Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chicken x 3, Part Deux

I feel the addition of French in the title up there adds a little something doesn't it? (Even if that addition is the painful memory of a Charlie Sheen movie I walked out of way back in the early '90s.)

So, remember all that left over chicken and that little bit of broth I cooked the chicken in last post? I made it into a very nice soup.

See? Here it is:

It's got carrots, and some spinach and a very light grating of ginger. I whipped up a biscuit to go with it. I didn't use all the chicken, though, used only 1/2 of what was left.

Here's what I did:

Chicken Soup with Spinach and a bit of Ginger

1 small onion, chopped
1 carrott
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp fresh ginger* (or so - to taste)
1 large bunch of spinach, washed and torn into rough pieces
Left over chicken, shredded
Left over broth - I had about a cup (which should be pretty flavorful by now after sitting around a night and day)
4 cups of stock (I had some in the freezer, but feel free to use something from a can or box)

In a large dutch oven or stock pot, sautee your onions in a swirl of olive oil. Throw in the carrot and let the onion and carrot soften up. Throw in the garlic and the ginger, just for about 30 seconds or until fragrant (they both burn quickly, so pay attention), throw in the spinach and let it wilt. Toss in the shredded chicken and the stock. Taste everything. You may want to add more ginger, and it will surely need salt and pepper.

By the way - I haven't said this in a long time, however, just about everything I make serves 4 - unless I say in the recipe that it serves more or less.

A Little Aside: I've Been using a Lot of Leeks and Carrots lately

Just noticed that, after reading over several posts. What can I say, I go on binges. There are a lot of leeks at the grocery store right now, and they aren't super expensive. Roasted leeks are delicious:

Split them in half, wash them well to remove grit, and pat them dry. Preheat your oven to 450. Lay them out on a rimmed cookie sheet and sprinkle with oil, sea salt and pepper. Roast until they are all wilty and tender - about I don't know - just check them after 15 minutes let's say.

These are really good with all sorts of things, or even as an appetizer: piled into a big bowl with another drizzle of good olive oil, a fork and a very thinly sliced baguette on the side.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chicken x 3

It was late -- almost too late to start dinner, certainly too late to get to the store and still make dinner -- and I was tired, tired, tired. It was Wednesday. I don't like Wednesdays. People are always all: it's hump day, half way toward the weekend, but for me it's just another indication that another week of my life has whizzed by and what do I have to show for it.

And I was also thinking of Haiti. I couldn't stop looking at the pictures. And it reminded me of how I felt after 9/11 - that my small obsessions are so pathetic in the face of that kind of tragedy. Which just added to my Wednesday malaise, rather than snap me out of it.


OK. So I picked myself up and went to the store. I bought some chicken parts -- one half chicken breast and a pack of boneless thighs. And I made three full meals out of that little bit of chicken! Which made me feel a little better, a little less wasteful. It wasn't like I hadn't made versions of these three meals before, but it was nice to see that a little - much less than I usually buy - could really go a long way toward feeding my family. I had a Michael Pollen moment, which took me out of myself for a little bit. Made me feel like maybe I have done something with this week after all.

Chicken and Rice (Wednesday night's dinner)
Usually I got to the store and buy a whole already roasted chicken and tear it up and toss it with pasta and vegetables - but they were having a sale on parts and the parts were going to cost me less than a whole already roasted bird - so this is what I did instead:

2 TBSLP Olive oil (divided)
1/2 chicken breast
3 chicken thighs (from a pack of six)
1/4 cup of wine (optional, you can just use broth)
1 small onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3/4 cup of chicken stock or broth
1 bay leaf

1 anchovy
1 carrot, sliced thinly
1 leek, chopped, white part only
1 bunch of kale

White rice

First, I got my cast iron skillet very hot, and then swirled the olive oil over it. Seasoned the chicken with a little salt and pepper then pan seared it in batches, just so it browned a bit, but not so it was cooked through. Took the chicken out. Poured in the wine and 1/4 cup of stock to deglaze the pan -- added more oil, threw in the onion, celery, carrot when the oil was hot. Sauteed those a bit. Put the chicken back in the pan, settling it around the vegetables and poured in the rest of stock. Threw in the bay leaf and let it all simmer until the chicken was just cooked through and a lot of the broth was evaporated.

At this point I took the chicken out of the pan along with the broth and set it aside to let it cool.

Meanwhile, cooked the rice.

I reheated the same pan, once again, added a bit more oil threw in the anchovy, let it dissolve, thew in the leek and carrot, let them cook until they got softish, threw in the kale let it wilt. Shredded just some of the now cooled chicken (about 1/4 of what I'd cooked) - thew that in and got the whole thing warmed up while the chicken finished off cooking. Gave it a taste, and adjusted the seasoning. The anchovy adds the salt, and a nice layer of flavor without tasting at all fishy. You're just going to have to trust me on this. I think I added more pepper and a pinch of salt here, but that's all.

Plated it up over rice.

Reading this over, it seemed like a lot of work, but it really didn't feel like it at the time. It felt like fun.

My next post will be about what I did with "all" that leftover chicken...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Can of Beans, A Swig of Tabasco, and You...

My kids hate beans. Therefore, I'm always trying to get them to eat them. I puree them into soup, I hide them in spaghetti sauce, I make a great mild but flavorful chili. They always know the beans are in there, and either flat out refuse, or simply and quietly pick the beans out and feed them to the dog. On occasion, I leave trickery behind and go straight for the bribe: extra computer time if you just taste the beans...

The answer is always, "no."

However, I never ever learn, plus sometimes, as my mother used to say, "tastes change." I remember when my daughter hated cucumbers for a while, and then suddenly started eating them again. Kids do that -- they like to mess with your head. So, beans. Pinto beans, to be exact, which were knocking about the cabinet. I sauteed them with carrots, celery, some leeks. Cooked them for a minute with a cube of chicken broth (I like to freeze chicken broth in ice cube trays so you have just a tablespoon or so when you need it, without having to open a 15oz box or defrost a whole container) I threw in a bay leaf and some cilantro and let it all simmer a bit.

I cooked up a pot of rice and served the beans and the wee bit of broth over it.

I loved them. They were fresh, and very satisfying. My husband loved them -- although he added several dashes of tabasco at the table, because he likes things HOT.

The girls ate chicken nuggets.

Oh well.

Rice and Beans (sorry, no picture for this one, camera battery's dead)

1 TBLSP olive or grapeseed oil
1 leek or onion -- whatever you have
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 carrot peeled and chopped
1 can of pinto beans (or, again, whatever you have, black beans, navy beans...) rinsed and drained
1 TBSLP dry white wine
2 TBLSP chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup of cilantro

Cooked Rice (I used white, but brown is better, just didn't have any)

Heat the oil in a skillet, when it's shimmery toss in the onion, celery and carrotts. When those are soft, add the beans, wine, broth and bay leaf. Let this simmer until the liquid is reduced - about 5 minutes. Add the cilantro, and cook for one minute more. Serve over rice.

If you like more heat than a few dashes of Tabasco can give you, cut up a fresh jalapeno or serrano chili and add when you are cooking the vegetables.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Shepherd's Pie (yes, more pie)

Hello, lover.

I'm talking to the potatoes.

So, I've been thinking about my stomach a lot lately. It's large. It is. I know this because every time I go in for a physical my doctor discretely hands me print-outs for the Mediterranean diet and sometimes Weight Watchers. I'm your classic "apple" all belly and butt. My husband seems not to care, and I don't really care, except that it's January and every time I turn on Regis and Kelly they've got some new diet guru on and since I only watch Regis and Kelly when I'm upstairs getting into, or getting out of, the shower, I'm often a bit vulnerable.

So, a couple of days ago this guy named Jorge Cruse is on and he's talking about "belly fat," and I hear him and I think, "hey! I've got some of that!" and I decide to actually stand in front of the little tv in our bedroom and listen for once, and the guy sounds good. He's a little bouncy - a Tiggerish kind of guy - but I like what he's saying. Like it enough anyway to go over to my local Borders and read his book up in the cafe while sipping a mocha latte and nibbling on a bit of a muffin.

I took notes.

And what I came away with is that Jorge believes belly fat is caused by excess insulin as opposed to the amount of calories you take in. He's all about cutting the sugar, and switching out the carbs for the ones with whole grains, etc., yadda yadda yadda. And then I get to the good part: he's also all about cream and butter. Not eliminating them, USING them - without guilt. Without counting them. And I almost choke on my muffin because if you told me to give up ice cream, or candy, or even (gasp) cheese cake, I'd be like, okay... (swallow)... I can maybe do that. But the moment you say no more Irish butter (which is what my physician was seriously implying) - I say $%$#@ that! The butter stays. Don't mess with my Kerrygold.

So I took enough notes to understand that it's all about keeping the sugar down and the carbs to a certain minimum and if you want to know more, you can google the guy. I'm going to think about it for a few more days, and I might go visit his book at Border's again, and if my Library gets it in the next month or so, I may even actually borrow it --

However, in the mean time, I think Jorge might like this dinner I made tonight - which was shepherd's pie made with buffalo meat. Buffalo is a naturally lean meat, which is better for you (and more interesting tasting) than your basic hamburger. (I know - classic shepherd's pie involves lamb, but ground lamb involves the extra step of asking a butcher to grind it and I think we all know how I feel about taking the extra step.) The big news with this recipe is that there's both butter and cream in those potatoes... it is not for the faint of heart. So for all you last-decade calorie counters out there, this recipe is probably not for you -- but for anyone who is (shakily) interested in banishing sugar for a while in favor of good old, all American FAT -- I say: enjoy!

(Buffalo) Shepherd's Pie
1 lb ground buffalo meat
a swirl of olive oil
1 leek, sliced in half length-wise, then roughly chopped (then rinsed to get out the grit)
1 celery stalk
sea or kosher salt to taste
pepper to taste
1TBLSP Worcestershire sauce
1TBLSP heavy cream
2 cups of frozen peas (or spinach, or one of those veggie mixes with the peas and carrots and corn all cut up in the nice uniform dices)

3 or 4 large potatoes, or 5 or six small red ones, peeled and cut into chunks
large pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
1 TBLSP of heavy cream
about 1/2 cup (more or less) of 2%milk (Jorge would NOT like the milk, there's a lot of sugar grams in milk - which I did not know until I looked.)
more salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375.

Brown the meat in an oven proof hot skillet swirled with olive oil. When the meat is mostly brown, but not too cooked, take it out and pour off all but about a TBLSP of the fat. Put the skillet back over a medium flame and then add the leeks and celery and a pinch of salt. Cook until they are slightly softened, then throw the meat back in the pan, along with the rest of the filling ingredients. Stir everything around to distribute, and give it a quick taste, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.

While the meat was browning, you should have been boiling those potatoes. Put the potatoes in a big pot, cover them with cold water and a large pinch of salt, bring them to a boil and cook until you can easily pierce them with a knife. Drain, return potatoes to pot. Add butter and mash. Add cream and mash. Add milk, just enough for the potatoes to get creamy.

Now, scoop out those potatoes spread them over the meat mixture and stick the whole thing in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is. (Mine needs adjusting, so it took the full 30) or until the peaks of your potatoes are golden. Let the dish rest for 7 to 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Turkey. Sigh.

I don't know about you, but I just get so tired of coming up with dinner. Which is kind of stupid, because, well, I write a blog about it, but what can I say, I'm human. Yesterday, trolling the Whole Foods, feeling both bored and poor, I stumbled across turkey cutlets. We are mighty tired of chicken, I thought, and tossed them in the cart. Fine. Whatever .

But turkey isn't that different from chicken, is it. And once home, staring at those turkey cutlets - while they were inexpensive - I felt so thoroughly uninspired I almost tossed them in the freezer and called the pizza guy. Except we just had pizza on Sunday - and I was bored of that too. I'm just bored of everything. Perhaps it's the weather. Bored. Bored. Bored. Aren't you bored of this post already? - I know I am. Perhaps I should just get to the dinner I made, because, while I was in quite a sad and sorry state of ennui when I came up with it - it did turn out nicely. And even though I sighed throughout the meal, Smith and the girls liked it a lot - plates were cleaned and seconds were asked for. And it was easy easy easy to make. Which was good because it gave me more time to drape myself over the divan and sigh...

Turkey Cutlets with Red wine Mushroom Sauce

Served, 4 (2 of em, kids -- for most families, this would serve 2 - so feel free to double the amount of turkey - but we are cheapskates and pile our plates with sides to make up for the lack of meat)

4 Turkey cutlets
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste

1 TBLSP of olive oil, or 1 TBLSP of butter or a combo of both
12 (or so) cremini mushrooms * (see below)
1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup red wine (Used a tasty Zinfandel called "The Zin" which is on sale at the State store)
1 or 2 table spoons of half and half, or milk or if you don't have either a bit more of butter

So, wash and pat your turkey cutlets dry. If you don't dry them they won't brown, so do not skip that step, although I am often tempted to do so. Salt and pepper the cutlets on both sides.

Wipe the dirt off the mushrooms and cut them into thicks slices. Preheat your skillet. When it's nice and hot swirl in the oil, then toss in the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until the mushrooms are brown on both sides. You'll need to do this in two batches, because as Julia Child said (and Julie Powell learned) the mushrooms won't brown if they are too crowded. When the mushrooms are browned and cooked through, slide them onto a plate and wipe out the skillet.

Preheat the skilled again, and once it's hot toss in more oil or butter (or combo - if butter is being used, let it get frothy). Meanwhile, dump the flour into a pie plate and dredge each cutlet through it, knocking off the excess before placing it in the skillet. Don't crowd the meat either - nothing browns in a crowded pan. Do this in batches if you have a small pan (like I do) and keep what's been cooked warm -- I like to put a cookie cooling rack in a 195 degree oven and put the cooked cutlets on the rack. Doing this prevents the loss of crispiness.

When the cutlets have been cooked, raise the heat a bit and pour the broth and wine into the pan. Scrape up brown bits, reduce a minute then add the cooked mushrooms and the cream. Adjust the seasoning, it might need pepper, or it might not. Serve IMMEDIATELY - or the whole thing will get soggy.

It helps to have made the sides before you cook the Turkey. I boiled up some egg noodles and some frozen peas. The sauce was awesome on the noodles.

And, no, my children did NOT eat the mushrooms, which was fine: more for Smith and me.

**- you can also soak dried mushrooms in about 1/2 cup of boiling water. After the mushrooms have reconstituted, take them out, squeeze them dryish and strain the water they soaked in through a paper towel. You can use the mushroom water in place of the chicken broth for a more mushroomy taste

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Leftover Pie

I don’t mean pie that’s been left over, I mean leftovers baked INTO PIE. Well, pie crust. How could anyone say no to that? Not my children. Mad wandered into the kitchen, scanned what I was making for dinner and actually said, “That looks good.” And Em managed to eat almost half before declaring she was full. Well, in my mind, those ringing endorsements certainly meant this was a blog-worthy dinner.

I stole got the idea from Cooks Illustrated who made speedy beef empanadas by using Pillsbury Pie crust - which I like a lot and believe is the closest you can come to fresh pie crust without cutting all that butter into flour.

This exciting leftover meal originated last Sunday. Sunday was the final day of Winter Break, and almost Epiphany, which is, apparently, the 12th day of Christmas (did you know that annoying song is about the 12 days AFTER Christmas? I did not until I heard it on NPR, which is where I get most of my education these days) -- and I’m a big believer in drawing special occasions out as long as possible. (For instance, I firmly celebrate the birthday week). (Apparently, I’m also a big believer in the parenthetical.)

So, in an effort to draw Christmas out to its absolute last day, I made a big dinner of everyone’s favorite comfort food: Turkey Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes. We had candles, and wine glasses filled with orange cream soda - ok, Smith and I had a nice red Zinfandel - I fired up the Christmas music one more time, and after dinner we lit candles in the fireplace and opened one last present each. It was really nice. Our girls sat with us for a full ten minutes after the present opening before dashing off to their respective electronic devices, and then Smith and I drank a bit of 12 year old Scotch and watched the candle flames flicker until the dog managed to swipe an un-rinsed dinner plate off the counter, and we had to rush into the kitchen and pull bits of china from her jaw. Good times.

I'd made a huge meatloaf thinking people would eat it for lunches -- nothing better than a cold meatloaf sandwich with extra ketchup -- then somehow, no one did eat if for lunch, and I realized that if I didn’t do something else with those leftovers soon it would go bad and there is nothing I hate more than throwing out something that could have been made into something else (hence, my packed attic, but that’s an entirely different story.)

But after seeing the empanadas, I suddenly thought, I could chop up the meatloaf and reheat it with the mashed potatoes then wrap it up in pie dough. I just threw the meatloaf, potatoes, as well as several 1/4 bags of vegetables I had lying around the freezer, along with a tablespoon or so of Ketchup and a 1/4 cup or so of chicken broth, into my cast iron skillet and stirred everything around until it was hot. Then I cut the 2 pie crusts in half, placed them on a parchment lined cookie sheets, and plonked a spoonful of my turkey mixture in the center of each and sprinkled it with some shredded cheddar. I closed up the pies by folding them over into little triangles, dampening and smooshing the edges together to make a pocket. Then I baked them at 400 degrees for about 24 minutes. (See pictures below - it will all become clear)

One little pie for each member of the family, like a little present left to open. See? I can make Christmas stretch as long as I want to, baby.