Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken Salad with Fresh Herbs

In every issue of Food Network Magazine, they choose a "basic" dish and ask two chefs to create a version of it so you can make both and see which you like better. This month they featured chicken salad - Emeril Lagasse and Aarti Sequeira both submitted recipes for their version of chicken salad.

As much as I love Aarti, her recipe was heavy on fruit and I knew Jason would turn his nose up to it. Though it'd be great for a baby shower or girl's night, it wasn't the right choice for a light dinner at home. Emeril's recipe was pretty standard and featured a lot of fresh herbs, which I knew I had on hand from other recipes, so I thought I'd give it a shot and see if it turned out better than the usual 'throw it into the bowl' chicken salad I've made in the past.

The inclusion of lots of celery really ramped up the flavor for me. We both really like celery so this was a plus for us. I've also never used celery leaves in something so it was neat to use something that I typically just toss. I loved that it's versatile enough to add whatever herbs you have on hand (especially if you have a green thumb and grow your own!) and easy to throw together. We had it on sandwiches but it would be good in a pitted avocado, crackers, or just on it's own.

I did not cook and cube chicken but instead just used shredded rotisserie chicken. So much easier!

If you're feeling adventurous, you should make your own mayo for it!

Chicken Salad with Fresh Herbs
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 cup mayo
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves
1/3 cup finely chopped red onions (I skipped)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (I used rosemary, sage, and basil - Emeril suggests parsley and tarragon)
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

If cooking chicken for it: Preheat the oven to 400. Season both sides of each chicken breast with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the chicken and cook 2 minutes. Flip the chicken over and immediately place the pan in the oven. Roast 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mayo, garlic, mustard, celery, celery leaves, red onion, herbs, celery seeds and cayenne pepper. Mix well.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the mayonnaise mixture and mix well.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thai Basil Chicken

This was one of those recipes that I wish I had doubled, or even tripled. I couldn't stop eating it. On second thought, perhaps it was good that I didn't double or triple it... This is another dish from Joelen, who has yet to steer me wrong.

Indian food is my first love but I also really love Thai food. I've never had Basil Chicken at a Thai restaurant so I can't speak for how similar this is to something you'd find there. What I can say is that it's delicious. The only thing that would make it better? A big glass of Thai Iced Tea served alongside it.

This is actually a very quick and easy meal to put together, especially if you already have key ethnic food ingredients on hand (like fish sauce and chili garlic sauce). I subbed in ground turkey in place of the chicken and I doubt it made a huge flavor difference. Ground chicken is limited and pricey at my store so I opted for the cheaper turkey. Two cups of basil sounds like a lot but it's honestly not overpowering at all - just perfect. If you grow basil, this would be a great dish to make using it! If you like heat - which this dish does not have - add some more of the chili garlic sauce, or throw in a pepper.

I served this over jasmine rice.

Thai Basil Chicken
2 cups basil leaves, packed
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1 1/2 lbs ground chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped

Place garlic, 1 cup fresh basil leaves and the chili garlic sauce in a food processor (I used my mini chopper). Pulse until finely chopped, scraping bowl one time. Transfer 1 tablespoon of this mixture to a small bowl with 1 tablespoon fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar. Stir and set aside.

Place the remaining garlic/basil mixture into a cold 12" skillet and set aside.

Place the ground chicken in a bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce and refrigerate for 5-10 minutes.

In the cold skillet with the garlic/basil mixture, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and onions to the pan. Saute over medium low heat and allow herbs and onion to soften.

Once onion is softened, add the chilled ground chicken, and stirring constantly, breaking the chicken up as it cooks. Continue stirring until chicken is no longer pink.

Add garlic/basil sauce mixture that you made previously. Cook about 1 min.

Meanwhile, chiffonade the remaining cup of basil leaves and add to the pan to cook 1 additional minute or so, until the basil wilts. Serve over rice.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chicken Katsu

I came across this recipe on one of the blogs I follow, What's Cooking, Chicago?. I've made a few dishes from her blog and so far, everything has been delicious. We eat a lot of chicken and I'm always up for something new so when she posted this recipe, I bookmarked it as something to try.

This chicken is a Japanese inspired dish. Though the chicken is nothing unique (breaded and pan fried seasoned chicken breast), the homemade teriyaki sauce was a true winner. Who knew it was so easy to make at home? And for a fraction of the cost of a bottled teriyaki sauce! It was sweet and salty all in one sauce and so good. The chicken is extra crispy due to the cornstarch/panko breading and because you pound the chicken thin, it cooks very quickly. Perfect for a weeknight!

Chicken Katsu
1 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup vegetable oil for frying

Teriyaki Sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons mirin (I used water)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Place the cornstarch in a shallow baking dish; the beaten eggs in another shallow baking dish; and the panko breadcrumbs in a third shallow baking dish.

Prepare the chicken by cutting each breast in half and pound to 1/2-1/4-inch thickness. Blot the pounded chicken dry with paper towels and season the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Dredge each chicken piece in cornstarch, then dip in the beaten egg, and finally coat with panko breadcrumbs. Place breaded pieces in single layer on a wire rack set over baking sheet and allow coating to dry about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup oil in heavy-bottomed 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 1/2 minutes. Lay the coated chicken pieces in a skillet; fry until deep golden brown and crisp on first side, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip, reduce heat to medium, and continue to cook until meat feels firm when pressed gently and second side is deep golden brown and crisp, about 2 1/2 minutes longer. Place the chicken on a baking sheet and put in the oven to keep warm.

When all the pieces are finished and you're ready to serve, remove from oven. Serve with the teriyaki sauce drizzled on top or on the side.

Meanwhile, combine the soy sauce, sugar, ginger and garlic in a saucepan over medium high heat. Stir together the mirin (or water) and cornstarch until no lumps remain and then whisk it into the sauce in the saucepan. Bring the sauce to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until reduced to 3/4 cup or takes on the texture of a glaze. Cover and remove from heat. Drizzle sauce over chicken or serve on the side.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fudge Brownies

You may remember that my oven croaked the first part of December. In all my wisdom, I decided to challenge myself and see how long I could go without the need of an oven and did fairly well... except I was really missing warm, gooey, fresh from the oven brownies. A lot. I'm pretty picky about desserts; I don't eat milk chocolate if I can help it and lots of brownies are way too sweet for me. I like a chewy, fudgy, rich brownie that isn't sugary sweet. Many of the storebought brownies don't fit the bill - especially since they often smother them in icing! So, when I finally caved and had the repairman come (just to learn the repair was too costly to bother with and we decided to just replace the oven) I got very excited at the possibility of baking some brownies again soon!

We ordered our new stove on Sunday night and Tuesday got the call it was ready. Thanks to my dad's help in getting it to the house and set up, I had a working oven by Tuesday night. Here is my new favorite appliance in the house (step aside, Keurig):

Some friends invited us over for dinner Friday night and I decided to bring brownies. That way, I would at least have the possibility of not devouring the entire 9x13 pan on my own. I looked online for a new recipe to try. I really don't like to bake so it needed to be something that took very little measuring, not too many dishes, and stuff I already had on hand. This recipe, from AllRecipes.com, fit the bill. It is VERY good. All things I like in a brownie: moist, not too sweet, nothing milk about it, fudgy, and rich. Everyone at dinner gave them two thumbs up. They are easy to whip up and you likely have all the ingredients already on hand. If I were making them for myself, I'd add nuts but since Jason really hates nuts in his brownies (crazy man!) I left them out.

I usually have a box mix in my cabinet, too, so I don't hate on boxed mixes but this honestly was just as easy as a box mix, a LOT cheaper, and tastier. Try them and see how they rank with your favorite brownies!

Fudge Brownies
1 cup butter, melted
3 cups white sugar (I used a bit less - some reviews used a lot less)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used mini ones I had in my freezer)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Combine the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, until thoroughly blended.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the sugar mixture until blended. Stir in the chocolate morsels. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove, and cool pan on wire rack before cutting.

Original recipe

Friday, March 25, 2011

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Anchovies and Kale

There is a lot of disdain for the anchovy - a small salt water fish that is pretty prominent in Italian cooking (due to it's abudence in that area of the world). Most people don't realize that the anchovy is the base for many of our best loved dishes - including caesar salad dressing and Worcestershire sauce. It doesn't have a fishy taste; it simply adds a depth of flavor that can't be found in another ingredient. If you haven't cooked with it, you should!

This dish is from Rachael Ray Magazine and is a true 30 minute meal, which is her speciality. It's very easy and quick; great for a weeknight. And because it uses whole wheat spaghetti and greens, I've decided it has to be healthy.

Now, I have to offer some advice. I am the queen of multitasking (and fail often at it but never learn my lesson) and cooking is no exception. I get stuff going and then start chopping and prepping for the rest of the meal. I don't like to wait around on things to cook so this gives me something to do while another portion is cooking. Often, this works in my favor but every once in awhile a dish cooks faster than I expect and I'm not ready with the next ingredient. This was one of those dishes. Because garlic is so fragile and prone to burning, it's imperitive that you have the kale chopped and ready to go before you begin. Don't wait until you throw in the garlic before attempting the kale. You can't chop that fast. I tried. And I sliced the top of my finger open. Go ahead and prepare it all ahead of time and this recipe will move very quickly and before you know it, you're ready to eat.

I did make a few changes; I couldn't find the pepper she suggests but I knew I wanted a bit of heat in the background so I pulled out a bag of dried arbol peppers that I had on hand. Arbol peppers are very hot so I shook all the seeds out of them before chopping a couple of them into small pieces. It wasn't spicy enough to need a glass of tea nearby but it had enough heat to add interest. I think you could use any pepper you like in this dish. I also grabbed my wedge of Asiago cheese that was calling my name from the cheese drawer instead of buying Pecornio-Romano, and used basic kale that I had on hand.

There is no need to do anything to the anchovies - they literally do melt into the oil and create this delicious sauce in the pan that you add the garlic and peppers to. It's actually really cool but they do splatter so have a piece of foil ready to cover your pan!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Anchovies and Kale
Salt and black pepper
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
About 1/4 cup EVOO
6 to 8 flat anchovy fillets
1 fresh chile pepper, such as red cherry or fresno, seeded and sliced or finely chopped (see my note above about peppers)
5 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch cavolo nero (a form of kale - I just used regular kale), stemmed and shredded
A few grates nutmeg (I used ground)
2 large egg yolks
Grated pecorino-romano cheese (I shredded Asiago instead)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a cup of the pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is working, heat the EVOO, 4 turns of the pan, in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovies, cover the pan with a splatter screen or loose foil and let the anchovies melt into the oil. Add the chile pepper and garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Add the kale and let it wilt; season with a little nutmeg.

In a measuring cup, beat the egg yolks with some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Toss the drained spaghetti with the kale, a  few handfuls of cheese, lots of black pepper and the tempered egg yolks. Add more pasta cooking water as necessary to evenly coat.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cream Cheese Wontons

I'm a sucker for cream cheese wontons at places like Panda Express. Since they charge a ridiculous amount for them, I try to resist... and typically succeed. Tonight I was making General Tso's Chicken but had neglected to plan something else to go with it. Then, I remembered that I still had half a package of wonton wrappers, a package of cream cheese, and some green onion leftover in the fridge. While crab meat mixed in would rock, I could live with just cream cheese -especially if it meant using ingredients that likely would end up tossed out!

Though I literally just tossed some ingredients into a bowl, these turned out surprisingly delicious. And really, just like the ones at chinese fast food restaurants! They are also super quick to make - 1-2 minutes for each batch? Would be great to make as an appetizer or finger food for the next event we make food for.

I'm sure these would be good baked as well...if one had a working oven (though I finally did call a repairman - third try to get it fixed - hopefully they show up!). But since I was already frying for the General Tso's Chicken recipe, it was a piece of cake to just fry these prior.

And what will two people do with a huge platter of cream cheese wontons? I have no idea, but I had to use up all the ingredients...

Cream Cheese Wontons
1 package of cream cheese, softened (the whipped kind is easier to mix!)
1/2 package wonton wrappers (not eggroll wrappers)
1-2 tablespoons chopped green onions (just eyeball it!)
1 teaspoon paprika (just eyeball it!)
Vegetable oil, for frying
Water, to seal

Mix the cream cheese, green onions, and paprika together in a small bowl. Pour some water in a small dipping bowl and put near your workspace. Spoon about a teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture in the center of each wrapper and, using your finger, run a little bit of water along each edge. Fold over to create a triangle and seal.

Heat oil on med-high until about 350 degrees. Fry the wontons in batches, turning once, until browned on both side. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Serve hot.

General Tso's Chicken

This recipe was featured on one of the blogs I follow, What's Cookin', Chicago?. The original recipe comes from Cooks Illustrated.

I really love Chinese-American food, especially anything fried and drenched in a tasty sauce, and after my success making Orange Chicken I wanted to try another dish.

This was really good - the flavor was just like you'd find at a chinese buffet. I didn't succeed at battering the way the recipe directs; once I added the leftover marinade, my "batter" became a big ball of dough. I tried to save it, by adding more cornstarch and flour, but it was too far gone. So, instead, I just made a basic batter of cornstarch, flour, and baking soda. I'm not sure how different it would taste with it as directed. Otherwise, easy recipe - just hands on (but quick!).

I made cream cheese wontons to go with it, along with white rice.

Definitely a keeper!

General Tso's Chicken
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (I subbed cayenne instead - gave a subtle kick)

Coating & frying:
3 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups vegetable oil
1-2 green onions, thinly sliced on a bias for garnish

Prep the chicken breasts by cutting them into 1 inch pieces.

To make the marinade & sauce, whisk the hoisin, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, and water in a bowl. Of this mixture, place 6 tablespoons into a zip lock storage bag and add the chicken; seal and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Set aside the remaining marinade in the bowl.

While the chicken is chilling in the marinade, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Sauté the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes until fragrant. Add 2 cups of the hoisin marinade to the skillet and simmer, whisking constantly, until the mixture is dark brown and thickened. Remove from heat, cover and keep the sauce warm.

To prepare the chicken coating and frying, whisk the egg whites in a shallow dish until foamy; set aside. Combine the cornstarch, flour, baking soda, and remaining hoisin marinade in a second shallow dish; mix until it resembles coarse meal. (this is the step that did not work out for me!)

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and from the marinade. Pat the marinated chicken dry with paper towels. Toss half the chicken into the foamy egg whites until well coated, then dredge the chicken in the cornstarch mmixture, pressing to adhere. Transfer the coated chicken to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat until the oil registers 350 degrees. Fry half the chicken until golden brown, about 3 minutes, turning each piece halfway through cooking. Transfer the cooked chicken onto a paper towel lined plate to drain. Return the oil to 350 degrees before frying again. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Warm the sauce over medium heat until simmering. Place the sauce in a large bowl and add the fried chicken pieces. Toss to coat and serve.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Indian Dinner Round-Up

These are the dishes I made for an "all Indian" meal for some friends. All are courtesy of Aarti Sequeira. Just click the name to see the blog post with review and recipe.
Chicken in Creamy Tomato Curry: Chicken Tikka Masala

Indian Rice Pudding

There is a mediterrean restaurant here in Fort Worth that serves rice pudding on their lunch buffet. When a group of us went, we all remarked that there was a distinct flavor in it that we couldn't quite decipher... until we realized it was rose. I'm not sure if rosewater in rice pudding is a mediterrean dish, or an Indian dish, but it's unique and really, really good.

While looking up something else, I came across this recipe from Aarti and was so excited to see it had pistachios and rosewater in it, just like that restaurant. I've never made rice pudding but since I had all the ingredients on hand, and would be at the stove anyways, I thought I would try it for our dinner guests. It does call for rosewater but I didn't have time to get to the Indian market for some so I just subbed in vanilla. I also thought I had cardamom, which I didn't have afterall, so I threw in some cinnamon instead. Though I want to pick up both of those at the Indian market soon and make this dish again, it was still delicious with vanilla and cinnamon.

It's easy to make but does take attention. I was making 5 dishes at the same time and there were points when I didn't get to stir it as often but it still turned out well. My pot just needs some serious soaktime =)

Since I have the whole milk on hand, I'm going to make another pot of this soon. This says it makes 4 servings but I would double it next time, even for just 4 people. Each got a decent serving but there was nothing leftover (rats!).

Indian Rice Pudding
1/2 cup basmati rice
6 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (I subbed cinnamon)
1/2 cup sugar (I only used 1/4 cup, per reviews online, and it was PLENTY)
1 teaspoon rosewater, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons minced unsalted pistachios or almonds, plus extra for garnish

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, bring the rice, milk, and cardamom to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a heat-safe spoonula to help keep the milk from burning.

Reduce the heat so that the milk is gently simmering and cook for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring often. The rice should be tender and the milk will have reduced by half, giving a porridge-like consistency.

Add the sugar, rosewater or vanilla, and pistachios. Stir and turn off the heat. Serve either warm or chilled, garnished with extra pistachios.

Massaged Kale Salad

I've made this dish before and thought it was so fresh and bright that it would be good to make alongside the Chicken Tikka Masala and Aloo Gobi. It's easy to make, delicious, and uses ingredients that are really inexpensive.

I found the pumpkin seeds in the bulk section of HEB.

Massaged Kale Salad
1 bunch kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons honey
Freshly ground black pepper
1 mango, diced small (about 1 cup)
Small handful toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), about 2 rounded tablespoons

In large serving bowl, add the kale, half of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little kosher salt. Massage until the kale starts to soften and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside while you make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the honey and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stream in the 1/4 cup of oil while whisking until a dressing forms, and you like how it tastes.

Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the mango and pepitas. Toss and serve.

Cauliflower and Potatoes: Aloo Gobi

This was another dish that Aarti made on her episode of favorite Indian take out dishes so I thought I'd try it alongside the curry dish. We don't eat much cauliflower; it's not a favorite vegetable of either of ours but I was anxious to see if we'd like it cooked differently with lots of spice added.

The potato and cauliflower take on a similar texture after they are cooked; it's hard to tell a difference between the two in the bowl. It was very flavorful and easy to prepare. I thought it had some heat behind it but I'm much more sensitive to spicy hot than others are. This is also a very inexpensive side dish!

Cauliflower and Potatoes: Aloo Gobi
2 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe follows, or 2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup water, divided
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large serrano pepper, split down the middle leaving halves attached
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (I haven't tracked this down yet, so I just used some ground cumin)
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (similar size to cauliflower)
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly minced cilantro leaves, to garnish

Mix the Ginger-Garlic Paste, coriander, turmeric, and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl. This is a simple wet masala (spice mix). Set aside.

In a large pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the serrano pepper, wait 30 seconds, and then add the cumin seeds and wait until they're done spluttering.

Add the wet masala (careful, it will also splutter). Cook until the paste thickens, deepens in color slightly, and oil oozes out of the perimeter of the masala, about 2 minutes.

Add the cauliflower and potatoes, stirring to coat the vegetables with the masala. Season with salt and add 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes. Then, remove the lid, stir, and cook until the cauliflower and potatoes are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Ginger-Garlic Paste:
1/2 cup cloves garlic, whole
1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup canola oil

Throw the garlic, ginger, and canola oil in a mini-food processor and let it go until it forms a semi-smooth paste. There will still be tiny little pieces in there, but overall, it should resemble a paste.

Chicken Tikka Masala (Chicken in Creamy Tomato Curry)

I have a friend that has written off Indian food due to her strong dislike to curry powder (taste and smell). Of course, not all Indian food contains curry powder but the restaurants do seem to smell strongly of the spice. Because of that, she hasn't tasted much Indian food - which is probably my favorite ethnic food. I love all the spices (including curry powder!) but wanted to make her a curry (just a basic spiced soup or stew) without curry powder so she can see just how flavorful Indian cuisine can be.

Last week, while watching Aarti Party, she made a meal of popular Indian take out dishes - including this Chicken Tikka Masala dish (also known as Chicken in Creamy Tomato Curry). It look delicious so I decided to make, along with Massaged Kale Salad, Aloo Gobi, and Rice Pudding to go with it. I served this over basmati rice alongside some grilled naan bread for dipping.

She and her husband could have been lying but both of their plates were clean and they said they thought it was delicious. I think butter chicken is still my favorite Indian dish (even though it is similar!) but this was really, really flavorful and tasty.

It was much easier to cut the chicken into bite sized cubes after you grill it, so it doesn't fall through the grates (unless you're using a grill pan on the stove). Also - my immersion blender was a huge time saver for this!

Chicken in Creamy Tomato Curry: Chicken Tikka Masala
1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
3 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe follows (or 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger and 3 cloves garlic put through a garlic press or finely minced)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, poked with a fork, and cut into large bite-sized chunks (I used breasts)

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe follows (or 6 cloves garlic and 2-inch thumb ginger minced)
2 serrano peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don't want it spicy - I only used one to keep spice low)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons paprika
8 Roma tomatoes, diced (I used a large can of diced tomatos instead)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 to 2 cups water
Oil, for grilling
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Minced fresh cilantro, for garnish
Cooked rice, naan, or crusty piece of bread, for serving

For the marinade: In a large bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Marinate at least 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator up to overnight.

For the sauce: When you're ready to make the curry, place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the Ginger-Garlic Paste and serrano peppers. Saute until lightly browned around the edges. Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato has darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Add the garam masala and the paprika and saute for about 1 minute to draw out their flavors.

Add the tomatoes, salt, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. You may need more water depending on how much liquid the tomatoes give off.

Meanwhile, fire up your grill. When it is nice and hot, lightly brush it with oil. Place the chicken on the grill, shaking off some of the excess marinade. Cook until it's charred, about 2 minutes on each side. (Don't worry that the chicken will still be a little uncooked, it finishes cooking in the sauce).

Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender, and process until smooth. Pour back into the skillet and bring back up to a boil. Add the chicken and fenugreek leaves, if using. Take the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the cream and stir through. Garnish with minced fresh cilantro, and serve over rice, with naan, or a crusty piece of bread!

Ginger-Garlic Paste:
1/2 cup cloves garlic, whole
1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup canola oil

Throw the garlic, ginger, and canola oil in a mini-food processor and let it go until it forms a semi-smooth paste. There will still be tiny little pieces in there, but overall, it should resemble a paste.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chicken Sausage Rigatoni in Spicy Vodka Sauce

This recipe is from Sunny Anderson on Food Network. It had a lot of great reviews and used some of the ingredients I was buying for other meals this week (including the big piece of Asiago I bought for the risotto!) so I thought I'd give it a try.

This could take any kind of sausage, or even ground beef/pork/chicken/turkey if you'd like. I used chicken sausage, per the recipe, this time.

It was a warm, hearty, fairly inexpensive meal that is great for a weeknight since it took about 30 minutes, start to finish. It's very flavorful and tasty and we both enjoyed it a lot. It also made a ton so it's great for a large family (or lots of leftovers!). I did not use hot paprika, just regular paprika, and while there was some hidden heat in the background, it wasn't even spicy enough for me to need a drink nearby (and I'm a big baby). You could always leave out the jalapeno if you want no spice at all, or add some hot paprika, cayenne, or include the ribs/seeds to the jalapeno if you want more heat.

Chicken Sausage Rigatoni in Spicy Vodka Sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup roughly chopped onion
1 jalapeno, chopped (I discarded most of the ribs and seeds)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped green pepper (I skipped)
1 teaspoon Hungarian hot paprika (I used regular paprika)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with basil (I used diced)
1/3 cup vodka
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound rigatoni
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. In a large saute pan over medium heat melt butter with oil. Add chicken sausage and brown, 3 to 4 minutes, breaking up large chunks with a wooden spoon. Add onions, jalapenos and garlic and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add green pepper, paprika, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, to taste, and cook 3 minutes more.

Generously salt the pasta water and add the rigatoni. Cook until al dente, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, add tomatoes to the sauce and bring to a simmer, for about 10 minutes. Add vodka and cream and cook a few minutes more. Toss in cheese and chopped parsley. To serve, drain the pasta well and add to the sauce. Mix until pasta is nicely coated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Black Bean Salad

We eat quite a bit of Tex Mex in our house - especially since it's Jason's favorite cuisine - but I sometimes get tired of having the rice and beans with it. So, I went looking for a different kind of black bean recipe to go with brisket tacos.

On Food Network's website, I came across this black bean salad recipe by Guy Fieri that had great ratings. There isn't much recipe to be had - a little bit of this, a little bit of that - but it was something I hadn't considered making alongside tacos before.

I made some changes along the way just to suit our personal tastes and what I had on hand and we both gave it two thumbs up. I ate it on it's own but it would be good actually in a taco (especially a fish taco!) or served as a salsa-type dip alongside chips. I worked later than I expected tonight so it didn't sit for more than 10 minutes before we were eating and it was still tasty - just gets tastier as the flavors mesh!

Black Bean Salad
2 cans black beans, drained, about 30 ounces
1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup diced green onions
1/4 cup diced pineapple
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
4 tablespoons apple cider
Juice of 1/2 lime
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch ground cumin
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Herbed Risotto with Chicken and Caramelized Onions

This was absolutely delicious. I really adore risotto but because it's time consuming and labor intensive, I either stick with ordering it at restaurants or making oven chicken risotto. However, I follow The Novice Chef Blog and she had this pretty simple risotto recipe featured recently that she swore was much easier and faster than a traditional risotto. So, I had to give it a try!

There was a (very recent) time in my life in which anything with onions would completely turn me off. I still don't like raw onions, or even remotely crunchy onions, but I've begun to see what the addition of onion does for a recipe. And I've found that carmelized onions are really, really good. Especially in risotto.

I made my own chicken stock awhile back and froze it so I just used that. If you don't have homemade stock on hand, just pick up the kind in the carton at the store. Also, since you don't have to stir it constantly, you can prep things along the way while it's simmering.

Jason typically finds rice to be overrated but he ate two bowls of this and claimed leftovers for lunch the next day. I call that a winner in this house!

Herbed Risotto with Chicken and Caramelized Onions
5 tbsps butter, divided
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 cups Arborio (medium grain) rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 oz. grated Asiago cheese (about 1 cup)
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
2 tbsp. minced fresh chives
Ground black pepper
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I used a rotisserie chicken)

Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to a medium sized pan set over medium heat then add the sliced onion. Allow the onion to cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown and caramelized. While this is all happening, continue on with the rest of the risotto. If they finish before you are ready to add them later in the recipe, just remove the onions to a plate and set aside until you are ready.

Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to a Dutch oven over medium heat. Once melted, add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice to the pan, stirring to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes.

Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, about 2-3 minutes. Combine the 2 cups of water and 5 cups of chicken stock in a large bowl. Stir 5 cups of the broth mixture into the rice (leaving 2 cups for later). Bring the rice and broth mixture to a slight boil. Once a slight boil has been reached, cover and reduce heat to a medium-low simmer. Continue cooking until almost all liquid has been absorbed and the rice is just al dente, 16-19 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.

Add ¾ cup of the hot broth mixture to the risotto and stir gently and constantly until the risotto becomes creamy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the asiago cheese. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Stir the shredded chicken and caramelized onions into the risotto with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, parsley, and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, add up to ½ cup of the remaining broth mixture to add moisture and loosen the texture. Serve immediately.

Note - I did use more than 3/4 cup of additional broth to make it creamy after I added all the onion and chicken. Just eyeball it.

Yields 6 servings

See Aimee Cook

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