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Posts Tagged ‘whats for dinner’

chicken-breast_p5137169

Like the rest of America, we eat a lot of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Not because they are my preference, but because those of us on a cardiac-health diet are told to eliminate the skin. To make mine look as though they still have that delicious crisp skin, I lightly coat them in seasoned Wondra flour and sear them in a very hot nonstick (Scanpan, usually) pan with just a hint of olive oil for about 3 minutes per side or until golden. I then transfer to a very hot oven for about another 5 minutes or until just barely cooked through. I allow the breast to rest for another 5 minutes to finish cooking and to hold the juices in before slicing it, crosswise, on the bias. Because they are so large, one chicken breast serves both my husband and me. In this photo, I have transferred the cooked breast to a pan of warm old-fashioned creamy chicken gravy that I had saved (and froze) from a roast chicken dinner. I think if you try my method, you will find that you will end up with juicy meat with a slightly crisp exterior.

 

chicken-breast_p5137184

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mejadrap8192846

 

Everywhere I go these days I see a copy of Jerusalem, A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi and so I finally bought a copy.  Steve, my dear husband, took to it like a duck to water and began asking me to make something from it.  I’m not much of a follower of recipes and, in fact, hate to cook from one, but loving him as I do I asked him to pick a recipe that he thought he would like.  He chose Mejadra, a beautifully-flavored mix of lentils and rice with fried onions that the authors say is a favorite peasant dish.  The lentils and rice part was easy, but frying the onions in the summer heat was not.  But, I did it and we had quite a nice dinner with plenty of left-overs.  Since I don’t think it fair to publish another cook’s recipe, I will leave it to you to buy this cookbook and try the recipe yourself.  However, the fried onions reminded me of those canned French’s Fried Onions that find their way to that Thanksgiving green bean casserole and I threatened to use them should he ask me to make the dish again.  Believe me it was an idle threat as I have lived almost 75 years without them and hope to continue making things “from scratch” for the remainder of my years.

 

mejadrap8192960

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Beef_G10_IMG_0363

 

Now doesn’t that sound a lot fancier than plain old beef stew or beef in red wine sauce?  Those French sure know how to make a culinary mountain out of a mole hill, don’t they?  However you say it, hunks of beef braised in red wine is one of winter’s most comforting meals.  I have a special method of making my version that helps give it a French-style, deep-dark rich sauce.  I chop a few handfuls of portobello or cremini mushrooms and add them to the braising liquid.  This adds an intense depth of flavor, but it also makes for a sauce with lots of little bits in it so before I add the whole or halved or quartered mushrooms and pearl onions, I strain the sauce so it is perfectly smooth.  We don’t have a photo for the finished dish ‘cause it is just too hard to make it look pretty – a photo of dark sauce and meat just doesn’t look very tasty to me. But, since I love my mushrooms they get a photo all their own.  If you have any interest in the “real” boeuf bourguignon, Julia Child and Simone Beck gave us the real deal in 1961 when it appeared in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  If you don’t own the book, buy it – no cook should be without it.
The following recipe should feed 6 hungry people.

2 pounds lean beef stew meat, cut into large cubes
About ½ cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
¼ pound piece bacon, slab bacon, guanciale, or other smoky cured pork product
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
½ pound cremini or portobello mushrooms
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
3 cups dry red wine
3 cups beef stock or nonfat, low-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 sachet (parsley sprigs, 2 bay leaves, 2 thyme sprigs or ½ teaspoon dried thyme tied in a
cheesecloth bag)
1 pound whole small mushrooms or halved or quartered larger ones
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
About ½ pound frozen pearl onions, thawed and well-drained
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Place the meat in a large bowl and sprinkle with flour and salt and pepper.  Toss to coat well.  Set aside.
If necessary, trim and discard the rind from the bacon and cut into cubes.  Place the cubes in a Dutch oven over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until most of the fat has been rendered out and the cubes are just beginning to be crunchy.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked bacon to a double layer of paper towel to drain.
Shake the excess flour off of the meat and then place the meat into the hot bacon fat.  Sear, turning frequently, until all sides are nicely browned.  You will have to do this in batches.  As browned, transfer to a plate.
Add the chopped onion and mushrooms along with the garlic to the hot pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms exude their liquid and the onions begin to color.  Drain off excess fat.
Add the wine, raise the heat, and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or just until the alcohol begins to burn off.  Add the stock and tomato paste along with the sachet, stirring to blend.  Season with salt and pepper.  Return the meat to the pan, cover, and bring to a simmer.  Lower the heat and cook at a bare simmer for 1 hour or until the meat is just tender.
Remove the pan from the heat and, using tongs, transfer the meat to a plate.  Strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl.  Wipe out the Dutch oven and return the strained liquid to it, along with the meat.
Add the whole or halved mushrooms and return to medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook for another 30 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked and the meat is very tender.
During this last 30 minutes of braising, place the butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  When very hot, add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the onions are golden.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a double layer of paper towel to drain off excess fat.
Spoon the pearl onions into the braising liquid.  Taste and, if necessary, season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the stew into a large serving bowl and sprinkle with the reserved bacon bits and parsley.  Serve alone with lots of crusty bread to sop up the gravy or with noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes.

 

Beef

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potato_2220

            Although I hadn’t eaten a potato croquette in years nor had I made one either, I decided to use some leftover mashed potatoes to create some crispy tater tots to accompany some steaks I was cooking up.  Many years ago there was a small Italian restaurant, Capri, in Manhattan’s theater district that served extraordinary croquettes – usually with a beautiful veal chop.  Theirs were so light and delicate that they seemed impossible to replicate at home so I didn’t even try.  They only came back to my sensory memory when I bit into my version.  Not fluffy, not terribly light, and certainly not delicate.  But, they tasted pretty good.  Now that they are back on the menu I’ll try to refine my recipe – I promised Steve that I’ll get to light and delicate.

Here’s what I did:

I had about 2½ cups of cold mashed potatoes to which I added 2 large eggs, ¾ cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons of flour.  I beat the mix until very well combined and then seasoned with salt and pepper.  I whisked 2 eggs with a bit of milk in one shallow bowl, put about 3 cups of lightly salted bread crumbs in another, and then Wondra flour in a third.  I formed the potato mixture into logs – they were much too big I realized – and then dipped the logs into the flour, then the egg mixture, and finally into the breadcrumbs.  I fried them in olive oil and dusted them with sea salt at the finish.  If I’d used freshly made dry potatoes that I’d pushed through a food mill, formed the mix into smaller logs, and fried them a little bit less, I think they would have been the light and delicate croquettes I remembered.  I’ll ace it next time.

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