Meatballs Bayonnaise with Spicy Tomato and Pepper Sauce

May 12th, 2012

The city of Bayonne is in the Southwestern region of France near the border with Spain.  The region is heavily influenced by the Basque language, architecture, and food.  It is known principally for its fine chocolates and Bayonne Ham, which is cured with the espellette peppers.  But these meatballs are also popular.

We will not be traveling to this region of France but this recipe sounded so good that I had to try it.  It was in the cookbook The French Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone.  I have found many good recipes in this book and this one did not disappoint.  There are lots of red bell peppers in the recipe and although the title suggests that it is spicy, I found it to be quite mellow.  The large meatballs were almost “fall-apart” tender and it was delicious served on a toasted sourdough baguette with a serving of kale on the side.

Although it was easy to do in the slow cooker, I see no reason why you couldn’t assemble it in a dutch oven and cook it in the oven at a low temperature.  It can also be served over rice or orzo.  I used orzo for our second meal (it makes a lot!) and it was a perfect combination; kind of like spaghetti and meatballs.


1 28-ounce can tomato puree
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup crumbled French bread
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 pounds ground beef chuck (I used lean ground beef)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
Freshly ground pepper

Stir together the tomato puree, peppers, onion, 1 teaspoon salt, crushed red pepper, and bay leaf.  Pour half of the sauce into a large slow cooker.

In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk for a few minutes.  Lightly squeeze the bread and discard the milk.  Spread the flour on a piece of wax paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the soaked bread, ground beef, parsley, garlic, egg, cumin marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste.  Moisten your hands and shape the mixture into 2-inch balls.  Lightly roll the meatballs in the flour.

Transfer the meatballs to the slow cooker and top with the remaining sauce.  Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, or until the meatballs are cooked through.  Discard the bay leaf and serve hot.

As a side note I found it interesting that mayonnaise was purported to have been first made in Bayonne.  Its name is a corruption of Bayonnaise.

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Choucroute Garni with a Twist

April 19th, 2012

Yesterday was a cold and rainy day.  Our weather has been so unseasonably warm this Spring that I had already cleaned out my kitchen fireplace and placed a crockery bowl filled with dried hydrangeas in it.  But yesterday was a perfect day for a fire.  The flower arrangement came out and the logs were laid.

Now you are probably thinking I cooked that beautiful platter of sausages, potatoes, carrots and sauerkraut in my dutch oven over the coals.  It would have been a good idea, but I had a new cookbook and there was a recipe that I wanted to try.

My blogging buddy, the other Penny of The Comforts of Home, and I met for shopping and lunch on Tuesday in Asheville.  We met at one of our favorite stores, The Screen Door, where they sell antiques.  But they also have a dynamite book department devoted mainly to cookbooks and design and gardening books.  I always come home with at least one book.  What is not to love about this book?  My passion for all things French is well known and I have been using my slow cooker quite often lately.  A perfect fit.

What was also a perfect fit was the lunch we had at a French bistro called Fig.

We both chose the Salmon with couscous, micro greens, and lemon chive beurre.  All I can say is that if I could master this salmon dish at home I would feel that I was a chef- worthy cook.  The salmon was so crispy on the top with a coarse salt finish and so tender and flaky inside that we both were in awe of the dish.

So it was a great day with sunshine and warm temperatures.  Check out Penny’s blog for a glimpse of some of the shopping we did.

When Wednesday dawned with rain and cold temperatures, I thought it is time to make some comfort food from my new French slow cooker cookbook.  The choucroute garni sounded like the perfect recipe to try.

Bratwursts, kielbasa and smoked pork chops are all cooked in a white wine infused sauerkraut with potatoes,  carrots, onions and garlic cloves tucked in.  Choucroute Garni  is a dish from the Alsace region of France.  Because of its proximity to Germany, the food has Germanic links.  Pork and Sauerkraut are prevalent in many of its dishes.

It is best served with black bread, grainy mustard, horseradish and cornichons or sweet pickles.  This was a perfect recipe for the slow cooker.  You will need a large one.


2 pounds sauerkraut
6 medium waxy potatoes
1 large onion, sliced
3 large carrots,  peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
10 juniper berries, lightly crushed (could not find)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 whole cloves
3 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
6 cooked bratwursts (I sauteed them in a frying pan until browned and cooked through)
1 pound kielbasa, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 smoked pork chops (I used boneless and cut them in half)
1 cup dry white wine

Rinse the sauerkraut well in a colander under cool running water.  Squeeze the sauerkraut to remove the liquid.

Place half of the sauerkraut in a large slow cooker, separating the pieces with your fingers.  Add the potatoes, onion, garlic, juniper berries, caraway seeds, cloves, thyme and bay leaves.  Arrange the remaining sauerkraut on top.

Push the sausages and pork chops down into the sauerkraut.  Add the wine.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or until the potatoes are tender.  Mine took only 7 hours and I added a little more liquid half way through cooking.

Arrange the meats, sauerkraut, and potatoes and carrots on a large platter.  Discard the bay leaves.  Serve with black bread, grainy mustard cornichons and horseradish.   Serves 6 to 8.

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Crock Pot BBQ Chicken

April 16th, 2012

One of the most popular blog posts I have ever had was my recipe for Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken.  I am still counting, but at last count it had received 20,000 hits on Pinterest and has garnered 66 comments on my post.  That tells me that there are many people out there who love their crock pots and enjoy recipes that require very little work.

This recipe for barbecued chicken falls into that category.  Ironically I found it on Pinterest, but  changed it somewhat to suit my taste.  I had a package of three large chicken breasts in the freezer.  I put them in my crock pot frozen, mixed up the sauce ingredients and cooked them on low for 6 hours.  We liked them but the flavor seemed a little intense to me.

One of the good things about the crock pot is that it turns any meat into a shreddable consistency.  By adding a little water or chicken broth to the shredded chicken I was able to achieve a most delicious BBQ chicken to serve on hamburger buns.  We enjoyed them for lunch several times.

I will be making this again in my crock pot.


3 large chicken breasts (can be frozen)
1 bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon grainy mustard

Place chicken breasts in crock pot.  Mix together the sauce ingredients.  Pour over chicken.  Cook on low 4 to 6 hours, checking occasionally for doneness.  Remove chicken and shred.  If sauce is too thick add a little water or chicken broth to it.  Return chicken to sauce.  Spoon onto warmed hamburger buns and serve.

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Crock Pot Ribs

October 29th, 2011

The days are moving quickly this time of year.  We are packing up and organizing for our trip to Florida.  To be honest I haven’t been doing a lot of cooking.  There has been nothing “blog worthy” to write about.  I found these country style ribs in the freezer and after thawing them, David put a dry rub on them, slathered them with Sweet Baby Rays and put them in the crock pot to cook for seven hours.

We are leaving today to spend a few days with the family.  I love seeing the Grandkids dress up for Halloween.  Rachel is going to be the Statue of Liberty and Cameron will be a red hot chili pepper.

Happy Halloween everybody.  Maybe this “bloody” mess will put you in the spirit.

I have no pictures of the finished ribs.


3 to 4 pounds Country Style Ribs
2 tbls Paprika
3 tbls Brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bottle Sweet Baby Rays Barbecue Sauce

Mix together the dry rub ingredients.  Massage them into the ribs.  Place the ribs in a crock pot.  Pour barbecue sauce over them.  Cover and cook on low for about 7 hours.

Remove ribs to foil lined sheet pan.  Pour barbecue sauce into a sauce pan.  Skim fat from surface and cook on medium high heat until sauce is slightly reduced and thickened.  Brush ribs with sauce and either put them under the broiler to brown for a few minutes or grill them briefly.

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Labor Day on the Lake

September 7th, 2011

It was the best of times.  There is nothing like spending a long weekend with the family enjoying the end of summer on the lake.  We had cookouts, a birthday to celebrate, a wine tasting and some firsts.  Unfortunately I took very few pictures of the food but will share some of the images from the weekend.

Granddaughter Rachel has been taking swimming lessons and this was the first year that she jumped into the water from the dock.

It was Grandson Cameron’s first visit to Lake Lure.


Uncle Jeff got a chance to wakeboard.

We had a blind wine tasting of Pinot Noir wines from California.  The unanimous winner was a Hendry Vineyard Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2008.  Thank you Dave A. for always bringing a case of Hendry wines to the holiday get together.

The kids had their own blind fruit juice tasting.  The winner was Simply Lemonade.

David smoked two pork butts for our pulled pork dinner.  It was better than any barbecue restaurant in North Carolina.  He made a ketchup based sauce and a vinegar based sauce.

My friend Lyla suggested I try Trisha Yearwood’s recipe for Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese.  In the interest of keeping it real here, I have to tell you that this is not my picture.  I did not remember to take a picture.  The picture came from this site.  The adults absolutely loved the mac and cheese and it was easy to put together.  The kids liked it, but did not love it.  It has something to do with that little box of powdered cheese, if you know what I mean.

We also celebrated our DIL Kristen’s birthday.  I made a Lemon Layer Cake with Raspberry Curd.  I made the cake layers and the raspberry curd ahead of time and frosted the cake on the day that we served it.  The cake layers are split in half and the raspberry curd is spread between the layers.

The raspberry curd  filling was delicious.  The recipe came from a book called Luscious Berry Desserts by Lori Longbotham.  Here it is.


2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
5 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Raspberry Curd:
1 stick unsalted butter
12 ounce package frozen raspberries, thawed
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tablespoons lemon zest
3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Curd Directions:
Melt butter over medium heat.
Add raspberries, yolks, sugar, and salt. Mash raspberries. Cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Pour through a strainer, pressing to extract as much as possible.
Cool to room temperature then stir in lemon juice. Chill.

Cake Directions:
Heat oven to 350. Prepare two 8×2 round cake pans. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Pulse 1/4 cup of the sugar with lemon zest in food processor until finely ground.
Beat butter and zest mixture with electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add remaining sugar and beat until smooth.
Add 1/4 cup milk and beat until just blended. Reduce speed to low and alternately add flour and milk in 3 batches. Beat only until blended, no longer.
Beat egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat to stiff peaks.
Fold the egg whites into the batter carefully.
Divide batter between the two pans and bake about 35 minutes.
Cool 10 minutes in pan then remove and cool completely.

Frosting Directions:

Beat butter and zest until fluffy.
Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Add lemon juice and beat for one minute.


Cut each cake into two layers.
Spread curd in between layers, leaving about a 1/2 inch border.
Spread frosting on sides and top

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© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.