Friday, September 28, 2007

Asian Chicken Stew

Two nights ago, I cracked open some newly purchased Penzey’s spices and sautéed some chicken breasts and some veggies in a flurry of Asian flavors. That night we served everything over rice and it was quite good, but last night I had something more inventive in mind...

I had saved 2 chicken breasts, leftover veggies (onions, peppers, celery, shredded carrots, shredded iceberg lettuce b/c I had no cabbage!) and some of the sauce which consisted of stock, soy sauce, ginger powder, dried mustard, MSG, and garlic. I chopped up the chicken and put that and the veggies/sauce into 4 cups of stock and 4 cups of H2O. I added 2 tsp more of ginger, some more dried mustard, garlic, dried sweet California basil, 1/8 tsp MSG, dash of cayenne, and the juice of 2 limes. I slowly brought that to a boil while I prepared the DUMPLINGS!

I did not intend these to be Asian-style meat-stuffed dumplings, but more like the dumplings my Mom taught me how to make for her chicken and dumpling stew. One cup of flour, 1 tsp baking powder, some garlic powder, 1 tsp Penzey’s Lemon Pepper, and some more dried sweet California basil, mixed thoroughly. Slowly add in 1/2 cup cold water. Don’t add it all at once, add about half, then stir. Repeat until it’s a sticky, but not too wet consistency. Drop them into the now boiling soup, in about 3/4 inch balls... they fluff up! I then shredded some more lettuce, threw that in, and let it continue on slow boil for 25 minutes at which time I threw in some chopped fresh flat leaf parsley. Take a dumpling out, cut in half to make sure it’s cooked through and then you’re good to go!

The soup turned into something more akin to a stew b/c it thickened up from the bits of flour that came off the dumplings. The dumplings themselves had such a nice lemony-garlic flavor and reminded me of wonton soup! But the highlight for me was that it tasted something like a hot and sour soup which is the dish that I judge the quality of an Asian restaurant by! My nose was running, I had a tangy tongue and I was in heaven!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Roasted Cauliflower

Something about this dish makes me forget about carbs - since the only thing we had with it were M’s delicious boneless pork chops (brined, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and italian spices and seared, finished in the oven, and eaten with a little pan sauce/gravy... yummm!) and a glass of wine.

I took 1 ginormous head of cauliflower and cut it up into smallish florets. Into a 9x13 baking dish with the following: 1 sliced tomato (slices then cut into quarters), juice of 1 juicy lemon, 4 cloves of garlic cut into thick slices so they won’t burn to a crisp, some white pepper, several drizzles of olive oil, salt and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Into a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, remove and stir everything up, put it in for 30 minutes more or until fork tender.

This is a super easy dish... I love how the tips of the florets get a bit carmelized, bringing out the earthy sweetness in the cauliflower.

Who needs carbs?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Smothered Pork Chops

Thank you, Summer! We've had a great one - we camped, went to the beach on Cape Cod, played tennis, canoed and fished, took long weekends and trips, got tan, grilled alot, and generally enjoyed Summer. But, as of this Sunday, you bid us adieu and we welcome in your long-lost cousin, Autumn.

Perhaps our favorite time of the year here in New England, we love all things Autumn... the weather turns cool and crisp (no more humidity!), the maple and oak leaves turn brilliant colors and the leaves eventually fall (and we get to rake them), we visit the pumpkin farm and pick out some nice ones to carve into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween (and we get to watch cheesy horror movies!), we get to enjoy the last days before the harsh New England winter rolls in and shutters us up until April, and we get to make comfort food!

And what could be more "comfort food" than gravy-smothered pork chops? This idea popped into our heads and - after a little research, this easy recipe was new for us - we were ready to get comfortable... Along with some leftover yellow tomatoes and some long grain/wild rice, this was a very easy meal to make on a cool, late-summer night.

We helped some frozen ~3/4" thick, bone-in pork chops dethaw by adding them to a brine (after sitting in the fridge overnight) of water, salt, sugar, bay leaves, worchestershire, and hot sauce and letting them hang out for most of the day. When ready, we took these out and rinsed and dried them thoroughly, then added them one-at-a-time to a big freezerbag that was full of all-purpose flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

When all were rinsed, dried, and seasoned/floured we got our big enamled-cast-iron pan nice and hot and added a good amount of olive oil to the bottom of the pan, then browned each of the pork chops for maybe 3 minutes per side. We took those out and added a little more oil to the pan, and then added a tablespoon or so of all-purpose flour (a little goes a long way) and stirred the flour into the oil until we had something like a roux. Then, we stirred in about a cup of chicken broth and scraped up all the burnt bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon, just like we're told to do! Finally, we added some chopped (from a can!) buttom mushrooms for an additional touch.

Not the prettiest picture...

We gave that gravy about 5 minutes of simmer time before adding the pork chops back in and letting them go for 4-5 more minutes. We chopped up some tomatoes and plated our rice, then a nice, big pork chop, and then smothered everything in that delicious gravy... came out great - the perfect comfort food to kick off Autumn!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Crazy Chicken Curry

Cool September winds remind us of hearty meals that warm us from the inside out. I’m not sure where I got the inspiration to make this, but the recipe is solely my own and you’ll have to bear with me on my ingredients list since I really was just slinging things in the pot! The star of the show is the spice – Penzey’s Hot Curry Powder along with some Cinnamon and Tandoori Seasoning. Their spices are nothing to sneeze at (har har) – we had started running out of garlic powder and hadn’t ordered anymore, so I had to grab some from our local supermarket. We did a smell test and we both turned our noses up to chemical smell of the market bottle... quality and freshness really does make a difference!

I cut up 2lbs chicken breast into 3 inch chunks, seasoned with salt and the above spices. I browned them briefly in some olive oil, and then removed from the dutch oven. In went 1 medium onion, and 5 carrots (both sliced thin). After 10 minutes, I deglazed with 1/4 cup chicken stock. At that point, I threw in 2/3 of medium sized eggplant that I had peeled and cubed. I had to add more olive oil at this point because eggplant just soaks it right up!

In another pot, I brought up some chicken stock to a boil and blanched 1/2lb green beans for 3 minutes. After that, I parboiled (8 minutes) 4 white potatoes which I had cubed. After removing the potatoes, I reserved some of the starchy broth to add to my curry as needed.

After the eggplant sautéed for 5 minutes, I added 1cup of the reserved broth and a 32oz can of diced tomatoes with their juices. More of the star spices went in with some salt and the green beans. After bringing up to a boil, I added the chicken back to the pot and simmered covered for 15 minutes. At that point, I added the potatoes, and chcecked the liquid level which should come to the top of the meat and veggies, but not quite covering it. Add the reserved stock if you need more! When the chicken was cooked through (make sure not to overcook!! No one like tough chicken!), I stirred in 1 cup of low fat sour cream and it was finished! You could add plain yogurt or coconut milk, but sour cream was what we had on hand!

The aroma in our house was completely divine, and this was really enough for 3 nights.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Oregano Steak with Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Oregano has rocketed to the top of our favorite-herbs list... we love the tangy, slightly-spicy, and a-little-bit-bitter flavor it adds to savory dishes - both in fresh form (growing out on our deck) and in dried form. Obvious oregano uses are in sauces and on pizzas, but we decided to add a healthy amount of dried oregano to a dry rub on a big boneless top sirloin - to see how the flavor went with a grilled steak.

Along with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, we rubbed in a good deal of dried Mexican Oregano (less sweet, more spicy than Medditeranean Oregano) all over our steak, then wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and let it hang out in the fridge for a couple of hours. The steak was then removed from the fridge to come close to room temperature, and we started the grill.

When the grill was good and REALLY hot, that steak went right in the middle and cooked for 4 minutes/side. We removed the steak to a cutting board to rest - and sprinkled some fresh oregano leaves over the top. The heat woke that fresh oregano up and - combined with the grilled oregano in the rub - it smelled fantastic.

Along with the steak we grilled some sweet potato wedges and mixed up an onion-and-chive dipping sauce to go with them: 1 cup low fat sour cream, 1/4 cup mayo, 1 tbs Penzey's Fox Point Seasoning, some white pepper, salt, and some garlic powder, and dried chives.

This sauce - and some sliced cukes - added to the Greek feel of the oregano steak, which was tangy and spicy and delicious! Now, where will we apply oregano next??

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Yellow Tomato Salsa over Grilled Chicken

Along with the tons of cucumbers my parents gave us from their northern Maine garden, they also gave us 10 smallish green tomatoes. We asked them what kind they were, but they couldn't remember the exact name other than they've planted them before -- or had they!?!?! When they started to turn yellowish, we started drooling --every day we would watch them, but they weren't turning red! What was going on?? One started getting soft too, so I gave Mom a call to find out what was up! Did they not like being in Boston? Nope, Mom said, I think your father bought yellow tomato plants by mistake! Well, that gave us the go ahead, and boy were they delish. In this dish they remind me of mango or yellow pepper b/c for us, it is rare to have a yellow tomato! This was a very simple Friday night meal, but it was full of flavor!

For the salsa, I chunked up 2 yellow tomatoes, 1 avocado and a quarter of a red onion. Some salt and pepper and the juice of 2 limes, et voila that's it! M brined some chicken breast earlier in the day, and topped them with some Penzey's Cajun Seasoning. Grilled to perfection with a side of couscous and topped off with the yellow tomato salsa, a great summer night meal!