I’m violating my own idea of a gratin here. Mine is of a shallow vegetable dish with a light topping of breadcrumbs, fine breadcrumbs. Maybe cheese in the topping or sauce. Still, this venison gratin, as I’m calling it, is shallow, made in a cast iron skillet. The crumb topping, however, is rougher, more rustic, almost like those leftover stuffing toppings you make after the holidays. I think I could have kept the food processor going longer for a finer crumb, but I guess I was in a rustic mood. So, like I said in the title, do you have any leftover garlic bread? With the flavors of your garlic bread already in place—garlic, olive oil or butter, herbs, and maybe some Parmesan—you have the makings of a flavorful topping for a gratin.
torn up garlic bread
Preheat oven to 350º; if using a separate casserole dish, butter the dish. A large (12″) cast iron skillet works great because you can cook the filling in it and then pop it in the oven with the crumb topping on.
- 1 lb venison cut in 1/2″ cubes
- 1 medium onion cut in small dice
- 1-2 cups mushrooms (I used cremini) cut in small dice (so your picky eaters won’t pick them out)
- 2 large carrots cut in 1/2″ dice
- olive oil for browning meat and vegetables
- 2 cups broth (I used beef)
- beurre manié of 4 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons flour
- leftover garlic bread, pulsed in food processor
- olive oil or melted butter to moisten crumbs
Basically, I prepared a little stew, then topped it with the crumbs and browned it in the oven.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons oil to a hot skillet and brown the venison over medium-high heat. Remove to a platter.
- Add onions and mushrooms to the hot skillet and continue to cook until lightly browned.
- Return venison to the skillet with the carrots. Add the broth. Cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about 30 minutes.
- Over medium heat, stir in the beurre manié until distributed. Continue to stir until the broth is thickened. Remove from the heat.
- Moisten your garlic bread crumbs with olive oil or butter, just enough to lightly moisten without becoming oily.
- Sprinkle the crumbs over the top all the way to the edge.
- Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
A dish for two, unless one of those two has lactose intolerance, in which case I get to eat it twice.
To make a sauce, half the ricotta and peas are pulsed in a food processor until green and creamy. The rest are left in their natural state for texture.
Penne, Peas, and Ricotta
I roasted some peppers early in the day to use in several recipes; otherwise you may use roasted peppers in a jar, which I rely on all the time.
- 4 oz whole wheat penne or your favorite pasta
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta, divided
- 1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed and divided
- 1 generous tablespoon roasted garlic (I freeze mine in mini muffin pans to keep handy in the freezer)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1-1 1/2 roasted red pepper, cut in large dice
- 1/4 cup grated or shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (I like the texture of the shaved cheese)
- salt & pepper to taste
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions and your taste. Whole wheat pasta takes a little longer to cook, about 12-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions until translucent, season with salt and pepper, then stir in peppers and 1/2 cup of the thawed peas. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
- In the bowl of the food processor, add 1/2 cup ricotta, garlic, and 1/2 cup thawed peas. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Process until mixture is smooth and creamy and bright green. Set aside.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water; drain off the rest.
- Add to the drained pasta the sauce, the vegetables, the remaining 1/2 cup ricotta, and 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Stir to combine, adding a little cooking water if you need to thin the sauce. I added about 2 tablespoons water.
- Serve with more Parmesan.
My favorite way to use the slow cooker is on the high setting, where I can count on meats not being dried out and flavorless. That’s what I find happens when you cook meat for 8-10 hours while you are at work. Soups and dried bean recipes do well for the long cooking, but even then any added meats are usually overcooked, unless you have a large piece like a pork shoulder. So, I’ve found a number of recipes that cook up in 3-5 hours, like my Butter Chicken/Pheasant recipe, that takes care of the delicate little pheasant breasts. Of course, I’m retired, so I can make use of the shorter cooking times any day of the week.
This slow cooker pulled chicken is a variation of the slow cooker pulled pork recipe originally from Chowhound. Here are the few changes I’ve made to accommodate chicken:
- I cut back the cinnamon in the rub to 1/2 teaspoon
- I rubbed the chicken pieces with the rub and let them marinate in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about 4 hours
- I only used one onion and 1/2 cup of chicken broth, because I only used 5 boneless chicken thighs
Marinated chicken on onion-garlic bed
Sandwiches with slaw
Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- Place the chicken and rub in a large plastic bag, seal, and turn to coat all pieces well. Refrigerate for about 4 hours or even overnight.
- In the crock of a slow cooker, place the onions, garlic, and chicken broth. Place the chicken pieces on top and close the lid.
- Cook on high for about 4 hours. Pull the chicken apart in the crock and mix well with the onions and broth.
- Pile meat on buns and serve your favorite way, which for us is with a creamy slaw.
Even though we still occasionally eat cheese, with the help of those lactase pills, I don’t use it as much anymore, looking for ways to eat the kinds of things we like without it. I had some venison chorizo in the freezer from the day I made that frittata, and these tacos seemed like a good follow-up use for it.
I’m going to cooked the diced potatoes in a cast iron skillet without boiling them first. Kind of like how I cook raw fried potatoes, only those are sliced. I want both the chorizo and the potatoes to have some crispiness, although I will mash a little of the potatoes into the meat to get those chorizo spices into the potatoes, too. I still have some roasted poblano peppers in the freezer from last summer’s garden, so a few of those will go in as well. In place of crema to cool it down, I’m using some ready-made guacamole and mild salsa.
I’m still thinking whether to use white corn tortillas (my preference) or flour tortillas; I have both, so I guess it will be a mealtime decision, or it will be a to each his own meal.
Tonight, we both had white corn tortillas; tomorrow, whole wheat flour tortillas (because, of course, I made too much).
Mexican Venison Chorizo and Potato Tacos
- 1 lb venison-pork chorizo (recipe) or any Mexican chorizo
- 2 roasted poblano peppers, diced
- 1 lb potatoes, diced (I used red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled)
- 1 medium to large yellow or white onion, chopped
- oil and butter, as needed
- salt & pepper to taste
- taco-sized tortillas, corn or flour
- toppings: avocado or guacamole, salsa, crema, lettuce or fresh cilantro
- In a large cast iron skillet, heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat, depending on the fat content of your chorizo. Mine is very lean. When the pan and oil are hot, brown the chorizo, breaking it up with a fork or wooden spoon. Stir in chopped poblanos and let cook until the meat is browned well and any moisture is evaporated, about 15 minutes. Remove chorizo to a platter.
- Lower the heat to medium and add another two tablespoons of oil and two tablespoons of butter until the butter is melted. Add diced potatoes and onions to the pan, spreading out to a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and let cook for 15 minutes. Remove lid and turn potatoes over to brown other side. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes or until potatoes are done and lightly browned.
- Return chorizo to pan and stir in, scraping up any browned bits of potato and meat, mashing some of the potato with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Serve in tortillas with your favorite toppings.