Friday, July 29, 2011

Chicken Parm.. child's play!

Kids love Chicken Parmesan and for good reason. Fried, smothered in gooey cheese and plated on a bed of pasta; it doesn't leave a lot to gripe about. Here in New Jersey it's a staple at most restaurants be it high end Italian or a simple pizzeria. A chicken Parm sandwich is as popular as a meatball sandwich at the local sub shop and can usually be found right alongside the lasagna at every diner or pub.
This summer I've been on a mission to get my kids into the kitchen. Not just in time for dinner but to get creative and learn some kitchen skills instead of languishing in front of the TV all day long!! Chicken Parm is a great dish to initiate and motivate kids in the kitchen. they'll get to work if they want to eat it.... Raoul did a decent job of it and actually enjoyed it in spite of himself.

Raoul's recipe for Chicken Parm:
2 chicken breasts ( cover with plastic wrap and flatten with a meat mallet)
1 tsp of a mixture of dried parsley, basil, oregano, chili flakes, salt and pepper
4 tbsp flour seasoned with 1/4 tsp salt
1 egg whisked with a pinch of salt
4 tbsp panko ( Japanese bread crumbs)
2 cups cooked pasta
2 cups Marinara sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle

1. Combine the breadcrumbs with the spices. Line up the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in 3 separate bowls. Dust each chicken breast with the flour, dip it in the egg and coat generously with the breadcrumbs.
2. Heat oil in a pan and fry the chicken till golden brown and cooked all the way inside.
3. Combine the pasta with the marinara and place in an oven proof dish. Top with the mozzarella and Parmesan and bake at 375 degrees until the cheese is melted and golden around the edges.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eggs Benedict- ....

Eggs are my all time favorite fall-back food. When all else fails and there is nothing in the fridge to subdue those pangs, eggs act as the perfect antidote. I sometimes do breakfast for dinner - mostly after a long day or after a trip away from home when there's little else but a few eggs in the fridge and some crusty bread in the freezer. They are hearty and wholesome and extremely versatile. Throw some beans and Franks on the side or simply whip up a cheesy scramble with fresh chives and the end results are almost as satisfying as Eggs Benedict. Loaded with a buttery Hollandaise sauce, those poached eggs, Canadian bacon and muffins add up to quite a few calories, but it's worth it every time, provided those times don't happen too often. I allow myself this treat if I'm eating brunch in New York on that rare occasion but you can try this at home... just don't get hooked!

Recipe for Eggs Benedict:
2 English Muffins
4 slices Canadian Bacon
4 ladles Hollandaise sauce

Ingredients for the hollandaise:
2 egg yolks
2 sticks of butter (1 cup)
salt to taste
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of cayenne pepper
fresh parsley

1. Clarify the butter by melting it, skimming the foam off the top and pouring the clear butter into a cup, while leaving the solids behind.
2. Set a bowl over hot water over heat and whisk the yolks, adding in the water and lemon juice gradually till it becomes thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and add in the clarified butter whisking continuously till it is incorporated completely. Sprinkle with the cayenne pepper and whisk in. The sauce should be thick and creamy.

To assemble the Eggs Benedict:
1. Toast the muffins, place a slice of ham over each and a poached egg. Pour over with the sauce and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve with fries or a salad.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's about Thyme...

I recently stumbled upon a brilliant fried chicken recipe, which I couldn't wait to try out and share with all of you. Thomas Keller celebrated chef and guru of Californian new age cuisine applies the rules of a great roast to the fried chicken by brining it first. The well seasoned chicken is then dunked in buttermilk and dredged in spiced flour before being fried to a crisp. If you're going to eat fried- I believe this is the only way to go! This combined with a great slaw and grilled sweet corn on the cob - why bother with restaurants??? It is the aroma of thyme and lemon that saturates the chicken and gives it a distinctive flavor, that sets it apart from just fried chicken. I have simplified and adjusted the recipe to cut corners and save time but the end results are outrageous all the same.
Recipe for Fried Chicken:
Brining Solution:
2 lemons halved
1 handful each of flat leaf parsley and thyme
6 bay leaves
3 tbsp honey
3/4 cup salt
1 tbsp peppercorns
1/2 head of garlic ( slice whole garlic horizontally and use 1/2)
1 gallon water
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil and cool completely before using.

6 large pieces of Chicken, skin on
3 cups flour
2 tbsp each garlic powder and onion powder
1 tbsp paprika
pepper and salt
1 cup buttermilk
thyme sprigs for garnish
oil for deep frying

1. Place the chicken pieces in the brine and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients and split into 2 bowls.
3. Pour the buttermilk into a bowl.
4. Heat the oil and start by dusting the chicken with the flour mixture, then in the buttermilk and finally the second bowl of the flour mixture. Fry immediately, turning the heat down so that it cooks all the way . Fry to a golden brown crisp and drain on paper towels before serving.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What a pickle...

Summertime is perfect for making up batches of Giardiniera, a hot Italian pickle flavored with herbs and spices. Originally eaten as an antipasto this "hot mix" is used liberally in Chicago slathered onto their hot Italian Beef sandwiches. I found this particular recipe in an article from the Chicago Tribune, which claims that this is as close to the original recipe as it gets. With an abundance of fresh veggies , there was no option but to give it a shot.

Recipe for Chicago style Giardiniera:

8 Jalapenos sliced thickly

2 each, diced: green and red bell peppers

1 each, diced: celery rib, carrot,yellow onion

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets

1/2 cup salt

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup green olives

2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup each: apple cider vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil

1. Combine the jalapenos, bell peppers, celery, carrot, onion and cauliflower florets in a large bowl; stir in the salt. Add cold water to cover vegetables; cover bowl. Refrigerate 12 hours. Drain salt water; rinse vegetables. Set aside in the bowl.

2. Combine the garlic, olives, oregano, red pepper flakes, celery seeds and black pepper to taste in a medium bowl; set aside.

3. Pour the vinegar into a medium bowl and mix in the seasonings. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour over the vegetable mixture and toss lightly. Cover and refrigerate at least 48 hours before using. The giardiniera will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore is best described as an old fashioned, rustic Italian stew made with braised ( slow cooked) chicken and tomatoes, onions,mushrooms and peppers. I think of it as the Italian equivalent of the French Coq au Vin. Watch enough Mafia movies and you'll find yourself cooking Italian - it happens to me every time and it's no secret that I am a fan of the Mafioso... There's something about the way they twirl their spaghetti around their forks with gusto while plotting vengeance. They always eat in groups and seem to enjoy their food - not just to fill their bellies, so what's not to like?

Thankfully this dish is super healthy and can be eaten over pasta, rice or simply with some crusty French bread to soak up the gravy. Mild in taste and with it's fair share of healthy veggies, it's great for kids too. I like mine garnished with fresh basil, but you can use a sprinkle of fresh grated parmesan to finish it up.

Recipe for Chicken Cacciatore:

8 large pieces of chicken

Flour for dredging chicken

¼ cup olive oil

1 tbsp butter

½ cup flour

1 onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 carrots diced

1 green pepper sliced

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp dried oregano

1 lb button mushrooms sliced thickly

¼ cup white wine

1 cup chicken stock

1 can peeled Italian plum tomatoes diced

salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat the chicken pieces in flour.

2. Heat the olive oil in large pot and saute the chicken in batches until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Set it aside in a baking dish and keep warm in the oven.

3.Melt the butter in the skillet and add the onion, garlic, rosemary and oregano to skillet. Cook for about 1 minute and add in the mushrooms, peppers, and carrots. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for a minute. Add the wine and the chicken stock and finally the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

4.Add chicken to pot. Simmer over low heat or cook in a hot oven until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Serve hot over pasta, rice or with crusty bread.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Berry Yummy too!!

My last post was about incorporating berries in a classic English Trifle and since I'm on a roll here, I figured I might as well do one about a Berry Parfait which may appear to be similar but is essentially very different. It's the berries- I can't stop eating them! This dessert has an assortment of berries ( no other fruit)and the creamy component is a combination of white chocolate and heavy whipping cream, with crushed Amaretto cookies for the crunch. Sometimes if I'm feeling indulgent I add a cup of Mascarpone cheese to the cream - which makes it rich and calorific but so worth it...

Recipe for Berry Parfait:

about 3 cups assorted Berries
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Mascarpone Cheese ( optional)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips melted
20 Amaretto cookies crushed
fresh mint for garnish

1. Whip the cream and the cheese ( if using) together briefly and add in the melted chocolate.
2. Layer the berries, cream topping and cookies in Martini or wine glasses, ending with the cream topping. Garnish with a few berries and the mint and refrigerate for a couple hours before serving.