Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Happy…middle of September?  How the heck did THAT happen??

Before we know it, Autumn will be upon us.  In fact, it’s coming early from what I can see – we already have trees turning on our street (much to Darling Daughter’s dismay).

While I do NOT look forward to winter, I generally enjoy fall.  It’s a gorgeous season up here in northeast Ohio and the crisp temperatures are an invigorating excuse to wear my didn’t-exist-until-I-moved-North cool weather wardrobe.

Because, let’s face it, it’s cold for all of about 3 days in the middle of February down in Texas.

It’s also an opportunity to start tuning up for cold-weather cooking, which is (according to at least one of my readers) my forte.  I won’t deny it; I love casseroles and stews and braises and other hearty, stick-to-your-ribs fare.

This particular recipe is a new favorite.  Ooooohhh, myyyyyyyy.

While the butternut squash Beloved planted earlier in the season didn’t take at all (this is not true of the one that has sprung up spontaneously in another garden – I guess the compost didn’t get hot enough again this year), the spaghetti squash is doing just fine.  We’ve already picked a couple, and I made this with the very first one Beloved harvested.

Fortunately, the harvest of this squash coincided with the last of the summer sweet corn we picked up at the farmer’s market.  When I finally decided what I was going to do with this particular one – I didn’t want it to involve a pasta sauce – I soaked and cooked some black beans, as well as a pound of Meat for Tacos. After that I made a fresh salsa with some red onion, a hillbilly tomato and a jalapeno, all from our garden, along with some cilantro from the CSA.  Once I’d roasted the squash, all that was left was to shred some cheese and assemble the whole thing and bake it in the oven.

It. Was. AMAZING.  This is comfort food, folks – delicious, satisfying and quite healthful comfort food.  The servings are also quite generous, and the leftovers keep well in the refrigerator, if they’re well-covered.  It really reheats beautifully – Beloved and I shared one stuffed squash half the night I made it, and finished off the other half for lunch the next day.  It was every bit as good (if not a little bit better, as dishes like this tend to be).

This would also be awesome topped with a good, homemade guacamole.

Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash. Healthy and creative, this Mexican-inspired casserole is a great way to jazz up this versatile winter squash.

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Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 pound [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/meat-tacos/” target=”_blank”]Meat for Tacos[/url]
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup fresh tomato salsa
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Halve the spaghetti squash and scrape out the seeds from the center. Rub both halves with olive oil and place them, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork; remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  3. While the squash is roasting, prepare the [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/meat-tacos/” target=”_blank”]Meat for Tacos[/url].
  4. Once cooled enough to handle, shred the meat of the squash into a large mixing bowl with a fork, leaving the shells intact. Season lightly with salt and pepper; stir in the beans, corn, taco meat, red onion and half the cheese until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mixture back into the squash shells and top with the remaining cheese. Return to the foil-lined baking sheet.
  5. Reduce the heat to 350 F and return the stuffed squash halves to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Allow the stuffed squash to rest for 5 or so minutes before cutting each half in two. Top with the salsa and serve.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 584 calories, 36.4g total fat, 95.4mg cholesterol, 1076.6mg sodium, 1024.3mg potassium, 37.1g carbohydrates, 6.9g fiber, 4.9g sugar, 30.9g protein

French Onion Oxtail Stew

This is one of those rare dishes that I liked a WHOLE bunch, but Beloved was kind of lukewarm about… although the fact he’s been fighting off a low-grade stomach virus for the last few days may have something to do with that.

But whether or not he cared that much for it, I am here to tell you that ohmygawd, this is really, really, really good.  It is rich.  It is decadent.  It is intensely flavorful and simply delicious.

Yes, it takes time – you start by browning the oxtails on the stove, then transfer them to a slow cooker, then slowly caramelize the onions (which took about 2 hours in my case) before transferring the contents of the slow cooker to the pan with the caramelized onions and cooking it all a little bit more.  But it is completely worth it.

At least, I think so.

Since the recipe is based on French onion soup, there’s a lot of onions in it – 6 large ones, which gives you about 12 to 14 cups of sliced onions, so use your mandoline if you have one.  A wide, heavy pan is best for caramelizing them; they’ll cook down quite a bit, but you’ll need the space in the beginning as well as the end, when you add the oxtail and liquid from the slow cooker to it.

By the time the dish is complete, it should be more the consistency of a stew than a soup – I guess if you really want soup, you can add more beef stock.  Made as written, though, this is just wonderful over potatoes or cauliflower mashed with chives and Gruyere cheese.

Yum, yum, YUM.

Note:  If you use olive oil instead of butter, the recipe, as written, is dairy-free.

French Onion Oxtail Stew. Rich and decadent, this play on French onion soup and oxtail stew is just perfect on a cold, dreary evening.

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French Onion Oxtail Stew
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 oxtail, separated at the joints
  • 2 tablespoons tallow or other cooking fat
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 sprigs thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
  • 1 cup hearty red wine
  • 6 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 6 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. In a heavy pan or skillet, heat the tallow over high heat. Season the oxtail liberally with salt and pepper; place in the hot fat and cook until the meat is well-browned on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic; continue cooking for another minute or so or until the garlic turns golden and fragrant.
  2. Transfer the oxtail (and garlic) to a slow cooker. Add the wine, stock and thyme. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  3. Before the oxtail is ready, melt the butter in a large, wide skillet or pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized – they will be a deep golden color. (This step could take as little as 40 minutes or as long as 2 hours.)
  4. Once the oxtail is done, remove it from the slow cooker and transfer to a plate; shred the meat away from the bones with a fork. Skim the fat from the liquid in the slow cooker, if desired, and transfer the contents along with the meat from the oxtail to the pan with the onions.
  5. Cook the stew over medium heat for about half an hour. Remove the thyme stems and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over Gruyere-mashed potatoes or cauliflower.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 437 calories, 27.5g total fat, 78.6mg cholesterol, 529.1mg sodium, 951.1mg potassium, 19.2g carbohydrates, 2.7g fiber, 7.7g sugar, 22.3g protein

Hungarian Goulash

Goulash means different things to different people.  Depending on where you live (or where your grandparents are from) it could mean a hearty, thick beef stew with few to no vegetables (although dumplings are common) or it could be a richly flavored soup with meat, potatoes and root vegetables, both generally characterized by generous amounts of paprika.  Or, if you are from certain parts of the northeast or midwestern United States, it’s a mishmash casserole of ground meat, tomato sauce and macaroni or rice.

Growing up in Texas, we generally ate the latter kind, although it wasn’t necessarily called “goulash” – at least, not in our house.  My mother called it “stuff” and she was very good at making it.  As a result, I was also very good at making it when my kids were growing up, although I tended to call it “hurl it in a pan and pray.”  (Kudos to anyone who can tell me where that came from.)

At any rate, it’s the time of year when the leaner, quicker cooking cuts of meat in my freezer are dwindling, but that’s okay because it’s the season for roasts, stews, soups and casseroles; dishes both Beloved and I are very fond of.  So recently, when faced with a rolled chuck roast and no real idea of what to do with it, since I wasn’t in the mood for pot roast, I decided to find out exactly what was in a more traditional goulash.

Like I said, it really all depends on where you live and who you are, especially if you’re of central European descent, and even then what the goulash is composed of and how it’s prepared is really dependent on the cook – like chili or gumbo, everyone seems to have their own recipe.  So I decided to make something that was somewhere between the soup and the stew versions.

Mainly because I like stews and I like vegetables in them.

I was extremely pleased with how this came out; it was just delicious.  And, like most slow-cooked stews, it is even better the next day – it made a marvelous lunch a couple of days later – so don’t be afraid to make it ahead.  It reheats really well, and is so incredibly comforting.

Note:  This can be made Whole30 by substituting the Yukon gold potatoes with turnips or white-fleshed sweet potatoes.  I also used sweet Hungarian paprika; if you want a goulash with a bit of a kick, use a hot paprika.

Hungarian Goulash. Beef chuck is slowly stewed with onions, root vegetables and paprika for a delicious, comforting dish.

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Hungarian Goulash
Serves: 6 to 8
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons tallow or lard
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 pint tomato sauce
  • 2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
Instructions
  1. Heat the fat in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Increase heat to high; add the beef and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, until the meat is browned, about 5 or 6 minutes. Stir in the paprika, marjoram, caraway, and garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about a minute or two.
  3. Add carrots, parsnips, tomato sauce and beef stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Simmer, covered, until the beef is tender and the liquid has begun to reduce somewhat, about an hour.
  4. Add the potatoes and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 20 minutes.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 494 calories, 25.8g total fat, 110.7mg cholesterol, 222.4mg sodium, 1551.8mg potassium, 39.7g carbohydrates, 8.4g fiber, 9.4g sugar, 27.6g protein

Beef Bourguignon

Julia Child.  She revolutionized the way the United States not only cooks, but views, food, and collectively we owe her a great debt of gratitude.

Beef Bourguignon, that gorgeous peasant dish of beef stewed in wine with bacon, mushrooms and onions, is arguably her seminal recipe; you can barely think of Julia Child without thinking of Beef Bourguignon, and vice versa.  And for good reason – it is most likely the best beef stew you will ever, ever eat.  Julia herself wrote in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, “[It is] certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.”

Who am I to argue with that?  Why would I argue with that?  I don’t disagree with her at all.

This is a somewhat streamlined version of the recipe that appears in MTAOFC.  The most notable deviation from the original is the substitution of tapioca flour for wheat flour and ghee for butter; nor do I bother with the traditional bouquet garni or thickening the sauce.  But while the list of ingredients is long, and the instructions seem longer, it’s not a difficult dish by any means – just rather time consuming.

With 607 calories, 31 grams of fat and over 22 grams of carbohydrates per serving (and I’ve increased the servings to 8 from the original 6), this is not “diet food” by any stretch of the imagination.  But who cares?  Julia certainly didn’t, and neither should you.

Beef Bourguignon. The classic French dish of beef stewed in wine with bacon, mushrooms and onions.

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Beef Bourguignon
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 6 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 pounds stew meat, cut into 2” cubes
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 3 cups dry red wine
  • 3 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 tablespoon [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/homemade-tomato-paste/” target=”_blank”]tomato paste[/url]
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 1 pound new potatoes
  • Braised Onions
  • 24 white “pearl” onions, peeled
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/ghee/” target=”_blank”]ghee[/url]
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 4 parsley sprigs
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Sautéed Mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. In a 9” to 10” oven-proof enameled Dutch oven or casserole, fry the chopped bacon in the olive oil over low heat until slightly browned and most of the fat has been rendered out. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Dry the beef well with paper towels. Increase the heat to high and cook the beef, a few pieces at a time, until well-browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside with the bacon.
  3. Reduce the heat slightly and add the carrot and onion to the pan, cooking until the vegetables begins to soften and brown. Pour off any remaining fat.
  4. Return the beef and bacon to the pan with the vegetables and season wit the salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the tapioca flour and toss to lightly coat the beef. Set the the pan, uncovered, in the center of the oven for 4 minutes.
  5. Toss the beef and return to the oven for 4 minutes more. Remove the pan, and reduce the oven temperature to 325 F. Stir in the wine and beef stock; add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, then cover and place in the oven. Braise the beef for 2 1/2 or 3 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
  6. While the beef is in the oven, prepare the onions, mushrooms and potatoes.
  7. [b]For the onions:[/b] Heat the ghee and olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat slightly and sauté the onions, for about 10 minutes, stirring or rolling the onions frequently so they will brown as evenly as possible and taking care not to break the skins. Sprinkle the onions with salt and pepper and stir in the beef stock and herbs. Cover and simmer over low heat for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are tender, but still retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove the bay leaf and the stems of the parsley and thyme. Set aside.
  8. [b]For the mushrooms:[/b] Heat the ghee and olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms in a single layer, taking care not to crowd them, and sauté, stirring or tossing frequently, until they have given off their liquid and are nicely browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  9. [b]For the potatoes:[/b] scrub the whole new potatoes gently under running water. Bring 2 to 3 quarts of water to a boil; add a tablespoon of salt and the potatoes. Boil until fork tender, about 15 or 20 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle, carefully slice each in half. Set aside.
  10. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the pan through a sieve set over a large saucepan. Wipe the Dutch oven or casserole with a clean paper towel and return the meat to the pan; stir in the onions, mushrooms and potatoes. Skim as much of the fat from the sauce as possible and return to the pan with meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer gently, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the stew is completely heated through, and serve.
  11. Nutrition (per serving): 607 calories, 31.1g total fat, 141.8mg cholesterol, 883.8mg sodium, 1437.4mg potassium, 22.5g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 3.5g sugar, 44.7g protein

Beef Liver with Apples and Onions

This is one of those dishes that, if you’re a fan of organ meats, make you want to sing hosannas to The Gods of Liver.

Yeah.  It was good.

Really, really good.

Now, having said that, I’m a tad prejudiced because I’ve always liked liver.  Beloved, on the other hand, did not – I practically had to force him to eat it the first time I made it for him (up until that point, the only time I got to eat it was when I ordered it at a restaurant).  These days, he has a very different attitude towards offal, and we eat liver, both beef and chicken, on a fairly regular basis, and enjoy odd bits such as tongue, heart, jowls and sweet breads as often as we can.

It’s all good.  And good for you.

Of course, how you cook liver has a lot to do with how palatable – or in this case, delicious – it is.  Over cooking it will turn it into a mealy, nasty piece of shoe leather.  Cooking it to a nice medium, leaving it delicately pink in the center, makes it tender and tasty.  Beef liver also tends to be pretty strong flavored, especially compared to calf and chicken liver, but soaking it for a couple of hours in milk, coconut milk or some sort of marinade greatly mitigates that.

Anyhoo, this recipe came about because 1) apples are just now beginning to come into season and B) I needed something to do with the leftover white wine from a couple of nights prior.  I have to say, I couldn’t be more pleased with how the dish turned out, and Beloved simply devoured it.    It was simply marvelous served over a roasted parsnip puree.

Fall is right around the corner.  This is a good thing.

Beef Liver with Apples and Onions. A great variation of Liver & Onions - the sweetness of the apples and onions pairs well with the earthiness of the offal.

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Beef Liver with Apples and Onions
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces sliced bacon
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter, divided
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large firm sweet apples, such as Gala, cored, peeled and cut into 2″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound beef liver, cut into 2-inch by 1-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off the fat, reserving 4 tablespoons.
  2. Return 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat to the pan and add 2 tablespoons of the ghee. Cook the onions over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and beginning to turn golden. Add the apples and continue cooking until the fruit is a light gold color. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, and wine; increase heat to medium-high and continue cooking for 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Transfer to a plate or dish and keep warm.
  3. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee and bacon fat over high heat. Pat the liver dry, and sprinkle it lightly with salt and pepper. Cook the liver, turning it frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it is browned but still slightly pink in the center.
  4. Divide the liver between four plates and top with the apple and onion mixture. Crumble the reserved bacon over the top, garnish with the chives and serve.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 441 calories, 28.5g total fat, 361.7mg cholesterol, 318mg sodium, 539.7mg potassium, 16.6g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 8g sugar, 27g protein