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A chicken dinner that would make a chicken proud.

5 Feb

Tuesday night was probably one of the finer chicken meals I’ve had.  I know that is a strong, blanket statement, but its quite true.  The tastes in this meal combined to be sublime and smooth with a nice depth.  Again, the fine members over at Epicurious.com came through with Supremes Au Vin Blanc (Chicken in white wine) and pan-roasted asparagus with thyme.

Now I do have to take a moment and brag on my herb keeper.  My thyme from New Years Eve is still alive and kicking strong.  My two week old mint still looks like its planted in dirt.  I’m amazed and am most likely going to be getting a second keeper since the one I have is completely packed and overflowing.  Plus my asparagus is getting jealous.

Back to the chicken.  Mmmm, the chicken.  The recipe I made was nearly to the letter of what the author wrote except for the addition of some thinly sliced Shitake mushrooms.  After the chicken was cooked and the wine sauce was reducing, I sauteed the mushrooms in olive oil and added them to the reduction.  I also found the reduction to be too thin for a sauce that was to sit nicely on the chicken and plate.  So I threw half a tablespoon of flour in about two tablespoons of water and added that to the reduction just before I planned to plate the food.  Again, I’ve found that a butterflied chicken breast is enough for both of us.

I have to take another side.  What is with the “organic” chicken breasts at the stores now?  And who considers these monster chickens natural?  What are they fed…organic steroids?  These are really the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the chicken world.  Can they even walk?  Thank you to the producers of these freaks of the animal kingdom, but I’ll stick to a chicken that can see its feet.

This recipe and combination for me was 5 licks and a paw.  It could possibly be made better by someone like Chef Ramsey, but I’d like to see him try!

Since I changed things slightly, the recipe I used was as follows:

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Chicken
1 medium to large chicken(no, not monster chicken) breast, butterflied
2 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup flour
1 tbsp olive oil
3 oz Shitake mushrooms
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
2 pinches of salt
1/4 ground pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 tbsp flour whisked in 2 tbsp water

Asparagus
12 stalks asparagus
5 fresh sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil

Preparation:

Begin with the asparagus by adding the butter, olive oil, and thyme to a large skillet on medium to medium-high heat.  Once you see the butter start to bubble, add the asparagus and turn down the heat slightly to avoid burning the olive oil.  Cook until nicely browned/blackened in spots, about 15 minutes.

For the chicken, add the butter and olive oil to a non-stick saute pan on medium-high heat.  Dredge the chicken in the flour to coat evenly and add to the pan.  Cook the chicken for a minute or two (depending on thickness) per side.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to small skillet on medium-high heat.  Saute mushrooms for 2-3 minutes.  At the same time, add the broth and rest of the ingredients to the saute pan.  Add the mushrooms to the reduction.  Lay chicken breasts in reduction and simmer until reduced by half.  Remove chicken to plates and stir in flour and water to the reduction and simmer for another minute or until slightly thickened.  Drizzle sauce over chicken and add sprig of parsley for garnish.  Remove asparagus from pan and plate.

Desert

Maple oat banana muffinsHaving a sweet tooth is a bad thing at times, or so I’m told.  So I decided to go at my sweet tooth with less guilt and add my daily fruit with my sugar.  Its like the old argument that apple pie is good for you!  I decided on maple oat banana muffins.  I think the aroma while cooking is enough to satisfy your cravings.  I followed the recipe to the letter, so there’s nothing really to add.  They were divine…..and all 12 were gone by noon the next day.  Hey I shoveled a lot and needed the calories to keep warm!

Maple oat banana muffins

And for the rating…..a solid 4.75 licks.  Moist, melt-in-your-mouth, banana goodness.

Now playing: C’est Si Bon by Louis Armstrong
Next recipe: Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Frittata

Bringing summer to a cold winter lunch.

5 Feb

There are some things that speak summer in their nature.  Fennel has a way of doing that with its complex, cool tastes.  Oranges and lemons can also invoke that warm, open feel of summer.  The salad that was chosen for Tuesday has all of those qualities, and on a cold winter day, it at least reminds us that a summer is inevitably going to come back.

This is our second go at this fennel and citrus salad.  The first time turned out a decent salad, but the citrus was overpowering.  I toned things down quite a bit and I think it helped it become a real winner for those hot days.  I can see it being served with a glass of sun tea out on the porch with the birds chirping and the dog dropping her ever increasingly untouchable ball in your lap.

I’ve used more fennel in the last month than I believe I’ve eaten in my entire life.  I’m sure I’ve run into it in the past without being aware of my encounter, but that doesn’t count!  I’m always surprised what a citrus aroma it gives off while slicing.  Its a very soft, pleasant smell that makes this plant very enjoyable to use.  I used only half a lemon in the dressing which really toned down the citrus flavor, and I increased the oil slightly until the taste came out smooth.  Teaches me to taste often enough!  I was using regular lemons both rounds, so I’m not sure how the Meyer lemons are going to differ if you are using those.

Sorry for the photo on this one, the point and shoot just isn’t enough, but it was closer.  Oh and yes I’m sure your noticing, I didn’t have any poppy seeds either.

Other than cutting the orange in such a precise manner, this dish is very quick to make.  It won’t hold you all afternoon, so be ready with a little munchy about 3pm or so, but its worth the sacrifice.  I give the new less-citrus version of this salad 4 licks.

Now playing: Suavito by Malecon Social Club (yes I’m in a tango mood right now)

Its all in the eggs.

5 Feb

Tuesday was slower and MUCH snowier so that lend itself to be a nice cooking day.  There’s nothing better than a warm oven when you’ve got swirling, howling snow pelting the windows.  Now what I could make to have an excuse not to shovel was up for question.

I started the day by serving baked eggs with garlic sauteed spinach and polenta. I’ve been wanting to make a baked egg recipe for a while.  The original recipe called for Swiss chard, but given that it was snowing buckets out and I had a bundle of beautiful, fresh spinach, it seemed like the right thing to do.  I did find out much like the original author that this recipe is dependent on your eye and your oven.  If the two cooperate then you will come out with a very respectable dish.

Well….

Either my eyes are off or my oven has a hot streak.  Just like he said, my eggs came out a bit on the cooked side.  It didn’t ruin the dish, but you didn’t have any gooey goodness going on with the eggs.

Well ahead of myself, I have to mention the polenta.  I’m new to cooking it, and didn’t keep the packaging for the cooking ratio.  Finding a quick explanation on the web (did I mention I love the internet in the kitchen?), I got down to cooking my polenta.  I ended up with the perfect creamy consistency, but made enough for about 5 or 6 people.  Note for the future, use just half a cup at most for two people.  Another problem I ran into was that it was quite bland.  Figuring as much before I started, I included some chives and thyme, salt and pepper, and butter but those fell short.  I’m not quite sure what it needed but there was something missing.

Once you have the polenta cooked and in the dishes, the rest goes quick.  The seasoning on the spinach and eggs where spot on and very good.  Add to that the fresh grated Parmesan at each layer and you have a winner.  If I could only fix that polenta….

Overall this gets a 3.25 licks.  I think it might have the potential for more if the polenta had more depth.

Now playing: Seguriya by Carlos Montoya

Away but not forgotten.

5 Feb

So by now you’ve all probably thought we’ve left and this whole cooking thing was a fad.  Not so, we’re back!  Last week made up for a month or more of dryspell for my business.  Apparently 2011 is going to be a bit busier than 2010, and that’s a good thing.  Unfortunately at times it will mean less cooking, or less blogging.  Now this last week was a bit of both but I do have some catching up to do.

Monday was probably the most cliche work Monday there could be.  Work load, problems, and a hectic schedule landed us in the grab and run eating mode.  There’s not much to say about the cooking that day.  To be quite honest, I can’t remember what I ate!

I do have to stop for a minute before getting to Tuesday and reiterate what we’re all about.  Given that I’m just getting my feet wet with “real” cooking, there’s not a lot of experimentation going on.  I’m lucky to follow someone else’s directions and get something edible.  What I’m doing is finding what might look good and reporting on if I was able to come out with a respectable result.  Or what I might have substituted based on a need, not necessarily a burning desire, or knowledge of something better.  I know one of the hardest things to do on a daily basis is come up with recipe ideas for the family, especially when you are trying to be more creative than pizza or mac-n-cheese.  Bear with me through the journey of this food discovery and you never know, I might surprise you one day with an original creation.  Until then, we’re going to sift through the thousands of recipes out there and see what looks good.

Now playing: Candy by Nat King Cole

A little late….but oh so worth it!

1 Feb

Okay I was beat to punch line by Scrubbie.  I’ll just have to make up for it by making you drool again!  Sunday night’s dinner was one that will stick in our minds for a while.  Some of the fragrances are still hanging in the kitchen in spots.  Its kind of like looking for the best sound spot in a room.  We come in and try to find the pockets of scent to be able to relive that meal once more.

I began the meal with preparing the kale and potato cakes.  As I’ve said before, I love the smell of garlic and shallots while they saute.

While the garlic, shallots, and kale were sauteing, I cooked and mashed the potatoes.  I didn’t use Idaho as suggested in the recipe because I had some red potatoes left over from the other night.  Like I said, we have had to see what we can put together after spending a fortune at the store last week.

The potatoes came out wonderfully creamy.  It could be due to that fantastic product…..butter.  As the movie Julie & Julia said, everything is better with butter.  I believe I’ve used more butter in the past three weeks than I have in the past three years.

The recipe I followed for the chicken was straight forward and unchanged.  I butterflied our chicken breast again to save on the portion size.  We’ve both decided that a full chicken breast makes for a meal and a half for either one of us.  Now we know how the French afford those other ingredients…..they always cut their meat in half!

The dish came out absolutely perfect except for the fact I used too much sauce when plating.  The driving reason was that it was in the pan, and I felt bad for not using it.  Since the sauce was made of of lemon juice and chicken stock, its a strong sauce.  Use less than you think you should and the meal will be spot on.  The recipe makes many more potato cakes than you are going to need for two people, even a few more than for four.  Luckily, they freeze well.

Overall I give this dish 4 licks because of the sauce incident.  Without that, I would probably go to a 4.5 or 4.75.  Without a doubt a do-over at some point.

Now playing: Bassoon Concerto, for bassoon, strings & continuo in C major, RV 474 by Antonio Vivaldi
Next recipe: TBD

Snow, wind, warm dog beds, and hot muffins

1 Feb

A happy blizzard evening to you all–at least to us up here in the frozen North

This is a wonderful evening for hot fresh muffins!  I have finished the dishes, moved the dog’s bed so she can be near us, and brought my laptop into the kitchen to make sure I am as close to the muffins as possible.  You have to enjoy things while they last.

There is nothing like a warm kitchen on a chilly windy night.  People have gathered in the kitchen/cooking space for thousands of years.  When we got married, we somehow fit 15 people into our kitchen.  Granted it was much bigger than the one we have now.  Everyone was relaxed and happy.  We were all in each others’ way and the sound of chatter was almost overwhelming.  Nobody cared.  There is nothing like 15 noisy people in a hot kitchen.  🙂

A few nights ago, we had one of the best meals of my life (it was lemon caper chicken served with potato and kale cakes with roulle).  For once I’m actually ahead of the chef, so the recipe is coming.  I’m still recovering. I give that one 5 licks.  I would have given it a paw, but there was too much sauce.   I hated to finish that meal.  It was hard to wash those dishes.

We’ve had several meals and a chance to compare tastes, colors, textures, and clean-up effort.   This is giving us the chance to talk about what we like best and our difference tastes.  I like the bolder flavors.  Chef likes his food mellow and smooth.

It’s off to more muffins.  They are maple oat banana.  I think I could eat 20.  Maybe I will since  I probably need to fatten up to protect myself in the blizzard.  I’m sure in a minute I can come up with a zillion more excuses.

Scrubbie

You will never look at grilled cheese the same way.

31 Jan

Before I go on and on about this dish, let me just get your mouth watering a little:

Okay now that I have your attention, let’s get down to it.  I found this recipe for the greatest grilled cheese on Tastespotting.com.  That website is a virtual smorgasbord, a visual feast, every time you visit.  Do NOT visit that site while hungry.  You’ve been warned!

We’ve had this dish several times for lunch and have loved it equally every time.  You will most likely never want a ‘standard’ grilled cheese ever again.

I only varied from the recipe slightly in a few spots.  First off, I used a single layer of prosciutto under the cheese.  It gives it just a touch more flavor and ever so slightly more texture.  Follow that by changing out the cheese with a mouth-watering aged Asiago, sliced very thin.  Caution…..use a very sharp knife for that, it likes to crumble.  The only other change was one that was mentioned at the end of the recipe.  I used slightly more than a few drops of white wine.  When a few drops is good, a smattering is much better.  Follow up everything with a layer of smoked paprika and you are all set.  The kitchen will smell good for hours and you’ll be satiated until the next meal.  I’ll give this dish 4.75 licks on a bad day.

Next recipe: Leek, asparagus & herb soup
Now playing: Swanee River by Tommy Dorsey

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