Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pan-Grilled Chicken with Chorizo Confetti

This is a fine example of how you can take a plain grilled chicken breast dinner from boring to exciting – garnish the breasts with a sprinkling of a chorizo confetti and colorful vegetables, add a simple green salad, and your meal can be on your table in about 30 minutes.

I’ve never really cooked with chorizo and quickly found I had some things to learn. Last summer when we were in the mountains I was making a seafood paella that called for chorizo. I asked about chorizo in our local grocery store, a very nice store with a surprising good selection, including a deli and cheese department that is far better than Publix in Florida, and I was directed to the meat department to find packaged ground pork sausage labeled chorizo.

I am fairly well read when it comes to most foods and always thought chorizo was a cured smoked hard sausage of Spanish or Portuguese origin that is sliced and eaten without cooking. It is and is called Spanish chorizo. But what was the ground version I found? I learned that chorizo comes in two forms - the Spanish version, a cured smoked sausage described above, and the Mexican version, a fresh ground pork sausage that must be cooked before eating, and by the way does not work well in paella.

Today’s recipe uses the Mexican chorizo, which is quite spicy compared to being smoky, and requires cooking. Next week I’ll use the Spanish chorizo in an entirely different recipe and you’ll be able to see the difference.

I made a few changes to the original recipe, link below. I wanted to know more about the Mexican chorizo and what it tasted like, so I doubled the one tablespoon per serving to two. I also omitted the green bell pepper and upped the amount of the other two peppers to add more color and to make up the difference in volume. Mexican chorizo is quite spicy, so if you or any member of your family doesn’t like very spicy meats, I would return to the one tablespoon per serving that was called for in the original recipe. Serve with a tossed green salad with a few half moon slices of a European cucumber, dress the salad with a simple vinaigrette, and you have dinner ready in 30 minutes.

Pan-Grilled Chicken with Chorizo Confetti
Adapted from Cooking Light – serves 4

4 (6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
½ cup fresh Mexican pork chorizo, casings removed
¼ cup peeled & sliced yellow onion
2 tablespoons peeled and diced carrot
1/3 cup diced yellow bell pepper
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
¼ cup low fat, low salt chicken broth or stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat grill pan with cooking spray. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add chicken, cook 6 minutes on each side, turning once, or until done. Remove to a serving platter and keep warm.

While the chicken cooks, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chorizo and cook one or two minutes, stirring to crumble. Add onion and carrot, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bell peppers and cook until crisp tender, about a couple of minutes. Add the broth and cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is almost evaporated, scraping the pan to loosen the browned bits. Spoon the chorizo mixture over the chicken and garnish with chopped cilantro.

The Super Bowl is this weekend. If you are looking for something to serve at your party, I recommend Meakin's Basic Guacamole Dip. Guacamole dip is a real crowd-pleaser and easy to make, plus we have two variations and a tip to help keep the avocado green, link here. Go Broncos.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Monday, January 27, 2014

French Orange & Olive Salad – a great substitute for tomatos when they aren’t in season

Citrus salads are a great substitute for tomato salads when tomatoes are tasteless and not in season. It's a perfect winter salad to have in your repertoire.

It’s a hastily made, colorful salad that I found in one of Pierre Franey’s 60-Minute Gourmet cookbooks many years ago.  At our house, we call this “Pierre’s salad.” Pierre Franey was a French chef who ran the kitchen at Le Pavillon restaurant in New York City for years. Pierre went on to write newspaper columns for the New York Times, penned some of my favorite cookbooks, and worked alongside his dear friend Craig Claiborne, who, along with Julia Child, taught my generation how to cook.

If you can find two different color oranges, so much the better. A blood orange with a navel orange would be very pretty. This salad is easily transportable and assembled right before serving. If you’ve a frequent reader, you might remember this salad from a couple of years ago.

French Orange and Black Olive Salad 
Salade d’Oranges et Olives Noires- adapted from 60 Minute Gourmet by Pierre Franey – serves two, easily doubled or tripled

1 each large navel orange and large tangelo, or two large navel oranges
8 black imported black olives, pitted & cut in half or slivers if large (I used Kalamata)

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
½ teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 heaping teaspoon freshly chopped fresh rosemary (optional, but delightful)
Slivers of red onion
Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Trim off the ends of the orange and tangelo. Peel them, then cut into quarter inch slices and put them in a mixing bowl. Add the olives.

To make the vinaigrette, place the paprika, garlic, vinegar and oil, chopped rosemary, salt and pepper in a small jar with a tight lid and shake well. Pour the vinaigrette over the oranges and olives and toss well. Sprinkle the slivers of red onions and chopped fresh parsley over the oranges and serve. Easily doubled or tripled.

Our orchid has just started to bloom this year. It was a gift from my Valentine three years ago.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Food on Friday at Carole's Chatter, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.   
Have a great week everyone.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato

I have three potato recipes for you today – two are French classics - Julia Child’s Gratin Savoyard, and a French potato salad with shallots and fresh tarragon, plus an awesome stuffed baked potato from Brennan’s of New Orleans. These are some of my favorite potato recipes and I have been serving in my home for years.  We don't eat potatoes as often as we once did, but when we do, I want them to be really good. When I was recently asked if I would like to try a new variety of potatoes, I thought why not put them to the test with tried and true recipes?

The potato is the Rooster and Albert Bartlett has been growing and selling them in the United Kingdom for years. Recently Albert Bartlett partnered with independent farmers in the US to plant, cultivate and harvest the Rooster potato varietal. The potatoes themselves look very much like a large pink/red skinned potato, but during cooking their flesh turns a lovely light yellow, as you see in the photo. For more information on the potatoes, visit their website, link here.

Of course I was happy to try the potatoes. I was very pleased with how they held up in each case and highly recommend them. Rooster potatoes are available nationwide in selected Walmart stores across the US. Let’s take a look.

Gratin Savoyard 
Adapted from Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking

This is the non-cream version of Gratin Dauphinois, that rich and decedent dish also known as Potatoes Au Gratin or Scalloped Potatoes. This goes particularly well with beef dishes. Sometimes we have this dish for lunch with a green salad – delicious.

2 pounds peeled potatoes, I used Rooster potatoes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove of garlic
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 cup beef broth
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut potatoes in thin slices and place in a bath of cold water. Butter an oven-safe dish with a tablespoon of butter (a 10” oval au gratin dish is perfect) and rub with a cut clove of garlic. Drain the potatoes and dry well with a kitchen towel. Spread half of them over the dish in a decorative pattern and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide over them half of the butter and cheese. Repeat with the second layer. Add beef broth to cover by three quarters, bring to a simmer * on top of the stove, and then bake in a preheated 425 degree F oven about 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and nicely browned on top. Serves 4, or 2 if they are very hungry.

*You can also boil the broth in a separate pan, and then add it to the potatoes right before they go in the oven, if that works best for you.

French Potato Salad
From My Carolina Kitchen

This is my favorite of all of the potato salads. Like anything else, I’ve changed it through the years. The secret of this one is to toss the hot potatoes with the wine, vermouth or hot beef broth before adding the dressing. If you are using dried tarragon, add a good handful of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for color. Since this recipe contains no mayonnaise, it can stand at room temperature for several hours and is perfect for picnics. You can see again that the potato is yellow.

12 oz. small potatoes, unpeeled, I used the Rooster potatoes
5 – 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
Splash of white wine, dry vermouth, or hot beef broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 teaspoon dried, or to taste

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until done. Drain and when cool enough to handle, peel and cut into small slices. Toss the hot potatoes immediately with a splash of white wine, dry vermouth, or hot beef broth. Quickly whisk together the oil and vinegar and toss on the potatoes. Add the shallots and tarragon. Toss again. Let stand about 30 minutes, and then serve at room temperature. Serves 2 - 4.

Brennan's of New Orleans Stuffed Baked Potatoes

I have been making these potatoes for years from a very old Brennan’s cookbook that contained this recipe with a list of ingredients, but no exact proportions, so I’ve been winging it, always with great results. The recipe below is how much I use, but you can change it to your taste. I recently discovered that this recipe is all over the internet if you want a more complete recipe. I use less bacon fat and more Parmesan cheese than some recipes. However, beware of what you read and do not try to mash the potatoes in the food processor as one recipe recommended. The manufacturers of food processors have cautioned for years to not mash potatoes in the processor because the potatoes will likely turn to glue. If you wish to kick it up a notch, as Emeril would say, you can add slivers of smoked salmon as a garnish as above. Serves 2, easily doubled or tripled.

2 large potatoes, washed & scrubbed, I used Rooster potatoes
2 strips bacon, more if you like
1/2 cup chopped green onions, green tops included
1/2 cup sour cream (we use low-fat), or more as needed for moisture
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about 5 – 6 tablespoons
A couple of pats of butter, optional (I did not use butter)
Hungarian paprika for garnish
Slivers of smoked salmon for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. With a small sharp knife, cut a few punctures in the top of each potato and bake for 1 hour or until done. Don't wrap the potatoes in foil or the skins will get too moist.

Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain and when cool enough, crumble. Drain off bacon fat from the skillet except for about 1 tablespoon, or more if you like the bacon flavor. Add chopped green onions and sauté slowly until they soften. Set aside with the bacon.

When the potatoes are done, cut them in half lengthwise and turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees F. Scoop out the insides of the potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl. Salt and pepper the potatoes generously and mash with a potato masher. Add the green onions with the bacon drippings, the crumbled bacon and sour cream to bind. Mix well with a spoon. Add freshly grated Parmesan cheese, stir to incorporate. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary. Add more sour cream if mixture is too stiff. Stuff mixture into potato skins and sprinkle with Hungarian paprika. Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 350 F or until heated through. Garnish with smoked salmon slivers if desired.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, & Food on Friday at Carole's Chatter.   

Have a great weekend everyone.

Disclaimer: I was given a box of Rooster potatoes to try. I was not compensated for this post and the opinions here are my own.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chicken Cutlets with Tarragon Mushroom Sauce

I was drawn to this recipe because of the tarragon sauce. Years ago I made a wonderful veal dish from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking with a brown tarragon sauce and fell in love with the sauce. I’ll make it for you sometime. It’s really quite simple for a Julia recipe and also impressive because of the depth of flavor of the brown sauce flavored with the fresh tarragon.

This recipe is also quite simple and uses fresh tarragon. I’ve made a few changes to make it even simpler and also a bit quicker. I omitted the mirepoix ingredients and the garlic when I reduced the chicken stock and substituted chicken cutlets to save the time of cutting the breasts in half to make cutlets. You can find the original recipe on the link below.

This is a pretty dish and goes well with a green vegetable and, if you’re in the mood, perhaps some mashed potatoes to go with the sauce.

Chicken Cutlets with Tarragon Mushroom Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light – serves 4

2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 bay leaf
8 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, about 3 ounces each
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons butter, divided
1 cup quartered button mushrooms
1/2 cup frozen pearl onions (I used Birds Eye)
1 tablespoon cold water
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon + more for garnish

Place chicken stock and bay leaf in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook 6 minutes or until reduced to 1 1/4 cups. Remove bay leaf with a slotted spoon and discard. Set stock aside.

Sprinkle chicken cutlets evenly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish and dredge chicken in flour. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon butter to pan; swirl until butter melts. Add 4 cutlets to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon butter, and 4 cutlets.

Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onions, cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add stock mixture, bring to a boil, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Combine 1 tablespoon cold water with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into stock mixture. Cook the sauce 1 minute or until it thickens.  Stir in a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper and the fresh tarragon. Spoon the sauce over chicken and remove to a platter. Garnish with a sprig of tarragon and serve right away.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.   

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Italian Seafood Salad

We have been craving seafood after feasting on lots of meat during the holidays and ending with a gorgeous prime rib for Christmas. This Italian seafood salad is from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa’s latest cookbook Foolproof

Ina uses a splash of Limoncello and lots of fresh lemon juice to bring out the briny flavor of the shellfish. Limoncello is a sweet liqueur from Italy and has a strong lemon flavor, but doesn’t have the sourness or bitterness associated with lemon juice. Limoncello is offered today in more and more restaurants as an after dinner digestive in place of dessert. Along the Amalfi Coast, the Italians serve Limoncello chilled in small ceramic glasses, the glasses themselves chilled as well. We like to keep a bottle in our freezer for that same occasion.  

The recipe calls for fresh calamari, which we love. Try as I might, including searching every seafood market within ten to fifteen miles, we weren’t able to locate any calamari. So we substituted two six-ounce small spiny lobster tails that we frequently we can find on sale in our local market for the calamari. This is a very rich salad and consequently we had some left-overs. The next day we added a large can of canned plum tomatoes and their juice along with a splash of white wine and turned it into a seafood stew. This is an expensive salad, so I suggest you save it for special occasions. 

Italian Seafood Salad
Adapted from Foolproof & The Food Network by Ina Garten – serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds (16- to 20-count) shrimp, peeled and deveined 
2 spiny lobster tails, about 6 ounces each, optional
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 pound sea scallops, halved crosswise
1 pound cleaned fresh calamari, sliced crosswise in 1/2-inch-thick rings (or substitute 2 spiny lobster tails, about 6 ounces each as we did above)
2 pounds fresh mussels

1/2 cup good olive oil
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 plum tomatoes, seeds and pulp removed and medium-diced
1/3 cup Limoncello liqueur
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, lightly packed
2 lemons

Fill a large pot with 3 quarts of water and add the Old Bay seasoning and 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, add the shrimp & lobster tails and lower the heat. Simmer the shrimp for 3 minutes, until just firm. With a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a large bowl and leave the lobster tails in the water and simmer for an additional 3 minutes. With a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the lobster a large bowl and let rest until cool enough to remove the meat and cut into cubes. Save the tail for garnish if you wish. Leave 2 cups of the poaching liquid in the pot and discard the rest.

Add the wine to the poaching liquid and bring to a boil. Add the scallops, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 minutes, until just cooked. With the skimmer, transfer the scallops to the bowl with the shrimp. Bring the poaching liquid back to a boil, add the calamari, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until just cooked. Be careful not to overcook any of the seafood or it will be tough. With the skimmer, transfer the calamari to the bowl.

Bring the poaching liquid to a boil again, add the mussels, cover, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until all the shells have opened, discarding any that don't open. Turn off the heat and set aside until the mussels in the broth are cool enough to handle. Remove all but 12 of the mussels from the shells and add to the bowl. Add the 12 in their shells to the seafood and discard the rest of the shells. Set aside 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid, discarding the rest. Drain the seafood in a colander and put it all back into the bowl.

For the dressing, heat the olive oil in a medium (10-inch) sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. (Be careful: Overcooked garlic will be bitter.) Add the tomatoes and cook over medium heat for 2 more minutes. Add the reserved poaching liquid, the limoncello, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and cook for 1 more minute. Pour the sauce over the seafood and toss gently. Add the fennel and parsley. Cut a lemon in half lengthwise, cut it thinly crosswise, and add it to the salad. Toss gently to combine and cover with plastic wrap. Chill, covered, for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To serve, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the juice of the remaining lemon. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature. Garnish with a lobster tail if desired.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes & Carol's Chatter Food on Friday. 

Have a great weekend everyone.