Cowgirl Chef: Casseroles, crocks and cocottes

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 04, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Vegetable potpie

Makes 2

• 2 to 3 red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

• 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

• 1 cup butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

• Olive oil

• 1 bunch kale, leaves removed, chopped and rinsed

• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

• 1 tablespoon cornstarch

• 1 cup chicken stock

• Sea salt and pepper

• 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and put two 9-ounce ramekins on a cookie sheet.

2. Put potatoes, carrots and squash in a pot of salted water to boil. When it boils, reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. The vegetables should be cooked yet firm. Drain in a colander, then put in a medium bowl.

3. Drizzle a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low and cook the kale just to the point where it begins to wilt (it’ll finish cooking in the oven). Add kale to potatoes, carrots and squash.

4. If there’s still a tablespoon of oil in the skillet, go ahead and add the sage and rosemary — if not, add a bit more oil, and cook over medium heat until the sage begins to get crispy. Mix the cornstarch with the chicken stock, pour this into the skillet, and stir until it thickens slightly. Pour over the veggies, mix, season with sea salt and pepper to taste, and divide among the ramekins.

5. Roll out puff pastry and, using a pizza wheel, cut it to a size just slightly larger than the ramekin, then place on top and press to the sides. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is brown. Serve warm.

Nutritional analysis per pie: 848 calories, 49 grams fat, 93 grams carbohydrates, 19 grams protein, no cholesterol, 374 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber, 50 percent of calories from fat.

Green chile mac ’n’ cheese

Serves 2

• 6 ounces elbow macaroni

• 1 tablespoon butter

• 1 tablespoon flour

• 1 cup milk

• Sea salt and pepper

• A pinch of nutmeg

• 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese

• 1/4 cup green chile

• 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

1. Heat oven to broil.

2. Put a salted pot of water on to boil and cook the macaroni for about 6 minutes, or until it’s al dente. Drain and set aside.

3. Make the mornay sauce: Put butter in a saucepan over low heat, and when it melts, slowly whisk in flour; add milk, a little at a time, continuing to whisk like crazy so the flour and butter don’t clump. (Once I’ve added all of the milk, I like to swap out my whisk for a wooden spoon, and I just keep stirring until this mixture thickens.) Add a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg, and taste.

4. Now add cheese, green chile and drained pasta. Stir for a few minutes to give the sauce a chance to incorporate into the pasta.

5. Divide mixture between two (6-ounce) ramekins, top with breadcrumbs, and slide under the broiler for a minute or two, or until lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 679 calories, 24 grams fat, 81 grams carbohydrates, 33 grams protein, 72 milligrams cholesterol, 392 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 33 percent of calories from fat.

Spinach and basil pesto lasagna

Serves 2 to 4

• 3 tablespoons olive oil

• 12 ounces baby spinach

• Sea salt and pepper

• A pinch of nutmeg

• 1/8 teaspoon lemon zest

• 8 ounces ricotta

• 1 egg

• 6 no-cook lasagna noodles

• 6 tablespoons basil pesto

• 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

• 1/4 cup grated mozzarella

1. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and add spinach, a pinch of salt and pepper, nutmeg, and lemon zest and toss until the spinach has just begun to wilt — it doesn’t need to cook all the way.

2. In a small bowl, mix ricotta with the egg.

3. Oil a 7-inch-by-6-inch-by-1 1/2-inch casserole dish with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil so the noodles won’t stick.

3. Layer the following: no-cook lasagna noodles, 2 tablespoons pesto, half of the ricotta mixture, half of the spinach and 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan. Repeat. Top with a third layer of noodles, the last 2 tablespoons of pesto and the grated mozzarella.

4. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until the lasagna is cooked through and bubbly on the sides. Remove the foil and let bake for an additional 10 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 2: 1,179 calories, 60 grams fat, 111 grams carbohydrates, 50 grams protein, 170 milligrams cholesterol, 781 milligrams sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber, 46 percent of calories fat.

Mini meatloaves

Makes 5 (4 1/2-ounce) meatloaves

• 1 pound ground beef (80 percent lean)

• 6 1/2 ounces Italian sausage (I like hot and spicy), casings removed

• 1/2 cup grated carrots

• 1/3 cup diced onion

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 1 egg

• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Put all of the ingredients in a large bowl and smoosh it up with your hands — it’s the only way to do this. Shape into 5 loaves (to fit 3 3/4-inch-by-2 1/2-inch-by-1 3/4-inch loaf pans).

3. Put mini meatloaves on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees. Remove from oven and cover with foil for 10 minutes. Serve right away.

Nutritional analysis per meatloaf: 435 calories, 37 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 22 grams protein, 148 milligrams cholesterol, 538 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 77 percent of calories from fat.

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

In France, there’s a specific kind of dish for just about anything you can think of.

There are footed porcelain bowls for onion soup, served with melted Gruyère on top (and down the sides if you’re lucky). There are small ramekins for baking eggs and cast-iron cocottes for hearty stews, both of which go straight to the table.

This single-serving baking dish idea is so embraced by the French that there’s a restaurant near the Eiffel Tower devoted to it, Les Cocottes, where everything comes its own very petite — and very cute — serving vessel. It’s the opposite of our American super-size, all-you-can eat philosophy.

Cooking small is also how the French prepare meals at home. Grocery stores are stocked with smaller packages of ingredients than what you buy in the U.S., and if you just need one stalk of celery for a soup you’re making that day, all you do is pluck one from the bunch and pay a few centimes. Kitchen and grocery stores are filled with the right ramekin or casserole for whatever you want to cook — which is stylish but also rooted in necessity. Have you seen the size of the refrigerators in most Paris apartments? People tend to cook what they can eat for that particular meal.

Even though we’ve got big American ovens and side-by-side refrigerator-freezers for our leftovers, after living in Paris for six years, I’ve embraced the idea of cooking small wherever I happen to be. It certainly makes sense if you’re only cooking for one or two.

Plus, being able to serve in the same thing you’ve cooked something in just means one less dish to wash, which is always a good idea in my book.

Ellise Pierce is author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent” (Running Press, $25).; @cowgirlchef

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