Pepper Poppers

This recipe for Pepper Poppers is a variation of a popper appetizer goody that uses more chopped pepper flesh than most and an amazing bacon wrap to enhance and bolster the flavors.

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Pepper Poppers
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

8 large jalapeno peppers
8 medium Anaheim peppers
8 ounces low-fat chive and onion cream cheese
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 red onion, diced
4 strips bacon, baked crisp and chopped
12 strips bacon, baked but still malleable

Remove top third of each pepper leaving the stem and remove all of the seeds and pulp from each part of each pepper. Chop the smaller portion of the peppers and set the larger stemmed portion of the peppers aside to be stuffed later.

In a food processor, combine the chopper peppers, cream cheese, chopped bacon, onion and cheddar cheese, Pulse until the mixture is smooth.

Using a spoon fill the peppers with the cheese mixture. Wrap each stuffed jalapeno pepper with 1/2 strip of the par-cooked bacon. Wrap each stuffed Anaheim pepper with a full strip of the par-cooked bacon. Chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place the peppers on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until bacon is crisp and the cheese filling is heated through. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Lamb Shanks in Stout Gravy

Ample Bites loves lamb especially the meaty goodness of lamb shanks. Lamb Shanks braised in Stout Gravy is a simple preparation that requires about 3 hours of oven time. The acidity of the braising liquid breaks down the meat on the shank (think area between the calf and ankle) and yields a gravy that is perfect over polenta or mashed potatoes.

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Lamb Shanks in Stout Gravy
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 4 to 6

2 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
5 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
3 celery stalks, cut into 1 ½-in lengths
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 ½-inch lengths
1 large leek, halved, sliced crosswise and washed well
8 whole garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
1 16-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes and their juices
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 12-ounce bottles Guinness Stout
¼ cup chopped fresh thyme
5 fresh marjoram sprigs

Preheat oven to 325F.

Combine the coriander, fennel and peppercorns in a small heavy skillet. Toast over medium-high heat until the seeds are aromatic, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. Rub each shank with about a teaspoon of the spice blend and sprinkle with salt.

Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add the shanks in batches and brown them on all sides. Remove the shanks from the pan and set aside. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pot, add the onions, celery, carrots, leeks, garlic and bay leaves. Sauté the vegetables until they begin to soften and the onions begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and wine. Cook for 10 minutes over high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the beef broth and Guinness, then return the shanks to the pot, submerging them in the cooking liquid. Bring the pot to a simmer, cover the pot and put it in the oven.

Braise the shanks for 2 ½ hours total, adding the thyme and marjoram to the pot after 2 hours. When the dish is done the lamb should be tender and falling away from the bone.

Transfer the shanks to a platter. Strain the braising liquid to remove the solids. Return the sauce and shanks to the pot and keep warm until serving.

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Braising Chicken Thighs

Braising chicken is a classic preparation that yields a rich, savory gravy and tender, moist chicken that perfect for a cool Fall dinner.

Braised Chicken with Shitake Mushrooms is an Ample Bites staple recipe. Chicken thighs produce the most flavorful result but breasts can be substituted if you prefer white meat. With a thick gravy, braised dishes like this one can be served over polenta, mashed potatoes or rice.

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Braised Chicken with Shitake Mushrooms
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

6 bone-in chicken thighs with skin and most fat removed
8 whole cippoline onions with papery skin removed
8 ounces shitake mushrooms, halved lengthwise
1 cup dry white wine at room temperature
1 Tbsp minced garlic
16 ounces lower-sodium, fat-free chicken stock
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 whole sprigs fresh thyme
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350F.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil. When oil shimmers add chicken thighs, in batches and brown them on both sides, about 5 to 7 minutes per batch. As thighs are browned, remove to a platter. When all of the chicken is browned add the onions to the pan and brown them for about 4 minutes. Add shitakes and soften the mushrooms, about 4 more minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with wine, scrapping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove most of the onions and shitakes to a bowl. Arrange the chicken thighs in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Place the onions and shitakes over the chicken. Pour the chicken stock over the chicken until it is about two-thirds submerged. Re-season with salt and pepper and add the thyme sprigs. Cover the chicken and place in the oven on a middle rack. Bake for 45 minutes.

Prepare a light roux by heating the canola oil and whisking in the flour over medium heat for about 2 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven. Remove the chicken thighs from the pan. Whisk the roux into the liquid in the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking continuously until the gravy begins to thicken. Place the chicken back in the thickened sauce and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.

To serve, place the chicken thighs on a plate and spoon the gravy and shitakes over the chicken. Serve warm.

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Crabby Twice “Baked” Potatoes

You’ve undoubtedly had many versions of twice-baked potatoes but you probably haven’t seen one quite like this one. Crabby Twice “Baked” Potatoes are actually boiled and then grilled and then topped with a decadent but simple crab salad. The Ample Bites version of this dish used big, fresh potatoes straight from the Ample Bites Vegetable Farm.

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Crabby Twice “Baked” Potatoes
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 6

6 russet potatoes, scrubbed
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 pound crab claw meat, chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Sriracha
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Boil potatoes in salted water for about 30 minutes. Potatoes should be almost completely cooked through but still firm. Drain and allow the potatoes to cool until they can be handled by hand, about 10 minutes. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides of the potato halves with oil. Let stand for 5 minutes and then brush them again. Season the cut sides with salt and pepper to taste.

While the potatoes are boiling, in a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, mayonnaise and mustard. Slowly whisk in the oil until the mixture is emulsified. Add the crabmeat, green onions, and parsley and fold together. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Heat grill to medium-high for direct grilling.

Put the potatoes on the grill cut side down and grill until there is a good sear and grill marks on the potato, 2 to 4 minutes. Turn the potatoes over and grill for another 4 to 6 minutes.

To serve, place the potatoes on serving plates and spoon a generous portion of the crab salad over the cut side of the potato.

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Barbecued Sweet Onions

Ample Bites Barbecued Sweet Onions is an adaptation of a Bobby Flay recipe from his latest book, Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction. I checked this book out of the library a couple weeks ago with the intent of gleaning a few new recipes from one of my favorite celebrity chefs. As I read through the book it became obvious that I needed to add it to my cookbook collection. Thanks to Amazon’s used book sales, Ample Bites now has a copy.

I used Bobby Flay’s concepts and my own barbecue sauce to make my version. I also baked the onions in the oven rather than grilling them.

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Barbecued Sweet Onions
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, 2013)

Serves 4

4 large, sweet onions such as Vadalia
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, finely diced
2 Tbsp fresh flat-leave parsley, chopped
3 green onions, white and green parts, finely chopped

For Barbecue Sauce
½ cup finely chopped sweet onions
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup raspberry jelly
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey
1 cup white vinegar
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp paprika
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp chili powder

To make BBQ Sauce: Saute the onions in butter in a medium saucepan until soft. Add remaining ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Slice the tops off onions and hollow them out leaving about a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Slice a little off the bottom of the onions so they sit flat in a pan. Discard the onion cores and center or saute them as a compliment to chops, chicken or steak entree.

Place the hollowed onion shells in a disposable aluminum pan on a rimmed baking sheet and add the chicken stock to the bottom of the pan. Fill the shells with barbecue sauce. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until the onions are beginning to brown and the top of the barbecue sauce filling is beginning to thicken.

While the onions are cooking, in a heavy skillet, render bacon over medium-high heat until the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Degrease the skillet. Add 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil to the same skillet and saute the bacon, green onion and parsley over medium heat for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve transfer the onions to serving plates with the barbecue sauce intact in the centers of the onions, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with bacon-green onion-parsley mixture.

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Lamb Kabobs with Tzatziki Sauce

If you like gyros you will love Lamb Kabobs with Tzatziki sauce. This homemade Greek taste treat is unbelievably easy to make. If you have access to good quality ground lamb, Greek yogurt, and a hot grill, you are all set.

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Tip: Ample Bites uses four pair of leftover wooden chopsticks from carryout sushi for the skewers for the kabobs.

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Serve the kabobs with grilled fresh vegetables such as red onion, red, orange and yellow peppers, and zucchini.

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Lamb Kabobs with Tzatziki Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 4

For Lamb Kabobs
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 large shallot, minced
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 whole wheat pitas

For Tzatziki Sauce
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
zest of 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Put yogurt, cucumber, garlic, hot sauce and lemon juice and zest in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Top with parsley and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld.

Wrap pita in foil. Soak skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.

In a large bowl combine the lamb, shallots, onion powder, oregano, rosemary, garlic powder, cumin, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Form meat around skewers, making eight equal oblong shapes. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the kabobs to firm-up.

Preheat grill to high.

Place foiled packet of pita on grill on a high rack. Brush the grill with oil. Grill the kabobs until charred on the outside and medium-rare on the inside. Turn to char all sides. Total cooking time about 6-8 minutes. To serve place one or two kabobs on each pita and drizzle with Tzatziki Sauce.

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