Monday, November 30, 2009

Comforting Chicken

As it gets deeper into fall, I like to make straight forward meals that don't take much time to prep and toss in the oven. I want something that fights off the cold and lets you enjoy the soothing flavors, like grilled rosemary and olive oil, or the filling heartiness of potatoes.

This chicken bake is quick and easy and hits all of those savory notes without much effort. You get the lovely feeling of crunchy chicken skin as well as the moisture of dark meat, the filling feeling of boiled and roasted potatoes mixing with tomatoes and olive oil. It's almost guiltless comfort food and you can (and should) serve the meal directly from the roasting pan on the table.

All in all the meal takes 45 minutes to cook, but most of that time is waiting for the goodness to come out of the oven.

6 chicken thighs - de-boned
2 pounds small potatoes
8 cloves of garlic
4 whole tomatoes or 2 14 ounce cans of tomatoes (drained and rough chopped)
4 sprigs of rosemary
3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash potatoes and boil in 2 quarts of water for seven minutes. Once you are able to squeeze and burst a potato with a pair of tongs easily, drain and roughly tear them up with your fingers and place in your 13x9 baking pan.

Thoroughly wash and de-bone chicken thighs and pat dry. After all of the chicken has been cleaned and dried, roughly chop into chunks around two inches and place in a large bowl. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil over chicken and toss lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat a skillet (I prefer stainless for a better browning process) and cook chicken skin side down for three minutes and then flip for another few minutes. You don't need to cook it all the way through, just create a good sear for the skin. Drain on a cooling rack. Once cooler to the touch place in your baking pan.

With the tomatoes you have two options -- blanching or using canned.

If you are using fresh tomatoes, blanch them to remove their skins. To blanch you will need to cut an "X" on the top of each tomato and place them in boiling water for one minute. Immediately remove the from heat and into a container of ice cold water. The skins should come right off. If they don't, use a paring knife and carefully remove the stubborn skin.

If you're going the simple route, open the can and drain the excess juice out.

With either approach you'll be roughly chopping them and placing them into you baking pan. Peel and coarsely chop your garlic and rosemary and also toss into the pan. Pour the remaining olive oil over the mixture and toss with your hands.

Bake for 30 minutes and enjoy. Pair with a tossed salad or mixed greens.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Seared, Sizzling and Satisfying

When you think of a steak, what comes to mind? A seared top and when you cut into it, you see that warm and juicy pink center.

Everyone says that they can make a steak but rarely does this come to fruition. It's really because people often try to add too many things and end up taking away from the meat itself. How many times have you seen something like this on a menu: rosemary infused, balsamic threaded or some other dreadful thing the chef came up with. In the end you spend the money and time to have a well prepared piece of meat cooked to your liking and paired with something that compliments the aforementioned steak.

Simple is always going to be better. Remember this. If you go to a friend's house and they try to shove garlic in the meat, or pound the steak for "tenderness," walk away and save yourself the pain to follow. The only thing that should be asked is how pink would you like the steak.

So how do you get to this magical place of meat bliss? You only need four food related items: a thick (an inch to an inch and a half) cut of NY Strip, olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and an oven proof skillet and tongs.


3/4 pound NY Strip, roughly an inch and a half thick
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Kosher salt
1 tbsp freshly ground pepper

Side Dish
1/2 pound of butternut squash, peeled and rough chopped
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel butternut squash and roughly chop into similar sizes for even cooking. Toss in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan and cook for 30-40 minutes.

After thoroughly defrosting your steak, lightly squeeze it together to create more height. This action will give you greater control of doneness. Keep this in mind when buying your steaks as it's worth the money to go bigger not necessarily wider. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a plate. Sprinkle and press 1/2 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 tablespoon of pepper on steak and then repeat on the other side. It may look like too much seasoning but remember that some will fall off during the cooking process. Coat each side of the steak in olive oil and place in a preheated, oven proof skillet.

Cook on each side for three minutes. Do not touch nor move it around. Just let it cook and create a good sear. Once you have seared the meat, place in the oven with the butternut squash. Cook for another 10 minutes for medium rare.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Beautiful Simplicity of Fall

As we get deeper into fall, the food gets easier to cook as we all just want something filling, warm and savory to make us feel better. I love that really all it ever takes is a few ingredients and time. So with five ingredients and 45 minutes, I've put together a meal that recalls many of the things I love about this season -- crispy and savory skin on a moist bird, hints of heavy flavors with the herbs and the sweetness found in corn, oh and butter.

Have a go at this recipe.

2 1 1/2-pound Cornish hens, rinsed and patted dry
3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp crumbled dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sweet corn


Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons of the butter with two tablespoons of sage and the salt. This is made far easier by letting the butter come to room temperature first. Resist the urge to pop the butter in the microwave or put it on the stove top. Believe me on this. The mixture should still have some resistance to it.

Loosen the skin covering the breast meat on each hen by slipping your fingers under the skin and sliding them between the skin and the meat. It'll feel a bit weird to be lifting the skin up but its' all worth it once you get in there. Be careful when you're doing this because you don't want to tear the skin.

Once you create some loose space under the skin of the hens, break up the butter mixture into equal portions and begin filling in the space underneath. Be sure to spread the butter out underneath the skin and get in as many spaces as you can. Afterwards season the hens with salt and pepper. If you'd like you can tie each hen's legs together with kitchen string. I don't find this step needed but some cooks really enjoy this presentation piece.

There are two options at this point.

If you have a large enough ovenproof skillet, you can heat the remaining butter and and sage sear the hens with the breast side up for one to two minutes and then place the skillet in the oven.

If you do not, heat butter and sage in a skillet and brown the hens one at a time (depending on space restraints) for one minute and then transfer hens to roasting pans with all of the juices.

Once the birds are in the oven, cook for 45 minutes. You should baste the hens in their juices every ten minutes. Continue to monitor the temperature until it reaches 180 degrees at the inner portion of the thigh.

I prefer using a steamer to prepare vegetables. Just keeps everything moist and it's just easier. Pop that corn into a steamer and cook for 12 minutes. Once done, place on plate and cover in some of the juices from the hens. The sage butter will really boost the flavor of the corn.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bringing Back the Brussels

Thought it was time that Brussel sprouts made an appearance on the table but I know that many don't really fond memories of them. What to do? Well I figured why not cover them in nature's elixir? BACON! You know when I think about it, there's nothing I wouldn't eat if it were coated in bacon grease and cooked again.

I also needed something to pair with these morsels of goodness but didn't want to take away from the this star side so I balanced it out with shrimp in a butter tarragon sauce over couscous.

It's a great meal and isn't too heavy.

Whatcha Need

10-12 medium shrimp (de-veined and shelled)
4 cups whole Brussels sprouts
1/2 package of bacon (Center Cut is really the way to go)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 package couscous
4 cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp tarragon
Salt and Pepper

Whatcha Do With It

Clean and shell the shrimp. If you can find fresh shrimp in your area, all the power to you but if not, you know that frozen is just as good. Actually it's better as most fisheries freeze them right off of the boat and seal in the freshness and you can use the amount at your leisure, but I digress. Once cleaned, place in a bowl, cover and place in fridge.

Fill a large saucepan with 2 cups of water, add a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook them for about 8 minutes. Remove the sprouts from the heat, drain, and then chill them in the refrigerator. Slice the sprouts in half when they have cooled.

While this is going on, boil 2 cups of water. Once it begins to boil, stir in your couscous, cover the pan and remove from heat.

Rough chop the bacon and render over medium heat until it is done. Discard all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat and grease from the pan, leaving the 2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes over medium-low heat until heated through. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a skillet or wok and then melt 2 tbsp of unsalted butter with tarragon and toss in shrimp until done. This should take roughly 7 minutes. Fluff couscous and place shrimp atop with Brussel sprouts on the side.