. It’s pretty for about 2 minutes, then well I guess I’m over it. But reflecting on the market days, I always try to buy an array of things from various farmers. Eggplant was one of those items this season. I’ll be up front and honest, I’m not not a fan of eggplant and never really have been, but I keep trying, much like I will keep trying beets (yes, not a fan). When I brought them home, I immediately thought of making baba ghanoush (that I am a fan of), but then I thought I would go with an eggplant parmesan and see how my kids would like it. They love lasagna so maybe if I tried to disguise it as a lasagna on a meatless Monday, how would they react?

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

It was not actually all meatless, as I used about a 1/4 pound of ground meat just to get the kids thinking it was possibly what they thought it was. It worked out just fine.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 3 whole, small eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 28 oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 cups of panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • salt, to taste
  • cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 lb ground beef, cooked and fat drained

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.

Season your eggs and breadcrumbs with salt and pepper.

Take each eggplant round and swipe it through eggs, then the breadcrumbs, then place on a baking sheet. Repeat with all eggplant. Drizzle the tops with olive oil.

Place the baking sheet into the oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until the eggplant’s coating is a nice golden brown.

Eggplant Parmesan Ingredients
Eggplant Parmesan Ingredients

Next, add about 1 cup of marinara to the bottom of a casserole or lasagna dish. Layer in half of the eggplant, top with half of the mozzarella cheese, layer with the remaining eggplant, then more cheese, then top with the ground meat, and finish with more marinara and all of the remaining cheese.

Place into the oven, uncovered, and cook for about another 25 minutes or until the cheese and sauce is nice and bubbly. Remove and let it cool for about 10 minutes before slicing into it.

The result? Well, eggplant parmesan. Were my kids a fan? Not really! Was I? Not really, but it was nice knowing I wasn’t indulging in a mound of meat and potatoes. It was easy, clean, and well very good if you are into that type of stuff. Hope you enjoy!

Nacho Pot Pie

It’s starting to ramp up to comfort food season. Not like that has stopped me year round to make most any type of comfort food, but this fall season in particular has already yielded a variety of soups and casseroles. This is one of those recipes. While thinking of a warm recipe for a cool day, I thought of what my wife and kids would eat, and eat well. Nachos! But how could I turn a simple, or complex plate of nachos into something warm and comforting?

I looked around to check on my inventory, and granted I was looking at pie dough and thinking of chicken pot pie, a thought I had to quickly shake out of my mind, and then again back to the nacho thought. How about a riff on chicken pot pie but go nacho style? How about a nacho pot pie?!

Nacho pot pie it was, and not only super easy to throw together, but everything you love about nachos in a luxurious pot pie style, sans the pie crust.

Nacho Pot Pie Recipe
Nacho Pot Pie Recipe

Granted this is not the prettiest of all dishes, but again what pot pie is when you plate it? This is forkalicious delicious.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef, or chuck, cooked and fat removed
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 15 oz can diced green chilies
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of taco seasoning
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 2 cups of water or stock
  • 1 cup of canned black beans, drained
  • 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black
  • 1 bag of tortilla chips
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • sour cream, optional
  • hot sauce, optional
  • salsa, optional
  • black olives, optional
  • any other favorite nacho toppings

Think nachos. Think pie. Good, let’s go.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Get a large skillet on your burner over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat and cook until browned. Drain any fat, and then add the taco seasoning, green chilies, onion, garlic, and 1/3 cup of water. Give a good stir, and cook until the onions are softened, about 5-7 minutes.

Place the meat mixture into a casserole dish and return the skillet to the heat.

Add the butter and let it completely melt. Once melted, add the flour and stir (and keep stirring) until all of the flour is incorporated. Cook this through for a few minutes.

Slowy stir in the milk, and use a whisk if you want to ensure that the mixture gets nice and smooth. No clumps needed here.

Once smooth, add in the remaining water or stock, and stir again. Season with salt and pepper, and let the mixture come to a boil, stirring frequently. The goal here is to make a thicker sauce.

Nacho Pot Pie Ingredients
Nacho Pot Pie Ingredients

Once the sauce thickens, add in the black beans, and return the meat back into the skillet. Stir well and cook for another 5-7 minutes.

Add shredded cheese to the top, then crumble a generous amount of tortilla chips over the top.

Place the skillet (if it is oven safe, otherwise put everything in the skillet before adding the cheese and chips) into the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes.

Now you are ready to serve.

Nacho Pot Pie Recipe
Nacho Pot Pie Recipe

Scoop out your desired amount onto your plate and top with your favorite toppings. In my case it was black olives, shredded lettuce, avocado slices, sour cream, and hot sauce. Feel free to have a bowl of chips on standby for any additional scooping!

The result is spectacular. It is so comforting and everything we loved about a pie or a plate of nachos, all bundled together! Hope you enjoy!