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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!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Potatoes Gratin with Creamy Toscano Cheese

The inspiration for this rich and creamy Potato Gratin came from an episode of Jacques Pepin.  Although he did not use cheese in his recipe, instead relying on the milk and cream as a base, he did mention that he sometimes added Gruyere cheese to the creamy sauce, so we included cheese in ours.

Since we did not have Gruyere on hand, we decided to try a Creamy Toscano Cheese we recently picked up at Trader Joe's.  This cheese is similar to an aged Parmesan, but the cheese has been soaked in Syrah wine and is absolutely incredible.  With such a bold flavor, I knew this cheese would be the perfect addition to the creamy gratin.

These potatoes do take a little extra time to prepare, and the 20 minutes of resting time after baking is very important to let the sauce pull together and thicken.  Other than the extra time involved, this is a very simple side dish and with the golden brown crust on the top, you are sure to get rave reviews. 

Serve with a grilled New York Strip steak and a glass of hearty red wine such as the NV Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot 58  or if you are a Cabernet fan, try the 2008 Hendry HRW Cabernet Sauvignon.  Enjoy!!

2 lbs  Potatoes  (Yukon Gold potatoes work great as they will not crumble as easily)
2-1/2 cups  Milk
1 TB  Minced Garlic
1-1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
6 oz  Creamy Toscano Cheese  (or substitute Gruyere, Parmesan, Gouda or even Monterey Jack)
1 cup  Heavy Cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/4-inch rounds.  Do not rinse the potatoes as the starch will help the sauce thicken.

In a large saucepan combine the potatoes, milk, garlic, salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a low boil, stirring gently to separate the slices and prevent the milk from scorching.  The sauce will begin to thicken as it boils.

Pour the mixture into a large gratin dish, crumble the cheese over the potatoes, then drizzle the cream over the top.  Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly on top.  (Test the potatoes with a fork to make sure they are fully cooked.) 

Let the potatoes rest for about 20 minutes before serving.  This will allow the sauce to cool slightly and thicken.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Braised Chicken with Potatoes and Red Wine

I can't believe we have come to the end of another summer.  The kids are ready to go back to school and that means it's time for me to get back into the kitchen to work on some new recipes.  And this meal is a great way to ease back into those family dinners.

If you have a meat and potatoes fan in your family, they will love this dish.  This rustic, peasant-food style dish gets its incredible flavor from a combination of dark meat chicken, red wine, and slow roasted vegetables. It's almost a chicken version of a classic pot roast.  It's that good!

The dish starts off with a dozen or so pieces of dark meat chicken, that have been lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.  A quick sear in olive oil seals the flavor and juices inside the chicken.  Next we added some chopped veggies, a sprinkle of smoky Spanish paprika, and a healthy dose of dry red wine.  All of these flavors are simmered for 30 minutes, to create a delicious gravy.  (Be sure to have some French bread on hand to serve with this meal.)

The last ingredient that brings this dish together is the addition of crispy sautéed potatoes.  By cooking the potatoes separately in a skillet, the potatoes have a nice seared edge before they are added to the cooking liquid. (No mushy potatoes here.) A quick 10 minutes later, you have this beautiful meal of what some people might call peasant food, but we call, exceptional.  This is one dish you really have to try.  Enjoy!!

10 - 12 pieces  Dark Meat Chicken
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
3 TB  Olive Oil
2 TB  Dried Parsley
1-1/2 tsp  Smoked Spanish Paprika
2 TB  Minced Garlic
1 medium  Sweet Onion, finely chopped
4 - 5  Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium  Red Bell Pepper, seeds removed, then finely chopped
1-1/2 cups  Dry Red Wine
3 TB  Olive Oil
6 medium  Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Rinse the chicken pieces under cool water, pat dry with paper towels, then season the chicken generously with salt and pepper.

In a large roasting pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Place the chicken pieces skin-side down in the pan, and sauté until browned.  Turn the chicken over, sprinkle with the parsley and paprika, then continue to brown for about 8 minutes, or until the outside of the chicken is golden brown, but not fully cooked through.

Add the garlic, onion, carrots, and pepper to the pot, arranging the vegetables around the chicken pieces, and sauté for 5 minutes over medium heat until the vegetables have softened.  Pour the red wine over the chicken, cover the pot and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat the potatoes with the oil.  Continue to sauté the potatoes for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden but not quite fully cooked.

Add the potatoes to the chicken and wine, and simmer for 10 minutes over medium-low heat.  Serve with crusty French bread to soak up the red wine gravy.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dinner Rolls in the Bread Machine

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that could not be more true than the creation of this recipe.  We had decided on a cool evening dinner of Chicken Salad sandwiches.  Nothing fancy, just a simple salad to use up some leftover baked chicken I had in the fridge.  Then along came this giant summer thunderstorm.  Not only was it pouring down outside, it appeared the rain would be with us for a few hours.

Dreading the thought of going to the store and getting soaked for just one package of sandwich rolls, I decided I would try making the rolls in the bread machine.  I know using a machine to make bread is not the most authentic process in the world, but it is quick and it easy.  So the experiment began.

I started with a basic dinner roll recipe, then added a few teaspoons of garlic powder and oregano to the other dough ingredients and everything went into the bread machine.  When the dough was finished it already smelled wonderful, but the dough still needed to rise a second time.  I portioned out the dough into 9 sandwich rolls and covered them with a tea towel, then gave them 30 minutes to rise.

After 30 minutes the dough had doubled in size and the rolls looked beautiful. I brushed the tops of the rolls with an olive oil and herb mixture then baked them for 25 minutes. You could also skip this step, but the olive oil on top was very tasty.

The finished product was delicious!  With the garlic powder and oregano inside the dough and the extra herbs on top, the rolls were so full of flavor and tasted much better than the plain store bought variety.  And, they made the chicken salad even better.

We tried this recipe a second time and made smaller dinner size rolls to serve with spaghetti, and we ended up with 20 rolls total, so you could easily divide the portions depending on your needs.  Enjoy!!

1  Egg, scrambled plus warm water (about 80 degrees) to equal 1-1/3 cups
1/4 cup + 1 TB  Canola or Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup  Sugar
2 tsp  Salt
2 tsp  Garlic Powder
2 tsp  Dried Oregano
4 cups  Bread Flour
2-1/4 tsp  Bread Yeast

Place all ingredients in your bread machine and select the DOUGH setting.  (On my machine this cycle will run for 1 hour 36 minutes.)

When the dough is finished, place the dough on a lightly floured surface.  Divide into pieces, 9 or 10 for sandwich or hamburger buns, 12 - 14 for large dinner rolls or 20 - 24 for smaller dinner rolls, and shape the dough into rounds.  Not much work here, just shape them a little.

Place the pieces of dough onto a greased baking sheet.  Cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel and place in a warm area for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, apply the seasoned olive oil mixture to the top of each roll using a pastry brush, then bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden.

Olive Oil Mixture to Brush on Top of Rolls
2 TB  Olive Oil
1/2 tsp  Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp  Italian Seasoning
1/8 tsp  Salt
1/8 tsp  Black Pepper
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Brush the olive oil mixture over the top of the rolls prior to baking.

Recipe Variations:
(1) As an alternate, we later made these delicious dinner rolls without the oregano and garlic powder in the bread dough, and instead used 1 tablespoon of onion powder.  The rolls were wonderful and full of this great oniony flavor. The perfect bun for a grilled chicken breast sandwich.

(2) As another alternate, we made salted buns for French Dip Sandwiches.  For this version of the dinner rolls, we skipped the oregano and garlic powder in the bread dough, and continued with the standard recipe.

When the dough was ready, I placed the dough on an olive oil coated cutting board, divided the dough into portions, and at the same time coated the rolls with just a little olive oil. Next, I added a sprinkle of coarse kosher salt to the tops of the buns, covered the dough with a piece of plastic wrap, then a clean towel and let the dough rise for 30 minutes.  This resulted in a nice salted top to the buns, while the interior was light and fluffy.  Perfect for the French Dips.  Enjoy!!