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.

 

Pan Bagnat Sandwich

Pan what? Pan bagnat. Say it with a French accent and follow along. If you have never heard of a pan bagnat, it is essentially a French sandwich, loaded with all kinds of crazy goodness, and one that you will want to keep in your sandwich arsenal. The pan bagnat takes some time to prepare, but it is worth every big (or little) bite. It is almost like a salad nicoise but in sandwich form, and trust me it is to die for.

Pan Bagnat Sandwich Recipe
Pan Bagnat Sandwich Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of red onion, sliced into thin rings

I am not sure if it takes more time to slice and dice and cook the eggs as it is to assemble this bad boy of a sandwich, but again it is worth every minute.

Start by making your dressing. To a small bowl add the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk or use a fork to create a nice thick dressing. Set aside and have everything ready to go.

Time to assemble. I don’t think order is very necessary so do as you please.

Pan Bagnat Ingredients
Pan Bagnat Ingredients

Start by laying down the tuna onto the bread. Crust to crust. Feel free to use the olive oil that it was packed in as well. Layer on the red onion, tomatoes, olives, eggs, and green bell peppers. Pour over the dressing, and fold.

Get some plastic wrap out and tear off a long enough piece to completely seal in all of this goodness. If you want, go right in and go for it, otherwise plastic wrap it really tight, and let all of that settle and rest for about 30 minutes.

When ready, remove the plastic wrap and dig in. This is one of those ‘guilty’ sandwiches that I had to make sure no one was around or looking because it is one I could not put down and one that I totally devoured. My wife and kids don’t like canned tuna (I have no idea why) so I knew I was all in, and trust me I was prepared.

This could be one of my top 10 favorite sandwiches and one that I am sure you will love. Hope you enjoy!

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!