The first meal on Friday night was an easy spring salad from Dorie Greenspan's book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours - salad greens tossed in a dijon vinaigrette, a few spears of asparagus, bits of bacon, and a soft-boiled egg lightly browned and reheated in the bacon fat. So delicious!
I poured off some of the bacon fat in a jar to save for another time, leaving a thin layer in the pan. If you've never done this, do save the bacon fat next time you make bacon. It's great for sauteing almost any vegetables you can think of - I especially like zucchini, Brussel sprouts and peas. You can also brown scallops, fish, chicken, pork chops, or whatever else you like in it. Tamar Adler's book has a chapter called "How to Catch Your Tail" talks about saving and using all the bits and pieces, ends, trimmings, scraps, to turn into other things. Save the fats and meat juices from pretty much everything you cook to then cook other things with or add to other dishes. Put them in little jars and store in the fridge until you're ready to use. And as the author cautions, "label and date your potions well."
I used the pan again to brown onions, garlic, carrots and celery to make a stuffing for a pair of Cornish hens. After sauteing the veggies a few minutes, I added some chopped up chicken italian sausage (you could use raw pork, chicken or turkey sausages if you prefer), added a little water (you can use broth or wine), to deglaze a bit and scrape up all the browned bits leftover from the bacon and the veggies.
I left the mixture cool a bit and added some whole wheat sourdough bread cubes and chopped parsley, and a few beaten eggs.
I stuffed the hens, and put the leftover stuffing in a separate gratin dish to bake, tossed a few fingerling potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme, and threw them and the hens back into the same skillet to roast. I then rubbed the hens down with butter and olive oil, salt and pepper, which will all make their way into the pan juices.
This was the finished meal:
And I cut the Cornish hens in half to serve.
Finally, when the meal was finished, I decided to make a little soup. I trimmed, peeled and diced some carrots, celery and a small onion. I took all the carrot, onion and celery trimmings and peels, parsley stems, the leftover carcasses, bones and skin of hens, a few cloves of garlic and let it all simmer with some water to make some stock.
I took the same deep skillet with the leftover bits of olive oil, butter, and browned bits from the hens and the potatoes and sauteed the vegetables.
Once the stock pot had simmered a while, I then poured everything through a fine mesh strainer right into the skillet with the vegetables.
I took the leftover dish of stuffing and mixed that right in as well, tasted and adjusted seasoning, and then added a little chopped parsley at the end to finish. If you don't have leftover stuffing to throw in, you can add any leftover bread cubes you want, or add a little sausage if you like. You could also add barley or small pasta like orzo or ditalini to the soup and let the cook right in the broth until tender. There are inifiinte possibilities to what you can do with this.
The finished soup, and the last dish out of skillet! The broth is rich from all pan juices, browned vegetables, and everything else that went into the previous two dishes - delicious!
There's not a whole lot of recipes to share since I really just kind of threw everything together, but here's a basic dijon vinaigrette recipe for your salad.
Dijon vinaigrette (this makes a fair amount that you can save in the fridge for another meal)
- 1 tsp. dijon mustard
- 3 Tbsp. red wine or sherry vinegar
- 2/3 cup good quality olive oil, or 1/3 cup olive oil and 1/3 cup nut oil like hazelnut
- 1/4 tsp. salt, more to taste
- 1/8 tsp. ground pepper, more to taste
Whisk everything together or shake in a jar.