Something Gooey, Cheesy, Creamy and Warm Rebuffs our Short Southern Winter.

Beef / February 25, 2015

I read an anecdote the other day that the reason the South lost the Civil War, was because an inch of snow fell on the ground and no one knew what to do. It’s kinda funny, even though every state has some kind of cultural insult when it comes to handling cold and snow. And with good reason. If we didn’t joke about it, we’d go nuts.

It’s true, here in Charlotte, NC we maybe see two days of snow a year. And yes, we close everything as soon as one white flake is jettisoned from the clouds. But when you live in a place where the sun shines nearly all the time, it doesn’t make sense to invest in the kind of blizzard-busting equipment that say, Minnesota has in it’s  winter arsenal. It’s just so much easier to say, “Oh my! God has dusted my front yard with the prettiest little smattering of white stuff. It might mess up my pink flats if I venture out into it’s verdant and billowy mush, so I think I’ll cook something gooey, and re-watch Season 1 through 4 of Downton Abby.”

You know you’d say that if you lived here.

So, for the last few weeks, during the ice storms, flurries, and generally chilly as well icky weather, I have been cooking. And it has been gooey, too. Loaded with cheese, cream and butter, I’ve gone all out to help myself forget that actually, I don’t even own pink flats.

Creamy Garlic Cheese Potato Gratin Singles


10 small (about 1 inch diameter or less) yellow potatoes, skin on, parboiled
1 C heavy cream
1 T butter melted
½ C grated pecorino Romano cheese, or other salty, hard cheese that melts, plus extra for sprinkling
Kosher salt


  • Mix all above items except potatoes, and leave a little of the cheese for sprinkling on top. Now, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Butter the insides of 4 small ramekins (I used a diameter of about 3 inches). Slice the parboiled potatoes into 1/16th inch slices, and stack them snugly in the ramekin. Pour the cream and cheese mixture over, filling halfway, and tamping the ramekins to get the cream to the bottom, then continue to fill cream almost to top. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 35 minutes, or until tops begin to brown as shown.

Creamy Mushroom Leek Soup


1 8 ounce package sliced baby Bella mushrooms
1 large leek, washed, outer layers discarded, sliced thin up to the green part. About ¾ C leeks
3 C water
1 Knorr Chicken Stock Cube
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 T oil
½ t dried tarragon
¼ t dried thyme
1 – ½ C cream (your choice)
1 T chipotle in adobo sauce
½ C finely diced Italian parsley
Sprinkling of hot chili flakes


  • In a large Dutch oven style pan, heat the 2 T oil on medium high. Add the leeks and mushrooms and stir until the leeks are completely transparent and the mushrooms have browned. You need to use a large pan so things are not too crowded. Then add the garlic and continue to stir for two minutes until the garlic is fragrant. Add the thyme and tarragon. Dissolve the cube in 2 C boiling water, and add. Then add another cup of water. Let simmer at a low boil for 15 minutes. Take off heat and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Add all the soup to a blender and puree until only large chucks remain and the soup is cloudy and incorporated. Return to pan, turn burner on to medium, and heat through. Add the cream, the chipotle sauce, and season with salt and pepper and stir well. Heat through. Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and a sprinkling of hot chili flakes.

Italian Cheesy Meatballs with Casarecce Alfredo

Makes 4 Servings


¾ lb ground lean beef
1 egg
1 T dried basil
¼ t dried dill
¼ t dried oregano
Pinch of turmeric
2 T 2% milk
Handful (about 1/3 C) Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs
1/3 C grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/3 C grated ParmigianoReggiano cheese
4 C cooked Casarecce pasta al dente
Bottle of your favorite Alfredo sauce
1/3 C white wine
2 T oil
1 C sliced tri color peppers


  • Combine all ingredients down to and including the cheese. Form into about 10 large meatballs. Heat a pan with 1 T oil. Brown the meatballs on each side, about 2 minutes each. Remove meatballs from pan and cover. Add the peppers and cook till soft, about 1 minute. Deglaze with the wine, let simmer until reduced. About 2-3 minutes. Add the Alfredo sauce, and return the meatballs to the pan. Cover and let heat and cook through, about 10-12 minutes.
  • While meatballs are cooking, prepare a pan of boiling water. Add pasta to boiling water and cook to al dente, about 7 minutes. Add the pasta to the cheese mixture, and let simmer on low about 3 or 4 minutes until pasta is cooked.
  • Serve with fresh basil.

Creamy Roasted Balsamic Tomato Soup

Makes 4 Servings


5 Roma tomatoes, halved, seeded
½ sweet onion cut in very large chunks
6 cloves of roasted garlic
2 C vegetable beef broth
½ C water
1 C cream
1 t chili flakes (optional)
Salt and Pepper
3 T Olive oil to drizzle
3 T Balsamic vinegar to drizzle
Fresh basil leaves for garnish


  • Cut the top off a large head of garlic, place in the middle of an 8 inch square of foil. Drizzle with a bit of good olive oil. Wrap the head, by gathering the corners and bringing to the top, twist and seal. Roast in a 375 degree F oven for about 35 minutes. Remove open, let sit and cool for about 10 minutes, then squeeze out the cloves. They will come out whole, easily. Set aside. You can do this the day before. They stay good in the refrigerator in a sealed container for a couple of days.
  • Keep the oven on at 375 degrees F. On a cookie sheet lined with foil, arrange the cut tomatoes and onions. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with about 3 T olive oil and toss. Spread out the tomatoes and onions and drizzle with the vinegar, then roast them all in the oven for about 35 minutes. Then turn the oven up to 425 degrees F and roast another 15 plus minutes, until the edges are charred. It will depend upon the size of the tomatoes and onions. (My tomatoes were about 3 and a half inches long.) Remove from oven, let cool for about 10 minutes. Tomatoes and onions should easily slide off the foil and into a blender. Add 1 and a half C of the broth. And 6 of the roasted cloves. Puree until smooth but not watery. You want some texture to the soup.
  • In a large sauce pan, pour the pureed tomato mixture in along with the other half of the broth, ½ water, 1 C heavy cream and salt and pepper to taste. Add the chili flakes to your taste. Serve hot with fresh basil.

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