Ottolenghi’s Meatball Toad-in-the-Hole

More meatballs! This is an updated version of the classic British dish. Ottolenghi describes the key elements as “well-cooked meat, crisp pancake and velvety gravy.” He modified the popular dish by using ground pork in the meatballs. It was very hearty and rich.

The complete dish was time consuming to prepare, but the components can be made separately and ahead to save time, if desired. This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yotam Ottolenghi. I modified the baking times.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Time: about 2 hours

For the Batter:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup/240 ml whole milk
  • 2/3 cup/160 ml India pale ale or another pale ale (I used Sierra Nevada)
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 3/4 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Gravy:

  • 2 T sunflower or canola oil
  • 1 T (15 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 small onions (about 12 oz (350 g) total), halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups/480 ml chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 T/100 ml India pale ale
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:

  • 7 oz/200 g sourdough bread, crusts discarded and bread cut into 1/4-inch (1/2-centimeter) cubes
  • 3/4 cup/180 ml whole milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds/700 g ground pork
  • 4 oz/115 g pancetta, very finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 1/2 onion or 1 very small onion (about 3 oz/80 g), grated
  • 1/3 packed cup/20 g roughly chopped parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 6 T/90 ml sunflower or canola oil
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  1. Heat the oven to 475°F/240°C, preferably on convection.
  2. Prepare the batter: Add the eggs, milk, beer and mustard to a large bowl, and whisk vigorously until foamy, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the flour and salt to a separate large bowl, making a well in the center, and pour the egg mixture into the well, in about four increments, whisking lightly each time until the flour is just incorporated. Whisk until there are no lumps and the ingredients are just combined, taking care not to overwork the batter.
  4. Set batter aside for at least 30 minutes, or while you continue with the next step.
  5. Prepare the gravy: Add the oil, butter, onions, rosemary and vinegar to a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-centimeter) baking dish (tin)(Do not use pyrex/glass). Bake, stirring a couple of times during cooking, until the onions are thoroughly collapsed and browned, about 20 minutes.
  6. Whisk together the flour, stock and beer in a bowl until smooth. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper, then pour flour mixture into the baking dish.
  7. Return gravy to the oven and bake, stirring twice throughout, until the gravy is thick and rich, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs and keep warm.
  8. While the gravy is cooking, prepare the meatballs: Soak the bread in the milk in a small bowl and set aside until the liquid is absorbed, 10 minutes. Use your hands or a fork to break apart the bread into a lumpy mash.
  9. In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork, pancetta, onion, parsley, garlic and lemon zest with 1 teaspoon salt and a generous amount of pepper. Add the bread and use your hands to knead the mixture until it is very well mixed. Shape into 12 large meatballs.
  10. Spread 2 tablespoons oil across the bottom of a large roasting pan (tin), about 9-by-13-inches (23-by-33-centimeters) in size. (I used an enameled cast iron baking pan.)
  11. Add the meatballs and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until some of their liquid has been released. Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet (tray) lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture. Pour the liquid released from the meatballs in the roasting pan directly into the gravy, and then wipe the roasting pan dry.
  12. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons oil to the meatball roasting pan and return to the oven until very hot and beginning to smoke, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  13. Working as quickly as possible, pour the batter into the pan (it should bubble around the edges) and then add the meatballs and 2 rosemary sprigs. Return to the oven immediately and bake for 15 minutes.
  14. Reduce the temperature to 400°F/210°C (don’t open the oven!) and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more, or until golden and well risen. (If you want, near the end of baking time (when the custard is set), you can sneak the gravy into the oven to rewarm during the last 5 minutes of baking.)
  15. Serve immediately, with the gravy alongside.

Skillet Chicken Chili Cornbread Pie

This is another crowd-pleasing, one-pot, comfort food dish. I was immediately drawn to this recipe because making cast iron skillet cornbread on top of skillet chili is genius. Calling it a pie makes it even more fabulous!

This recipe was adapted from HowSweetEats.com. I modified the proportions and added thinly sliced kale to the chili. The smoked paprika was essential to the finished dish. Great.

Yield: Serves 6

For the Chili:

  • 1 large sweet or yellow onion, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups thinly sliced kale (ribs and stems removed)
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I used grilled chicken thighs)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp coarse salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
For the Cornbread Topping:
  • 1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 T light brown sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
For Serving:
  • plain greek yogurt or sour cream
  • cilantro, chopped
  • scallions, sliced
  • corn
  • jalapeño slices
  • lime wedges
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  3. Add the onions and garlic with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the thinly sliced kale leaves and continue to cook until tender, about 5 additional minutes.
  5. Stir in the diced green chiles and shredded chicken.
  6. Add in the cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir well until the spices are combined with the mixture.
  7. Stir in the cannellini beans, corn and chicken stock. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Reduce the heat to low while you make the cornbread topping.
  8. In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt.
  9. In a smaller bowl, stir together the eggs and milk.
  10. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring until just almost combined.
  11. Stir in the green chiles. Stir in the melted butter until combined.
  12. Drop spoonfuls of the cornbread over the chili, using the back of the spoon to spread it slightly, if necessary.
  13. Bake the skillet for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cornbread layer it set. Be sure to check that the cornbread is set in the center- sometimes it needs a few extra minutes to cook through.
  14. Serve with sour cream/greek yogurt, cilantro, scallions, corn, jalapeño, and limes for spritzing, as desired.

Butternut Squash, Sage, & Ricotta Manicotti

I made this baked pasta dish to serve on Thanksgiving Eve. My Mother-in-Law asked that I post the recipe so that she could make it to serve to vegetarian guests. It was such a compliment! This post is quite belated- oops. :/

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living’s Everyday Food. I used manicotti noodles instead of lasagna and modified the proportions. I boiled the squash in the salted pasta water but may roast it instead next time to enhance its flavor. It was cheesy, creamy, and rich comfort food.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 6 T olive oil, plus more for baking dish
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (8 oz each) packages manicotti (there will be leftover noodles)
  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 large shallots, chopped
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh sage leaves, plus 16 to 20 whole leaves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 (15 oz each) containers of whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly oil a 9×13-inch baking dish. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  3. In a large pot of boiling, generously salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Using tongs, transfer pasta to a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Add squash to boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain squash and transfer to a bowl. (Alternatively, the squash can be roasted at 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast, until lightly browned and tender, about 25 to 35 minutes.)
  5. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer sautéed shallots to the bowl with the squash and add 4 tablespoons milk, chopped sage, and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper. Mash with a fork until a rough puree forms.
  7. Fill a gallon ziplock bag with the squash mixture. Cut an opening in one bottom corner of the bag, large enough to fit the opening of the manicotti noodles.
  8. Pipe the squash mixture into the manicotti noodles, about 1/4 cup each. Place each filled noodle into the prepared baking dish. (I had 8 cooked noodles leftover.)
  9. In a bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 cup milk and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Spread ricotta mixture over cannelloni and top with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan.
  11. Bake until warmed through, about 25 minutes.
  12. Broil until top is browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
  13. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium to medium-high. Fry whole sage leaves until crispy, 15 to 20 seconds. Drain on paper towels.
  14. Serve the casserole topped with fried sage.

One-Skillet Rotisserie Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie is one of my ultimate favorite comfort food dishes. This version was fabulous! The use of rotisserie chicken meat in the filling and puff pastry as the crust were wonderful (and delicious) shortcuts.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Molly Baz. I modified the proportions and used rainbow carrots instead of turnips in the filling to add a little color. GREAT.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 5 cups coarsely shredded rotisserie chicken meat
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 1 lb rainbow carrots or turnips, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 T thyme leaves
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2½ tsp Kosher salt, divided
  • 1½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 10 oz bag frozen peas
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry (1/2 box/8.6 oz), thawed overnight
  1. Place a rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Remove and discard skin from a rotisserie chicken. Using your hands, shred the meat into 1″ pieces until you have 5 cups; set aside. Reserve any leftover meat for another use.
  3. Cut the onions in half through root, trim root ends, then peel. Finely chop onion and transfer to a medium bowl.
  4. Peel the carrots (or turnips), then trim off the ends. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer to another medium bowl.
  5. Lightly smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Peel, then coarsely chop. Transfer to bowl with the carrots/turnips.
  6. Add thyme leaves to bowl with carrots/turnips and garlic.
  7. Melt butter in a 12″ oven-proof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft but not browned, 5–6 minutes.
  8. Add carrot/turnip mixture, season with 1 tsp salt and 1½ tsp pepper, and cook, stirring often, until just beginning to soften, 3 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, until flour begins to stick to bottom of pan, about 30 seconds. The flour is going to help thicken the gravy you’re trying to create.
  10. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, to burn off some of the alcohol, about 1 minute.
  11. Set aside 1 tablespoon of heavy cream. Add remaining cream, reserved chicken, peas, and 1½ tsp salt and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Cook, tossing occasionally, until warmed through, 3–4 minutes.
  12. Transfer skillet to a rimmed baking sheet, which will prevent any juices that bubble out of the pan from spilling onto your oven floor.
  13. Roll out the thawed puff pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 13″ square (large enough to cover skillet with a bit of overhang). Roll pastry up onto rolling pin. (You could use an empty wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin.) Unfurl pastry from rolling pin, draping it over skillet.
  14. Trim pastry so that there is a 1″ border all around. Fold edge of puff pastry under itself. Crimp edges with a fork (just like you would do when making the top crust of a pie).
  15. Using a pastry brush, brush top of pastry with reserved cream. Cut 5–6 small slits in the center so steam can escape.
  16. Bake pot pie until crust is light golden brown, 22 to 24 minutes.
  17. Reduce oven temperature to 350°, preferably on convection, and continue to bake until filling is bubbling around the edges and crust is well browned, 22 to 35 minutes longer.
  18. Let sit 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cauliflower Parmesan

I have made this wonderfully cheesy dish a couple of times already- just to get the proportions right. I knew that I had to increase the amount of simple and flavorful sauce after making it the first time.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I lightened the dish by baking the cauliflower after coating it instead of frying it. We ate it over linguini fini with sautéed broccoli rabe on the side. Wonderful!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red Chile flakes, optional
  • (28-ounce) cans whole or diced plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • sprigs basil or 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  1. In a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. (I used an enameled cast iron pot with a glass lid.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until just lightly golden.
  3. Add chile flakes if desired and cook 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in tomatoes and juices, basil or bay leaf, and salt and pepper.
  5. Bring sauce to a simmer, add the Parmesan rind, if using, and cook until sauce is thick and tomatoes have mostly fallen apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to keep at a steady simmer. If using whole plum tomatoes, mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to help them break down.
  6. Remove sauce from heat and discard basil or bay leaf.

For the Cauliflower & To Finish the Dish:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups panko or plain unseasoned bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 1 large or 2 small/medium heads cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 2-inch florets (I used 1 small and 1 medium)
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces
  • linguine fini or other pasta, optional, for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Place flour, eggs, and panko into three wide, shallow bowls. (I used glass pie dishes.) Season each generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Dip a cauliflower piece first in flour, then eggs, then coat with panko. Repeat with remaining cauliflower.
  4. Place on 2 parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets. Roast coated florets for 22-24 minutes, or until nicely browned.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  6. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
  7. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan over sauce.
  8. Scatter half cauliflower mixture over the Parmesan and top with half the mozzarella pieces.
  9. Top with half the remaining sauce, sprinkle with another third of the Parmesan and repeat layering, ending with a final layer of sauce and Parmesan.
  10. Transfer pan to oven and bake until cheese is golden and casserole is bubbling, about 30 to 40 minutes. While the dish is baking, prepare the pasta, if desired.
  11. Let cool a few minutes before serving. Serve over prepared pasta, as desired.

Lighter Pear Crumble

By using maple syrup and brown sugar as sweeteners as well as whole wheat pastry flour, oats and almonds in the topping, this recipe succeeds as a lighter version of this classic comfort food dessert. We indulged a little and ate it with vanilla ice cream, of course. 😉 Without the ice cream, this dish could actually be served for breakfast.

This recipe was adapted from The Washington Post, contributed by nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger. Lovely.

Yield: 8 servings

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup canola oil or other neutral-tasting oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 T almond meal or slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (whole wheat flour may be substituted)
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt

For the Filling:

  • 3 pounds ripe but firm pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch slices (I used 6 Bartlett pears)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray a 10×9-inch (can also use an 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch) baking dish with cooking oil spray, or brush lightly with oil.

To Make the Topping:

  1. If using slivered almonds, process them in a food processor until finely ground; alternatively use almond meal. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Add the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt to the ground almonds.
  3. Drizzle the mixture with 1/4 canola oil; stir until well incorporated. Set aside.

To Make the Filling & Finish the Dish:

  1. Combine the pears, maple syrup and lemon juice in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the fruit mixture with the cornstarch, cinnamon and ginger; stir until the pears are evenly coated.
  3. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
  4. Crumble the topping over the pears.
  5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until bubbling and the topping is lightly browned.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with ice cream, if desired.

Shortcut Chicken Stew with Fluffy Dumplings

This incredible comfort food dish uses rotisserie chicken meat as a shortcut. I made it even more of a shortcut by using my pre-made homemade stock, but I included the chicken stock instructions in the recipe below.

This recipe was loosely adapted from cookbook author Sheri Castle, via The Washington Post. The broth was rich and flavorful and the dumplings were the icing on the cake. Fluffy and fabulous. This is truly the perfect dish to serve on a cold winter night.

Yield: 6-8 servings

For the Stock & Stew:

  • 1 large rotisserie chicken (Costco size) or 2 small rotisserie chickens
  • 4 cups cold water (to make the stock) or 4 cups or homemade poultry stock (for a shortcut)
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken stock (store-bought or homemade) (4 cups if using pre-made homemade stock)
  • 3 large thyme sprigs (to make stock)
  • 2-3 tsp Kosher salt, plus more as needed, divided
  • 1 T white wine vinegar
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 medium ribs celery, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, scrubbed well and cut into thin rounds (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed

For the Dumplings:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 T unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

For the Stock & Stew:

  1. Pull the meat from the chicken(s) and tear it into largish bite-size pieces; cover and refrigerate until needed.
  2. I substituted/used 4 cups of homemade turkey stock instead of making stock with the chicken carcass. *If making the chicken stock base, place the carcass and skin in a large saucepan or small pot. Add the cold water, 8 cups broth, thyme sprigs and 1 teaspoon of the salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for about an hour, until the carcass falls apart and the liquid reduces to about 8 cups and tastes like rich chicken soup. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a large saucepan; discard solids.*
  3. If using pre-made stock, combine the 4 cups homemade stock with 4 cups of store-bought chicken stock. Stir the vinegar into the stock, season with salt and pepper to taste, and keep warm on the lowest heat setting.
  4. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots, thyme leaves and a pinch of salt, stirring to coat. Cook for 8 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften, stirring often.
  5. Add the 8 cups stock and cook for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Carefully watch the heat to ensure that the stock doesn’t boil over.
  6. Season with 1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste) and the pepper.
  7. Stir in the reserved shredded rotisserie chicken meat; reduce the heat to low.

For the Dumplings & to Finish the Dish:

  1. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar and pepper in a medium bowl.
  2. Work in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly.
  3. Add the half-and-half and stir only until combined to form a soft, sticky dough.
  4. Bring the chicken stew to a boil over medium-high heat. Use a 1-ounce scoop (I used a large cookie scoop) or two soup spoons to drop golf-ball-size dumplings evenly over the surface of the stew. The hot liquid seals the dumplings so that they rise instead of spread.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium; cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the dumplings are firm, fluffy and somewhat dry on top. Don’t be tempted to lift the lid- if the heat escapes, the dumplings may deflate.
  6. Uncover and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm.

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