Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pollo al Vin Cotto aka Winey Chicken

For Thanksgiving I intended to roast a lovely capon.  However, my butcher didn't come through and so I had to quickly rethink my plan within 48 hours.  Luckily, the recipe I landed on was amazingly delicious, comforting, and somehow elegant and rustic simultaneously.  I found the recipe for Pollo al Vin Cotto in a Mario Batali cookbook, and although I stayed mostly true to the ingredient list, I found Batali's instructions lacking, and so using the ingredients and basic method, I changed things up a bit.  Also, I adapted the recipe to make it good for leftovers, and easy to prepare ahead.  Instead of using a single cut up chicken as the original recipe called for, I used all chicken thighs, for we prefer dark meat and I happened to have a bunch in the freezer.  This recipe served 5 people as part of a multi-course holiday meal, with leftovers for dinner for 2.  This certainly isn't a quick weeknight dinner, and in the ingredient list may seem daunting, but for a special Sunday or holiday dinner, totally worth it.  To make it easier, this is certainly a dish to do all of your prep in advance and have everything lined up and ready to go.  As for making good leftovers, the sauce of course became more complex after a couple days.

Ingredients for vin cotto:
  • 4 1/2 cups red wine (use something basic, but definitely drinkable)
  • 1/2 cup honey 
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cloves
To make vin cotto:
  • Combine ingredients in your big pot.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.  Stir occasionally until liquid is reduced to one cup.  This will take over an hour of simmering.  You can do this the day before to save time.
Ingredients for chicken and sauce:
  • 3 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on, seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup vin cotto
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, large dice
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup green olives, chopped (large ones, packed in brine only)
  • 3 generous TBS golden raisins
  • 1 TBS capers, well rinsed, dried
  • 1 generous TBS pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 generous TBS almonds, blanched and toasted
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
To make chicken and sauce:
  • In your big pot (heavy-bottomed, such as a dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • In batches, so as not to crowd the pan, brown the chicken thighs on both sides, do the skin-side first.
  • Put browned chicken aside.
  • Lower heat to low and add onion and carrot to pan.  Cook, stirring regularly, until onion and carrot is caramelized, and browned all over.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the vin cotto and use it to deglaze the pan. 
  • Return to chicken to the pot, nestled into the vin cotto, and cover pot.  Simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, until chicken thighs are cooked through.  Then remove chicken again and set aside.
  • Add remaining vin cotto, raise heat, and reduce liquid by half.
  • Add olives, raisins, capers, pine nuts, and almonds.  Stir to coat.
  • Dissolve sugar into the red wine vinegar, then add to sauce.
  • Raise heat and simmer hard to reduce sauce to a glaze.
  • Add lots of freshly ground black pepper, and taste sauce for balance, add salt if necessary, although it shouldn't be thanks to the capers and olives.
  • Remove skin from cooked chicken and place onto a baking sheet
  • Return skinless chicken to pot, covering each piece with glaze to coat and cover pot to keep warm.
Ingredients for finishing chicken:
  • cooked, buttered orzo (cooked from 10 oz. dry orzo)
  • chopped parsley
  • high quality extra virgin olive oil
  • red pepper flake
To finish the chicken for service:
  • In a 400 degree oven, roast chicken skin until crisp (about 5 or 10 minutes).  Roughly chop, place in a small bowl to serve alongside chicken.
  • Spread buttered orzo on a large platter.  Place chicken atop orzo.
  • Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with parsley and red pepper flake.
To prepare ahead:
  • After removing chicken skin, refrigerate.
  • After coating chicken thoroughly in glaze, pack tightly in an air-tight container.
  • Scrape glaze in a separate air-tight container.
  • When ready to serve, heat glaze and chicken together over very low heat, perhaps adding a TBS or so of water to rehydrate glaze.  
  • Proceed with service preparation.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Roasted Squash, Spicy Chicken and Caramelized Onion Risotto

I know the picture isn't beautiful, but I'm not a photographer, and risotto isn't exactly photogenic.  But trust me, this is a powerhouse of taste!  Sometimes piecing together a meal from the pantry and fridge is good enough, and although perhaps tasty, not going to be called back to the show again anytime soon.  And then there are dishes that after a long day of working hard (me at work, Matt showing the yard and leaves who's boss), come together in such a way as to boggle the mind.  This dish has just enough (but not too much) spicy heat to warm up on a fall day, the creamy comfort of risotto and the sweetness of roasted squash and caramelized onions.

I used a medium delicata squash for this, but use whatever squash you have and like.  You can easily double or triple this dish of course, but as usual, my proportions are for two people.  I'm going to presume, for purposes of efficiency, that you already know the process of making a basic risotto.  If not, please see my Green Apple and Bacon Risotto for instructions.

Take your delicata squash and halve it lengthewise.  Drizzle with oil, generously grind on black pepper, sprinkle on some kosher salt and generously sprinkle with dried thyme.  Roast in a 425 oven for 20 minutes, or until tender.  When cool enough to touch, remove skin and chop into 1/4" chunks

Take a 1/4 pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs and trim off any excess fat (this should be about two thighs of medium size).  Season generously with Northwoods Fire Seasoning (or your personal favorite blend of hot peppers and herbs and salt).  Pan cook over medium heat in a nonstick pan (don't bother adding any oil) until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  When cool enough to touch, chop into 1/4" chunks.

I used more onion than usual in proportion to rice to increase the flavor presence of the onions.  I used a medium onion (the size of a baseball), finely chopped to 2/3 cup of rice.

Start your risotto normally, melting butter and olive oil together, but instead of just sweating the onions until translucent, caramelize them.  Do this slowly, you want golden brown onions, not black or burnt.  When about half of the onions have a caramel color, proceed with toasting the rice, adding the white wine and cooking off, then adding chicken stock incrementally and stirring regularly.  When the risotto is tender and creamy, turn off the heat and stir in the squash, the chicken and a 1/2 cup of grated grana padano cheese or parmigiano.  For this risotto, due to the oil on the squash and the unctuousness of the chicken, I do not add butter at the end, only the cheese.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sausage and Squash

I got the idea for this from an article on Salon, that involved butternut squash.  I had a beautiful delicata squash from my mother's garden, and a couple hot Italian sausages I took out of the freezer last night for today's lunch.  This is insanely simply, and a perfect fall lunch for two (multiply appropriately for more!).

  • 2 large sausages
  • olive oil
  • 1 Delicata Squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and pulp removed, then cut into 1 1/2" slices, do not peel squash
  • pepper
  • kosher salt
  • Set oven to 425.  
  • Put olive oil in an oven-proof pan and heat over medium low heat.  
  • Prick sausages all over with a fork.
  • Slowly brown the sausages on all sides, letting the fat ooze out into the pan.
  • Remove sausages from pan, set aside.
  • Put squash pieces into pan, and cook over medium low heat a few minutes per side.
  • Grind a generous amount of fresh pepper over pieces, and a slight sprinkle of kosher salt.
  • Place sausages back in pan.
  • Put pan into oven for 15-20 minutes
  • Half way through cooking, flip squash and sausages, but if you forget, no big deal.
Serve with some high quality crusty bread.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ginger Lemon Scones

I have been making these scones for about ten years.  When I was in my last two years of college I lived with my Aunt Lisa and Uncle Tilman, and in addition to recipes for parmesan broiled fennel, spicy tomato-stewed cod, and the phenomona of eggy-brekky (on Uncle Tilman's mother Hanna's fine china on Sundays and birthdays), one of the best recipes I acquired was my Aunt Lisa's variation on a Gourmet magazine recipe for scones.  I have since added my own variations, making everything from tropical fruit scones to cranberry almond and so on.  If you've lived with me or near me, worked with me, or otherwise endeared yourself to me before mid-morning, you've likely had these scones.

Today we're having a broker open house to help sell our condo, and I thought I'd make these scones to help make the place smell yummy and otherwise charm potential buyer-agents.  I got up earlier than expected, so I had time to jot this down while the scones cool. I once set about to make these and didn't have a lemon, but did have a lime, and those turned out quite nicely as well.  You can use any sort of candied ginger, but the best is freshly candied slices of ginger you can dice up yourself.  But that can sometimes be hard to find (checking an Asian grocery is usually helpful), but I have had acceptable results with supermarket pre-diced candied ginger.  Just buy only what you need and if it feels like rock candy, don't use it.  The key to the tenderness in these scones is minimal handling.  This is a pastry, not bread.  Be careful to not overknead.  
The scones are moist and tender enough to serve on their own, but if you want to gild the lily, serve with jam or butter (I put out some cherry preserves with these).

For scones:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 TBS cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup finely diced candied ginger
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk (don't use skim, but 1% works just great, but whole milk makes a decadent scone, and if you have it, use it)
For glaze:
  • juice of lemon
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • Mix together flour, baking powder and salt with a fork in a big bowl
  • Using fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture, making the mixture crumbly
  • Toss in candied ginger, lemon zest and sugar
  • Pour in milk and mix gently with fork/hands until just incorporated into a single ball
  • Turn out onto a board
  • Cut dough into two and gently pat each section into a six-inch diameter circle
  • Cut each circle into 8 wedges
  • Place wedges about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet
  • Dissolve the 2 TBS sugar into the lemon juice, and brush atop scones
  • Bake at 425 for about 10 minutes, until golden, but not brown.
  • Remove from pan immediately and place on a cooling rack under a tea towel for 15 minutes before serving

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saucy Lady Barbecue Sauce

For a while I have been wanting to make a house barbecue sauce with one of Matt's beers, and we are very pleased with this sauce. It's debut will be at a friend's barbecue this weekend. Now unless you are able to procure some of Matt's Lady in Red Irish Red, you won't be able to completely recreate this sauce. However, if you select a red ale that is malty, caramelly, a little nutty and not hoppy, you can get a close approximation. I also used honey from my Aunt Lisa and Uncle Tilman's bees, so you probably can't get that either, so just pick a good quality wildflower honey. If you don't make chicken stock at home, then use store bought, but make absolutely sure that it is as low sodium as possible.

This sauce is tangy, sweet, smoky, with a hint of mole flavor and just the right amount of spicy heat. If you don't want the spicy part, omit the ancho chile, and halve the amount of cayenne, but don't omit cayenne entirely. Also, I prefer a thick barbecue sauce, but if you prefer a thinner sauce, simply simmer for a shorter time.

The ingredient list is lengthy, and I suggest that before starting to cook, excepting the first 8 ingredients, measure all of the wet ingredients into one container and all of the dry ingredients into another.

Since there is sugar and honey in the sauce, don't marinate anything in this sauce, for once you put it on a grill, it will burn before your meat is cooked. It is for brushing on in the last minute of grilling, or as a condiment on cooked meats and vegetables. You can also heat a little in a saucepan, add shredded cooked chicken, then pile it onto a toasted bun for a quick, tasty dinner. The sauce will keep about a month in the fridge, tightly sealed, and you can also freeze it.

Makes about 1 quart.

  • 12 ounces Lady in Red Irish Red beer
  • 3 TBS chopped garlic
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 ½ cups ketchup
  • 1 Ancho Chile, stemmed and seeded
  • 3 tsp liquid smoke
  • 3 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 3 TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 TBS low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 TBS Lukas honey
  • 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 4 TBS dry mustard
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 ½ tsp mexican oregano
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp ground chipotle
  • 3 TBS cocoa
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Put oil into 4 qt. pot, heat over medium-low heat.
  • Add onion, salt and black pepper, cook stirring regularly until onion softens.
  • Stir in garlic, cook for about a minute.
  • Pour in the beer, bring to a boil and boil for one minute.
  • Add the ancho chile, ketchup and all remaining wet ingredients, dry ingredients and bay leaf.
  • Stir until smooth (excepting for the chile and bay leaf)
  • Bring sauce to a low simmer.
  • After simmering for 5 minutes, remove ancho chile.
  • Continue to simmer sauce, stirring from time to time for an hour or hour and a half, until thickened to desired consistency.
  • Strain sauce through fine mesh strainer

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    Mexican Chocolate Cake

    This cake is THE chocolate cake. If I ever baked you a chocolate cake, or you ever ate my mother's chocolate cake you know this cake. It is moist, light, but not too light, and super chocolatey. In my family we call it "Mrs. Gude's cake" (after the woman who gave my mother the recipe in 1967) or "mom's chocolate cake" or "the chocolate cake".

    This weekend we were invited to a Mexican-themed BBQ at our friends' Jason and Caitlin's place (Caroline's bean dip and Jason's tacos al pastor were both dynamite!). I was assigned dessert and tried to think up a good dessert that would transport easily and hold in hot weather without detriment. The chocolate cake always traveled well, but how to make it fit the theme....add some cayenne and cinnamon and you get....

    Mexican Chocolate Cake! Because there is a little kick to this cake, you definitely want to serve the cake with ice cream or maybe some whipped cream, too cool things off a bit. If you want a regular chocolate cake, just omit the cinnamon and cayenne and enjoy!

    This cake is very forgiving, if you don't want a 9x13 cake, just halve the recipe evenly on all ingredients and make an 8 inch round or 9 inch square. However, since the cake freezes so well, just make the whole recipe and freeze it in single squares. It is yummy straight from the freezer, or defrosted.

    For one cake, 9x13:
    • Butter a 9x13 cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter up that too.
    • Preheat oven at 350.
    • Measure 1/2 cup milk and add a splash of cider vinegar, let sit while you prepare everything else.
    • 2 cups flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 12 TBS butter
    • 1 cup water
    • 12 TBS cocoa powder (I use Hershey's)
    • 2 tsp high quality cinnamon (I used Extra-Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon from Penzeys)
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup sour milk (see above- milk plus vinegar)
    • 2 eggs
    • On a sheet of parchment paper, sift together flour and baking soda, set aside
    • Combine sugar and salt together into mixing bowl, set aside
    • In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter and water together
    • When butter is completely melted, while mixture is still hot, immediately whisk in cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne
    • When smooth, immediately add to sugar/salt in mixing bowl and whisk until sugar is melted completely and batter is smooth
    • Either by hand or with an electric mixer (standing or hand held), mix in flour mixture until batter is smooth
    • Pour in sour milk and beat until batter is smooth
    • Beat in the eggs (if by hand, for 200 strokes or 2 minutes, if using mixer, beat for 1 minute)
    • Immediately pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 30 minutes.
    • Test doneness by putting a toothpick into the center of the cake, if it comes out clean/dry, the cake is done
    • Let cake cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes, then turn out cake onto the rack, peel off paper, and flip over carefully
    • Dust cake with a mixture of confectioner's sugar and cinnamon, serve with ice cream

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Buffalo Chicken Pizza

    Although I always liked the concept of a Buffalo Chicken Pizza from a restaurant, I was frequently  disappointed in execution.  Most were a pizza with tomato sauce, unseasoned chicken, tasteless cheese and were soggy and greasy from being doused with buffalo sauce (which is really just a pepper-infused vinegar and melted butter...not exactly sauce so much as it is a vinaigrette).  And then, one day while perusing the cheese case at Whole Foods (some women shop for clothes...I shop for cheese), I came across a Buffalo Wing Cheddar made by Yancey's in upstate NY.  Now that I'm looking for it, I've seen the cheese at Stop and Shop, and my mom reports a sighting at Hannaford's in the sticks of NH.

    So now that I had the Buffalo Wing Cheddar, I set about to crafting it into a pizza.  I knew I wanted there to be something sweet that would play off the spicy well, but although tomato sauce can be sweet, it can also have too much of a tangy bite that would compete with the spicy flavors.  I settled on one of my favorite bases for a pizza or panini: beermelized onions.  The Buffalo Wing Cheddar is super spicy (I mean it, don't over do it with this cheese!), and I knew I couldn't cover an entire pizza, for it would be overkill.  Solution: a few slices of fresh mozzarella to balance things out and give a gentle creaminess to offset the spicy.  Next question was how to prepare the chicken.  As I mentioned, many pizzas with chicken overlook a key component: seasoning of the chicken.  This small simple step enhances the flavor of the chicken so much, that it isn't just a boring piece of protein.  I settled on pan-cooking boneless skinless chicken thighs seasoned with salt, pepper, and ground chipotle.  Finished off with some Gorgonzola crumbles, and you have a great pizza to pair with your favorite IPA.

    What you get is a complex pizza with a balance of sweet earthiness from the beermelized onions,spicy buffalo flavor, a touch of smokiness from the chicken, and a nice piquant kick from the Gorgonzola.  This is Matt's newest favorite.  He almost said it has unseated the spicy chicken sandwich....but then quickly made the distinction that they are two different dishes.  My vote?  This kicks the spicy chicken sandwich's butt.  Another benefit of this pizza?  You can cook the chicken and the beermelized onions any time before pizza assembly, and keep in the fridge for a couple days.  Then you've got a fast assembly before baking and eating dinner.

    For the Chicken:
    • 2 large boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, and seasoned with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and ground chipotle
    • With a little olive oil in a pan, heat pan over medium heat
    • Cook chicken thighs one side at a time, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes total, but do not over cook
    • When cool enough to touch, chop into bite sized pieces
    For the Pizza:
    • Upon your favorite pizza dough, spread out the beermelized onions as a base
    • Scatter chicken pieces
    • Place fresh mozzarella slices atop pizza next
    • Place grated Buffalo Wing Cheddar on next
    • Scatter gorgonzola crumbles atop pizza (see below for a picture to see pre-cooked distribution of ingredients)
    • Cook as you would any pizza
    • If you are Matt, serve with blue cheese dip for the crusts

    Sunday, May 2, 2010

    Indian Spiced Yogurt Marinated Lamb Kebabs over Herb Salad

    Visiting Mom this weekend for more wedding planning and we wanted to make something fun for dinner without having to go to the store.  She happened to have some boneless lamb shoulder, and suggested lamb kebabs.  I started looking at marinade options, and devised my own based loosely on a tandoori recipe.  Since summer has come early to NH, we also wanted a lighter dish, and didn't have any naan or lavash anyways, so served the kebabs over an herb salad (although if you wanted to make the meal heartier, or feel a necessity for starch, you can always have some warm naan or lavash on the side and roll up the kebabs with the salad inside too).

    These kebabs would be stellar over a charcoal grill, but we were too tired to haul it out last night.  The broiler worked great, giving a slight char and keeping the lamb juicy and tender.  The kebabs will make good leftovers, either brought to room temperature or reheated gently.  Some of the spices may not be regular players in your pantry (tumeric, coriander, mustard powder), but it is worth buying a small quantity to make this dish.  Tangy, not too spicy, but very complex, mouthwatering and good for you too.  Try to find sustainable, all natural lamb for this dish.

    For 4 people

    • 1 cup 0% greek yogurt
    • juice of 1 lime
    • 1 TBS minced garlic
    • 1/2 TBS sweet paprika
    • 1/2 TBS ground coriander
    • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/2 tsp tumeric
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
    • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
    • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 TBS milk
    • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds lean, boneless lamb shoulder or leg, trimmed of fat and cut into 2" chunks
    • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1 1/2" pieces
    • Small head of romaine lettuce, cut into ribbons
    • 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
    • small handful parsley, roughly chopped
    • small handful cilantro, roughly chopped
    • juice of half a lime and 1/2 tsp lime zest
    • 2 TBS olive oil
    • Whisk together marinade ingredients in big bowl
    • Add lamb chunks to marinade, coat thoroughly and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight (if refrigerating overnight, let lamb come to room temp before cooking)
    • Thread lamb chunks onto metal skewers, placing two chunks of red pepper per lamb chunk alternately on the kebab
    • Broil kebabs on foil, 3 minutes first side and 2 minutes on the second side for medium rare, then let rest for 5 minutes (if you have a charcoal grill, cook for same time over direct heat)
    • While kebabs rest, assemble salad by tossing the lettuce and herbs with the lime juice, lime zest and olive oil
    • Place kebabs atop salad, family style, or make individual plates, giving each person 4 to 5 lamb chunks and 8 or so red pepper chunks

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Sage and Sausage Stuffed Chicken Bundles Braised in Beer

    A couple weeks ago I was visiting mom and she was de-boning some chicken thighs for dinner.  She by chance remembered one time she made a surprise dinner for my dad years before my sister and I came along that involved using leftover breakfast sausage links rolled up inside the de-boned chicken thigh and then braised quickly on the stove top.  Well, Matt and I love chicken thighs, and we really love sausage (of all varieties).  So, I gave thought to how to dress up the dish easily (roasted red pepper) and a braising liquid that could boil down to make a savory, but slightly sweet pan sauce (beer and tomatoes).  Although sausage-stuffed chicken thighs are a common dish, what makes these a different take is the time-saving of using an already seasoned sausage link in the perfect size and shape instead of making a sausage stuffing.  To make this dish I give you options for short cuts, but if you have a few extra minutes, and want to save a buck or two that works as well. You can make this dish either with leftover sausage links from breakfast, or just thaw out some fully cooked "brown and serve" links.  I discovered that Wellshire farms makes a great classic breakfast sausage link.

    Serves 4

    • 4 large skinless, de-boned chicken thighs, fat trimmed (you can take the short cut and buy already boned chicken thighs, or save a dollar and bone the chicken thighs yourself, and then also make a quick, small batch of chicken stock with the bones)
    • 4 breakfast sausage links, leftover from breakfast or thawed, either way, room temperature (classic flavoring, sage and black pepper, do not use maple-flavored)
    • Fresh Sage, 2 tsp chopped for bundles, plus 2 tsp for finishing pan sauce
    • Roasted red pepper, 4 1/2" by 2" strips plus 1/4 cup chopped  (roast a small red pepper oiled up under your broiler, turning regularly until charred all over, when cool, stem, seed and remove skin...or take the short cut and used jarred ones or ones from the antipasti bar at the store)
    • Flour for bundles
    • 1 TBS olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
    • 6 ounces brown or red ale, something malty and nutty (as I've mentioned before, when I don't have Matt's homebrew, my go-to cooking beer is Smutty's Old Brown Dog)
    • Layout the chicken thighs on a board, and where the bone used to be, place a single sausage link and roasted red pepper strip and 1/2 tsp chopped sage into each thigh.  Roll up each chicken thigh into a bundle and tie with butcher's twine.
    • Lightly flour each bundle and season with salt and pepper.
    • In a sauté pan that has a lid, heat olive oil over medium high heat.
    • Add bundles, brown on all sides, then remove to a plate.
    • Lower heat to medium low and add chopped onion.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
    • Add chopped tomato and stir until juices begin to release, about 2 minutes.
    • Add chicken bundles back to pan and pour in beer.  Raise heat and bring to a boil, then lower heat to super low, put lid on and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
    • Remove chicken bundles to a warm plate and boil sauce until thick and only a half cup, about 5 minutes.
    • Pour pan sauce over chicken bundles and sprinkle on remaining 1 TBS of freshly chopped sage and 1/4 cup of chopped roasted red pepper.
    • Serve with crusty bread or rolls
    The dish also makes good leftovers, just remember to reheat slowly.  Enjoy!

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Warm Lentil Salad with Pork (or Chicken or Tofu)

    Invented this last week when I realized that I had few leftovers in the house and would be leaving for a couple days. If I hadn't come up with something yummy and fun, Matt would have eaten cereal or shells and cheese all weekend. This is great out of the pan, and heats up (according to Matt) very well. I happened to have a couple boneless pork loin chops in the freezer I used up for this, but you could use pieces of chicken or even tofu.

    Makes 4-6 servings for dinner or lunch
    • 3/4 pound green lentils
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 pound pork, cut into bite-sized chunks (or chicken thighs/breasts or tofu)
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp dried thyme
    • 1/2 cup chicken broth (or white wine or combination of the two)
    • 1 1/2 TBS mild brown mustard (I used Raye's Wintergarden, which has a touch of dill)
    • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
    • 1/4 cup fruity olive oil
    • 2 TBS chopped fresh oregano
    • 1/2 cup gorgonzola crumbles
    Put lentils and bay leaf in a medium pot and cover with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 25-35 minutes, or until tender, but not too soft. Drain well and discard bay leaf.

    Meanwhile... Season pork chunks well with kosher salt and black pepper. In a wide skillet with high sides or large pot, brown and cook through the pork over medium high heat. Remove from pot and put aside. Add chopped onion, minced garlic and dried thyme and cook over medium low heat (don't burn the garlic!) until softened. Add broth and/or white wine to deglaze the pan. Add drained lentils and pork chunks, stir to combine over low heat until everything is warmed through. Turn off heat, add fresh oregano. Combine mustard, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a cup and whisk to emulsify. Pour over lentil salad and stir to coat. Add gorgonzola crumbles. Serve.

    NOTE: if you are making this for one or two and will be keeping some as leftovers, do not add all of the gorgonzola to the salad, add it to individual plates. If you store the salad with the gorgonzola in it, the next day it will taste only of gorgonzola and lose all complexity. After reheating a portion, then add the gorgonzola.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    1, 2, 3, 4 Alarm Chili

    I found a basic template for a chili recipe and decided to give it a go based on our personal tastes and usual pantry/fridge/freezer items. I've actually never made chili before, as odd as that may seem. Family and friends regularly make chili, and all have awesome recipes (Allegra, John, Carla, etc.). But Matt's response to my first chili was so overwhelming, and then his insistence that I blog it to share with the world....well, that's why you are getting this recipe.

    You can make it as many alarms as you want. We decided that my version was a 4 alarm chili. To be eaten with plenty of sour cream and a refreshing beer and only by serious heat-lovers. At 4 alarms, you get the all-over heat buzz from your sinuses to your toes. However, by lowering the amount of ground chipotle, you can gauge the heat level to you or family's desired level of heat. So, sour cream as a topping...not so healthy. We use 0% greek yogurt instead of sour cream all the time. High in protein, low in fat, great calcium intake and I dare you to tell the difference, and if you can, I dare you to admit that the greek yogurt isn't better. You have to try it to believe it.

    Although toppings make the chili more festive, it is super delicious on its own as well.

    This recipe makes about 8 bowl-sized servings.

    • 1 pound ground beef (I used a pound of Great Brook Farm whole cow ground beef I had in the freezer, but if you don't have access to Walpole, NH I suggest you procure a local, all natural sustainable beef where you are)
    • 2 red bell pepper, chopped into half inch chunks
    • 1 really large onion, chopped into half inch chunks
    • 1 zucchini, chopped into half inch chunks
    • 5 fat cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 1/2  cups corn (frozen is fine!)
    • 1/2 tsp -1 TBS ground chipotle (use 1 TBS for 4 alarm, 1/2 TBS for 3 alarm, 1 tsp 2 alarm, 1/2 tsp for 1 alarm- good for kids who don't like spicy)
    • 1 1/2 TBS dried Mexican Oregano (you could use standard Turkish oregano though)
    • 1 TBS, generous, ground cumin
    • 2 15-16 ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 28 ounce can Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes (they are a little more expensive, but totally worth it in this chili for the intense smoky flavor they add)
    • 8 ounces beer (something malty and dark. My go-to beer for cooking, that is, if Matt doesn't have something on tap, is Smutty's Old Brown Dog. Buy a bomber (22 ounces) and sip the rest while the chili simmers)
    • Pour a little olive oil into your big pot and brown the beef over medium heat.
    • When browned through, remove beef from pot and set aside.
    • Add red bell pepper, zucchini, onion, garlic and corn to pot.
    • Cook, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat until softened (about 10 or 15 minutes).
    • Put beef back into pot with vegetables.
    • Add ground chipotle, oregano and cumin. Stir into beef and vegetables until fragrant, about one minute.
    • Add beans.
    • Add the can of tomatoes, rinse can with water until 1/4 full, add liquid.
    • Add beer.
    • Stir together well and keep at a low simmer over low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally.
    Serve with "sour cream" (aka 0% greek yogurt), shredded cheese, and if feeling festive, chunks of avocado.

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    Chicken Stock

    As promised...here's what you do with the leftover carcass from your roast chicken to make stock/broth.

    You'll want a pot that's about 6-8 quarts in capacity. Take all bones (even ones from everyone's plates, you'll be boiling this so don't freak about this not being sanitary), and the whole carcass, and all of the vegetables and aromatics from inside the chicken, and the neck that you saved from the giblet bag and put everything in your big pot. Cover everything with water (if you don't drink your tap water, be sure to use filtered water for this too). Toss in a few peppercorns and a bay leaf.

    Slowly bring to a boil. When you've reached a boil for about a minute, lower the heat super low and let pot sit, uncovered at a low simmer for about 2 hours. You can make a light broth within an hour, or if you let it go to 3 hours or 5 hours or 8 hours, nothing bad is going to happen, you'll just have a more concentrated broth of less volume, which you can thin out with water to increase the volume. I like the flavor I get after 2 hours, strong enough to impart flavor, but not too intense. You may like to experiment on your timing and decide what concentration level you like.

    When you are done simmering, use a slotted spoon to skim off any film collected on top and discard. Carefully pour contents of pot into a strainer lined with cheese cloth set inside a large bowl or another large pot.

    Using a ladle, portion out broth into desired freezer-safe containers. I usually split mine between 1/2 cup containers (good for sauces) and a few 1 qt. containers (good portion for soups or risotto). Let sit on the counter to cool. When broth is cool, place in refrigerator.

    When the broth is refrigerator-cold, the fat will separate to the top of the broth and can be easily spooned off and discarded. The next day, spoon off the fat and place containers in freezer. Broth will keep in fridge for a week, or a few months in the freezer. You can put the broth straight into the freezer, once cooled to room temperature, but I find that when I want to defrost the broth quickly in the microwave that separating the fat is more difficult, so that's why I do the multi stage process of counter to fridge to freezer. Also, you shouldn't put hot or warm things in the freezer, so if your broth is still a tad warm (but not hot) and it is time for bed, you can still safely put it in the fridge.

    Roasted your chicken for a late dinner and have no energy that night to make stock? You have two options.

    1) If you'll be making the stock the next day, throw everything, neck too, into the pot, add some ice cubes and put pot into fridge. The next day, put pot on stove, add water to cover, proceed as normal.
    2) If you think it may be a few days before you have time to make stock, toss the carcass, bones, neck and veggies from inside the chicken into a large ziplock and freeze. When ready, thaw them out in the fridge completely and then proceed with the recipe.

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Simple Roast Chicken

    So I got a message today from our pal Charlie who wanted to know how to roast a chicken for crispy skin. I typed up the following recipe and sent it to him. Then I realized, that my blog readers might want to read it too. All you need is a large cast iron pan, no special equipment required. I put in an optional pan sauce at the end for those who can't get enough of sauces. Have fun!
    • 4 pound chicken (preferably something all natural with no antibiotics or other crap in it)
    • 4 ribs of celery (one broken into a few pieces for inside chicken, 3 for under chicken
    • 1 carrot, broken into a few pieces
    • 1 small onion, cut into quarters
    • parsley- small handful
    • fresh thyme- few sprigs (optional) (more if making pan sauce)
    • a few fat peeled garlic cloves (one extra if making pan sauce)
    • olive oil (at least 1/4 cup)
    • kosher salt (get kosher, don't use table salt)
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • butcher's twine (optional)

    disclaimer: major food safety thing: have EVERYTHING ready before starting to prepare chicken. ANYTHING you touch after touching the chicken, MUST be cleaned with hot water and soap or anti-everything surface cleaner. Usually, I do wind up washing my hands a half dozen times between steps in order to minimize contamination. But still, have everything prepped before starting in on the chicken.

    1. remove and discard giblets from inside of chicken, rinse chicken in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Completely dry. inside and out completely dry. If you plan on making chicken stock or soup, save the neck bone from the giblet bag. Tune in tomorrow for what to do with the neck.

    2. season inside of chicken with salt and pepper.

    3. stuff the chicken with one rib of celery pieces, the carrot pieces, the onion quarters, the peeled garlic cloves, parsley and fresh thyme (if using).

    4. lube up your chicken with the olive oil. I mean lube the chicken up real good, all over. use at least 1/4 cup of olive oil.

    5. season outside of chicken all over with freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt, about a 2-3 tsps each for all over the chicken. Make sure you use kosher salt, not table salt.

    6. in your largest cast iron skillet, put down a few ribs of celery to be a "rack" for your chicken. This is so the chicken's drippings have a place to go. Alternatively, put your chicken in a roasting pan with a roasting rack.

    7. using twine, tie drumsticks together. This step isn't necessary, but keeps all the goodness you just stuffed into the chicken, from spilling out everywhere.

    8. drizzle one last bit of olive oil over chicken, just for good measure.

    9. Put into a 425 degree oven. Roast for an hour.

    10. chicken is done when: juices run clear from the thigh. OR (and this is preferable,) use a thermometer and cook until thigh registers 170 degrees. If not done after expected time, check every 5-10 minutes until done.

    11. When done, remove from pan and put on to cutting board. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

    12. Carve chicken. If you need help on how to carve it without doing a hack job, view
    this video from Gourmet.

    So, optional step 13 would be to make a pan sauce to have with your chicken. You don't have to make a pan sauce, the chicken will be juicy and flavorful and delicious without it, but some people just love sauces. It is impressive for it seems much more difficult than it actually is.
    • While chicken is resting, remove celery ribs from pan.
    • Drain off excess fat and discard, leaving about a couple tsps in pan.
    • mince up a clove of garlic and put into pan over medium heat. cook for about 30 seconds, stirring.
    • Add a cup of high-quality, malty beer, (Old Brown Dog from Smutty would be ideal), and bring to a boil.
    • scrape up any browned bits from pan and simmer until reduced by half.
    • stir in a couple tsps of chopped fresh thyme.
    • whisk in a TBS or more of mustard.
    • stir in a TBS of butter
    If you have leftovers, you can make all kinds of dishes, like chicken salad. Tomorrow I'll put up my instructions for what to do with your chicken carcass to make chicken broth for soups, risotto, and sauces.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Cream of Broccoli Soup with No Cream

    This is a soup based on my mother's formula for "cream of green" soup. I've been mentioning it to a lot of people lately and there seems to be a lot of interest. The soup is quite healthy, and with a good crusty bread, a hearty winter meal. How is it healthy? No cream! I know, you are probably thinking...no cream? What's the point of a cream soup with no cream? You'll never know it's gone. Trust me and trust Matt. This is making a regular appearance every couple days for us, mostly due to Matt's obsession with broccoli. It's healthy, inexpensive and super delicious. You can also substitute asparagus for the broccoli for a cream of asparagus soup.

    Soup for two.

    • 1/2 TBS butter
    • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
    • 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
    • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (homemade is best, but if using store bought then be sure to get the low sodium type)
    • one medium crown of broccoli, roughly chopped into 1 inch pieces (florets and stalk)
    • 2-6 TBS milk
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • freshly ground nutmeg
    • salt

    • Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat.
    • Add onion and a pinch salt, cook over medium heat stirring regularly until translucent and slightly golden, but not brown or burnt.
    • Add potato and the broth, so that the potato is covered. If using homemade broth, add a tsp of salt.
    • Simmer until potato is tender, then add broccoli.
    • Simmer until broccoli is tender.
    • Turn off heat and carefully pour everything into a blender.
    • Puree soup in the blender.
    • Pour back into pot, stir in black pepper, nutmeg to taste and a tsp or so more salt, if needed (if using homemade broth, you probably will, if using store bought, probably not).
    • Stir in milk to desired thickness of the soup.

    At this point you can eat immediately or let the soup sit in the pot, with the lid on, for an hour or so. When ready to eat, heat slowly over low heat.

    You could easily make this soup for 4 or 6 by multiplying, but you may have to blend the soup in a couple batches, depending on the capacity of your blender. Or, if you happen to own an immersion blender, you puree the soup right in the pot.

    If healthy soup isn't your goal here, you can also turn this soup into a broccoli cheddar soup by whisking in a few ounces of grated cheddar cheese over low heat until melted.

    Serve with crusty bread and enjoy! Next time I make this I'll put a picture up!

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Veggies with Peanut Curry Sauce on Pasta

    This is one of our new week night favorites. The sauce and the pasta both take about 7 minutes to cook. Add 5 minutes for slicing vegetables, and you've got one super fast, flavorful dinner in 12 minutes.

    For two people: thinly slice half a red pepper, a couple ribs of celery and half of an onion (maybe some broccoli and carrots too if you have them around). Add half a cup of broth to a 1/4 cup of water (or use 3/4 cup water OR 3/4 cup broth). I have half-cup portions of broth frozen in my freezer, so that's how I arrived at the proportions on this. Half a cup of broth was just a little skimpy and a cup too much, so I added a 1/4 cup of water to the broth, and it was perfect. Drop in a TBS and a half of smooth peanut butter, a TBS of red curry paste from a jar, and a couple shakes of cayenne. Whisk briskly until completely smooth.

    Put a tiny bit of oil in a large skillet, heat over medium high heat. Toss in the veggies, add a pinch of salt and couple grinds of black pepper cook until crisp-tender, stirring once or twice, about one minute. Pour sauce into pan, stir and let sit, stirring occasionally for five minutes over very low heat.

    Serve over pasta and sprinkle with roasted unsalted peanuts. I like to serve it over piccolini farfalle (tiny bows). We were starving last night, so sorry, no picture until next time!