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What I Cooked This Week, #2

I am spending a lot of time indoors as cold and gray weather arrives in Chicago, and to create that feeling of comfort that we all crave right now, I am cooking a lot of hearty foods. Some meals come together in 30 minutes; some require hours. Lots of choices this week!

I had time for a big cooking project on Sunday afternoon, and I dove right into making 2 kinds of empanadas: beef empanadas and cheese and corn empanadas. (click for the recipes) With most meals involving dough, it's important to plan enough time to make the dough first so it has time to rise and chill. I used my Kitchen Aide stand mixer to make the dough, and then wrapped it in plastic and chilled in the fridge for an hour. While waiting for the dough, I sautéed the onions and potatoes, the basis of both kinds of empanada. I also made the ground beef filling and sautéed corn, each in separate smaller pans.

I'll admit it: I rule over

the kitchen in my household and . My husband, David, spends more time out of the house at work than I do, so I do most of the planning, shopping and cooking. As it became clear that making empanadas require more than one person, I asked him to pitch-hit as my sous-chef and to roll out the dough. He is particularly skilled at dough rolling, and after a little effort, we had enough dough for all 36 empanadas. Thanks to our team effort of rolling, filling, and baking, we were able to enjoy really tasty empanadas while watching Netflix. How's that for a pandemic Sunday night?

While I made the empanadas, I also cooked one of my favorite beef stew dishes, a Catalan stew. It takes a little longer than other beef stews, so it also makes a great weekend meal. To make it, I browned 2 pounds of stew beef on a large pot, removed the meat, sautéed 1 cup of chopped onions for 25-30 minutes until well caramelized, then returned the beef to the pot. I added 2 cups of red wine, salt, pepper, thyme, and simmered the meat and onions for 2 hours. I then added 1/2 cup sliced olives, cooked everything for another hour until the meat was tender. This flavorful dish, unique because it does not contain flour and bacon, has a rustic aroma, thanks to the olives and red wine.

Mid-week cooking called for quicker dishes. I made my stand-by shrimp dumplings. I defrosted then peeled and cleaned the shrimp, then made a shrimp paste in the Cuisinart with shrimp, ginger, salt, pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil. I filled the Wonton wrappers with a small amount of shrimp paste, sautéed each dumpling in oil, and made a full platter of dumplings to enjoy, steaming and flavorful.

Friday came around, and I wanted a dish to welcome in the weekend. David makes mussels in red sauce over pasta; I decided to try to a more classic moules marinières. I bought mussels that afternoon (only the freshest bivalves will do), sautéed an onion, added the white wine and bay leaf, steamed the mussels for 10 minutes, plated them, added a bit of cream to the simmer sauce, topped it with fresh, chopped parsl

ey and served the classic French dish with frites, salad and a baguette. My dream of returning to Normandy is alive and well.

I was not planning to cook on Saturday, but I needed to brighten up the dreary, rainy afternoon. A dish with eggs and cheese seemed very appealing, and I decided to go with a savory Dutch Boy pancake, featuring Gruyère. I decided we also needed soup to warm us up, so I opted for the roasted tomato soup à la Deb Perlman. I added a kale salad with sliced pear, the aromas filling the kitchen, and making home a great place to spend the evening.

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