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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rollatini Scarpariello

Chicken Scarpariello is one of those Italian dishes that you will never see in Italy, but you will always see it on the menu of your neighborhood red sauce Italian joint.  It's always one of my favorites.  If it's made well, it's chicken Heaven.  How can I resist the wine-soaked chicken accompanied by hearty sausages and the sharpness of some lemon and hot pepper? 

I order it often in restaurants, but I rarely, if ever, attempt to make it at home.  I'd love to, but I have a husband who has issues with link sausages. 

Then one day a thought came to me.  How could I make chicken scarpariello with sausage and have the sausage out of the casings (the part that tends to lend the most digestive trouble)?  It would not be terribly aesthetically pleasing to have bit of sausage meat scattered all over the plate (unless you're serving it over pasta I suppose).  I needed a way to un-link the sausage and yet still have my dish look somewhat neat.  I realized the best way to do this would be to put the sausage meat inside the chicken.  I would make scarpariello-flavored chicken sausage rolls.

I removed the sausage meat from the casings (in this case it was Italian chicken sausage) and mixed up bits of the hot (Peppadew) peppers in with it as well.  I even added the zest of a lemon to brighten up the flavor a bit. 


I rolled up the sausage in the chicken and browned it.  Then it went into the oven.  Next I made a typical pan sauce of white wine, lemon juice, and fresh rosemary and poured it over the top.


I served escarole on the side.  Do you know if you braise escarole with a touch of cider vinegar and add some butter-sauteed apples you can really cut the bitterness?

Chicken Scarpariello Rollatini

Ingredients
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin and tenders removed
  • 1 pound mild Italian chicken sausage, removed from casing
  • 10 Peppadew peppers, finely diced
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 Tbl butter
  • 1 Tbl chopped, fresh rosemary
  • Olive oil for sauteeing
Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together sausage meat with chopped peppers and lemon zest. 

Lay your chicken breasts flat and spread some of the sausage mixture on each one.  Roll up carefully. Secure with toothpicks if necessary.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Carefully brown your chicken rolls on all sides.  Place chicken in the oven and cook an additional 15 minutes.

Keep chicken warm while you make the pan sauce. Add the lemon juice, wine, chicken stock and rosemary to the pan.  Reduce down for a minute or two and then add the butter.  Cook on low another minute and serve over chicken.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Parties Galore (Now with cake and bread pudding - two kinds!)

Has TERP been a bit silent this week?  I apologize my dear muffins.  I've been embroiled in other projects and celebrations and stuff.  Luckily for both my readers and me, it's been food related stuff.

Sir Pickypants and I had a marvelous Valentine's Day dinner at Turkish Meze, which I've reviewed here before.  We chose it because it's one of our favorite places, and it's not a real fancypants place.  Don't get me wrong.  We love fancypants and we do go to fancypants for some occasions, but Valentine's Day is the wrong time to go to places like that.  Everyone wants to go out to the classy joints on Valentine's Day.  That means you get some mediocre, mass-produced price fixe dinner and are quickly hustled out the door after you eat it so they can turn over the tables.  Even good restaurants with food I like do this.  I have attempted cooking Valentine's Day dinner in the past, but then I realized that would leave me with the cleanup.  For Valentine's Day we go places that are fun and not necessarily romantic (although anything can be romantic when you have the right guy by your side).  We're all for even super-casual on Valentine's Day.

It's interesting that this year Valentine's Day is the week before Mardi Gras.  We get an entire week to eat decadently before going to the sacrificial and dull season of Lent (if Lent if your kind of thing).  Mardi Gras is something I celebrate every year now thanks to my theater group.  We always throw a fund raising dinner with entertainment, costumes and traditional foods. 

I always like to contribute a dessert or two to our fund raisers.  This year I contributed two kind of bread pudding.  I wanted my bread pudding to follow a bit of Louisiana tradition (bread pudding is a tradition in and of itself of course).  One was flavored with Bananas Foster.  The other contained bourbon, pralines, and a little orange flavor (because I love mixing bourbon and orange).  Keep reading and you will be rewarded with recipes!



The very next day I hosted a birthday dinner for my mother in law.  She is a wonderful woman who always amazes me with how well she continues to enjoy and celebrate life at her age.  She never forgets anyone's birthday in the family, so you can bet we had to do something special for hers.

I did a little Justify Your Subscription with this meal.  I started with a salad of oranges, cabbage, pepitas, and fennel from Food & Wine.  I was a doodyhead and didn't take my own photo, which stinks because it was a beautiful salad - and tasty too!  I had my doubts since I don't eat a lot of red cabbage, but it was really good with an excellent combination of flavors.

Next came my hazelnut crusted chicken with port-cherry sauce.  I served it over basic risotto Milanese


Dessert was also from Food & Wine.  This was a brown butter cake, filled with milk chocolate mousse and topped with hazelnut frosting.  I guess the frosting is considered Swiss meringue buttercream, which I never made before.  It was  little scary, but it turned out okay.  As always, my cake was less than beautiful since I have trouble getting nice even layers and making my frosting look smooth.


It looked a little better after I cut it.

Now that you have patiently read through this entire post, you will be rewarded with my bread pudding recipes.

Notes on the bread pudding recipes: 

I measure my bread by weight rather than by volume.  I find that if the recipe calls for cups of bread chunks, then it can become a bit confusing.  Are the chunks large or small? Tightly packed or loosely packed?  I measure my bread by how it can generously fill a 9" x 13" pan.  If it rises over the top a bit when it's dry, then once it has soaked up the liquid, it will fit just right.  I used 1 1/2 loaves (one loaf is one pound each) of braided challah from the bakery section of the grocery store. 

Also when making the bananas foster, remember that you are not making banana bread.  This is not the time to use those old black bananas sitting in the fruit bowl.  Your bananas shouldn't be green, but they should be firm and ripe.  You want them to be able to hold their shape when you're cooking them.
 
The recipe states that you prepare the bread mixture after you make the pecans.  You can certainly prepare it while the pecans are roasting.  A good strategy is to have the bread ready and then give the pecans a few minutes to cool while you bring the oven to the higher temperature.  Then mix them in and put the whole thing in the oven.

Bananas Foster Bread Pudding

Ingredients
  • 4 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rum
  • 1.5 pounds of challah bread, cut into chunks
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter a 9" x 13" pan.

Beat the eggs and mix in the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla.  Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and pour the milk mixture over it.  Let it really soak in while you prepare the bananas.

Melt butter in a deep skillet over low heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and increase heat to medium, whisking until well blended.   Add the bananas to the pan and mix well to coat.  Cook until the mixture is bubbly, allowing the bananas to really caramelize.  Remove from heat and gently stir in the rum.
Gently fold the  bananas into the soaked bread.  Spead in a buttered 9"x13" pan.  Bake 45-55 minutes or until set.

Bourbon Orange Praline Bread Pudding

 Ingredients
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 pounds challah bread cut into chunks
  • 2.5 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Juice of two oranges
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 2 tsp vanilla.
Heat oven 250.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

In a small bowl whisk egg white until frothy.  Stir in the pecans.  Add the brown sugar and stir until nuts are all even coated.  Spread the nuts on the prepared sheet and lightly sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 1 hour.

Increase oven tem to 325 degrees. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9" x 13" pan.

Place bread chunks in a large bowl.  In another large bowl beat the eggs.  Stir in the milk, cream, vanilla and orange zest.  Finally add the bourgon and orange juice*.

Gently fold in the pralines and spread in the prepared pan.  Bake 45-55 minutes or until golden and a bit crispy on top.

*If you haven't already drunk it as a cocktail

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chicken Chili Verde

I don't know what it is, but my appetite is spectacular lately.  I am craving everything.  I see a food and I want it.  I think of a food and I want it.  My culinary desires are all over the map.  Yesterday I would have died for a Thai coconut curry.  I wanted Italian the day before.  My last blog post was an outlet for my desire for pork tenderloin.

I've been feeling south-of-the-border-ish today (and no, I'm not referring to cheezy roadside attractions).  I was inspired from two places.  The first was seeing chicken chili verde in the hot case at Whole Foods.  It smelled particularly good and I realized that chicken chili verde was a dish I had never made before.  Then I saw Debby's recipe for turkey chili with tequilia and lime and thought that sounded like a really tasty twist on chili.  I decided to combine those two ideas.
I started with cubed boneless skinless chicken thighs (Standard Disclaimer: You can use breasts if you prefer, but I always think thighs hold up to long cooking better). 

Onions and some sauteed with fragrant spices and then I added a mix of anaheim and poblano chiles.Tomatillos come next and are cooked until softened.  Add some chicken stock, tequilia and lime juice.


I served it topped with cilantro and a generous dollop of homemade guacamole.  Everything is so green!



 Not green enough?  Instead of tortilla chips, I served kale chips on the side.  Trying to be healthy here. 













Chicken Chili Verde My Way
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Zest of one lime
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 2 anaheim chilis, cored, seeded and diced
  • 2 poblano chilis, cored, seeded and diced
  • 10 tomatillos, removed from husks and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup tequilia
  • Juice of one lime
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish
Brown chicken in a large pan.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Drain excess fat off pan.

Heat olive oil and cook onions until soft.  Add the garlic and cook another minute.   Add the cumin, chili powder, and lime zest and coat the onions well, getting the mixture really fragrant.

Add the peppers to the pan.  Cook until they begin to soften and then add the tomatillos and cook until they start to soften. 

Pour in the stock, tequilia and lime juice.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Add chicken back to the pan and simmer an additional 30 minutes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fun with Ingredients!

Even though the weather isn't very wintery, I do seem to be affected by these dog days of winter.  I am quite busy at work lately and when I'm home I can't get into food inspiration mode.  I'm neglecting my blog and everyone else's.  Yeah.  I know.  Excuses, excuses.  I've been saying this for quite a while, haven't I? 

Well lately I'm craving all sorts of different foods and I'm feeling like going crazy in the kitchen!

I just love blood oranges. The juice is just such a pretty color.  It never fails to make a gorgeous sauce.


I decided to put some to use this week.  I was craving pork tenderloin.  I got some of these handy-sized pork tenderloin pieces and rubbed them with cumin, cinnamon, and the orange peel and browned them in a pan.


The juice was reduced down with some mint and honey.

Roast went into the oven at 400 for 10 minutes and sliced up with the sauce. 


I still had some of that mint.  I also have some of these ground pistachios left over after making Emily's Pistachio Chery Cookies for this weekend's Super Bowl party. 

Since I made pork for myself, how about some fish for SPP?

I coated some tilapia filets in flour, eggs, and the pistchio powder.  I mixed some of the mint in with the pistachios.  The whole thing was baked for 20 minutes.


I have more cravings and more plans for the kitchen, so stay tuned.  Don't give up on me!

Pork Tenderloin with Blood Orange Sauce

Ingredients

For Pork
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
For Sauce
  • Juice of 3 blood oranges
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 Tbl butter
Heat oven to 400 degrees

Rub the tenderloin well with orange zest, cinnamon, cumin and salt.  Let sit for a few minutes.  Place the meat in a hot cast iron skillet and brown well on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Place pan in oven and cook an additional 10-15 minutes or until it reaches 160 degrees.
In a small saucepan bring the juice to boil.  Reduce to a simmer and add mint.  Reduce liquid by half. Stir in honey until dissolved. Stir in butter and serve over pork.

Pistachio Crusted Tilapia

Ingredients
  • 2-4 tilapia filets
  • Flour for dredging
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup ground pistachios
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh mint
Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix some flour with salt and pepper and place in a dish.  In another dish, beat the egg.  Chop the mint and mix well with the ground nuts in a third dish.

Toss the filets in it to coat.  Dip in egg.  Then coat well with the nuts.

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.  Place filets in the dish and bake for 20 minutes.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Kitchen Is Having a Bad Hair Day

First I went to the farmer's market and decided to try something new.



Kohlrabi.  I'd had heard of it before, but never seen it.  I'm trying not to be such a food skeptic and try new things and I tend to eat the same veggies over and over.  I took three of them home and scoured the 'net for ways to prepare them.

I cut them up in chunks, dusted them with olive oil, salt, and some balsamic vinegar and roasted them at 450 for 25 minutes.


Texture? Tough.  Taste?  Not bad, but no real standout.  Kind of sweet.  They tasted better the next day for some reason.  I doubt I'll buy them again.  SPP didn't like it at all.

If veggies could oblige me more by being delicious, I am sure I would eat more of them!

Next up was a new beef braise.  I have wanted to try braising lamb shanks for the longest time, but Whole Paycheck stubbornly refuses to not be out of them when I shop there.  I saw some beef shanks and decided to give them a try.

I cooked them with wine and a medley of sweet veggies.  I served it all over cauliflower puree.


The meat just never took that fall-apart tender texture and rich taste that a good chuck roast would.  It was tough and a bit gristly. 

If I ever find lamb shanks again, I'll post the recipe.  It was a good recipe.

I read a great food-related book a few weeks ago, which I keep meaning to review on here.  I will keep you posted. 

Now I need to go back ot the kitchen and cook something I actually like and want to share.