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By learning about basic ingredients and how to use them, you can create simple, quick and delicious meals your family will love!!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tuscan Peperoncini Chicken with Mushrooms

Peperoncini peppers are a great addition to sandwiches, salads or even pizza, and they are a must for any antipasto platter.  The peppers are not overly hot or spicy, but have a mild flavor and a slight crunch. With those things in mind, I've always wanted to incorporate them into a main entree, and the results were excellent.

We wanted to keep the meal light so we started with boneless and skinless chicken breasts.  By slicing the chicken in half horizontally you get 6 equal portions that will cook quickly, in just a few teaspoons of olive oil.

Next we added lots of veggies.  Onions, green peppers, mushrooms and garlic were cooked until tender, then seasoned with a generous amount of Italian spices, which gives the sauce its rustic flavor.  Next, the peperoncini peppers are added with a little white wine for acidity.   The sauce is completed with a mixture of cornstarch and chicken broth which thickens the sauce just a touch, without making the sauce too thick.  The combination of thyme, oregano and the peppers add a remarkable amount of flavor to this dish while keeping the whole meal light.

We used 8 whole peperoncini peppers for this recipe but add more or less to suit your own taste.  You could also use red or yellow peppers if you have those on hand.  The chicken and veggies were served with a spoonful of sauce over vermicelli noodles, but any type of pasta would work.  Requiring just 30 minutes to prepare, this makes a quick weeknight meal that your family will love.   As a bonus, if you have any leftovers they make a great cold lunch.  Just cut leftover chicken into bite sized pieces, add a serving of pasta and a few spoonfuls of sauce and lunch is ready.   Enjoy!!

3 large  Boneless and Skinless Chicken Breasts (about 1-1/2 lbs)
2 tsp  Olive Oil
1 large  Yellow Onion, sliced
1 large  Green Pepper, sliced
8 oz  Portobello Mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 TB  Minced Garlic
8 (or more)  Peperoncini Peppers, coarsely chopped
2 tsp  Dried Oregano, crushed
1 tsp  Dried Thyme, crushed
1 tsp  Salt
1 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
3/4 cup  White Wine
2 TB  Cornstarch
2 cups  Chicken Broth
Cooked Pasta of Your Choice

Lay the chicken on a cutting board and slice each piece horizontally so you have 6 equal portion of chicken.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add the chicken to the skillet and brown for 3 or 4 minutes on each side until the meat is just cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

In the same skillet saute the onions, green pepper, mushrooms and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the peperoncini peppers, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper to the pan and stir.  Add the white wine to the pan and bring the mixture to a low boil.

In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and chicken broth stirring until smooth.  Add the mixture to the skillet and cook until the sauce thickens slightly and comes to a low boil.  Add the chicken and any accumulated juices back to the skillet and heat 5 minutes or until warm.

Serve over vermicelli or angel hair pasta with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes if you like a bit of extra heat.  Enjoy!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fish-Potato Fritters with Garlic Aioli

Whether sweet or savory, I don't think anything could be more of a comfort food than a fritter.  A basic fritter is a small, deep-fried cake made by combining chopped foods, such as corn, crab, or shrimp with a thick batter.  For this recipe we used swai fish fillets as the main ingredient and mashed Yukon Gold potatoes as a base for the batter.  With a little seasoning we had the perfect flavor for our fritters.  You can also experiment with the seasonings in this recipe and add more spice to your liking.  (A dash of cayenne pepper, some chopped jalapeno peppers or a dash of Tabasco will add a nice bit of heat to the batter.)

The fritters are very easy to make.  After poaching the fillets in milk and preparing the mashed potatoes, the two are combined and seasoned, then chilled until you are ready to make the fritters. Then it's just a few minutes to fry them until golden brown.

The fritters would make a nice side dish in place of traditional potatoes but we served them as a main dish with a batch of  7 Day Slaw, a simple tarter sauce and an amazingly wicked Garlic Aioli for dipping.  If you are a garlic lover, the aioli makes these fritters even better.  The  fritters are very kid-friendly, so if you're trying to get your kids to eat more fish, this is a great recipe to try.  Enjoy!!

5 medium  Fish Fillets, (swai, catfish, or any flaky whitefish will work)
1/2 cup  Milk
1/4 tsp  Lemon-Dill Seasoning
5 medium  Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and quartered
2  Eggs
1 tsp  Dried Onion
1 tsp  Fresh Minced Chives (optional)
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
3 to 4 TB  Flour
Oil for Frying

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium pot, cover potatoes with water, add 2 teaspoons of salt and boil for 10 - 15 minutes or until tender.  Drain the cooked potatoes, making sure you get all of the water drained off.  Mash the potatoes in the pan and set aside.

Place the fish in a glass baking pan, cover with the milk and sprinkle with the lemon-dill seasoning.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the fish flakes with a fork.

Drain the fillets thoroughly and flake the fish apart with a fork, placing the fish in a medium bowl.  Add the mashed potatoes, eggs, dried onion, chives, salt and pepper to the mixture and stir to combine.  Add 3 tablespoon of flour to the mixture and stir.  The mixture should be a fairly thick consistency, so if you need more flour add the extra tablespoon.

At this point you can either chill the entire bowl of fish-potato mixture for 20 minutes and then make the fritters while you are cooking them, or you can pre-shape the fritters, making heaping tablespoon sized fritters, then placing them on a baking sheet and chilling the whole batch until ready to make the fritters.  (I've tried both ways and they work equally well.)

When you are ready to make the fritters, place a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and pour enough oil into the pot so the oil is about 2-1/2 inches deep.  When the oil is hot, around 360 degrees, fry the fritters a few at a time until golden brown and crispy, about 6 - 7 minutes.  Drain the fritters on paper towels, then serve with tarter sauce and Garlic Aioli.

Garlic Aioli

2 - 3  Garlic Cloves, peeled and chopped
1  Egg
1 TB  Lemon Juice
1 tsp  Fresh Parsley or Chives, chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp  Salt
Pinch of Black Pepper
1/2 cup  Olive Oil

Combine garlic, egg, lemon juice, parsley or chives (if using), salt and pepper in a food processor and puree until smooth.  Continue to puree the mixture and slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream until you have a mayonnaise-thick sauce.  Serve as a dipping sauce with the fritters or makes a great dip for veggies.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Maple-Bourbon Ice Cream with Walnut Brittle

We've had some fun using our electric ice cream maker in the past making Vanilla Ice Cream with Oreos and even Guinness Ice Cream, which were both delicious.  But today we went with a very adult dessert in the form of Maple-Bourbon Ice Cream with a piece of old fashioned Walnut Brittle on top to give the dessert a little crunch.  This creation could be served to your most sophisticated guests but would be also be great served after a more casual grilled steak dinner.

The ice cream itself is rich and creamy and has that distinctive bourbon flavor, but also the rustic taste of maple syrup. Be sure to use pure maple syrup for this recipe and not pancake syrup, which is loaded with flavorings and sugar.  You need that pure maple flavor to really enhance the bourbon.

We wanted something small and crunchy to top off this ice cream but we didn't want to use a cookie, so I went in search of something a bit different.  Then I thought how cool a piece of crunchy peanut brittle would be on top, and maybe instead of peanuts I could use walnuts. Hmm.  Now I was on to something.

Making brittle from scratch was something I'd never tried, mainly because I've always had this slight fear of candy thermometers.  So I decided to give brittle a try and I'm so glad I did.  The brittle came out of the pan as this boiling, gooey, shiny lava, and after a few minutes it turned into crispy and crunchy brittle that looked like it came from a candy store.  So awesome.

The ice cream and brittle can be made a day or two early so this is a great dessert to serve guests since all of the work can be done before your company arrives. Serving small dishes of this ice cream,  each with a wedge of brittle and a few extra crumbles around the edges, this recipe will make about 10 - 12 servings.  Enjoy!!

Maple-Bourbon Ice Cream

1-1/2 cups  Whole Milk
2 cups  Heavy Cream
1/4 cup  Sugar
1/8 tsp  Salt
7  Egg Yolks
1 cup  Pure Maple Syrup
4 TB  Bourbon

In a medium saucepan combine the whole milk, cream, sugar and salt and warm the mixture over medium heat.

In a medium glass bowl, whisk the egg yolks and set aside.

When the milk mixture is hot, but not boiling, slowly pour one cup of the mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly while adding the milk mixture.  (This will temper the yolks and slowly warm the temperature without the yolks ending up as scrambled eggs.)  Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the milk and cook over medium-low heat while stirring constantly.  Do not boil the mixture, but cook until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool for 30 - 45 minutes or until no longer hot to the touch.  (You can also pour the mixture into a bowl to allow it to cool faster.)  When the mixture is cool add the maple syrup and bourbon and stir, then allow to cool completely.

Pour the cooled mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturers instructions. (This took about 25 minutes for our machine.)  Transfer ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze overnight.  Serve with Walnut Brittle crumbles on top.

Walnut Brittle

2 cups  Walnut Halves, broken into big and small pieces
2 cups  Sugar
1/2 cup  Water
1/2 cup  Light Corn Syrup
1/4 cup  Salted Butter, cut into slices
1/4 tsp  Baking Soda
1/2 tsp  Vanilla

Mix sugar, water and corn syrup in a large heavy saucepan.  Attach candy thermometer to side of saucepan and place pan over high heat.  Stir until sugar dissolves, then heat uncovered until the mixture reaches 310 degrees on the thermometer.  (Try not to stir the mixture very often as this will reduce the temperature.  Just stir a few times across the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to keep the mixture from scorching.)

One the mixture reaches 310 degrees, remove the pan from the heat, add butter, walnuts, soda and vanilla, and mix just enough to blend.  Allow the bubbles to subside, then pour the mixture out onto a buttered baking sheet, spreading the mixture into a thin layer using a buttered spatula.  Place the baking sheet in a cool location on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Once cool, the brittle will loosen easily from the baking sheet and can be cracked into smaller pieces for serving.

Note:  This same recipe can be used to make Peanut Brittle or Almond Brittle, using 2 cups of blanched peanuts or almonds in place of the walnuts.  Enjoy!!