As you likely can tell, much of my cooking is done just by throwing in things that I happen to have around. There's not a ton of pre-thought on what I'm going to do. I often look at a recipe and then modify it as I'm inspired. Tonight, I did that twice with dinner. One was a success; one was a failure.
Roasted Beets. ::sigh:: This was the failure.
I don't know why I didn't stick with the recipes I saw online for this one as it was the first time I had ever cooked beets. I don't really like them (or haven't traditionally, though I am somewhat determined to grow to like them, especially since I'm growing them in my raised bed out back). But I kept hearing great things about "roasted beets" and how the sugars in the beets make them sweet and tasty through a high temperature bake.
Most of the recipes talk about taking the whole beet, wrapping them in tin foil, and roasting them at a high temperature for 60 to 90 minutes. After taking my CSA box beets out of the fridge and looking at them again, I thought...maybe I should do this differently. You know, buck recipe convention. Someone should have smacked that peeler out of my hand. Here's what happened.
I cut off the greens (sorry folks, didn't keep them...too wilted) and the little root end. I held a couple of the root ends to my head and wiggled them around. I walked up to the boyfriend who was on the couch with the dogs and said, "take me to your leader!" The boyfriend felt he had to console one of the dogs by saying, "don't worry, she's just kidding." I'm not sure it was necessary. He knows I'm an oddball.
But I digress.
While the recipes included foil, I decided that I would peel the beets (sadly, removing their lovely scarlet color) and quarter them. (The boyfriend and I decided that they smell like dirt. More specifically, the smelled like top soil. We were hoping that the cooking would, well, develop that scent into something more appealing.) I then put olive oil, salt, and pepper on them and tossed them onto a baking sheet. I put them in a 425 oven for about 35 minutes. (I put the timer at 45 minutes to check on them, but they looked pretty pathetic once 35 minutes had passed.) I took them out. They had one really caramelized (read: burned) side and the rest of it looked sad. Once they cooled, I tried one.
Let's just say, Recipe: 1 Intuition: 0
The night was not yet finished. Not too long after I had put the beets in the oven, I cut up the rest of a bag of red potatoes into quarters, put some olive oil, salt and Garlic Herb Mrs. Dash (yes, I realize the salt sort of defeated the purpose of Mrs. Dash) and tossed them into another baking sheet. They went in with probably 35 minutes left on the timer. I was trying to recreate some amazing roasted red potatoes that I had made earlier in the week. They came out pretty dern tasty, but should have stayed in a little longer to really crisp up as they had the first time. I should have probably left them in for 45-50 minutes, but they were just dandy.
The boyfriend wanted to consume some sort of meat for the protein. The only non-canned meat we had were two pre-cooked chicken, apple, and smoked gouda sausages. That wasn't going to work the same way a regular spicy sausage would, so pasta with tomato sauce was off the table. I tried to think about what I had that would support the apple flavor in the sausage. I opened the fridge, and stared.
I got it. Grapes. And...my salted caramel pear butter from Confituras.
I sliced the sausages lengthwise so there was a flat side. I put a little bit of olive oil in a non..non-stick pan (as in, would brown up and caramelize nicely) and cranked up the heat. Once the oil was shimmering, I put the sausages in, cut side down. I let them brown up a bit and then flipped them. After I got a little color on the other side, I put them aside on a plate and turned down the heat a little bit on the pan. I then put about a cup of red seedless grapes into the pan. They immediately started getting a little brown, which was fine, but I realized they weren't going to be able to deglaze the pan if none of their juice was getting out.
So, I grabbed my kitchen shears and started cutting them. Thank goodness those things were sharp. We had no flying grapes. Once they had cooked a little bit, I started scraping the brown sausage bits off the bottom of the pan with my wooden spoon and smooshing the grapes at the same time. I then added about a tablespoon and a half of the pear butter. I stirred that around and made sure to get all the brown goodness off the bottom of the pan. I squeezed a little bit of grapefruit juice into the sauce to brighten things up (and to avoid an over-sweet sauce). While I was letting that cook down a bit, I put the sausages back in the sauce (to make sure they were heated all the way through and that they melded a little bit with the sauce).
Because I wasn't 100% sure how successful the sauce would be, I decided to make sure the potatoes, which I knew were good, weren't going to be defiled. I put the potatoes in a bowl and put that bowl on a large plate. I then served up one sausage (two split halves) each and spooned the grape/pear butter sauce on top. It worked. It was rather tasty. I'll likely try something like that again. I think it would have been a really good sauce on a pork chop, or something like that. If I had had some calvados or apple cider, that might have even been a great deglazing liquid to use prior to putting the halved grapes in the pan.
Invention/Inspiration: 1 Recipe be damned. :-)
...pictures to be posted at some point in the near future.
23 minutes ago