Grateful for Gratin

DSC_4184There’s nothing like 2 weeks straight of eating out for nearly every meal to get one on the mood to cook!

Sorry if that sounded like a humblebrag – or just a brag. Back in April, Matt and I finally went on vacation to a country where we share some ancestry – Ireland – and returned stuffed. We had some fantastic meals (FX Buckley in Dublin, The Mews Kenmare, Cafe Hans by the Rock of Cashel, Doyle’s in Dingle, Greenmount House breakfast, and Ashford Castle in Cong) and some that were simply filling. (I guess they assume that if we’re full of stews and breads, we’ll be less impacted by the chill and rain). By the time we returned, we were both ready for some home cooking.

A half a head of cauliflower (I can never seem to get through a whole head with one recipe for two people without too many leftovers), and some pantry staples led me to this recipe. As an accompaniment, we enjoyed a delicious and simple preparation of marinated dijon chicken, using basic pantry items.

Note: the chicken recipe calls for 2 hours of marinating. We threw ours into an “instant marinator” tool we have (which is a container with a top that you can suction air out of) and let it sit for about 30-45 minutes during the other prep. We don’t believe this tool necessarily lives up to its name or holds a special magic, but either way, our chicken was super flavorful in that shortened marination time.

Cauliflower Gratin with Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
Adapted (halved) from The New York Times 

1/2 medium head of cauliflower
Salt and pepper, to taste
1.5 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 large or 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 regular (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (freeze the rest or just toss it all in)
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
1 egg
1 ½ ounces goat cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Prep a baking sheet with parchment or foil.

Cut the stem and leaves off of the cauliflower. This is easier once you at least quarter the head. Roughly cut the cauliflower into about 1/3 inch pieces. Mix with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then spread on the baking sheet.

Cook in oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring about halfway through. The cauliflower is done when it is tender and the smaller pieces have browned.
Transfer to a bowl.  Reduce oven temperature to 375 F.

While the cauliflower roasts, prep the remaining ingredients: red onion, garlic, and thyme, and roast and crush your coriander seeds, if you haven’t already.



From the garden!

Oil a small baking dish.

In a medium skillet, heat last 1/2 Tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until tender (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, thyme, and a pinch of salt and continue stirring for about 30 seconds-1 minute, until the garlic fragrance is released.DSC_4162
Add tomatoes, cinnamon, and ground coriander seeds. Increase heat to a simmer; season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower heat and cook for a few minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down a little bit (not too much) and the spices are incorporated.
Add to cauliflower bowl and stir together. Pour into prepared baking dish.DSC_4166
Beat egg, and add all but about 1.5 Tablespoons of goat cheese and beat together.
Pour egg mixture over cauliflower mixture. Top with pieces of goat cheese.

Bake 20-30 minutes, until the top is starting to brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Grilled Honey Dijon Chicken
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 16 ounces boneless skinless chicken – halved breasts or tenders

DSC_4155Mix the honey, mustard, 1 Tablespoon of oil in a small bowl and salt and pepper, to taste. Put mixture in a large plastic bag, bowl, instant marinator, or whatever you like to use to marinate.

Add the chicken and flip or shake to ensure it is coated with the marinade.  Refrigerate until ready to grill (2 hours recommended in the original recipe).

While the cauliflower gratin bakes, preheat the grill to medium.

Cook the chicken on oiled grill grates until you get nice dark marks on each sides, about 4-5 minutes each.

Let the chicken rest briefly, and then serve with the gratin.

There you have it–a simple, home-cooked meal!

Feta-Brined Roast Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce

Brine is a magical thing. Besides its obvious role in pickled vegetables, an overnight brine has the ability to transform your average weekly roast chicken or even your holiday turkey from a bland or dry entrée to a juicy flavor bomb.

DSC_3219That is what I was thinking when I saved the brine from my feta cheese. The cheese was long gone, but it struck me that there had to be a use for that intensely flavored liquid, other than a future down the drain.

Once again, The New York Times Cooking website delivered. A recipe for feta-brined roast chicken, how perfect! Turns out Melissa Clark demonstrated it back in January. Her recipe includes instructions for creating the brine from scratch with chunks of feta cheese. Having some of the actual brine is even better.

What’s my twist? This time of year, it makes sense to make use of fresh greens and herbs and tangy sauces to brighten up rich meats. Herbs are thriving in the garden. I planted the oregano on a hot dry day in May and thought I killed it. Turns out it’s resilient, almost as resilient as the weeds!
Along with parsley and some leftover cilantro, I blended together some quick chimichurri. You can do the same, with any combination of those three herbs, and with or without added heat.


Feta-Brined Roast Chicken
from Melissa Clark of The New York Times

Leftover feta brine (7 oz)
Water to bring the total amount over 4 Cups (3.5 Cups)
2.5 teaspoons salt
, divided
1 whole chicken
2 Tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
, to taste
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
2 large or 3 small lemons, including zest
¼ Cup olive oil

DSC_3220To prepare the brine, add feta liquid, additional salt and water to a blender and whiz to combine. Select a container that will allow the chicken to sit mostly submerged in the brine; you can also use a large sealing plastic bag. Pour brine over chicken.

Place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

When ready to cook, discard brine and dry the chicken with paper towels. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

If you are hand-grinding the pepper now, settle in for the long haul! It took me forever to get 2 Tablespoons. Instead, I suggest using an electric spice grinder.

Combine the pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, oregano and the zest of the lemons.
Rub the mixture all over the bird. Cut the lemons in half and place at least 3 halves inside the chicken. Tie the legs together with twine.
While the oven heats to 450 degrees, place an oven-safe skillet on a burner over medium high heat. Turn on your hood vent! Add oil, and once hot, set chicken in pan, breast-side up.
Place the pan in the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes, checking once or twice to spoon the pan juices over the bird.
The chicken is done when the juices run clear and/or temperature at the thickest parts reaches 165.
Let chicken rest for about 10 minutes. Slice and serve with the pan juices, a little chimichurri sauce, and vegetables.

How about some slightly burned yam fries on the side?

How about some slightly burned yam fries on the side?

With any luck, you’ll be enjoying both crispy wings and some of the juiciest white meat you’ve ever had. Enjoy!

Roasted Chicken Sofrito

Happy New Year!

Where has the time gone? 2015 is well under way. I know my blog has been quiet the past few months. I can explain away the last month, at least, by pointing to all the holiday planning and gatherings and dining out. Before that, of course, there was the slam of my new job, commute, class work…and the end of the CSA. I no longer have cooking inspiration built into my life!

The quiet end-of-December period did give me the chance to devote at least a couple of stretches of time to cooking projects. As I saw a major calendar flip approaching, it seemed imperative that I give attention to some of the (previously prepared or semi-prepared) items in my freezer that were dated from 2014…some with months lower numbered than I care to admit.

DSC_1426One such item was a cupful of sofrito I had made to use up some herbs along with the in- season tomatoes and peppers. I’m still not sure why I didn’t make a dish with it right away, since this recipe (which I think I followed for the sofrito) is quite easy.

This sofrito discovery coincided with a rare craving for roasted poultry. You see, like many people, Christmas dinner in my family features a non-turkey entrée such as ham, pork, or lasagna. It’s all delicious. I just thought it was time to have a little chicken in my life.

I found my inspiration in a version of chicken & rice from Food & Wine and headed to the store. Little did I know, I would be presented with another opportunity to demonstrate my make haste not waste philosophy! While I was having trouble finding chicken legs, I came across a whole cut up chicken at a greatly reduced “manager’s special” price, because it was being sold the day it was dated “sell by.” Perfect! Some grocery stores won’t even offer shelf space for these perfectly good items. What a shame! You need to be careful with meat and dairy dates, unlike many other products, but fortunately I planned to cook the chicken right away. (And the extra pieces I added to other chicken carcasses in the freezer to finally make some chicken stock a few days later.)

So let’s get to it.

Roasted Chicken Sofrito with Rice
From Food and Wine

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
drumsticks, thighs, and breasts from 1 whole chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (split 1/4 teaspoon “hot” chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon regular), plus more for dusting
1 Cup prepared sofrito, plus
10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/2 small onion
, diced
2 large thyme sprigs
3 Cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 1/4 Cup short-grain white rice
, such as sushi rice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 Cup roasted almonds, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust lightly with chili powder.

In a Dutch oven or other large ovenproof skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until well browned, about 4 minutes per side.

If you're impatient like me, you could use an extra skillet for the extra chicken.

If you’re impatient like me, you could use an extra skillet for the extra chicken.

Transfer to a plate.
Add the sofrito, thyme sprigs, and onion to the skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.

I didn't decide it needed the onion until after first starting to warm the sofrito.

I didn’t decide it needed the onion until after first starting to warm the sofrito.

Once the onion is beginning soften, add the diced tomatoes. Bring the mixture up to a bubble, then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil.

Stir in the rice and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer. Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice, with the skin side up.
Place the pot, uncovered, in the upper third of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Check to see if the chicken is cooked through (some cuts may finish before others) and the rice has absorbed the stock. It took nearly 30 minutes for the fat chicken breasts from my chicken to come up to 165.

Turn on the broiler and try to get the pot within 6 inches of the heat to crisp the chicken skin, if possible.

Remove the chicken to a separate plate. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs.

Add in the lemon juice.
Spoon rice onto the place and scatter with some almonds. Add the chicken and serve.
How was it? Man it was delicious. Yes, it satisfied my desire for chicken. Of course my favorite part was the rice. It had an unbelievable texture, almost like risotto. The flavors of green chiles and acidic tomatoes and lemon juice combined with the rich chicken juices plus a satisfying crunch from almonds–talk about truly crave-able.
Here’s to a filling and fulfilling 2015!

Chicken Thighs with Caramelized Fennel

Once upon a time, I disliked fennel. When people are introduced to fennel for the first time, often they are told it tastes like black licorice, something people generally love or hate. Am I the only one who thinks it is sad that people are more familiar with the taste of a candy than of a vegetable? Anyway, I always hated black licorice. But with enough exposure to fennel, I love it! When generously dressed with olive oil and fresh lemon, it makes a great raw salad. It pairs well with cheese (shaved Pecorino Toscano or Parmesan Reggiano in particular), takes on a pleasant sweetness when partnered with other roasting vegetables, and complements braised chicken and simmered seafood. I challenge naysayers to keep trying. Hey, even I eat brussel sprouts (blech) if I perceive they have been prepared well.

I’ve been perusing the new cooking site on So far, I’m a big fan. You can do a recipe search based on (single) ingredients, and many of the recipes are straightforward. A search of “fennel” led me to this Braised Chicken Thighs With Caramelized Fennel recipe, a near perfect match with my pantry, fridge, and CSA box. This recipe is particularly appealing because it creatively uses the fennel fronds as well as the bulbs, and even calls for fennel seeds. It is simple and delicious. The hardest part is slicing your fennel thinly. Fortunately, the caramelization process is forgiving of imperfect technique.

Braised Chicken Thighs With Caramelized Fennel
adapted from Andrew Scrivani of the The New York Times
Makes 4 servings

For the fennel frond puree:
1 large or 3 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon lemon zest, grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ Cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Cup fennel fronds
from 2 large fennel bulbs

For the braised chicken and caramelized fennel:
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, such as sunflower, grapeseed, or canola
4 bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 large fennel bulbs
, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon white wine, liquor, or beer
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Trim fennel bulbs, separating fronds for the purée.
Combine about 1/2 cup fronds, chopped garlic, lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a blender or food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add 1/3 cup extra virgin oil and purée.

DSC_9050Halve fennel bulbs lengthwise. Carefully slice with a mandoline or sharp knife into thin slices. I’m not convinced mandoline is the way to go, because it struggles with the tougher leaves. Also, it would have been easier if my fennel bulbs were slightly larger.

Prepare chicken by seasoning with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a large skillet over high heat, heat 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil. With high heat, you need an oil with a high smoke point. The original recipe called for extra virgin olive oil, but I always burn that. I pulled out sunflower oil for this.
DSC_9049Add chicken and brown until skin is crisp, about 8 minutes.
Transfer to a plate – it will be finished later on alongside the caramelized vegetables. You’ll be reusing pan with drippings for the vegetables. I transferred my chicken to a baking sheet and put it to the oven temporarily, because I thought it would need extra time being bone-in. Turns out it didn’t need that much time before it reached 165 F.
Add fennel seeds to skillet and stir. After 30 seconds, add fennel and onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

I should note that my since my fennel bulbs and onion were rather small, you may want to scale up if you are looking to satisfy four people for a meal, rather than two people plus leftovers.

I should note that my since my fennel bulbs and onion were rather small, you may want to scale up if you are looking to satisfy four people for a meal, rather than two people plus leftovers.

Reduce heat to medium and let the vegetables go until they are caramelized, stirring occasionally (about 15 minutes). Add liquor (I used white wine, which was open) to deglaze the bottom of the skillet; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute.
About halfway there.

About halfway there.

Place chicken on top of the fennel-onion mixture. Pour a little water into the pan and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and and cook until chicken is up to temperature. If there is any excess liquid, let it simmer off with the pan uncovered at the end. Stir in lemon juice.

Plate chicken atop vegetables and pour over the fennel frond purée.

Kitty outtake:

Having a (meat)ball

I keep having to remind myself to actively rotate through my pantry Asian ingredients. Sometimes I’m tempted to launch some kind of elaborate system for tracking how often I use certain items. Something that goes beyond the blue tape on the utensils and more closely resembles those charts in gas station bathrooms, where workers record the date and time it was last cleaned. I do think that keeping a rough inventory of pantry items is useful for reducing waste (and critical in professional kitchens), but perhaps this idea is a bit extreme for my two-person household. Either way, last week I decided it was time to use Asian ingredients again. I had set aside a recent Cooking Light magazine recipe that utilized a lot of what I had on hand. It also happened to be a meat dish, which I hadn’t cooked lately.

Japanese Meatballs or “Tsukune”
From Cooking Light

2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 ounces sliced shiitake mushroom caps
1 Tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
, divided
1 Tablespoons minced garlic, divided
1.5 Tablespoons dry sherry
1.5 teaspoons red miso
1 pound ground chicken or turkey*
(or pork, probably)
1/3 Cup panko
1.5 teaspoons cornstarch
scant 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
, to taste
scant 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1-2 green onions
, thinly sliced
1 medium egg white**

3 Tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
3 Tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
, peeled and grated
1 chile, such as serrano, thinly sliced
Other ingredients:
Cooking spray
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

**1 large egg white was called for in the original recipe, which called for 50% more meat. I only purchased 1 pound, so I scaled everything back, but I didn’t use less than the 1 egg white. The meatballs were a little wetter and harder to keep together as a result, so I would suggest using less than 1 full egg white for 1 pound meat.

For the meatballs, first prepare to sauté the vegetables by prepping the first four ingredients.
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Once heated, add oil and swirl to coat.
Add mushrooms, 1.5 teaspoons minced ginger, and 1.5 teaspoons garlic; cook 2 minutes. Add sherry and cook until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are tender, about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool while you chop and measure the remaining meatball ingredients. In a mini food processor, place mushroom mixture along with the red miso. Pulse until very finely chopped, scraping down as needed.
Combine mushroom mixture, remaining 1.5 teaspoons minced ginger, remaining 1.5 teaspoons garlic, meat, and remaining meatball ingredients (through egg white) in a bowl. Shape mixture into 1 inch meatballs–approximately 24. At this point, if your meatballs are staying together well, you could skewer them onto 6 inch bamboo skewers so that they could be grilled on the stick. I did not do any threading (nor did other reviewers) and I don’t think it’s necessary.
Chill for 30 minutes.

To prepare sauce, add mirin, soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until slightly thickened (this took at least 5 minutes for me).
Remove from heat. After sauce has cooled slightly, stir in juice, 2 teaspoons grated ginger, and chile. Split the sauce into two bowls, saving anywhere from 2-4 Tablespoons to serve with the finished meatballs.

This chile pepper from my garden might have had a real kick when it was fresh, but after drying out for so long it mellowed out too much! Definitely use a pepper with some heat; it's a crucial part of rounding out the dish.

This chile pepper from my garden might have had a kick with fresh, but after drying out for so long it mellowed out too much! Definitely use a pepper with some heat; it’s a crucial part of rounding out the dish.

Heat a grill pan or a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray or oil of choice. Place half the meatballs in the pan, as will fit, and cook until brown on all sides and 165 degrees F at the center, which should take about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and brush over with some of the sauce. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
Serve sprinkle with sesame seeds and reserved 2 sauce on the side–the sauce really makes the dish. In fact, I don’t think it would hurt to double or 1.5x the sauce portion of the recipe.

*While delicious, when using turkey in these meatballs instead of chicken I found the turkey flavor to be more pronounced that I would have liked. For my husband and me, turkey brings to mind flavors of Thanksgiving, such as sage and thyme, even when those ingredients aren’t present! Sage and thyme certainly don’t mesh with the other ingredients in this recipe. Use ground chicken instead if you can.

I continue to make the effort to thumb through recipes from my cookbook collection. This time I sought out Alice Waters’ suggestions for preparing bok choy, which I thought would be an excellent Asian side. I had purchased her newest book in conjunction with a talk she gave at my college’s club. I hadn’t heard her speak at length before, and it was clear that she has unshakeable vision and hope for the future of our food and eating. She is particularly driven, and amazingly optimistic, about things we can do to improve school meals.

Bok Choy Sautéed with Ginger and Garlic
From The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters

1 bunch of bok choy or 2-3 bunches of baby bok choy
2 teaspoons olive, coconut or other vegetable oil
4 garlic gloves, smashed
2 1-inch slices of ginger, peeled and smashed
Salt to taste
A splash of fish sauce

Remove blemished leaves from bok choy plants. Slice a small amount off the base and half, quarter, or leave whole, depending on the size. Soak in a bowl of water to loosen grit, rinse, and drain.

Heat a wok or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, then garlic and ginger. Cook until the garlic starts to darken in color and then add bok choy. Cook for several minutes, stirring and tossing, until it reaches your preferred level of tenderness.
Season with a splash of fish sauce and a smidge of salt.


Cop Out

I had a mini epiphany the other night, over a copper pan.
I was about to execute a simple chicken piccata recipe in the short period of time I had before leaving for choir rehearsal. It called for one of those shiny stainless steel pans that conduct heat very well (read: All-Clad, or in my case, Costco All-Clad knockoff), because you sear the meat and then boil liquid to make a sauce scraping up the brown bits. But the four chicken cutlets I had weren’t going to really fit in any of the sizes of Kirkland sauté pans. I had two choices: cook them in two batches in the proper style pan, or cook them in a large nonstick pan that wouldn’t brown the meat nicely. Actually, I had another choice. That beautiful, shiny, glamorous, high-quality copper pan, which we received as a wedding gift more than three years ago and have never used, is the perfect size for browning four chicken cutlets in a pan. So I did it.

I have complaints about certain other people, who refuse to make a decision or take action on a matter and resist discussion because they say they are behind on so many other important responsibilities that need addressing first. Yet I witness them succumb to so many other distractions. Then days, weeks, months go by. I can’t help but wonder how hard it would be to devote 30 minutes to the subject in question?

But I was acting like one of those people. I thought to myself, once I have a weekend night set aside for cooking a fancy glorious feast, perhaps involving lobster and scallops and truffle oil, then I will ceremoniously take the copper pan from its throne, and actually cook with it.

Right then and there, I decided that I want to change my outlook in the new year. I want to tackle my “tasks” and projects head-on. If I call these “goals,” what is a goal without a timeline? If it was for paid work, I would have a deadline, or at least try to set one for myself. At home, there are a handful of piles scattered about, having to do with projects that aren’t even necessarily that important, in the grand scheme of things, but they have been hanging over my head for a while; I’m talking well before the holiday season (so feel free to call me out when I use that excuse in public). At some point, I need to set aside 30 minutes for the project, or ditch it all together (ideally the materials can be donated rather than trashed).

There is the tray full of 200+ chopsticks I rescued from disposal and imagined that they would be perfect for something crafty. There is the manilla envelope messily stuffed with wedding cards we received, again, three years ago, which I hoped to re-read, sort through to preserve perhaps some of the most precious, and recycle the rest. There’s the junk mail I collected last May and June so that I could submit the information to and reduce the quantity we receive. And there is the small stack of books for recreational reading that I have barely dented. I can do better at managing these personal things. I could also change my approach to things like the copper pot, which I was “saving for a special occasion,” and remember that life is short–you never know exactly how short it is.

The year started out well. Matt and I were hanging out with some friends on New Year’s Day when the topic come up of our wine collection. Matt observed that there must be several wines we’ve had on hand for quite some time, including a 1995 Red Bordeaux blend, and we’re not sure when they are supposed to be consumed. So I decided to pull that wine out, to move it to the top of our queue of wines to drink. Then, I Googled the wine for its recommended drinking dates/years, and found it should be consumed through 2013. Only 1 day late! We opened it then and there and enjoyed it with friends over a game of cards.

Oh, and here’s the chicken picatta recipe, in case you’re interested. It’s one of those simple and delicious recipes that can usually be made with what you have on hand.

Chicken Piccata
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, which published it as a Turkey Piccata recipe

4 thin chicken breast halves (about 1 pound), either purchased as cutlets or from splitting whole breasts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
, divided
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 Cup shallots, chopped
1 Tablespoon garlic, sliced
3/4 Cup dry white wine
1/2 Cup unsalted chicken stock
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons capers
, drained
2 Tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish

Sprinkle cutlets with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and turn to coat pan.
Add 4 cutlets, brown and cook 2 minutes on each side or until done (instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees F). Remove cutlets from pan; keep warm.

Add 1 Tablespoon butter to pan to melt. Sauté shallots and garlic in pan for 1 minute. Increase heat, add wine, bring to a boil, and cook 2 minutes, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.

Use a whisk to thoroughly combine chicken stock and flour. Add stock mixture to pan, and return to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1 Tablespoon butter, juice, and capers. Pour over cutlets. Garnish with parsley.


This is post-washing and returning to display. I think it still looks great, don't you?

Here’s the pan after it has been used and washed. I think it still looks great, don’t you?

Chicken Tikka

Still facing a mountain of leftover rice, I decided it was time to throw something saucy over it.

I sometimes shy away from Indian food because the overly spicy-hot dishes scare my digestive system. But my husband loves it, and we both really enjoyed a chicken tikka pizza I made about a month ago, from Cooking Light. I was struck by how this recipe gives just the right amount of heat so it is pleasant and neither bland nor sweat-producing. Here’s a look at how it turned out.

This time, I easily made it workable for an entrée over rice. For a side, I made another fairly universally liked Indian recipe, cucumber raita. It just happened to work out that the cucumber crop is one of the few that is currently thriving at my CSA farm!

Chicken Tikka
adapted from Cooking Light

12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup plain greek or regular low-fat yogurt
2 teaspoons garam masala*
, divided
Cooking spray
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt
, divided
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
, peeled and grated, which is easily done with a piece kept in the freezer
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 garlic cloves
, minced
1/2 Cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons half and half, cream, or milk — whatever you have should be OK

*Although I have a fairly broad span of spices in my pantry, garam masala is not one of them. Instead, I have many of the ingredient spices that go into a freshly ground garam masala. One of the reasons I have some of these whole spices is that last Christmas/Hanukkah I decided to make homemade mulling spice bags as gifts to some of my family. Here’s the recipe I followed for garam masala, with some substitutions — I didn’t have whole coriander seeds, just ground, and no black cumin seeds, so I just increased the regular cumin seeds. My cardamom was also green, not black. The fact that is still turned out well leads me to believe that you could also fudge this a little bit and still make it tasty! You could also just buy the garam masala, I suppose–preferably from a place where they sell it in bulk by the ounce.

Preheat broiler to high. Cut chicken in half horizontally. Combine chicken, yogurt, and 1/2 teaspoon garam masala. I let mine sit in the mixture for about 15 minutes while I prepared some of the other ingredients, and raita, so it would marinate a little bit.
Place on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Broil 5 minutes on each side.

Add diced tomatoes to a food processor, blender, or mini chopper and pulse until almost smooth.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, ginger, red pepper, garlic, and red onion. Cook 1 minute.
DSC_5036Stir in tomatoes; simmer 4 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and cream. Cook on low for 1 minute.

Cut chicken into pieces. Add chicken to pan and mix.

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
Adapted from Food Network

1 1/4 Cups 2% Greek yogurt, or regular plain yogurt strained a bit
1 Cup cucumber, a combination of chopped and coarsely shredded
1/4 Cup carrots, shredded
1/2 large clove garlic, finely minced, about 1 Tablespoon
a few springs of fresh cilantro, finely minced to make about 1/4 Cup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoons raisins
Freshly ground black pepper

I followed the original recipe for this recipe pretty much exactly one time before, and it was a hit. This time I modified it a bit because I had some carrots that were starting to languish, and some reviewers said that you can use any vegetables. Also, cilantro and mint are apparently interchangeable for this. Lastly, I ran out of golden raisins, but I remember that the burst of sweetness they provided was especially tasty, so I had to try it with regular raisins.


Careful not to add TOO much garlic to this recipe, as it can really "bloom" as it sits.

Careful not to add TOO much garlic to this recipe, as it can really “bloom” as it sits.

Whisk the yogurt until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients, grinding a little black pepper in to taste.
Stir, chill, and serve.

I found a great list of variations on raita from The New York Times online. Some of them seem so crazy to me I may have to try them someday!

Serve chicken tikka mixture over basmati rice with cooling yogurt salad on the side. Top with a few fresh cilantro leaves.

Candidates for Mayo

I have mentioned the fact that I worry about forgotten items accumulating in the refrigerator or pantry. I am revisiting that category of cooking this week. There was a reprieve from the pressure to use up fresh produce because my farm share drop-off day fell on July 4, and therefore was not distributed. And I actually managed to use up most of last week’s bounty within a few days!

The particular item on my mind was a jar of mayonnaise. I have been known to have mayonnaise reach its expiration date before it is used up. Neither Matt nor I are big cold cut sandwich eaters, I don’t especially like coleslaw, and I prefer vinegar-based dressings for my pasta and potato salads. As for this current jar, I have a confession to make- somehow the expiration date became illegible, so I don’t know when I am supposed to retire it. I planned to “chance” it for a few more recipes, and then no more.
I almost forgot to mention that around this same time I learned that mayonnaise turned 100 this year. Who knew?

For the first application, I used the mayonnaise in a chocolate cake recipe I found on the website that seems to be a sister site in England. I made it MUCH harder for myself by going back and forth between internet searches to convert the grams to ounces when apparently I could have switched the units on my kitchen scale. Dang it. I was a little concerned about how the cake would turn out, particularly its texture, when I noticed that my mayonnaise was eggless. And clearly eggs are one of the common cake ingredients that the mayonnaise was supposed to fill in for!

Fortunately, it turned out fine. (And it didn’t make anyone sick. Woo hoo!). Even my pastry chef friend liked it. And the frosting, with the coffee flavor added (I used espresso powder), was killer.

The next mayonnaise application would be oven fried chicken. Again, a random internet search taught me that mayonnaise could be an important player in making moist meat. What is great about this recipe is that you can make the coating out of pretty much anything you have hanging out in your pantry! I used melba toasts that somehow sat in my pantry for 9 months, and crispy rice cereal left over from marshmallow treats I had made to bring to a July 4th barbecue.

Oven Fried Chicken
adapted from Everyday Maven
Servings: It depends! This makes enough coating for at least 6 bone-in skinless chicken thighs, or at least 2 pounds of skinless chicken parts you are using. Most people would need two thicken thighs for a serving.

Approximately 2 pounds chicken pieces, skin removed (thighs, legs, breast, whole)
1 Cup Melba Toast, from 3 sub-packages
3/4 Cup crispy rice cereal
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 Cup mayo
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
cooking spray or oil mister

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (The original recipe said 400 degrees, and a very similar recipe said 350. I went with 350 because, honestly, I had time to kill. My thought was that the different temperature meant a different cook time but may not affect the chicken’s tenderness. It might be better to keep the temperature lower in case the breading gets too brown before the chicken reaches temperature.) Arrange a metal cooling rack over a jelly roll pan.

Crush the Melba toast in the packages, and then add to food processor to grind further. You want there to be some slightly larger pebbles after pulsing. Add any other, smaller crumbs, like crispy rice cereal, along with the rest of the spices. Pulse again.

In a separate bowl, combine mayo and Dijon mustard.

At this point, you have two options: 1) use two bowls and coat each chicken piece individually by going from the mayo mixture to the crumbs, or 2) Use a zip lock bag and the “shake and bake” method.
Place on rack on pan and spray with cooking spray.

See how much leftover breading I had?

See how much leftover breading I had?

Cook until chicken is done (juices run clear and temperature reaches 165 degrees – 40 minutes for my thighs) rotating the pan about halfway through. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes. The resulting chicken is amazingly juicy and delicious.
See how much leftover breading I had?
While prepping the chicken, I came to my senses about the fact that I couldn’t serve chicken alone for dinner. I should have planned to offer a vegetable, but I hadn’t thought about that. Canned beans didn’t appeal to me, and the only appropriate vegetable in my freezer was peas. Here is a rare glimpse at my nearly empty refrigerator crisper drawer!

What could I serve with this fried chicken? Well, waffles of course!

I still had leftover waffle mix from a Christmas gift box. I added a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the recipe on the can, because sugar wasn’t on the ingredients list and I like a touch of sweetness in my waffles, even for dinner. Then I drew on the information gained from a friend—who became obsessed with replicating the flavor and texture of European-style waffles, Belgian waffles like they serve from the Wafels and Dinges truck in NYC, and learned that one of the secrets to crispy waffles is an abundance of butter—and doubled the recommended amount of butter. The waffles came out great.
A little hot sauce, a little maple syrup, and we had a “complete” meal.

It Started with a Chicken

Let me start off by saying that last week was a model week of non-waste.  And yes, I’m proud.

It helps that I chiseled out time to “cook” at least four times.  I shopped a couple times — once for two meats I used, and later in the week when I had to pick up milk anyway, I grabbed some additional vegetables. The rest of the ingredients came from leftover items or my “pantry stock.”  Carrots, celery, onions, and garlic – even for those of you who cook infrequently, I recommend keeping these around.  Maybe put some potatoes in this category too. They keep for a very long time (i.e. more than a month) and it is nice to not worry about them.

My friend Katie was coming over for dinner that night. In the morning, I put my ~6 pound roasting chicken, which was rubbed under the skin with a mixture of olive oil, rosemary, thyme, pepper, and salt, in the slow cooker, along with several whole cloves of garlic some some sliced onion.  The timer was set for 9 hours, and it stood on “keep warm” for about 2 hours, which probably deteriorated the texture of the meat a little bit. But it was still quite moist.

Two leftovers were featured in a side dish: smashed potatoes. I have been working through a ginormous bag of red potatoes I had bought for the Super Bowl, so I boiled some potatoes and added a little buttermilk, leftover from making Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day, and many of the roasted onions and garlic from the slow cooker.  I also made some buttermilk biscuits and steamed broccoli florets for a healthy side.

First things first: I got started on Melissa Clark’s basic chicken stock recipe. I separated the meat from the skin and bones, which I tossed into a pot with the other ingredients. What a shame I didn’t have any leftover parsley stems again, having experienced the amazing flavor impact they can have when making a poached egg recipe.

While that simmered, I used some other leftover chicken broth to make dinner. Have you guessed yet what it could be?

Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted from a recipe by Cecilia Light, sous chef at Chicago’s Balsan restaurant, via Tasting Table again
Serving size: 4, divided according to your serving dish of choice

5 buttermilk biscuits – I used my leftovers from Monday; that recipe came from Cooking Light. You can customize the biscuits with cheddar or parmesan cheese too.
2 small carrots
1 large celery stalk
1/2 small yellow onion
2 small red potatoes
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 tsp. Kosher salt (plus more for blanching vegetables and seasoning)
~12 ounces of roasted leftover chicken, some dark and mostly white meat
1 small spring fresh thyme (the thyme in our outdoor garden survives all winter, if you can believe it)
1.5 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1.5 C cold chicken broth
Cheddar, gruyere, or parmesan cheese (optional)

Chop vegetables into 1/2 inch cubes. I did my best to replicate the picture! It was a fun exercise.


But this is going to be in a pot pie, who really cares?

Make filling: Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add kosher salt. Add vegetables and blanch one at a time until tender, approximately 2 minutes each, fishing them out each time with a slotted spoon and transferring them to a medium bowl. Blanch potato last – it may take 3-5 minutes – and drain through a colander. Set aside all vegetables in a bowl. Rinse out saucepan.

Set saucepan on medium heat. Melt butter.

Once the butter is melted, use a wooden spoon to stir in 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture somewhat dry and grainy, 1 to 2 minutes (be careful not to burn).

Stir in ½ cup cold chicken broth and stir like crazy. I ended up pulling out a whisk too.  Once the mixture is somewhat smooth, add more chicken broth, ½ cup at a time, until all of the chicken broth is used and the sauce is thick, about 5-7 minutes. Taste and adjust flavor, if needed, with more kosher salt (but keep in mind how salty your roast chicken is).

Stir in the cooked vegetables and chicken, torn into bite-sized chunks.


Take half of your biscuits and break them into pieces to line the bottom of your baking dish(es). 

DSC_4148Cover them with your potpie filling. If using non-cheesy biscuits, add a little bit of shredded cheese on top of the filling. Place remaining biscuits on top of that.  DSC_4154

Place in the oven and bake until the filling is bubbling and the biscuits are warmed through, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.


Everyone has had leftover roasted poultry in a sandwich.  I upped the ante by using a panini press.  I had leftover sourdough bread in the freezer, spread with a mix of leftover gouda cheese and butter on one side and leftover quince paste (in place of fig jam that was recommended in once recipe I referenced) on the other.  Once heated through, I added baby arugula leaves that had been dressed with lemon juice.  This sandwich could be replicated with almost any cheese and any jam (or with leftover turkey, perhaps cranberry sauce and brie cheese?). Sans Griddler, you could use two frying pans, preferably cast iron, and turn the sandwich repeatedly.20130321_182641

This doesn’t fit in perfectly with the progression, but I will mention that I did cook (with help from my husband Matt!).  The selection was enchilada casserole, using the cheddar cheese I had on hand along with some hot sauce in place of the Monterey Jack cheese.

It gets better! Remember Monday’s broccoli? I had kept the brocoli stems instead of tossing them right away, thinking I might find a good recipe for them, and lo and behold, Tasting Table came through with perfect timing with a creamy broccoli soup! I just had to buy leeks, and skip the dill. (The title of the email was “Florets and the Machine” – how great is that? I’m singing “Shake it Out” in my head now…)

If only I could be so productive every week!