I have a fond memory for a baked chicken and rice dish that involved condensed cream of something soup. The strongest memory I have of it is from a youth retreat program from my late teens that had a strong influence on me. In the intervening years I’ve learned more than I want about how not-great-for-me condensed soup is and so I decided to try to make something similar with just chicken broth and water. The result was pretty good without the I’m eating what self-shame.
This is a simple gravy, really. In place of fat rendered from a cooking roast I’m using something we always have on hand, bacon fat. It makes a flavorful gravy that goes great with lean pork such as a loin roast.
Bacon (Fat) Gravy
Servings: about 2 cups
Prep time: 1 minute
Total time: 5 minutes
- 2 Tbsp. bacon fat
- 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp. potato starch
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 2 cups broth (chicken, pork, veggie, or just water)
- Mix the flour, starch and pepper in a small bowl until well combined. Set aside.
- Melt the bacon fat in a small saucepan over medium heat. When melted sprinkle in the flour and whisk it until there is no dry flour remaining. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
- While whisking add the broth in a steady stream. Whisk until the roux is incorporated. Lower the heat to low and allow it to come to a simmer.
- Simmer for a least a minute to allow the thickening power of the roux to activate. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired.
If you have drippings or juices from resting meat feel free to add them to the gravy either with the broth or just before serving.
I like a peppery gravy so I added more freshly ground black pepper at the final tasting. Salt wasn’t really necessary as there’s a fair bit in the broth and probably some in the bacon fat.
I also had pulled some frozen sausages from the freezer a night or two before. How to combine mashed potatoes and sausages became my mental exercise for the rest of the day. Gravy became the solution.
Sausages with Onion Gravy
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. Italian Sausage
- 1 lg. yellow onion, halved through the root end, peeled and cut into 1/4″ half moons
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
- kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan or skillet until the oil shimmers. Add the sausage links and cook until browned on both sides, 5-6 minutes total. Transfer sausages to a plate.
- Return the pan to the heat and add the onions to the pan. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and pepper; stir to coat with oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions start to soften.
- Return the sausages to the pan along with any drippings. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, loosely cover and cook for 5 minutes. Check the internal temp. of the sausages; if they have reached 160°F the remove. If not continue cooking until they reach 160°F.
- After removing the sausages continue to cook the onions and broth, uncovered until the liquid has reduced by at least half; about 10 more minutes. Add the butter and mix in to flavor the gravy. Taste and adjust salt/pepper as desired.
- Serve with mashed potatoes and a side veg of your choice.
A bit of fresh thyme cooked with the gravy, or some chopped fresh parsley at the end, would have added a bit of fresh green taste to the dish. Still quite good.
We first learned of this Puerto Rican mainstay from Chef Daisy Martinez in her PBS program, Daisy Cooks!. Her description, and the unknown to me ingredient of achiote oil, led us to give it a try. The result has kept it in our cooking repertoire.
The original recipe called for a nice piece of pork or smoke turkey wings to help flavor the dish. My version is vegetarian and doesn’t seem to be missing a thing.
Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
- ½ cup Achiote Oil (see notes)
- 1 cup Sofrito
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
- 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 3 cups long grain rice
- 1 14-ounce bag frozen pigeon peas or a 15-ounce can pigeon peas, drained and rinsed
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- Heat the achiote oil in a heavy Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Stir in the sofrito, olives, salt, pepper and cumin. Cook the sofrito until the liquid evaporates and the mixture starts to sizzle, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the rice and mix to combine with the sofrito mixture. Cook for 2 minutes, stir, cook for two more minutes.
- Add the pigeon peas and broth. Stir once and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and cook until the water is aborsed, about 20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. Place a clean dish towel between the lid and the top of the pot; this will absorb excess moisture that would otherwise drip back onto your rice.
- When ready to serve fluff the rice then give it a taste; adjust salt and pepper as desired.
Achiote oil is made from annatto seeds and olive or vegetable oil. Place 1 Tbsp. annato seeds in a small skillet along with 1/2 cup olive oil. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes until the oil is stained red. Drain the seeds before using. You can store achiote oil in the fridge for 2 weeks.
Sofrito is a cooking base used in Latin American, Spanish and Portugese cuisine. I have a recipe for my version somewhere here.
We’ve used both the frozen and canned pigeon peas. The canned ones are salted so rinse well and reduce the kosher salt to 2 Tbsp. You can always add more salt at the end however it’s rather difficult to take it away from the finished product.
In the fall one of my weeknight go-to meals is soup. It’s mostly a combine and simmer effort which is perfect after a day at work and the diminishing light of the day.
Black Bean Soup
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 75 minutes
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 medium red onion, 1/4″ dice
- 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. chili powder
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 2 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- kosher salt and black pepper
- yogurt, diced avocado, chopped cilantro (optional)
- Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and a generous pinch of salt. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until tender. Add brown sugar, spices and garlic. Stir to combine and heat until fragrant; 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add tomato products, broth and orange juice. Stir until tomato paste is incorporated. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add black beans, stir to incorporate and cook for 20 more minutes. Beans should be heated through and slightly softened.
- Taste for seasoning; adjust if needed. Serve with in a bowl with your choice of toppings.
This recipe is based on one I found while sorting through the stack of recipes that get printed out, made once and forgotten. I’ve tweaked the original recipe to match my preferences and written up my version of the instructions.
The original recipe apparently came from Southern Living magazine circa 2008.