Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sweet & Sour Chicken

I love the fall....and everything fall-like. I love the scents & flavors of fall...warm & spicy. I love the change of color on the leaves. I love the foods of fall....pumpkins, apples, turkey and cranberries and hot cocoa & apple cider! I love the way the weather changes as the heat of summer fades into the cool, brisk, sunny days.....

And then reality hits and I realize I'm in FL and that just doesn't happen here! This time of year makes me so homesick....and I think I am more so this year because I haven't been home since last summer and it is the longest I have ever been away since I moved to FL. I am uber jealous of my friends who have gone apple & pumpkin picking....and doing other fun fall things....and of the weather they are having.

It's this time of year that I love to incorporate the foods of fall into my cooking (even if the temp is still 90 degrees outside). So when I saw this recipe, I had to try it. It's Sweet & Sour Chicken made with Apple Cider and Raisins. I was not disappointed. Great flavor...and the chicken came out perfect!

Sweet & Sour Chicken:

1 3 1/2-to-4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound shallots, halved
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup unfiltered apple cider
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Dust the skin side with flour. Place a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook until the skin is golden, about 5 minutes. Turn the pieces and pour off the excess fat. Tuck the shallots under and around the chicken and cook until just golden, about 2 more minutes.

Push the chicken aside, then stir in the tomato paste and thyme and cook until the paste darkens, about 30 seconds. Add the vinegar, apple cider and raisins, bring to a boil and simmer 1 minute. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chicken until just cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer the chicken, skin-side up, to a heatproof serving dish and return to the oven (turn the oven off). Bring the sauce left in the pan to a boil and reduce by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Lower the heat and whisk in the butter. Spoon the sauce over the chicken.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bacon Egg & Cheese Soup

Over the weekend I received my new Food Network Magazine (thanking my sister, again, for my subscription). There were a couple of really good looking recipes in it this month. The weather here in FL is finally starting to cool off a bit, so I can make things like soups and stews that just don't work in 95 degree heat with 90% humidity. Well this one caught my eye and it surely didn't disappoint! I'll spare you the visual of me licking the bowl....
The only thing I did differently is add an extra clove of garlic.

Bacon, Egg & Cheese Soup

½ lb slab or thick cut bacon, cut into ¼ inch cubes
4 slices of rustic Italian Bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 Tbsp of EVOO
Kosher Salt & Fresh ground pepper
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 cups of low sodium chicken broth
1 ¼ cups of grated parmesan cheese, plus 1 small piece of rind
4 tbsp fresh parsley, torn
1 large eggs

Preheat oven at 375. Cook the bacon in a medium pot over medium heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon, then discard all but 2 tbsp of the drippings from the pot. While the bacon cooks, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil on a baking sheet and season with salt & pepper. Bake until golden & crisp, about 8 minutes.

Add garlic to the bacon drippings and cook until slightly golden (careful not to burn), 1-2 minutes. Add broth with 1 ½ cups of water, the parmesan rind and 2 tbsp of parsley; season with salt & pepper. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Adjust the heat so the broth is barely boiling. One at a time, crack each egg into a small bowl and gently slip into the broth. Poach until just set, about 2 minutes. Transfer the eggs to individual soup bowls. Stir 1 cup of parmesan cheese and the remaining parsley into the broth and season to taste. Ladle the broth into the bowl and top with the croutons, bacon and sprinkle remaining parmesan.

From Food Network Website:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cheesey Chicken Enchilads w/Mexican Rice

Wow, it's been a few weeks since I posted something new. I'm not sure if that's because I haven't made anything new (whoopsie) or if because I've been trying to get back into the swing of cooking since being on vacation....and failing miserably. I keep saying I really need another 2 hours in a day...but unfortunately if that were the case, I'd probably get stuck working longer.

For tonight's dinner I have two recipes (trying to make up for lost time?? LOL).

Cheesey Chicken Enchiladas w/Mexican Rice

For the Enchiladas:

1 can of cream of chicken soup
½ cup of sour cream
1 cup of pace picante salsa
2 tsp of chili pepper
2 cups of chopped cooked chicken
½ cup of shredded jack cheese
6 tortillas
1 small tomato – chopped
1 green onion, sliced

Stir soup, sour cream, picante sauce, and chili powder in medium bowl

Stir one cup of the picante mix, chicken and cheese in large bowl

Divide chicken mixture among tortillas. Roll up tortillas and place seam side up in 2 qt shallow baking dish. Pour remaining picante sauce mix over filled tortillas. Cover and bake @ 350 degrees for 40 mins or until enchiladas are hot & bubbly. (Add extra cheese if wanted.) Top with tomato and onion to serve

For the Mexican Rice:

1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic - diced
1/2 small small onion, diced
2/3 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
3 ounces canned diced tomatoes (I actually used Rotel)
1/4 cup of tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt & pepper
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Stir in onion and saute until translucent.

Pour the rice into the pan and stir to coat grains with oil. Mix in cumin, chili powder, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and chicken stock. Cover, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cook at a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir occasionally.

The enchiladas were delicious....and the rice was really good, but a tad too spicy. I think I'd want to play with it a bit. I'm sure it was the Rotel that did it. Maybe next time just diced tomatoes. Hmmm. Either way - I topped it off with a yummy margarita! I love me some mexican! :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bacon Wapped Chicken stuffed with Blue Cheese & Pecans

The hubby and I just came back from a week long cruise and it was wonderful having your every whim catered to. I miss our dining room servers and room steward already. Oh well...vacation is over and it's back to the routine. Which means back to cooking our own meals. Trying a new recipe tonight....which I saw Rachael Ray make just before we left and made sure I book marked it. As usual, I tweaked it a bit. I removed scallions and added a tiny bit of brown sugar as it brought out the sweetness in the toasted pecans.

I think I'm on a Blue Cheese kick this week as almost everything I have made has had something with blue cheese in it. hmmm....

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Blue Cheese & Pecans

4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1-2 tbsp of brown sugar
4 slices good-quality center cut bacon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup half-and-half or cream
2 tablespoons grainy mustard

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butterfly the chicken breast pieces by cutting across the breast but not all the way through. Open the breasts up and pound lightly between parchment paper. Peel paper away and season the meat with salt and pepper.

Mix the blue cheese crumbles with the pecans and brown sugar. Cover the seasoned chicken cutlets with blue cheese mix in equal amounts. Roll the chicken, wrap each roll with bacon and secure with toothpicks. Season the outside of the rolls with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken evenly all over, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a small baking sheet, place in the oven and cook 10 minutes more.

Melt the butter in the same skillet pan the chicken was seared in over medium heat. Whisk in flour, cook 1 minute then whisk in stock. Let thicken a minute then whisk in the half-and-half and grain mustard, season with salt and pepper, reduce heat to warm.

Halve the chicken and stack to show off the center. Set chicken in gravy or pour over top. Serve with rice and greens, if desired.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Beurre Blanc Success!

This past Sunday afternoon was spent, with a good friend, enjoying a chick-flick double feature at the movies. It promised to be a fun afternoon filled with laughter and tears and oh boy, did it deliver.

The first movie on the agenda was Julie & Julia. There was no doubt that I would love this movie, being the foodie that I am. But I had no idea how much this movie would draw me in, make me laugh and inspire me. I have never heard of the Julie & Julia project, nor do I have a copy of the book or the cookbook Mastering The Art of French Cooking.

For those of you who have not seen it, the movie focuses around a young NYC woman who is a struggling writer in a dead end job. She seems to enjoy, and know, her way around the kitchen and decides to cook every recipe in the above mentioned, Julia Childs' cookbook and started a blog about it. Meanwhile, the movie flashes back to the life of Julia Childs and how she came put herself through a predominantly male cooking school, teach and then write the book. Both woman lead a very parallel life, nearly 50 years apart....and both succeeded at their dream, through food.

Well....I came home from the movies and spent the next few hours looking up Julie's blog (both her current one and the one that inspired her book turn movie. I have added Mastering The Art of French Cooking to my "must have" list of cookbooks. And, just today, the same friend who shared this experience with me gave me the book that launched the movie. I cannot wait to read it!

In the meantime, I was inspired to try to make a Beurre Blanc Sauce, which is a french sauce made with mostly butter and is excellent over seafood and vegetables. I have never done a Beurre Blanc sauce before and understood it to be quite tricky. Too much heat....or not enough stiring...and the sauce can break in an instant and leave you with a buttery mess. Some recipes call for adding cream right before the butter to help the butter "blend" better. I think that's cheating. So I searched for Julia Childs' recipe and was pretty sure I found it.

So tonight's dinner was.....Lemon Pepper Fluke with Beurre Blanc and Roasted Broccoli. The sauce was nothing short of amazing. Rich...creamy....tangy....lick-the-sauce-pan goodness!

Beurre Blanc

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp finely minced shallots
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 lb chilled butter (2 sticks) cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Put the wine, shallots and vinegar in a small heavy saucepan. Boil over high heat until reduced to nearly 3 tbsp. Reduce the heat to medium-low (I actually took it off the heat for a few minutes and let it cool a bit). Add the butter, one piece at a time, whisking constantly until it melts before adding the next. Be patient - it is worth it! Season with salt & pepper. Strain (optional....I did not) and serve immediately.

The Lemon Pepper Fluke was easy and you can use any white fish. Pat fillets dry and season with a lemon-pepper seasoning. Saute in a little butter or olive oil and drizzle sauce over the fish to serve.

I have to say - I even amazed myself with this one!! Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

White Chocolate Coconut Brownies

I was in a baking mood last night. Found this recipe online and it originally called for pecans, I used coconut instead. I think next time instead of vanilla extract....I would use coconut to enhance the coconut flavor. I think an almond extract would work well too.

The texture of these are much lighter than a traditional brownie...a little buttery and almost cake like. Very good!

White Chocolate Coconut Brownies

10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
8 ounces white chocolate pieces
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using 2 tablespoons of the butter, grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water (double boiler), melt the remaining stick of butter with the white chocolate. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar. Add the flour, vanilla, and salt and mix well. Fold in the pecans and the melted white chocolate.

Spread the brownie mixture in the buttered pan and sprinkle the chopped semisweet chocolate over the top. Bake until firm, for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack before cutting into squares.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Parmesan Crusted Pork

WOW.....is all I can say for this one!

Atleast, once a week I like to try brand new recipes. I picked up some pork loin cutlets that were on sale last week and I was looking for something to do with them. I stumbled upon this recipe and I can't wait to make it again. Next time, I think I would try it with tenderloin medallions, but really you can use anything from pork chops to pork loin chops to tenderloin.

This has great flavor and the lemon gives it an added zing and makes it refreshing! Oh...and did I mention it was quick? This only took me 20 mins to throw together and with a bag of steam fresh green beans (which I also like with a little lemon)....dinner was ready in no time!

Parmesan Crusted Pork

2 large eggs
1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs (I actually used Panko breadcrumbs which I seasoned myself with dried parsley, garlic powder, salt & pepper)
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
4 boneless center-cut pork loin chops, pound to about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick (As mentioned, I used pork loin cutlets)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving

Whisk the eggs in shallow dish and place the bread crumbs in another shallow dish. Place the cheese in a third. Sprinkle the pork generously with salt and pepper. Coat the pork completely with the cheese, patting to adhere. Dip the pork into the eggs, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add pork , in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown and the center reaches 150 degrees, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to plates, sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese and serve with lemon wedges so each person can squeeze onto pork as served.