Category Archives: chicken

On a (Casse)role

When someone says the word “casserole” certain things come to mind. I think of church basements. Sweatshirts embroidered with reindeer over candy cane turtlenecks. Bingo nights. Crocheted pot holders. Maybe a Precious Moments figurine or two.

These aren’t BAD things. They’re just….not my style.

I swore up and down I wasn’t a big casserole fan until I stopped and thought about all the things I love that are technically casseroles.

Cheesy baked pasta? Buttery breadcrumb topped mac and cheese? Spicy, saucy enchiladas? Really just casseroles by another name, right?

Okay, so I don’t plan on stocking up on embroidered sweatshirts and strutting my stuff around the church basement anytime soon, but I guess I DO enjoy a good, old-fashioned casserole every now and then.

Here’s a goodie. Fiesta Casserole. AND, foodies please take note, no Cream of Anything anywhere to be found!

Although it is topped with Fritos. Oops. I guess I owe you foodies an apology after all. You are welcome to leave them off it you prefer, but they really add a great crunch and flavor to the finish product.

This dish is the perfect vehicle for leftover chicken. I love roasting a whole chicken and using the leftover meat in other meals but I get sick of the usual quesadillas and pastas and things. This easy, one pot baked rice meal cures the common leftover blahs.

Instant rice (Oops. Sorry again, Foodies!) is mixed with chicken broth, salsa, black beans, corn and hot sauce then it’s tossed in the oven to get the rice softening. After 15 minutes, the chicken is added, and it’s topped with cheese and the Fritos crumbs and baked again until golden, bubbly and delicious. I really like adding the chicken last as it helps keep the meat from getting dried out.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this dish. I worried about it being mushy and bland, but that is not the case at all. Turns out, I love all the flavors and textures together. It’s so simple, yet so flavorful. The salsa is prominent in this dish, so make sure you pick one you really like. I’m a big fan of a local brand called Kramer’s out of Camanche, IA (North of the QC). It is without a doubt the freshest, most flavorful jarred salsa I have ever had. Look for it if you’re in the Midwest. 🙂

FIESTA CASSEROLE (Recipe Source: America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, Pg. 344-345)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups instant rice (I used brown rice)
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 (15.5 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups salsa
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 1.5 pounds)
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 6 oz. Fritos, crushed into coarse crumbs (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Lime wedges for serving

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, combine the broth, rice, corn, black beans, salsa, and hot sauce. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
  2. Stir the chicken into the baking dish. Sprinkle the cheddar evenly over the top, then sprinkle with chips. Return the baking dish to the oven and continue to bake until the edges are bubbling and the crumbs are toasted, 8 to 12 minutes longer. Serve with lime wedges. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Filed under chicken, rice

Flex it.

Flexibility. I think more people need to rally behind this underrated concept. The world would be a happier place, don’t you think, if everyone maybe just took it down a notch and stopped getting so upset when things don’t go according to plan.

Flight delayed? Sit down, put your feet up and read a smutty novel. Take it easy, stop answering work emails because you’re supposed to be mid-flight anyway, and eat a three dollar candy bar as an I’m-allowed-because-I’m-super-irritated treat. Maybe stop yelling at the person behind the desk like the snowstorm in Chicago that is preventing you from getting to Atlanta is all her fault.

Unexpected traffic jam? Turn up your favorite angry 90s girl power jam and belt it like its 1997 and you’re 15 again.*  Ugly cry and tear up a picture of your crush if you have to, but remember there are others stuck in traffic too and they *may* quietly judge you. Or film you on their phone and take you viral. Just do whatever you have to keep from obnoxiously honking at nothing or getting out of the car and punching out someone’s driver side window.

*Not that I’ve ever done this or anything. Alanis’ Hand in My Pocket is totally NOT my personal anthem. Uh, yeah…totally not. 😉

So, I guess what I’m saying, in a round about way, is maybe we wouldn’t all have our undies in such a bunch if we just read more smut and sang more 90s pop.

Um. Actually, maybe a few cliches will communicate my thoughts better. Go with the flow. Relax. Chill out. The glass is half full.

See, this is why I love cooking. Cooking is insanely flexible. Cooking and I get along like two laid-back roommates. Peppers don’t holler when you decide to add tomatoes to a recipe that didn’t actually call for them. The peppers are chill, yo! Look to the pepper, people! See the light. 🙂

Here’s a really fast and flexible meal. Not too mention very good! I took some liberties, decided I didn’t *love* my liberties, but posting it anyway because I will definitely make this again. Hey, I’m flexible like that.

This Mexican-style, one skillet meal starts with an interesting technique – toasting dried pasta in a bit of oil in the pan before cooking. The noodles get all golden brown and nutty. It really infuses the pasta with a different and fun taste.

Now, I really, really wanted to add chorizo to this dish per a suggestion in the recipe. I’ve never actually had it, but given my fondness for the encased spiced meats, I just know I’ll love it. I’ve never been able find it at my regular grocery stores, but now that I’m in a new (and bigger!) city, I’ll being scoping out the various specialty and ethnic stores which I’m sure are plentiful and chock full of exotic goodies to rock my country bumpkin world. I know there is chorizo in this town. I can just feel it!

I should have just gone veg and added black beans, another suggestion offered by the recipe but I wanted to give my loving husband his precious meat after rescuing him from nearly wasting away in bachelorhood for the last three months. (tee hee.) Since I didn’t have the chorizo, I added…breakfast sausage.

Erm. So yeah, that was probably a mistake. I mean, it wasn’t AWFUL (or maple-flavored), but if I had to do it over again, I would leave the breakfast sausage to the pancakes and egg casseroles. A shredded spiced chicken would have been a much better addition. Also the original recipe calls for cilantro, and we all know how I feel about that mess, so I garnished with scallions instead. Next time, I’ll use my go-to cilantro sub – parsley. A bit of freshness and brightness from a fresh herb would be a welcome addition here. If you are a cilantro fan, absolutely go for it.

Overall, I loved the spicy, toasty, smokey flavor of this dish. The sauce coats the noodles without being too loose and the chipotle peppers add just the right amount of kick. Add a sprinkling a smooth, creamy Monterey Jack and it’s a great mix of flavors and textures. This dish is satisfying, comforting and makes excellent leftovers. I need to make a couple changes for next time, but that’s okay. I’m flexible.

MEXICAN-STYLE SKILLET PASTA (Recipe adapted from: America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, pg. 244)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 oz. vermicelli pasta, broken in half
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted, I really like the flavor)
  • 8 oz. diced chorizo sausage OR shredded cooked chicken OR 1 15.5 oz. can black beans (optional – you could leave all these out if you want!)
  • 1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 to 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, for serving (optional – I omitted)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch skillet and add vermicelli. Toast the pasta until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to cool.
  2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat over medium until just shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, your protein (if using), the broth and chipotle pepper(s). Bring mixture to a boil.
  4. Stir in the toasted pasta. Reduce heat to low, cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among 4 serving bowls, top with cheese and cilantro or parsley. Pass the sour cream separately. Makes 4 servings.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Andouille Sausage & Shrimp in Creole Mustard Sauce
Two Years Ago: California Medley Pasta Toss

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Filed under chicken, pasta, sausage, veggies

Progress

I started with a man who would turn up his nose at a dish that included beans. Wouldn’t touch ’em, didn’t want anything to do with them.

I, never deterred by the man’s supposed “dislikes,” put beans in front of him anyway. Soon he evolved to eating around the beans. He would still push them to the side of the plate or bowl, but if one or two made it past the gate it wasn’t gag-inducing Armageddon. Still not his favorite, however.

Further down the road, with continued bean-presenting repetition, the man grew tired of trying to push them around and decided, hey, beans aren’t so bad. If they’re surrounded by enough meat, you can’t even tell they are there! The man ate, and enjoyed mind you, a dish containing beans. Then another. Then another.

Progress, people. This is what we call progress.

The next step is to completely remove the meat and get away with presenting beans as the protein source for a meal. We’re not there yet. Soon. These endeavors take much scientific trial and error before the experiment can be deemed a success. That day, my friends, is coming. I WILL make it happen. We will eat a meatless meal with beans in this house someday soon! And, gosh darn it, he’ll like it! As God is my witness!! Cue dramatic Gone with the Wind theme music…NOW.

Here’s a recent bean filled dish my husband enjoyed. As did I, naturally. This smokey, spicy chicken chili really hit the spot on a cold December night. It’s quick, easy, flavorful and, best of all, made with ingredients you likely already have on hand. Like a traditional beef chili, it has a tomato sauce base, which I tend to prefer. I find myself put off by recipes labeled “white chicken chili” because the clear/gray broth that comes with it makes me (the Hater of White Food) a little nervous. Why? Because I’m weird. This one is much more my speed.

I made a few changes to the original recipe, but nothing too drastic. First, I switched out chicken thighs for chicken breasts. The recipe calls for chopped fresh jalapenos, but I subbed in a couple chipotle peppers in adobo because that’s what I had on had. I added about a tablespoon of the sauce too for more smokey flavor. I also added a couple teaspoons of sugar, a trick I learned from my mom. I used brown sugar this time, but granulated works too. It just helps off-set some of the spiciness of the dish, I think, and gives it that extra something-something.

Filling and healthy to boot, you can easily bump up the nutritional value by adding a few more veggies. Colored bell peppers would be great, maybe some corn. Sometimes I like to run a large carrot over my microplane grater into dishes like this just to add a bit of sweetness against the bold flavors without adding actual chunks of carrot. Works great!

SPICY CHICKEN CHILI (Recipe Source: Food and Wine)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound skinless chicken thighs or breasts (about 4), cut into thin strips
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the can
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with their juice
  • 2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1 (15 oz) can drained and rinsed pinto beans
  • 1 (15 oz) can drained and rinsed black beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • Your favorite chili fixings, for serving

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook until they start to soften, about 3 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to moderate and stir in the chicken strips. Cook until they are no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and sugar. Add the peppers, the tomatoes with their juice, and the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Uncover the saucepan and stir in the beans and black pepper. Simmer until the chili is thickened, about 15 minutes longer. Serve topped with your favorite chili fixings. (I like tortilla strips, cheddar cheese and chopped green onion) Serves 4.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: ABC Cookies (As in, already been chewed!)
Two Years Ago: I made all sorts of goodies for an event at work! Click here for links to all my treats!

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Filed under chicken, soup

Daddy/Daughter Dinner (Disaster!)

So, I’ve stuffed your faces with a lot of dessert here lately. Boozy tarts, rich and creamy ice cream, speedy no-bake treats, a refreshing popsicles.

Whew! I don’t know about you, but that sugar coma is definitely setting in for me. 🙂 You’re probably thinking that’s all we eat! If we don’t shape up around here, our angry mothers will be banging on our door wielding piles of green things prepared to hold us down and shove them down our throats. Let’s switch gears and take a look at a healthy and delicious dinner we had recently. Contrary to what shows up in the blog, this IS the typical weeknight meal in my house….lean protein, fresh veggies, and whole grains. Balanced and tasty.

Okay…so THEN I have a bit of all that other stuff (portion controlled, of course) But I clean my plate first. 🙂

As I was making these honey-teriyaki chicken skewers, I couldn’t help but think about my one and only other experience with teriyaki chicken. My dad will remember this too…and laugh about it. It’s a perfect day to share a memory of my wonderful dad seeing as it is Father’s Day and all! 🙂

When we were all just little things with teeth missing from our smiles and poufy bangs, the local Girl Scout council would put on a Daddy/Daughter Dance and invite a bunch of the troops from the area. It was a dress up affair, naturally. All of our dashing dads wore ties and jackets. The attire of choice, for us girls, was poodle skirts. I’m not really sure who decided we should all wear poodle skirts, but you just HAD to have one. Seriously. EVERYONE was doing it. Lucky for me, my mom was pretty handy with a sewing machine and she made me a lovely royal blue skirt with a white poodle on it. It had a rhinestone collar and a loopy white “leash” made out of a braided cord. And it twirled like a dream.

It was all about the twirl. You know what I’m talking about. Mmm hmm.

So all of us girls in our poodle skirts and our dads in their ties, headed for the dance. Occasionally we’d dance with our dads but mostly we just twirled in aimless circles to watch our poodle skirts flair out. I remember thinking I was extra lucky because I didn’t have to SHARE my dad with anyone else. Other dads had multiple daughters to escort to the event…not me though. I got my dad all to myself. I thought that was pretty special. At 8, I couldn’t think of many reasons why having a brother who was bigger, stronger and older than me was much to get excited about, except when it came to Daddy/Daughter dances. Brothers were not invited.

This event involved dinner, of course. A banquet style feast where sullen teenagers in black vests wheeled out carts of mystery meals hidden underneath those silver dome things. Well, one year, after the skirt twirling had settled for the time being and we took our seats at the table, the meal under the dome proved to be a disaster of epic proportions.

Teriyaki Chicken.

The gasp was audible. The faces priceless. As a this plate of slimy chicken covered in a runny, unidentifiable brown sauce perched in front of each unsuspecting girl, everyone looked so horrified you would have thought we were being served a slab of mud crawling with worms.

With faces twisted in absolute horror, a room full of hungry girls, famished after all that skirt twirling business, looked up into the faces of their smiling fathers and concluded loudly “Daddy, I don’t LIKE this!”

Plates skirted across the table as they were pushed away with an “EWWWWWW!”

There may or may not been a few sniffles and tears. Clearly those Girl Scout people were trying to starve us to death.

I don’t think the dads were all that thrilled either, although I think they had the manners to not shout GROSS at their top of their lungs. Good job, Dads!

So we all pushed this chicken slop around on our plates for a few minutes, maybe managed a couple gag-inducing bites. Then they took away all that nastiness and brought out cake or something. All was right with the world after that. We were not about to starve to death. Cake was better skirt twirling fuel anyway. 😉

Despite the meal horror, I always had fun with my dad at our dances. The song “My Girl” will always reminds me of poodle skirts and feeling like a princess. Thanks for being such a great date, Dad! And happy Father’s Day!

For the record, I think they switched to chicken fingers and fries after that. 😉

Theses skewers are not at all reminiscent of The Worst Meal Ever. They are light, tasty and totally satisfying. And healthy to boot! Served up with a side of green beans and healthy, scallion and garlic studded brown rice, it made for a balanced and delicious meal!

When I made these, I came home from work, got my brown rice going, cubed up the chicken, tossed it in the marinade and stuck it in the fridge to hang out for a few while I worked out for a half hour. I like the veggies and meat on the same skewer on the grill, but if you’re worried about the veggies getting overdone, you can do them on a separate skewer. I liked how the tomatoes got all wilty and concentrated and I’ve said before how much I adore bell pepper. The chicken had great flavor for just a few ingredients…a little sweet and a little salty, all delicious.

HONEY TERIYAKI CHICKEN SKEWERS WITH SCALLION BROWN RICE (Recipe adapted from: Great Taste, Low Fat – Time Life Books)

INGREDIENTS:

For the Chicken:

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into two inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into one inch squares
  • 24 grape tomatoes

For the Rice:

  • 1 1/2 cup of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 to 3 scallions, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Start the rice: Bring broth, olive oil and salt to boil in a large saucepan. Add rice and stir. Cover and reduce heat to low. Allow rice to simmer for 45 to 50 minutes without lifting the lid or stirring. The broth should  be mostly absorbed when it’s done.
  2. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, honey, ginger, sesame oil and garlic in a shallow bowl. Add chicken, toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium heat. Alternately thread the chicken, bell pepper and tomatoes onto 8 skewers. Grill over indirect heat, for 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, or until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Just before serving, stir scallions into the finished rice. Plate rice and place skewers on top of rice. Serve. Serves 4.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Brownie Pudding
Two Years Ago: Classic White Bread

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Filed under chicken, veggies

Mac & Me

Yesterday we welcomed a new Bundle of Technological Joy to our humble abode.

Aw, it’s an Apple. How cute.

So as of today I’m back online and ready to resume my regular scheduled blogging. Good thing too because I’ve got a backlog of recipes to share!

I’ve always been a Macintosh kind of girl. It’s what we learned on in school and at home – typing and playing games. Come on, Oregon Trail, anyone? That game rocked my socks. LOVED it. Hate to be the bearer of bad news here but…you just got bit by a snake. Also, your BFF died of Cholera. Sorry. In college, I rocked a purple iMac even though NO ONE was using them on campus back then and I spent countless hours in computer labs anyway. On the plus side, no one ever asked to borrow my computer. 😉

I’ve been away from the Mac for quite a few years and needless to say I’m pretty excited to be back. Even Eric, the eternal Mac holdout, has to admit it’s pretty bad ass. So here we are, connecting to our elementary school roots in a much cooler and more productive way! HOORAY!

While I was offline there for a week, I took the opportunity to look through some of my cookbooks for some new recipes to try. Usually when I’m in the kitchen, my laptop is right there with me – like some kind of fancy, electric kitchen gadget. Whisk? Check. Mixing bowl? Check. Laptop? Check. I’ve always enjoyed my cookbooks of course, and will continue to collect them for, well, ever, but finding recipes online is “easier” somehow. More convenient. I’m not sure how, considering searching the interwebs tends to overwhelm me to the point where I get a bit anxious and have to step away from the computer, but somehow it’s easier. So I tell myself.

If I wanted to keep cooking sans 21st century kitchen help, I was going to need to get resourceful. And by resourceful, I mean opening a book and reading it. Wow. Pretty novel concept, eh?

This worked out in my favor! The evidence is this super simple and flavorful yogurt chicken recipe that’s a snap to throw together. Throw everything in a storage bag the night before, marinate in the fridge and then toss it in the oven. Easy-peasy! I used bone-in, skin on chicken thighs this time because they were on sale and I love the richness of dark meat, but any cut, even boneless, skinless breasts, will work – whatever your preference.

The end result was a crispy, tangy, flavorful, juicy piece of chicken. Such great flavor for minimal work. I served this up with homemade mashed potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts – totally hit the comfort food spot. Delish!

YOGURT MARINATED CHICKEN (Recipe adapted from: Taste of Home Cookbook, pg. 215)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 to 2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (thighs, breasts, legs, wings, a mix of all – whatever you like!)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine the first 9 ingredients in a resealable plastic bag. Add chicken. Seal the bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 8 hour or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 375. Spray a metal rack with cooking spray and place on a cookie sheet. Place chicken on the rack and discard remaining marinade.
  3. Roast chicken for 45 minutes or until done. Let rest for five minutes before serving.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Chicken Marsala Pasta Toss – one of my favorite easy weeknight meals!

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Good Enough?

When it comes to most of what’s on the Food Network, I can take it or leave it. If I’m bored and there happens to be an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on, I’ll watch it – but I don’t have my TiVo set up on Season Pass mode so I’m sure to never miss an episode or anything like that.

Usually, the Food Network background noise if I’m doing something else – responding to emails, updating my blog or working in the kitchen. Sometimes the background noise is so annoying I have to turn it off. (Cough, Sandra Lee, cough, cough.) There’s only one Food Network personality that can pull me away from whatever I have planned and draw my attention away from more productive things. I’ve literally stopped dead in my tracks in the living room on the way to basement with a basketful of laundry and stood there mesmerized for entire segments when I happen upon this person. I never know when she’s on either, so it’s always a big surprise.

I get so excited. I squeal with delight. I become enthralled when… INA comes on!

Love her. LOVE. Whatever she’s making, I usually want to run right into the kitchen and start whipping it up myself. Everything is pure food perfection. I like her because she’s insanely knowledgeable. And it’s about layers and technique to maximize flavor – not crazy combos or out-there ingredients. She exudes this…quiet authority, if you will. She knows what she’s talking about…and she makes you want to listen and think like her when it comes to food. She takes things that are relatively simple and turns them into something extraordinary. Case in point, this Baked Shrimp Scampi is one of my most favorite meals I’ve ever made. Simple ingredients, outstanding, amazing results. (Note to self: Make again. SOON!)

Plus, how cute are she and Jeffery? RIGHT?! I just love them.

It’s customary, in my family, to pick on the people we like (Only people we like. If you get picked on a lot, that means we like you a lot. J) So even my foodie idol is not safe from some good natured fun poking every now and then. Eric teases that she’s too fancy – out there in her gorgeous Hamptons house (which is like the most gorgeous country house EVER. I wish she’d invite me over!) And that it’s pretentious when she uses the word “good” when it comes to her cooking. “Good” olive oil. “Good” vanilla. “Good” Cocoa powder, etc. As if she’s saying, in not so many words, if you live somewhere where you have do your shopping at the Super Wally, you might as well just give up.

Of course, we know that when she says “good” she does not mean the most out of the way, expensive item in the world, she means a quality product that you know and trust. When you cook with few ingredients, like she often does, it would make sense that you wouldn’t want to use the bottom of the barrel, cheapo stuff…because let’s be honest, you get what you pay for – ESPECIALLY when it comes to food.

It’s still fun though, when I make an Ina recipe, to come up with most extravagant definition of “good” we can think of.

“Use “good” shrimp. I recommend a special breed found only in waters off the Hamptons. They cluster around a rock that looks like an exact replica of Mount Rushmore, 100 feet below the surface. They must only be harvested at the peak of freshness – once a year from 7:18 a.m. to 5:23 p.m. on April 8th– and eaten within 45 minutes of coming out of the water. No other shrimp will do.”

“Use “good” cinnamon.  Preferably this one available only at an invitation-only spice shop in the back of dark alley in Manhattan. You have to know the password and undergo a full body scan to get inside and it costs eleventy-billion dollars an ounce. If you get the password wrong the first time, a giant bouncer named Tiny will club your knee caps, but don’t worry…it’s well worth it.”

We’re just kidding around, of course. Ina is still my homegirl, even if she’s way more sophisticated than we can ever hope to be. 🙂

To prove it, I present the recipe for her insanely rich and decadent Coq Au Vin. Valentine’s Day is all about indulgence and pampering and this recipe fits the bill perfectly. Bone-in chicken pieces are browned in bacon grease (hello? DELICIOUS!) and then slow cooked in a rich flavorful broth of vegetables, stock and red wine. The end result is rich and flavorful dish with lots of layers of flavor, full-bodied red wine, spicy liquor, meaty mushrooms, and a hint of sweetness from the carrots. The chicken was fall off the bone tender. I don’t make it very often because of the added fat and calories, but good skin on, bone in chicken is such a treat. Dare I say I prefer it over red meat? I think I do!

The only thing I would different next time would be to make sure the chicken is really good and brown on the outside. I don’t think I let mine crisp up enough, so the skin got a little slimy and just kind of fell off. Other than that though, this was the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner! I served mine over egg noodles, but mashed potatoes or rice would be good too. A simple salad and crusty bread and you’ve got a meal worthy of someone special.

COQ AU VIN (Recipe Source: Ina Garten, Foodnetwork.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil (good. ha…. ;))
  • 4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
  • 1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy (I subbed whiskey because that’s what I had on hand)
  • 1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
  • 1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 pound frozen small whole onions (this elusive product I have never ever seen in the store. Not one time! I just left them out.)
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  3. Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.
  4. Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.
  5. Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes. Oh, how decadent and delicious!

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“It’s a texture thing.”

Ever hear anyone say that about food? People seem to really get worked up over food and it’s various textural properties. Or something.

Oh, it’s too mushy, it’s too chalky, it’s too starchy, it’s too crunchy. Too soft, too hard, too chewy. The list goes on and on. And on. Really, I think everyone’s just grappling at adjectives trying to come up with and excuse not to eat something.

For me, personally, I wouldn’t say there is one particular food texture I’m adverse to – except maybe soggy. I have problem with anything I deem soggy. In fact, I don’t do soggy. At all. Ever. I have to literally inhale a bowl of cereal to save myself from the sogginess that lurks beneath the milk’s surface. Oh, and I kind of have this irrational fear of sandwiches made from store-bought sliced bread. Same deal – sogged. Ew.

Other than that I’m good. Totally normal. Yep, no texture issues over here.

Sogginess aside, I’m really not picky about textures. I am, however, drawn to some more than others. Specifically, I like a variety of textures in my food. I think that’s why I’m lukewarm on things like mashed potatoes and pudding. It’s just one big glob of…the same stuff. There’s nothing exciting there. Same with Jello. I can take it or leave it.

So what does all this have to do with…anything? Well, over the weekend I tried a new recipe to fool impress Eric. See, we never get Chinese take out at our house. Excuse me…I’m getting a little choked up.

*sob*

Eric doesn’t like it. I love it. For this reason, every so often, I’ll pull out my secret stash of soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar and make something readily available at any take out place at home so I can get my fix. Of course, I call it something different. Example: the cashew chicken I made over the weekend. Cashew chicken is not cashew chicken. It’s “chicken and brown sauce over  rice. With cashews in it.” He buys it. Every time!

I’m sneaky like that. And I totally just outed myself. (Hi, Eric! Maybe my dad will stop picking on you now. LOVE YOU! 🙂 )

Anyway, I spotted this cashew chicken over at The Bitten Word. Couldn’t stop thinking about it. Couldn’t WAIT to make it! Just what I needed to satisfy my take out craving. Glad I didn’t wait!  We – yes, we…as in both of us – really enjoyed this meal. The thing that really made it for me, besides the awesome flavors, of course, was all the different textures. Crunchy cashews, fluffy rice, perfectly tender chicken. Yeah, that’s pretty much perfect. Not to mention, it’s really REALLY good. Plus, you can feel better about eating it because you know exactly what’s in it. That’s not always the case with takeout. And, if you’ve got a well-stocked pantry, you probably have everything you need to make this at home for dinner tomorrow. The only thing I needed to buy was the cashews. Since they are Eric’s favorite nut, I figured that if the meal flopped big time he could just gorge himself on nuts for dinner. 🙂

CASHEW CHICKEN (Recipe Source: Everyday Food, September 2009 as seen at The Bitten Word)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry (I used cooking wine. Shhh. Don’t tell!)
  • 2 tsp. minced, peeled, fresh ginger (I used 1 teaspoon ginger powder)
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2/3 cup unsalted cashews, toasted (I couldn’t find unsalted. I’ll admit I didn’t look very hard. Lightly salted worked just fine.)
  • 2 green onions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium bowl, toss chicken with sherry, ginger, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch; season with salt. Refrigerate 30 minutes. In another bowl, combine broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. Set sauce aside.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook until golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a covered plate. Add 1 teaspoon oil to skillet and cook remaining chicken (reduce heat if chicken is over-browning). Transfer to plate.
  3. To same skillet, add 1 teaspoon oil, garlic, cashews, and green onion whites. Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic begins to soften, about 30 seconds. Whisk sauce and add to skillet along with chicken. Cook until sauce thickens, about 30 seconds. Top with green onion greens and serve with rice or noodles.

Serves 4.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: I was celebrating a victory unrelated to my cooking. But it involved my writing, so we’ll call it relevant to the blog. Ha. 🙂

 

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