Me, Myself and I

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Remember this meal?  From here and here.  It’s an oldie but goodie.  Quick, delicious and complete.   This was dinner on Tuesday night.  Last night got busy and before I knew it, 7:00 rolled around and I was standing in the kitchen with no plan.  But in the fridge I had some chicken pieces left over from Tuesday’s dinner, tomato sauce  and mozzarella leftover from Saturday’s homemade pizzas.

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And there it was,  chicken parmesan.

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While it baked I cut up some zucchini and put it on a sheet pan to roast with the chicken.  It took all of 5 minutes to assemble and 15 minutes to bake.  I threw together a quick salad and dinner was done.

As I ate, I thanked my Saturday and Tuesday self.  They made the unorganized  Thursday self look so pulled together.  It’s really nice when we work as a team.  Now, I’m off to talk to Friday Andra about her blog writing.  She really needs to step up her game.

Better the second time around chicken parmesan

6 pieces of panéed chicken breasts, preferably leftover

6 oz. of fresh mozzarella

2 cups of Tomato sauce

1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan

1/4 cup fresh basil, torn into pieces

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spread the bottom of a medium-sized baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce.  Lay chicken in a single layer over the sauce.  Spread remaining sauce over chicken pieces.  Lay mozzarella slices over the chicken and sauce.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and browned just slightly.

Serve with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Opa!

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Chicken Souvlaki is one of my favorite summertime meals, except we don’t always call it chicken souvlaki.  It’s either “grilled chicken”, “chicken kebabs” or “lemon chicken”, but with the addition of the yogurt sauce, I think I can officially call what we had last night “chicken souvlaki”.

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I used store-bought naan, and just put it on the grill for a minute on each side after the chicken came off.

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The best part about eating Chicken Souvlaki?  No dishes!  Just throw them at the fireplace and sweep them up later.

– Catherine

Chicken Souvlaki

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (juice from about 3 lemons)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 Tbsp dried oregano or 2 Tbsp fresh

2 tsp honey

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic oregano, honey, salt and pepper together until emulsified in a container large enough to hold the chicken.  Add the chicken pieces and marinate for at least a couple of hours.  Thread the chicken on skewers, discard the marinade.  Grill over medium high heat until cooked through, turning as necessary, about 15 minutes.

Serve with store-bought naan and yogurt sauce. (And corn on the cob if they sell it on the side of the road where you live and your daughter insists on eating three ears of corn at each meal.)

Yogurt Sauce

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 medium-sized cucumber, peeled and grated on a box grater

1 tsp lemon zest

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and season to taste.  Serve with the chicken and naan.

Thai Chicken Curry

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We eat Thai-style chicken curry often but I’ve never posted it here, mostly because it’s hard to take an appealing picture of braised meat and vegetables swimming in a brownish/reddish curry sauce.  But it’s so delicious I thought it was worth mentioning.  I’m not Thai and I’m sure my version is nowhere near authentic, but I’ve eaten curry at enough Thai restaurants to know what I’m going for:  thinly sliced pieces of chicken and vegetables in a curry sauce with an almost stew-like consistency finished with lots of fresh basil on top.  And it needs to come to the table piping hot with Jasmine rice on the side.

I make this when I have small amounts of a variety of vegetables that need to be used and I have all the necessary canned items in the pantry.   These are all from the Asian section of my grocery store and it’s by no means cosmopolitan here, so I’m sure they’re in yours too.  I prefer the red curry paste, the one on the bottom, but I keep the more mild, yellow one on hand as well.

There are two keys to great Thai curry at home.  The first is to use a lot more curry paste than the recipe on the container calls for.  I discovered this because the recipe on the container uses metric measurements and I have a strict policy of ignoring the metric system in my kitchen.  I only realized later when I did the math that I was doubling the recommended amount.

The other key to great curry is to let the mixture cook for at least 30 minutes, longer if possible.  When I first starting making curry, I had a liquid management problem.  When the chicken, vegetable and coconut milk mixture looked like it wouldn’t yield that piping hot sauce I wanted, I would add chicken stock, water or more coconut milk.  The result was either watery or overwhelmingly coconut-y.

The solution is to not panic when you see that your curry needs liquid and wait for the vegetables to release their starch and liquid into the sauce, thickening it up.  That’s why a longer cooking time and using vegetables that will release lots of water (like cauliflower or bell peppers) will get you the consistency you want.

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Last night, I used most of a head of cauliflower, three small diced potatoes, a red bell pepper and the canned bamboo shoots and straw mushrooms above.  I only used two chicken breasts and four of us ate with enough leftovers for another meal or a couple of lunches.  (I should mention that two of us are under five-years old.)

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Pretty in pictures or not, it’s delicious.

Thai Style Chicken Curry

2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp of red curry paste

1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk

1 onion, diced

1 bell pepper, roughly chopped

3 small potatoes, diced

1/2 head of cauliflower

Bamboo shoots, canned

Straw mushrooms, canned

Non-flavored cooking oil, I use canola

Heat 2 Tbsp of canola oil over medium heat.  Add curry paste, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and cook until fragrant.  Add 1/2 can of coconut milk and stir until combined and thickened with the curry paste.  Add the chicken and cook until liquid boils, then reduce heat to a simmer and add the remaining ingredients.  Cover and continue to simmer until the vegetables soften and the mixture is thickened.  Season to taste and finish with fresh basil.  Serve with Sriracha sauce and bowls of Jasmine rice.

Spring Thanksgiving

Maybe because we’re so grateful that spring has finally arrived, we had a springtime version of Thanksgiving dinner last night.  I’ve been roasting chicken about once a week for years now, and although it’s always delicious, I decided to give my husband that “variety” he’s always asking for (I hope he’s talking about dinner).  Last night, I roasted a turkey breast, which is just as easy and might make the house smell even better than roast chicken.  Roast turkey breast requires less preparation than chicken, too.  I rinsed it, dried it with a paper towel, drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper and cooked it for two hours.  No tying legs together, stuffing or getting that gross bag out of the cavity.  I used a fresh turkey breast instead of frozen, but I’m sure frozen is just as good.

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Inspired by the chive situation in our garden, I made the Creamy Chive Potatoes from the latest issue of Bon Appétit to go with it.  These are so good.  I can’t decide if they taste like a sophisticated showcase for the chives, or cafeteria potatoes that you’re a little embarrassed to love.  They’re creamy and starchy and fresh at the same time.

I also made a spinach salad with dried cranberries, walnuts and feta cheese and a basic red wine vinaigrette.

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We loved it so much, we’re planning Christmas in May.

– Catherine

If You Grill It, It Will Come

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This weekend was the first one that felt like Spring in SoJo this year.  I don’t know if that has more to do with weather patterns or the fact that we grilled twice; I like to think we played a part in ushering in the warmer weather.  On Saturday, we had shrimp tacos, which can be made in under 30 minutes and everyone loves.  The hardest part about shrimp tacos is peeling and deveining the shrimp, but it’s so worth the effort this step takes instead of buying frozen.  I found fresh (not previously frozen) Gulf Shrimp on Saturday and knew instantly what we would be having for dinner.

This dinner is as easy as stringing the peeled and deveined shrimp on skewers, brushing them with olive oil, squeezing fresh lime juice over them and then dusting them with homemade blackening seasoning (I use this recipe for the rub).  I let this “marinate” for 15 minutes or so, just long enough to get the grill hot and then grilling them just until done, no more than 2-3 minutes per side.

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While the shrimp are grilling, I use my tortilla skillet to get the tortillas ready.  I don’t know what the original intention of this cast iron skillet was, but it’s the perfect size for these new uncooked tortillas you can find anywhere, and make the whole meal so much better.  After buying these tortillas, I’ll never go back to buying the cooked, doughy version that develop a gummy texture when you heat them up.

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My parents gave me this skillet, and I’ve looked online to determine what that number 8 (or B?) represents, but I haven’t figured it out yet.  My theory is the 8 denotes the number of tortillas you can get perfectly crisp and full of air bubbles while your shrimp are grilling.

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After the shrimp and tortillas are done, the rest of the meal is just condiments:  thinly sliced cabbage, guacamole, cotija cheese (or ricotta salata), diced tomatoes, avocado, cilantro and salsas, green and red.  Everyone can prepare their own tacos, making them as spicy as they like.

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Then on Sunday, we ate a quintessential Spring meal:  grilled chicken, coleslaw and potato salad.  Growing up, I loved coleslaw, but only at home.  The creamy version that other mothers made with mayonnaise tasted very foreign to my mother’s coleslaw.  Her coleslaw, made with a bracing vinaigrette was the perfectly crunchy, refreshing side dish to my dad’s black chicken.  (Yes, you read that correctly,  not “blackened” chicken, black chicken.  That’s a whole other post).  Because coleslaw is such a summertime food, I’m always puzzled at the creamy versions; who wants to put that on a picnic table under the hot sun to wait for the chicken to turn a perfect shade of black?  Not to mention that my mother’s version is so much healthier than those creamy versions.

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I hate to focus so much on why my mother is so much better than yours, so I’ll turn the focus to my husband, and why his grilled chicken is way better than anything your husband could make.  My husband doesn’t do much cooking, but his marinated grilled chicken is the indisputable favorite in our house for grilling occasions.  His marinade is one of the few recipes he has hand-written on a piece of scrap paper from a barbecue he went to sometime in the years after college and before meeting me.  I picture him at that barbecue, drinking a beer and politely turning down an offer to go out with a Victoria’s Secret model because he just wanted to wait to find “the one”, who I’m sure he described to his friends as being a lot like me.  (He assures me I’m much better looking than a Victoria’s Secret model; as long as mile-long legs and bouncy hair aren’t your thing.)

For the potato salad, there is no better recipe than Cook’s Illustrated’s French Potato Salad, which is actually a Julia Child recipe.  So, although you might not agree with my assertion that my mother and my husband are better cooks than those in your family, I think we can all agree that no one beats Julia.  Follow this recipe to the letter and you’ll never make potato salad another way again.

– Catherine

Not Your Mother’s Coleslaw, My Mother’s Coleslaw

1 small head cabbage, any color, thinly sliced (I use the food processor and the slicing attachment)

In a large bowl that you plan to serve the coleslaw in, whisk together a basic vinaigrette of 2 tsp whole grain Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar and just over 1/4 cup grape seed oil, salt and pepper (you want an acidic vinaigrette, so it’s about equal parts of vinegar to oil).  Add sliced cabbage and toss together until coated.  Shredded carrots are delicious in this coleslaw, but I didn’t have any this weekend.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Not Your Husband’s Grilled Chicken, My Husband’s Grilled Chicken

2 parts soy sauce (we use a little more than 1/2 cup for four to six large chicken breasts)

2 parts olive oil (my husband insists on olive oil, but I use canola because it’s cheaper and I don’t think the flavor of the olive oil comes through at all)

1 part white vinegar

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 Tbsp sugar

Whisk all ingredients in a container large enough to marinate your chicken.  Add chicken and marinate for at least one hour, up to six.  Discard marinade after removing the chicken.

Cook’s Illustrated French Potato Salad, from The New Best Recipe Cookbook All-New Edition

Serves 6

If fresh chervil isn’t available, substitute an additional 1/2 tablespoon of minced parsley and an additional 1/2 teaspoon of tarragon. For best flavor, serve the salad warm, but to make ahead, follow the recipe through step 2, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Before serving, bring the salad to room temperature, then add the shallots and herbs.

2 pounds red potatoes (about 6 medium or 18 small), scrubbed, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

2 tablespoons salt

1 medium clove of garlic, peeled and threaded on skewer

1 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon fresh minced chervil

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh minced chives

1 teaspoon fresh minced tarragon

1. Place potatoes, 6 cups cold tap water, and salt in large saucepan; bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium. Lower skewered garlic into simmering water and partially blanch, about 45 seconds. Immediately run garlic under cold tap water to stop cooking; remove garlic from skewer and set aside. Continue to simmer potatoes, uncovered, until tender but still firm (thin-bladed paring knife can be slipped into and out of center of potato slice with no resistance), about 5 minutes. Drain potatoes, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Arrange hot potatoes close together in single layer on rimmed baking sheet.

2. Press garlic through garlic press or mince by hand. Whisk garlic, reserved potato cooking water, vinegar, mustard, oil, and pepper in small bowl until combined. Drizzle dressing evenly over warm potatoes; let stand 10 minutes.

3. Toss shallot and herbs in small bowl. Transfer potatoes to large serving bowl; add shallot/herb mixture and mix gently with rubber spatula to combine. Serve immediately.

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