September 19, 2011
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Not only is this classic French braise a wonderful way to make a tough old chicken tender but it is best made with a tough old bird full of flavor. (I used a retired laying hen from Sunny Hill Farm that had been languishing at the bottom of my freezer longer than I care to admit.) Use a full bodied dry red wine like a cabernet sauvignon or a merlot. Although some insist that one must use a good wine for cooking, I find that a reasonable box or jug wine is just fine. (I use Corbett Canyon cabernet sauvignon.) Pearl onions are best in this recipe. If you don’t feel like peeling dozens of tiny onions just use frozen ones. But don’t be tempted to use anything but fresh mushrooms. Traditionally the sauce was thickened with chicken blood mixed with pounded liver and brandy; modern recipes use beurre manie. Rice flour works well if you can to make the dish gluten-free. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the chicken to cook, especially if you are using an old layer otherwise it will be tough.
Note: coq au vin is almost certainly a peasant dish made from a young rooster (coq) or an old laying hen. It would have been made in a large cauldron over an open hearth and once an ingredient went in it did not come back out until the dish was done. Similarly the wine would probably have been rather rough and a few days past drinkability. I have tried to find a middle ground between the farm and the haute cuisine restaurant.
- 2 ounces bacon
- 1 tablespoon oil, butter, or chicken fat
- 1 chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces (see Ode to a Laying Hen)
- 4 ounces pearl onions, thawed if frozen
- 2 ounces carrot, diced
- 2 ounce celery, diced
- 4 to 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 8 ounces mushrooms
- ¼ cup Cognac
- 1½ cup dry red wine
- About 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- A good grind of black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon, ½ ounce, unsalted butter, softened
- 1 Tablespoon, ½ ounce, flour
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Cut the bacon into lardons, i.e. pieces ¼-inch on a side and 1 inch long. If you have sliced bacon cut the slices in half lengthwise and into 1-inch long pieces crosswise. Heat the fat in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and render the bacon until crispy. Remove to a bowl leaving as much fat behind as possible.
Turn the heat up a bit and, working in batches, brown the chicken pieces well on all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium. Sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Continue to cook until the onions begin to brown and the mushrooms give off their liquid.
Return the chicken pieces to the pot and pour in the brandy. Turn off the vent hood if it is on and light the vapors with a long match. When the flames die down, add the wine and enough stock to just cover the chicken. Return the lardons to the pot and season everything with thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the hot oven. Bake for about 45 minutes for a young bird or at least 1½ hours for an old one.
At the end of the baking time return the pot to the stove top. Combine the butter and flour into a smooth paste, beurre manie. Stir into the broth and bring to a boil to thicken.
Serve hot over noodles or potatoes. Or, best of all, by itself with some crusty French bread.
March 22, 2011
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Literally “soup of galangal and chicken” this Thai favorite, served simply ladled over jasmine rice, is meal in a bowl. Like most Thai dishes it strikes a balance of sweet and sour, savory and bitter. It can be made quite spicy but need not be to taste delicious. A few words about ingredients that may be unfamiliar: galangal is rhizome similar to ginger. Most Asian markets carry it but if you can not find fresh galangal, use powdered or, as a last resort, ginger. Lemon grass is a tall perennial grass native to Asia. Again, most Asian markets carry it fresh. Lemon rind is an alternative. As I discussed in a recent post, coconut milk is not the liquid inside a coconut but is extracted from grated coconut meat, either fresh or desiccated. You can find canned coconut milk in most supermarkets but I strongly recommend making your own so that you have both thick and thin milks. Finally, straw mushrooms are traditionally used in tom kha gai—they are available canned—but ordinary white mushrooms taste fine even if they do not look quite as good. Incidentally, you could make this into tom kha pla but substituting white fish for the chicken or tom kha goong with shrimp. I even found online what is said to be the Thai prime minister’s recipe for tom kha salmon.
- 2 stalks fresh lemon grass
- 1½ cups chicken stock
- 1½ cups thin coconut milk
- 1-inch piece of fresh galangal, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 2 green chilies, whole, optional
- 1 large chicken breast, 8 to 12 ounces, cut into smallish bite-sized cubes
- 4 medium mushrooms, quartered
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce
- Chopped fresh red chilies to taste
- 1 scallion, white and tender green parts, sliced thinly at an angle
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 Tbsp. shredded kaffir lime leaves, optional
Trim off the ends of the lemon grass stalks and cut off 2-inch pieces from the bottom and chop finely. Cut the remaining lengths of stalks into 2-inch pieces and bruise with the side of a large knife. Combine the chicken stock and thin coconut milk in a suitable saucepan and add the lemon grass, galangal, pepper corns, and whole chilies. Bring to a boil then simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain into a bowl, wipe out the saucepan, then return the broth to it.
Simmer the chicken and mushrooms in the broth, stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the thick coconut milk and return to a simmer. Remove from the heat then mix in the lemon juice and fish sauce. Garnish with the chopped red chilies, scallion, cilantro, and kaffir lime leave. Serve immediately ladled over hot jasmine rice
To make coconut milk
Put 1 cup of unsweetened desiccated coconut into the jar of a blender (a food processor does not work as well) and pour in 1¼ cups boiling water. Allow to stand for a few minutes then blend on high speed for about 30 seconds. Pour into a strainer over a bowl. Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the coconut. This is called thick coconut milk. Return the coconut to the blender and repeat the process with another 1¼ cup of boiling water. Strain into a second bowl. This is the thin coconut milk. If a recipe does not specify which to use I simply mix them together. To get coconut cream, let the thick milk sit until it separates. The cream is what forms on top.
Whatever you do not use right away will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. Warm a bit in the microwave to recombine before using.
February 15, 2011
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Hedgehog mushrooms are one of two species of Hydnum, H. repandum or H. umbilicatum, similar to chanterelles. (As nearly as I can determine the ones I bought at Wegman’s today are the latter.) Like chanterelles they are delicious cooked with shallots in a bit of butter. A splash of dry sherry and a dash of cream round out a lovely sauce for pork medallions—pieces of pork tenderloin pounded thin and quickly sautéed. Serve them over mashed potatoes accompanied by a peas and pearl onions.
- 1 pork tenderloin
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 medium shallots, finely diced
- 3 oz. hedgehog mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup dry sherry
- ¼ cup heavy cream
Heat the oven to 170°F then turn off. Put two dinner plates into the warm oven.
Cut four 1-inch thick pieces from the center of the tenderloin. Remove the membrane (silverskin) and trim any excess fat. Stand the pieces on a cut side and pound to an even ¼-inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot put the pork medallions into the pan in a single layer. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes per side then remove to a plate in the oven and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
Reduce heat to medium, add the shallot to the pan and cook until softened but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they give off their liquid, about another 2 or 3 minutes. Pour in the sherry and boil until nearly gone, deglazing the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the cream and boil for a couple of minutes until the sauce is nicely thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Return the pork to the pan along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Turn to coat with sauce. Serve immediately.
February 11, 2011
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Making Italian American classics like lasagna gluten free is a challenge. One can use gluten-free noodles—in my opinion generally inedible—or you can just eliminate the noodles entirely and use slices of eggplant in their place. The result is a bit like eggplant parmesan but with layers of oozy ricotta filling. Because I am a fan of one dish meals with balanced nutrition I add some spinach to the cheese. The Italian sausage is optional but I like the spiciness it adds to the dish. If you leave it out consider adding a bit of crushed red pepper to the sauce. I use low-fat rather than non-fat ricotta and mozzarella because I think they have a better texture. Full-fat or non-fat would work equally well if you prefer. Buon appetitto!
A note on cutting the eggplant: I did it by hand and got 6 large center slices; next time I’ll use a mandolin and go for eight.
- 1 large eggplant
- Olive oil
- 1 link Italian sausage or 4 ounces bulk
- 4 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups marinara sauce, preferably homemade
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and chopped medium fine
- ⅛ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan
Preheat the broiler and, if you have one, a searing grid. Cut the top off the eggplant and peel it if you wish (I don’t). Cut into thin slices reserving the small side pieces for another use. Drizzle with olive oil on both sides being careful not to use too much—eggplant is like a sponge for oil. Working in batches if need be, grill for 3 to 5 minutes on a side. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350°.
If using link sausage remove the casing. Film a pan with olive oil, set over medium heat, and crumble the sausage into it. Brown, stirring often, for about 3 minutes then add the mushrooms, sprinkle with ½ tsp. of salt, and continue to sauté until done, about another 3 to 5 minutes. Season with a generous grind of black pepper. Off heat, stir in the marinara sauce and set aside.
Combine the ricotta cheese, egg, spinach, and nutmeg in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Lightly oil a suitably sized baking dish and cover the bottom with a thin coating of tomato sauce. Place two slices of eggplant over it with the tops at opposite ends. Spread with half the ricotta cheese mixture. Add two more slices of eggplant and cover with half the remaining tomato sauce. Continue with the rest of the ingredients. Cover the top with the mozzarella and sprinkle on the parmesan. Bake in the bottom of the hot oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is melted and lightly browned.
January 16, 2011
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It may sound a bit odd to call a barley dish a pilaf but I figured that if one can make a barley risotto there was no reason to not make a pilaf with it as well. Barley is, sadly, a much neglected grain in this country except by microbreweries (the national breweries use malted barley as well but adulterate it with corn or rice which is why they are generally not fit to drink). Beef, mushroom, and barley soup was very popular at one time and is still a staple for many home cooks. In this dish I sought to bring the flavors of that soup to a more substantial meal. The trick to a pilaf like this is to build it up bit by bit making sure that each ingredient is properly cooked before adding the next. The preparation will take you half an hour to forty-five minutes.
- 1 cup, about 4 ounces, pearled barley
- 1 Tbsp. oil
- 1 pound beef cut into 1-inch cubes, I used sirloin because it is what I had on hand
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced (optional but recommended)
- Butter or oil as needed
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups beef or other brown stock, I used lamb stock because it was what I had
Rinse the barley well and set aside.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the beef cubes in a single layer. Brown well, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350° (325° for convection).
Reduce heat to medium low, adjust the fat in the pot and add the onions, carrot, and celery. Sweat gently for about 10 minutes. (Sweating is similar to sautéing but at a lower heat because the object is to soften the vegetables and express their liquid without browning them.) Add the mushrooms and garlic, if using, to the pot along with a bit of butter or oil if needed. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. of salt to help the mushroom release their liquid. Continue to cook gently for another 9 or 10 minutes. Return the beef to pot and add the barley and stock. Season with a generous grind of black pepper. Stir to combine, raise heat, and bring to a boil. Cover and place in the hot oven for about 30 minutes or until most of the stock has been absorbed.
November 11, 2010
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This is a great recipe if you have a pressure cooker because you can do the rice and then the stuffed peppers in it saving a lot of time and energy. I have provided directions for either pressure or conventional cooking. You can mix and match if you wish, for example, preparing the rice in the pressure cooker then baking the peppers conventionally or vice versa. Of course, if you have leftover cooked rice of any kind you can use it instead of the red rice. And do not let the wild mushrooms scare you off; regular white mushrooms are good too. Incidentally, this recipe can be made vegetarian or vegan by replacing the beef stock with vegetable stock and the butter with olive oil. (Note that the term “wild mushrooms” refers to cultivated varieties more properly called exotics.)
Serves 2 to 4
- 1 cup Bhutan red rice
- ½ cup Lundberg Wild Blend® (or all of one or of the other)
- 2 tsp. butter
- 3 cups vegetable stock or water
- ½ Tbsp. butter
- ½ Tbsp. olive oil
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- 4 ounces mixed wild mushrooms, I used maitake, shiitake, chanterelle, and royal trumpet mushrooms
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. dry vermouth (optional)
- ¼ cup brown (beef) stock or vegetable stock (plus ½ cup for cooking the peppers)
- Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- 4 green bell peppers of about the same size
- Marinara sauce to serve (optional)
Rinse the rice and place in the pressure cooker along with the butter and stock. Cook at high pressure (15 psi) for 10 minutes, timing from when the cooker reaches full pressure. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes then release the pressure and open according to manufacturer’s instructions. Remove the rice to a large bowl and set aside to cool somewhat. Wash out the pressure cooker.
Non-pressure cooker alternative: bring the rice and stock to a boil in a pot with a tightly-fitting lid and simmer over low heat for 40 to 45 minutes.
Clean the mushrooms and tear or chop them into roughly ½-inch pieces. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Sauté the onion until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and salt. Continue to sauté until the mushrooms are lightly browned and start to give off their moisture, about another 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the vermouth and boil down for a few seconds then add the stock. Boil until nearly evaporated. Let cool for a couple of minutes then stir into the cooked rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place the trivet into the bottom of the pressure cooker and add water just to the top (make sure that the amount of water is at least as much as the manufacturer’s recommended minimum). Cut the tops off of the peppers removing as little as possible. Cut out the ribs and remove the seeds. Fill each pepper with the rice mixture mounding it over the top a bit. Arrange the peppers in the pressure cooker and pour 2 Tbsp. of stock in each. Cook at low pressure (10 psi) for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, release pressure, open according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve topped with marinara sauce if desired.
Non-pressure cooker alternative: Heat the oven to 350°. Stand the peppers in a suitable oven-proof dish and bake for about 1 hour.
October 31, 2010
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This French classic is beef stew at its very best. Of course with a dish this popular there are a seemingly endless number of subtly different recipes. For my starting point I went to the master, Julia Child, from whose Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York 1961) I adapted this version. Despite my having simplified it a bit it is still rather involved but the result is well worth the effort. Serve it with boiled potatoes and green peas.
- 4 ounces thick-sliced bacon, about 4 or 5 rashers, sliced crosswise into match-size strips
- 2 pounds stewing beef, I used eye round, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Flour, I used rice flour for a gluten-free preparation
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, halved lengthwise then sliced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- ¼ cup Cognac mixed with ¼ cup brown stock
- 2 cups dry red wine
- Additional brown stock
- Large pinch dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Salt and pepper
- 12 brown-braised onions
- 6 ounces mushrooms, sautéed in butter
Film the bottom of an enameled Dutch oven with olive oil and render the bacon over medium heat until just crispy. Remove leaving as much fat in the pan as possible. Set aside.
Toss the beef cubes with flour to coat lightly. Raise the heat to medium high and, working in batches, brown the meat thoroughly. Set aside with the bacon.
Preheat the oven to 325°. Reduce heat under the Dutch oven to medium and cook the onion and carrot until softened and starting to brown. Deglaze the pan with the Cognac and stock scraping up all the stuck bits adding a bit more stock if needed. Return the beef and bacon to the pot; add the wine and enough stock to just cover the meat. Add the thyme, bay leaves, and garlic. Bring to boil, cover, and place in the oven for about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender. After 30 minutes or so check to see that the stew is at a gentle simmer and reduce or raise the heat as needed.
While the meat cooks, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set aside.
When the beef is done, empty the contents of the pot into a large strainer set over bowl or sauce pan. Remove the bay leaves and return the meat to the pot. Defat the sauce and thicken to coat the back of a spoon by boiling for a few minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Layer the prepared onions and mushrooms over the meat and pour the sauce over. Heat briefly before serving.
- 12 small white or yellow onions, about 1 inch in diameter, peeled
- 1 tsp. butter
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- Pinch dried thyme
- ½ cup brown stock
Heat the butter and oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté, tossing often, until nicely browned, about 10 minutes. You will not be able to get them completely evenly browned but that is fine. Sprinkle with the thyme and pour in the stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer gently for about 30 to 40 minutes. (If you are making a stew, just pop the covered frying pan into the oven instead.) Uncover and let most of the liquid evaporate.
October 30, 2010
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While in the US eye round is considered a lesser cut of beef it is very popular with our English-speaking cousins in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa where it is often called braising steak. Granted, because it is so lean, it can be somewhat chewy if handled carelessly but grilled to no more than medium rare or braised slowly for a good long time it is delicious indeed. And furthermore it is very affordable: I buy a full eye of round, about 6 to 7 pounds, in the original cryopak from my local MaineSource where it usually sells for around $2.79 a pound. After trimming what little external fat is on the meat I have a week or more of meals for about $3.oo per pound.
I adapted this recipe from a website in the UK. As a matter of Gallic pride I served it with something a Brit would never eat: garlic mashed potatoes.
2 eye round steaks, about ¾-inch thick or roughly 7 ounces each
1 onion, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
½ pound assorted exotic mushrooms or ordinary white mushrooms
¼ cup dry sherry
½ cup brown (beef) stock
Olive oil and butter
Salt and pepper
Turn the oven on to 300°. Rinse the mushrooms and slice or chop them coarsely. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Film the hot skillet with oil and sear the meat for about 2 minutes on each side. Set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium, add a bit more oil and butter to the skillet, and sauté the onions for about five minutes or until softened but not browned. Put the mushrooms in the skillet along with a good pinch of salt. Sauté until the mushrooms give off their moisture, about 5 minutes. Add the sherry and stock stirring to deglaze the pan. Return the steaks to the pan and bury in the mushrooms. Cover and place into the oven for one hour, turning halfway. Uncover for the last 10 minutes or so to concentrate the juices.
October 29, 2010
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This afternoon our local Wegman’s had a really nice selection of wild mushrooms. Really cultivated exotics, these mushrooms have a wonderful subtle range of flavors from woodsy to funky. The price per pound may seem high but a little goes a long ways. I like to buy several varieties and mix them. They are a great accompaniment for sea scallops which I sear quickly in a bit of butter and serve simply with deglazed pan juices and a bit of butter.
The Sea Scallops
- 8 large sea scallops, about ½ pound
- Salt and pepper
- ½ Tbsp. unsalted butter
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- Another ½ Tbsp. unsalted butter
Rinse and pat dry the scallops. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the butter in a skillet over high heat until it starts to brown. Put in the scallops in one layer. Cook for 2 minutes then turn over for another 2 minutes. Remove and keep warm.
Deglaze the pan with the wine then, off heat, stir in the butter, and serve over the scallops.
Leek and Wild Mushroom Risotto
- 6 ounces of mixed exotic mushrooms, I used chanterelle, maitake, royal trumpet, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms
- Extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- Unsalted butter
- 1 leek, trimmed
- 1½ cups Arborio rice
- ½ cup dry vermouth
- 3 cups chicken stock with 1 cup water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Unsalted butter
Give the mushrooms a quick rinse—contrary to what you may have heard it will not hurt them—and cut or tear them into coarse pieces. Heat ½ Tbsp. olive oil and ½ Tbsp. butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and the salt which will help them give up their moisture. Sauté, tossing or stirring regularly, until the mushrooms give up their moisture, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Quarter the leek lengthwise and slice thinly. Bring the chicken stock and water to a simmer. Heat 1 tsp. of olive oil and 1 tsp. of butter in a deep saucepan and sweat the leek for about 4 or 5 minutes until soft but not browned. Add the rice and stir for two minutes until well coated with the oil and slightly chalky. Pour in the vermouth and let the alcohol boil off. Using a 2 ounce ladle add about 1 cup of stock. Stir constantly until it is nearly absorbed. Continue to add stock 3 ounces at a time, stirring until nearly dry, until all the stock has been added and the rice is creamy and done but with a bit of “tooth.”
Stir in the mushrooms, taste, and adjust seasonings. When the mushrooms are warmed through, remove from heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. of butter.
October 28, 2010
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This simple Italian chicken dish is quick and easy to make and delicious over rice or pasta. Try it!
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 1 large one, about 8 to 10 ounces total
- 2 Tbsp. flour, rice flour works fine
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- Unsalted butter
- 6 ounces mushrooms
- ½ cup Marsala wine
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
If using a single large chicken breast halve it through the thickness. Pound the chicken thinly and evenly. Dredge in the flour to coat.
Heat olive oil and a like amount of butter in frying pan over medium-high heat and sauté the chicken, turning once, until lightly browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm.
Reduce the heat to medium. If needed add a bit of butter and the mushrooms to the pan. Sprinkle with a little salt to help the mushrooms express their moisture and sauté until they do, about 4 or 5 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the Marsala and reduce by half. Add the chicken stock, raise the heat, and stirring often boil down until nearly evaporated. Off heat stir in butter to thicken, about 1 Tbsp. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Put the chick breasts into the pan along with any juices from the plate they were on. Turn to coat and rewarm through.