May 12th, 2014

Saltimbocca, sort of

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We all know the trouble with the mind and memory. It isn’t always reliable. Images called up from the past can be hazy. Concepts and techniques once learned can be hard to access. Sometimes, the mind makes up things up. Or, two or three stories will meld into one.

That last memory misfire is what happened when I was trying to figure out what to make mom for her Mother’s Day lunch.

No doubt the pot of blooming sage on my front stoop was the source of inspiration, a recipe came to mind that I hadn’t made in years: Saltimbocca. Italian for “Jump into the mouth,” the traditional Roman roll of prosciutto, fresh sage and pounded veal is so quick and delicious, it can leap from skillet to mouth to satisfy hunger pronto.

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Instead of preparing it with veal, I decided to make the dish with chicken breast–already a veer, albeit an acceptable one, from tradition. Early Sunday morning, I went to the market to get my ingredients. And that’s where things went further off course. There wasn’t any prosciutto, so I chose Black Forest ham. I thought I needed fontina, also not to be found–pickin’s are slim after a busy Saturday at the grocer–so I substituted muenster. I also bought cream, and hurried home.

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Bill observed as I pounded the chicken breasts, arranged the slices of ham, cheese, and pretty sage, and rolled up the fillets and said, “Looks like you’re making Chicken Cordon Bleu.”

This was a remarkable statement, coming from a man who 1) doesn’t cook 2) hasn’t touched fish, meat, or fowl for over 20 years because it was True.

I realized I had fused another recipe, also unmade for years, into this one.

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Today’s recipe is that faulty memory merge of two classic Old World dishes, Saltimbocca and Chicken Cordon Bleu. Maybe I should call it a happy marriage, as the result was simply delicious.

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You see, true Saltimbocca has no cheese in its filling, no cream in its sauce. Roman cooks argue on the point of dredging in flour.

Cordon bleu, (which means “blue ribbon’) gained widespread popularity Stateside in the ’60s. It is anchored in Swiss, not French, cuisine. Cheese (often Gruyere) is paired with ham, rolled inside the chicken, which is dipped in egg, dusted in fine breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. Sage has no place in this dish. A cream-based sauce is often napped over the crunchy roulades.

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But here’s what I like about my fusion: A melty white cheese helps to keep the chicken breast moist, and gives a cushion for the sage and ham. The seasoned flour is a touch more assertive–enhanced beyond the usual S&P, with paprika and granulated garlic. The dredging not only helps hold the roulade together (although a toothpick does the trick, too!) it adds browned bits to the skillet–which, in turn, boost the flavor of the sauce. I will also note that I am not alone in this recipe fusion—check out this appealing array of stuffed chicken breast recipes at Cooking Light.

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You can see how sumptuous the juices look, deglazed in the pan with dry white wine. The small amount of flour dusted on the chicken contributes a bit to the thickening of the sauce—although the reduction of wine and small pour of cream do most of the work. More fresh chopped sage—ah, meraviglioso, merveilleux, wunderbar…

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Yes, you will be happy to have this jump into your mouth.

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BLUE RIBBON CHICKEN SALTIMBOCCA
1 1/4 pounds boneless chicken breast
4 slices prosciutto or thinly sliced deli ham
4 slices fontina, or muenster
8-12 fresh sage leaves

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Slice the chicken breast into thin (1/4″) scallops. Place each piece between a stretch of plastic wrap and pound to flatten and tenderize.

Arrange a slice of cheese, ham, and sage leaves on top of each chicken cutlet. Roll, and secure with a toothpick if you like.

In a small bowl, mix the flour with the seasonings: salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, paprika.

Dredge the roulades in the seasoned flour, dusting off the excess.
Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. Heat and swirl together.
Place the chicken roulades in to brown, taking care not to crowd the pieces. Brown the chicken for 3 minutes and turn.
Continue browning for another 3-4 minutes. Remove the fully browned pieces and place them into a baking dish. Cover and keep warm.

Return the skillet to the burner, still set on medium, and make the sauce: (recipe follows)
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WHITE WINE CREAM SAUCE
1 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
6 sage leaves, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste

Pour one cup of dry white wine into the skillet and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the pan. Cook and reduce the wine as you continue to deglaze the pan. When the wine is reduced by half (about 5-6 minutes) stir in the heavy cream. Add the chopped sage leaves. Taste for salt and black pepper; adjust as needed.

Pour the sauce over the roulades.

Serves 4.

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Posted in Meats/Poultry, Recipes, Sauces | 20 Comments »




April 18th, 2014

Lemon Lemon Lemon Chicken

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One afternoon, on my way home from the food bank, I stopped by my friend Teresa’s house for a visit.

Teresa is a food stylist and recipe tester, also author of the beauteous blog Food on Fifth. This particular afternoon she was deep in testing mode for Relish Magazine, with a trio of recipes using chicken thighs heading her list: A sage/provolone-filled roulade, a “nonna” style baked with herbed breadcrumbs, and a lemon chicken.

“Lemon chicken?” I mused. “Does the world really need yet another lemon chicken recipe?”

“It just might,” Teresa said. “Stay and judge for yourself.”

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Soon, Relish editors Jill and Candace arrived for the tasting of the testing.

We started with “nonna’s” recipe and deemed it respectable, if a bit bland. Number two, the cheese-filled roulade, was a step-up in flavor and dimension.

“I’ve saved the best for last,” said Teresa.

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Enter the lemon chicken, roasted to golden, drenched in sauce. Teresa served the thighs with torn hunks of baguette, to sop up the sauce.

“You won’t want to miss any of this.”

Oh, my. The table fell quiet, followed by murmurs of approval. The chicken was succulent under its crackled skin, an intense gush of lemon sparked with garlic, oregano, and a fiery pinch of red pepper flakes. We all sopped sauce and marveled.

What had made this lemon chicken, “the best ever” ?

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We examined the recipe–a simple one, at that–and decided that three elements made the difference.

1. The dish is made with the chicken thigh, which is the most flavorful (and economical!) cut. It has a higher fat content and doesn’t dry out like the breast. After you roast it (simply seasoned at this point with salt and black pepper) for 35 minutes, you pour off the fat and liquid–making it ready to accept the lemon sauce.

2. There’s a whole lot of fresh lemon juice in the recipe–figure one lemon per thigh. I add a little zest too.

3. An unexpected ingredient: Red Wine Vinegar. A couple of tablespoons is added to the olive oil-lemon juice emulsion. I’ve never seen that done before, and I believe it really amplifies the rich lemon taste.

I made a large batch of this for potluck, where it was devoured with gusto.
We named the dish Lemon Lemon Lemon Chicken. When you taste it, you get it.

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LEMON LEMON LEMON CHICKEN (adapted from RELISH Magazine)
12 cleaned and trimmed chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
12 lemons
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Liberally season with salt and black pepper. Place skin side up in a large baking dish or sheet pan.
Bake for 35 minutes.
Squeeze the lemons to get 1 1/2 cups juice. Zest 2 of the lemons. Whisk in the red wine vinegar, zest, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano. Finally whisk in the olive oil, slowly, to create an emulsion.
After 35 minutes of baking, remove the chicken from the oven. Drain all the liquid from the pan.
Pour the lemon emulsion over the chicken. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.

Serve the chicken and sauce with hunks of crusty bread for sopping.

Serves 6

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Posted in Meats/Poultry, Recipes | 23 Comments »




October 21st, 2013

Sage Praise

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Dear Friends,

Almost an entire month has past since I last visited with you here at Good Food Matters, but be assured that I’ve been busy-busy, hands-on: making good—and beautiful—-food for the cookbook. In addition to the book cover shoot, we’ve had 4 separate photo sessions, working to capture the bounty of produce in this transitional season and the waning light. We’ve garnered over 60 stunning images that I can’t wait to share with you. And the dishes! Passion fruit Pavlova, German-style Pretzels with stout mustard, figs in syrup, figs on flatbread, Cornbread Panzanella, gazpacho with spiced grilled shrimp, ricotta gnocchi with arugula-three herb pesto, lofty strawberry sponge cake…

Patience, patience. It shall happen, in due time.

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Meanwhile, what has transpired since I’ve been relegated to the kitchen and studio? I look up from my work and see that fall is upon us. The weather has shifted mightily. Days move apace, with dry, crisp chill in the air. Tomatoes have just about played out in our gardens, and the basil plants are looking rather ragged. No matter. Now the markets brim with all manner of greens, hardy squashes, leeks, onions, and peppers. Now I am ready to prepare dishes using them, aren’t you?

And now, I like to cook with sage.

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I should use it in my cooking all year long–but for whatever reason, the grey-green leaf with its musty, woodsy taste, (I think of a forest floor, slightly damp) its paradoxical tough-velvet touch, finds its way into my fall and winter recipes: Larded with garlic into juicy pork roast, scenting cornbread stuffing for turkey, sizzled in brown butter sauce napped over pumpkin ravioli.

There’s nothing faint about my praise for the herb and today’s recipe uses it with vigor. Chicken breasts cut and pounded into thin scallops pick up the sage leaves first in the dredging. (For a great description of how to easily pound the cutlets, check this on Cooking Light’s website.)

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I saute the chicken in a meld of butter and olive oil–the best of both!—which gives the coating a golden burnish, as delectable brown bits form in the pan. To this, I add minced garlic and More sage, before I scrape and swirl in the white wine and light cream. The sage is distinct, assertive–for me, pleasingly so. If that concerns you, don’t let it. The wine-cream reduction muffles it, blanketing the chicken.

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Serve it with this orzo dish, which is more vegetable than it is pasta. Poblanos, leeks, and butternut squash make a harmony of fall colors, roasted to smoky sweetness. I think you’ll enjoy the undercurrent of mild heat imparted by the peppers.

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CHICKEN SCALLOPINE WITH SAGE CREAM SAUCE
2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin pieces and pounded
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
12 sage leaves, finely chopped
3 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup half-and-half

Slice through the length of each chicken breast into halves or thirds. Using wax paper or plastic wrap, pound them to an even thinness, using a mallet or small skillet.
Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and finely chopped sage together.
Place a large skillet on medium heat. Melt the butter and olive oil together.
Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture; dust off the excess, and place into the hot skillet. Brown the chicken, sauteing the pieces for 3-4 minutes on one side, before flipping. Remove the pieces from the skillet as they are finished, placing them into a baking dish. Keep them warm.
After you have browned and removed all the chicken, add the garlic and sage to the skillet. Saute for a minute, then pour in the white wine. Let it bubble and reduce by half as you stir it in the skillet, scraping up the browned bits. Reduce the heat to low and pour in the half-and-half. Stir well. The sauce should thicken nicely. Taste for seasonings. Pour hot sauce over warm chicken scallopine and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings

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ORZO WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH, LEEKS, AND POBLANOS
1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and cut into bite-sized cubes
2 large leeks, carefully washed, dried and chopped (discard tough dark green leaves)
2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
3+tablespoons olive oil
salt
black pepper
1/2 pound orzo

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place the butternut squash cubes onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and toss well to coat all the pieces.
Place chopped leeks and poblanos onto a separate baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and black pepper, and toss well to coat the vegetables.
Place both baking sheets into the oven. Roast the butternuts for 15-18 minutes, roast the leeks and poblanos for 12-15 minutes. Rotate the pans about halfway through the cooking time.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil on medium high heat. Add the orzo and cook according to package directions (about 9-10 minutes.)
Drain the orzo and return it to the pot.
Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven. Scrape the butternuts in their roasting oil, and the poblano-leeks in their oil into the pot with the orzo. Toss the mixture well.

Makes 6-8 servings

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Here’s a glimpse!

Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook cover

Posted in Meats/Poultry, Pastas, Recipes | 18 Comments »




November 9th, 2009

Paprikash!

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We have a good friend, Roger, who was born in South Africa of Hungarian parents, and therefore grew up immersed in an amalgam of food heritages.

He speaks–rhapsodically–of Peri-Peri Prawns, jumbo crustaceans caught in the Indian Ocean, spiced and grilled in a sweet-hot Portuguese-Mozambique meld…
… and, in turn, of traditional Eastern European dishes: hearty gulyas, savory stews infused with true Hungarian paprika—soul-stirring fare that speaks of Franz Liszt and gypsy violins and bleak romantic countryside rolling along the Danube.

the bag of paprika

Early in the summer, Roger gave me a bag of The Real Deal, which is what you must have in order to create this rich and rustic cuisine. Most paprika that we find at the grocery is flavorless, and used only for a dash of color over deviled eggs and such. Look for Hungarian on the label.

I have been waiting for the right time to put this Paprika to good use—so that I can say Paprikash! with bravado—I love the sound and rhythm of the word. This meant waiting for Tennessee warm weather to shift.

November: The time for Chicken Paprikash! has arrived.

ingredients

It gave me the chance to do a little research. I found the most intriguing information from Marc of NoRecipes .

Marc has a great foodblog, and his story about Japanese and Magyar/Hungarian languages running parallel root lines is fascinating. I also appreciated some of his recipe tips (even though it’s a “no recipe” recipe site) and adapted my recipe from his.

browned chicken sauteed veg

There are not many ingredients—it’s really how they are prepared that makes the difference. Browning the chicken well, with salt, pepper, and paprika helps to form a flavor-packed foundation for the Paprikash. Cooking the peppers and onions with the browned bits left in the pot from the chicken lends a richer, deeper note to the stew.

Chicken Paprikash

Olive Oil
2-3 Bone-in, skin-on Chicken Breasts
Salt and Black Pepper
2 large Onions, chopped
2 Red or Yellow Bell Peppers, diced
2 Banana Peppers or 1 Poblano Pepper, diced
1/3 cup Hungarian Paprika
1 1/4 cup Vegetable Stock (or chicken stock)
1 cup Sour Cream

In a large skillet on medium heat, slowly brown the seasoned chicken breasts (dusted with salt, pepper, paprika) in some olive oil, taking care to brown all sides.

Remove the chicken and add diced peppers and onions. Sauté until soft and somewhat caramelized, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan left from the chicken.

Pour in vegetable stock (or chicken stock, if that’s what you have.)
Add the paprika, and stir until it is well mixed. Return the chicken breasts and braise for 30 minutes or so.

Remove the breasts, discard the skin, and pull the meat off the bones. Cut into bite sized cubes and return to the skillet. Fold in the sour cream and continue simmering. Taste, and adjust for seasoning. Serves 4.

Lovely over egg noodles! Paprikash!

smothered in skillet

The whole chicken breasts,smothered, simmer in the paprika-infused broth (which the paprika causes to thicken.)

off the bone with sour cream

The meat is pulled off the bone, cut into chunks, and returned to the stew. At this point, the sour cream is folded in, and gently warmed.
The chicken will continue to cook.

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Paprikash!

There, I have said it enough.

Savory-sweet, with a little heat, this is comforting, cold weather food: delicious over egg noodles, garnished with fresh chives and dillweed.

Posted in Meats/Poultry, Recipes | 11 Comments »