Thursday, November 11, 2010

RECIPE: Chicken with Leeks and Garlic (THE EASIEST chicken recipe ever)

This recipe would easily make my greatest hits recipe mix CD.

This versatile dish stands up to being served to guests or a constant on your weekday menu.  Serve along side a starch that can sop up the delicious sauce (pictured, wild rice, parsley, mushroom salad, recipe below as well).  Try this with thighs, breasts, legs...whatever you have in your fridge.  I recommended boneless, skinless chicken thighs.



Chicken with Leeks and Garlic
Serves 3-4

2 tsp grapeseed or olive oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 leek, white and light green parts only.  Sliced lengthwise, sliced into 1 inch half moons
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 (or so) cups of white wine
1 small pat of cold butter (Let's say under a tablespoon, but no one's stopping you from adding more.)
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and white pepper, to taste

Prep the leeks:

If you don't know how to prep leeks for cooking, not to worry.  It's super easy.  First, cut off the root end and discard.  Next, cut right where the light green starts to turn to dark, tough green.  You don't want the tough, dark green part...rinse and save for stock.  Leeks grow in sand and are pretty dirty when you get them at the market.  So now you need to remove the sand.  Easy!  Cut down the white/light green stalk you've reserved lengthwise.  Next, cut crosswise, into 1 inch half moons.  Place your sliced leeks into a large bowl of cold water.  Agitate.  Let sit for a few minutes (15 or so).  The sand will sink to the bottom and your clean leek will float to the top!

Season your chicken with salt and pepper.  Preheat medium skillet (one that has a tight-fitting lid and is big enough to hold all of the chicken comfortably) on medium high heat.  Add oil.  When the oil is hot (shimmering, almost smoking), place your chicken in the pan.  After 2-3 minutes, turn.  Cook on the opposite side for another 203 minutes...until you get a nice brown sear.  Set aside.  Don't worry about cooking it all the way through, we'll finish them off later.

In the same pan add leeks, cook until soft, about 1 minute.  Add garlic, keep it all moving for another minute...until everything is nice and fragrant.  Add your chicken breast back on top of the leek mixture.  Pour wine in to just about cover the chicken, but not quite.  This will be your braising liquid.  Bring to a boil, then tune it down to a low simmer.  Put the lid on.  You should be on low heat now.  Walk away for 20 minutes  (less time if you are using breasts...those tend to get too tough when you over cook them).

Remove just the chicken on to a plate, tent with foil to keep warm.  Reduce the liquid by a third.  Remove the skillet from the heat.  Swirl in the cold butter.  Add the parsley.  Taste it!  Season it! Spoon over chicken.


RECIPE: Brown Rice/Wild Rice, Mushroom, Parsley Salad

I'm not sure what to call it, but I refuse to make up silly names for things that can't be categorized like Rachel Ray (Stewp?  Seriously?).

Great served room temperature or warm, I'll eat it any way I can get it.  I use a brown /wild rice mixture and cook it in my rice cooker, making this recipe even easier.  Cut down on the parsley if you don't like it as much...but in my opinion it is an underrated herb.   I like to let the parsley be the star in this "salad".  The batch I made below had too little parsley.

RECIPE: Brown Rice/Wild Rice, Mushroom, Parsley Salad
Serves 4


1 cup uncooked Brown Rice/Wild Rice
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb (one package) baby portabella mushrooms, washed, quartered,  and dried
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Juice from 1 lemon
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
salt and pepper

Cook rice according to directions.  1 cup uncooked should yield about 2 cups cooked.  In a preheated medium skillet, heat about 2 tsps of the olive oil.  In batches, saute the mushrooms, ensuring a nice brown sear.  I can't stress the batch sauteing...if you don't give mushrooms a little space to cook, the moisture in the pan will steam them or the oil temp will drop in the pan, and no brown sear for you.  And don't forget to season!

To make the dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil (try using a good extra virgin oil for the dressing) and lemon juice.  Add rice, mushrooms and parsley.  Combine.  Taste, season.  Garnish with cheese. Enjoy!

Friday, October 8, 2010

RECIPE: Reinventing Game Day Chili

I love chili.  I like my chili beefy, spicy, with tender meat.  Before now, my chili was nothing to look forward to: dry, tough ground meat,  kidney beans and tomato sauce.  It tasted like I had combined beans, ground hamburger meat with a jar of spaghetti sauce.  I wanted to turn this recipe around and make a better homemade chili.

The first challenge was to solve the problem of dry, tough meat.  I decided to use an unconventional method of tenderizing the meat...I combined the meat with a panade.  A panade is (according to Epicurious.com) "a thick paste made by mixing bread crumbs, flour, rice, etc. with water, milk, stock, butter or sometimes egg yolks."  This is generally used to bing meatballs or fishcakes.  I remember reading an old issue of Cooks Illustrated, and they used this method to make a quick and tender bolognese.  Why not use it for chili?  I soaked a slice of white, crustless bread in about a half cup of whole milk.  Pulsed it in the food processor, then added my meats and pulsed together.  


The second challenge was trying to avoid using a tomato base, but still achieving the consistency of tomato sauce..something for the meat and beans to cling to.  I decided to brown tomato paste and then add a good quality beef stock.  It did the trick...no tomato sauce here in this recipe.


I also wanted big onion flavor but didn't want so many chunks of onions interfering with the chili texture.  I solved this by making a jalepeno, onion, garlic mixture (think...sofrito) in the food processor and additionally only chopping one onion.  This ensured there would be a nice onion flavor throughout as the "sofrito" melts into the dish and the one chopped onion adds some texture.


Enough of the chit chat!  Trust me..this is good:






Game Day Chili
Serves 6-8

1 pound ground veal/pork mixture
1 pound ground beef  ( I've been grinding my own meat lately, but, the supermarket meat works fine in this recipe.  See note below on how easy it is to grind your own meat)
1 slice of crustless, white bread
1/2 cup of whole milk
3 onions, chopped
3 jalapeños, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 cups of good quality beef stock
1 can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
salt, pepper

In a small bowl, soak the bread in milk.  Let stand, long enough for the bread to fully absorb the milk, minimum of 15 minutes.

In the food processor combine two of the onions, garlic, and jalapeños.  Pulse until the consistency is almost a paste...not quite a puree (think, sofrito).  Set aside.  Finely chop the remaining onion.  In an empty food processor add the panade.  Pulse into a thick paste.  To the panade add all of the meat.  Pulse in the food processor until everything is well combined.  Don't worry, this won't toughen the meat...the panade is in the to make sure it'll stay nice and tender.  Set aside.

Pre-heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add meat mixture.  Break up with the back of a wooden spoon.  The meat should easily break up.  Add the one chopped onion.  Cook until the meat is done.  Transfer the meat to a separate bowl. Sauté the sofrito in the Dutch oven until all of the veggies are soft.  Add the tomato paste.  Combine well with the sofrito mix, until it looses its bright red color.  Add beef.  Stir well and add spices.  Combine well and add stock and beans.  Stir and simmer for about 15 minutes...until desired consistency is achieved.  Add more stock if you want a soupier chili.   Since we doctored up the meat, believe it or not, it's ready to eat when the beans are cooked through.


Note:  If you have a food processor, it's a cinch to grind your own meat.  If I'm not sure the establishment where I'm purchasing the meat from grinds the meat in house, I prefer to grind my own.  You never know how many different cows are in your package!  Gross.  Just take the cut of your choice, roughly chop into 2 inch pieces, removing any undesired fat.  Pulse through the food processor.  What a cinch!  It's a little rough on the wallet as you may be paying 7 bucks a pound to maybe 2 bucks...but at least you know where it came from.  All of this STILL sound like a pain?  Find a butcher or store that grinds their meat in house.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

RECIPE: CSA Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

Our CSA basket is starting to taste like fall...and I had two large acorn squash (es?) staring at me for an entire week on my kitchen counter.  Overcome by the guilt of giving away my last batch of squash, I decided to stop being lazy and cook the them.  I was inspired by a recent inquiry about the Asian kitchen an old friend had (blog post to come with an answer...Dave, I promise).  I took a standard squash soup and give it a Korean twist.  Acorn squash has a sweet potatoey taste that I thought would pair nicely with a spicy Korean condiment (I like to think of it as Korea's tomato paste), kochujang. This soup is surprisingly sweet, smoky (from our secret ingredient) and filling.  



Roasted Acorn Squash Soup
Serves 4

2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
3 cups chicken (or veggie) stock, heated
1 onion, diced
1 sprig of thyme
salt and white pepper to taste
1 TB gochujang (Korean red bean paste)  You can find it at your local Korean food store
Freshly shredded Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
1 tsp grapseed oil

Preheat oven to 375.  Place acorn squash cut side up on a baking sheet.  Roast for 50 minutes or until the flesh is done (can be pierced easily with a fork).  Let cool and spoon flesh out of the rind.

In a preheated medium pot, sautee onions until translucent.  Add kochujang and stir frequently for 30 seconds.  Add roasted squash.  Stir in warmed stock and thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Remove thyme sprig.  With a stick blender, puree soup until desired texture.  Season with salt and white pepper to taste.  Serve immediately topped with Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Weighing in on CSAs

As mentioned before, Michael and I had joined a CSA this summer and went in on a half of a share.  What does this mean?  Every Thursday we had a box delivered to our door full with fresh, organic and local fruits and veggies.  We are now on month three of our deliveries and I thought it ample time to weigh in CSAs, before I convince you (or don't) to join in on your own.

CSA:  Virginia Green Grocer ( of Warrenton, VA)
Delivery days for Oakton/McLean/Vienna: Thursdays
Variety of food:  I was looking forward to cooking some crazy things, but surprisingly everything was really normal....basil, peppers, watermelon, salad greens, LOTS of tomatoes and eggplant.
Customer Service: Excellent. If you don't like something (I really can't stand bok choy) you can call and tell them to never give it to you again.  Or if you're out of town one week, they'll put extra stuff the following week. They are also on Facebook with weekly postings of what will be in the basket if you are a weekday meal planner.

Ok, if I learned anything in corporate America its that if you keep your desk covered with papers and books, people will likely leave you alone because they think you're busy.... and that tables are a great way to organize your thoughts:

I apologize for the grainy table image...I tried making on in the HTML editor.  Impossible.

CSA Shares...Pros and Cons


So my final thoughts?  Next year I would totally consider doing this again if I shared with another family (dropping the $700 or so fee to a more manageable $350) OR going to a farmer's market weekly to get only what I need/want.  There's a farmer's market almost every day in the area you can stop by in the morning or evening.  The delivery CSA seems ideal for the working professional, but you do have to take in account how much time you are willing to wash and prep.  Warn your taste buds too.  I tell you now this stuff tastes better, but to be honest, that big, beautiful stalk of celery from California is superior in taste to your puny stalk from Warrenton , VA...but just think about why.  A friend of mine and environmental consultant, Kristin Murphy wrote an interesting blog  post on "franken-foods" that you might find interesting.   I'll take a local tomato any day over one grown in Canada (I just peeled off a grown in Canada sticker from a tomato I bought from Harris Teeter's "Farmer's Market" brand. Watch out for that!  I was horrified.)  Happy shopping!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

RECIPE: Jap Chae

I recently made a dinner for HYKC's contest winner, Amelia, and DC's finest last night.  On the menu was Jap Chae (Korean's version of stir fried noodles) and a "Ssam Bar" (assorted meats wrapped in lettuces).  It was my first time making Jap Chae, which in hindsight, was a risky choice for a dinner party dish.  But I've stuffed my face full of it so many times I was confident I could pull it off.  I at least knew what it was supposed to taste like. Which is always an advantage in the kitchen.  This is true for much of the Korean cuisine that has inspired me to cook.  I grew up with these flavors, I know them as well as you may know a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or meatloaf (which I didn't experience until I was like, 12 years old).  So it only makes sense that as of late I've been cooking a lot of it lately.  It is my comfort food.

Jap Chae

1 lb of Korean Starch Noodles (vermicelli).  Amelia says it looks like grey witch's hair. I concur.
1 bunch of spinach
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 bunch of scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 cup of dried shitake mushrooms that have been soaked according to the package
1 box of white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb of thinly sliced beef (ribeye, round, whatever).  Optional.
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons of sugar
Grapeseed oil
A few good glugs of sesame oil and soy sauce
Plenty of cracked black pepper

Cook noodles according to package in a large pot...probably 10 minutes or so.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl, reserving the boiling hot water in the pot.  Toss the noodles generously with sesame oil and soy sauce.  Cut the noodles in half with kitchen shears as the noodle strands come as one and need to be cut in half to be separated.   Keep the pot and reserved liquid with the heat on the stove.  Place the spinach inside and cover.  Remove the spinach when it's wilted down and cooked through.  Drain well and wring out excess water with a clean, dry kitchen towel.  Chop into one inch pieces and throw into the noodle bowl.

In a large skillet, heat up a small amount of grapeseed oil or any other neutral tasting oil.  Sauté each of the ingredients separately, removing each group as they finish and putting it into the bowl with the noodles: onion, scallions, red pepper, carrots, white mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, beef.  This is to ensure the lighter colored veggies to no have any discoloration.

Toss all of the sauteed veggies with the noodles, sesame seeds and add the sugar.  Mix in the cracked black pepper...a few good grinds should do you good.  Add sesame oil and soy sauce to taste.  I ended up using about 3-4 tablespoons of sesame oil and about a fourth a cup of soy sauce (yeah, salty, but so good).  Drink plenty of water and have a low salt day tomorrow...that's how I justify it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

RECIPE: Korean Taco..takes 1 and 2 with Sriracha Sour Cream

What the DMV (DC, Maryland Va...I know, I hate that term too, but it's so tempting) area needs is a Korean Taco Truck.  I might not be starting one anytime soon, but that doesn't mean I can't experiment in my own kitchen.  Going beyond the kimchee quesadilla,  I decided to give the Korean Taco a try.  Without a recipe in hand and no trip to the Asian food market (I believe anything is possible after a shopping trip there) I improvised with what I had on hand.  Therefore, I believe this recipe has huge room for improvement.  I have two versions below: one on a traditional warmed corn tortilla, and the other on a sesame leaf (from my neighbor's garden!).  The beef is a riff on the traditional Kalbi (Korean BBQ) but this will work for now.  Stay tuned for Take 3.

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

RECIPE: Korean Taco (takes 1 and 2) with Sriracha Sour Cream
Serves 4

Beef:  (See Note below)
1 lb of top round thin sliced, then sliced again into bite sized one inch pieces (sirloin, ribeye, or tenderloin can be subbed)
1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly
1-2TB of toasted sesame oil
1 TB low sodium tamari soy sauce
1 TB brown sugar
1/2 TB sesame seeds
Lots of cracked black pepper

Sriracha Sour Cream:
2 TB Light Sour Cream
1 tsp (or more if you dare) Sriracha

Wrap it up:
1 cup Kimchee, diced
Few sprigs of cilantro
Corn tortillas (warm according to directions)
OR
Sesame leaves (can be found in Asian food markets)

The Beef
Preheat a grill pan on medium high.  Whisk together onions, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper and sugar.  Toss together with beef pieces.  Sear on the hot grill pan, about five minutes should do the trick.  Since it's thin sliced, the beef will cook quickly.

The Sour Cream
Mix sour cream and sriracha.  That was easy. Not my most creative moment, but it works.

Assemble and enjoy!

Note:  In the beef marinade try adding sliced scallions and pureed Asian pear.  Decrease the sugar by half and marinate over night.  I didn't have time to get to the Asian food market so this part of the recipe was omitted.  My mother used pureed Asian pear in her Kalbi...it helps tenderize tougher cuts of meat.  Also add a 1/4 cup of cooking wine to the marinate.

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

RECIPE: CSA "Take Out" Thai Chicken Noodles

My favorite recipes are the ones that create food that fool you into thinking they are horrible for you.  Honestly, I'll take a plate of pork belly with salted shrimp and cabbage  (a Korean fave) over a bowl of oatmeal any day.  But there's a serious misconception that good food HAS to be bad for you.  I'm not going to promise you a healthy donut or fat free pork belly (are you listening God, it's me, Virginia)...but a healthy stir fry recipe can always deter me from stuffing my face with greasy take out (sometimes).

The recipe below for me, was a two-fer.  I not only recreated one of my favorite Thai takeout meals BUT used several CSA ingredients from our weekly share (fresh, local, organic: green beans, basil, cilantro, cucumber, carrots).  I subbed out veggie oil for grape seed oil. Grape seed oil is a great alternative to olive oil.  Nutritionally, they are basically twins (though if you are in need of some Omega 3, look into adding flax or just stick to the olive oil), but their personalities are quite different.  Grape seed oil, though has a slight grapey aroma, lacks the strong olive taste of extra virgin olive oil.  It also has a higher smoking point, which makes grape seed oil more preferable for frying, and in this case, sauté-ing at a high heat.

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

Thai Chicken Noodles
Serves 4

Around 1/2 lb of whole wheat spaghetti, enough to make about 2-3 cups cooked  (2 cups of brown rice can also be substituted)
1 TB grape seed oil
2 chicken breast halves, sliced thin
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 medium onion, chopped
Handful of fresh green beans, trimmed
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
Handful of fresh basil, julienned
1 TB of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 TB fresh mint, chopped (optional)
1 lime, juiced
1/2 TB red pepper flakes
2-3 tsp fish sauce (don't be scared!)
1 TB low sodium soy sauce
Fresh ground black pepper

Boil water in a large pot.  Add pasta.  In a large, deep skillet or wok, heat oil on medium, about 1 minute.  Add red pepper flakes, raise heat to medium high, about another minute.  Brown sliced chicken until cooked.  Throw in onions and garlic.  Stir until onions slightly soften.  Add carrots, bell pepper, and green onion.  Continuously stir to prevent burning and sticking.  When green beans have softened a little, add al dente pasta.  Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water in case you like a saucier dish..I find the moisture from the pasta is just fine, especially of you take the pasta right form the pot instead of draining it first.  Combine all ingredients well.  Add tomatoes, fish sauce, soy sauce, basil, cilantro, mint and lime.  Mix well, taste and adjust by adding more fish sauce or soy sauce.  Garnish with cold cucumbers.

Notes: Want to make chicken slicing less slimy and easier to prep?  Pop the chicken into the freezer about 1/2 hour before you plan on prepping it.  Freezing the chicken just a touch firms it up so it's easier to slice.





Thursday, June 24, 2010

RECIPE: Asian Kohlrabi Slaw

What in the world is Kohlrabi you ask?  Good question.  It is week three of our CSA basket, and as a food nerd, the most exciting.  The last two weeks have been delicious, but rather boring: kale, swiss chard, more bok choy than I ever want to see in my lifetime.  So, I was pleased to find kohlrabi in this week's share...and saw it as my first official CSA challenge.  I didn't even know what it was until I looked at the content list of the share and used the powers of deduction (I could safely say these alien heads did not look like cucumber, cilantro, spring onion or bok choy).

I had to take a picture:


Stop me now if you've seen this strange vegetable and think it's common.  I had no idea what it was until about 3 hours ago.

I went into the challenge blind.  My first thought was to turn to the internet for advice.  How do I cook this thing?  Should it be peeled?  Should it be sliced and cooked like a turnip?   I wanted to make this a true challenge, I chose not to consult the internet.

I would prepare a dish of kohlrabi using just my culinary instincts.

Feeling the rough outer skin, it had the waxy texture of cabbage.  It wasn't until I cut it open when I realized that the skin should be peeled.  That, and the creepy roots sticking out of the bulb did not look appetizing.  I cut off the bottom root, placed it flat on the cutting board and carved away starting from the top to bottom to remove the skin.  The kohlrabi has a texture similar to a radish, or turnip.  I removed a small piece to sample.  It had a peppery bite to it that was reminiscent of a cross between cabbage and a radish.  The consistency was radishy...a nice crunch.  I knew I had to do some sort of slaw at that point.  But not any slaw, but something with a Korean influence.

I cut up the rest of the kohlrabi into coins, then small matchsticks.  I then added from our share diced cucumber, chopped cilantro, and chopped spring onion.  Then, right on top of the slaw I threw in about 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of kochugaroo (Korean red pepper flakes), 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, and a dash of sugar to round it out.  I mixed well with my impeccably clean hands.  First CSA challenge, done.


PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

(Serving suggestion: Top a fish taco with the slaw for an Asian influenced taco.  Don't be scared.  Serve with a side of veggie fried rice)

Monday, June 7, 2010

RECIPE: Honey-Ginger Green Beans

I catered a lovely book club this evening.  I roasted the green beans in hopes to make the recipe healthier, but I admit, I should have kept them crispy and stir fried them.  You live and you learn.  The beans pictured below were stir fried, however, served with a side of grilled salmon.

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

Honey-Ginger Green Beans
Serves 4

1lb string beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of minced ginger
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons of grape seed oil

Preheat a large skillet until it's nice and hot.  Add oil and allow to heat up.  Toss in beans.  Stir fry until beans are brown in spots and caramelized.  Add ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  In a small bowl whisk together rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and honey.  Pour into skillet with beans.  Toss until mixture is heated through and evenly distributed.

The menu:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

RECIPE: Easy Roast Chicken Breast

After much struggle getting the computer all set up at Fresh Lunch (I am now best friends with the Dell representative as well as the Verizon customer service lady, I think I was invited to her baby shower), I looked at the clock and realized it was 6pm.  Jamie was coming over for dinner at 7pm.  That gave me....about 10 minutes at the grocery store.  In a frenzy (and NO LIST) I grabbed some lemons, a bulb of garlic, 3 bone in chicken breasts in a package, fresh asparagus and a bag spinach salad (something to hold us over while the chicken was cooking).  With my stomach growling I threw together roast chicken dish in minutes. Good thing we had some wine to distract Jamie.

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

Easy Roast Chicken Breast
Serves 2-3

3 bone in, skin on chicken breasts  (the skin and bones make for a juicy chicken)
1/2 bulb of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 lemon, sliced into wheels
1 onion, sliced
Couple of sprigs of thyme
Couple glugs of olive oil
Salt and cracked pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a roasting pan, or small baking dish (big enough to hold all of the breasts) spread onions, lemon wheels, thyme sprigs, and garlic down evenly to make a bed for the chicken.  Rub outside of chicken breast with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper.  Roast in oven 45-50 minutes, until juices run clear or thickest part of the breast reaches 165-170 degrees.  If you are scared of cooking chicken, seriously, invest in a meat thermometer.  Don't forget to calibrate them in ice cold water to calculate the temp difference.

Skin should be nice and crispy when you take it out.  Let rest 15 minutes or so. If you want to present (like the picture above), place the breast down on the a cutting board, slice down away from you and against the grain of the chicken (crosswise against the bone).  Drizzle some juices from the pan, and include some roasted garlic cloves on each plate.  I like to rub the roasted garlic all over the breast for more intense garlic flavor.  Served here in the picture with roasted asparagus (that I placed on the rack below the chicken with lemon and olive oil).

Note: If you have the time, marinate this up to a day, at a minimum an hour, ahead with some buttermilk, paprika, and salt.  When you're ready to roast, drain marinade and pat VERY dry.  Move forward with the rest of the recipe.  Marinating it in buttermilk before roasting or throwing it on the grill makes the chicken even more tender.

Friday, May 14, 2010

RECIPE: Chicken in LIGHT Mushroom Sauce

I've been thinking a lot about heart healthy recipes, mainly because of my father.  The man runs over 5 miles a day, marathons, and still manages to have a clogged artery.  So there it is folks...no matter how much you work out, it still matters tremendously what we put in our bodies.  Papa Lee, a lean athletic man, can take down a Big Mac in less than five minutes and loves his red meat and pork products.  My mother says he's resistant to chicken and fish, but I'm wondering if maybe he just loves the flavors associated with the above, and it's not necessarily the actual protein that he craves.  What if I could make a dish so flavorful, that he'll forget that it's healthy?

I took this as a challenge for Mother's Day, as that was the next occasion we were to eat together after his diagnosis.  Sure enough, he was surprised to hear this was one of many possible heart healthy dishes allowed in his diet.  I didn't have my camera on hand, but I was able to snap a picture with my Blackberry.  Served here with a side of braised kale and light mashed potatoes:


Instead of traditional French sauces that can be super heavy on the butter and fats, I thicken the sauce with a little flour.  Make sure you cook the mixture well before serving, as you want to eliminate a floury taste in your sauce.

Chicken in Light Mushroom Sauce
Serves 4

2-3 Chicken breasts, sliced again in halves (lay breast flat on cutting board and slice in half, parallel to cutting board)
1 package of mushrooms, cleaned and dry
1 shallot, finely chopped
1.5 tablespoon of flour
1/2 cup of dry white wine
3/4 cup of low sodium chicken stock (keep warm while preparing sauce)
2 tablespoons of rosemary, finely chopped
Handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 teaspoons of olive oil

In a non-stick skillet heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil, cook chicken all the way through.  Place on a plate and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.  Heat remaining oil in the same skillet, or a large saucepan if working simultaneously.  Sauté shallots until soft.  Push shallots to the perimeters of the pan, add mushrooms to the middle. Be careful not to crowd the pan, work in batches if you need to.  You want a nice, dark sear on the mushrooms for flavor.  In a small bowl, whisk flour and white wine together until there are no more lumps.  Pour into cooked mushroom and shallot mixture.  Cook, stirring continually, for about 2 minutes.  Stir in warm chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, simmer until sauce has thickened.  Add in rosemary.  Spoon over chicken pieces and sprinkle parsley for color.

Friday, May 7, 2010

RECIPE: Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Chicken

I'm a sucker for spinach artichoke dip.  You can use half of this recipe for the chicken and the other half topped with Parmesan and baked into the oven for a dip.  You can even spread it on top of salmon before popping it into the oven.   The purple stuff on the plate is the other half of the red cabbage used for the Purple Slaw fish taco recipe.  It was braised with some sautéed bacon and onion, about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, and a 1/2 cup of stock.  Delicious.


PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Chicken
Serves 2-3

2-3 chicken breasts (or breast halves I guess, technically)
1 package of frozen chopped spinach (it's just as good as the fresh stuff, but less hassle), drained well
1 can of artichoke hearts packed in water, drained, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package of softened reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan
2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 lemon

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large oven proof skillet.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sautee onion until soft. Add artichokes and spinach.  Cook for about 7 minutes...until most of the moisture from the mix is gone.  Season (crushed red pepper if you want, salt, pepper, white pepper works well too).  Set aside mixture to cool.  Add cheeses to the mixture and combine well.  Take about a cup of the mixture and refrigerate the rest for another recipe.

Take one breast, lay it flat on a cutting board.  With a sharp knife, slice parallel to the cutting board, opening the breast piece up like a book, but do not completely slice through.  Smear 1/3 of the mixture on inner sides, then close  the "book".  Repeat with remaining pieces of chicken.  Lightly sprinkle tops with salt.

Heat remaining olive in the same pan.  Carefully lower each stuffed chicken piece down in the pan.  After 5-6 minutes, carefully flip.  I find that tongs work best at keeping everything together.  If you are nervous about this all falling apart, keep it together with some sturdy toothpicks. After another 5-6 minutes, flip again and finish them off in the oven.  About 15 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165.  Remove from the oven, squeeze lemon on top and serve.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

RECIPE: Chili Lime Fish Tacos with Purple Slaw

There was a time in my life where Cinco de Mayo was a Mexican St. Patrick's Day (excuse to drink imported beer with friends).  Today I "celebrated" with a Latin twist on dinner.  I know, exciting.  This I promise you, will be a Cinco de Mayo celebration...in your mouth!

The slaw was inspired by Michael Robertson, a former co-worker and now dear friend/mentor.  His recipe uses onions and apple cider vinegar. I used green onions and replaced the acid with lime to go with my little theme.  The slaw gives the soft fish taco a nice crunch.

I do want to add I was going to include a cocktail in today's blog but I did not have a chance to go to the market.  Excuses excuses...but here was my vision:

layered in a tall glass: lime infused simple syrup (1:1 sugar:water plus peel of whole lime) with green food dye, ice, tequila,  soda water, topped with fresh strawberries and squirt of lime.  Like a Mexican flag?  Get it?  If you so choose to execute this on your own (ahem, Anthony maybe?), please send pics.

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

Chili Lime Fish Tacos with Purple Slaw
Serves 2 (with plenty of slaw leftover)

Chili Lime Fish Tacos
2 tilapia fillets
Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
salt
chili powder
tortillas

Chipotle Sour Cream
1/4 cup of lite sour cream
3/4 tablespoon of chipotle adobo sauce from canned chipotles in adobo sauce

Purple Slaw
1/2 head of red cabbage, julienned
2 green onions, sliced
1.5 tablespoon of mayo
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons of cilantro
1 teaspoon of sugar

The marinade
In a medium sized bowl mix together cilantro, lime, olive oil and a teaspoon of salt.  Coat tilapia fillets and marinate for up to 20 minutes.

The slaw
Meanwhile for the slaw, whisk together in a large bowl, mayo, olive oil, lime juice, sugar and cilantro.  Add in shredded cabbage.  Let sit while you finish the rest of dinner.  Mix together the adobo sauce and sour cream. Save the rest in an air tight container and think of ways you can use it later in the week (mix it in with mayo, ketchup, in your soup...get creative...it really is great).

The fish
In a non-stick skillet heat a teaspoon of oil until hot.  Add fish (without marinade).  Cook book sides until done (about 5  minutes or so per side, depending on how fat your fillets are).  Transfer to a bowl and flake into big chunks.  Pile on fish, slaw, and chipotle sour cream on a tortilla.  Open a Corona,  cheers to a holiday you don't know much about, and enjoy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

HOW TO: Strawberry Topiary Tree

I bought too many fresh strawberries...one of my first lessons learned in cooking for large groups. I'm getting better at purchasing food...but those strawberries looked so fresh (and were so cheap) I couldn't resist.  I was inspired by a Paula Dean episode where she made this pretty little strawberry tree.  She made it look so easy.  It was a different story for me, since I was unable to find a topiary tree with a base, dowel already secured, and a foam floral fixture on it.  So I had to make one.   Lucky for you, if you find yourself in the same situation, here's how to do it.

Materials:
1 flower pot
Long floral picks OR dowel (for the "trunk" of the tree)
1 circular Styrofoam piece to fit inside base of pot
1 Styrofoam cone or ball (I used a cone)
Glue gun or StyroGlue
1 bag of river rocks, or moss or whatever filler you want to use
Ribbon

For the Tree:
Fresh strawberries (about 3 packages) if you are able to hand select, try and get uniformly shaped strawberries
Sturdy tooth picks
Fresh bunch of mint or lemon leaves (who has those?)

Directions:
Start with gluing the circular Styrofoam piece down into the base of the flower pot.  Secure.  Take  floral picks (if using, take around 6 or 7) and stab center of circular foam to create a "trunk".  Glue around base of the trunk to secure.  Tie a ribbon above the trunk.  Insert the Styrofoam cone or ball on tip of the dowel or picks.  Push down.  Fill pot with rocks or whatever filler you choose. Lost? Here's a snapshot:


PHOTOS BY VIRGINIA LEE

I let it sit overnight to make sure all the glue was dried before starting in on the strawberries.  To attach the strawberries, I recommend starting at the bottom and working your way up.  I tried to use strawberries of the same shape throughout the tree, but if you have some bigger ones, I think they work best at the bottom of the tree.  Insert the toothpick at a downward angle and stick the strawberry on.  Move around until the top. I put in an upside down strawberry at the very top of the cone.  Take the fresh mint and insert it in any "holes" throughout the tree.  If you have the time, you can also dip the strawberries in chocolate as an added treat.  But the strawberries I selected were sweet enough without the chocolate.  Here's the final product:

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

First Day on the Job

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take many pictures of the baby shower I catered this weekend for my friend Maria as I was out the door before most of the ladies came.  I was able to take a few before heading home.

I wanted to incorporate seasonal, fresh ingredients on the menu, so considering the time of year, spinach, strawberries and asparagus were super stars.  On the menu:  salad of strawberries, spinach, toasted walnuts, Parmesan and sweet Dijon vinaigrette, Five Quiches (mushroom/leek/Parm, sundried tomatoes/leeks/goat cheese, Quiche Lorraine-bacon/onion/Gruyere, and 2 asparagus/onion/Prosciutto/Parm), Sides (Shrimp Orzo Salad, Mrs. Storm's - the grandma- German Potato Salad), and Soft Pretzels with my horseradish dipping sauce.  I included cute little tents with food descriptions.

I got a snapshot of the strawberry salad:

 
PHOTOS BY VIRGINIA LEE

The quiches were covered and sides put away in the fridge to be plated....sorry guys, next time.

As a special treat I also included a centerpiece, a strawberry topiary tree:

PHOTOS BY VIRGINIA LEE

Here's HOW TO: Strawberry Topiary Tree

Friday, April 30, 2010

RECIPE: Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce

Life got crazy yesterday...with work, 5 attempts to go to the gym (one was FINALLY successful), and preparing for my catering gig this weekend. As with most nights, my time to unwind is in the kitchen with good tunes and my husband not far. But last night, I was just hungry, tired, and didn't want to undo an hour at the gym by taking the easy route with carry out.  I know there are plenty of healthy choices to carry out, but you guys have to understand...I'm weak.  Plus, I had a bunch of chicken breasts I had defrosting in the fridge and fresh (and it's seasonal) asparagus.

This is a simple, sophisticated recipe that plates pretty well. No one will know it took less than 30 minutes.  Pictured here with roasted asparagus.

  PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce
Serves 2-3

2-3 chicken breast halves, sliced into cutlets (or pounded thin).  Tips on how to slice thin.  Or shortcut it and buy the already thin slices at the store
1.5 tablespoon of olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons of capers, drained
1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of chicken broth or stock
Juice from half of a lemon
1/8 tablespoon of butter

Heat a large skillet (I don't recommend non-stick) on medium/medium high and add olive oil.  I like to start out my All Clad pan out on low, and then gradually increase the heat.  That way there is a more even temperature all around the pan, instead of getting choppy spots when you crank the heat from the get go. Once the oil is nice and hot and shimmering, add chicken breast.  Lightly salt the uncooked side.  The capers give this dish a ton of salty flavor, so go easy on the chicken.

Give the chicken some space.  Don't crowd the pan and don't flip too early.  Let the heat naturally release the breast from the pan.  Plus, you want that nice brown coloring on the breast.  Turn cutlets over to cook other side.  Once each piece of chicken is done (you may have to work in batches the halves may yield 2 cutlets each) put aside on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

In the same pan, there should be brown bits and spots all over.  That's fine, as long as it's not black, you're in good shape.  That fun stuff there is called "fond" and is where the flavor from the sauce will come from.  Add shallots and cook until soft...maybe a minute or two.  Start deglazing the  pan by adding the chicken stock and lemon juice.  With a wooden spoon, scrape up all the brown bits.  You'll notice it should come right up and incorporate into the sauce.  Reduce by about a half of the liquid.  Add capers, warm them through.  Take the pan off the heat and swirl in the butter.  Spoon mixture over chicken and serve.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

RECIPE: Easy Kimchee Jigea (Kimchee Stew)

The miracle of kimchee flavor lies in the fermentation that goes on while it sits in the fridge, or under ground...bubbling and developing its awesome kimchee flavor.  This pickled treat tends to get better in time...but it will reach a point where it's not longer crispy and takes on a super tart flavor.  Some people dig on the older kimchee (I myself am a "new" kimchee fan).  However, when it gets to be a little to...ripe (for my tastes), it is the perfect time to make kimchee jigea.

I grew up on this fragrant, flavor packed dish.  It was a favorite weeknight meal from Mama Lee.  It is always served with a hot bowl of steamed white rice.  As kimchee is the national dish of Korea, the culinary derivative that is kimchee jigea makes sense.  Don't you wish you could take anything past its prime and make it into a delicious stew?

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE


Easy Kimchi Jigea (Kimchee Stew)
Serves 2

1/4 lb of pork belly (I used boneless pork loin rib because it was on sale, but traditionally it's made with pork belly). Sliced thin or cubed.
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of kimchee, chopped into bite size pieces
1/4-1/2 cup (depends on how spicy you like things) of kimchee juice (the marinade that's left in the jar)
1/2 cup of water
1/2 tablespoon of gochu gaaroo (Korean red pepper powder) if you don't have this on hand, don't worry, skip it.  I don't recommend substituting anything for it.
1/2 tablespoon of denjang (Korean bean paste) if you don't have this on hand, skip it.  Or use a little miso.
1/2 package of firm tofu, drained and patted dry, cubed
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 green onion, sliced

Heat up the cast iron pot with the sesame oil.  Sauté the pork and onion together until pork is done.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant...that should only take about a minute.  Add kimchee.  Sauté kimchee until soft and almost translucent.  Add kimchee juice and water.  Bring to a boil and simmer.  Add the pepper powder and bean paste if you have it on hand.  Combine.  Taste.  Add more kimchi juice, pepper, or paste to your taste.  Carefully stir in tofu and combine.  Tofu breaks up easily, which is why it is added before serving.  Garnish generously with green onions.  Serve with Korean sticky white rice and don't plan on kissing anyone for at least a day.  Unless of course, they have indulged also in your kimchee stew.

Note: Everyone does this dish differently, and I've modified it to fit most American kitchens (that happen to have some ripe kimchee around).  Some recipes call for Asian cooking wine, red bean paste, etc...stuff you have to make a special trip to the Asian grocery store for.  I made mine in a mini cast iron cooking pot that is common in Korean cooking.  You gringos can pull this off in a small or medium deep saucepan...whatever you cook your single serving of Ramen in.  

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why doesn't Harness Your Kim Chi have a kimchee recipe?

Oh Google Analytics.  If there's one thing you have taught me is that my site traffic comes from people looking for kimchee guidance, only to find random ramblings from a home cook.  Who knew!  And I thought I had 2 readers!  After an average of 19 seconds this visitor generally moves on to an actual kimchee site.

Well then.

Here's my kimchi challenge.

Korean ajummas are reluctant to share their recipes.  Even with their own family.  My mom once told me that her kimchee recipe did not exist and that she does something different each time.  The one time I came over (pictured above) to make kimchee at the house, the kimchee marinade was mysteriously already prepared.  When I asked how she made it, the subject was quickly changed.  Our real estate agent confirmed this the other day when he mentioned his Korean mother in law (qualifies as an ajumma, I assume) will reveal only parts of her recipes as she sneaks in secret ingredients behind their backs....("what?  she didn't say there was ginger ale in the recipe!").

So. Fine then.  I will develop my own.  That will be the task for this summer. I recently claimed on the site that I was going to learn how to compost, to no avail (catch up guys, my promises are no good).  But this time I'm for real.  I will make my own kimchee.  AND I will share it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

RECIPE: Spicy Peanut Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Diffuse this salt bomb recipe by using low sodium soy sauce, thinning out the soy sauce with a little water, and when eaten on it's own, add some fresh steamed broccoli.  This dish tastes great wrapped up in lettuce (fairly guilt-free), or over a bed of steamed brown rice (both are shown below with a side of kimchee).  I tossed the brown rice with some leftover chopped parsley and green onions for a little color and flavor.

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

Spicy Peanut Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4

2.5 tablespoons of chunky peanut butter (I used Smart Balance Rich Roast chunky)
1 hefty tablespoon of Sambal Oelek (Asian chili paste, it's next to the Sriracha usually at the grocery store)
4-5 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
2 chopped green onions, reserve a tablespoon or two for garnish
1 head of leafy green lettuce
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed.  Cubed.
1 teaspoon canola oil

Whisk first four ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  If it's looking a little too thick, add a tablespoon or two of water.  Heat oil in medium non-stick pan on medium heat.  Add chicken and cook until done.  Pour in sauce mixture.  Stir and combine until the mixture is bubbling.  Serve with lettuce wraps or over steamed rice. Garnish with remaining green onion.

Variation: Try it with chicken break or shrimp.

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

Monday, April 19, 2010

Playlist for Your Kitchen

For those of you who don't know (outside of my two person readership), I am equally passionate about good music as I am about food.   I am rarely in the kitchen without my music on.  I don't mind prepping veggies and herbs in a music induced trance.

I recently reconnected with a dear friend of mine who I have always admired for his impeccable taste in music.  He came to our belated wedding reception and dropped a mix cd in the pot with all of the envelopes of well wishes.  I haven't been able to stop listening to it, and it's been a favorite in the kitchen this last week.  Thanks Jimmy.

So from my stomach and my ears:

Furr  -  Blitzen Trapper 
Walk In the Park -  Beach House
Too Many Birds - Bill Callahan 
French Navy - Camera Obscura 
So Far from Your Weapon - The Dead Weather 
Laura - Girls
Romance Is Boring - Los Campesinos!
Higher Than the Stars - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart 
Mirror Ball - The Crayon Fields All the Pleasures of the World
In the Summertime - The Rural Alberta Advantage
1999 - Shout Out Louds
Well-Alright - Spoon
Knotty Pine - David Byrne & Dirty Projectors

Friday, April 16, 2010

RECIPE: Tabbouleh

 PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE


Hillary and I used to make tabbouleh after school on weekdays and take it to Bull Run Park when we were in high school.  We'd sit around and do whatever teenagers do.  Pretty sophisticated now that I think about it.  We've always shared a love of good food and we certainly didn't make hot pockets when we got home.  We made Mediterranean side dishes.  Check out Hillary's blog (www.modernfeast.com) and try not to judge Harness Your Kimchi for having a sixth of the recipes!  We'll get there.  In the meantime, please enjoy one of my favorite throwbacks.

Tabbouleh (Wheat or Parsley Salad...depends on how you look at it!)
Serves about 4 with leftovers

One of the great things about this recipe, other than being delicious, is that you can play with the amount of starch vs green.  I've seen this salad heavy on the Bulgar wheat, and some with hardly any. It's really whatever you prefer.

A bunch of parsley leaves, chopped finely either by hand or the processor
3-4 green onions, chopped thinly
5-6 sprigs of mint, leaves chopped finely
Pint of grape tomatoes, sliced in halve lengthwise
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped.  Just chopped if you have an English cucumber
1 cup dry Bulgar Wheat
1 cup stock (of any kind)
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Few glugs of GOOD extra virgin olive oil

Bring the cup of stock to a boil.  Add Bulgar wheat.  Cover and refrigerate for no less than half an hour to cook the Bulgar wheat through.

Chop your fresh ingredients.

Man this recipe is easy.

Combine all fresh ingredients with the Bulgar.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Glug it down with some olive oil.  Combine thoroughly. Let stand for no less than 45 minutes to an hour. But I know you won't be able to wait...so go ahead and enjoy.  If you let this stand, the flavors will have time to combine and marinate.  The longer you wait, the better it tastes.  Serves best at room temperature.

Note: Your lemon not giving you enough juice?  Nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds and roll it on your counter to release the juices inside.  Not enough?  In most recipes that call for fresh lemon juice, the juice can be enhanced by grating the peel with your microplane.  Now you know.

Not freezable.  Mint looks gross frozen.

 PHOTO BY VIRGINIA LEE

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Update on Sustainability post...

After much thought, Michael and I purchased a half share with our local CSA.  I'm up for the culinary challenge.  Stay tuned in June for weekly creations. It'll be like Iron Chef in my kitchen...only with multiple secret, unknown ingredients.  And no competitors.  Ok, it won't be like Iron Chef at all, but Michael will still bite into a green pepper and reveal our basket full of surprises.


Oh, and the half share comes with eggs.  So key.

Monday, March 22, 2010

RECIPE: Light Eggplant Parmesan



The other night I was in the mood for Eggplant Parmesan AND Chicken Parmesan.

As a compromise, I made Parmesan crusted chicken cutlets with a light eggplant side.  The doc has ordered that I cut my carb intake so here's a carb conscious way to enjoy some Italian comfort food.  I broil the eggplant instead of breading it and use no sugar added tomato sauce (which tastes better anyway). The eggplant dish is inspired from a recipe I read in Bon Apetit a while back, but I simplified it to cut it down to 2-3 servings and ingredients that are on hand.  Also, allow yourself about an hour of prep time because removing the moisture from the eggplant takes some waiting.  Who said you can't have your eggplant and your chicken too?

Light Eggplant Parmesan
Serves 2-3 with leftovers (bump it up with 2 eggplants)

1 large purple eggplant, sliced thinly lengthwise
1 jar no sugar added tomato sauce (Colivata makes a good one so does Whole Foods)
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced into coins
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 15 oz container of part skim Ricotta
1 egg, beaten
1/2 package frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained
8 or so basil leaves


The Eggplant

Prep:
Salt the eggplant slices with course salt and line a colander with the slices, layering them as you go.  Be careful not to over salt.  Allow to drain for 30-60 minutes.  Rub excess salt off/dry with paper towel.

Adjust the oven rack to the top position and preheat the broiler.  Brush both sides of each slice of eggplant with olive oil or spray with olive oil spray, and lay flat on a baking sheet.  Broil each side, about 4 minutes each side.  Set aside and cool.  Keep oven on, but heat to 350 degrees.

The Filling

In a small mixing bowl, combine the egg, 3/4 of the Ricotta cheese in the container, 1/4 cup of Parmesan and the spinach.

Assemble

In a small casserole dish, spray with olive oil spray and spread half of the sauce on the bottom.  Take one slice of eggplant and place a spoonful of filling in the middle.  Roll width wise (short side in) and place seam side down in the dish.  Repeat and line side by side in the casserole dish.  Pour the rest of the sauce over the rolled eggplants.  On each roll, place a basil lead and a mozzarella coin.  Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.  (below, right before the oven)


Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake until the cheese is bubbly and brown.  Pair with the chicken recipe below.  Or don't.  It's your world, I just cook in it!

RECIPE: Parmesan Crusted Chicken

Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Serves 3-4

1/2 cup flour mixed with a pinch of salt and pepper  
1 egg beaten
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (not the stuff in the can. I take shredded parm and grate in a small food processor)
2-3 chicken breasts sliced into cutlets (See note)
Olive oil

Coat each cutlet with flour mixture (in a shallow dish or put flour mixture in a plastic bag to evenly coat) shake well to take off excess flour, dip in the egg, then coat both sides with the grated Parmesan until well covered.

Cook both sides of cutlet in hot olive oil until cooked through.   I use a non-stick for this one.  Outside should become golden with some brown edges. These cutlets should be thin...so cooking time isn't that long.  165 degrees on the meat thermometer for chicken.

Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt if desired.

The crust is so very crispy and cheesy.  I don't like breaded cutlets because they are often greasy and soggy...but these come out perfect each time. This chicken goes great with just about anything.   I pair it with steamed veggies.  Or sometimes over pasta with fresh parsley and a flavored olive oil.  You can even make it the base for a quick chicken parm...after draining just melt some cheese over it in the oven and serve it with some pasta and marinara.  Sometimes I put it on a bun for a "fried" chicken sandwich.  You can also change up the flour mixture to flavor it up a little more.  Or..instead of chicken, I've used tilapia fillets.  They work great too.  Go with it.
 
Note: Start with the chicken breast flat on a cutting board, slice parallel to the board carefully through the thickest section and open like a book. This should create two halves.  Separate) Or you can pound them thin.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

RECIPE: Olive a Whiskey Old Fashioned

I stumbled upon this Midwestern gem in the hotel bar inside the Radisson in LaCrosse, WI so I can only take credit for my cute name for this cocktail.  Michael has always been a huge fan of the Old Fashioned, and according to him and every other Wisconsinite I met on my trip out there, you can’t find a decent Old Fashioned anywhere on either coast.  Well then.  Today I do not bring you cheese, or beer, or cured meats from the fly-over state (is that offensive?)…I bring you the Whiskey Old Fashioned with a little something special.

Olive a Whiskey Old Fashioned

1.5-2oz of Seagrams Seven Whiskey
1 sugar packet (or cube, or eyeball a little more than a teaspoon and a half)
1 small orange slice (the equivalent to about a 1/16 of a large orange)
3-4 dashes of bitters
1 maraschino cherry
Splash of soda water
Splash of Squirt lemon lime (soooo Midwestern)
2 olives for garnish

In an empty rocks glass add orange slice, sugar and cherry.  Add 3-4 dashes of bitters.  Splash in a bit of soda water to activate the bitters.  Muddle well.  Fill with booze, ice and top off with a little Squirt.  Garnish with 2 olive.

An olive you ask?  It equalizes the bitters and the sweetness I was told.  And they were absolutely right.  Cheers.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Restaurants "Unleashed" Week

Here's a second chance at Restaurant Week.  RAMW (Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington) has released a list of restaurants participating in effort to make up for lost business due to the Snowtorious 2010.  Sorry I'm getting this to you late, but you still have some time, and these look like some good deals:

http://www.ramw.org/pdf/Unleashed%20Database.pdf

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An Evening with Friends (RECIPE: Mac'n Cheese Stuffed Mushroom Caps)



Michael is home for good from his deployment...which means celebration eating.  This translates to liberal use of bacon, butter, cheese, and elastic banded pants.  I've included all in the following recipe.  We had our close friends Anthony and Nicole over for some cocktails, scallops and this crazy concoction outlined below.  My inspiration is drawn from a similar dish I had at Patrick M's house.  I've tweaked it here and there but the concept, I must admit is his.  Macaroni and cheese...in a portabella mushroom cap.  We were fortunate enough to have Tonic's star bartender Anthony Rivera as a dinner guest, serving up his Tamarind Rickey.  You can use any old mac n 'cheese recipe, but here's one I've developed over the years:


Macaroni and Cheese Stuffed Mushroom Caps 
Serves 6 with leftovers

Box of macaroni pasta
1/2 medium onion, finely grated
Couple of glugs of white truffle oil (optional)
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2-3 slices of bacon
2 cups of milk
Dash of white pepper
1 1/2 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar
Handful of chopped chives for garnish
Salt

Mushroom caps
6 portabella mushroom caps
Olive oil or spray

The Shrooms

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Wipe any dirt on the mushroom caps...you don't know where they've been, and you don't want to know where they grow.  Once they are nice and clean remove the stems and scoop out the "gills" with a spoon.  Rub them in olive oil or spray them down with some olive oil spray and place stem side down on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Keep the oven on.

The Magic

Boil water for the pasta.
Cook the bacon until done in a medium sauce pan.  Remove the bacon, resist the urge to eat a slice, chop and set aside for garnish.  Pour out the bacon fat except maybe a half tablespoon, reserve the rest to drink with your morning coffee.  In the same pan, add grated onion and cook until soft at medium heat.  The onions almost dissolve at this point.  Add butter and melt. Once the butter has completely melted, carefully whisk in the flour.  This will act as a thickening agent, as if the cheese won't be enough.  Continue to whisk the flour and butter/onion mixture for about a minute or two.  Ensure they are combined well.  If you don't cook this roux long enough, your sauce will have a floury taste.  Stirring for about 2 minutes at a medium heat should ensure that the flour is cooked through.  

Slowly whisk in the milk.  Bring mixture to a boil.  (Speaking of boil, add the pasta to your water and cook according directions.  Remove pasta right before it is al dente.).  Lower medium low and slowly whisk in the Gruyere until well combined and creamy.   Add more milk if the mixture seems a little too thick.  If your sauce is too thin, add a buerre man (see note fancy pants). Salt and white pepper to taste.

To the strained pasta, stir in a glug of white truffle oil.  It keeps the pasta from sticking as well as adding a ton of flavor.  And fat.  

Combine the glorious cheesy sauce with the carbohydrate and mix. 

Spoon pasta mixture on to caps.  Cover with the shredded cheese.  Bake until the cheese has melted.  Carefully remove caps from the baking sheet and sprinkle with chives and bacon.  Serve with a side salad (pictured: baby spinach salad with craisins,  walnuts and a sweet dijon vinagrette).  There should be some pasta left over if you only stuffed 6 caps.

 

Promise yourself you will do some strength training in the morning.  Maybe even some cardio.  

Note: a buerre manié is a paste made from flour and butter to thicken sauces.  Just take equal parts flour and some room temp butter and mash it with a fork until well combined.  Add to sauce.  This method ensures that there aren't chunks of flour in your sauce.