Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chicken Tacos & Grilled Apple Salsa

Standing in the produce section, in front of a display of apples, I picked up a giant green apple.  I said to myself, "Self, this should be in an apple salsa."  Then, as any normal person does, I thought, "Stop talking to yourself in the middle of the store, somebody might notice."  I grabbed cilantro, boneless skinless chicken, blue corn tortillas, and banilla yogurt.  Sorry...darn kids and my shopping lists.  Forget I said yogurt.

 In a medium bowl mix oil, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic, lime juice, kosher salt, and chili powder.

Cut the chicken into strips and toss in the marinade.  Let soak for 30 min at least, but I let it alone for a couple of hours...the benefit of a busy afternoon.

This...made the tacos great.  I cored a green apple, and cut it into wedges.  4 of those wedges I grilled with a jalapeno until they had grill lines.  Put the jalapeno in a paper bag, tupperware with a lid, or small bowl covered with Saran wrap until the skin pulls off easily.  Chop the jalapeno (with or without seeds, it's up to you) and put int a small mixing bowl.  Chop the grilled apple and the raw apple & add to the bowl with the jalapeno.  To the apple mixture I added lime zest, lime juice, scallions, honey, cilantro, a little oil, and salt and pepper.

Brown the chicken in a large skillet until cooked through, turning once or twice.

To assemble the tacos I used blue corn tortillas, chicken, the apple salsa, queso fresco, and some baby greens.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fried Cheese, Cacciatore & Garlic Rolls

I resent the idea that garlic isn't a date food.  If both people on a date eat the same food, whose to complain?  The same goes for a nice stinky cheese, all gooey and yum!  Chicken Cacciatore is best as a slow-cooked labor of love, with lots of garlic, tomatoes, and peppers.  Garlic rolls are a savory version of a cinnamon roll, and they take as long rising, but your house becomes perfumed with garlic instead of cinnamon and sugar.  Most importantly, they look pretty!  Our munchie, courtesy of the most lovely Cheese Cave, is an oven-baked soft cheese with a rind (like a big girl Brie), topped with honey and raw almonds.

Due to the long cooking of the chicken, I use my favorite dark meat ~ thighs, but you could use white meat if you are that stubborn about it, and don't mind chewing on chicken-flavored hay-textured meat pucks.  Who am I to judge?  The rolls take easily double the time of the chicken, so start those first.

Proofed yeast, flour (mostly white, but a little whole wheat), sugar, milk, melted butter, and salt

Dough raised for a couple of hours, patted into a giant rectangle, then brushed with garlic, butter, parsley, SnP

Sliced into 1 1/2in strips

Roll up the strips, place in a greased pan, covered, and raising for another 45 min.

SnP chicken parts, floured, then browned

Chicken removed, saute' bell peppers, garlic, and onion in hearty pieces - these have to hold up in a long cooking!
Mushrooms in for a couple more minutes.

Add in thyme, tumeric, and kosher salt.  And no I don't ever measure.

In goes the wine so it bubbles.

In go the tomatoes, whole, diced, or strips.  Whatever your poison.

Put the chicken back in, skin side up.  Bake, covered for 45 minutes @ 350, then uncovered for 15 minutes @ 375.

When the chicken comes out, bake the rolls @ 375 for 15-20 minutes until golden and yummy smelling.

Our snack: A mini soft cheese, baked in it's rind for 10 minutes @ 350, then topped with honey and raw almonds.  Use a knife to cut pieces, and spread it on crispy bread.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Asparagus Soup & Pasta Carbonara

This meal has two components that I really love ~ green food, and a poached egg.  An asparagus soup is creamy, yet light and absolutely Springish.  But I was worried that it wouldn't be enough to hold the family over until breakfast, so I also decided to make a pasta carbonara.

Begin by breaking down the asparagus into three sections: the bottom, woody section, the tips, and finally the center section.  The bottom, typically useless section of tough asparagus will be used to flavor the stock, along with the dark green leek leaves.

Asparagus tips set aside

The woody asparagus bottoms, and dark green leek tops set aside

The white and light green parts of a leek sliced thinly, and the middle sections of the asparagus cut into sections

Chicken stock in the pressure cooker

It's beautiful!

Strain the stock, then add the dark green leek sections, and tough asparagus bottoms to it.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Saute' the sliced leeks in melted goat's butter for 1 minute.

Saute' the asparagus middle sections for another 5 minutes, over medium heat.  Back to the simmering stock, strain out the dark leeks and tough asparagus.  Add to the stock the freshly sauteed leek and asparagus segments, and simmer for an additional 20 minutes, or until tender.

Crisp pancetta, or bacon, cubes.

Add in 1/2 lb. cooked spaghetti, SnP, and a whole heap of fresh Parmesan.  Meanwhile, in a pot of simmering vinegar water I poached one egg per person, and let them drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Yes.  This is cream.  Calm down.

Add the cream to the simmered soup, and blend with your immersion blender.  If you don't have one, you could of course blend this in batches.  Taste for SnP, try to use freshly ground white pepper for the aesthetic value.

Blanch the asparagus tips in boiling water for 2 minutes, stop their cooking in an ice bath, then place a couple on the surface of your soup.

Place a serving of the pancetta-laced pasta on a dish, top with a freshly poached egg, and top that with SnP, parsley, and more Parmesan.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Friday food

In this house, we have an understanding.  If it's Friday, there is a certain type of food that is expected.  No brown rice & broccoli, no Meatless Monday dishes, no breakfast-for-dinner.  We have something that we either don't spend the money or don't spend the time on, the other six days of the week.  It's our way of saying, "Well hello, weekend!"

A recent trip to the lovely Cheese Cave of Claremont, yielded 1/2lb. of goat butter, the loveliest smelling butter ever created.  Who knew that butter could smell good?!  I decided on part of it becoming a compound butter for grilled steaks.  I didn't want too many additives, I wanted to taste this butter!

Minced garlic, a splash of lemon juice, chopped parsley, and 1/4 c. butter.  Mash together, then form into a tube and roll in saran wrap.  Store in the fridge until you are ready to use.

Steaks salted.  I used to salt and pepper steaks, until I was told that the pepper can just scorch.  So now our steaks are peppered after cooking.

Lighting the charcoal grill.  IS there another kind?

My cooking companion.

While the steaks grilled and rested, I boiled small red and yellow wax potatoes, then drained them.  In a skillet I browned 2 strips of chopped bacon until crispy.  When they were done I offed the heat, and whisked in a couple tablespoons of red wine vinegar (I wouldn't recommend leaning over the pot at this point), scraping all the yummys up from the pan.  I added the hot potatoes back in, tossing to coat, then finished with a handful of arugula and some SnP.

When the steaks rested 10 minutes, I plated them, topped it with thin slices of the butter, and served with the potato salad!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dear France: I'm sorry.

This morning I set out with every intention of making burgers for the kiddos, and somehow was sidetracked onto the tangent of French food.  So I combined them.

My first introduction to Chicken Cordon Bleu, was after a move to Colorado and during my sulky preteen phase.  My sister used to have me over to her house on weekends, and we'd cook together.  On one such weekend she showed me how to pound chicken breasts flat, layer Swiss cheese and ham, roll them, bread them, and then fry the suckers until they were golden.  It tasted fantastic, and I always remember cooking with her when I eat the dish now.

Today I started with ground chicken (or turkey if you prefer), sliced ham, and sliced Jarlsberg.  I envisioned chicken burgers, stuffed with ham and cheese, then breaded.  I just had to decide what toppings should go on the bun with such a fantastic burger!

Season the ground meat with thyme, ground mustard, salt, and pepper, and rolled into small balls.  Keep in mind that these are the two halves of your burger that will go around the stuffing, so don't make them too large.   

Quarter the swiss and ham slices, to fit well inside the border of your burger.  Nobody wants cheese leaking out into the fry pan!   

Press the patties into a dish filled with breadcrumbs, and fry in equal parts of olive oil and butter for 5-6 minutes per side.  You want the internal temperature of the ground poultry to reach 165, but this was hard for me to gauge with molten cheese in the center, so I just did it by touch.

Use a nice crispy bun with some backbone, the regular soft hamburger buns will just go to mush.  Spread a layer of your favorite spicy brown mustard, add in your chicken burger, then top with an extra slice of cheese, your favorite tomato sliced (I used a brown tomato), and a handful of arugula dressed with a little lemon juice and snp.  You could also serve this with sweet potato fries, chips, or any other favored burger sides.  But if you're like won't care.  :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Go fish

Today, an early Spring day, was a great day for fish.  It's warm but not hot, and my garden herbs have me inspired to make light and fresh food.  In the past I have occasionally roasted salmon fillets on slices on potato and tomatoes, with herbs and garlic.  I decided this would be my inspiration today.

I began my slicing red and golden potatoes thinly, tossing them with olive oil, and staggering them in a roasting pan.  I topped the potatoes with sliced shallots, and freshly grated salt and pepper, and put them in a 400 oven for 25 minutes.  Meanwhile I sliced brown tomatoes and sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and rosemary, and when the potatoes had baked for 25 minutes I added the sliced tomatoes, and baked for 5 more minutes.

The salmon went on top of the tomatoes, and I only seasoned the fish with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Sometimes the simplest toppings are best!

While the fish baked for 10 minutes, I mixed a compound butter with minced shallots, capers, and salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl I mixed the juice of a lemon with salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp of whole grain mustard, and half of a minced shallot. While whisking the lemon mixture I drizzled in olive oil until the dressing came together, testing for flavor.  It shouldn't be all oil, but you also don't want to dissolve your teeth with acid.  When it tasted balanced I tossed two or three handfulls of arugula (sometimes called Rocket) with the dressing.

 To serve, I mounded the arugula on a dinner plate, topped with the potatoes and tomatoes, added a potion of salmon, and a bit of the compound butter.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No pressure. It's just dinner.

I had a busy day ahead, and with half of the family on Spring Break (a cruel joke) and the other half still doing school work, plus some earaches this morning, we were spread thin.  So no fancy long cookings for us today.  I hadn't dusted off the new pressure cooker recently, and this seemed to be the perfect day for it!  An early morning Trader Joe's run yielded a whole chicken, white wine, and a container of pancetta cubes, knowing I could make something out of them.

My spring garden is still new, but the herbs are already usable, so I clipped rosemary, sage, and parsley.

I made a marinade from the herbs, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and some SnP.  The skinned chicken pieces went in for a soak as we headed to the doc with our sickies.

Three ear infections and two pharmacy runs later, I returned home to stir the marinade and make some stock.  Because why would I have remembered to buy stock when I was at the store earlier.

In a pot I put the chicken back and wings from the morning, a heart of celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, wine, and water to cover.  I let it simmer while I tended to Mr. & Ms. Whiney Pants.  Around the time that the soaking chicken hit 2 hours, the stock smelled done and the kid's Advil was obviously kicking in, so I was free for a few minutes.

I heated the pressure cooker over a medium flame with some olive oil and browned the pancetta cubes.

Then I took the chicken out of its bath, hang onto the bath you're going to use it, and began browning the chicken parts in the same pan.  Once all had been browned, I stacked them on a platter, and de-glazed the pan with about 1/2 c. of white wine.  Then back went the chicken, some of my freshly made stock, and finally I added the marinade.  Close up your pressure cooker and maintain the medium flame until your pressure release valve begins to rattle.  Turn the flame down to low and cook for 15 minutes.

Off the heat, and use your quick-release doo-hicky, and let your chicken rest on a plate while you finish the sauce.

Bring the liquid up to a simmer, and when it begins to thicken a bit, add in a handful of your favorite olives, lemon slices, and a bag of cooked rice.

Taste for salt and pepper and serve!  Quickly, before someone starts whining about something!