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.


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 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.


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 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.


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
chili powder

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 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 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.

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

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?)

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:


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:


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:


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:


Here's HOW TO: Strawberry Topiary Tree