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big, easy bites

andouillin' it: spinach, mushroom, and andouille omelet

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By Jen White · January 3, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

Happy 2013! Let's get cooking! 

You might have read this post last year when I talked about a resolution I'd made for 2012, to eat breakfast every day.  For the most part, I kept it up--at least I did MUCH better in 2012 than I had in 2011. It's also a habit I plan to keep for 2013, with even more variety and vegetables in every breakfast.  One of my favorite ways to sneak in extra vegetables is in an omelet, which makes it easy to use small amounts of meats, veggies, or cheese that you have sitting around in your fridge, patiently waiting to be adopted into some interesting concoction.

Omelets themselves can be kind of tricky, but I'm making a "country style" omelet here, which is much easier (in my opinion) than the traditional French style.  If you want to try a French omelette, study this Julia Child video first. Just watch the first 30 seconds, and you'll see how easy it can be. That kind of omelet making is kind of like winning an olympic gold, so if you've got the guts, go for it! Or do it like I do below, which will give you an omelet big enough for two.

It takes a non-stick skillet or omelet pan to make an omelet, and I always use the same pan to pre-cook the filling first. After sauteeing the vegetables, just wipe the pan out really well; no need to wash it.

The filling, sauteed and ready to be tucked into the omelet.  I have to tell you that this melange is really good on its own, and would make a nice dinner tossed with rice or pasta.  

In an 8"- to 10"-skillet, melt the butter over medium heat (closer to medium-high) until the foaming subsides.

Pour in the eggs!

Start dragging eggs from the outside edge toward the center with a rubber spatula. It will seem like you're making too many lumps in the middle, but all the rest of the liquid egg will become the same thickness as those first lumps, so don't worry.

Keep repeating this dragging motion, letting the uncooked egg run under the cooked edges, 

until the top of the omelet has only...

a little runny egg left on top. It should take about a minute and a half to get to this point.

Turn the heat to low and cover the top for a minute, to help set the runny egg whites.

Place two-thirds of the filling on one half of the circle, topped with the cheese.

And carefully, very gently, coax the empty half over the filled half with the rubber spatula. I spy a crack in my omelet!

Yep, that's a pretty big crack! But I'm not worried, because that's what I saved the rest of the filling for:

to help cover mistakes.

spinach, mushroom, and andouille omelet

  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/3 cup diced andouille (remove the casing before you chop)
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Tabasco or other pepper sauce, to taste
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/3 cup shredded swiss cheese (or use 1 big slice, torn into pieces)

  1. Heat a medium (8" to 10") nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and melt 1 tablespoon of butter in it.  Add the onion and andouille and saute for five minutes, until they start to brown. Add the mushrooms and thyme, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute another 3 to 4 minutes, until the mushrooms give up their liquid and turn soft.  Add the spinach, stir until it wilts (about 30 seconds), and remove the filling to a bowl or plate.
  2. Wipe out the skillet well so there are no stuck-on parts of anything left.
  3. Beat the eggs in a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste, and a few shots of Tabasco if you like it (I do!).
  4. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the nonstick skillet over medium heat (leaning toward medium-high, but not too high).  Swirl the pan to completely coat the bottom with butter--add more butter if you need it. When the butter starts to lightly brown and most of the foam is gone, pour in the eggs.  With a rubber spatula, start pulling the cooked egg from the edge of the pan toward the center, forming large curds of egg.  Do this for a minute, dragging eggs and letting the runny parts cook at the edges, until you have just a little bit of wet egg on the omelet top.
  5. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid, and let the top cook for about 30 seconds, until it's just set (it will still be a little wet, but that's totally fine).
  6. Place 2/3 of the filling over one half of the omelet circle and top with the cheese. Carefully, and with a great deal of faith in yourself, use the rubber spatula to lift the empty half of the omelet over the filled half. Keep loving yourself even if there's a crack!
  7. Leave the folded omelet in the pan for a few more seconds, to help the cheese melt. Carefully slide or lift it onto a plate and top with the remaining 1/3 of the filling.

serves 2

5 easy pieces, part 5: mashed potato cakes

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By Jen White · December 2, 2012 · 0 Comments ·
Finally, here's an easy recipe for turning leftover mashed potatoes into something other than soup. These cakes are simple to mix, quick to cook, and will do wonders for your brunchatude (top it with a poached or fried egg, above, and you're in business!).  You can also jazz them up further by mixing in any little bits of cheese you have lying around, goat cheese and cheddar being two excellent choices.

mashed potato cakes

  • 2 cups leftover cold mashed potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup seasoned dry breadcrumbs
  • butter and olive oil

  1. In a medium bowl, combine mashed potatoes and egg and mix well (it should be a little stiff still).  Season with salt and pepper if you think the potatoes might be a little bland.
  2. With your hands, form potato mixture into small cakes, about 2.5" in diameter and 1/2" thick. You'll have 4 to 5 cakes.
  3. Dredge the cakes carefully in dry breadcrumbs, pressing a little to help the breadcrumbs stick.
  4. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil together.  When the butter stops foaming, add the cakes without crowding (you may need to do two batches).  Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Carefully turn and cook until the other side is browned, about 4 more minutes. Serve immediately.

makes 4 to 5 cakes

MORE EASY PIECES: smoked salmon breakfast pizza; roasted potatoes and turnips; butter bean hummus; greens with andouille.

5 easy pieces, part 4: greens with andouille

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By Jen White · November 30, 2012 · 0 Comments ·
There's a fantastic recipe called "Voodoo Greens" in The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine by Chef John Folse that produces the most amazing greens I've ever had.  The recipe calls for no fewer than 6 types of meat and sausage, 8 types of greens, and takes hours of simmering, but the liquor that accumulates in the pot is highly addictive. We've made Voodoo Greens before to go along with a big pot of black-eyed peas for New Year's, and I've seen friends drink the greens juice straight from the bowl.

I want a bowl of meaty greens sometimes without the hours of work, though.  This is a shortcut method for a side dish that works well with fish, pork chops, meatloaf, or chicken, or as something to toss with freshly cooked pasta.  You can also use it as an omelet filling (just make sure you drain off the juice).  Get green!

greens with andouille

  • 1/2 pound andouille sausage, casings removed, sliced in quarter-circles
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 to 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 large bunches of greens (I used mustard and collards), stems trimmed and leaves chopped or left whole, as desired
  • red wine vinegar, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Tabasco or other hot sauce

  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat and pour in the oil.  Saute the andouille for about 5 minutes, until browned.
  2. Add the garlic and stir for a minute. Pour in 2 cups of chicken stock and start adding the greens a few handfuls at a time, until they wilt down enough to all fit in the pot.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover, and simmer for 35 minutes to an hour, until the greens are very tender.  Keep checking the liquid level and add more chicken stock if necessary to keep the greens from drying out and burning.
  4. Season to taste with red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and Tabasco.

serves 4 to 5 as a side dish

MORE EASY PIECES: part 1: smoked salmon breakfast pizza; part 2: roasted potatoes and turnips; part 3: butter bean hummus

5 easy pieces, part 3: butter bean hummus

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By Jen White · November 29, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

I started making hummus from scratch last year, when I discovered the organic dried chickpeas in bulk at the neighborhood Rouse's.  I love to make it, but let's be honest: chickpeas take forever to cook, especially when you want them really soft, for hummus.  But you can make a serviceable hummus out of just about any dried bean or pea: black-eyed peas, lima beans, black beans...and butter beans! While all of these might be tasty, the prettiest ones are going to be made from white or very light-colored beans.  I've made black bean hummus before, and it turns out kind of blue-gray. Not untasty, but not winning any beauty contests.

Butter beans, a.k.a. large limas, are perfect for making a from-scratch hummus because they cook very quickly--just about 45 minutes in gently boiling water.  You can also use canned, of course, just as you would use canned chickpeas for hummus.  I like the fact that butter beans are a Southern cooking staple, too.  Try some! 

Use your own favorite hummus recipe, or if you don't have one, here are some amounts to get you started.

butter bean hummus

  • 4 cups cooked butter beans, drained & liquid reserved (or 2 15-ounce cans)
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • juice of 1 to 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • salt to taste
  • sumac, paprika, or cayenne pepper, for garnish
  1. Drop the garlic cloves in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until finely minced. Add the butterbeans, lemon juice, a few tablespoons of bean liquid or water, and tahini, and process until pasty.
  2.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until a creamy mixture is formed.  Season with salt and additional lemon juice, if necessary.
  3.  Sprinkle the top with sumac, paprika, or cayenne, and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

makes 2 cups

MORE EASY PIECES! Part 1: smoked salmon breakfast pizza & Part 2: roasted potatoes and turnips

5 easy pieces, part 2: roasted potatoes and turnips

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By Jen White · November 28, 2012 · 0 Comments ·
There's nothing easier than roasting vegetables, and this is a great combination that yields crispy red-skinned potatoes, caramelized sweet potatoes, and robust little baby turnips whose tops become crunchy after a long baking time.  I love to cook vegetables this way; it's an easy side dish that will go with just about anything, needs hardly any seasoning at all, and will look after itself for most of its oven time.  Sometimes I'll pop a pan of veggies in the oven and THEN decide what the main course will be for dinner, while they're baking.  

You can season roasted roots however you want: salt and pepper, fresh or dried herbs, spices such as curry powder or paprika.  There are no rules! I've never tried a roasted vegetable I didn't like.  Lagniappe: Make a really big batch, then puree the leftovers the next day with chicken stock for roasted vegetable soup!

roasted potatoes and turnips

  • 3 medium red skinned potatoes, cut in 1" chunks
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, cut in 1" chunks
  • 1 pound baby turnips, tops trimmed (or regular turnips, cut in 1" chunks)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste (plus any herbs and/or spices you like)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. In a large, shallow baking pan, combine the potatoes and turnips.  Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Toss with your hands to coat and distribute the oil evenly, spreading everything out into a single layer.  Add more seasoning if necessary.
  3. Roast for 40 to 60 minutes, until browned and tender, stirring once or twice throughout the cooking process. 

serves 3 as a side dish

See part 1 of 5 Easy Pieces: smoked salmon breakfast pizza

5 easy pieces: smoked salmon breakfast pizza

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By Jen White · November 27, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Folks, I've got a backlog of food photos I took near summer's end, and even though I don't have time to scratch out full-fledged posts for them, they're still worth sharing. So this week, a stretch of 5 easy recipes to make--so easy they barely warrant a recipe at all, but I'll include one anyway. Check back every day through Saturday for a new post!

This super-easy tortilla pizza is a spin on a quick snack we make often around here, usually with pepperoni and mozzarella, but it makes a tasty breakfast when you've got some lox to rock out.  To make a pepperoni or other kind of pizza, use the tortilla-crisping method described here, then return to the oven after topping the pizza until the cheese melts and everything's hot.

smoked salmon breakfast pizza

  • 1 large (10") flour tortilla
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • goat cheese, about 1/4 cup, softened
  • a few slices of gravlax or other smoked salmon
  • capers
  • green or red onion slices

  1. Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 for about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove baking sheet and lay the tortilla on it. Brush lightly with olive oil, then return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until it's crisped and toasty (it may get some air bubbles in it but you can flatten these with your hand).
  3. Spread tortilla with goat cheese and layer with salmon, capers, and onion slices. That's it!

serves 1 to 2

i'll have another...Milk Bar!

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By Jen White · November 19, 2012 · 0 Comments ·
The Milk Bar, 1514 Delachaise St.

When Paul and I first tried the Milk Bar last spring, we were pretty jazzed: we got two delicious, hot po-boys, with not-your-average-bear fillings, for a very good price. But there was the issue of parking, and driving all the way up to Touro (the original Milk Bar is right next to it), and the fact that it wasn't open on weekends if we wanted to take out-of-town guests there. Those things made it not quite convenient enough of a place to eat, even though I really wanted it to be.

The new Milk Bar, 710 S. Carrollton

Now, the world is a better place. There's a new Milk Bar in the Riverbend! AND it's open Monday through Saturday, 8:00 am to 9:00 pm.  My sandwich prayers have been answered!

There are a few things I want to tell you about this place. It's not your average po-boy shop. In fact,

  • there isn't a fryer, so there are no french fries (though they have Zapp's)
  • there's no fried seafood
  • there's no alcohol

But what isn't average-po-boy-shoppy about The Milk Bar is also what makes it a special place, because it has

  • a full coffee menu
  • extremely delicious milkshakes and smoothies
  • lots of salads--not something Nola is known for, right?
  • out of the ordinary po-boy fillings
  • a couple of breakfast sandwiches
  • free lollipops
  • good prices!

The Milk Bar is owned by an Australian wife and a Brit Husband, and though they don't serve lamb pies (which made Paul a bit cross at first), they do serve roasted lamb in po-boys, sandwiches, and salads. And let me tell you that it is GOOD.  The roast lamb po-boy that Paul has gotten twice now (pictured above) is the best-tasting roasted meat po-boy I've ever had. It's rich and meaty but not overloaded with garlic, and the gravy is present, but it doesn't totally soak through the bread, rendering it unpickupable. This is a 12-incher for $8.00 NOT EVEN KIDDING.

And the Thai Chilli Chicken (above) is delicious. Truly one of my favorite sandwiches ever. It's a little sweet from the chilli sauce, but I've never minded that.  $7.00. For real.

This is the Chicken Parmesan po-boy, which is very tasty, but be warned, not fried. They use roasted chicken in it, same as for the Thai Chilli Chicken. Still, warm and melty with mozzarella and red gravy, it's a good tasting sandwich, and healthier to boot.

As far as I can tell, The Milk Bar has no website. I'm including photos of the menu I got last week so you can read and salivate:

An Al fresceaux Oktoberfest!

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By Jen White · October 30, 2012 · 0 Comments ·


If you can, take this opportunity to eat an Oktoberfest-inspired feast paired with New Orleans beers courtesy of Al fresceaux, an innovative new dining experience.  Here's the menu for Thursday, November 1: 

  • Roasted garlic and lobster bisque, wild mushrooms, shallots, fennel-orange salad
  • Duck pastrami, bremers greens, goat cheese, pecans, sliced pears
  • Wild boar & kobe oxtail carbonara, truffle cous cous, parmesan, fresh basil pesto
  • Black garlic ice cream, nutella crisp, fresh mint, sous vide pumpkin
They still have some seats available for November 1, so why not join the fun? 

time for treats: boudin and greens potstickers

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By Jen White · October 29, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Paul and I love to eat treats! Anything small, bite-sized, warm, and savory pretty much does the trick.  And the best thing about these potstickers is that they're easy to cook--really, really easy.  You have to be in a bit of a crafting mood to fill them and pleat their little edges, but the cooking itself is easy-peasy.

Normally, potstickers are filled with raw pork or shrimp and cabbage, and the filling gets cooked as the dumplings steam...but I always have trouble getting the filling to cook through before the wonton wrappers become sad little soggy flaps.  Using a cooked filling, such as boudin (sausage made from minced pork and rice), solves the cooking problem PLUS makes great use of local ingredients, or even leftovers.  If you don't have boudin or greens, or don't like one or both of those things, use other cooked meats, seafood, or vegetables.  Just make sure everything is chopped really fine before stuffing the potstickers.  

These are my filling ingredients: 1 link of boudin (roughly 1/3 pound), simmered in water for about 10 minutes and removed from its casings, and about 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked mustard greens. For the greens, I simmered a few handfuls in a pot with chicken stock and garlic for about an hour, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. I let them cool completely and then chopped them up to make sure there weren't any big pieces of stem.  You can easily use canned greens, well drained, or frozen chopped greens, or substitute cabbage or any other kind of green you have sitting around and being leafy.  The main thing to note here is that this filling amount, roughly 1 cup total, will fill about 20 potstickers.

The workstations: filling, a little dish of water, and round wonton wrappers. Mine look janky because I accidentally bought square wrappers and had to cut them into circles with scissors. 

Working with 2 to 3 wrappers at a time, dip your finger in the water and moisten the edges completely. You can use a brush, but it takes longer.

Put just a teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper...

and fold them over, pressing the edges to seal.

To pleat the top, fold a tiny bit of the top edge backwards, then squeeze hard between your thumb and forefinger to get the pleat to hold.  They don't have to be perfect.

Keep going until you have 4 to 5 pleats across the top, then press down on the potsticker to flatten the bottom and get it to stand upright, with a little pleat "mohawk" on top.

The cooking has two steps that go quickly: Saute the potstickers in oil for a few minutes to brown them slightly on the bottom,

then add a little stock, cover, and steam until they're tender. Done!

These are great as an appetizer or snack with a traditional ginger-and-soy dipping sauce, or, if you use boudin, you might want to try dipping them in Creole mustard just like you would with a plain boudin link.  Or if you really want to feast, go ahead and float some of these in a big bowl of gumbo.  We won't judge.

boudin and greens potstickers

  • 1 link boudin sausage (about 1/3 pound), cooked according to package directions, cooled, and removed from casings
  • 1/2 cup cooked and seasoned mustard greens, cooled and finely chopped
  • about 20 round wonton wrappers
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chicken or beef stock, divided
  • Creole mustard and/or soy sauce, for dipping (optional)

  1. Combine the boudin and greens in a small bowl.  Have a small dish of water nearby.
  2. Working with 2 to 3 wrappers at a time, dip your finger in water and moisten the edges of the wrappers completely.  Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the edge over, pressing the wet edges together to seal.
  3. Put 4 to 5 pleats in the top of each potsticker by folding a tiny bit of the edge backwards and pressing firmly to make it "hold."  When each wrapper is pleated, press it down slightly to flatten the bottom and make it stand upright. Repeat with all the filling and wrappers.
  4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place one tablespoon of oil in the pan, swirl it around, then add half the potstickers (or a third of them, depending on size of pan).  Saute gently for 3 to 4 minutes, until the bottoms of the potstickers are light brown.
  5. Pour in about 1/3 cup of stock, cover the pan, and simmer gently until the potstickers are tender and the filling is very hot, about 4 to 5 minutes. (Make sure they don't run out of liquid in the pan or they might burn.)  
  6. Serve hot or at room temperature with Creole mustard, soy sauce, or a combination of both for dipping. Or put them in your gumbo and be awesome.

Makes 20; serves 3 to 5 people (easily doubled or tripled)

rainy day beef goulash with gnocchi

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By Jen White · October 21, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Goulash is a dish that Paul and I have radically different memories of. I grew up eating the 1970's school-lunch version known as "Goulash Supreme," which consisted of soggy macaroni, bland ground beef, and stewed tomatoes. I should point out here that when I was a kid, I actually liked it. And that it's pretty much the only thing called "goulash" I remember eating, ever, anywhere. And that I'm ready for a better goulash to take its place in my life.

Paul, on the other hand, has only had goulash in Budapest. Seriously. Budapest, where they have bars with awesome names like "Old Man Pub" and you can eat steak tartare for breakfast, complete with a raw egg and a shot of Jager. When he had goulash there, it was made with goat and was served to him in an individual clay pot with a baked-bread top (as in, they baked a crispy bread right on top of the goulash. DANG.).  It's one of the best things he's ever eaten, he's told me time and time again, and i believe it. I even found a picture of it on the Internets! Here it is, from the Old Man Music Pub:

So what I've come up with here is much, much better than what I grew up eating, and though it lacks a bready top, it's pretty close to what Paul had: a dark, hearty beef (not goat) stew that'll stick to your ribs and stomp out the rainy day blues.  If you want to go for the glory, put some of it in a baking dish and bake a pie crust on top. Even homemade dumplings would be great, but if you're tired, like me, store-bought gnocchi totally do the trick.

Start off by browning the beef and paprika in a heavy soup pot.

Add the onions to the beef and let them get nice and soft.

Then, we're going to put a little Louisiana in there: sprinkle in a couple tablespoons of flour, stir it around, and let it get pasty with the onions, beef, and oil for a couple of minutes. It's like a mini-roux, and it really helps give the goulash a thicker body, which is what I wanted. Less soup, more GOU.

After it cooks for a while with the wine, stock, carrots, parsnips, celery, and turnips, add the diced potatoes (pictured above). This is pretty much the last step, other than adjusting the seasonings and preparing whatever type of dumpling/noodle/gnocchi/pie crust you prefer.

It's really a simple thing to cook, once the beef is browned, and makes a big pot of beefy vegetabley goodness perfect for rainy weather or for freezing for future rainy days. I like to garnish it with celery leaves, but you can use parsley too. 

rainy day beef goulash with gnocchi

  • 4 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (not smoked)
  • 3 pounds beef cut for stew, in 1" to 2" chunks (or cut up three pounds of beef chuck)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, plus more if needed
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup red wine (I used a pinot noir)
  • 5 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 small turnips, peeled and diced
  • 5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (I used 2 yukon golds and 3 red potatoes)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooked gnocchi for serving (optional)

  1. Toss the beef with the paprika until well coated. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, until almost smoking. Add the beef to the pot in batches and cook until well-browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Set the browned beef aside and continue cooking until all the beef is browned, adding more oil to the pot if necessary to prevent burning.
  2. Return all the browned beef to the pot and reduce the heat a little, to slightly above medium. Add the onions and saute about 6 minutes, until starting to get soft. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of flour and stir well, incorporating it into the oil (it should be a little pasty).  Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the caraway, bay leaves, wine, and stock. Bring to a simmer and cover; simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the parsnips, carrots, celery, and turnips. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the potatoes; cover and simmer for 30 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, black pepper, and additional paprika if you like.  To serve, drop some cooked gnocchi in each bowl, or homemade dumplings, or egg noodles. Or bake a pie crust on top of it in the oven, and let me know how it goes.

makes 8 to 10 servings

Tagged with: goulash, gnocchi, Stew, beef


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