Just for Fun – Italian Marinade

I imagine that most home cooks have marinated meat at some point in their home cooking career.  So, if you’re looking for a new or trendy marinade, go to your search bar and type “new trendy marinade”. 

This post is just for fun. 

I’ve mentioned this before but I feel the need to repeat it…what’s up with the monstrous chicken breasts?!  When did this happen? 

I’ve seen lap dogs that are smaller than the chicken breasts I find at my local grocery store.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just that, well… 

The good thing is that these mammoth chicken breasts still tastes like chicken but it’s weird…weird, I tell ya’! 

Back in old days…hmm, maybe 20 years ago, if I wanted to filet a chicken breast I would simply lay the breast on a cutting board and slice it in half, horizontally.  Simple enough.  But these pterodactyl sized chicken breasts nowadays are so large that I find myself slicing it twice, instead of once.  I make a horizontal cut near the top and another cut near the bottom of the breast. 

I really didn’t intend on ranting about gargantuan chicken breasts.  It’s just that it’s so…weird

Let’s make a simple marinade for a big breasted bird.

Italian Marinade for Chicken

Ingredients:

Oh, let’s add a little olive oil…

Directions:

Cut the chicken breast horizontally to ½” thickness. 

Pour the marinade over the chicken.  Place the chicken and marinade in a plastic storage bag and refrigerate for at least two hours, but no more than twelve hours. 

Remove the chicken from the marinade.  Prepare the chicken as you wish…bake, grill, pan fry, or roast.

Here’s a little secret:  The marinade does not have to be discarded.  If you bring the marinade to a rolling boil in a pot for a few minutes it will be perfectly safe to use.  After it has boiled, bacteria will have been killed and you can safely use it for sauces or basting. 

Rustic French Baked Chicken

French peasant food is perfect for easing minds and bringing families together during troubled times.  This was simple to make, since everything baked in one dish, and the aroma coming from the kitchen wafted throughout the house, teasing and tempting us.

Ingredients:

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 Tbs Herbs de Provence

¼ cup vinegar and oil dressing (I cheated by using inexpensive, store-bought Italian dressing)

2 large red potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

3 or 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces

A few rosemary sprigs

One cube of chicken bouillon

Several splashes of olive oil, probably 2 Tbs, total

1 ½ cup broccoli florets with stems

1 white onion, sliced into wedges

1/3 whole lemon (juice only)

¼ cup water

½ loaf French bread

3 Tbs unsalted butter

2 tsp garlic salt

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, add the vinegar and oil dressing and add the Herbs de Provence.  Add the chicken and mix by hand.  Marinate the chicken for at least one hour in the refrigerator.

Peel and cut the vegetables.  Set aside.  Reserve the peels and scraps from the vegetables and use them in a vegetable stock, for use in another dish.

Set the oven to 400°.

Strip the rosemary leaves away from the stems.

Toss the potato and carrot pieces in olive oil and rosemary.  Set these aside.

Add the chicken bouillon cube to ¼ cup water.  Heat in the microwave for a minute to soften the bouillon.  Crush the bouillon with a small fork and mix with the warm water.  Set aside.

Pour a little olive oil into a large baking dish and add the chicken.  Top with the potatoes and carrots and drizzle the chicken bouillon broth over everything.

Bake the chicken, potatoes and carrots in the oven for about 45 minutes. 

Squirt lemon juice over the broccoli and onion and toss with a little olive oil. 

Carefully pull the baking dish from the oven and check to see if the potatoes and carrots are nearly baked all the way.  If the potatoes or carrots are still hard, and can’t be easily split with a fork, return to the oven and check them again in 10 minutes.

Pull the dish out again and add the broccoli and onion. 

Return the dish to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes.

Slice a loaf of French bread lengthwise and slather with melted butter and sprinkle it with the garlic salt.  Wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Orange Glazed Lemon Chicken

You know this is going to be good…there’s so many adjectives in the name!

Some recipes produce shy and gentle things and others, like this one, are boisterous and bold.  I wanted something that was full of citrus flavors and exotic spices and this definitely fit the bill.  This chicken dish is nothing short of a runaway flavor train!  I intended on marinating the chicken for a few hours but plans changed and it marinated for about 30 hours.  The result was bright, very tangy, lemony chicken.  The thick orange glaze had a distinctly Asian taste which complemented the citrus flavor in the chicken.  The only thing shy and gentle about this dish was the white rice!

For the marinade:

1 ½ lbs chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces

2 lemons (quartered)

1 orange (quartered)

2 Tbs sliced ginger

½ onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

¼ cup olive oil

For the Glaze:

1 cup orange juice (or juice of 3-4 oranges)

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

¼ cup soy sauce

1 Tbs Sriracha sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbs fresh ginger, grated

4 cloves garlic, smashed

Orange zest, about ¼ cup

1 tsp black peppercorns

3 star anise

1 cinnamon stick, split and broken

2 Tbs cornstarch

For the stir-fry:

1 cup cooking oil

1 ½ lbs marinated chicken, cut into 1” pieces

¼ cup cornstarch

1 Tbs cooking oil

½ yellow bell pepper, chopped

½ orange bell pepper, chopped

3 Tbs toasted sesame seeds

1 green onion, chopped

¼ cup cilantro

Directions:

Prepare the marinade by cutting the lemons, orange and onion.  Slice the ginger.  Peeling the ginger is optional, since the ginger will only be used in the marinade. 

In a large plastic storage bag, add all of the marinade ingredients, including the chicken.  Squeeze the juice from the lemons and orange pieces as you toss them into the bag.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.

To prepare the glaze, add all of the ingredients for the glaze, except the cornstarch to a sauce pan.  Turn heat to low/medium stir to combine.  Simmer and stir occasionally for 20 minutes. 

Strain the solids from the sauce and return the sauce to the wok.

Remove a few tablespoons of the sauce and add to a small bowl. Add the cornstarch to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the cornstarch mixture back to the sauce and whisk to incorporate. Simmer for another 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens to a sticky glaze. Remove the glaze to a bowl and keep warm.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.  Add the chicken to a mixing bowl.  Cover with 1/4 cup cornstarch.  Mix thoroughly, to coat the chicken.  Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before frying in a wok.

Add a cup of cooking oil to a wok and set the heat to high.  Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and fry the chicken, stirring only occasionally, until the chicken is cooked and golden brown.  Remove the chicken to a warm place. 

Remove all but about 1 tablespoon of oil from the wok.  Add the chopped bell pepper and stir for a few minutes. 

Return the chicken to the wok and stir again.

Add the prepared glaze and stir. Finally, add the green onion and stir briefly.

Turn out to a serving bowl and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro.

Serve with warm jasmine rice.

Coconut Chicken Curry with Pesto Sauce and Spicy Shrimp Noodles

I have to admit, I sometimes feel like Marco Polo when I visit an international food market.  I imagine that I am a gallant adventurer, in search of spices and treasures from distant lands.  There are so many strange and wonderful things to see, most of which I know little or nothing about.  Fortunately, I almost always find a friendly proprietor that is happy to answer my questions and will guide me through the store, politely pointing out interesting things. 

“Tell me about ghee,” I might ask.  “Is it like clarified butter?”  And then I might ask about the several different varieties of rice on a shelf and ask what properties they have that make them appropriate for some dishes but not suitable for others.  Invariably, during my visit, I will reach a point where I run out of intelligent questions or the proprietor will begin to fidget and will look for a way to carry on with whatever they were doing before I captivated so much of their time. 

It’s usually around that moment that I feel a sudden desire to return to my homeland, to share my stories and show my new treasures.  I gather a few exotic wonders and pack them away in my sack, bid a fond farewell to my congenial friend, clasp my cloak about my neck and prepare for the arduous journey back home. 

Ok, it’s really just a fifteen minute drive through a light drizzle that dampens the city streets but I like to believe that I am hoisting the sails of my sea bound schooner and that I am preparing to batten down the hatches, at a moment’s notice, in case the stormy seas start to surge.

I know the trade routes like the back of my hand and, in due time, I return to the happy harbor of my home.  And that’s when the fun really begins…

Coconut Chicken Curry with Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

1 ½ tsp salt

1 Japanese eggplant

1 Tbs olive oil

5 garlic cloves

1 lb chicken tenders (tendons removed)

¼ cup basil pesto sauce

juice of 3 limes

juice of 1 lemon

1 ½ Tbs fresh ginger, sliced

1 Thai chili, sliced lengthwise

1 ½ Tbs chili powder

1 carrot

1 Roma tomato, chopped

2 cups chicken broth

2 tsp Garam Masala

13.5 oz Thai coconut milk

3 green onions

Directions:

Using a sharp kitchen knife, remove the white tendon that runs down the length of the chicken tender.

Cut the chicken into 1” pieces and place them in a bowl.

Add the pesto sauce, lime and lemon juice, sliced ginger, Thai chili and chili powder to the bowl and mix by hand.  Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Cut the eggplant into 1” pieces and add them to a mixing bowl.  Mince one clove of garlic and add it to the bowl, along with a tablespoon of olive oil. 

Spread the eggplant out on a parchment lined baking tray and roast in the oven at 400° for 20 minutes, or until the eggplant has browned a little. Remove and set aside in a bowl.

In a large skillet, sauté the onion and the remaining garlic for one minute, over low heat. 

Add the marinated chicken and turn the heat up to medium.  Stir the chicken while it cooks. 

Once the chicken has firmed and turned white, add the sliced jalapeños and carrots.  Stir frequently.

When the carrots begin to soften, add the chicken broth and deglaze the pan.

Add the Garam Masala, ginger, lime and lemon zest, lime and lemon juice.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato and eggplant and stir.

Cover the skillet and simmer at low heat for 15 minutes. 

At this point, I tasted the broth and determined that the jalapeños were spicier than I had expected.  I removed them and used them as a side dish, for anyone that wanted a little extra heat.

Add the coconut milk and mix with a spatula.  Simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes.

Remove to a serving bowl and keep warm until serving time. Serve in bowls, over basmati rice.

Spicy Shrimp Noodles

Ingredients:

1 lb shrimp (I used frozen shrimp, in the shell, de-veined)

2 Tbs basil pesto sauce

1 Tbs chili powder

2 Tbs fresh ginger, minced

1 lime

1 Tbs cooking oil

12 Thai chiles

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

¼ cup Asian stir fry sauce (I used General Tso sauce, but any kind will do)

1 Tbs Hoisin sauce

1 ½ Tbs oyster sauce

1 Tbs soy sauce

1 Tbs Vietnamese fish sauce

1 tsp Sriracha (or more, if you want it to be spicier!)

½ lb Vietnamese rice sticks

Directions:

Put the shrimp in a large bowl.  Add just enough water to cover the shrimp.  Add the pesto sauce, chili powder and minced ginger.  Quarter the lime and squeeze the juice over the bowl.  Add the rest of the lime to the bowl.   Marinate for at least 30 minutes.  Since I started with frozen shrimp, I marinated for one hour.

The rice sticks will need to soak in warm water for about 30 minutes, to soften.  Vietnamese rice sticks tend to be very long so I broke them in half before soaking. 

Heat a wok at high heat.  Add the cooking oil and the chilies.  Sear the chilies for about one minute, or until the outer skins begin to blister.  Remove the chiles and set aside.  I put them in a small dish to serve at the table. 

Add the whole, unpeeled shrimp to the wok and stir-fry for one to two minutes.  Remove the shrimp and allow them to cool before removing the shells and tails. 

Set the shrimp aside and return the shells and tails to the wok. Stir the shells over high heat for about one minute, to extract their juices. Remove the shells and tails and discard.

Add the garlic to the wok and stir for about 30 seconds. 

Add the Asian sauce, Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce and Sriracha.  Turn the heat to low and stir to mix.

Drain the rice sticks in a colander and add the rice sticks to the wok.  Stir to coat the rice sticks.  Return the shrimp and mix briefly.  Turn out to a serving bowl.

When the Party’s Over

Between our New Year’s Day celebration and last weekend’s bridal shower party we amassed a lot of inexplicable leftovers.  How we wound up with Camembert cheese left over, I’ll never know.  That’s fancy French cheese from Normandy, for goodness sake!  As I recall, we Americans fought our tails of to liberate that cheese!  And the gouda!  For pity’s sake everyone ignored the gouda!  Other than tulips, legalized prostitution and hash bars gouda is the Netherland’s #1 attraction!  

The leftover cauliflower and broccoli is easier to understand.  They’re always the last stragglers on a veggie tray.  The Kalamata olives went first and then the carrots.  By the time the carrots were gone, so was the creamy ranch dressing dip.  Poor cauliflower and broccoli always get left behind, like a scrawny kid who gets picked last during recess, when teams are chosen. 

So, now it’s time to scrape together all of the those party leftovers and make a meal. 

Rustic Chicken with Winter Vegetables and Whipped Potatoes

My first step was to make the puff pastry for the chicken dish.  From there I prepped much of the rest of the meal in advance and kept it cool until nearly service time.  I finished by roasting the vegetables and frying some matchstick onions.

Ingredients for the puff pastry:

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cup cold butter (2 and a half sticks)

½ cup ice cold water

Directions:

Puff pastry is really not too difficult to make at home as long as you adhere to a few rules.  There are only a few ingredients but the important thing to remember while making the pastry is to keep all of the ingredients very cold during preparation.  I chilled the flour, in addition to chilling the butter, and I put the water in the freezer, just prior to using it. 

Since hands are warm, and warmth is a pastry killer, I added the flour, salt and butter to a food processor.  I pulsed the food processor several times until the flour and butter combined to make a grainy mixture. 

I added the ice cold water and pulse again, until the dough began to form a ball.  I turned out the dough ball to a clean work surface and formed the dough into a 12” x 6” rectangle.  I worked quickly, using the rolling pin.

I folded the dough over into a tri-fold and squared the dough by pushing the edges with the rolling pin.  I added a little more flour to the work surface to keep the dough from sticking to the surface. 

I rolled the dough out again to a 12” x 6” rectangle and folded it in thirds again.  I repeated this process three more times.  Rolling the dough multiple times increases the amount of flakiness of the finished puff pastry.

I wrapped the rectangle of dough in plastic wrap and kept it refrigerated until I was ready to use it. 

This recipe makes enough dough for 24 pastry cups. 

Ingredients for the rest of the meal:

Infused blueberries:

1 ½ cup water

2 tsp dried rosemary

½ cup blueberries

1 Tbs sugar

Roasted chicken:

4 chicken thighs (bone–in)

5 cloves fresh garlic, sliced thin

2 tsp dried rosemary

1 Tbs rendered bacon fat

½ cup roasted red bell peppers

4 oz sliced mushrooms (I used canned mushrooms)

1 Tbs olive oil

6 oz Camembert cheese (rind removed)

Whipped potatoes:

6 small russet potatoes

2 Tbs butter

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup milk

5 cloves roasted garlic

Matchstick onions:

1 yellow onion, sliced into very thin rings

1 cup buttermilk (I used 1 cup milk and 1 tsp vinegar)

1 cup flour

1 tsp seasoning salt

Winter vegetables:

               1 ½ cup carrots, sliced and chopped

               1 cup broccoli florets

               1 cup cauliflower florets

               1 Tbs olive oil

               ½ cup gouda cheese, shredded

Directions:

Fill a small bowl with 1 ½ cups of boiling water.  Add the rosemary and sugar.  When the water has reached room temperature, remove the rosemary and reserve for later. 

Add the blueberries to the fragrant water and allow them to soak at room temperature for a few hours.

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and discard.  Using a small, sharp knife, make several incisions in the chicken and insert the slices of garlic. 

Add bacon grease and olive oil to a baking dish.  Smear the chicken with the grease and oil and nestle the chicken in the baking dish.  Sprinkle the reserved rosemary onto the chicken.

Roast the chicken, uncovered, in an oven at 350° for 90 minutes.  Baste the chicken occasionally.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool down to room temperature.

Once the chicken has cooled, shred by hand.

Dice the roasted peppers and add to the shredded chicken.  Add the mushrooms to the chicken and mix to incorporate.  Set aside.

Wash and scrub the potatoes.  Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water.  Cover the pot with a lid and boil the potatoes at low heat for about one hour, or until the potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork. 

Using a hand-held mixer, blend the potatoes, including the potato skins, with the butter, sour cream, milk and roasted garlic.  Store in warm place.

Drain the blueberries and set aside.

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and place on a clean work surface.  Divide the dough in half.  Use one half for the chicken dish and reserve the other half for a dessert dish.  Roll the dough out to about ¼” thick.  Slice the pastry into 4” squares.  Form fit the pastry into the muffin pan.

Slice dough into 4″ squares

Place the squares in muffing pan and fill the pastry with the chicken mixture.  Top with a teaspoon of Camembert cheese and a 3 or 4  blueberries.

Bake at 400° for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry puffs and turns golden brown. 

Roasted Winter Vegetables

Toss carrots, broccoli and cauliflower in olive oil.  Spread the vegetables out on parchment lined backing tray.  Roast in the oven at 350° for 30 minutes.  Remove and keep warm.

Or, if you want to burn them, leave them in a 400° oven for 45 minutes, like I did.  There I was trying to salvage leftover vegetable tray fodder and I incinerated the whole lot.  Oh well, that’s the way things roll in my kitchen, sometimes.

Matchstick Onions

Slice the onion very thin and set aside. 

Mix the milk and vinegar together in a large bowl (this is a decent substitute for buttermilk).  Soak the onions in the buttermilk for several minutes.

Heat a pot of oil on the stove at medium/high heat (325° to 350° works well.

Add the flour and seasoning salt to a large mixing bowl. 

Toss the onions in the flour mixture to coat.

Add the onions to the oil and fry until golden brown and crispy.  Remove to a paper towel-lined platter and keep warm.

Serve two stuffed pastry shells with mashed potatoes, topped with turkey gravy and fried onions.

Dessert:  Cherry and Cream Cheese Tarts

Assemble 12 pastry cups using the same method as before.  Fill each one with 2 teaspoons of cream cheese and top with cherry pie filling.  Bake at 400° for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry puffs and turns golden brown. 

Impromptu Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve turned out to be a rollicking good time with family, food and holiday movies.  The evening  menu showcased some impromptu stir-fry dishes and the holiday movie marathon ended with a classic… “The Star Wars Holiday Special”.  For the uninitiated, the Star Wars Holiday Special aired on TV in 1978 and was subsequently banished by George Lucas.  It starred all of the favorite Star Wars characters like, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Art Carney, Harvey Korman and Beatrice Arthur.  Yes, Art Carney, Harvey Korman and Bea Arthur!  It’s a must-see!

The idea behind Thai cuisine for Christmas Eve came from a small jar of Thai Green Curry that has been sitting in my refrigerator for quite some time and I wanted to finish it off.  I searched my pantry and refrigerator for items that would be suitable for stir-fry.  Much of the afternoon was spent prepping vegetables, roasting garlic, soaking the noodles and watching holiday classics.  

Thai Green Curry Chicken

Ingredients:

1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces

2 Tbs Thai green curry paste (3 Tbs for extra spicy)

1 Tbs oil

2 garlic cloves (fresh)

1 head of garlic (roasted)

2 Tbs fresh ginger, sliced thin

¼ yellow onion, julienne sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1 ½ cups coconut milk

2 Tbs fish sauce

1 Tbs dried basil and 1 tsp dried parsley  (substitution for fresh Thai basil)

1 lime

Zest of lime

1 can of water chestnuts (8 ounces, drained and sliced)

1 roasted red bell pepper, sliced

1 green onion, diced greens and chopped white roots

¼ cup cilantro leaves

Directions:

Mix the cut chicken breast with the Thai curry paste.  Refrigerate until needed.

In a bowl, combine the chicken stock with ½ cup coconut milk.  Add the fish sauce, basil, parsley and the juice of half of a lime.  Set aside.

In a wok, add a tablespoon of cooking oil. Warm a tablespoon of sliced ginger and one garlic clove.

Add 1 cup of coconut milk to the wok and turn the heat up to medium/hot. 

Add the roasted garlic and stir the coconut milk as it thickens. 

Add the chicken stock mixture and simmer at low/medium heat .  Add the sliced water chestnuts, green onion roots and sliced jalapeño.  Simmer for a few minutes and removed to a bowl. 

Wipe the wok clean and add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and turn the heat to high.  Add a some garlic and ginger. Add the serrano chile and sear the chile in the oil.  Remove the chile and reserve.

Add the marinated chicken to the wok and stir at high heat.  Return the serrano chile to the wok, along with a garlic clove and 1 tablespoon of sliced ginger.  Stir the chicken for a few minutes and remove the serrano. 

Continue stirring the chicken until the chicken is cooked and browned. 

Add the coconut milk/chicken stock mixture to the wok. Stir to incorporate and turn out to an oven proof bowl. Keep in a warm oven until ready to eat.  When you are ready to eat, add a tablespoon of lime juice and top with cilantro, roasted red pepper and fresh lime wedges.

Serve in bowls, over jasmine rice.

Chicken with Peppers and Pineapple

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces

1 cup flour

¾ cup cornstarch

1 Tbs oil

1 Tbs fresh ginger, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 serrano chile

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 small yellow onion, julienne sliced

2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced into rings

2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into ½” pieces

1 Mandarin orange

Zest of an orange

2 Tbs garlic chile sauce (Sambal Oelek)

2 cups vegetable oil

¼ cup cilantro

¼ cup green onion, chopped

Directions:

In a large bowl, add mix the flour with the cornstarch.  Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat.  Set aside.

Add one tablespoon cooking oil to a wok.  Simmer the ginger and garlic at low heat for minute and then remove the ginger and garlic. 

Add the serrano and cook at high heat for 30 seconds.  Remove and discard the serrano (or save for another time).

Add the chopped bell peppers, sliced onion, sliced jalapeño.  Turn the heat to high and stir-fry for a few minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic back to the wok and continue to stir until the peppers have softened to your liking.  (Don’t overcook…mushy stir-fry vegetables make a disappointing stir-fry).

In a small bowl, add the cut pineapple.  Add the juice and zest of the orange.

Add the pineapple to the wok and stir a few times to incorporate the flavors.  Turn out to a bowl.  Add the sambal oelek.  Keep the bowl in a warm place.

Add a little flour to the bowl containing the chicken that has been coated in flour and cornstarch.  Toss the chicken to prevent the chicken pieces from sticking together.

Wipe the wok clean.   Add 2 cups of cooking oil to the wok and turn the heat to high.   Add the chicken to the wok, a few pieces at a time.  Stir the chicken occasionally.  Remove the chicken to a paper towel lined platter when it turns golden brown and crispy.

Carefully pour the frying oil in an appropriate container to cool.

Wipe the wok clean and return it to the stove top.  Add the vegetables and chicken back to the hot wok and stir a few times.  Turn out to a serving bowl.  Top with cilantro and green onions.

Shrimp with Rice Noodles

Ingredients:

16 ounces rice vermicelli noodles (rice stick)

1 lb raw shrimp, deveined with tails and shells removed

1 Tbs olive oil

½ tsp sesame oil

1 Tbs ginger, thinly sliced

1/4 yellow onion, julienne sliced

1 Tbs Hoisin sauce

2 tsp oyster sauce

1 Tbs fish sauce

2 green onions

Directions:

Crack the dried noodles in half and add them to a large pot.  Add enough water to the cover the noodles by at least two inches. 

Heat the water to a boil.  Swish the noodles around in the pot as they boil.  Sample the noodles while they cook.  They should become al dente, just like properly cooked spaghetti noodles.  Once the noodles have cooked, strain out the water and rinse the noodles with cold water to stop the heating process.  Add the noodles back to the pot and cover with cold water.  Reserve until needed.

Add olive oil and sesame oil to a hot wok.  Add the ginger and stir for a minute.  Discard the ginger.

Add the shrimp to the hot wok and stir-fry for a few minutes.  Add the onion and stir. The shrimp will cook quickly. 

Add the Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce and stir to mix. 

Strain the noodles and add them to the wok.  Stir to coat the noodles and turn everything out to a serving bowl. 

Add the root pieces of the onion to the wok and sear. 

Top the dish with chopped green onion tips and seared green onion roots.

Thai Trifecta

Dessert suggestion:  Sliced bananas, dusted with cinnamon and chocolate sauce and whipped cream topping.

Dust with cinnamon, drizzle chocolate syrup and top with whipped cream

Grapefruit – Four Ways

My favorite sort of days evolve and flow in natural, unpredictable ways.  I don’t always plan meals ahead of time, and even when I do, my instincts guide me when it actually comes time to cook. 

1. Segmented Grapefruit

I saw some nice looking grapefruit at the store recently.  Even though they weren’t bonafide Texas Ruby Red grapefruit, they were large and ripe and I thought they would make a nice addition to the next day’s breakfast.

I like grapefruit but I don’t like the white, bitter pith and I don’t like the membranes between the segments.  I wasn’t a big fan of grapefruit until I discovered that I could cut away the parts that I didn’t like!  I started by cutting the top and bottom off, just to the point where I could see the fruit beneath.  Then I used a sharp kitchen knife to spiral cut the rind, deeply enough to get beneath the pith.  Then I cut the segments, sliding the knife along the sides of the membrane, leaving nothing but pristine segments.  This takes some practice but it’s definitely worth the effort.

2. Citrus Aromatic

I decided to use the grapefruit rinds to make a citrus aromatic on the stovetop.  It’s an easy thing to do and it makes the entire house smell fantastic.  I heated a pot of water and added some star anise, a cinnamon stick and a crushed nutmeg seed.  Just as I was about to toss the grapefruit rinds into the pot I had an idea.  I could use the rinds to make candied ginger and still use the top and bottom pieces of the grapefruit for the aromatic pot.

3.  Candied Grapefruit Peels

Once the aromatic pot was simmering, I sliced the grapefruit rinds into thin strips. I boiled the rinds three times in water, to remove some of the bitterness and then I made a simple syrup, using 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar.  I brought the syrup to a boil while whisking.

I added the cut grapefruit rinds to the syrup and simmered them at low heat for about 20 minutes.  Once the rinds turned  translucent, I moved them to a wire rack to dry for about 4 hours.  On a dry day, they might have dried in an hour but the humidity was high and they took most of the day to dry.  After a few hours I dredged the pieces in sugar and then I returned them to the rack.  An hour later, I tossed them in sugar again and let them finish drying on the wire rack.

I was left with 1 cup of grapefruit flavored simple syrup.  Being the frugal sort of cook that I am, I devised a plan to use the syrup. 

 4.  Sweet and Sour Chicken

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup cornstarch

2 lbs chicken thighs, skinned and deboned

1 cup cooking oil

For the sauce:

1 cup simple syrup (from the candied grapefruit)

1 cup ketchup

1 ½ Tbs soy sauce

1 tsp Hoisin sauce

1 tsp rice vinegar

For the stir-fry:

1 Tbs cooking oil

½ tsp sesame oil

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 Tbs fresh ginger, minced

½ lb broccoli florets

3 green onions, chopped

2 large carrots, sliced diagonally

2 large, mild jalapeños, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup cilantro

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch and flour.  Whisk to combine.  Remove half of the flour mixture and set aside. 

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and debone.  Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.  Add the chicken to the bowl containing half of the cornstarch and flour.  Toss to coat the chicken.  Leave the chicken in the flour dredge for 10 minutes.

Prepare a wok by adding  1 cup of cooking oil and set the heat to high.

Add remaining flour to the chicken and toss to coat. 

Add the chicken to the hot oil, a little at a time.  Fry the chicken until crispy, golden brown. 

Remove to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm.

Remove the oil from the wok and wipe the wok clean with a paper towel. 

Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Add 1 Tbs cooking oil and ½ tsp sesame oil to a hot wok.  Add the garlic and ginger and simmer for a few seconds. 

Add the vegetables and stir-fry until the vegetables are tender.   Remove the vegetables to a bowl and keep warm.

Add the sauce to the wok at medium heat.  Once the sauce begins to bubble, add the chicken and stir to coat. 

Add the vegetables and stir to combine.  Turn out to a large serving bowl.

Top with cilantro and serve in bowls with steamed jasmine rice.

Happy Holidays!

Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas

I served two types of enchiladas during  a recent dinner party, along with Mexican rice, refried beans and guacamole.  I found myself forgetting to take pictures along the way because I was having too much fun visiting with friends and family. 

Consider this Part I of a three-part series of posts.

Ingredients:

4 chicken tenderloins

1 Tbs chicken bullion

1 tsp cumin powder

1 bay leaf

5 oz fresh spinach (I used half of a 10 oz bag)

4 Tbs butter

4 Tbs flour

2 cups vegetable stock

14 corn tortillas

1 lb Chihuahua cheese, cut into ½” strips

½ cup salsa verde

Directions:

Trim 4 large chicken breasts and remove the tenderloins.  Add the tenderloins to a pot of water (about 4 cups) and reserve the breast meat for another dish. Add the bouillon, cumin powder and bay leaf.

Cover the pot and simmer the tenderloins on low heat for one hour.  Turn the heat off and leave the pot covered for 30 more minutes. 

Remove the chicken pieces to a cutting board.

Partially flatten the chicken by pressing with the broad side of a kitchen knife.  Pressing the chicken breaks apart the meat and makes it easier to shred. 

Gently scrape the chicken across the grain to shred the chicken.

Note:  I stored the chicken in a seal-able container, along with the chicken broth.  This can keep for a few days in the refrigerator with no worries.

Steam the spinach for a few minutes until it begins to wilt.  Drain and set aside.

Start a roux with butter and flour.  Add vegetable stock and whisk until the sauce forms and thickens.  Add the chicken and chicken broth.  Continue to stir to incorporate.  Keep the heat set at medium and stir until the sauce thickens again. 

Ladle about 1 cup of the sauce into a ceramic or glass casserole dish. 

Arrange some tortillas on a clean work surface and place equal amounts of chicken and spinach on the tortillas.  Add a strip or two of cheese.  Roll the enchiladas and place them side by side in the casserole dish.  Continue rolling and placing enchiladas until the dish is full.  Pour the remaining sauce on top of the enchiladas.

Top with more Chihuahua cheese.

Lightly cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and uncover. Serve warm.

Chicken with Stuffing

Chicken with Stuffing

The turkey went fast this Thanksgiving.   We had enough left over turkey to make a big batch of turkey, biscuits and gravy but that went quickly, too.  The leftover green beans,  yams, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese have all been eaten.  Why is it that dressing is always the last remnant of Thanksgiving at my house?  Maybe it’s because we always make too much of it.  The dressing was very good this year, mainly because my wife made it.  She knows how to balance the flavors.  I tend to get heavy handed when adding herbs and spices. 

But, the fact remains.  I have all of this dressing to deal with.  Some types of leftovers make great additions to other future meals.  Vegetables and meat can be added to omelets or salads…that’s easy.  But dressing, or stuffing, depending on your preference, is pretty much singular, in nature. 

I was portioning some extremely large chicken breasts the other day and I decided to use a few of the breast pieces to make stuffed chicken. 

Ingredients for the marinade:

¼ cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Tbs dry Italian seasonings

1 tsp cracked black pepper

½ tsp salt

Ingredients for the stuffed chicken:

3 monstrously sized chicken breasts

3 cups prepared and cooked bread stuffing (dressing)

Directions:

Combine the marinade in a large bowl.

Butterfly slice the chicken breasts, leaving about half an inch of the breast uncut.

Lay the chicken breasts open and put them in the bowl containing the marinade.  Allow the chicken to marinate for a half hour, turning occasionally.

Heat a cast iron skillet to high.  Once the skillet is hot, sear the cut sided of the chicken.  Sear for about 1 minute and turn the chicken over to briefly sear the other side, about 10 or 15 seconds.  Remove the chicken to a work surface.  Sear the remaining chicken breast in a similar fashion.

Lay the chicken breasts on a work surface with the cut side facing upward.

Compress some stuffing in your hands and lay the stuffing on one side of the chicken.  Fold the chicken over along the seam and secure with toothpicks.  Repeat the process with the other chicken breasts.

Return the chicken to the skillet and bake at 300° for 30 minutes, uncovered.  Turn the heat up to 350° and bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot, along with a vegetable or salad.  I served this with asparagus…

Skinny Asparagus in Lemon, Garlic Butter Sauce

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t remember seeing pencil-thin asparagus in stores until a few years ago. It’s probably just me… When it comes to asparagus I let the price determine which kind I will use. Naturally, the thicker variety is better suited for grilling and the thinner variety is perfect for pan frying, quickly.

Ingredients:

½ lb skinny asparagus

1 Tbs butter

2 garlic cloves, smashed

Juice of ½ lemon

Directions:

Once the chicken has been removed from the skillet, wipe the skillet with a paper towel to remove most of the residual oil.

Add the butter and garlic and sauté the garlic for about a minute, or until the garlic begins to turn light brown.

Set the heat to low and add the asparagus.  Stir briefly and cover.  I used a piece of aluminum foil. I like the flexibility I get with foil. Let the asparagus steam for about 4 minutes.  Uncover and gently stir the asparagus for another minute.

Remove the pan from the heat and serve hot.