Philly Cheesesteak Dip

I don’t care about football. Let’s get that out of the way, OK? But I do love a theme and the camaraderie of a big-game party with friends, and especially the food!

There is no better food for a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan than a real Philly cheesesteak, with its peppers and mushrooms, all that gooey melted cheese and loaded up with thinly sliced steak. It’s a hearty, flavorful sandwich— and it screams Philly. 

It would be the perfect thing to serve for this weekend’s NFC Championship game, right? If only it wasn’t a fat, messy sandwich.

When things get intense and your team is vying for a spot in the NFL’s biggest game of the year, you’ve gotta have an easier way to chow down on those flavors, or you’ll end up with it spilt all over your green jersey! This recipe has all the right stuff, but in a simplified format so you can take a warm, meaty, cheesy bite in between yelling at the refs and cheering your team on to victory.

Our good friends, Bob and Peg, are two such die-hard Eagles fans and they have generously shared Bob’s recipe for this scrumptious, game day party dip. It’s perfect for halftime snacking, regardless of which team you’re pulling for this weekend. But if you’re at Bob and Peg’s house, you’d best be pulling for Philly.

So delicious, hot from the oven!

The game will be aired on FOX this Sunday at 3:00 PM Philadelphia time, and if you have plenty of time to get this dip ready.

Bob’s cheesesteak dip begins with easy-to-find ingredients, and the prep is super simple. You’ll need cream cheese (Philadelphia brand, obviously), onion, bell pepper and mushrooms, a mountain of white cheese and very thinly sliced steaks. Bob’s recipe suggests an Italian “6-cheese” blend, but I used mainly Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheeses because I already had them in the fridge. Some amount of white American cheese would give a nice, melty quality to this dip, too. I’d recommend steering clear of very sharp, hard cheeses, as they tend to break under heat.


Put the veggies in a skillet and sauté until they’re soft. Then cook up the thinly sliced steaks and chop them into smaller pieces. I scored a package of fresh, shaved Angus steak in the meat case of my supermarket, but these aren’t always available. Bob’s recipe suggests using Steak-umms, specifically the 14-steak package.


While the veggies and meat cool a bit, blend the softened cream cheese together with a dab of mayo, and then blend in the veggies, shredded cheese and chopped steak. It may be a bit clumpy at this stage and that’s OK; it will melt and smooth out during baking.


Transfer the whole delicious mess into an oven-safe dish and pop it into the oven at 350 F for half an hour, then top with more cheese (I used our favorite Parm-Romano blend) and put it under the broiler just long enough to get it browned and bubbly on top.


Serve your cheesesteak dip with slices of French baguette or, as we did at our house, crunchy pita chips. It occurred to me when we were enjoying this that the mixture could also be blended and transferred to a small slow cooker. I’d recommend warming it on the high setting until it’s bubbly, then give it a good stir and drop to low or warm setting to keep it nice and gooey from kickoff until the game is over.


Philly Cheesesteak Dip

  • Servings: About 8
  • Difficulty: Average
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All the scrumptious flavors of a classic Philly cheesesteak sandwich, but easier to eat while cheering your team on to victory!


Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • A large handful fresh mushrooms, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A quick shake or two of garlic powder
  • 14 slices very thin steak (Steak-Umms work great)
  • 2 bricks cream cheese (Philadelphia brand, duh!), softened
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 12 oz. shredded white cheese (Italian, Monterey Jack, pepper jack are all good choices)
  • About 2 Tbsp. shredded Parm-romano blend cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat a deep skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, then add onions, peppers and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until vegetables are softened and slightly translucent. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. In the same skillet, fry the steak slices until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into small pieces. Season with salt and pepper, plus a little shake of garlic powder. Add to the bowl with sautéed veggies.
  3. Using a stand mixer fitted with the beater blade, gently beat the softened cream cheese together with mayonnaise until creamy.
  4. Add sautéed veggies, shredded cheese and browned steak to cream cheese mixture. Mix until evenly blended. Transfer mixture to an oven-safe casserole dish.
  5. Bake cheesesteak dip for 30 minutes, then sprinkle with Parmesan or Parm-Romano blend and broil for 2 to 3 minutes until browned and bubbly.
  6. Remove cheesesteak dip and serve immediately with pita chips or sliced French baguette.

Alternatively, follow instructions through step 4. Transfer mixture to slow cooker on high until bubbly. Reduce to low heat or warm setting so dip stays warm and gooey.


Coffee-rubbed Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

Too often, my hubby and I fall into a make-it-Mexican rut, and we neglect the other flavors that are hanging out in our pantry cabinet, just waiting to thrill our palates. When we discovered last week that our dinner rotation had an empty slot, I pulled a package of skirt steak from the freezer, figuring we could always give it a Mexican spin and fajitas or tacos with it. But with all the other flavorful things that could be applied to a cut as tender and succulent as skirt steak, isn’t plain ole usual fajitas just “phoning it in?” 

So I reconsidered, taking our steak in a different direction with my homemade spicy coffee rub and a zesty, garlicky chimichurri to accentuate and complement the smoky, earthy flavors of the rub. We did pile it all onto hearty tortillas and enjoyed it as fajitas, but this meal had a decidedly more interesting appeal!

Les couldn’t wait to sip his brew!

As long as we were trying new things, we swapped in scallions for the usual grilled onions, which was a nice change of pace texturally and flavor-wise. And we gave our red bell pepper only a few quick turns on the grill, keeping some of the firmness and amping up the sweetness with those blistered skins. No hot spices on them, only salt and pepper to preserve their natural flavors.


No salsa, cilantro or sour cream here either; rather, I set up my food processor and pulsed down a couple of big handfuls of fresh parsley with garlic, more scallions, fresh oregano and red wine vinegar. The grilling of this meal moves quickly, so it’s best to make the chimichurri a few hours or even a day ahead. Here’s how it goes.


This is a classic formula for chimichurri, a condiment familiar to Argentina, and though it typically calls for a few shakes of crushed red pepper, I swapped in a scant spoonful of this wicked hot crispy habanero stuff that I picked up last year from Trader Joe’s. Drizzle in some olive oil while the processor runs, and it’s ready in a snap.


Now, if you’re thinking, “I need to get to Trader Joe’s right now for some of that crispy habanero!” well, don’t bother. As is par for the course, this spicy stuff has already been 86’d from TJ’s lineup— their abrupt dispatch of interesting products is, as you know, part of my love-hate relationship with the store— but you can easily go traditional with your chimichurri and just use crushed red pepper, or even a fresh jalapeno. But if you happen to be stuck with a jar of the habanero crisp already, at least now you have a fun way to use it. I intend to put it to work in my next batch of spicy homemade sausage, and I’ll let you know how that goes.

As for the skirt steak, I gave it a nice massage with my spicy coffee rub, which I introduced in 2021 with this coffee-rubbed grilled tri-tip steak. Link back to that post for the rub recipe and another great meat idea for the grill. This homemade rub has amazing flavors, including coriander, ancho, brown sugar, oregano and cayenne— altogether, a really nice change of pace for fajitas. The coffee rub does not impart a coffee flavor to the meat—if it did, my husband wouldn’t touch it—no, it’s more of a bold, earthy flavor, a little bit spicy and a touch smoky, depending on the roast level of the coffee you use.


The secret to making skirt steak the best it can be is threefold— season it well ahead of time, grill it quickly and cut it against the grain. Les took care of the grilling part (and it happened fast!) while I prepped the fresh avocado and chopped the charred veggies. We wrapped the finished steak tightly in foil for about seven minutes before slicing, and dinner was served!



The coffee rub turned out to be a terrific flavor for our skirt steak, and the chimichurri was like icing on a cake! OK, well, maybe green icing. 🙂

This was a very tasty bite!

Coffee-rubbed Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

  • Servings: About 5
  • Difficulty: Average
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The earthy, smoky notes of my coffee rub, combined with a bold and zesty chimichurri was a flavor explosion for our taste buds! If you can't purchaset this flavorful cut, a flank steak or hangar steak would be a good substitute. Allow a few extra minutes on the grill to adjust for the thickness.


Ingredients

  • 2 to 3-pound skirt steak (preferably grass-fed)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (liquid or spray)
  • 1 Tbsp. spicy coffee rub (recipe available at https://comfortdujour.com/2021/05/17/coffee-rubbed-grilled-tri-tip-steak/)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into large sections for easy grilling
  • 1 bunch fresh scallions, divided (you’ll use them in the chimichurri and as an accompaniment to the steak)
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into slices or cubes
  • 1 small lime, cut into wedges
  • Medium size flour tortillas for serving

Directions

  1. Trim away any lingering membrane pieces from skirt steak. Pat dry, then rub or spray on a small amount of olive oil. Apply coffee rub evenly over the entire surface of the steak. Let it rest in the fridge a few (or up to 24) hours, bringing it back to near-room temperature about 45 minutes before grilling.
  2. Preheat grill or grill pan to roughly 500 F. If working indoors, be ready to use your vent fan, as the high temperature will likely produce some smoke.
  3. Prep the red bell peppers and remaining scallions by brushing or spraying with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the veggies, turning frequently to ensure even charring. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into bite sized pieces.
  4. Place the skirt steak over direct heat and grill only until the first side is seared (this will be 2 minutes or less). Turn the steak and repeat searing on the other side. The cooking should be very brief so the meat remains tender.
  5. Transfer the steak immediately to a plate lined with a large, double layer of foil. Season immediately with kosher salt. Wrap the steak so it is fully enclosed in the foil and seal it tightly, resting for 5 to 8 minutes. The residual heat will finish cooking the meat as the juices are redistributed.
  6. While the steak rests, flash-grill the tortillas just long enough to warm them. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and slice thinly against the grain of the meat. Serve with grilled veggies, avocado and chimicurri.

For best flavor, make the chimichurri a day ahead so the ingredients have plenty of time to mingle in the fridge. Bring to near-room temperature for serving.

Ingredients

  • About two handfuls fresh Italian parsley, rinsed and trimmed of heavy stems
  • 3 or 4 scallions (green onions), trimmed and rough-chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and rough-chopped
  • A few small sprigs fresh oregano leaves, rinsed and stripped from stems
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • A few shakes crushed red pepper (or some other spicy element), to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Add one handful of the parsley to the small bowl of a food processor, along with scallions, garlic, oregano, vinegar, crushed pepper, salt and pepper. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Pulse a few times to combine.
  2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining handful of parsley, pulsing again just to combine.
  3. Turn the processor on to run continuously and stream in the rest of the olive oil while it’s running. Adjust to taste, then transfer to a bowl to rest in the fridge.



Italian Deli Sub Pizza

If you’re looking for new ways to enjoy pizza in the new year, you don’t need to look any further than your favorite sandwiches. Ingredients that are delicious on a sandwich are usually very adaptable to pizza. After all, it’s just a rearrangement of some kind of meat, cheese and bread.

The last time we reimagined a sandwich into a pizza, my husband and I were inspired by one of our favorite hot sammies at Jersey Mike’s, the Big Kahuna, and it turned out pretty dang delicious.

All that steak, mushrooms, jalapenos and cheesy sauce could only be contained in a deep dish, and it was awesome!

Wouldn’t you know it? Jersey Mike’s has inspired me again, but this time with a classic Italian deli sub— and as I gazed down at my half-eaten sandwich, I thought, why wouldn’t these ingredients be great on a pizza?

Of course they would!

Salty cured meats and cheeses, thin-sliced tomatoes, onions and peppers, and a shredded salad topping, finished with a zesty Italian oil-and-vinegar dressing. This was so right!

We kept it thin crust this time, which means we started with my favorite sourdough pizza dough. If you haven’t the time or patience to make your own dough, check the deli department of your favorite supermarket, as many of them sell fresh dough balls. And who doesn’t love a shortcut?

All our homemade pizzas are baked on a steel, at the highest temperature our home oven can handle (550 F), so having things in order first is a must because the baking only takes six minutes. It’s best to slice and season the tomatoes and make the shredded lettuce salad before you begin building the pizza, so it’s ready to pile on as soon as the pie emerges from the oven. Green leaf lettuce has a bit more body than iceberg, but romaine would have been another good choice. A small splash of oil and vinegar dressing added the perfect finishing touch, and I used Good Seasons because it was already made up in the fridge.


For the other toppings, we cut up thin slices of pepperoni, salami, spicy ham and smoked provolone, and shredded a block of hard mozzarella.


Those were layered onto the sauce with a few shakes of oregano and red pepper flakes, then we arranged very thin slices of onion, bell pepper and pickled pepperoncini, and into the oven it went!


Six minutes later, our kitchen smelled so amazing that we debated enjoying the pizza just as it was, but the shredded lettuce salad is what made it sub-like, and that was a good call. Les sliced it first for easier serving, then we scattered on the salad and sliced tomatoes and sat down for a very tasty dinner!


This pizza had all the flavors of a classic Italian deli sub, so it was a winner! Only one thing left to say (or perhaps to ask) is, “What sandwich will be next??”


Italian Deli Sub Pizza

  • Servings: 6 slices
  • Difficulty: Average
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If you love Italian subs, this pizza will satisfy all your cravings for salty cured meats, cheese and even the oil-and-vinegar dressing!


Ingredients

  • 1 ball fresh pizza dough
  • 1/3 cup favorite tomato pizza sauce
  • 3 slices smoked provolone, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
  • 3 slices spicy deli ham, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup spicy sliced pepperoni, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup sliced Genoa salami, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pickled pepperoncini, thinly sliced on an angle (and blotted dry with paper towels)
  • A few shakes of dried oregano
  • A few shakes of crushed red pepper
  • A few leaves of green leaf lettuce or Romaine, thinly shredded and tossed with 1 Tbsp. oil and vinegar dressing or prepared Italian dressing
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, thinly sliced and seasoned with sea salt and pepper

We bake our pizzas on a 3/8″ steel, preheated for one hour at 550F. If you are using a stone or pan, adjust temperature and baking time accordingly.

Directions

  1. Shape pizza dough into 14-inch round; transfer to a flour- and cornmeal-dusted pizza peel for easy transfer to pizza stone or steel.
  2. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil onto pizza dough, then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Scatter mozzarella evenly over dough, and then arrange cut-up pepperoni, salami, ham and provolone onto pizza.
  4. Sprinkle with dried oregano and crushed red pepper to taste, and then arrange slices of pepper and onion and about half of the pepperoncini.
  5. Slide onto pre-heated stone or steel and bake at 550F for about 6 minutes, or until dough is blistered and cheeses are melted and bubbly.
  6. Transfer pizza to serving pan. Cut into slices, then top pizza with dressed shredded lettuce and remaining pepperoncini.


Green Chili Burritos

This is not a fancy dish by any means, but it is one of the oldest comfort foods from my childhood. My mother began making a ground beef version of this flavorful chili when I was about 6. It’s easy to estimate my age at the time because we moved around a lot, and I can recall where we lived when certain memories were made. My mom was newly remarried and we had moved out west from upstate New York for my stepfather’s job as a truck driver. I loved my stepdad, but he was gone a lot, so it was frequently just my mom and me taking up space in a single-wide mobile home in rural southern Colorado, where Mexican flavors reign supreme.

You could barely see our little box of a house from the main road, which ran a straight line through the tiny town of about 350 people. There was a long, dusty driveway leading from the school bus stop, over some railroad tracks and past the big white propane tank that provided us fuel for heating and cooking. Occasionally, during deer season, I’d see a carcass hung up from a tree near our house, and that meant my new daddy had a good hunting trip and venison would soon be on the menu. Most days after school, our sweet little dog, Ginger, would meet me halfway on my walk from the bus, and on the days that I’d catch a whiff of my mom’s green chili when I opened the door—well, that’s a very happy memory.

A short time after, many things changed in my world. For the second time in my young life, my parents split. We moved again and the relationship with my mom began a sad but steady decline. I shuttled back and forth between parents (and states) until high school graduation, and then made the decision to move away on my own. Visits with my mother became few and far between, and eventually when I visited as an adult and requested the green chili, I learned that her recipe had shifted from the familiar ground beef to cubed pork. It was tasty, but I longed for the texture of the tender ground meat.

What I really wanted was a taste of happy childhood. Isn’t that what comfort food is?

I can taste my childhood in this chili.

The first time I made my own green chili, about 15 years ago, I used a flavorful pork sausage I had discovered at Whole Foods. The sausage was made in-house and was utterly addictive with its mild, smoky green chiles and spicy habanero peppers, and I found it a happy medium to provide the soft meat texture I loved about the first version of green chili I ever had and the rich, savory flavor of pork. When my local Whole Foods stopped making it, I was beyond disappointed. I figured I’d have to settle for plain ground pork going forward.

But recently, necessity being the mother of invention and all, I learned how to make my own spicy sausage and baby, I’m back!


I’m still in the learning stages of sausage production, but my imagination has run pretty wild, considering all the unique flavor possibilities before me. I have delved into a few other flavor combinations already, but I know it won’t be long before this one comes up in rotation again. It’s because the green chili burritos I made from the sausage was just that delicious—even better than any of the versions I made before. Link back to the homemade pork sausage post for the particulars on this sausage, or choose a store-bought sausage that has green chile flavors if you want a shortcut. Heck, maybe your Whole Foods still sells that sausage, and you’ll be in business.

This is my happy place. 🙂

The chili itself is the star of these burritos; the rest is just a tortilla rolled around seasoned beans and cheese. Accompanying the sausage were onions, garlic, flour and masa flour (for thickening), canned green chiles, fresh jalapeno (if you love the heat, as we do), a few simple seasonings, and broth (I used both veggie and chicken). Putting the chili together is easy, and then it settles in for a long, low simmer. If you have an extra day, let it sit in the fridge overnight because the flavors mingle even more for better flavor.


If you like, you can serve the finished chili just as it is—either by the steaming bowlful with a handful of shredded cheese or by ladling it over a burrito—but if it thins out more than you prefer during the cooking, whip up a bit of corn starch slurry and stream it in over medium heat. When it’s thickened and glossy, it’s ready to go.


At our house, we enjoyed this at dinner, lazily draped over bean and cheese burritos. And we enjoyed it again for a weekend breakfast, stuffing our tortillas with black beans, scrambled eggs and cheese, plus a scatter of fresh chopped tomatoes.


Green Chili Burritos

  • Servings: About 8
  • Difficulty: Average
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This dish speaks the language of my childhood, with comforting chili made from ground pork and all that beautiful, melty cheese.


Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. EVOO
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. dried green chile flakes (mine were from Flatiron Pepper Co., available online)
  • 1.5 lbs. green chile pork sausage (store-bought, or my recipe which is included below)
  • 1 whole fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped (keep some of the seeds if you like it hot)
  • 2 or 3 Tbsp. additional EVOO to provide fat for roux
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. masa flour (Maseca)
  • 2 small cans (4 oz.) fire roasted diced green chiles
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (from toasted seeds if possible)
  • 4 cups low-sodium veggie or chicken broth (I used 2 cups of each)
  • Corn starch slurry with equal parts corn starch and ice water (About 1/3 cup total)
  • 2 cans refried beans, warmed with oil and onions (for serving burritos)
  • Large flour tortillas (for burritos)
  • 8 oz. block cheddar, colby jack or pepperjack cheese, shredded
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped (optional)

Directions

  1. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add sausage, a bit at a time, to brown it without overcrowding the pan.
  3. Add jalapeno and drizzle with olive oil to provide fat for the roux. Stir in ground cumin.
  4. Sprinkle flour and masa all over the meat mixture and toss to coat, adding more oil if needed to make it sticky and evenly coated.
  5. Add veg or chicken broth, half at a time, stirring each to blend and thicken.
  6. Cover the pot, reduce heat and cook at a low simmer for a couple of hours. Aim to keep it below the boiling point so that the thickening doesn’t cook off. If the chili seems “thin” after its simmer, use the corn starch slurry to thicken it back up. Be sure to let it simmer vigorously for a few minutes to cook off the starchy flavor.
  7. To serve the chili over burritos, warm the refried beans in a skillet or deep saucepan with some sautéed onions. Add a generous spoonful of the beans onto the center of a large flour tortilla. Add a small handful of shredded cheese and roll it up, placing it seam side-down on an oven-safe plate. Ladle chili over the burrito, sprinkle on more shredded cheese and just a small amount of extra chili. Place in the hot oven or microwave to melt the cheese.

Below are the ingredients I used in the green chile sausage. Full instruction for making the sausage can be found in my previous post for homemade pork sausage.

Ingredients

  • Pork shoulder cubes (gram weight of pork determines how much seasoning blend to use)
  • 1 tsp. Flatiron Pepper Co. hatch green chile blend (for mild, smoky flavor)
  • 1 tsp. Flatiron Pepper Co. four pepper blend (includes chiles de arbol, ghost and habanero for lots of heat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
  • 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper



My Big Fat Olive Martini

When the world shut down for COVID nearly three years ago, I had extra time for cocktail experimentation because, well, there wasn’t much else to do. I made some really fun ones, but what seems ironic to me is that the more I experimented with new and unusual spirit ingredients (not to mention bitters and simple syrup infusions), the more I eventually “came home” to the familiar pleasure of a classic gin martini.

As we have inched closer to New Year’s Eve, I reached an impasse with myself about what kind of tipple I might share with you. Would it be another twist on a Manhattan, like the Pom-Pom-Hattan I posted two years ago, featuring pomegranate liqueur and real grenadine? Or maybe a fun riff on an Old Fashioned, like the smoked maple that is my hubby’s all-time favorite? No, this year, I dismissed all the fancy ideas I had for New Year’s Eve in favor of a cocktail that I’ve enjoyed multiple times over the past year. Rather than a wild new drink with hard-to-find ingredients, I bring you this simple but fabulous elevation of the timeless martini cocktail— I call it My Big Fat Olive Martini!

Peace out, 2022!

No, it is not named for the size of the olive on the pick (but that is a plus). What makes this drink special is that it leverages a technique called “fat washing,” which is essentially the temporary blending of a spirit ingredient with some kind of fat— be it bacon grease, browned butter or even duck fat. By shaking the spirit with the fat and then chilling it to solidify and strain off the fat, you end up with the essence of that fat ingredient in the drink, but without any actual fat in it. The effect of the fat washing is a luscious, well-rounded mouthfeel in the cocktail that is distinctly different, though the spirit’s own character is still front and center. It’s exquisite!

About a year ago, I became a subscriber to Imbibe magazine, which is intended for pro bartenders (but bored home mixologists can order it, too). In this magazine, as well as its digital counterpart, I’ve learned some new tricks of the trade in a way that puts my home mixology skills a step or two ahead of most cocktail bars in our city. Imbibe presented a version of this cocktail several months ago, and though I could not find the exact gin its creator used to make the drink, I knew I had to try it anyway. Fellow martini lovers, you are going to love this.

The dry vermouth you’ll use for the martini is first “washed” with a good quality, extra virgin olive oil, and the olive variety you choose will lend its specific character to the vermouth, even after it’s strained out after the chill-down. If you like fruity or grassy olive oil, you can expect those notes to carry over into your martini accordingly. Isn’t that fun? 


The oil I like best for this is Nocellara, an Italian olive variety known more widely as Castelvetrano. This oil has a mild and creamy, almost artichoke-y flavor, and it is outstanding for washing the vermouth, though other varieties I’ve tried were perfectly acceptable. The big thing that matters here is the quality and purity of the oil. It should be 100% extra virgin and cold-pressed, and you may have to leave the supermarket to find a good one. If you have a specialty oil and vinegar shop in your area, start there.

Combine the vermouth and oil (in a 5:1 ratio) in a wide-mouthed jar and shake it for about 30 seconds. Tuck it into the coldest spot of your fridge for about 24 hours (or up to about three days—after that, it loses something).


The pure olive oil solidifies in the fridge, so it’s usually easy to separate it from the vermouth after washing; I did this by poking the solid oil with a chopstick, then lifting it out and draining the vermouth out from under it into a new jar and then into a small bottle, ready to go for mixing cocktails. If the oil doesn’t solidify, it could be that it isn’t pure extra virgin, or it could be that the alcohol in the protecting the oil a bit. It’s not a lost cause though, just stick the jar in the freezer for a couple of hours and check again.


From that point, make your martini as usual. If you want a little extra olive flavor, go dirty with a little splash of olive brine, too. And of course, garnish it with a gorgeous olive— a big fat one, if you wish. These are castelvetranos, stuffed with a chunk of feta, which pairs perfectly.


Oh, and don’t throw out that solid slab of olive oil. Let it melt and use it in a snazzy vinaigrette dressing!

My Big Fat Olive Martini

  • Servings: 1 cocktail, easy to scale up
  • Difficulty: Easy
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A pro technique called 'fat-washing' transforms dry vermouth, putting a luscious twist on a classic cocktail!


Ingredients

  • 2 oz. London dry gin (or vodka, if you prefer it for martinis)
  • 1/2 oz. olive oil-washed dry vermouth (see below)
  • A splash of briny olive brine (optional, for a “dirty” martini)

Directions

  1. Combine gin, dry vermouth and olive brine (if using) in a shaker or mixing glass.
  2. Add a cup of ice and shake or stir about 30 seconds, until outside of container is frosty. Strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass. Garnish with a big fat olive, or twist of lemon peel (or both).

It is essential that you choose a 100% extra virgin olive oil for the fat-washing step. Inferior oils will not solidify during chilling and are difficult to strain from the vermouth. You’ll find a plethora of good options in a specialty oil and vinegar shop.

Ingredients

  • 75 ml (2.5 oz.) dry vermouth; I like Dolin brand for this
  • 15 ml (1/2 oz.) good quality, extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Combine vermouth and olive oil in a wide-mouthed jar (it’s easier to poke through for straining later).
  2. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, and then place jar in a very cold spot in the fridge, undisturbed, for about 24 hours or up to three days.
  3. Remove jar from fridge. If the oil is not fully solid on top of the vermouth, place the jar in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm it up more.
  4. Use a chopstick or small spoon to loosen and lift the solid olive oil disk. Gently drain the vermouth through a fine mesh strainer to remove residual olive oil. Transfer the strained vermouth to a small bottle and keep chilled. This amount is good for five martinis. Scale up as needed.


Peppermint Bark Brownies & Candy Cane Whipped Cream

When it comes to holiday goodies, decadent doesn’t have to be complicated, and simple doesn’t have to be ordinary. These brownies—amped up with an extra dose of double dark cocoa and embellished with pieces of peppermint bark—are delightful as they are. But then, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I topped them with a dollop of candy cane-infused whipped cream.

Decadent, simple and way beyond ordinary!

I chose the Dr. Seuss colors for my plates (on purpose).

The best part about it (besides the fact that it’s delicious and oh-so-Christmas-y) is that I didn’t have to make a scratch recipe. I used my favorite Ghirardelli dark chocolate brownie mix as the base, and folded broken up Ghirardelli dark chocolate peppermint bark squares into the batter before baking, along with a generous spoonful of double dark cocoa blend from King Arthur Baking Company (but any dark cocoa powder works fine).

Extra chocolate, anyone? 🙂

Make the brownies as directed, using water and canola oil plus egg to moisten the batter. Gently fold in the broken pieces of peppermint bark and spread it out into a buttered brownie pan.


I considered using the chunkier peppermint bark, with actual bits of candy cane sprinkled on top, but decided on the Ghirardelli-style bark for its smooth, meltable qualities and so that we didn’t accidentally chip a tooth biting into a hidden piece of candy cane. They melted completely into the baked brownies, and offered gooey pockets of pepperminty flavor in each bite. If you don’t mind a little crunchy surprise, there’d be no harm in trying these brownies with the chunky style of bark. The contrast of chewy and crunchy would probably be especially popular with kids. No adjustment is needed to the baking time, and be sure to let them cool completely so they set up for easier cutting and serving.

This candy cane whipped cream makes me so happy!

The candy cane whipped cream is much easier than it sounds—I simply warmed heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan and melted two broken candy canes into the cream. This took about 20 minutes, and I kept a close eye on them to avoid letting the cream reach a boiling point. The candy canes did all the work, providing the sweetness, the minty flavor and the pretty pink color. After a thorough chilling, I used the whisk attachment of my electric mixer to whip it into a creamy emulsion.


Ready to make them? Use the “click to print” card below to save this for your recipe files. Merry Christmas!

Peppermint Bark Brownies & Candy Cane Whipped Cream

  • Servings: 9 or 16, depending on desired size
  • Difficulty: Average
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These Christmas-y brownies bring together two favorite flavors for a 'simple meets special' holiday treat.


Ingredients

  • 1 box Ghirardelli dark chocolate brownie mix (or your favorite, plus oil, egg and water as directed)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon dark cocoa (I used King Arthur Baking Double Dark Blend)
  • 8 squares Ghirardelli dark chocolate peppermint bark, broken into pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 standard size candy canes

It’s best to make this ahead, so that the candy cane-infused cream has plenty of time to chill before whipping and serving. Brownies should also be cooled for easier cutting.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven as directed on brownie mix package, with rack in center position. Generously butter your brownie pan.
  2. Combine dry brownie mix and dark cocoa in a bowl and whisk together. Add ingredients as instructed on brownie mix (this is usually some combination of egg, oil and water).
  3. Gently fold in broken pieces of peppermint bark, and then transfer brownie batter to the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula.
  4. Bake as instructed and allow plenty of time for brownies to cool.
  5. Pour cream into a small saucepan with broken candy canes, and place pan over medium-low heat. Stir gently and watch this closely to ensure cream does not boil. It should remain at a gentle simmer with steam floating above the pan. When candy canes have fully melted, transfer the cream to a bowl and refrigerate until fully chilled.
  6. Use a handheld mixer (or a whisk, if you have really strong arms) to whip the cream to desired fluffiness. Spoon a dollop of the candy cane whipped cream onto each brownie square and serve immediately.


Butternut Squash Latkes

One of the emails I received last week from The New York Times Cooking carried the heading, “The Veggie: Will It Latke?” This tickled my funny bone because it seems to be a play on a question I asked many years ago when I bought my first waffle iron. Will it Waffle was the title and subject of a creative little cookbook that challenged other foods, such as falafel, s’mores, spaghetti and pizza to become “waffled.” Personally, I love this idea because I like playing with my food, especially when it involves something unexpected. Here are a few things we have waffled at our house:


When it comes to latkes, however, there are a few limits to what can be turned into a latke, and this is largely based on the starch content of the ingredients you wish to “latke.” When you start leaning toward less starchy vegetables, you may run into trouble getting the well-composed patties and delicate, crispy edges that make latkes so irresistible— not only during Hanukkah (which started last evening), but anytime you get a hankering for tasty fried nuggets.

This post is the result of my experiment making latkes with butternut squash— botanically, it’s classified as a starchy vegetable, but clearly less so than a potato— and I’ll confess now that I did not follow a recipe from the email that raised this “will it latke” question. Rather, I decided to wing it, trusting my instincts and knowledge of starch and frying, plus my past experience with making my “regular” Classic Crispy Latkes.

I held firmly to the handful of immutable rules for making latkes, including making the “batter” as dry as possible so that the latkes hold together and fry up crispy, heating the oil to a fairly high temperature so the latkes don’t soak up too much of the oil, and seasoning the latkes the moment they emerge from the frying pan to make them even more delicious.

The rest of my effort was learn-as-you-go, and I’ll walk you through the lessons this experiment taught me, with a printable recipe at the end, laying out the roadmap to the best outcome. Ready to make these?

We served our butternut squash latkes with braised brisket and Les’s overnight applesauce!

First, I chose my flavor profile, and I kept it simple with onion— to keep them more savory than sweet, as squash tends to be— and smoked paprika for a little bit of spice without heat.

I bought my smoked paprika from a site called Bourbon Barrel Foods.

I fitted my food processor with the small hole shredder plate to shred up the onions, then pressed them through a fine mesh strainer to squeeze out every bit of juice. 


I knew that additional starch would be needed to make up for what the butternut squash lacked, and I went with a peeled russet potato (the starchiest variety), which I also shredded with the fine hole plate. Shredding it fine helped me to coax out as much starch as possible to aid in binding the squash shreds. I covered the russet shreds with ice water and let them soak for about 45 minutes. After soaking, I scooped the potato shreds out of the bowl and squeezed them dry in a clean towel. Then I carefully poured off the water, preserving the valuable starch that had settled to the bottom of the bowl. A quick, light blotting with a paper towel removed the remaining moisture without losing the starch.


If there was any doubt about whether the squash has enough of its own starch to make latkes, this next part of my experiment settled it. I switched to the large hole plate for shredding the squash and applied the same ice water trick I used on the russet. Unfortunately, this was futile— almost no starch was visible in the bowl, so I’m pretty sure this could have been skipped altogether. Next time, I’ll simply shred the squash and blot it dry on a clean towel. This will also save me from having to wash so many dishes; to this point, I had every large glass bowl in my kitchen involved in this latke project.


With everything shredded and prepped, I was finally ready to make the latkes! As with my regular recipe, I heated grapeseed oil (about 1-inch deep) in my large electric skillet. Figuring that the winter squash might take longer to cook than potatoes, I set the temperature at 350 rather than my usual 375. This turned out to be the wrong thing, as you’ll see in a moment. I mixed that beautiful, sticky russet potato starch with a beaten egg and blended it into the big bowl of squash, potato and onion shreds. The whole thing got a seasoning of salt and pepper, and with a quick test of the hot oil, I was in business.


My first batch didn’t sizzle much when the batter hit the oil (the first sign that it wasn’t hot enough), they were tricky to turn (a sign of poor binding), and sure enough, these first few latkes turned out really greasy (strike three)! The patties had soaked up so much oil they were unpleasant to eat.


I had a couple of problems to be solved, so I adjusted both my ingredients and my technique. For better binding, I sprinkled in a generous spoonful of potato flour to stiffen up the batter. I also turned up the temperature to 375 F, and they were better but still a bit fragile and difficult to turn.


With only a third of my batter remaining, I had time to make one more adjustment and it was a simple one. For easier turning, I made the latkes a little bit smaller. This turned out to be a game changer, and the final two batches of smaller latkes came out crispy outside, tender inside and flavorful through and through! 

From the left: Batch 1 (too greasy), Batch 2 (better but fragile), Batch 3 (smaller, crispy and just right!)

So this settles it— butternut squash does indeed make a delicious latke, and next time I want to make them, I’ll keep these simple takeaways in mind and I’ll follow the recipe below to make them right from the start!

Latke Lessons

  1. Incorporate extra potato starch to make up for what your alternate ingredients might be missing.
  2. Keep the oil temperature hot to ensure crispy edges and prevent greasy latkes.
  3. Make the latkes a bit smaller for easier turning and faster cooking.

Butternut Squash Latkes

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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I learned a few things along the way to making butternut squash latkes, and this recipe will help you get to success without all the lessons!


Ingredients

  • 1 large russet potato, peeled
  • 1 medium sweet onion, trimmed and peeled
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and seeded (enough to measure 3 packed cups of shreds)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning after frying
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. smoked paprika (I used “bourbon smoked” from Bourbon Barrel Foods)
  • 1 Tbsp. potato flour (or potato starch or dried potato flakes)
  • Grapeseed oil for frying (enough to fill frying pan to 1-inch deep)

Salt draws moisture out of ingredients. For best results, have everything lined up in advance, and wait to add salt until just before you fry the latkes, so the batter doesn’t get liquidy.

Directions

  1. Grate onion with fine shred plate. Press shreds through a fine mesh strainer placed over a measuring cup. Discard onion juice or save it for another use (I usually add it to a meat marinade).
  2. Grate potato with fine shred plate. Transfer potato shreds to a medium sized bowl and cover with ice water. Set aside for 45 minutes, and then scoop out shreds and squeeze dry in a clean towel. Carefully pour off water, preserving the starch that settles to the bottom of the bowl.
  3. Grate butternut squash with large shred plate. Transfer squash to a clean towel and squeeze dry. Add squash shreds to a large bowl. Add potato and onion shreds. Sprinkle in smoked paprika and black pepper. Use a fork, tongs or your hands to mix everything evenly. Sprinkle on potato flour and mix again.
  4. Heat grapeseed oil to 375 F, with oil about 1-inch deep in a cast iron or electric skillet.
  5. Whisk the reserved potato starch and potato flour into the egg in a small bowl. Stir in salt.
  6. When the oil reaches temperature, blend the egg mixture into the squash and potato shreds. Shape the latke “batter” into small clumps approximately the size of walnuts. Shape one at a time and place them immediately into the hot oil. After about 1 minute, use the back of a flat metal spatula to lightly press the latkes flat.
  7. Turn the latkes to cook the other side after 3 to 4 minutes, when they are crispy and golden brown on the first side. Cook the second side until done to match, for a total of about 7 minutes for each batch.
  8. Transfer finished latkes to a paper towel-lined baking sheet or rack. Sprinkle them immediately with a pinch of salt.
  9. Repeat with remaining latke batter. Serve immediately.

Latkes don’t reheat particularly well, so it’s best to make only as many as you intend to eat right away.

A helpful word to the wise: the towels you use to squeeze the potato and squash dry will be starchy and/or stained. It’s best to rinse them right away before adding them to your laundry.


Spiced Sangria Cranberry Sauce

It’s been ages since I last bought cranberry sauce in a can. That high-fructose corn syrup-laden jellied stuff that goes schhhluuuup onto the plate, retaining the shape of the can, right down to the rings that I once thought were meant to help you slice it into portions. What in the world was I thinking?

Sure, I know the canned stuff is kind of a standard and it’s certainly convenient. But real, fresh cranberry sauce is so simple to make at home, and I love jazzing it up with unexpected ingredients for a different take on the classic. I have made it relish-style with chopped raw cranberries and pecans. I’ve flavored it with citrus and pomegranate. Heck, I’ve even made cranberry sauce with jalapeno and orange (that was 2020, and it was awesome).

This year, I’m sharing a version that is just for the grown-up table, marrying the tangy flavors of traditional cranberry sauce with the spicy, fruity notes of red wine sangria. It’s a little bit boozy, a touch cinnamon-y and altogether yummy.

This smells exactly like sangria!

Any red wine will work for this recipe (and it doesn’t have to be expensive), but I would recommend choosing a pinot noir or other dry wine that is described with flavors of red berries and cherries. Steer clear of heavier wines such as cabernet sauvignon, which will overpower the brightness of the cranberry. Here’s a good rule of thumb—if the wine would make a good base for sangria, it’s perfect for this cranberry sauce.

Begin by rinsing the cranberries and plucking out any bad ones. Combine them with chopped apple in a medium saucepan. Add wine, orange liqueur, cinnamon sticks and cane sugar, and cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble.

When the mixture reaches a light boil, add minced sweetened orange and stir to combine. Reduce the heat and simmer for about a half hour, until berries are easily mashed and mixture is bright red. Remove it from the heat and transfer it to a bowl to cool. As the cranberry sauce cools, the natural pectins in the berries will cause it to thicken. Stir the zest of an orange and a lime into the cranberry sauce. As the cranberry sauce rests in the fridge, the red wine will stain everything deep red, but that isn’t exactly a problem for me. 😉

If your Thanksgiving day isn’t too hectic, hold the zest until serving time for a bright pop of color.


Sangria Cranberry Sauce

  • Servings: 6 to 8
  • Difficulty: Average
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Decked out with red wine, orange liqueur and warm, festive spices, this one should be served strictly on the grownup table!


Ingredients

  • 12 oz. package organic cranberries, sorted and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 crisp apple, such as Granny Smith, Fuji or Gala
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur (I used Cointreau)
  • 2 pieces stick cinnamon, about 3 inches each
  • 1/4 cup minced sweetened, dried oranges (such as Trader Joe’s)
  • Zest of one orange (organic is best when the zest is eaten)
  • Zest of one lime (organic)

If you wish, sprinkle additional orange and lime zests on top of the cranberry sauce at serving time for a bright pop of color.

Directions

  1. Combine the cranberries and apples with the red wine, orange liqueur, sugar and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan.
  2. Stir and cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Add dried orange bits. Reduce heat and simmer until berries pop easily and sauce is reduced to a syrup-like consistency (anywhere from 20-30 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in orange and lime zests and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. The natural pectin in the cranberries will cause the mixture to thicken more as it cools.
  4. Refrigerate at least overnight, and up to two weeks. Remove cinnamon stick before serving.

Eggplant Parm Pizza!

It’s been a long time since we’ve talked about pizza here on Comfort du Jour, but this one deserves a mention because it is a beautiful marriage of two classic Italian foods we love in this house. Every bite had a little bit of everything we love about eggplant parm—the crispy coating, meaty eggplant and gooey cheese—and a little bit of everything we love about pizza, especially the blistery crust and tangy tomato sauce.

This mouthwatering pie also deserves a mention because its star ingredient was grown in the first genuinely successful garden we have had in several summers. I shared a lot of tomato recipes this year but didn’t get in as many raves about the beautiful Japanese eggplant we enjoyed.

Homegrown produce rarely looks perfect. This one had a funny shape because it grew against the trellis that supported the plant! 🙂

Japanese eggplant tastes virtually the same as a typical “Italian” eggplant you’d see in the supermarket or farm stands, but its long, slender shape is distinctive and makes it suitable for smaller versions of things. My husband, Les, and I nibbled on miniature eggplant parm bites as an appetizer at least twice over the summer until he finally said, “hey, why don’t we put these on a pizza?”

Well, heck, yeah!


If you saw Les’s Veal & Eggplant Parm post a couple of weeks ago, you know that we achieved the perfectly crispy, cheesy exterior on the eggplant rounds with a careful breading—first flour, then egg wash and finally a seasoned panko crumb and Parm-Romano mixture before a dunk in hot oil. We did exactly the same with these mini eggplant slices, beginning with a 20 minute salt-and-rest time.


The crispy eggplant had plenty of flavor on its own, but we wanted to pair it with some complementary flavors, including soft, sauteed onions and a little bit of spicy sausage that I had left over from another recipe. I laid those down on a layer of shredded mozzarella, over our usual pizza sauce, with a few sprinkles of our Parm-Romano blend.

Then, the eggplant parm layer, and I spooned a bit more sauce right on top of each little medallion, then another good pinch of mozzarella to keep it nice and cheesy.


Into the 550° F oven on our beloved pizza steel, and six minutes later, we had this delicious Italian hybrid masterpiece!


This week, the temperatures in our area finally dipped below the frost point, and what was left of my summer garden is now history. I went out yesterday and plucked all the remaining green tomatoes (yep, we still had them coming in) and a whole bunch of jalapenos. This was a banner year for us in the garden department.

I can’t wait until next year! 😊


Eggplant Parm Pizza

  • Servings: One 14-inch pizza
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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This pizza was very fun to make, and a delicious marriage of two of our favorite classic Italian comfort foods.


Ingredients

  • 1 Japanese-style “millionaire” eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • Kosher salt (for sweating excess moisture from the eggplant)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with black pepper and garlic powder
  • 2 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parm-Romano blend cheese (or regular, grated Parmesan)
  • Neutral vegetable oil, such as canola (for frying eggplant)
  • 1 ball pizza dough, at room temperature
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling on dough
  • 2/3 cup favorite pizza sauce, divided
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced and sauteed until soft
  • 1/2 cup cooked, crumbled Italian sausage
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided

We bake all of our pizzas on a heavy pizza steel, pre-heated in a 550° F oven for one hour. If you bake on a pizza stone, use the highest temperature recommended for your stone, and adjust baking time accordingly.

Directions

  1. Arrange the eggplant slices on layers of paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and let them rest for 20 minutes, then use clean paper towels to wipe off the salt.
  2. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Set up breading station, with one container of seasoned flour, a second with beaten eggs and a third with the panko crumbs, mixed with Parm-Romano.
  3. Dip each eggplant slice into the flour, then shake off excess and dip into the egg. Let excess egg drip from the slices and lay them into the panko crumb mixture, pressing panko onto each side for full coverage.
  4. Carefully place the breaded eggplant slices into the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. Turn the eggplant when the first side is golden and crispy. When both sides are done, transfer the eggplant to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.
  5. Shape pizza dough into a 14-inch round. Drizzle with olive oil, then swirl half of the pizza sauce onto the dough. Top with 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella, reserving the rest for the top of the eggplant rounds. Scatter the sauteed onions and cooked sausage crumbles over the cheese layer.
  6. Arrange the crispy eggplant rounds onto the pizza, then divide the remaining pizza sauce and mozzarella over each round.
  7. Bake on pre-heated pizza steel for about 6 minutes, until crust edges are golden and blistered and cheese is melted and bubbling.



Brie & Mushroom-stuffed Meatloaf

To say that I’m excited for fall is a bit of an understatement. After stiflingly humid North Carolina summers, I am always eager for the relief that comes in mid-September. I can finally open the windows each morning to let the cool, fresh air permeate our space (at least until afternoon, when the temps rise back into the 90s), and my soul starts longing for all the culinary comforts of the fall and winter seasons—warm herbal teas in the evening, soups and stews that nourish us from the inside out, and the return of what I like to call the Sunday Supper.

This meatloaf is one of my very favorites, though calling it a meatloaf may not do justice to the elegance of the meal, especially if you go the extra mile to make the French Onion Gravy recipe that accompanies it on my plate.

No mashed potatoes necessary.

My first inspiration for this recipe came many years ago when I spotted a wedge of creamy, mushroom-studded brie in the specialty cheese section at Trader Joe’s. It was begging to be part of something special and so I incorporated it into my usual, plain-Jane turkey meatloaf and I never looked back. I have since seen the cheese branded by other companies as well, and I actually bought this one from another supermarket. If you cannot find brie with mushrooms, substitute any other brie, and preferably one that is sold in large wedges, as it is easier to slice evenly for the rollup.


There will be plenty of mushroom in the mix anyway, as I slice and brown nearly a whole package of “baby bellas” to layer with the brie. Oh, and sauteed mushrooms and onions also get chopped and blended right into the meat mixture as well. Yes, this is definitely a mushroom-lover’s meatloaf!


I like using a combination of ground turkey (93% lean) and ground turkey breast (99% lean) for this, because the turkey breast on its own tends to go dry during baking, and the other on its own is almost too soft to shape properly. I suppose this meatloaf could also be made with lean ground beef, but I love it with ground turkey, which has a lighter flavor and leaner calorie load—though I’m sure the brie filling that oozes out into every bite probably cancels out that second part.


To give this meatloaf a hint of Thanksgiving (we are already counting down at our house), I have used dry stuffing mix (which I crushed into crumbs) in the panade, and it forms a glue to hold it all together. Feel free to substitute your favorite bread crumbs. Use less milk for this one than you normally would in a panade, because the turkey meat mixture is fairly loose and it benefits from the sturdier, almost crumbly panade.

The richness of the brie demands a little balance as well, so don’t omit the fresh parsley. Putting this meatloaf together is not as complicated as it might seem. At the end of the post is a click-to-print recipe, but I’ll walk you through it so you can see how easy it really is.


Parchment paper is my best friend for the task of shaping the meatloaf, but waxed paper would work in a pinch. Take your time, be sure the long edge and ends are sealed, and bake it on a cookie sheet rather than in a pan, for a beautiful crust. Give it 45 minutes at 400° F, and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.


Look at that gorgeous crust!

As for the gravy, well, I probably had you at “French onion.” It’s simple enough to make, but it does call for a special ingredient in the Herbes de Provence, which is a blend of herbs well known in the south of France. If you don’t have or can’t find it, substitute a blend of thyme, rosemary, marjoram and lemon peel. It won’t be quite the same, but these flavors will help to highlight and complement the onions. Use sweet or yellow onions and your choice of chicken or vegetable broth.


Serve the meal by ladling a portion of gravy directly onto the plate, and top with thick slices of the brie and mushroom-stuffed meatloaf. This entree does not need mashed potatoes, but if you crave them, may I suggest my hubby’s fantastic Garlic Mashed? You won’t regret it. 🙂

Brie & Mushroom-stuffed Meatloaf

  • Servings: About 8 slices
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Don't let the fancy swirl pattern in these meatloaf slices intimidate you! With a little patience and a sheet of parchment paper, you can make this delicious turkey meatloaf that literally oozes with comfort!


Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dry herb stuffing mix (such as Pepperidge Farm), crushed into small crumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided (note directions for when to use)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, minced
  • 12 oz. carton cremini mushrooms, divided
  • 1 lb. ground turkey (93% lean)
  • 1/2 lb. ground turkey breast (99% lean)
  • 1 large egg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Small handful chopped, fresh parsley
  • 6 oz. brie (with mushrooms, if possible)

Directions

  1. Make a panade, combining the dry stuffing mix with milk. You should have just barely enough milk to cover the stuffing mix. Let this rest while you prepare the rest of the meatloaf mixture.
  2. Clean and trim all the mushrooms and divide them, chopping enough into small pieces to measure about 1/2 cup. Slice the remaining mushrooms into thin slices and set aside.
  3. Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the minced onion until translucent. Season with Herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. Add the chopped mushrooms and sauté together until the mushrooms are soft and most of their moisture has evaporated. Cool this mixture and then process (or chop) into smaller bits.
  4. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and brown half of the sliced mushrooms until they are golden on both sides. Repeat with the remaining oil and mushrooms. Don’t be tempted to cook the mushrooms all at once, unless your pan is very large. If they are crowded in the pan, they will cook by steaming rather than browning, and you’ll lose the texture of the mushrooms. Transfer the browned mushroom slices into a bowl to cool.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground turkey (both), egg, panade, mushroom-onion mixture and parsley. Toss in a generous pinch of salt and a few twists of black pepper. Use your hands to evenly combine these ingredients until they are uniform, but try not to overwork the mixture.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the meatloaf mixture onto the parchment, using oiled hands to pat it into a rectangle about 9 by 12 inches, and about 3/4-inch thick. Layer the browned mushrooms evenly over the surface, leaving a 1-inch border around all edges. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes to firm up. Use this time to preheat the oven to 400° F and to prepare the French onion gravy.
  7. Slice the brie cheese wedge into uniform thickness pieces, about 1/4-inch thick. Arrange the slices in a single layer all over the chilled meatloaf, keeping a 1-inch border along both sides, and at least 2 inches from the far, short end. This will help prevent the brie from melting out of the meatloaf during baking.
  8. Use the parchment paper to assist rolling the meatloaf, beginning with the short end near you. Bend the brie, if needed, so that it will roll easier. Keep the roll snug as you go, and pinch to seal all edges, finishing with the end seal on top of the roll. Sprinkle the surface of the meatloaf lightly with kosher salt and bake for 45 minutes, until the meatloaf is browned with a slight crust all over; internal temperature will be about 160° F. Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest about 10 minutes before slicing. The residual heat will continue to cook the meatloaf during this time.
  9. Serve with French Onion Pan Gravy.


French Onion Pan Gravy

  • Servings: 3 cups
  • Difficulty: average
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Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced into crescent shapes
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Herbs de Provence seasoning
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. dry vermouth (or dry white wine)
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. bouillon paste (optional, for richer flavor)

Directions

  1. Heat a large skillet or shallow sauce pot over medium heat. Swirl in olive oil and saute the onion crescents until translucent. Season with Herbs de Provence, salt and pepper and continue cooking until onions begin to caramelize.
  2. Sprinkle flour over the onions and add the butter, stirring to melt the butter and evenly coat the onions in roux. Cook until the onions no longer appear dry from the flour, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add dry vermouth to the skillet and stir to deglaze any browned bits. The liquid will probably dissipate rather quickly. Add broth, about half at a time, stirring to distribute evenly. When sauce begins to bubble and thicken, reduce heat to low and cover the skillet. Let it simmer while meatloaf is in the oven.
  4. Just before serving, taste and adjust seasonings. For additional richness, swirl in a heaping teaspoon of bouillon paste.
  5. Plate a ladle-ful of gravy, and top it with slices of the brie and mushroom-stuffed meatloaf.