Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chicken Marengo

Chicken Marengo is one of my all time favorite French recipes, dating from when I first learned to cook as a new bride. This recipe is from my first cookbook, With a Jug of Wine by Morrison Wood. Morrison Wood wrote a newspaper column called “For Men Only!” which appeared weekly in the Chicago Daily Tribune and other newspapers. Not only do his recipes endear me to the book, but his stories that introduce the recipes are delightful entertaining and you feel he’s right there in the kitchen with you.

With a Jug of Wine was first published in 1949 and the recipes, some with a French flair. Among the recipes are Boeuf Bourguignon, Boeuf de Daube, Cassoulet, File of Sole Normande, Lobster Thermidor, Cocquille le Sainte Jacques, Partridges a la Chausser, and Shrimp De Jonghe from a famous Chicago restaurant by the same name (a Hoffer family favorite going way back) weren’t widely available to the home cook. Morrison Wood was far ahead of his time. Remember, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking wasn’t published until 1961. I find Morrison Wood’s recipes to be every bit as reliable as Julia Child and Ina Garten.

I’m not the only one who loves Morrison Wood. My friend Barbara of Movable Feasts recently touted With a Jug of Wine and featured Morrison Wood’s chili, link here, which I also agree is some very fine chili. Long out of print, copies of the cookbook can be found from time to time at Amazon and from other internet sources.

The wonderful history of Chicken Marengo alone is enough reason to serve it at a dinner party. A great conversation starter at the table is to tell your guests about its colorful history. Napoleon’s chef was a man named Durand. According to legend, when Napoleon defeated the Austrians on the battlefield near the village of Marengo in northwest Italy in June of 1800, Durand created the dish Chicken Marengo. The supply trains hadn’t been able to keep up with the troops, so there wasn’t anything with which to make dinner for the temperamental Napoleon. Durand decided to send some of his men into the countryside to find provisions for a celebration dinner. On a nearby farm they found chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, olive oil and garlic.

There are dozens of stories about the creation of the actual dish. Some say it was garnished with crayfish and fried eggs; others insist it included olives, anchovies, and Italian Prosciutto, which would make it Chicken a la Provençale. Several years ago I did a post on Chicken Marengo and combined Chicken Marengo with Chicken a la Provençale, link here. Today I’ve gone back to Morrison Wood’s original Chicken Marengo.  I took the liberty to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but it’s equally delicious with a cut up whole chicken, as the original recipe called for. I urge you to give it a try. It’s simple to make and is always a hit. I like to serve it with my mother’s rice, recipe here, and green beans with toasted almonds. It's interesting that several years ago Cooking Light magazine had an article on how to perfectly cook rice and it was exactly the same method as my moms.

Chicken Marengo
Le Poulet Marengo
Slightly adapted from “With a Jug of Wine” by Morrison Wood, serves 4
Printable Recipe

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or a whole cut up chicken
Flour for dredging
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
4 small white onions, peeled & chopped
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 ½ cups sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons minced parsley
4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced (canned, crushed first, are fine, including their juices)
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon flour
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Remove any excess skin from the chicken, then salt and pepper them and dust lightly with flour. In a large non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil, and sauté the chicken until golden brown, turning frequently so all of the pieces are done evenly. Remove chicken from skillet and keep warm.

In the same skillet, put chopped onions, garlic, mushrooms, parsley, and more olive oil if necessary. Cook this mixture until the mushrooms are tender, then add the tomatoes and their juices, dry white wine, brandy, tomato paste and 1 tablespoons flour. Mix and blend the ingredients well and allow to simmer over a medium flame for about 10 minutes. Now put the chicken in the sauce, cover the pan, and simmer until the chicken is completely tender, about 15 to 20 minutes for boneless, skinless breasts and 30 minutes or so for a whole cut up chicken. Serve with the sauce and garnish with chopped parsley. Fluffy rice, seasoned with finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and a pat of butter, makes a nice accompaniment.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Strawberries in Red Wine Syrup & Lunch with Friends by the Pool

Strawberries in red wine syrup is a perfect to dessert to follow a rich main course because it’s refreshing to the palate and is a very colorful finale to the entire meal. You’ll quick find that the sugary wine syrup that collects in the bottom of the bowl is the very best part. This is a dessert that comes together in a matter of a few minutes and can and should be made at least 30 minutes ahead and up to an hour.

Larry and Beverly of Big Dude’s Eclectic Wanderings enjoy RV-ing and were visiting our area so we invited them to lunch at our house by the pool. The week before we drove up to their campground where they were staying near Port Charlotte and enjoyed a delightful afternoon seafood extravaganza consisting of oysters and clams from Cedar Key, some of the freshest I’ve tasted in a very long, served several ways, grilled Gulf shrimp, Bev’s homemade sourdough rolls, hot out of the oven, my French potato salad (recipe here) and cole slaw, which we brought, and le pièce de résistance – Larry’s own grilled Oysters Rockefeller, the best I’ve ever eaten. Link here to the Larry’s recipes.

For lunch by the pool at our house, we started with spicy cranberry goat cheese log as an appetizer along with a glass of wine. I’ve served this several times lately and it’s always a hit. Feel free to use dried cherries in the place of the cranberries and substitute fresh thyme leaves for the rosemary if you wish. But whatever you do, don't leave out the candied ginger, it's the secret to the spiciness of the dish. Link to the spicy goat cheese log recipe here.

Our main course was quick French cassoulet, which has become a favorite with us and can easily be prepared a day or two in advance. Even though we’re in south Florida, the day was breezy with a very slight chill in the air, meaning low seventies, so a hearty dish such as cassoulet was perfect. Link to cassoulet recipe here. A crispy French baguette and a simple tossed baby greens salad with our house French vinaigrette, recipe to vinaigrette here, rounded out the meal.

Strawberries in red wine syrup was our dessert. Strawberries from Plant City, Florida, the winter strawberry capital off the world, are in season right now, but any good fresh strawberry is fine. Plan ahead and remember the berries need to sit in the refrigerator for up to 30 minutes and as long as an hour for the flavors to blend.

Strawberries in Red Wine Syrup
Fraises au Vin Rouge
Slightly adapted From Paris to Provence, Ethel Brennan & Sara Remington – serves 4
Printable Recipe

2 pints medium-size ripe strawberries, stems removed and cut into halves or slices if large
¼ cup sugar
1 cup red wine, such as a Cote de Rhone
Sprigs of fresh mint for garnish
Thin chocolate cookies to accompany

Place the strawberries in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the sugar over the tops of the berries and gently toss to coat. Add the red wine and gently stir the strawberries, then place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Garnish each serving with a sprig of fresh mint. Serve slightly chilled. Great with thin chocolate cookies and a glass of red wine.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm and Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday.
Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Crustless Onion Quiche with a Provencal Twist

This Provencal quiche is reminiscent of the flavors & ingredients in a French Pissaladiere, originating in the city of Nice and a very popular pizza found all over Provence and the South of France. The only thing missing is the crust. To quote Patricia Wells, “This beautifully golden crustless quiche makes a great Sunday night supper in front of the fire, served with a zesty tossed green salad and a glass of chilled white wine. I’ve also served it as a sit-down appetizer at a cocktail party.” I know it’s been extremely cold where many of you live and this quiche is a cozy winter dish that's very easy to make and comes together beautifully.

We made the Provencal version with the black olives and anchovies. The onions give the quiche a slightly sweet taste and the anchovies and olives offer a nice balance of flavors. Don’t be afraid of the anchovies. Drained and rinsed well several times takes away the anchovy's heaviness and strong flavors. Just to make sure, I changed the water several times.  I recommend using a full flavored yellow onion and personally I think a sweet onion, such as a Vidalia, would make the quiche a tad too sweet, but of course that's up to you.

I used a ceramic tart pan, but after I made the quiche, I found some pictures on Facebook here and it looks like Patricia used a spring form pan lined with aluminum foil when she made hers. I haven’t tried it that way so I can’t attest as to whether the liquid will leak out or not. A rasp is a fantastic tool for grating fresh nutmeg and powdered nutmeg doesn’t even hold a candle to the freshly grated.

I followed Patricia’s advice and served a tart arugula salad, a few grape tomato halves for a burst of color and a nice chilled glass of white wine alongside. I’ve included a recipe for my house French vinaigrette below, which has been a family favorite for many years. Don’t even think of buying salad dressings when it is so easy to make your own. Homemade vinaigrettes always taste far superior to store bought, can be made in seconds, and will keep for days in the refrigerator, so there’s absolutely no reason not to make your own.

Crustless Onion Quiche with a Provencal Twist
From Patricia Wells at Home in Provence – serves 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

Unsalted butter for preparing the tart pan
1 pound onions, peeled (I used all purpose yellow onions)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, carefully stemmed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
4 large eggs
¼ cup whole milk
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Provencal version directions below (optional but delicious & recommended)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of the baking dish/tart pan and set aside.

Slice the peeled onions in half lengthwise. Place, cut side down, on a cutting board and slice crosswise into very thin slices.

In a large unheated skillet, combine the onions, butter, thyme, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Sweat the onion mixture over moderate heat, covered, until the onions are soft, about 8 minutes. They should not caramelize or turn brown. Taste for seasonings and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a medium-size bowl and whisk just to blend. Whisk in the milk and cream.

Transfer the onions to the prepared baking dish, smoothing them out with the back of a spoon. Pour the egg mixture over the onions. Season with additional pepper and nutmeg. Place in the center of the oven and bake until the top is deep golden brown and the custard is firm, about 30 minutes. To test for doneness, insert the top of a knife in the center of the quiche. It is done when the knife comes out clean. Do not under bake or the quiche will be mushy, not firm. Let sit for about 5 minutes to firm up. Serve the quiche warm, cut into thin wedges, with a zesty tossed green salad and a glass of chilled white wine.

Quiche before baking

Provencal version: To give the quiche a Provencal accent. just before baking, arrange eight rinsed and soaked (I changed their water several times) anchovy fillets in a pinwheel pattern on the quiche. Separate the anchovies with a pitted black olive.

My Carolina Kitchen’s House French Vinaigrette
By Sam Hoffer – serves 3 to 4
Printable Recipe

3 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon (or more to taste) Dijon mustard
½ tablespoon finely chopped shallots
A pinch of sea salt such as Maldon
A couple of grinds of freshly ground black pepper, plus more for finishing
French Fleur de sel sea salt for finishing

Place all ingredients except the fleur del sel in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until well blended. Vinaigrette will keep several days in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before using. Toss over fresh salad greens, then taste for seasonings and add a pinch or two of finishing salt such as French fleur de sel salt and a few more grinds of freshly ground black pepper.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm and Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday.
From our kitchen to yours, we hope you have a great weekend.
Sam & Meakin

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chicken Braised in Wine and Rosemary

Chicken that tastes just like it has been braised for hours but cooks in only 45 minutes? I don’t know. I have to try it for myself - and it did and it does. Hard to believe, but there’s a tiny little secret and here’s what it is. Cut a ½ inch deep slit in the chicken, which to my surprise actually worked. That small cut expedites the cooking time, making the dish taste likes it’s braised for hours.

As you can see in the photos, I left the skin on the chicken, which was quite by accident. It seems the trend in writing recipes today is to make the instructions as short as possible (so as not to intimidate the reader I assume), so “skinned” was listed after the word “chicken” in the ingredients list, not in the instructions, so I missed it. It won’t ruin the recipe, but I recommend skinning the chicken and removing any excess fat. Otherwise you might need to let the dish rest in the refrigerator overnight and then remove the fat the rises to the top before reheating.

Asparagus (My Carolina Kitchen’s basic recipe here) with a lemon butter drizzle and creamy mashed potatoes both make an excellent accompaniment. Feel free to use part drumsticks for half of the chicken thighs as the original recipe called for. We thought our additions of the kalamata olives and more fresh rosemary brought a bit more flavor & depth to the dish.

Chicken Braised in Wine and Rosemary
Adapted from Cooking Light – serves 4
Printable Recipe

8 bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 ¼ pounds), skinned
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon peeled & chopped garlic
½ - 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup dry red wine (I used a Pinot Noir)
1 cup chicken stock or broth (I use low fat, low sodium version)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 (14.5 ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed and undrained
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
Chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
Rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Make 1 cut, 1/2-inch-deep, in each chicken piece and sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour. Add chicken to pan and cook 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan. You may need to cook the chicken in batches so you don’t crowd the pan.

Add shallots, garlic, and rosemary to pan. Cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Take care not to let the shallots or garlic burn. Add wine to pan and bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add chicken stock, sugar, tomatoes, bay leaf and olives. Bring mixture to a boil and return chicken to pan. Reduce heat to medium and cook, partially covered, 15 minutes or until chicken is done, turning chicken once. Test for doneness & taste for salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf, then transfer chicken to a platter and ladle sauce over. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and rosemary sprigs and serve right away.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

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

Have a great weekend everyone.