Sunday, March 13, 2011

Coq Au Vin Blanc

Coq au vin - chicken with wine - is a traditional French country dish, in which a whole chicken is cut into 8 pieces, marinated in a Burgundy wine, and slowly cooked in bacon fat and vegetables and then accompanied with pearl onions & mushrooms.

Well, I had boneless skinless chicken breasts to get rid of...not a whole chicken. So I have already offended Julia Child immediately. To piss her off even more, I used white wine and I didn't marinate my chicken in it, I just added it to my sauce. I'm not sure that I care too much that she's rolling over in her grave, because my version of the French classic turned out to be delectable. I based this off a recipe by Virginia Willis (Bon Appetit, Y'all), and used the aforementioned variations.  Virginia Willis, by the way, does say that it is perfectly acceptable to use chicken take that JC.

This is a looooooooong recipe. Which is why I chose to make it on a Sunday. It took me about 3 hours to prepare.

Coq Au Vin Blanc (por deux)     
2 boneless skinless chicken breast
6 strips of bacon, cut into lardons
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1 crushed clove of garlic, plus 2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 quart chicken stock
2 cups white wine
bouquet garni (3 sprigs of thyme, 2 springs of parsley, 1 bay leaf)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
10 button mushrooms, quartered
12 pearl onions, trimmed and peeled
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup white wine
salt & pepper to taste

1. Salt and pepper the chicken breasts. Set aside.
2. Add bacon to Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate (important note: you will need the bacon later. In other words - NO BACON SNACKS! It's possible that not all of the bacon made it back into my sauce when I made this recipe. oops!!!)
3. Add chicken breasts to bacon grease and cook until golden, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.
4. Add onion, carrot, celery, and crushed garlic to the pan and cook until vegetables start to brown, about 7-8 minutes.
5. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute, and then added the 1/4 cup flour.
6. Stir the mixture constantly until flour begins to brown. Return the chicken to the pan, and cover with chicken broth and 2 cups of white wine.
7. Cover and reduce hit to simmer. Cook for one hour.
8. To cook the mushrooms and pearl onions, heat oil in a skillet and add the tablespoon of butter. Add mushrooms and onions to skillet, cooking until tender, about 10 minutes. Add thyme, bay leaf, and 1/4 cup white wine to deglaze the plan. Add the bacon (if you haven't eaten it all). Cover to keep warm.
9. After an hour has passed, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Ladel the vegetables and broth into a blender or food processor and puree. The sauce should thicken considerably. Return to pan, and cook about 10 minutes over medium high heat. Add the bacon, mushroom, and onion mixture. Return the chicken to the pan and cook for about 10 more minutes to allow the flavors to marry. Serve immediately.

Told you it was long...this ain't 30 Minute Meals.
This is definitely a recipe I'll keep in my back pocket. Yes, it takes a bit of effort and time, but I felt so accomplished once it was done. It's so hearty and filling,'d make a great Crock Pot meal and is definitely comfort food to a T.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blackened Swordfish and Lemon Saffron Risotto

Swordfish was on sale at Sunflower Market so we bought some and froze it. Swordfish comes in fairly thick sliced steaks, kind of like a tuna steak. I ate a TON of it when I studied abroad in Spain, so I'm fairly familiar with it.
Jon really wanted to blacken it so I let him be in charge of that.

Blackening is a technique commonly used for fish. It's ubiquitous in the South; you'll see blackened catfish on many a Louisiana restaurant menu. First you coat the fish in butter and then you dredge it in a spice rub. I think Jon just used a Cajun seasoning we had, a long with some cayenne pepper and black pepper. You need to get your pan smoking hot (we cooked the fish in butter, too), and when the butter browns, the spices will brown with it creating a black crust on the fish - hence the name blackening.

We wanted to make a risotto but I wasn't sure what kind. Apparently I've gotten more comfortable with the risotto after making it last time. I thought lemon would go well with the fish, so I googled lemon risotto and actually found some recipes - fairly easy across the board, just a simple risotto recipe with lemon added at the end. I also added saffron to give it the yellow color. This is the recipe I came up with:

Lemon Saffron Risotto        
1 qt chicken stock
1 stick butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup butter (1/2 a stick)
juice of 3 lemons
1 pinch saffron threads

1. Empty the container of chicken stock into a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and keep covered.
2. While stock is boiling, melt butter and add to it the chopped onions and garlic. Cook until tender.
3. Add the rice, coating with the butter.
4. Add the white wine to deglaze the pain, stir for about 10 minutes until wine is absorbed.
5. Begin to add the chicken stock, half a cup at time, stirring between every addition until absorbed. On the last addition of the stock, add the saffron. The spice will need a bit of extra liquid to absorb.
6. Add the lemon juice to the risotto and mix well. Serve immediately.

*A little note about saffron: the flavor of it is very nondescript. There's not much else that it does taste like, but I think it's a bit bitter. In this recipe, I just used it for the color, and the lemon definitely outweighs the bitterness of the spice. Also, it's incredibly expensive. So if you can't find it, then it can be omitted from this recipe.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice is a Southern Louisiana staple. It's commonly eaten on Mondays, a tradition that originated in the early days of New Orleans' history, because Monday was laundry day. The beans can simmer all day long, thus making it easy for housewives to do their washing all day, and still have dinner ready by nightfall. Also, the beans are flavored with pork fat, and since Sunday usually meant a big dinner that might involve a ham or some other cut of pork, the bones and leftover meat would be saved for red beans and rice the following day. What makes this din din even more attractive is that dried kidney beans and rice cost next to nothing, PLUS you're using your leftovers from Sunday. Pretty handy, eh?

Nowadays, housewives - or housegirlfriends, I suppose - don't exactly have Monday to hang around and wash their husband's undies and have to go to work. Enter my bff, the Crock Pot.

I can remember my mom making red beans when I was little. I even remember her totally 80s Crock Pot, with its lovely orange color scheme, sitting on the kitchen counter when I came home from school. God, that smelled so good. And that smell brings back so many great memories. It's so comforting to walk into the house after a long day of work/school and smell that...

Disclaimer: If you try to make this on the stove and use canned kidney beans, may God rest your soul. Please don't do that. It's sacrilegious to New Orleanian culture. Cook it low and slow... and you gotta soak the beans first! I usually soak my beans overnight at room temp - I just pour them in bowl, fill with water to the top (need extra water here in CO) and cover in plastic wrap until the morning. I also chopped my sausage and onion before I go to bed the night before so I can just toss it into the crock pot in the a.m. Also- the sausage: any smoked sausage will do. I like to use andouille when I can find it because it adds some spice.

Ham hocks are incredibly hard to find out of the South. I harass the guy at the meat counter all the time. Finally someone at Sunflower Market told me that they even ASK for ham hocks, and have a hard time getting them. If you can't find any, you can chop up a ham steak and just use that. But I promise you, ham hocks make it taste so much better. When I do see them at the store, I buy all of them. Sorry to anyone else in Denver who needs them.

Red Beans & Rice
1 bag of small red kidney beans, soaked overnight    
1 package of smoked sausage, sliced into coins
1 onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 ham hock (or ham steak, chopped)
cayenne pepper to taste
4 servings of cooked rice
Tobasco, for serving

1. Soak red beans overnight.
2. Add chopped onions and sausage to crock pot. Pour beans on top.
3. Fill crock pot to the brim with water and add bay leaves.
4. Add cayenne pepper for some heat (or don't if you don't want it).
5. Cook 8-10 hours on low heat in crock pot.
6. At the end of the day, I take out the ham hock and slice it up and put it back into the beans before serving.
7. Serve over rice. Tobasco is optional.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

When I was home over Christmas, my mom had made butternut squash soup. In fact, it was what she fed me right when I got into town. Butternut squash soups I've had in the past have been flavorless. Maybe because they were store bought. But this soup was thick and creamy and perfectly spiced. To make it even more special, my mom chopped up a Granny Smith apple and added it to my bowl. 

I wanted to replicate her soup, so I asked her how she made it. I took her suggestions into account but I did my usual internet browsing and recipe combining before I decided exactly how to do this.

First things first, I added chicken stock. This took away some of the creaminess, but added flavor that I thought was essential. I also added milk and honey. Instead of chopping up a fresh apple, I sauteed it in butter and brown sugar, but not until it was soft, just enough to bring out the natural juices. The crunch of the apple is what made the soup special, and I didn't want to ruin that.

Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium sized butternut squash
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp all spice
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup milk
1 qt chicken stock
2 tbs honey
1 Granny smith apple, chopped
4 tbs butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Using a fork, poke several holes in the squash. Heat in microwave for 5 minutes. This will take away the intimidating task of trying to cut through the squash.
2. Chop squash into cubes. Place on cookie sheet topped with a few pads of butter, and roast until squash is soft - about 20 minutes.
3. While squash is roasting, chop the onion and garlic and sauté in olive oil until tender. 
4. Remove squash from oven and combine with onions and garlic.
5. Place squash, onions, and garlic into food processor or blender and puree.
6. Pour mixture back into a sauce pot on the stove. While cooking over medium heat, add spices, half of the brown sugar, and all other ingredients (except apple). Let come to a boil. Reduce hit to simmer.
7. While simmering, chop the apple and saute in butter and brown sugar for about 5 minutes.
8. Ladel soup into bowls, top with apples, and serve immediately. 

I'm tellin' ya...pumpkin pie in a bowl. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Taste of Thailand

I don't know what inspired me to go down this road. I do l-o-v-e LOOOOOOOVE Thai curry, which I was introduced to by coworkers about a year ago. I think coconut milk has some addictive properties, probably because it's high in fat. The addition of Thai spices to coconut milk create this sweet heat comfort food medley that give off this smells-so-good-you-can-tase-it-with-your-nose aroma.

I wasn't really in the mood to make something I'd already eaten. That'd be boring. So I asked my good friend Google for some Thai recipes and found Tom Kha Gai - Thai coconut chicken soup. The ingredients didn't seem to deviate too much from things I'd already heard of, and I thought I'd be able to find all of them (which was almost true).  So this was my winner.

Coconut milk and chicken - that was easy. Thai fish sauce? Keffir Lime leaves? ... Not so much. Sunflower Market landed me coconut milk, cilantro, and straw mushrooms. Their chicken seemed super overprice so I thought that I could get that at King Soopers when I went there to look for lemongrass, Thai chiles, fresh ginger (Sunflower was out), and fish sauce. I saw the price of ginger and walked out ($3.99/lb!!!!) - because I knew I'd be going to H. Mart anyways to find the Thai chiles and the lemongrass. But of course, I got my chicken (and a box of Samoas and Thin Mints from the ever present Girl Scouts at the King Soopers entrance).

H.Mart is interesting. I had no idea that place was like an Asian Super Target! But I found my lemongrass and my ginger ($1.29/lb...take that King Soopers), and not my Thai chiles so I scored a giant bottle of sweet Thai chile sauce for $2. But this took me eons because a lot of the things sold in bottles/cans/boxes at H.Mart are in Chinese, Thai, Korean, or Japanese. Oh, and the lime leaves were just completely not findable. But most internet sources I read said that it wouldn't really kill my soup's flavor.

Honestly, the hardest part of this Thai thing was finding the ingredients. My recipe, an amalgamation of many that I found online, is as follows:

Tom Kha Gai
1 quart chicken stock
1 lb chicken breasts
2 stalks lemongrass (the white part only), cracked
1/4 cup ginger, finely chopped (I used my food processor)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (food processor again)
2 - 13 oz cans coconut milk (what? I love this stuff!)
1 can straw mushrooms
2 tbs Thai fish sauce (Don't fear the fish sauce. Seriously. You can hardly taste it in the soup but it adds flavor!)
2 tbs Thai chile sauce
1 tbs sugar
salt & pepper to taste
cilantro to garnish

1. Cook chicken breasts in broth over high heat. Remove from broth and set aside.
2. Add lemongrass, ginger, and garlic to broth. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes so flavors can blend with broth.
3. While broth is simmering, shred the chicken with a fork.
4. Add coconut milk, chicken, and mushrooms. Bring to boil over medium heat.
5. Add fish sauce, chile sauce, sugar, and salt & pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with garnish of cilantro and/or fresh ginger.

*note: take out the lemongrass before serving!

Also, since Jon is not the biggest fan of mushrooms, I made him some mango chicken.

Thai Mango Chicken
2 chicken breasts
1 ripe mango
2 tbs brown sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 tbs Thai chile sauce

1. Puree mango, coconut milk, brown sugar, and chile sauce in food processor.
2. Place chicken in tupperware or ziplock bag and cover with sauce. Marinate ~1 hour in refrigerator.
3. Pan fry in olive oil until cooked through, about 4 minutes each side.

(this would probably be good grilled, too. But my chicken breasts were very thinly sliced)



Sunday, February 20, 2011

Breaking the Silence

Hello followers!
I know I haven't been writing much. Mainly because I haven't been cooking much. I know, I know. Blasphemous! Travesty! Shame on me! But with Jon out of town for 10 days, Valentine's Day, and Marc's family in town...I haven't found the time and I've been eating out A LOT.

But this past Wednesday, when Jon texted me telling me he bought veal shanks and that he wanted to make osso buco...I was a little scared. First of all, I knew that this dish involves veal shanks but I had no idea what else went into it. Secondly, he wanted me to serve it over risotto. Another thing that I had never, ever made because I'd heard it required patience and strong stirring arms. Neither of which I have.

But off to Sunflower Market we went to collect everything we needed for our Italian feast. Carrots, celery, onions. Tomato paste and beef broth. Kitchen twine to hold the shanks to their bony centers. For the risotto: arborio rice, chicken broth, shitake mushrooms, and parmesan cheese.

For those who don't know, osso buco is a traditional Milanese dish. Literally, osso buco means "bone with a hole", which makes sense because the shank comes from the...well...let's call it the baby cow's forearm...and has a big bone in the center of it. Sorry to those of you who don't agree with eating baby animals...

The shanks are braised sloooowly in a veggie tomato sauce. The vegetables are strained out of the sauce after the braising period to give you a nice smooth sauce to serve over the meat.

Osso Buco
4 veak shanks
olive oil
salt and pepper
flour, for dredging
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, copped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups beef broth
kitchen twine

1. Tie kitchen twine around shanks to hold the meat to the bone. Salt and pepper both sides of the shanks and lightly dredge in flour.
2. Heat olive oil in a large roasting pan or Dutch oven until it smokes. Sear shanks about 5 minutes on each side until browned. Remove shanks and set aside.
3. Add to pan: chopped onions, celery, garlic, and carrots. Cook until veggies are tender.
4. Add tomato paste, simmer for about a minute.
5. Add white wine and simmer for 5 minutes to deglaze the pan.
6.  Return shanks to pan and add beef broth.
7. Cover and braise at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, turning veal every 30 minutes and adding beef broth as necessary.
8. Remove veal from roasting pan and set aside. Strain vegetables from sauce and return sauce and veal to roasting pan. Simmer until bubbly and serve immediately.

Sounds like a lot of work, huh? It's not so bad. Especially since I spent that hour and half making this:

Shitake and Parmesan Risotto
4 cups chicken broth
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
8 tbs (1 stick) butter
1 cup chopped shitake mushrooms

1. Heat chicken broth to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Reduce heat to low and cover to keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, melt 2 tbs of the butter in a large sauce pan. Add onions and garlic to butter.
3. When onions and garlic are tender, add rice and coat with butter.
4. Add 1/2 cup of the hot chicken broth to the rice mixture. Stir constantly until all broth is absorbed. Repeat this, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time until the broth is gone.
(to make my risotto extra creamy and flavorful, I also added a tbsp or so of the butter when I added chicken broth) :)
5. When chicken broth is gone, add Parmesean cheese and chopped mushrooms. Stir until well blended and cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

*In hindsight, I should have cooked the mushrooms with the onions and garlic to bring out more flavor...but like I said, this was my first time!

I'm pretty proud of the end result. The risotto was incredibly creamy, and the meat fell right off the bone!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Crab & Corn Soup

Once again, my roomie's mom saved the day (and my wallet) with the seafood stash stocked in my freezer.

I had a pound of dungeness crab legs and an arctic blast on the way. Dungeness isn't my usual go-to crustacean. Being a Gulf Coast native, blue crab is what I'm used to. I can remember my dad bringing home a big brown paper bag full of the critters on Fridays during Lent, covering the kitchen table with copies of the Times Picayune, and shelling me crab legs while I waited rather impatiently. Now I can crack my own crabs and suck them down like a Hoover. Batter and fry me up some blue crab legs, and I'll inhale them at an embarrassing rate.

When we lived down South, I was constantly hanging out with my best friend Gia and her twin brother Alex, who lived spitting distance from our house. Their mom, Gina, made this soup recipe that I am going to share with you now. Of course, the crab she probably used was fresh from the Gulf, and the crab that I used here was not nearly as fresh and from the Pacific. I tweaked a few things here and there to change up the flavor a bit - and my quantities might be a little different than hers - but I credit her for the inspiration. The sour cream, lemon juice, and tomato were not originally in this recipe. I added this recipe to a) give the soup a little extra sweetness and tang and b) cut the fat with some acid. Citrus always lightens a meal. This soup can be incredibly heavy otherwise, kind of like a chowder.

Crab and Corn Soup
1/2 stick butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons flour
1 pint half & half
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cans creamed corn
1 lb crab meat, picked over for shells
1/4 cup Sherry wine
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons Worstechire sauce
tabasco sauce (to taste)
juice of 1 lemon
1 hot house tomato, pulp removed and chopped
handful chopped parsley
salt & pepper to taste

Melt butter and add onions, garlic, and celery. Cook until veggies are tender. Add flour, stirring constantly. Add milk and heavy cream. Stir well, and add in corn and crab. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes.

Considering that Old Man Winter has slapped us in the face in Denver, I've sucked down the whole batch of this soup. I told you, I'm a Hoover when it comes to crab.