Monday, September 1, 2014

Chicken Breasts in Tarragon Cream


I've put off posting this for a few days because, honestly, I just couldn't think of a way to describe how utterly lucious and delicious this dish is.  Granted, you must be a lover of tarragon or don't bother.  And as tempting as it might be, don't make it all the time....this should be one of those "for special occasions" recipes.

I woke up the other morning knowing it was time to rotate chicken into that night's dinner.  Maybe because I had just watching "Julie & Julia" a couple of times and had French cooking in mind, but a tarragon cream sauce came to mind.  Doing a "chicken+tarragon+cream" search, this was the first recipe that popped up.

This recipe does make a lot of sauce.  I didn't notice until I got to the last line of the directions, but it says to "serve with buttered egg noodles" (egg noodles weren't in the ingredients list.)  Since I was serving this with potatoes, I didn't want to do add another starch, so I simply served this lone chicken breasts swimming in this sauce.  Actually, I could eat the sauce by itself.  I need to make a soup out of this......note to self.

Anywho....if you're not going to serve this with egg noodles or pasta and don't want to be gluttonous, consider (cringe) cutting the sauce recipe in half.  You'll still have plenty of flavor...and you can still lick the plate clean.

P. S.  Since there are just two of us, I cut the entire recipe in half, using an 8-oz chicken breast.  I am, however, listing the entire recipe as I found it.

CHICKEN BREASTS in TARRAGON CREAM (4 servings)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves (about 1 1/2 pounds)
S&P
2 tsp EVOO
1 small shallot, finely chopped (about 3 Tbsp)
1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
2-3 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh French tarragon
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cooked buttered egg noodles or other pasta, optional

Browning the chicken:
Season both sides of the chicken breasts with S&P.  Heat the oil in a large (10-12") skillet over medium-high heat.  Using tongs, carefully lower the chicken breasts into the pan and cook them for about 1 minute on each side just until they begin to brown slightly.  Transfer the still-raw chicken to a plate.

Poaching the cream:
Reduce the heat under the skillet to low.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until softened but not brown, less than 1 minute.  Add the vermouth or wine and cook for 30 seconeds, then add the cream and half of the tarragon.  Return the chicken breasts to the pan and adjust the heat so that the cream gently simmers.  Cover and cook until the chicken is firm and just cooked through, 4-5 minutes.  To check for doneness, cut into the thickest part of a breast with a paring knife.  There should be no sign of pink or translucence.

Finishing:
Transfer the chicken breasts to a warmed serving platter or individual dinner plates.  The sauce should be thick enough to lightly coat a spoon.  If it is too thin, continue to simmer for about 1 minute and it will thicken.  Stir in the remaining tarragon and the lemon juice, then taste and season with additional S&P if needed.  Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve right away with buttered egg noodles.

Recipe Source:  www.foodnetwork.com


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fish Tacos with Corny Guac


I hadn't had a fish or shrimp taco in a while and this one with the corny guac caught my eye.  This is another great make-ahead meal.....you can mix the marinade early in the day along with the guac (just keep it covered with a bit more lemon juice squeezed on top....you can remix it before serving).  The recipe calls for grilled or roasted corn (or frozen thawed corn), but I just cut the kernels off of a fresh ear of corn since we are, afterall, in the midst of corn season.

And a note about seeding tomatos:  this recipe calls for seeding the tomatoes and then chopping them.  Many years ago I took a cooking class at Central Market in San Antonio with Lynn Rosetta Kasper (of NPR's "Splendid Table.")  She told us, unless you looking for a very smooth sauce or soup, to never seed a tomato because most of tomato's flavor is in the seeds (Google "why you should stop seeding tomatoes" if you don't believe me).  You can also test this yourself by getting a fresh tomato and scooping out a bit of the seeds and tasting it, then try tasting just the flesh.  All the difference in the world.

As usual, I like a double-shelled taco.....a soft shell on the outside and a hard shell on the inside....I like the dual texture it gives.  In order to "stick" them together, I spread some refried beans on the soft shell and kind of glue it to the hard one.  Use both or your chioce of hard or soft shell.   Layer the taco with shredded lettuce, add the cooked fish, and top with this wonderful rendition of guacamole.  Squeeze with a bit of lime for a fresh topping.

FISH TACO with CORNY GUAC (4 servings)

3 Tbsp EVOO or canola oil
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder

1 to 1 1/2 lbs tilapia, Swai, or other mild white fish, cut into 1" strips
S&P
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 large jalapeno or 2 serrano chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped (more or less to your taste)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
2 rip Hass avocados, halved and pitted
1 ear corn, grilled or roasted, kernels scraped, or 1 cup frozen fire-roasted corn kernels, such as Whole Foods' 365 brand, thawed
1 plum tomato, seeded (optional) and finely chopped
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro, optional
8-12 taco shells of your choice, soft, hard, or both
shredded iceberg lettuce
lime wedges, optional

In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients (oil through onion powder).  Add the fish, season with S&P, and toss to coat.  Let stand 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the onion, chile, lemon juice, and garlic.  Sprinkle with salt and let stand until juices form, about 10 minutes.  Scoop the avocado into the bowl and mash with a fork.  Stir in the corn, tomato, and cilantro.  Season with salt if necessary.

Heat a small skillet over high.  Add one tortilla and cook until blistered in spots, 20-30 seconds per side.  Wrap in a kitchen towel to keep warm.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Fill the tortillas with the lettuce and fish; top with the guac.  Squeeze lime on top if desired.

Recipe Source:  Everyday with Rachel Ray, June 2014, p. 79

Friday, August 29, 2014

Capellini Pomodoro


When Jim and I lived in Florida, we'd periodically go to The Olive Garden.  Jim almost always ordered this entree, an angel-hair pasta dish with a simple tomato sauce that was simple perfection (and was also on their low-fat menu).

But when we ordered it Pennsylvania and again here in Chattanooga, it just wasn't the same.  However, it is about the easiest "recipe" to create.  I simply went by what was on the menu: tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil (I added onions because I like onions!)  So the amounts below are more of a guideline than anything.  Add more or less to your liking.  It's a great summer dinner when youR basil is in abundance and you're likely to have everything else on hand.  Serve it with a green or Caesar salad, some bread and you're set!

CAPELLINI POMODORO (4 servings)

8-12 oz angel-hair pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 (14.5 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup onion, diced small, or more to taste
1-2 tsp minced fresh garlic
chopped fresh basil, to taste
EVOO
salt
Parmesan or Asiago cheese, grated, optional

Saute onions until they begin to soften.  At about the last minute, add garlic and stir until fragrant.  Add tomatoes and basil.  Heat throughout.

Drizzle cooked pasta with olive oil and salt to taste.  Top pasta with tomato mixture.  Add grated cheese if desired.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sauteed Carrots


As far as vegetables go (which I love), when I prepare them as a side dish, I generally prefer a simple steamed vegetable with maybe a bit of butter, S&P.  But every once in a while, I like to step outside the bounds and add a little something.

Granted, there's not too much extra in this dish but I will say that (to me) the balsamic vinegar really made these carrots pop.  But I will also say that since I am use to using fresh herbs, my hand may have gotten a tad heavy on the dried oregano....I should have started small then added (a good rule of thumb on most things when it comes to cooking).  Anywho.....if you are a fan of cooked carrots, give these a try.

SAUTEED CARROTS (6 servings)

3 Tbsp EVOO
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1/2" slices
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp kosher salt
black pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-low heat.  Add carrots, sugar, and oregano.  Sprinkle with S&P.

Cook, covered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until carrots are tender and slightly browned, 7-8 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vinegar.

Recipe Source:  Relish Magazine, August 2014, p. 5

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pretzel Chicken with Honey Mustard Sauce


When I eat pretzels, I always have some kind of mustard to dip it in: Dijon, honey mustard, or just plain yellow.  I've made recipes of fish and chicken dip in nut chips, but never pretzels.  So when I saw this recipe I knew I would make it and it would not disappoint.  Check, check.

It's another quick and easy recipe with ingredients you'll likely have on hand.  I served it with sauteed carrots and steamed Brussels Sprouts (both good with the mustard sauce, so you might want to make extra!)

PRETZEL CHICKEN with HONEY MUSTARD SAUCE (4 servings)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
1 cup crushed pretzels (about 1 1/2 oz)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp plus 4 tsp Dijon mustard, divided
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp light mayo
2 tsp honey
2 tsp EVOO

Preheat oven to 425F.  Spray a large baking pan with cooking spray.  Wrap the chicken breasts in plastic wrap and gently pound to 1/4" thickness.  Set aside.

In a wide, flat bowl, place the pretzel crumbs, mustard powder, onion powder, and 1/2 tsp pepper, and stir to combine.

Smear 1/2 tsp of Dijon on each side of breast, and roll chicken in the crumb mixture until evenly coated (use finer crumbs to cover bare spots).  Place chicken on prepared baking sheet, lightly spray with cooking spray, and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until cooked through.

While chicken is baking, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining Dijon, vinegar, mayo, honey, olive oil, a pinch of black pepper, and 1 Tbsp of water.  Serve each chicken breast wtih 1 Tbsp of the sauce.

Recipe Source:  "Eat What You Love Everyday," by Marlene Koch, p. 250

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Shrimp and Snap Pea Stir-Fry


This is the absolute perfect dinner for end of a hot, tiring day.  It's ready in minutes, really...minutes, and includes just a handful of ingredients.

A couple of notes.  I used frozen snap peas which I simply thawed and then heated (just a few minutes in the pan).  I would definitely use fresh, as the frozen peas were a tad bit soggy.  Also, the recipe called for large shrimp, but I used 51/60s (I got a 12 oz bag for $5 last week!)

I had some leftover rice I had popped in the freezer, so I just let it thaw for a few hours and the rest of the dish came together in less than 10 minutes.

SHRIMP and SNAP PEA STIR-FRY (4 servings)

2 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp minced garlic
2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed (Google "How to Trim Sugar Snaps" if you need help)
1/2 cup canned, sliced water chestnuts, drained
12 oz large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp Ponzu sauce (found in the Asian aisle, it's a citrusy-type of soy sauce, use soy if you can't find it)
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice
toasted sesame seeds, optional, for garnish

In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the sugar snap peas and water chestnuts; season and cook, stirring, unti the peas are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a medium bowl.

In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil over medium-high.  Add the shrimp in a single layer.  Cook, without stirring, until pink on the bottom, about 2 minutes.  Turn the shrimp, add the ponzu and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes.  Season and serve witih the rice.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Recipe Source:  Everyday with Rachel Ray magazine, June 2014, p. 71

Friday, August 22, 2014

Spicy Angel Hair Pasta Salad


I hope you'll forgive the lacks of posts of late.  I've been dealing with stinky Skunk-Dog and climbing temps and stifling humidity.  I think I should be back on track and am looking forward to getting back in the kitchen.  I can only hope this heat breaks soon but I really can't complain.  It's been a relatively easy summer here in SE Tennessee and, well, it is mid-August.  I'm so ready for some soups and chili.  I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But back to this super-easy pasta salad I picked up at Fresh Market the other day.  Every once in a while as I'm passing the deli case in the market and am so hungry I could eat my own shoe, I'll pick up a small container of some salad to help me get home.  This is a knock-off of what they created, nice because you can customize it to your own tastes.  For example, I added more tomatoes, cheese, and basil than they used in theirs.  I also used chopped, marinated garlic cloves (I've been looking for a good MGC for years...the ones I've tried weren't crunchy.  But I found some really crisp ones in the olive bar at EarthFare and they were perfect for this salad.....but I would simply use minced fresh garlic in lieu if I hadn't been lucky enough to find these).

So, this is my interpretation of a nice pasta salad to have around as a snack.  All amounts are absolutely variable....tweak it to your own preference.

SPICY ANGEL HAIR PASTA SALAD (2-4 servings)

4 oz angel hair pasta, cooked according to package directions
1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced small
2 small to medium Roma tomatoes
2 oz (3 Tbsp) small diced Asiago cheese
1 tsp minced fresh garlic, or 4-6 chopped marinated garlic cloves
6 large basil leaves (3 Tbsp)
1-2 green onions, chopped
2 tsp EVOO, or more to taste
seasoned salt, to taste

Cut with a knife or scissors the cooked pasta (for easier eating).  Add the next 6 ingredients (jalapeno through onions).  Fold ingredients together.  Add olive oil and salt to taste.  Chill.