Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pan Roasted Herb Chicken

Chicken is our thing. We love cooking fish, and pork, and beef roasts, and steaks. But chicken is our go-to dish, the meat we do the most, and the one at which we are probably the best. And roasted chicken is our proverbial bread and butter.

We keep fine-tuning our methods - we tried this Julia Childs-sourced version, which came out fantastic. We've done Beer Can Chicken a few different times - comes out nice and juicy. We've done Grilled Whole Chicken - can't go wrong. All of these are great, but when we saw the method Cook's Illustrated used for their chicken (we were suckered into a subscription) - it made perfect sense.

The key to this one - remove the backbone so the chicken lays flat, stuff herb-butter-garlic mixture under the breast skin, and sear it first before moving it to the oven. Brilliant.

So that's what we did. Cut out the backbone on either side of a small broiler chicken (4lbs or less if you can get it) and lay it down, pressing it as flat as possible. For down the road: get some butter (1/2 stick) softening, preheat your oven to 450, and put a big skillet on the stovetop.

While that gets acquainted with room temperature for a few minutes - make the herb-butter-garlic by slicing and dicing up 2 garlic cloves, then dicing some fresh herbs - we used tarragon, oregano, and flat leaf parsley... a nice handful of all those. Then dice up some scallions (green parts) real thin and pile that all up on the cutting board. Sprinkle some kosher salt over that pile and a few grinds of pepper - and dice, dice, dice it all together. You'll know you have something good when you smell the results of your knifework.

Get that wonderful mixture into a bowl and add about 4 tablespoons of softened butter - and combine all of that into a paste with a fork. After combined, remove HALF of that mixture and throw that in a small bowl and leave it in the fridge until later.

Now, back to that chicken. Loosen the skin covering the breast from the "bottom" of the chicken with your fingers, and run your finger under the skin to separate from the meat. Then, take a nice sized dab (1tbls) of that herb butter and shove it under the skin on one side, pressing it down so it is spread evenly. Repeat on the other side.

After that, give the outside of the bird a salt-and-peppering, and then breast side down into your best, biggest, pre-heated-with-olive-oil skillet for a 6-minute sear.

After that, into your preheated oven as-is for 15 minutes, then take it out and turn that chicken over. Get that reserved herb butter out of the fridge, and rub it all into the seared up-side, including into those thigh and leg slices. Get it good and coated and then back into the oven breast side up for probably 20 minutes, but check your temp (looking for breast 165, thigh/leg 175).

And that's it... crispy, seared skin, really flavorful meat - buttery and herby! We made a pan gravy (we are big into perfecting gravy right now) and had it with some mashed potatoes.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ever wonder what to do with leftover chicken? Need a meal that gives you some warmth in these cooler autumn evenings? Chicken Tortilla Soup to the rescue! In the past, we’ve made good use of leftover chicken by making burritos or pot pies or chicken salad sandwiches. We’ve also made some soups before - but never this south of the border spicy soup!

Again, most of our recipes are to taste, so taste as you go and add spices when necessary. If you don't have all the spices, so be it... substitute something else or just leave it out.

Sweat 1 medium chopped onion in some olive oil over med low heat for about 10 minutes until translucent – no browning! Add 4 cloves of minced garlic and cook a couple minutes more. Add 8 cups of chicken broth along with at least 2 cups shredded cooked chicken and a 28oz can diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Add the following spices: 1 tbsp dried cilantro (not coriander – and if you have fresh cilantro add a handful at the end of cooking), 1 tbsp cumin, 2 tsp chili powder, 1/8 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp Mexican oregano, 1/4 tsp ground chipotle, the juice of 2-3 limes and some salt and pepper of course! Let that simmer for 20 minutes to get the chicken infused with all the flavors.... then add about 16oz of corn and 32 oz of rinsed canned black beans. Let that come back up to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes.

To serve, place some tortilla chips in the bottom of your bowl and ladle the soup on top. Garnish with some fresh cilantro, sour cream, cheese or avocado. The chips will get soggy and starch (and salt) up the soup nicely... Reserve some chips for crisp dipping too! If you have the time, instead of chips, you can slice up some soft corn tortillas and fry up some strips in canola oil for a fresh and crunchy garnish. Cheers to a new life for leftover chicken!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New England Clam Chowder

Why did we wait so long to make this chowder? No idea, but we're glad we finally went through with it. This New England Clam Chowder was easy to make and absolutely delicious!

We researched many recipes online before settling on a version of this one for The Cliff House Clam Chowder from The Cliff House in Ogunquit, Maine. How could we go wrong with that one, right? It had all the elements we saw on the other recipes - smokey bacon and sweet onions, cubed potatoes, clam juice and cream, and chopped clams, of course!

We altered the recipe only slightly by adding a couple stalks of minced celery and increasing the recipe by half - so 1.5 of the measurements in that recipe - but not exactly 1.5 of each ingredient...

And yes, we made the full-on "Cliff House Spice Blend" with these measurements: 2 tsps oregano, 2 tsps dried parsley, 1 tsps marjoram (we didn't have marjoram, so we added some Turkish Oregano instead), 1 tsps dill, 2 tsps thyme, 2 tsps basil, 1/2 tsp sage, 2 tsps rosemary, 1 tsps tarragon, 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour, crushed in a makeshift mortar. Stored in a resealable plastic bag to refrigerate, there is WAY more than you'd need for the clam chowder, but this makes a nice spice blend for anything savory you're making...

Boil the potatoes before hand... We diced the potatoes to 1/2-inch cubes and added those and the minced celery to COLD water, covered, and brought it up to a boil, then uncovered and they're ready in 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

For the chowder, our updated ingredient list looked like this:
  • 3 slice hickory-smoked bacon, minced
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 cups onion (one really nice-sized onion), minced
  • 2 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1.5 teaspoon The Cliff House Spice Blend (see below)
  • 1.5 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 can clams (6-1/2 ounces) - WITH the juice reserved!
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice
  • 2.5 cups Half and Half
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 medium potatoes AND two stalks of celery, peeled, diced, and boiled.

This candle did nothing to stop the tears caused by that onion...

Then, we just followed their directions, our comments in bold:

In a heavy-bottomed dutch oven sauté bacon, butter, onion, garlic and The Cliff House Spice Blend over low heat. Do not allow to brown - very important! Even if it does brown a little, don't scrape those brown bits up like you would in other deglazed sauces!.

Drain clams and set aside, reserving the juice. Slowly stir the flour and clam juices in the sauté mixture. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Add Half and Half and simmer 20 minutes. Carefully watch the temp during this time - getting just the right simmer is tough with the 1/2-n-1/2. Add white pepper, potatoes and clams. Add the potatoes first, wait a couple minutes, then finally add the clams! Heat to serving temperature. Do not allow to boil, as this toughens the clams. Serve at once.

Absolutely delicious - the sweet, sweated onions and the salty clams with the smokey bacon is perfect. The creamy texture with the soft potatoes is great with a piece of crusty bread - or oyster crackers! Best part is that it's even better the next day... but what soup isn't?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chicken Pad Thai

Ever been intimidated by all the ingredients that go into making Pad Thai? Yeah, so was I. Finally I gave it a shot this week; and even though I couldn't find one key ingredient at the store (tamarind paste), I did not give up on the dish. I found that tamarind paste provides the dish with a sour tang that can be mimicked with some lime juice, white vinegar and a bit more brown sugar than was planned. Crisis averted!

My recipe is not precise as far as the sauce goes, but taste as you go and remember that the sauce needs to be a bit strong since it will coat a ton of rice noodles. I added roughly 1/2 cup lite soy sauce, 1/2 cup H2O, juice of about 3 limes, a splash of white vinegar, 1 tsp or 2 of Sriracha chili sauce, 1/2 tsp garlic powder (too lazy to chop fresh stuff), 1/2 tsp of low sodium chicken bouillion, and about 1/2 cup light brown sugar.

Whisk those ingredients together and set aside while, in another bowl, covering the rice noodles with very hot tap water and let sit for 15 minutes - according to my noodle package's directions. They will still be al dente and ready to finish cooking later...

Coat a hot wok (or large pan) with oil and then add some raw thinly sliced chicken breast that you marinated in about 2 tsp cornstarch and some soy sauce. Brown for about 6-8 minutes until done. Remove from wok and add some more oil. To this add about 8oz shredded carrots and 1 bunch of sliced scallions. Throw in 2 scarmbled eggs as well. After 2 minutes, add your SAUCE! Let this cook down for about 3 more minutes and then add your al dente rice noodles. Allow this entire mixture to absorb some of the sauce for 3 minutes, add the chicken back, and then throw in some bean sprouts. Traditionally, uncooked sprouts are put on top of the dish during plating, but apparently this poses a slight risk for pregnant women so we heated ours through.

Serve up the Pad Thai with another lime wedge, some cilantro and some peanuts, and more hot Sriracha if you are like Michael! Honestly, I was amazed at how much this tasted like Pad Thai from a resto and I didn't need to buy that $5 jar of pre-made sauce from the market!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Aroostook County Bounty

We were up in northern Maine last weekend and we quickly discovered that the abundance of rain they'd received in June had flooded the riverbanks and allowed the reeds to grow up to forest-like proportions. This meant that even with waders, we just couldn't get past the reeds in order to cast even with just a spinner rod. Walking around these reed forests in the mud in waders is no fun when you're over 18 weeks pregnant with twins!! Alas, this meant that no fishing was to be had unless we had a boat, which we didn't even think to bring.

As sad as Michael, the fishing addict, was - I knew that all the rain also meant that as long as the farmers wore their mudding boots, they'd be able to pull out some mid-summer crops. Specifically I was on the hunt for new white potatoes and string beans. New potatoes just taste so darn good, and since I'm biased coming from a potato-farming family from Aroostook County, I think new MAINE potatoes are the best around.

Simply wash off the dirt from the potatoes and place them in a pot with the trimmed string beans. If some potatoes are a bit larger, just halve them. No need to peel the tender peels off, they are quite edible and rather tasty! Cover the veggies with water, bring to a boil with the lid on (it's faster that way!!), and keep a close watch on them though because once at a boil it'll froth up and over due to the starch in the spuds. Boil for about 20 minutes until fork tender.

I know that the beans will look way overcooked, more so than we usually like, but for this dish, that's what I intend! Serve up with a smidgeon of margarine or butter on the spuds and some salt and pepper and you're good to go. I like my served up with a simple steak with a dollop of A1 sauce on the side, but clearly the stars of the show come from the Crown of Maine.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

In Memory

We are very sad to learn that one of our favorite food bloggers, Sher at What Did You Eat?, has passed away.

Sher had a great blog and we loved to read about her adventures with food and small animals - two things we also love. We would regularily visit her blog to read her updates and find out what she was up to...

Sher would leave many encouraging comments on our posts that we always looked forward to and enjoyed receiving.

Our thoughts are with her family and we hope she rests in peace.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fluke Florentine

I had an opportunity to go offshore fishing from Newport, Rhode Island with some old high school friends. We caught a few bluefish and a bunch of fluke - aka Summer Flounder. This fish is delicious simply pan-fried with a little salt and pepper, which we had the night I returned from the trip. The next night, we decided to do something a little more elaborate with these sweet whitefish fillets...

The victim.

This Florentine is very simple - sautee one small diced onion, then add a can of petite diced tomatoes, a little white wine, and a little salt and pepper. Add that to a bowl of de-thawed frozen spinach and mix togther. Pour it over the fillets, cover with aluminum, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. That's it!

This came out wonderfully, the fluke is a great, versatile ocean fish. We also made some bluefish cakes with those fillets... we'll post that later! Here's one of the Blues we caught!

Don't forget to check out Boston Twins!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Big Messy Salad

Head over to Boston Twins to read about an old favorite of ours - the Big Messy Salad.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Welcome to Boston Twins!

We have a pretty good reason why our posts have been so few and far between these days – morning sickness! Or should I say all-day sickness..? Yes, we at Boston Chef are pleased to announce that we are now also Boston Twins!

That’s right, our little comfy twosome will be doubling by year’s end, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Aside from ravioli, nothing was appetizing to me for the first few weeks, but I’ve hopefully crossed into at state of just being hungry all the time. M still needs to prepare the raw meats for me, because raw meat is pretty gross.

For anyone going through morning sickness, some of the things that helped alleviate the nausea for me were saltines, ginger ale, carbonated water and ginger snaps. I keep crackers on my nightstand due to the fact that I will wake up in the middle of the night with a pit of hunger in my stomach! I'll post some more morning sickness remedies in the near future.

I am already putting on some weight but hopefully I won’t get too Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man-y, and instead I’ll have nice thick long hair, perfect nails, a healthy glow and will look super-cute in a sundress. I’m already measuring 16 weeks plus even though I’m just 12 weeks, hence none of my clothes fit. It’s a shopaholic’s dream to have to buy a whole new wardrobe, yet remain on a budget! Also more on maternity clothes - and shopping - soon...

And for the important part, here’s a picture of our last ultrasound taken at 11 weeks!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Poached Brook Trout and Fiddleheads - Caribou, Maine

We headed North for our yearly Memorial Day trip to Caribou, Maine to visit with family, help around the house, and do some Aroostook River trout fishing.

After a cool and rainy Saturday of fishing, the weather cleared and was absolutely beautiful on Sunday. We spent the morning and again later in the evening on the riverside; walking around in our waders in the water, hunting fiddleheads for photos, seeing otters jump in the water beside us, and fishing for trout around the currents and inlets feeding the vast, swollen river.

All fish were safely released, save for this 16-inch, 1.75-pound, absolute beauty of a Brook Trout - which we kept for dinner.

We cleaned the trout by removing the head, making a slit up it's belly and removing the guts, scoring and scraping out the blood vessel on the underside of the spine, and rinsing inside and out really well.

After drying with a paper towel, we rubbed a thin layer of olive oil inside and out, followed by a Lemon Pepper seasoning mix. A few lemon slices and chopped chives in the cavity, and we folded it all up in an aluminum foil pouch, leaving one end open. Into that open end we poured about a 1/3-cup of white wine, then we sealed it up tightly.

That beautiful trout poached on a medium-high grill for what should have been 10-12 minutes (we went too long by accident, 10-12 minutes is the right time). Then, remove carefully and slide that fresh trout meat right off the little bones. So fresh and delicious - on the table just an hour after it was caught.

With our wonderful local Brook Trout, we had locally harvested, riverbed-grown Fiddleheads - par-boiled for 10 minutes and then sauteed with butter until soft and delicious. A very local meal, thanks to the Aroostook.

We had a great trip and can't wait to head up again in September for some end-of-the-season trout fishing.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Sweet Potato Chips

We sure do love our Sweet Potatoes!

We've grilled them, we've roasted them, we've mashed them, and we've baked them. But up until now, we haven't "fried" them!

Well, we hadn't in a long time, at least. We decided to revisit this old favorite when the oven was occupied (at too low a temp) and the grill was covered in the rain. How could we cook our sweet potatoes? Thinly sliced and fried in canola oil!

So we brought a thin layer - about 1/3 of an inch - of canola oil up to about 350 degrees in a big pan and we peeled a nice-sized sweet potato. Then we sliced it up as thinly as possible. The thinner the better - thin slices crisp up nice and evenly when frying, while thicker slices will still be a little mushy in the middle (which isn't bad, either!). Using a mandolin might help here...

Into the oil they go in batches - leave plenty of room! Depending on their thickness they'll go 5-7 minutes total, turning once or twice, or until they are just getting a nice tan color and begin to stiffen up. Don't go TOO long, they'll crisp up as they dry. Use your first batch as a test batch (trust us, they'll be eaten well before dinner, anyway).

When the batch is ready to come out, lay them down on some paper towels and dab dry the top with some more towels, then immediately season. We went with some kosher salt and cajun seasoning - but you could go any direction here: parsley and herbs, salt and pepper, garlic and onion, parmesan, or even go sweet with some cinnamon.

These came out great! At least 1/2 of them didn't even make it til dinner time - you have to test for doneness, yaknow!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Stuffed Green Peppers

We really can't believe that we haven't posted this recipe before - as we have made it many times! It all stems from a dish my Mom used to make that involved chopped up peppers and onions with ground beef, rice and a tomato sauce. We do like to stuff food, especially when you can eat the container it's served in! In the past we've stuffed acorn squash, chicken, pork chops - among other things - and tonight we shall stuff green bell peppers.

I must admit, I kinda cheated with this time because I did not make the rice part from scratch. Instead I used a box and a half of Rice-a-Roni Whole Grain Spanish Rice which saved time and tasted pretty good! So as this takes roughly 25 minutes, I started this first.

In another large pot, I brought some water up to boil in order to parboil our green peppers, from which I removed the tops and the inner membranes and seeds. Boil 4 peppers for 5-10 minutes until they are just fork tender, but not overcooked.

While all this was happening (many burners needed although if you are well prepared, trust me, it's not too chaotic!), I browned 1.25lbs ground turkey. After browned, I removed and began to sweat 1 medium diced onion over lowish heat for about 10 minutes. Then I added 15oz petite diced tomatoes and 8-16oz of tomato sauce depending on your tomato-y preferences. The turkey was added back along with a pinch of saffron, 1/2tbsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder (I had forgotten the fresh stuff), and 1 tsp Mexican oregano. Now I had made 2 boxes worth of the rice, but only added about 75% of what I had made... it just depends on how ricey you want this dish. After a stir, I gave it a taste and added salt and pepper to my liking.
Spoon the mixture into the peppers which are now in a 9 x 13" baking dish. Top it off with some shredded cheese and put into a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is starting to brown. Another option is to put chunks of cheese into the turkey rice mixture when you've taken it off the heat before spooning into the peppers... this way you'll have cheesey goodness all thoughout the pepper.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pickles x 2

This post is a 2-fer - I was saving up the first recipe until I tried another bright idea. Last year I made pickled pink beets & eggs and not only were they pretty, but also extremely delicious. Again this year for Easter I whipped up a batch of these beauties and they did not disappoint!

To revisit... fill your pot with half water, half cider vinegar and bring to a simmer with 1 can whole beets and their juices, 1/2 to 1 cup brown sugar (taste it and add to your liking!), and a dash of cinnamon. After simmering for ~10 minutes, turn off the heat and add your already peeled and hard cooked eggs. Let that sit out at room temp until cool. Transfer to your fridge liquid and all where they will keep for at least a week.

Bright idea #2 came to me the day I made the picked eggs, but it took about a month to implement. We love giardinera in our house... if you are unfamiliar with this super yummy jar of goodness, it is a mix of spicy and pickled veggies like carrots, peppers and cauliflower. So I thought, what if I culd recreate this at home and add EGGS? Genius? Probably not, but I felt like one at that moment! I kind of came up with this on the fly, so bear with me.

Same as above - pot with half water, but this time I used half white vinegar instead of the cider vinegar. I used white sugar instead of brown and added some Kosher salt as well. At this point, I tasted as it's important to have the sour salty and sweet nicely balanced. I'd say about 1/2 cup white sugar and 2 tsps of salt, but it depends of how big a a pot you use (mine holds 8 cups).

Then I added at least 1 tbsp of crushed red pepper flakes, about 15 whole black peppercorns, 1 tsp mustard seed, and a couple of jalapeno rings for garnish. Most of the spicy flavor will come from the flakes. Follow the recipe from above, simmer 10 minutes, turn off heat then add your eggs and veggies. For veggies, I used frozen crinkle cut carrots and cauliflower. If you want to use fresh veggies, steam or parboil them first.

These were superbly tangy with a kick of hot in the aftertaste...perfect little pickles for your next soon-to-be-summer BBQ!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Apple Cornbread Stuffed-and-Grilled Pork Chops

This one is a keeper... the crumbled cornbread is mixed with diced apple sautéed in butter and - while the pork chops are grilling - the juices combine with the cornbread stuffing and make such a great sweet, grilled flavor. Yum - we'd like to serve this for guests sometime soon... anyone free this weekend???

We start off by making our Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread. Although we had to use lowfat milk instead of buttermilk and didn't go with the bacon this time, still came out sweet and corny (ha). The great thing about this recipe is that we'll only use maybe 1/4 of that skillet of cornbread - the rest is for us to enjoy!

This recipe was cribbed from notes of an Alton Brown preparation of some Stuffed, Grilled Pork Chops, and you'd never believe it - but he brined them first! (He brines everything.) So, so did we - in cold water, kosher salt, about a cup of cider vinegar, maybe a 1/4-cup of brown sugar, and some Tellicherry peppercorns. Combined well, we added our bone-in pork chops - about 1" thick - and they took a swim for a couple of hours.

After the brine the pork chops will have taken on a little gray color on the very outside, just as you would see on a brisket or other cut of meat that you are brining with vinegar (unless you add nitrates to keep it pink). Don't even worry about that gray color - that just means you did it right.

So, 1" bone-in pork chops brined and cornbread cooling... the final piece of this puzzle is one diced Braeburn apple, sautéed in about a 1/3 stick of butter along with a little sprinkle of brown sugar and a pinch of salt. When cooked soft, add that apple-butter mixture to 1/4 of your cornbread that has been crumbled into a bowl - and mix together to make your stuffing.

Assembly: cut an incision into the "top" meaty part of your pork chops with a sharp-tipped knife and cut through the middle of that meat to make a pocket for your stuffing. Then, stuff. As much apple cornbread mixture you can fit, and flatten it down in the chop to distribute evenly. Repeat.

A simple salt and pepper and sweet paprika sprinkle on the outside of your pork chops and onto a hot medium-high grill for 3 minutes, then "twist" (or rotate) 90-degrees to create the grill cross marks (thanks, Alton) and go 2 more minutes. Then flip, 3 minutes, rotate 90-degrees, 2 minutes, done. After a few minutes cooling time, you're ready to eat.

We had ours with some sautéed swiss chard with raisins. Remove the red ribs from the chard, dice them up and add to a large pan that already is warmed with some olive oil. Sautée for just a couple of minutes and then add a handful of raisins and 1 cup of chicken stock. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the cover and add the greens which you have roughly chopped. Let those wilt for about 5 minutes, and some salt and pepper to taste and you have a great healthy sidedish. The sweetness of the raisins balances out the slight bitterness of the chard.

The pork chops with their cornbread and apples and paprika crust came out so wonderfully charred and sweet, so moist, and so flavorful... we were in love. Along with the swiss chard with it's sweet, plumped raisins and a little slice of cornbread, this meal is definitely a keeper. Come on over!