Gluten-free

Sausage, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

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It’s Daylight Savings Time (or is it the end of Daylight Savings Time? I can never keep them straight), and that means it will be dark before I even leave work. And when that happens, I lose interest in cooking at night. Just give me some takeout (or worse yet, junk food) and a glass of wine, and I’ll curl up on the couch with the cat and fall asleep. And then I have no leftovers for lunch the next day. Rinse and repeat…

There are worse problems, but this cycle isn’t great for my wallet or my health. I try to nip it in the bud by cooking more on the weekends and stocking up for the week. I love soup and salad at lunch, which leave me feeling full but not heavy. This one is economical, and easily adaptable to your tastes and preferences. Omit the Half & Half to make it dairy-free, or try substituting chicken for the smoked sausage.

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Sausage, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

Serves 4

5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup wild rice (or wild & long grain rice blend)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
8 oz. sliced cremini or white mushrooms
8 oz. reduced-fat smoked sausage, cut into bite-sized medallions
1/2 cup Half & Half
Freshly ground pepper and salt

In a medium saucepan, combine broth and rice. Cover partially and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large Dutch oven. Add onion and celery and cook 2-3 minutes. Add sausage and mushrooms. Cooking, stirring occasionally, until sausage is browned and vegetables are semi-tender. Add rice and its broth to the sausage and vegetables. Simmer, uncovered, until rice has “bloomed.”

Add Half & Half and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Chicken with Apple Brandy Sauce (Poulet Vallée d’Auge)

It’s apple season, and I’m in heaven. Last weekend I was finally able to get out to the orchards to pick apples, but I spent the next three days on the road. The apples have been taunting me ever since.

But  right now it’s raining, I have nowhere to be, and this recipe was calling to me from my to-do list.

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Poulet Vallée d’Auge is a traditional French recipe from the Normandy region (I say that as if I have any idea what that actually means…) combining apples and Calvados, or apple brandy, with chicken and mushrooms. I *love* apples in savory dishes, and this one did not disappoint.

You can pull it off on a weeknight — plan for about 90 minutes of cooking time — but I’d lean toward a crisp fall weekend. Serve with potatoes or rice (or skip the starch altogether, like I did), and green beans.

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Poulet Vallée d’Auge

(Chicken and Apples in Brandy Cream Sauce)

Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 4

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 small to medium firm-tart apples, peeled, cored, quartered
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 chicken (3 1/2-4 lbs), quartered
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise ¼” thick
2 small or 1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup Calvados (or other apple brandy)
2/3 cup apple cider
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, trimmed, halved
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1 large egg yolk

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add apples and cook, turning occasionally, until golden in spots, 10–12 minutes. Transfer apples to a plate and set aside.

Increase heat to medium-high and add oil to pot. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook chicken until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to another plate; set aside.

Add leek and shallots to pot; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat, add Calvados, and ignite with a long match or lighter. After flames die down, return pot to heat and add cider. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.

Return reserved chicken to pot and add thyme, bay leaf, and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer, adding reserved apples back to pot halfway through, until chicken is cooked through, 20–25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, until browned and softened, 6–8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Transfer mushrooms to a plate.

Whisk crème fraîche and egg yolk in a small bowl. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and apples to a baking sheet and remove pot from heat. Whisk crème fraîche mixture into cooking liquid in pot. Gently mix in chicken, apples, and mushrooms.

Sticky Fig Jam

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This should be a picture of an embarrassingly large picnic spread. I’m not talking Americana cold fried chicken and potato salad and pie picnic food (although I do love me some pie).

I’m talking prosciutto, salami, several cheeses, crusty bread, crackers, marinated vegetables, maybe some aged balsamic vinegar and good olive oil, and of course, more wine than you know you should have but don’t really care.

Just when you think you’ve perfected that picnic spread, fig jam walks in and blows your mind.

Game. Over. It’s that good.

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Fig jam is like strawberry’s sexy, more sophisticated older sister. Jam is also seriously easy, and is a great project for a novice canner if you’re so inclined. If not, you can refrigerate unprocessed jam for a few weeks.

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Fig season is fleeting, but if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some this recipe should definitely be on your must-do list for the weekend. The beauty of jam is that you don’t need perfect fruit. If you’re canning, be sure to use bottled lemon juice, which has a more consistent acidity level (important for safe and effective canning).

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I’ll be sure to upload a picture just as soon as I have a worthy picnic spread. For now, you’re stuck with pictures of jars in my pantry. In the meantime, feel free to daydream your own picnic spread.

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Sticky Fig Jam

From Put ’em Up! cookbook, by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Makes about 4 cups

2 pounds figs, stemmed and quartered (I used black mission figs)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice

Bring the figs and water to a boil in a large nonreactive pot. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes to soften the fruit. Crush the figs with a potato masher. Add sugar, vinegar, and lemon juice and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until thick and jammy but not dry, about 20 minutes. Test for gel (for a how-to, go here). Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes, stirring to release air bubbles.

If not canning, ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

If canning, use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot 4-ounce or half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. If any jars did not seal, refrigerate immediately.