Entertaining Tips & Tricks
Our Favorite Recipes
Wedding Planning Guides
Entertaining Tips & Tricks
Our Favorite Recipes
Wedding Planning Guides
Raise your hand if you bought some dried beans a month ago in the mad rush to stock your pantry when all of this quarantine stuff started. So how many of you have actually cooked those beans?
I bought dried beans, but I often have dried beans in my pantry, and cook with them fairly often, especially in the colder months. My go-to are red beans, I will use them in traditional New Orleans-Style Red Beans and Rice, and black-eyed peas, which I use to make Hoppin’ Johns.
I think the thing about dried beans that make them seem scary is the whole soaking process. Honestly, especially for quarantine cooking, the soaking isn’t a big deal. For my New Orleans-Style Red Beans, I didn’t soak the beans at all. I just knew that by not soaking them, they would cook longer, read about 4 hours. For the Hoppin’ Johns, I did a quick soak, which means I washed and picked my beans, covered them with water, brought them to a boil for 3 minutes, and then turned them off and covered them, letting them soak for 1 hour. That soak, reduced by overall cooking time to about 2 hours.
New Orleans-Style Red Beans and Rice
12 ounces Andouille or smoked sausage, sliced ¼” thick⠀
1 medium yellow onion, chopped ⠀
1 medium bell pepper, chopped⠀
2 stalks celery, chopped⠀
8 ounces dried red beans, rinsed and picked over for any broken beans or debris⠀
3 cups water, plus more as needed ⠀
1 teaspoon dried basil⠀
1 teaspoon dried thyme⠀
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika⠀
1 bay leaf⠀
2 teaspoons kosher salt (I added to taste)⠀
In a large Dutch oven with a lid, add sliced sausage. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until slightly browned and fat has started to render. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cook 5-7 minutes, until onions become translucent. ⠀
At this point add your rinsed and cleaned beans, along with 3 cups of water, basil, thyme, paprika, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low and cover. You need the liquid to stay at a gentle simmer for the beans to soften. Stir occasionally. ⠀
After 3 hours, check the beans and taste for salt, adding 1 teaspoon at a time. If the beans look dry, add another cup or so of water. Continue cooking until the beans are very soft, and starting to break up, another 1 to 1 1/2 hours.⠀
Serve over steamed white rice or pilaf with your favorite hot sauce. ⠀
1 ham bone* or 1 pound country-style sausage
8 ounces dried black-eyed peas
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, whole
1 – 10 oz can Rotel
4 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pre-Soak Beans: Either cover with warm water and soak for 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator, or do a quick soak. For the quick soak, cover beans with water and bring to a boil. Boil beans for 3 minutes, then turn off heat and cover and allow to soak for 1 hour. Drain and rinse before adding to recipe.
To prepare Hoppin’ Johns
If using sausage, begin by browning sausage in a large Dutch oven, breaking up any large clumps of meat. Once cooked through, remove sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon. Add onions, celery, and carrots to the pan, and sauté until onions are translucent, 5-7 minutes. If using a ham bone, add 2 tbsps. of olive oil to the Dutch oven and sauté vegetables in that as opposed to rendered sausage fat. Add ham bone to the pan when adding beans.
To the vegetables, return the sausage to the pan, and add the beans, rotel, chicken broth, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a simmer, then cover. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally for about 2 hours, until beans are tender. At this point, check beans for seasoning and add salt and pepper accordingly. If using a ham bone, use a spoon to pull off any ham still remaining on the bone. I did not have to add any additional salt to my recipe with the ham since the ham is pretty salt, and the broth had salt as well. I like my beans a little thicker, so at this point, I undercover and bring the heat up to medium high and boil off some of the remaining liquid.
Enjoy over steamed rice. I like to top with some diced fresh tomatoes, scallions, and of course hot sauce!
I’m a big believer in entertaining your guests during cocktail hour. Since we are in Central Kentucky, home to the best bourbon in the world, hosting a bourbon tasting during cocktail hour is a great way to give your guests a unique Kentucky experience as well as showcase our great state!
Pick Your Bourbon
I like to offer three bourbons when we do a tasting. It offers a nice variety, and typically the bourbon we offer are slightly nicer than what we might be pouring at the normal bar, and once we have concluded the tasting, that bourbon can get added to the bar for guest to continue to enjoy either neat or on the rocks.
So, what bourbons to choose? Well, I usually like to pick things that aren’t as common outside Kentucky, or if they are common, what we sample is a special release, finish, or mash bill. For instance, we are probably not going to offer regular Woodford Reserve at our tasting, but we might offer their Double Oaked. Another option would be a rye whiskey – Bulleit Rye is probably the most well-known, but other good options might be Knob Creek or Angel Envy makes a rye that is finished in rum casks. We typically will do a traditional straight, a good option might be Michter’s or Basil Hayden’s. Your final choice might be a small batch or a cask strength.
What makes a bourbon tasting fun, beyond getting to sample some perhaps new bourbon, is to let you guest explore the interplay between the bourbon and food. Just like wine can be enhanced by the food it is eaten with, bourbons nuances can be affected by food.
Traditional accompaniment include mandarin oranges, toasted hazelnuts, aged parmesan, dark chocolate, dried cranberries, and sorghum. We like to offer the bourbon in a ½ ounce pour – this is most easily accomplished by serving in 1 ounce shot glasses, along with water.
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
½ cup finely diced yellow onion
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
½ cup parmesan cheese
6 ounces whole milk mozzarella, shredded or sliced
In a small saucepan, bring the four cups of chicken broth to a simmer over medium heat.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, melt together the butter and olive oil. Add garlic and onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté over medium low heat until the onion becomes translucent. Stir in the Arborio rice, coating it in the butter and oil, and cooking until the rice becomes opaque.
Deglaze the pan with white wine, stirring constantly until the wine has completely evaporated. At this point, you will start to slowly add the broth, one ladle (about 3/4 of a cup), at a time. Turn the burner down so that the rice is at a very low simmer, stirring frequently. Once the first ladle of broth has evaporated, add another. It will typically take 20-25 minutes to cook the rice, and you may not need all 4 cups of broth. After about 4 ladles full, taste the rice to check for doneness. Once the rice is cooked to your desired doneness, stir in the parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat your broiler on high. Top the rice with mozzarella and place it until the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and starts to brown.
I like to serve it with a Tomato Basil Relish, with is really not a recipe, but more a mix together to taste. Chopped fresh tomato, a little garlic, either microplaned or granulated powder, olive oil, minced fresh basil, oregano, parsley, whatever fresh herbs I have, and a pinch of salt and pepper. If you like olives (not my personal favorite) they or capers would do well in this relish as well.
If you haven’t added gnocchi to your shopping list, you should. It is a great alternative to either pasta or potatoes because well, it’s both. Gnocchi is essentially a potato pasta, it is pretty simple to make, you likely have all the ingredients in your house – russet potatoes, egg, flour, and salt, and it is even easier to buy. If you are feeling adventuresome, I used this recipe from Fine Cooking. There are even some cauliflower options out there, the one from Trader Joe’s has a cult following, though I will be honest, it wasn’t my favorite. I have even seen some sweet potato gnocchi recipes, and that may be my next experiment. For this dinner however, I used some homemade gluten-free gnocchi that I had frozen, but a package from your favorite grocery will do equally well.
Serves: 2 as a Main Course, 4 as a Side
1 lb gnocchi
2 tbsps butter
2 tbsps olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups fresh spinach, washed
4-5 Campari tomatoes, halved, then quartered*
2 tbsps basil pesto
½ cup half and half
4 oz fontina cheese (any Italian semi-hard cheese would work well here)
*about handful of cherry tomatoes halved would work equally well here
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
In a large skillet or sauté pan, melt butter and olive oil over medium low heat. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add spinach and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, stirring occasionally as the spinach wilts and the tomatoes slightly breakdown.
Cook the gnocchi according to the package direction. In most cases, once the gnocchi float it is done. Using a spider or a large slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the sauté pan. Add the pesto, half and half, and fontina, and toss the mixture over medium heat. As the cheese melts, it will cause the sauce to tighten and coat the gnocchi. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Beef & Bean Enchilada Bake
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes while assembling remaining ingredients. For some recipes, if you want a thicker sauce, add 1 tbsp of cornstarch to mixture with the seasonings.
To Assemble in a 9x9 Baking Dish:
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling around the edges.
Yield: 8-10 servings, enough for 2 lbs pasta⠀
6 tbsps butter⠀
2 tbsps olive oil⠀
1 large onion, diced⠀
2 stalks celery, diced⠀
2 carrots, peeled and diced⠀
1 lb ground sirloin (90/10)⠀
1/2 lb mild Italian sausage⠀
2 cups milk (2% or whole)⠀
2 cups white wine⠀
2 - 15 oz cans tomato sauce ⠀
1 - 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes ⠀
1 tbsp Italian seasoning⠀
1 tsp dried basil ⠀
Salt and pepper to taste ⠀
Melt butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add onion, celery, and carrots, and cook for 6-8 minutes, then add ground beef and sausage. Stirring frequently, brown the meats, breaking them up into small pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
Once meat is cooked through, add the milk. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently as the milk reduces. Once the milk has completely evaporated, add the white wine. Continue boiling until wine has reduced by half. ⠀
Add tomatoes and seasoning and turn the heat down to low and cover. Allow to slowly simmer for 2-3 hours. ⠀
I personally like this sauce with a thicker pasta like fettuccine. Cook your pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with a couple tablespoons butter in the cooking pot. Add sauce to coat over medium low heat. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Serve with plenty of Parmesan cheese. ⠀
I realize that a month ago, the idea that you would be making your own bread might be unthinkable. And let’s be honest, there is a whole lot about what is going on right now that feels more like a Hollywood movie script than real life.
But here we are. Practicing social distancing and hoping for the best. I grew up making bread. My mom made pizza dough, yeast rolls, homemade cinnamon rolls . . . so yeast has never been scary for me. My husband would tell you I am a transplanted northerner, and for the longest time, biscuits were more intimidating to me than homemade bread.
I went to the grocery store yesterday, and while it is back to being closer than normal than what it was two weeks ago, if you are only trying to go every couple of weeks like us, then making your own bread is the best option. And here’s the secret, once you master the technique, it is really not that hard. I am going to take you step by step through the process. It takes about 4 hours, but it is mostly unattended, an easy afternoon activity while you are binging on Netflix. Can we talk about Tiger King . . .
Step By Step
Old Fashioned White Bread ⠀
1 loaf ⠀
1 tbsp or packet active dry yeast⠀
1/4 cup white sugar⠀
1/2 cup warm water (this should be warm not hot)⠀
1/2 cup milk⠀
4 tbsps softened butter⠀
3 cups all-purpose flour⠀
2 tsps kosher salt ⠀
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow to sit for 10 minutes (you are confirming that the yeast is alive before adding the remaining ingredients).
Once the yeast is proofed, it will have grown and will look kind of foamy, like the top of a café au late, add the remaining ingredients. Using the dough hook attachment, yes that piece you may have never used before, and on low speed, start mixing the down. You want the dough to knead for about 15 minutes, I set a timer. At first it may not come together, but give it a few minutes and a dough ball will form.
After 15 minutes, put the dough in a greased bowl (you can use a little olive oil or cooking spray), and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Place in a warm place in your kitchen. You can create a warm place by microwaving a mug of water until boiling, then adding the bowl of covered dough to the microwave. Allow to rise for 1 hour. ⠀⠀
After 1 hour, punch the dough down and knead on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes. To shape the loaf, pat it out to an 8x8 square, then fold it in thirds like a letter. Then take the two sides and pinch together to make a fat cylinder. Place the dough seam side down in a large, greased loaf pan. Mine is a Pyrex 4.5”x8.5” loaf pan. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes covered back in its warm place. ⠀
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 45 minutes, until the outside is golden brown and the loaf makes a hollow sound when tapped. ⠀
Remove from the pan onto a rack to cool. ⠀