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.