For years, I just naturally began preparing many meals by chopping and sautéing together a combination of onions,celery and carrots. I never realized, in those teenage years, that I was employing a basic cooking technique, producing what is often referred to in the culinary world as the “All powerful Culinary Trio.” This homey trio of ingredients is absolutely essential for flavorful soups, sauces and gravies.
Recently, I added chopped potatoes to the mixture and that, along with a serving of fresh spinach and several succulent slices of roast lamb (excellent in the Spring) resulted in a most flavorful and satisfying meal. You might want to give it a try.
“All Powerful Culinary Trio” otherwise known as Mirepoix
Mirepoix can be used in a variety of ways—namely in stocks and sauces. To make a stock (chicken, beef, fish, lamb, etc.) one pound of Mirepoix will season roughly one gallon of liquid.
Just out of High School I was working in our city’s leading flower shop. The owner of the shop was Jewish and from time to time his mother would surprise all of us employed there with one of her home cooked Jewish dishes. Her chicken Matzo Ball soup with its distinctive flavor was my favorite.
When the sister cooking our convent lunch this week agreed to make this for us I could not have been happier. For many of the sisters this was a brand new taste experience. For me it was a reviving of one of my happiest early life memories.
Original Streits Matzo Ball Recipe
- Beat eggs in a bowl. Then add water, margarine/oil, salt and pepper to the beaten eggs. Mix well. Add Matzo meal and stir.
- Refrigerate at least one hour.
- Form into balls and drop into pot soup or boiling water. Cook 20 minutes.
- Mince the garlic and dice the onion, celery, and carrots.
- Sauté the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots with the vegetable oil in a pot
- until the onions become transparent.
- Add chicken broth, 2 cups water, pepper, and one or two sprigs of dill to the pot.
- Place a lid on the pot and let it come up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes.
- After the soup has simmered, add the shredded chicken breast to soup.
- Add matzo balls to the soup and let them simmer for 20 minutes without removing the lid.
- Garnish with fresh dill before serving
Every time our lace making sister comes home from Belgium, one of the first things she’s eager to do is cook something from her adopted homeland for all the sisters here at home. Not only does she want to introduce us to Flemish cooking, she also wants to be able to share the response of the sisters “here” with those “back there.”
This time, she’s chosen to make Flemish Beef stew, a simple stew with a unique flavor provided by one key ingredient, which is beer. Frequently when referring to this meal it will be said “The better the beer the better the stew.” Now beer is not something we regularly have on hand in the convent, but only when its given to us as a gift for some celebratory occasion, but our determined sister would not be put off by lack of one ingredient, even though it be the most important one in the recipe. She is known for having everything fall into place at the right moment regardless of the odds. So it was no surprise to anyone when a 6 pack of Stella Artois appeared on the kitchen counter. Without skipping a beat, she continued working on her stew while quietly throughout the convent sisters could be heard quietly chanting “The better the beer, the better the stew.”
- Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the beef and brown on all sides, turning frequently, about 5 minutes
- Transfer to a slow cooker and drain any fat from the pan.
- Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and brown the remaining geef and add to the slow cooker.
- Add mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until they give off their liquid (5-7 minutes).
- Sprinkle flour over the mushrooms and cook for half a minute. Add beer and bring to a boil, whisking constantly to reduce foaming, until thickened and bubbliing, about 3 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the beef in the slow cooker.
- Add carrots, onion, garlic, mustard, caraway seeds, salt, pepper and bay leaf to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the beef is very tender, about 8 hrs.
We have had a wonderful summer with food, creating a wide variety of unusual fresh salads of all sorts, interesting new chilled soups, and great ribs, chicken, burgers, and other meats from the grill. Now people are remembering the savory heartwarming dishes of cooler weather, expressing their desire for savory seasonal favorites of the Fall.
Right now I am torn between wanting to serve a great pot roast, while at the same time thinking how happy many people would be to enjoy a tasty old fashioned Shepherd’s Pie…so we do both! For today, we’ll make a great pot roast doubling the amount we would usually cook, and saving the meat for a delicious Shepherd’s Pie in a few days’ time.
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F
- Generously salt and pepper the chuck roast
- Heat the olive oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the halved onions to the pot, browning them on both sides. Remove the onions and set aside.
- Put the carrots into the same pot and toss them until slightly browned, about a minute, and set aside the carrots with the onions.
- Add a bit more olive oil to the pot and place the meat in the pot and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is brown all over. Remove the meat to a plate.
- Deglaze the pot with either red wine or beef broth—about 1 cup—scraping the bottom with a whisk. Place the meat back into the pot and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway.
- Add the onions and the carrots, and fresh herbs.
- Cover pot and roast, about 1 hour per pound of meat. The roast is ready when it can be pulled apart with a fork.
Optional: Top with mashed potatoes and freshly steamed broccoli
- Boil 6 baking potatoes in salted water until fork tender
- Drain the potatoes and return to the pot.
- In a small bowl, mix 2 cups of sour cream, 2 cups of milk and add to the pot of boiled potatoes.
- Mash potatoes with a hand masher, hand held beater or an electric mixer
- Spread potatoes over the meat, sprinkle with Paprika and broil 5-10 minutes.
- Add steamed broccoli and serve warm.
The crispness of fall is all around us. This past Monday, the Sisters rose early to put our gardens to bed for the winter. It’s always bittersweet for me, as working in the earth, getting my hands dirty and seeing the fruits of our labor and God’s creative act are moments that I treasure. We decided not to put our “chef garden” to bed, as the tomatoes, chard, beets and kale are still growing, and a late crop of peas is sprouting their heads above the earth. So, as a tribute to summer, I wanted to share this wonderful recipe with you. You can use any vegetables for grilling, so don’t feel limited by the ingredients here. If you’re anything like me, your grill stays outside until it snows! Take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and enjoy.
Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Grilled Vegetables
- Marinate chicken with pesto, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt at least 1 hour, or overnight for best results.
- Mix oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and 1/4 tsp salt in a small bowl.
- Heat a grill over medium-high, be sure grates are clean and well oiled to prevent sticking.
- Brush oil on each side of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper
- Put vegetables on 1 large grill tray or directly on grill, and cook, turning constantly until the vegetables are cooked and golden, about 6 to 10 minutes. Set aside on a dish.
- Put the chicken on the grill and cook about 4 to 5 minutes on each side until grill marks appear and the chicken is cooked through. If you prefer to finish them off in the oven, I suggest a grill pan or cast iron skillet - cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
- Transfer the chicken to a platter with the vegetables and pour the balsamic dressing over everything and serve.
All the convent sisters continue to work on preparations for Spirit of America Band’s participation in the Dubai workshops at the end of this month. Whether or not they play an instrument or are even going on the trip themselves every sister is very involved and supportive of the endeavor in whatever way they are able to contribute.
Last week the emphasis was on sewing. All who could helped with the job of fitting, altering and adjusting each uniform. This week when the participants from all over the country come together for rehearsal, we will be feeding about 200 people for the entire weekend; so much help will be needed in Paraclete House Kitchen. One of the meals that has hit the spot with most of the group and received a lot of praise is this hearty beef stew that not only provides them with needed energy but also satisfies their taste buds in a special way.
- Place in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
- Add half of beef to skillet; cook, turning to brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.
- Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high.
- Repeat procedure with remaining beef.
- Add wine to skillet; scrape to loosen browned bits from bottom of pan.
- Bring wine to a boil, and cook 1 minute.
- Add to slow cooker.
- Stir in tomato paste, salt, pepper, carrots, garlic, celery, onions, and 2 cups beef stock.
- Add thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
- Cover and cook on LOW until beef is tender, 7 1/2 to 8 hours.
- Whisk together flour and remaining 1/2 cup stock.
- Add flour mixture and to slow cooker.
- Increase heat to HIGH; cover and cook until bubbly and thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
- Garnish with parsley, if desired.