Monday, January 30, 2012

Winner Winner Yummy Dinner

Considering my past dinner failures, and my never ending ability to find a way to royally muck up dinner, I am SO excited that Friday nights dinner turned out so yum-a-licious.   If you are part of the Facebook "fan" page (are they still called fan pages? Everything changes so often I have no idea anymore).  Anyhow, if you follow me on Facebook- you will have seen this recipe that I found on the Daily Green and decided to make for Friday night dinner.  It was crazy easy to make.

The actual recipe called for Chicken Stock, Heavy Cream, Parmesan Cheese and tomatoes, all of which I omitted- but you can use them if you want.  In their place, I used vegetable stock, skim milk, Low Fat Italian Cheese Blend, and I just left the tomatoes out-  both Mr Millie and myself can't eat cooked tomatoes.  

Here's what it should have looked like according to the Daily Green 
Image from The Daily Green

Here's what mine looked like 

It was SO good.  Can I tell you how good fennel and leeks taste together?  I've had fennel before at restaurants (if you live in Chicago, Scoozi downtown has the BEST roasted fennel)  but I have always been too intimidated to cook it.  They look kind of crazy hanging out in the grocery store.  For those who have not yet met the Fennel,  here is what they look like raw:

And, in case you haven't seen a leek-  this is what they look like  raw 

Now, with the fennel, only the white bulbs are used.  From what I read you can use the green floofy things for garnish, but I just chopped them off and used just the bulbs.  Same goes for the leek.  I'm sure there is a use for the leafy green part, but I don't know what.  I cut the beards off the bottom of the leeks and the leafy parts up top, and used just the light green and white parts.

Here is the recipe from the Daily Green

Now Mr Millie and I have a slight aversion to left-overs.. so I always cut recipes in half or even further down, to make just enough for one serving for each of us.  Case in point-  those stuffed peppers I made a few weeks ago intent on having the others "for lunch the next day"  Mr Millie forgot to grab it for lunch, and so it sat uneaten in our fridge until I just recently threw it out.  

4 medium leeks (about 1 1/2 pounds)  - I only used 2  
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium fennel bulbs (about 1 pound each)  I only used 1
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sugar -  I don't keep sugar in my house, and had some stevia left over from Christmas, I used that 
1 package (16 ounces) bow-tie (farfalle) or gemelli pasta
1 cup chicken broth -  I used Vegetable Stock 
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream  -  I used skim milk 
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese  - I used Low Fat Shredded Italian Blend
1 ripe, medium tomato, cut into 1/4-inch dice - I omitted entirely 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim off roots and leaf ends from leeks. Discard any tough outer leaves. Cut each leek lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide slices. Place leeks in large bowl of cold water; with hand, swish leeks around to remove any sand. Remove leeks to colander. Repeat process, changing water several times until all sand is removed. Drain well.
2. In nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add leeks and cook until tender and golden, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. While leeks are cooking, trim top and bottom from each fennel bulb; reserve fronds, if any, for garnish. Slice each bulb lengthwise in half; remove and discard core. Slice fennel-bulb halves crosswise into thin slices.
4. Add fennel, garlic, sugar, and remaining oil, and cook until fennel is tender and light golden, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Meanwhile, prepare pasta in boiling salted water as label directs. Drain; return pasta to saucepot.
6. When leeks are tender, add broth, cream, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and all but 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; boil 1 minute.
7. Spoon pasta into deep 4-quart casserole. Add leek mixture and toss well. Sprinkle top with diced tomato and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with fennel fronds, if you like, to serve.

The recipe once you make it to steps 3 & 4 get a bit confusing, so here is what I did.  I prepared the leeks in one pot.  While that was browning, I cut my fennel up into little half moons and cooked them up in another pot.  In a third pot (I know, quite impressive I could keep three things going at once!  And, the oven was heating up... I'm getting quite culinary)  I boiled the water for the pasta.

Once the leeks became soft and browned, I added the stock, milk, pepper etc etc (I didnt add the cheese until the end).  In the other pot  I cooked the fennel in garlic, olive oil, and the packet of stevia, and once the fennel had carmelized (you're impressed by my comfort with culinary lingo, aren't you?) dumped the fennel into the pot with the leeks, combined everything, tossed it in with the pasta-  a smattering of cheese pop it into a 400 oven for a bit and taaaadaaaaa! :jazz hands: 

The result, in case after this LONG explanation you have forgotten how beautiful it was

Yum-A-Licious-  and perfect for a cold winter night.  Cheap as well.  My fennel cost about $2, my leek the same.  One box of pasta (I used the Barilla stuff $2 something a box).  So, for about six bucks (plus some ingredients I already had in my house)  a wonderful dinner for two.

Try it, seriously.  Don't be afraid of the fennel! :)