Monday, September 6, 2010

Tuscan Garlic Baked Chicken over a Pomodoro Soft Polenta

I really love know from earlier posts exactly where my technique comes from with the Polenta.  I usually thicken my polenta up much more, let it rest for a couple hours in the fridge and then slice it for baking or a light fry, but this time i kept it really simple and opted for a soft Polenta.  I used a home made Pomodoro base to bring it toghether.  The chickn was bone in breast that i removed from the bone before baking.  This dish is a great way to go Italian without the heaviness associated with a pasta dish.
What you will need:

4 chicken breasts
3 tbs lemon infused olive oil or plain with a little lemon zest tossed in.
2 tbs regular olive oil
7 cloves garlic (4 sliced for the chicken and 3 minced for the polenta)
1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
1 bag sliced baby bellas
1/2 red bell sliced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup cornmeal
1 roma tomato chopped small
10 leaves chopped fresh basil
1 medium onion sliced
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red peper flakes

How to make it happen:

Rub the chicken breasts with the olive oil and put them into a coverable baking dish.  Top the chicken with the sliced garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary and then cover with the sliced onions...put the lid on and slide into a 350 degree oven for around 55 minutes.  Heat 1 tbs of olive oil in a small sauce pan...add the tomato, basil, crushed red pepper and minced garlic...break this down over a medium high heat.  Kick the heat up to high and add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and slowly....slowly...slowly stir in the cornmeal to avoid lumps.  Continuously stir over a medium heat until the polenta is thick but still soft.  Turn off the heat and will thicken a little bit more before you serve it.  When the chicken is done tranfer the onions to a sautee pan with 1 tbs hot olive oil...allow them to cook down before tossing in the mushrooms and red bell.  I like a quick and light sautee on my mushrooms...i think they release so much flavor when they are left nice and firm.  I would really categorize this one as quick and ultra easy.  I paired this dish with sweet potato and pear turnip greens....still working on that recipe, but it was good. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Toasted Coconut Chicken Curry with Jasmine Lime Rice

So remember i told you a while back i did not really get to experience much in the way of culturally different foods growing up?...well...back to Hollywood 1987.  I happened upon an amazing Thai restaurant one night.  The smell was like nothing i had smelled before...i had had Chinese food, but that smell was nothing like the aroma wafting out of Chan Dara.  It was on a sidestreet in between Hollywood Blvd. and Sunset.  I want to say Gower, but i know it wasn't Gower.  There was a crowd of people outside on the sidewalk waiting for their tables.  The aroma stopped me in my tracks and I made my way in.  The front of the house was run by a really effeminate Asian boy and a gaggle of gorgeous, runway worthy Asian girls.  The energy inside was absolutely electric.  I ordered a dish that i figured would be relatively safe...Sweet and Sour Chicken...holy crap is was good.  It was chunks of white meat chicken stir fried in an amazingly light sweet glaze with crisp carrots, onions and cucumber.  This dish was unbelievable.  Long story short...I love me some Thai food til this day!  I decided on curry for this one because i have always wanted to make a curry from scratch.  For some odd reason...coconut milk and curry popped into my head.  I used Jasmine rice and kicked it up with the lime zest...there is really nothing better than Jasmine rice for soaking up a hearty Thai sauce like coconut curry.

What you will need:

2 cans of coconut milk (i used a light version)
2 chiken breasts cubed
2 sweet potatoes cubed
1 large sweet yellow onion cubed
1 red bell pepper chopped in large chunks
1 1/2 tbs curry powder
1 tbs sugar
2 cups jasmine rice
zest of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic chopped fine
2 tbs olive
2 tsp white pepper

How to make it happen:

I like to cook my rice in a rice cooker.  I added the garlic and the lime zest at he start and let it fuse while it cooked...perfect rice.  I parbaked the sweet potatoes and let them rest in an ice bath while i put the rest together.  The ice bath stops the cooking process and keeps them really crisp.  Whisk together the coconut milk, curry powder and white pepper and set aside.  Heat the oil in a wok and toss in the chicken.  The onions are next followed at last by the red peppers...i like my veggies al i really do a light stir fry on them to maintain that crispness.  Add the coconut curry and bring up to temp.  Once it is good and hot toss in the sweet potatoes and let them get good and hot.  I toasted off a handfull of shredded coconut to toss on after gives a really nice crunch.  This dish turned out really nice..i can't wait to play around with it and see about bringing a little more heat next time.  I really love food that is attached to great memories...Thai food is like that for me.  Awesome memories of a silly little county boy discovering all things new in the City of Angels.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Spanikopita, Citrus Glazed Chicken and Apple Ginger Cigars with a Honey Lime Drizzle

I really challenged myself with this one.  You know i am heavily influenced by all things for this one i designed a three course meal just to see if i could pull it off.  I am not lying...this was a challenge.  If any of you have ever worked with Phyllo know what i'm talking about.  I did however discover a great shortcut i will get to in a bit.  This meal starts with one of my abosolute favorite greek dishes...Spanikopita or spinach pie.  The sauteed spinach and creamy feta baked inside puff pastry just leaves me feeling kinda happy.  I treated it as an appetizer, but it can be served as an entree as well.  My main dish was Citrus Glazed Chicken over a fresh CousCous salad.  The dessert popped into my head this morning when i looked at the surplus of apples in our fruit bowl that i knew would soon be going to waste.  I knew i would be working with i figured why not re-interpret my favorite dessert....Baklava!  I combned the apple filling with ground ginger and cinnamon....rolled it up in phyllo and once it came out of the oven i hit it with a honey lime drizzle and chopped pecans. This was a really satisfying experience in the kitchen.  I love quick and easy, but there is alot to be said for slow and well thought out. 

What you will need:


20 sheets phyllo cut lengthwise and double for each piece
2 packs frozen chopped spinach
4 cloves chopped garlic
4 scallions chopped
1 egg
8 oz feta crumbles
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tbs olive oil

Heat up the olive oil and add the chopped spinach after wrapping in a towl and wringing out the excess moisture.  Add the scallions, garlic and spice.  Sautee for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.  Once cooled...add the feta and the egg.  Incorporate thouroughly.  The big secret i discovered in working with phyllo is using a spray butter substiture instead of trying to brush it with a pastry brush...alot less me.  Phyllo is very hard to work with....always keep it covered with wax paper and a damp towel when not using it or it will just dry out.  Lay out two sheets one on top of the other and cut it down the middle.  This will leave you with two 3 x 11 doubled sheets.  Spray liberally with the butter substitute and spoon a tsp of the spinach and feta mixture 1 inch from the end and then fold like a paper football...just like you used to do in high school.  In the end you will end up with about twenty of these little footballs.  The trick is also keeping these under a damp towel until ready for the oven.  Brush with butter and pop in a 350 degree oven for around 30 minutes.

Citrus Glazed Chicken:

juice and zest of 2 limes
1/4 cup of olive oil
salt and pepper
4 chicken breasts

This chicken was uber easy and way flavorful.  I just mixed all the ingredients together and poured it over the chicken.  I let this marinate for about five hours.  The chicken really soaked up the citrus flavor while the citrus actually tenderized the it.  I grilled the chicken on the stove...allowed it to rest and served it sliced over my fresh couscous salad.  I finished it with a nice balsamic vinaigrette.

Apple Ginger Cigars:

3 small diced apples
1 tbs brown sugar
1tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
10 sheets of phyllo cut lengthwise...yield is 20 pieces
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tbs honey
zest of 1 lime

Combine the diced apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger.  Allow this to set and begin to create it's own syrup.  When you are ready to put these together...drain off the syrup and it will be combined later with the honey and lime zest for the drizzle.  Take one sheet of phyllo and cut lengthwise.  Spray both pieces with butter and add a tsp or so of the apple mixture.  Simply roll these up and pinch the ends before brushing with butter.  They will go in a 350 degree oven for about a half our.  Once they have cooled drizzle them with the honey lime glaze and springle with the chopped nuts.

I am really proud of myself for pulling this one off.  The family really seemed to enjoy it...and i know i did.  This one is definately a commitment, but i say give it a worth it.  It was a great way to teach Cameron some new techniques while at the same time allowing her to experience another culture through their food....good times.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cherry Pomegranate Chicken with Ginger Sweet Potato Steak Fries

I'M BACK...We had an awesome vacation that ended with a trip to Disneyland...the happiest place on earth...and it really was until the 14th hour or so...LOL.  This dish really has no major significance and wasn't really inspired by anything, but the components sounded good so i figured i would give it a shot.  The recipe i originally saw called for steak.  I just wasn't in the mood for steak, so i went with chicken and absolutely love the outcome.  The pomegranate juice and cherry worked so well was sweet with a hearty savory flavor from the shallots.  I often bake sweet potatoes, but this time i cut them much thicker and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  The orange juice glaze really allowed them to crisp up and the thick cut allowed them to stay soft on the inside.  This one was really good...I am gonna try it with steak next time.

What you will need:

4 chicken breasts
1 small jar cherry preserves
1 cup pomegranate juice
2 shallots
2 sweet potatoes thick sliced
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper

How to make it happen:

The sweet potatoes bake at 450 degrees for 40 minutes.  You should flip them once at the 20 minute mark.  Bring the orange juice to a bowl and add the ginger, garlic and cayenne....reduce this down to a syrup like consistency.  Toss the sweet potatoes in the glaze and spread on a cookie sheet before popping in the oven.  Throw the sliced shallots into a sauce pan with a touch of olive oil and carmelize...add the pomegranate juice and the cherry preserves and bring to a slow boil allowing to reduce while you grill the chicken breasts.  You are so done....plate it up and enjoy.  This recipe makes four servings for well under 8 bucks...and it was really easy to do. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sweet Potato and Chicken Frittata

I love Sunday brunch.  There is something really cool about getting in the kitchen on a Sunday morning and cooking.  Brunch is cool because you get to combine the elements of breakfast and of lunch to create a meal.  The first real brunch i ever went to was at a friends house in West Hollywood.  He and his partner had set up an omelette bar.  We all made our own omelettes and hung out eating great food, drinking champagne and listening to jazz.  I like frittata because they are so easy to make and you can combine any combination of ingredients.  It really is just a quiche with no crust.  I used the sweet potato home frys and chicken leftover from last nights dinner for this one.

What you will need:

1 dozen eggs ($1.18)
1/4 cup nonfat milk
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup cheese ($.50)

How to make it happen:

Whisk the eggs and milk together and set aside.  If the ingredients seem really basic it is because they are...the frittata will really be whatever you choose to make it.  I simply tossed the diced chicken and sweet potatoes from last nights dinner into a dutch oven with the egg mixure, swiss cheese and baked uncovered at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.  I had prepared the sweet potatoes skillet style with chopped onion and the chicken crispy in a pan with 3 tbs olive oil and a light breading.  Way quick and way easy...this yields 6 portions and would be great with some fresh fruit....and a glass or two of champagne.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Garlic and Citrus Infused Shrimp with Angel Hair, Grilled Asparagus and Sweet Corn

So there was this amazing Italian restaurant called Santo Pietro's that I used to frequent when i lived in Studio City California.  My friends in Cali may remember it.  It was on the corner of La Brea and Ventura.  I worked right across the street at another place called the Daily Grill that got destroyed in the '94 Northridge was eventually rebuilt, but my days of living large in LA were winding down and that effing earthquake was the cherry on the cake.  Anyway...I ordered a pasta dish one night and was amazed to see that pasta did not have to be buried in heavy red or white sauce.  It was a true culinary moment in hindsight.  All i had ever known of Italian cuisine was of course spaghetti with meat sauce and tons of that shake on cheese stuff.  It stuck with me over the years.  This is a take on that dish.  I have jacked it up and made it my own of course.  I used whole wheat angel hair pasta instead of penne.  I have added some crushed pepper flakes to balance the sweet elements and i topped mine with finely diced and seeded tomato.  This is a very "clean" dish.  The flavors all hold their own here.  One trick i will share is grilling the asparagus before chopping it into the dish.  If you par cook it on the grill to soften it you can really just toss it in at the last minute.  

What you will need:

1/2 pound raw white shrimp out of shell ($2.50...on sale at my HEB)
1/2 red onion thinly sliced ($.60)
1 small can of sweet whole kernal corn ($.40)
1/2 pound asparagus grilled and then chopped ($1.87)
1 roma tomato seeds removed and finely diced  ($.30)
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon ($.22)
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 pound of whole wheat Angel Hair pasta (on closeout for $.50)

How to make it happen:

You will want to start by cleaning the shrimp and hitting it with the lemon juice and setting it aside.  I cook off my pasta before i even start the saute.  I like to shock the cooked pasta with cold water to stop it from cooking.  I like my pasta al dente, but my family does we all kinda compromise and go for kind of al dente...LOL.  Al dente, if you are not famaliar with the term, just means a firmer pasta that is not cooked as long as is traditionally the norm.  I let the pasta rest in cold water until i am ready for it.  Slice the garlic really thin and add it to the olive oil on medium heat.  I like to continuously stir the oil and garlic on medium for about ten or so minutes allowing the garlic flavor to infuse the oil.  This is the best way to pick up some huge flavor on the Angel Hair when it is tossed in.  I add the onions first and let them go for about 3 or 4 minutes before tossing in the grilled asparagus...once the asparagus is heated i add the corn and shrimp at the same time.  As you all know...shrimp cooks really fast and the corn heats just fine in that time.  All you have left to do is toss in the pasta.  It is very important the pasta gets tossed into this one...that is how it picks up the great flavor of the olive oil and garlic.  A little salad and some crusty whole wheat baquette and you got yourself one heck of a meal.  I asked the little one what she liked most and she said..."all of it!" there you have much sought after validation for a job well done.  You can rock out this little Italian throwdown for under $7 bucks....fresh and fast.  I will say i paid a bit more for the dish i used to get at Santo Pietro's...but i'm making up for it now.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sweet-Hot Pan Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This one is for my girl Kristi.  She just had a beautiful baby girl...Willow...and she asked me to blog this.  There was a great Martini/Sushi bar in Flagstaff that i used to visit on a regular basis that introduced me to Pan Asian.  It is simply a fusion of flavors, be it Thailand, Japan, China or the Philippines inspiring it...just mix it up.  We had it over a couple of bottles of wine one night a while back...that was a good night.  I did change it up a bit from the original, but that usually happens in our kitchen quite often.  I added a "hot" element to these and went for toasted almonds slivers as opposed to the crispy chow mein noodles to finish it off.  Here the heat from the sriracha marinade gets balanced by the sweet sesame ginger dressing and the cool wrap.  I always thought butter leaf lettuce was the accepted norm, but after a little research i have decided that any substantial leaf lettuce will work just fine.  I chose red leaf this time around, but my favorite would have to be romaine.  This is a very light meal and works equally as well as an appetizer. 

What you will need:

6 lettuce leaves ($.50)
6 chicken strips ($2.50)
I can sliced water chestnuts ($.50)
1 cucumber ($.48)
1 carrot ($.15)
hand full of bean sprouts ($.36)
handfull of slivered almonds ($.38)
1/4 soy sauce
3 tbs sriracha
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Ken's Steakhouse Lite Asian Sesamen Ginger Dressing

How to make it happen:

The chicken needs to marinate in the soy, sriracha and crushed red pepper flakes for a couple of hours.  Chop the chestnuts, carrot and cucumber (seeds removed) pretty fine...nice little chunks.  Add the bean sprouts and the dressing before tossing and allowing to chill in the fridge.  You need the salad to be nice and cold to balance the temp of the chicken when it comes off the grill.  The almonds need to be toasted on the stove top until they are browning and releasing their oil.  Grill the chicken and dice into chunks.  Each leaf of lettuce will get a spoon of the cold salad topped with chunks of chicken and the toasted almonds.  You could get really crazy and throw some grilled and chunked Asian pears into the mix if you wanted to.  There really is no wrong or right with this.  Asian flavors meld really well and often just elevate each other.   If you have never cooked with me a favor and Google it right now.  I hope you like these....seriously one of my favorite things to eat.  Add it all up and you got a great, fun to eat meal with leftovers for...under...five bucks.  Unconventionally Gourmet wouldn't you say?