Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chili and Cornbread Tailgate

Picture of Emeril's Chuck Wagon Chili Recipe
Chuck Wagon Chili
As a little teaser earlier this week, Jen started off by paying homage to one of the pioneers of the food television hysteria, Emeril Lagasse and mentioning his infamous Chuck Wagon Chili.  Chili has to be the quintessential tailgating food.  Wash it down with a cold beer and you'll be participating in a national past time shared by thousands every Sunday.  While David's and my loyalty remain with the college football scene (Clemson and Penn State fans), we do watch a fair share of NFL games as well.  Therefore, in celebration of this Superbowl Sunday whether you're looking forward to watching the game or enjoying the food, I thought we would try that old classic, chili.  
 
Much like the Harbaugh brothers this weekend, we are a house divided on the level of spiciness we enjoy.  And in case you didn't get the reference, John Harbaugh, the coach of the Superbowl bound Ravens is the brother of Jim Harbaugh, the coach of the similarly Superbowl bound 49ers.  Anyway, I like to, in the words of Emeril, "kick it up a notch" whereas anything resembling real food heat would send David running for his Prilosec.  To satisfy both of our food preferences I may just make two batches with mine going a little heavier on the cayenne since how often it is that I get to indulge in homemade chili.  
Chris Rock knows

Besides if the heat gets to be too much I can always turn to chili's must have side kick, corn bread.  In the words of Chris Rock: "Cornbread.  Ain't nuttin' wrong wit dat".  If you have no idea what I'm talking about just YouTube that phrase to see his late 90s music video.  And no you can't have those five minutes of your life back after you've finished watching it.  

For the cornbread,I will be using a recipe I found on the Food Network which intrigued me since it called for a cast iron skillet.  I can just imagine how amazing the bread will turn out using the skillet coated with butter.  In case you haven't noticed, this is definitely not your healthiest of meals but every once in awhile its perfectly fine to splurge.

You may notice this recipe calls for A LOT of ingredients so it definitely something to reserve for the weekend.  But all of those ingredients will blend together beautifully to give you an amazing and flavorful chili.  The prep should only take about 10 minutes but give yourself enough time for it to simmer and blend.  It will yield about two and a half quarts.  I hope you enjoy your Superbowl Sunday!

Happy Cooking!
Joanne

Chuck Wagon Chili 
By: Emeril Lagasse

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Emeril's Southwest Essence
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 (12-ounce) bottles dark beer
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed, with juices
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-ounce semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons masa harina
  • Grated Cheddar, for garnish
  • Finely chopped green onions, for garnish
  • Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish


Directions

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over high heat. Add the beef, chili powder, cumin, Southwest Essence, cayenne, cinnamon, crushed red pepper and bay leaf and cook until meat is well-browned. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until the onions soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beers and cook until the foam subsides, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, salt, and chocolate to the pot. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, partially cover, and cook until thickened and meat is very tender, 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Skim off any fat that rises to the top of the chili. Sprinkle soup with masa harina and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer.
Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve with the cheese, green onions, and cilantro alongside as garnish.

Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

Ingredients


  • 1 1/4 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a 9-inch cast iron skillet inside to heat while you make the batter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk in the milk, buttermilk, and eggs. Whisk in almost all of the melted butter, reserving about 1 tablespoon for the skillet later on.

Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Coat the bottom and sides of the hot skillet with the remaining butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and place it in the center of the oven. Bake until the center is firm and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and serve.

  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Meal at Daniel

Jaime Bissonnette,
 chef at Coppa Enoteca Boston
This past Friday, I got the best news ever.  I had won two VIP tickets to the Blizzard Bash in Boston.  I have been dreaming of getting tickets to this event, but it was a tad out of my price range.  I decided to enter a contest on twitter.  It was a simple name your favorite chef attending and why.  I chose South End local Jaime Bissonnette and the reason was very simple.  The food is good and I can bring my dog in the summer. Who would of thought that would win two tickets to the food event of the year.

Barbara Lynch,
of Menton, No. 9 Park, Boston



Blizzard Bash is an event that benefits the Barbara Lynch Foundation highlighting and features some heavy hitters in the food world as well as some amazing bartenders.  Joanne is making the trek up to Boston next weekend to join me!  I think this would be the only valid reason to visit Boston in February!  I thought I would do a few posts about my dining experiences with some of these chefs in preparation for the big event.


Daniel Boulod,
 chef at Daniel NYC

 

This past year, I had the opportunity to dine at Daniel, a three star Michelin star restaurant. We had received a gift card for Christmas from my dad.  It's always easy to shop for us.  Just get us some gift cards to a restaurant and you have two very happy campers.   Jason and I were heading down to NYC to pick up our marriage license so we'd thought we make a whole weekend out of it. The night of dinner, I got all dressed up  and even broke out the fancy shoes.  We even took a cab to the restaurant, a rare occurrence in NYC as we are typically subway people.  I like the subway - its gritty and cold, but it fuels the entire city.  Plus, I like to look for rats in the tracks.


Exterior of Daniel NYC
I started off my meal with a drink in the salon.  Daniel has a private label of champagne so of course I had to get a glass.  It was delicious.  Lots of tiny streams of bubbles made it crisp and super refreshing.  Our experience ran like clockwork.  As soon as the glass was empty they took us down to our table.  Jason thought we were being ushered to the "cheap seats" in the balcony area, while I thought it was perfect.  I had a birds eye view of all the action.  I had heard rumors that Daniel had cameras in the ceilings to scope out what was going on and to perfectly time your courses.  I spent probably a solid ten minutes looking for these cameras, and confused a lot of smoke detectors for cameras.


Sea Urchin
What exactly we had is a blur, all I remember that every bite was amazing.  I had sea urchin for the first time, which if you haven't had it, go and get it immediately.  One of my favorite parts of this meal was the dessert. Dessert is an entire event on its own.  Our server had overheard us discussing that we got our marriage license that day, so he brought out an additional dessert to celebrate.  You would think our meal would be over since we had already had two amuse bouches, an appetizer  an entree, and three plated desserts, but you'd be wrong.  Next comes the mignardises, little treats such as caramels and chocolates.  Lastly came the fresh out of the oven so unbelievably good madeleines.   Sweet Mary mother of God, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.  I turned very food aggressive over this little clouds of deliciousness.  When Jason was about to take the last one, he backed down with the stare I gave him.

Daniel's madeleines 

This was definitely a night to remember and a night I hope to relive again.  I know I will probably accost Daniel Bouloud to know his magical ways at Blizzard Bash.  Stay tuned for some more delicious meal adventurous I've had at these Blizzard Bash chef's restaurants.


Happy Eating!
Jen            

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fig Stuffed Pork Loin - Joanne's Savory Summary

OK let me start this week with a giant disclaimer.  If you are looking for culinary excellence and kitchen grace then you should probably read Jen's Summary.  Her dish looked delicious, expertly stuffed and all around amazing.  If you are looking for a new meaning of flying by the seat of your pants then read on because that's exactly what happened to me this week. 

Not a pork loin
As I mentioned earlier, I am in tax consulting and compliance.  Needless to say this is a very business time of year for those in my profession.  However, I do pride myself on my planning abilities and striking what I think is a great work life balance.  Sunday was an exception to this rule.  Instead of my leisurely approach to my usual Sunday meal, I worked all evening long and broke my husband's heart by ordering a pizza.  Poor guy... just when he was getting used to Sunday supper.

Fig Stuffed/Topped (Tender)Loin
Down but not out I vowed to attempt this week's recipe on Monday which I did albeit the success of this attempt is debatable.  Who knew a pork loin and a pork tenderloin were two different things (everyone raises hand).  Also, who knew that fig jam is startlingly different than fig butter (everyone raises hand).  Did i miss this day in class?  Perhaps.  Discouraged again but not giving up I made what I perceive to be a valient attempt at fig (butter) stuffed pork (tender)loin.  Mr. Keller if you're reading this I apologize wholeheartedly and promise to make it up next time. 

Brings new meaning to 'It still tastes good'
After following the directions to the recipe, I cut my tenderloin length wise and stuffed/poured my figgy topping in and on the tenderloin.  I figured the flavors were there and it would cook up nicely although perhaps not according to the letter of the recipe.  Well it turns out I was right!  What resulted from my improvisation was a delicious and moist tenderloin topped with a yummy fig concoction.  Again, my husband requested a baked potato on the side, hold the leafy green veggies. 

While I definitely bit off more than I could chew this weekend and had to resort to making a simplied version during the week, it was still delicious.  Mission accomplished with a forward looking promise to do better next time.

Happy Eating!
Joanne

Fig Stuffed Pork Loin- Jen's Savory Summary

Preview of me stuffing the pork


Hi Sunday Supper People!  I'm going to start off the post by saying I really struggled with this recipe.  When I was stuffing the pork I felt like I was feeding an infant who kept on spitting up the food (gross visual but very accurate description).  Anyway I digress...



Finally getting some use
 out of this cookbook


I decided to try this new butcher shop in Somerville called M.F. Dulock Craft Butcher.  This shop is amazing the butcher is very passionate about what he does.  He was extremely knowledgeable on the meat as well as tons of recipes.  The walls of the shop had stacks of cook books there, including Ad Hoc.  He immediately knew what I was cooking, which was extremely helpful. I decided to go with a bone in pork loin with a nice fat cap on it, I was dreaming of crispy crunchy cracklings all Saturday night.  He was also helpful in cutting the cavity for me, which came in handy since my knives are in desperate need of sharpening.


Pork scored and ready to
sit in the refrigerator

Saturday night, I poured some warm water over top of the fat cap and scored it.  It sat out in the fridge uncovered to get some air circulating over 
it to pull the skin away from that fat. 

On Sunday afternoon, I took the pork out to get to room temperature and start prepping the stuffing.  This is when I began to get nervous, mine was extremely runny.  This was when it was hot right off the stove.  The further it cooled the more thick it became.  Next, is where I think I made my misstep.  I pureed the filling the food processor.  

Stuffing straight from the stove

I was left with a thick-ish consistency.  It tasted amazing on its own.  I started to stuff the pork and I'm unsure if it was because of the extra weight with the fat cap and bone but it just started to ooze back out.  I got a fair amount in and began to brown the pork.  After browning, I stuffed some more stuffing inside the cavity and popped it in the oven.


Pork resting 
My pork took about an hour and a half, but I was cooking a 4 1/2 lb pork loin.  I took the reserved stuffing and reduced it down to serve as a sauce over top.  I also broiled the pork loin for about 2 minutes to get the skin extra crispy.

Even though I struggled with stuffing the pork, the result was a delicious, moist, and flavorful pork loin.  I think this was as much a product of the stuffing as it was of the pork itself.  I will definitely be returning the M.F. Dulock in the future to buy some more delicious meat products.

I hope you all enjoyed this as much as I did.  I may take a break from Thomas Keller recipes for a few weeks, but I still think my first attempt went pretty well!


Completed pork loin over some charred brussel sprouts
                                                   

Happy Eating!
Jen

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Class is now in session...

hands-on cooking classesWinter is hands down my least favorite season.  In fact if the months of January and February could be eradicated from the calendar it would be a step in the right direction.  So, in the hopes of passing the winter doldrums, my mom and I have enrolled in some local activities.One thing we've committed to doing once or twice a month is taking a cooking class.  Last Tuesday, we attended a class called 'Breakfast for Dinner' at the Kitchen Workshop in Paoli.  The Kitchen Workshop offers classes practically everyday in a variety of areas from knife skills to desserts for an average cost of $59.  In the cooking class realm, that is a very reasonable cost which was only reaffirmed once I realized everything this price included. 

Mom and I on Christmas 2009
The classes at the Kitchen Workshop are hands on instructional workshops where you prepare each dish and then get to eat the results plus there's wine provided throughout to boot!  The instructor, Art Roman, is a former restaurant owner and chef.  His classes are peppered with both his vast knowledge and his great humor.  After looking through the schedule, we decided to pick Breakfast for Dinner since it is the most important and, in my case, favorite meal of the day.  So on a bitter cold Tuesday night we ventured to Paoli after work resisting the urge to go home, put on sweats and veg out in front of our respective TVs.  Well, the effort was certainly worth it. 

On the menu that night was Cardamom-Pear Muffins, Crab and Roasted Red Pepper Strata, Huevo Rancheros, Rosemary-Mustard Sausage and Pecan Praline Bacon all made from scratch.  We went through each recipe step and step.  I learned how to better cut an onion, how to more expertly crack an egg one-handed and what a strata even was (one word: delicious).  I will definitely be making all of these dishes again.  I even got to bring home leftovers for David to try which he loved.  However, the best part was definitely getting to spend time with my mom doing an activity we both enjoy.
Sur La Table logo
Next month we are signing up for a class at Sur La Table.  The subject matter is TBD but I am already looking forward to the night out!

What do you to pass the winter months?

Happy Cooking!
Joanne


    


Friday, January 25, 2013

It all started with a BAM!

Happy Friday everyone!  Last night when I came home from work I did my usual Thursday routine of sitting on the couch and watching my Top Chef recording.   This episode featured alot of heavy hitters in the chef world both new and old.  David Chang was there as well as Wolfgang Puck and Emeril.  While I was watching, I thought man I love Emeril and boy do I miss Emeril Live.  This then led me to think about when I got so involved in food television.  When did I stop racing home to watch General Hospital?  Instead, my dvr is now full of cooking shows, Top Chef, Mind of a Chef, and No Reservations.
Kick it up a notch! 

I blame my love of food television and chefs on Emeril Lagasse.  Food Network should thank this man for putting them on the map.  To this day I still use he's expressions in the kitchen.  Throwing around a lot of "oh yeah babe" and "food for love" cooking experience.  On a trip to New Orleans, I made a point to go to his NoLa restaurant.  Give me some more fried oysters and crawfish etouffee anyday, oh yeah babe...  This is one of Emeril's recipes I use very frequently, especially in the cold.  Its called Chuck Wagon Chili   .  **Spoiler Alert: You may be seeing this recipe come Superbowl Sunday!  I want to try one of his gumbos soon and master the art of a two beer rue. 
  
  
One chef I also greatly admire is Mario Batali.   I respect his great admiration of good quality food.  He is a traditionalist  and shows respect to the old family recipes of Italy.  I have dined at many of his restaurants but not all unfortunately. One place that I loved and I have even featured one of the recipes (the pasta bolognese) is Babbo.  At Babbo I had one of my favorite dishes.  It was a seared rabbit with a carrot puree. It was even recreated at my engagement party as a special surprise.  If you're ever in New York, I'd highly recommend dining in one his restaurants.  He is not very commercial as some may think and it will be one of the best meals you've had.  If you need suggestions I've been to every one of his in New York!

A post about my love of chefs wouldn't be complete without a mention of my girl crush, Giada.  Her looks alone should make both men and women alike tune into the Food Network.  She can cook too!!

To all of you out there in the twitter world I would highly suggest following some chefs.  Mario Batali is a great guy to follow.  He answers a lot of questions with the hash tag #HeyMB.  Giada has even answered a few of my questions.  Also, if you want someone else to follow.. follow us!  We are quite funny and post a lot of helpful articles from time to time.


Happy Eating!!
Jen

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fig Stuffed Roasted Pork Loin


Fig Stuffed Roast Pork Loin
Adapted from Ad Hoc Cookbook

Ingredients

2 1/2 lb pork loin
1 large fennel bulb
1/2 cup of bread cubes (preferably an artisan bread such as ciabatta or baguette)
1 teaspoon minced garlic (roughly one clove of garlic)
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 cup of fig jam
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
Kosher Salt
Ground black pepper
Canola Oil
Optional- coarse sea salt

  • Preheat oven to 350F 
  • Allow meat to rest and come to room temperature.
  • Have a plate ready with paper towels on it.  
  • Cut the stalks from the fennel and trim the root end.  Discard the thicker outer layers.  Separate the inner layers and cut into thin strips, roughly a 1/2 inch wide.   
  • Heat canola oil over medium high heat.  Add bread cubes and brown on all sides.  Remove from oil and place onto paper towels.  
  • Add sliced fennel to oil and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.   Add garlic and shallots and cook for 1 minute.  
  • Add fig jam and and warm throughout.  Once mixture is warm add bread cubes, chicken stock, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until combine.  
  • Remove from heat and place in refrigerator (or freezer) to cool to room temperature.
  • While mixture is cooling, take the pork loin at room temperature.  Take a sharp long knife and cut a long horizontal cut through the center of the loin.  Next make a long vertical cut through the center of loin.  This will form an x in the center of the loin. 
  • Once filling is cooled, start stuffing into the loin.   One can either fill in a pastry bag (if you have one and pipe it into the loin) or take a spoon and work the mixture throughout the loin.  
  • Once the loin is stuffed tie it with kitchen twine firmly.  This step is optional.  Tying it leaves a firm uniform loin, however a more rustic look will result if you do not tie. Season the outside of the loin with salt and pepper. 
  • In a large frying pan, heat canola oil on medium high heat until smoking.  All the loin and brown on all sides, this will take 2 minutes per side.  
  • Transfer browned loin to roasting dish and roast for 30 to 40 minutes for medium to medium rare.  If you prefer a more cooked pork loin cook for 1 hour or with a thermometer to the internal temperature you prefer.    

Notes for the recipe:
  • Fig jam is very widely available in supermarkets.  I typically use the Dalmatia dried fig spread from whole foods.  If you do not want to use fig jam and what an alternative, cranberry jam or any other tart fruit will suffice. 
  • Tying is not necessary but it will provide for a nice looking uniformly cooked loin.  Here is a great explanation on how to tie meat 
  • The option coarse sea salt is for the seasoning on the outside of the loin.  Sea salt provides an elevated flavor compared to kosher salt
  • If the cutting of the cross in the loin seems daunting to you, another option is to cut the loin in one long rectangle then wrapping it around the stuffing.  If you do this then tying is necessary to ensure that the loin is adhered.  This recipe walks you through how to do this
  • I will be using a large dutch oven for the entire meal.  I have a roasting rack insert I put in after the browning is complete.  I like to keep it in the same pot so I can mop up some of the juices and baste the loin during the roasting process.  
  • If you are feeling super adventurous and want to make your own fig jam this blog post has a great easy recipe without the need for fancy equipment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Have a Confession...

Napa Valley 2012
I like wine.  A lot.  I like the taste of it.  I like the smell of it.  I like having a conversation over a glass of it or sharing a meal with a close friend/loved one taking intermittent sips of it throughout.  However, as much as wine knows about me (the saying in vino veritas is absolutely spot on), I have to admit I don't know much about my steadfast companion.  Sure I can recite the buzz words such as 'tannins' and 'oak' and resort to the ever reliable swirl of the glass but ask me to explain what exactly they mean and your question will be met with an awkward look around the room and a nervous sip of my wine. 

Happy Hour with David, Dad and I
This isn't to say that a good chunk of time or effort hasn't been put into learning about wine.  I have gone to many tastings, most recently in Napa, where I tried my best to focus and not just blindly nod as they asked if I had picked up on the buttery notes in this particular chardonnay.  To add insult to injury, I also have a father who absolutely loves wine, wine collecting and wine knowledge.  He maintains an impressive wine cellar and prides himself on his ever growing collection.  Always a believer in furthering my education, he even got me a year long subscription to Wine Spectator and continues to send me shipments of wine to try.  Sorry Dad but I haven't cracked the binding yet but keep the shipments coming! 


Maybe this is what heaven looks like...
While I have no problem discerning what is a good wine vs. a bad wine in the most basic sense and I may even have a knack for pairing food with wine, that is where my knowledge ends.  And you know what that is OK.  I enjoy the experience of trying new wines and continuing to try my hardest to follow along when someone breaks down the components of a particular wine.  But I also will commit to continuing to having fun over wine whether it be the monthly wine nights with my girlfriends or simply enjoying a fine home cooked meal with my husband while sharing whatever red we happen to have in our wine cabinet. 

Maybe my knowledge will grow or maybe I will just continue to be an overt enthusiast of wine with a respect for those can master its many layers. Either way, let's all raise our glasses in appreciation.  Cheers to wine!

~Joanne






Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu- Jen's Savory Summary

Hi Sunday Supper People!  I hope you are keeping warm out there.  It won't even get above freezing in chilly Boston this week.  I was very excited to try Joanne's version of Chicken Cordon Bleu this Sunday.  A variation of this has always been a frequent dish at our household but I had never made it this way before.  As much as this is a family tradition, it also brought back memories of Jason and I traveling to Switzerland.  I saw it a lot on the menus there.  That is why I chose to make rosti, a Swiss dish which is basically a fried potato cake, to accompany the Chicken Cordon Bleu.

Chicken "sandwiches" tooth-picked together
On Sunday, we headed over to Whole Foods to get our chicken, cheese, and lots of potatoes for our big meal.  I decided to use Emmental cheese for the filling.   It is a Swiss cheese but not very pungent, melts really well, and was on sale! We skipped the prosciutto and amped up the cheese.  Given the frigid temperatures, I was in the mood for a gooey, homey meal that night.


Flour, egg wash, and bread crumb mixture
I did a few other twists on the recipe.  First I dredged my chicken in flour, then egg wash and finally a bread crumb mixture.  In my breadcrumbs, I put some salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika.  I also used my trusty cast iron pan so I could pop it directly in the oven and not transfer to a baking sheet - less dishes to do is always a plus.


Brown chicken, ready to go in the oven

I got the chicken going in the pan and got a nice crust on both sides.  I was ready to eat the chicken now.  It smelled so delicious in the house.  At this point, I started shredding my tons of potatoes to make the rosti  (link to the recipe at the end of post).  There were no green or leafy veggies in sight for us in the dinner.  Next time I will definitely add something green to the plate because this meal was quite heavy.    
Straight out of the oven! 

I left the chicken in the oven at 400F for 10 minutes. When it came out the cheese was oozing through and it genuinely looked so delicious.  I have to admit I did eat some of the charred cheese straight out the pan.

Hope you enjoyed our family classic of "toothpick" chicken!   Also here is the link to rosti if you would like to try it out. 

Dinner is Served!


 

Chicken Cordon Bleu - Joanne's Savory Summary

Every Friday during the end of my work day, I start to look through recipes for the following week and prepare my shopping list.  As part of our weekend routine, David (my husband) and I go food shopping at our local Wegman's (only the best supermarket in America hands down) in preparation for the week ahead.  So as I scanned the ingredient list for this week's recipe, I was pleasantly surprised that I had most of these ingredients on hand.  That definitely made the food store prep very simple and we easily knocked out the remaining ingredients during our regular food shopping. Also, after scanning the recipe I realized how quick the cooking process seemed to be.  Between that and the easy ingredient list, I had high hopes for this maybe coming into the weekday rotation if everything went well. 



Finally, Sunday early evening came and it was time to put my high hopes and cooking confidence to the test.  I laid out all of the ingredients in my normal OCD fashion and got to work.  I ran into snag number one when I realized that I did not in fact own a meat pounder.  After scrounging through all of my kitchen gadgets I turned to David's tool set.  I finally settled on your basic hammer and made a note to get myself a proper meat pounder in order to avoid further embarrassment and improvisation. 

Once this tiny snag passed, the rest of the prep and assembly process went seamlessly.  I made each of my "chicken sandwiches" and fastened them securely with an exorbitant amount of toothpicks.  I figured I would err on the side of caution so I could avoid anything falling apart.  Cue snag number two.  When I consulted the recipe, it said that the chicken should be browned in olive oil on one side for approximately four minutes and two minutes on the other side.  I'm not sure if my oil heated up more quickly than anticipated or my pan wasn't what Martha used but my chicken cooked extremely fast.  I had to pull off each piece early to avoid burning the outside.  Come to think of it the panko bread crumbs may have contributed to this.  In any event, I improvised (again) by lessening the stove top time and baking the chicken for 10 minutes instead of the recommended 5 to ensure it was cooked through.   

In the end, the result was a deliciously cheesy and well cooked piece of chicken.  It was moist and flavorful and was just the right amount of food for a balanced dinner.  I served it with a baked potato and steamed asparagus.  The whole meal was balanced and didn't leave David or I feeling like we had bricks of food in our stomachs.  As an added bonus, the leftovers made a great lunch today!  This is something that I will absolutely make again and the ease of the entire process may even make it a doable weeknight meal.  First things first though... I'm off to buy a meat pounder...

Happy Eating!
Joanne



Monday, January 21, 2013

Honey....why are you crying?

Picture it... Sunday night prepping for dinner, chopping those much needed onions and your husband walks into the kitchen.  You appear to be sobbing, a painful sting in your eyes peppered with constant sniffling.  His immediate reaction... Honey, why are you crying?!?  

  
Okay let's peel back the drama and talk about the reason why you are crying.  It's those dreaded onions.  Cue Alton Brown! When you cut that onion you are breaking the cells which had separated amino acids and sulfoxides.  Now they are loose and ready to mingle.  When they meet up they react to produce propanethiol, a sulfur compound that causes that sniffing, sneezing, teary mess.  
   
I find I use a bag of onions every two weeks.  And as a small preview, this week's recipe will be no exception.  Some people refer to the holy trinity of cooking.  No, not the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  I'm talking about onions, celery, and carrots.  You will come across many onions in my recipe posts so how do we avoid this unpleasant crying sensation you get every time you have to tackle a mound of onions?
Julie and Julia

There are a lot of tricks you can find on the internet such as freezing the onions or cutting them under water.   I have one phrase that I learned from a book title and it rings true.   Repeat this with me now:  "The sharper your knife the less you cry". Cut those babies with a super sharp knife. Make sure its clean and dry and no more tears.  I promise.  

Also, check out this book if you want to read a foodie adventure I would love to take. Great read but try not to quit your job and run off to Paris like I almost did.



Happy Eating!
Jen 

Friday, January 18, 2013

All Hail the Cheese

Enough Said
In celebration of National Cheese Lover's Day on January 20th and since it is an ingredient in our weekly recipe (and most recipes in fact), I thought I would spend a little time professing my undying love to this dairy delicacy.  Judging by the fact there is a national day set aside to pay it homage I would say I am not alone.  However, when poking around the interwebs I also saw National Cheese Lover's Day shares its holiday with National Buttercrunch Day so maybe not.  Let's just chalk that one up to the over-inclusiveness of these nationally recognized food days.  Can't offend the plum pudding fans (Yes, there is a day for that too.  It's February 12th). But I digress..

The Cheesiest

Cheese and I have had a long history stemming from my early youth and my love of "cheese products" i.e. your basic cheese doodle (probably not cheese),  Kraft Mac and Cheese (cheese-like powder?) string cheese and the beloved grilled cheese.  While I still may opt for a grilled cheese every now and again, my adoration of cheese has grown to include many different types and varieties.  However, in the spirit of honesty, I will also admit I still make Kraft Mac and Cheese.  And at the risk of starting an all out war I will boldly say it crushes its Velveeta counterpart every.single.time.  I said it and I'm not taking it back.

Jamon & Queso Manchego & Pan
Cheese can provide an ooey-gooey topper for nachos or pizza, a sharp bite on top of pasta or just enjoyed by itself.  In what other world does your popularity go up relative to how stinky you are?  A sharp cheddar is nice with wine but bring out the more pungent Stilton and you are sure to appeal to the die hard cheese lovers of the group.  One of my favorite cheeses to this day is Manchego.  I first fell in love with this cheese when I interned in Spain for the summer when I was nineteen.  Jamon y queso manchego en el pan (my spanish is very rusty but this should translate to ham and cheese on bread) was my go-to lunch, both a great taste and friendly to my student budget.  

Now the cheese I most frequently eat is a horseradish cheddar.  Whenever my two best friends and I get together for a wine night, we always make sure this is on the menu.  Don't be fooled; this is not as fancy a night as it sounds.  Basically we drink wine, catch up, eat the ENTIRE brick of this cheese and then lament the fact that we just ate an entire brick of cheese.  Four weeks later, we repeat the cycle.  

Truly, I could go on and on about my love for cheese but that would be a far longer post than anyone would care to read.  So in closing I leaving you with:



Long live the cheese!

Joanne


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu


As my inaugural contribution to this new venture, I wanted to call on a classic not the world over but certainly in our childhood home.  The dish whose true name was not discovered until many years later was known to us children as 'toothpick chicken' which, no surprise, was held together by toothpicks.  Despite this obvious moniker known to my sister and I, the true name of this recipe is a slightly altered version of Chicken Cordon Bleu.  While I hope to stretch my culinary skills in future posts, I wanted to keep this week's adventure familiar and sentimental because that's what this blog is all about: connection in spite of physical distance over something sacred and enduring, a Sunday meal.  

Another reason why I choose this recipe was because anytime you can dress up chicken to be a crowd favorite that in and of itself makes it special. Chicken was a staple in our household, along with grape Kool-Aid, bacon, and yoo-hoo but more on that in the future.  So when this seemingly 'fancy' dish made an appearance we knew we were in for a treat.
No this is not a 'zester'

Finally, for those just starting out on this culinary scene (I am including myself in this group) or those who already knew that a zester wasn't just someone who used the infamous pungently smelling soap, this will appeal to you …and you.  For those of us less skilled, it will give you a chance to deliver a flavorful meal to your family.  For those of you more skilled, especially in the assembly portion of this meal, well yours will look good in addition to tasting great.

I hope you enjoy "toothpick chicken".

I found this recipe on the Martha Stewart website as adopted from Emeril Lagasse.  It mostly closely resembled what I grew up eating.  Based on my recollection, the prosciutto was left out of the recipe when we were kids but feel free to keep it in based on your own family's tastes.  Also, I will be substituting Panko bread crumbs since they give a lighter texture and better crunch.  I will be using mozzarella cheese instead of Swiss which is better suited for my and my husband's taste buds.  My variations are in red below.  Finally, since this is just the protein portion of the meal, I would suggest serving with a heaping portion of steamed veggies to keep this meal healthy and balanced!

Happy Cooking!
Joanne 

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Serves  

Ingredients


  • 4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces sliced Swiss cheese (4 to 6 slices) (I will be using mozzarella)
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto or Black Forest ham (optional)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Emeril's Original Essence or Creole Seasoning
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup fine unseasoned dried breadcrumbs (I will be using Panko)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil


Directions


  1. Cut each piece of chicken in half horizontally and place each piece between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, pound out to a 1/4-inch thickness.
  2. Place the 8 chicken pieces on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide cheese evenly between 4 pieces of chicken. Arrange prosciutto slices evenly over cheese; top with remaining 4 pieces of chicken. Tuck in any cheese or prosciutto that extends over the edges. Secure chicken pieces together using toothpicks along the edges to form a "sandwich."
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  4. Place flour in a shallow dish; season with 1 tablespoon essence. In another shallow dish, mix together eggs and milk using a fork. Place breadcrumbs in a third shallow dish; season with remaining 2 teaspoons Essence. Dip a chicken "sandwich" in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip chicken in egg mixture, followed by seasoned breadcrumbs; transfer to a plate. Repeat process with remaining chicken "sandwiches."
  5. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken "sandwiches" in skillet and cook, until browned on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn chicken and cook 2 minutes more.
  6. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and place in oven. Cook until cheese is melted and bubbly and chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove toothpicks and serve immediately.