Lies all lies

June 27, 2009

Sometimes packages lie. Sometimes they will tell you that your creamy and delicious grits are only 25 to 30 minutes away, but it is just lies. An hour later you will still be stirring and babysitting those grits. You will still be tasting them every 5 minutes to see if they have lost their “slightly crunchy should not fill your mouth as much” texture.

But eventually, the grits will soften and be able to provide the perfect bed for this spicy and rich shrimp sauce. Once you taste this dish, you will forget about the horrible lies the package told you, about the chained to the stove feeling you had, and about the “always in trouble still in time out” cat that stole a shrimp from your plate when you went to get your camera. Well, maybe you will not forget about the cat but the shrimp and grits will help soothe your frustrated soul.

Mike Lata’s Shrimp and GritsShrimp and Grits1

From a Yankee in a Southern Kitchen

The meal was fabulous. Great comfort food; the creamy and buttery flavor of the grits was a perfect compliment to the spicy sauce of the shrimp. Make sure to taste the sauce and the grits as you cook and season accordingly. It makes a difference in this meal.

GRITS:

2 cups milk (I needed 2 to 3 extra cups of milk during the cooking process)

1 cup fresh white grits

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

SHRIMP:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons finely diced onion

3 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper

2 ounces diced country ham

½ cup shrimp stock or milk (I did ½ chicken broth and 1/8 milk)

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

6 dashes of hot sauce (I added two more or so)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Couple shakes of Old Bay Seasoning (I feel it is required with shrimp)

For the grits: Bring the milk just up to a tiny boil around the edge of a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add the grits and stir for 1 minute. Turn the heat to low. If there are any hulls, skim and remove them now using a slotted spoon. Add the butter, and stir frequently for the first 10 minutes, then stir every 10 minutes to grits are done, about 1 to 1 ½ hrs. Add more liquid if the grits are absorbing the milk. Cover between stirrings. When cream, add salt and pepper to taste.

For the shrimp: Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottom fry pan or enamel skillet. Add the onion and red pepper, cooking till translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ham and sauté briefly. Stir in the milk or stock, scraping the sides and bottom of the skillet to deglaze the pan. Bring to a boil, and cook till the liquid is reduced by half. Add the cream, bring to a boil, and reduce the liquid making a loose sauce. Add the shrimp, stir, and cook till the shrimp turn pink. Add the chives and season to taste with salt, pepper and old bay.

Divide the grits among four plates, top with the shrimp and some of the sauce. Serve immediately. If you are cooking for less than two, this dish reheats well the next day, just use separate dishes to reheat separately.Shrimp and Grits

Advertisements

Every two weeks, I sit down with a blank piece of paper, grocery store ads, my 3 ring binder of recipes (mostly printed from other lovely blogs), a list of the proteins in my freezer, and a promise not to curse to much during the menu planning process. An hour later, I have a menu filled with fourteen different entrees (most of which are commonplace in the weekly rotation), a shopping list complete with hieroglyphics reminding me of whichever store has the best price, and a headache from cursing too much. Immediately after finishing this tortuous task, we head to the grocery store so I can unleash my menu planning frustration on the world.

Why do I do this? Because in reality, it saves time and creates a harmonious and unstressful environment for dinner assembly. It’s a see the forest through the trees kind of thing.  However, my desire to end the menu planning torture usually results in what I call Swan Dives Meals. These are meals that make it onto the menu because I am running out of time and I have a recipe that matches some random protein in the freezer. So I become a carefree non-anal person that I am not and put it on the menu.

Then, the day to actually make the recipe comes and somehow the recipe miraculously swan dives off the menu and I make something else with the ingredients I have on hand.

If the story stopped there, you would perceive me to be a normal well adjusted semi-neurotic individual but it does not. I feel guilt. Often times, I am so guilty that the recipe did not have its chance in the sun, its opportunity to make my taste buds dance, or its chance to make it on Alex’s vegetables I will eat list,  I will put it on the menu again.

I am not going to tell you how many times recipes swan dive off the menu only to crawl their way back just to face elimination again. Just know that I cannot tell you what Kung Pao chicken tastes like but according to my menu plans I must love it because we have had it 20 times this year.

Asian Ground Beef Lettuce WrapsLettuce Cups

Recipes comes from Dine and Dish who found the recipe on Allrecipes

These lettuce wraps were one of those swan dive meals and even yesterday, I almost swapped it with baked ziti at the eleventh hour. I am so glad I pressed on and saw this recipe into fusion however. The Asian flavors were spot on. The ginger gave it the need kick and the filling was a great inside its lettuce container.

 Alex, who has lettuce on the inedible list, ate his filling with jasmine rice and enjoyed his meal as much as I did.

 Asian Ground Beef Lettuce Wraps, from Allrecipes

  • 16 Boston Bibb or butter lettuce leaves
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced pickled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • Asian chile pepper sauce (optional)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, Lettuce Cups 2chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil
  1. Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not tear them. Set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet over high heat, brown the ground beef in 1 tablespoon of oil, stirring often and reducing the heat to medium, if necessary. Drain, and set aside to cool. Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chile pepper sauce to the onions, and stir. Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions, and sesame oil, and continue cooking until the onions just begin to wilt, about 2 minutes.
  3. Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter, and pile meat mixture in the center. To serve, allow each person to spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf. Wrap the lettuce around the meat like a burrito, and enjoy!

 

Notes: I did not use the chile sauce; although Alex thought they could have used a little more kick so I definitely will next time. I also cooked the meat first and added the onions and water chestnuts to the meat mixture. After 3 to 4 minutes, I made a well in the meat mixture and added the liquids and the green onions then stirred everything together. My goal here was to keep as many plates as clean as possible. 🙂

Unfortunately, my blog has been affected by a delay in  recent posts. The cause: writer’s block brought on by the silencing of my creative voice. The post attached to this recipe was about my time spent as a Supposed Mafia Princess. It only saw the light of day for 10 minutes before being stifled by maternal control. My anguish over this lost legendary anecdote (you thought I was going to go for the alliteration) had rendered me unable to post the recipe.

Today, that ended when the epiphany came; this recipe is one that needs to be shared and by doing so I can hack away at the beaver dam that is my writer’s block. There are ten or so recipes caught upstream. So please forgive me for not sharing the story of my faux Italian heritage and prepare for the flood that is about to come.

Pasta Bolognese

 pasta

This recipe comes from the spiky haired brain of Anne Burrell. Some may not love her new show but the recipes are awesome. This is great for a lazy weekend day (because we all have so many of those). The effort you put in is definitely worth the result. I left the directions in her voice because I think it is very important to getting the correct results. Make sure you take the time to brown and develop the flavors in the veggies, meat, and tomato paste.

Alex rates this dish a 9 and I rate it a 9.5. The sauce is everything it should be. Creamy and favorful; it clings to the pasta like an pyscho ex-girlfriend.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 3 cups hearty red wine
  • Water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • High quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

Directions

In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes. Be patient, this is where the big flavors develop.

Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. BROWN THE BEEF! Brown food tastes good. Don’t rush this step. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes.

Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2 to 3 cups at a time. Don’t be shy about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it out. This is a game of reduce and add more water. This is where big rich flavors develop. If you try to add all the water in the beginning you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, thick meaty sauce. Stir and TASTE frequently. Season with salt, if needed (you probably will). Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the spaghetti. Pasta water should ALWAYS be well salted. Salty as the ocean! TASTE IT! If your pasta water is under seasoned it doesn’t matter how good your sauce is, your complete dish will always taste under seasoned. When the water is at a rolling boil add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the ragu from the pot and reserve.

Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining ragu. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat and give a big sprinkle of Parmigiano and a generous drizzle of the high quality finishing olive oil. Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or 1 big pasta bowl. Top with remaining grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.

We tend to disagree

February 10, 2009

Alex and I do not necessarily agree on everything. There are more than a few times that we are on opposite sides of the fence.

One of these times was one of our first dates. Looking back, it was quite romantically corny. Alex brought me to a park on campus. He parked next to a moonlight lake and turn the music up really loud. He suavely unbuckled my seat belt and took me out of the car to dance under the stars. Then, he decided that we should gaze up at those stars from the dock of the moonlit lake. The problem: the dock was over the river and through the woods. I voiced my fearful opposition based on the theory of woodland animals and serial killers awaiting our arrival. But, Alex, convinced of the increased romantic levels that were waiting for him on the dock, disagreed and we set out.

I am not brave. I do not pretend to be brave. If a serial killer attacked, I would throw you in front of him in hopes of making my escape successful. I clung to Alex during that five minute walk scanning my surrounding in search of impending doom. Each step was accompanied by a whimper. Every foreign sound warranted a plead to turn back. I was convinced that we were becoming the opening scene to some horrible B-rated horror flick. Alex disagreed.

We maneuvered our way down the dock. It creaked and swayed below our feet thus adding to my sense of security. We stood there for a moment and I began to relax. Then, right as we were getting ready to sit down and gaze up at the non-menacing stars, it happened. The forest shook and something or someone moved through the bushes. I reacted and pushed Alex out of my way and ran down the dock. Heart racing, I turned around frantically looking for my hunky protector. Alex was going to be no help to me though. He was knee deep in water pointing at a raccoon that had just wandered out of the woods. I explained my reasoning for sacrificing him while helping him out of the lake, all the way back to the car, and while I loaded his jeans into the washer. That we were in infinite peril and I reacted convinced he was stronger of the two with more of an opportunity to survive the supposed zombie attacker. Alex disagreed.

Honey Mustard or Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches chicken20sandwich20034a1

Just another thing Alex and I disagree about. If you would like to try the fabulous Honey Mustard goodness like I do, that recipe is first. The stupid barbecue one that Alex enjoys is second. We both rate these sandwiches an 8.5. There is nothing better than this and a good beer to finish off a long work day.

Today’s Recipe is adapted from the brilliant mind of the Pioneer Woman

 Honey Mustard Marinade

½ cup of Dijon Mustard

½ cup of Honey

Juice of ½ lemon

½ teaspoon Paprika

½ teaspoon Salt

 

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Whisk until smooth.

 

Barbecue Marinade

 ½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce

½ cup Honey

Juice of ½ lemon

½ teaspoon Paprika

½ teaspoon Salt

Sprinkle of Cayenne and Red Pepper Chili Flake

 

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Whisk until smooth.

 

Chicken Sandwich

2 Big Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast

3 Strips of Bacon

Your favorite kind of Cheese (I use Sharp Cheddar for Honey Mustard and Pepper Jack for BBQ)

2 Hearty Can Hold Onto a Filling Rolls

Canola Oil

 chicken20sandwich20018a1

1. Rinse the chicken breast and pat them dry.

2. Butterfly the chicken breast and cut down the seam. This will give you two halves of equal width.

3. Place the chicken breast in marinades, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 to 3 hours.

4. When ready to make the sandwiches, fry up some bacon. When finished cooking, reserve ¼ cup of the bacon grease and clean out the skillet.

5. Preheat the oven to 400.

6. Return about a tablespoon of the bacon grease to the skillet along with 1 tablespoon of Canola Oil. Place the pan over medium-high heat.

7. Remove the chicken from the fridge and drain off the extra marinade.

8. Place the chicken in the pan and cook 1 to 1 ½ minute per side until the chicken starts to brown.

9. Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a cooking sheet.

10. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and cook chicken about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.

11. While the chicken is cooking, prepare your roll. You can toast or untoast and add lettuce, mayo, tomato, onion etc. I like to eat the Honey Mustard with a little honey mustard sauce.

12. Place a few pieces of bacon on top of the chicken and sprinkle generously with cheese.

13. Return the pan to the oven and cook for additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Place the chicken on the prepare roll and enjoy!

 

Honey Mustard Saucechicken20sandwich20007a1

 ¼ cup Mayo

1 ½ tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 ½ tbsp Honey

Splash of White Vinegar

 

1. Combine all ingredients ( taste is very subjective you can add more mustard or honey as needed) and whisk.

I am normally a delightful person. Some adjectives I have heard that describe me are charismatic, loveable, kind, funny, or an example from which all other humans should live. However, I will admit that there are certain microscopes under which I am studied, that I do not come out looking so lovely. One of those lenses would be when I become a victim of the common cold, the flu, or any other illness with the potential to cripple me.

I am not a nice sick person nor am I a mean sick person that sleeps when she is sick. No, I am a bored, whiney, bow to my every whim, don’t want to take medicine, I can’t believe you made me cry sick person. I am always surprised that I still have a husband after the snot departs, the medicine fog dissipates, and the what did I do to deserve this feeling goes away. And even though I might physically being feeling better, my guilt over my behavior is another story.

For example during my last bout with the flu, Alex was preparing my shot of Nyquil in the hopes that the monster would drift off into slumber.  The monster had other ideas though. I roared and thrashed in the bed when attempting to turn over and knocked the bottle right out of his hands. I knocked the full Cherry Nyquil bottle from his apparently weak grip onto him, myself, and our brand new white down comforter. Then, I promptly blamed him, began to cry, and fell asleep.  I am quite the catch I tell you.

So today, I prayed to the laundry gods,  bleached the duvet cover and set out to make it up somehow. The easiest way to do this: food. I made Jambalaya for my doctor and it worked. Somehow I am forgiven, I think it helps that I am cute and Alex realizes that monster only comes out once… three… maybe five times a year.

Everything Jambalayajambayla-017a

A Rachel Ray recipe

Alex rates this recipe an 8 because he has had real jambalaya with rue and this is not that. I rate it a 9 because I love the spice and flavor in this dish. My only issue is all the prep work (chopping) it requires. Definitely not a 30 minute meal; well maybe if I had a fully staffed prep kitchen it would be.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups enriched white rice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless white or dark meat chicken (I used boneless white)
  • 3/4 pound andouille, casing removed and diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
  • Several drops hot sauce or 2 pinches cayenne pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (a handful) all-purpose flour
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1(14-ounce) can or paper container chicken stock or broth
  • 1 teaspoon (1/3 palmful) cumin
  • 1 rounded teaspoon (1/2 palmful) dark chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon (1/3 palmful) poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, raw, deveined and peeled (ask for easy peel at fish counter) (I normally leave it out to make the dish cheaper; I have made it both ways and don’t miss the shrimp at all)
  • Coarse salt and black pepper
  • Chopped scallions, for garnish
  • Fresh thyme, chopped for garnish (Did not use)

Directions

Cook rice to package directions.

Place a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and butter to the pan. Cube chicken and place in hot oil and butter. Brown chicken 3 minutes, add sausage, and cook 2 minutes more. Add onion, celery, pepper, bay, and cayenne.

Saute vegetables 5 minutes, sprinkle flour over the pan and cook 1 or 2 minutes more. Stir in tomatoes and broth and season with cumin, chili, poultry seasoning, and Worcestershire. Bring liquids to a boil and add shrimp.

Simmer shrimp 5 minutes until pink and firm. Remove the pot from the heat and place on a trivet. Ladle jambalaya into shallow bowls. Using an ice cream scoop, place a scoop of rice on to the center of the bowlfuls of jambalaya. Sprinkle dishes with salt, pepper, chopped scallions, and thyme leaves.jambayla-004a

A Haze Inducing Dish

January 18, 2009

There are some dishes in life that you have to commit to making. They require you complete devotion and attention throughout the cooking process or the entire dish is subject to becoming a culinary disaster. Risotto is the quintessential dish of this category. You can imagine with my “Oh Look Shiny” syndrome that I am amazing at these dishes. Incase you are missing the sarcasm, I am not. After a few minutes, my eyes glaze over and I am somewhere else completely. And usually whatever day dream I have ended up in, is much more interesting than stirring a pot of rice for 30 minutes.

But this is why Alex and I make such a good team; he is a master of recognizing the haze. He can even recognize it out in public when I am listening to someone drone on and on while I make the customary nods and “Oh really’s”. Alex’s muffled laughter from across the room can usually snap me back to reality. This skill comes in handy at the Risotto pot. When the haze takes over so does Alex, he gentle removes my hand from the now stagnant spoon and begins to stir. I will then skip off and indulge in me newest magazine, an episode of The Office from the DVR, or making Spike chase a laser around the house (he likes shiny too). Five to ten minutes later, I realize that I am suppose to be making dinner and take the spoon back from Alex and the dance begins again.

Somehow when this process has been completed two to three times, we have this perfect pot of risotto that is rich and creamy. I am certain that is because of my excellent cooking skills and has nothing to do with my husband’s haze identifying ability.

Fontina Risotto with Chickenrisotto-068a1

This dish comes from my Food Network Magazine but you can also find the recipe here.

I found this dish to have a really nice texture with all the creaminess you would expect in Risotto. I also thought it may have been a little too cheesy. Alex thinks that nothing is too cheesy and the dish should remain the same. I would probably reduce the Fontina to ¾ of a cup.

I also pan fried cubes of chicken instead of buying deli chicken. I cooked the chicken in some butter ( you could also use olive oil) and seasoned with salt, pepper, red pepper flake, basil, parsley, and de-glaze the pan with a little bit of white wine. I thought this added another dimension to the Risotto. Overall, I would rate the dish an 8 and Alex rates it an 8.5.

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme ( I used 1 ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup coarsely grated fontina cheese, plus more for garnish ( I would change to ¾ cup)
  • 8 ounces deli-smoked chicken breast, diced (about 11/4 cups) (I used pan fried chicken)risotto-033a
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Bring the broth and 4 cups water to a simmer in a saucepan; keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and thyme; cook, stirring, until the rice is glossy, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Ladle in the hot broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, allowing all of the liquid to be absorbed before adding more. Continue until the rice is just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the thyme. Stir in the parmigiano, the remaining1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir in the fontina and chicken. Divide the rest among bowls; top with parsley and more fontina.

The leftovers for this dish can be turned into Risotto cakes.

Time Out Food

January 5, 2009

In this house, there are some meals that are referred to as “Time Out” food. This is for the simple reason that my lovely, adorable, and slightly psycho kitten ends up in time out before the preparation of the meal is over. You may think it is a little silly to put a cat in time out, but most of you have never met Spike. He is lucky he does not live in time out especially after the banana in the Christmas tree incident of two weeks ago. But, I digress.

These shells are amazing. They were the first dish to succumb to the hungry masses at Family Dinner and have since been made twice because someone had to have them. They are one of those dishes that will be forever in protective plastic sleeve of the sacred three of binder of my recipes. But, this recipe is not without its downside and that downside’s name is Spike.

You see, I make one change to this recipe; I do not throw the chicken into the food processor with the other filling ingredients. No, I shred the oven roast chicken and then fold it into the creamy, cheesy filling. This is where it happens. Every since Spike got a taste of poultry on Thanksgiving (by his own means of scaling the cabinets and settling next to the resting bird in perfect ninja execution) he cannot get enough of it.

So we play this game, the shredding gets done on the kitchen table (because of my inadequate counter space) usually by Cindy, my sister and Spike waits. He lays at the other end of the table and twitches his tail back and forth almost counting down the seconds to his attack. You watch him with one eye because you are aware of the carnal terror that is coming. Then, your brother in law starts doing a impression of a penguin and you are distracted by the laughter caused by his waddling and Spike attacks. Chicken goes flying and by the time you look up Spike has returned to his previous place on the table, but now he has this smug look of victory. What he does not realize is, it is this look that lands him in time out. I can handle theft and deception but I cannot handle mockery.

Another note: Do not attempt to sample the shred chicken your sister is producing after Spike’s stunt or you will find yourself in time out with him. She is a mean kindergarten teacher.

Stuffed Shells stuffed-shells-024a

Courtesy of Blogchef.Net

Ingredients:
1 box jumbo uncooked pasta shells
6 garlic cloves (minced)
2 chicken breasts (cooked and shredded)
1 (30 oz) container ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ teaspoons dried parsley
6 basil leaves (torn)
1/3 cup half and half
28 oz pasta sauce
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese

Step 1: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Rinse with cold water, separate and set aside.


Step 2:
Combine garlic, chicken, ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, half and half, salt, pepper, parsley, and basil and parmesan cheese in a food processor. Process until combined. If you don’t have a food processor, mix well with a spoon.


Step 3:
Pour half of the pasta sauce into the bottom of a large baking dish. Stuff shells 1 by 1 with the chicken/cheese mixture and place in rows into the baking dish on top of the sauce. Top the shells with shredded mozzarella and pour the over half of the sauce over the top of shells. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
(Makes 4 servings)

Notes: Every time I have made this, the recipe has produced more than 4 servings and that is with Alex’s appetite. Also as mentioned, I do not put the chicken in the food processor. I fold the shredded chicken into the ricotta mixture.

I will be submitting this recipe to Joelen’s Foodie Films: Big Night-Italian Blog event

I have a feeling that my husband must have had a traumatic experience with vegetables in a past life. Perhaps he was a little green frog, who suffered from a chaotic relationship with a pig and spent his days singing about how it is not easy being green while canoeing down the bayou. Or maybe he roamed the hillside as the Jolly Green Giant and the years of ridicule that stemmed from living life as the color of grass has kept Alex from embracing vegetables in this life.

Nevertheless, I am forced to convince the vegetables to masquerade as other things in hopes some might stumble in Alex’s mouth. I find this method works best with meat and cheese. For some reason, if the onions, spinach, green beans, sugar snap peas, or whatever else is in the dish is wrapped in the cheesy or meaty exterior, the chance that it will actually be consumed rises exponentially.

Tonight’s dish is a great one for this. Alex is put on sensory overload by the ground beef, parmesan cheese, and garlic toast that he fulfils the vegetable segment of the food pyramid without noticing and better yet, not caring. Try it on your loved ones today I promise that no matter what vegetable tragedies they have experienced, they will love it.

Pasta Fagioli
Adapted from Brown Eyed Bakerpasta-fagioli-014ab

2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 package sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (I used a 1 ½ lbs of ground beef)
½ large (or 1 medium) onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
64 oz. beef broth
28 oz. can tomato sauce (I used 42.5 (3 small cans) of tomato sauce)
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
4 oz. small dry pasta (I used ditalini) (I par cooked the pasta before adding it)

Few dashes of Tabasco sauce

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large stockpot over medium high heat, and brown the sausage, crumbling it as it cooks. Once brown, remove sausage from pot with a slotted spoon and discard any grease that remains in the pot.

2. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same pot, and add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, and saute over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add sausage back to the pot, add the can of diced tomatoes (do not drain), stir briefly, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the beans, and add the beef broth and tomato sauce. Add in all of the seasonings, stir well, turn the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Once it boils, turn down to low heat, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

4. Add the dry pasta and continue to simmer on low for another 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite bread or crackers.

Garlic Toast- Recipe by mepasta-fagioli-025ab

A loaf of your favorite bread; I used French Bread

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic- Cut in half

1.      Cut the bread lengthwise.

2.      Sprinkle the olive oil over the bread. I usually put my finger over the spout and pour on the bread maybe 1-2 tbs on each half.

3.      Place under the broiler.

4.      Cook until toasted not burnt. Usually 3-4 minutes

5.      The minute it comes out of the oven rub the bread with the exposed side of the garlic bread. The warmth of the bread will cause the garlic flavor to adhere to the bread.

6.      Enjoy the garlicky goodness.

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday. Over the next few days, I will be posting the recipes from our Thanksgiving celebration. You will have to forgive me so getting in on the game so late. You see I just came out of the Holiday coma. Well, I actually came out this morning when I woke up and it was Monday. It felt like someone threw ice cold water on my sleeping body when the alarm went off, but I digress. We can mourn the loss of my weekend some other time.

We will start with the main event, the big show, the ringmaster, insert another big top reference here: the Turkey. One of our holiday traditions is the naming of the bird. I am not sure why we do this. It is kind of mocking when you think about it; providing a final label to the tasty morsel that will grace your table. But, we are morbid so life continues.

This year the turkey had two names. My sister, the food sprayer, ditched her usual vote of Tom (which is completely unoriginal and wrought with Freudian undertones since that is my father’s name) for Juggs. She then giggled with glee and slapped his wrapper bottom. Disturbed, I tell you. My husband when asked choose the more direct approach and dubbed this new family member TFT, which stood for Tasty “Expletive starting with an F” Turkey.

So without further ado, I give your Juggs the Tasty “Expletive starting with an F” Turkey

He was brined and juicy. He was fabulous. And his glorious 19 pound body cooked in an hour and 30 minutes, which left our over timer dumbfounded. It was a great day.

Good Eats Turkey

From my personal Yoda: Alton Brownmisc-027

Ingredients

  • 1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:

  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 leaves sage
  • Canola oil

2 to 3 days before roasting:

Directions

Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.

turkey-016ab

Spike trying to get in on the action

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you’d like to eat:

Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

turkey-019a

The bathtub where Juggs lived. We put towels around the base and ice in the towel well.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 151 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

Culinary Frankensteining

November 25, 2008

There are two truths about me. Well, there are more but this is relating to the kitchen. Well, even there, there are more but we are going to discuss two today.

  1. I usually cook from a recipe. It helps the control freak/planner in me to relax.
  2. Once a recipe is mastered, I start to get a little bored with it and turn into a mad scientist of sorts.

Sometimes my frankensteining pays off and sometimes it goes horribly wrong. When I was 7, I thought I could trade in my beloved tarter sauce for grape jelly when eating my fish sticks. Horribly horribly wrong. At 13, I made chicken and dumplings for my father. I incorporated a plethora of ingredients into the dumpling dough including cheese and bbq sauce. Horribly horribly wrong. At 18, I started frankensteining with mixed drinks and alcohol. A bartender I am not but a toilet cleaner I became. Horribly horribly wrong.

Eventually, I hit my stride though and now, I can modify recipes with the best of them like this stuffed chicken recipe from Alton. The original recipe was for stuffed flounder and I have made it with that and tilapia and now chicken. And I promise you I have left my “culinary frankensteining” in the past and this is just Good Eats. (I crack myself up)

stuffed-chicken-022ab

Enjoy!

Baked Stuffed Flounder (Or whatever)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for the sweat and for seasoning fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (10-ounce package) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning fillets
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 10 ounces grated Cheddar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds flounder fillets
  • 3 cups leftover cooked rice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saute pan over low heat, melt the butter; add the onion and a pinch of salt and sweat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Add the spinach and lemon zest and cook until just heated through. Season with the salt and pepper, add the parsley, and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Place the heavy cream and wine into a saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture begins to simmer, gradually add the cheese and stir until melted. Set aside and keep warm.

If the fillets are large, cut in half. Season each filet on both sides with salt and pepper. Divide the spinach mixture evenly among the fillets and roll the fish around the mixture. Place the rice into a 2 1/2-quart casserole dish and spread evenly. Place each roll on top of the rice, seam side down. Pour over the cheese sauce and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

For chicken: Cut a pocket into the chicken breast and insert the cooked spinach mixture. Use toothpicks to secure the pocket closed. (Be sure to remove those later). Sear the chicken in a pan over medium/high heat until no longer pink on the outside. Lay on top of rice and pour the cheese mixture over the chicken. Cook for 40 minutes or until internal temperature is 165.stuffed-chicken-017