0614 Chicken Breasts Niçoise

Chicken Niçoise

It was too hot and we were too hungry to heat up the kitchen and then wait the hours necessary to roast the chicken I picked up at Back 40 yesterday.  After some rifling through cookbooks, I hit on this recipe from Serving Up the Harvest, a pretty solid cookbook organized around the typical growing seasons.

With tomatoes, garlic, white wine, chicken broth, and a lot of herbs on hand, the only thing left to do was to take apart the chicken and get it in the skillet.  To some of you, this will be a really weird thing to say, but I am damned proud of how cleanly I took apart the chicken, setting aside the legs, thighs, and wings for later in the week.  Once that was done, the recipe was quick work – browning the chicken, making a light and flavorful sauce in the same pan, and serving it up with bread and green beans (in the spirit of the Niçoise).

Chicken Niçoise

Easy, flavorful, and lovely enough to justify breaking out the good china.  I suspect we’ll be making this again.

Chicken Breasts Niçoise from Serving Up the Harvest

0601 Squash, you guys!

When I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle a couple of years ago, I was amused by the lengths that Barbara Kingsolver and her neighbors went to in order to get rid of their excess summer squashed – both because it was funny, and because I love summer squashes of all sorts and can’t imagine having excess, much less wanting to get rid of it.  One of my favorite stands at the Arlington farmers’ market had a whole table dedicated to squashes of all sorts, and each week we’d bring home an armful of patty pans, 8 balls, the firm and waxy yellow squashes the color of a stoplight, and the old reliable zucchinis.

So you can imagine my delight when patty pans appeared at the market this weekend!  I picked up a little box for $2.50 with only one thing in mind: grilling.  When tonight rolled around, though, firing up the grill seemed like an awful lot of work for a very quick dinner for two of us – so instead I put the big cast iron skillet on the high heat while I halved the little spaceships, cut up thick slices of Vidalia onion,  and made little chicken burgers.  The skillet was nice and hot when I finished prep, so I added the burgers and onions, slotting in the patty pan spaceships when the onions were done.

Quick, easy, fresh, and good for us.  I like all of these things.  And I can’t wait for the excess of squash that is coming right around the corner.

0503 Blasé Pasta

Remember that pasta we had at Logan a few months ago?  Asparagus and penne in a light cream sauce?  I think that’s what I had in mind tonight, except that I wanted to use up a couple of chicken breasts as well.  I sliced the chicken breasts and the asparagus into penne-sized pieces, then browned the chicken with a bit of garlic and butter.  I tossed the asparagus in with the penne at the very last minute, then combined the drained pasta and asparagus with the chicken and grated a whole bunch of parmesan over the top.

It was fine.  Not remarkable.  Not even particularly delicious.  Just, fine.  Shane’s going to take the leftovers tomorrow to throw in a salad along with a mustard-y vinaigrette, which sounds better to me.

0429 Chicken Tacos

Carrie Anne posted earlier in the week asking for strategies for getting meals on the table – one of mine was the roast chicken used in multiple meals throughout the week.  And look!  I practice what I preach!

Tonight’s dinner used the last of Monday night’s chicken – or what would’ve been the last, had there not been leftovers tonight as well.  It also did a pretty good job of cleaning out the crisper, which is always a plus.  I sauteed an onion, a bell pepper, and an Anaheim chili in some olive oil until the kitchen was spicy enough that I was getting choked up – then added the chicken and some cumin and coriander.  We spooned this mixture into warmed tortillas and topped it with a handful of greens and some goat cheese, which reduced a bit of the heat.  We were both still sweating by the end of dinner, though.

0428 Michael Symon’s Macaroni and Cheese

We were given a copy of Michael Symon’s Live to Cook, the first cookbook by the Cleveland restaurateur and Iron Chef America personality of the same name.  We keep talking about going to Symon’s two restaurants in Cleveland, but the closest we’ve gotten is tonight’s macaroni and cheese.

0428 Michael Symon's Macaroni and Cheese

Yeah, yeah, I know this isn’t the most mouthwatering of photos, but do you see those bubbles?  That’s goat cheese and heavy cream, and a lot of both, and it’s bubbling up through freshly ground pepper.  And it’s delicious.

I’m not generally big on fancied up macaroni and cheese, to be totally honest.  I don’t like bread crumbs on top, and I don’t really care if it’s baked.  I don’t need four kinds of cheese, or a whole lot of accouterments to make me happy – just melted gooey goodness, with maybe some ham or peas added at the last minute.  Y’know, like this:

Best. Meal. Ever.

But I digress.

Dinner was deceptively simple.  Not quite as simple as the shells and cheese above, but much more simple than you’d expect from a fancy chef’s cookbook.  The sauce is goat cheese, rosemary, and heavy cream warmed together and reduced, with shredded chicken and your noodles stirred in towards the end.

That’s it.  No funny business.  No superfluous salt and pepper or seasoning, which struck me as a bit odd.  No pepper at all?  Really?  No pepper.  OK, so I added pepper.  And if I made this again, I would add more pepper.  I would also cut back on the sauce, and add in some vegetables, like the asparagus we served with the macaroni and cheese.

So maybe I do like my macaroni and cheese fancied up after all.

Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary from Michael Symon’s Live to Cook

0426 A Different Kind of Roast Chicken

Roasting a chicken is one of those things that just doesn’t seem possible on a weeknight.  We tend to eat dinner early – usually around 6 – which doesn’t leave much time for heating up the oven, letting the chicken come to room temperature, and then roasting for 90 minutes or more, depending on the vagaries of our oven.

Keeping all of this in mind, I decided to try something new tonight – roasting in the cast iron skillet.  Our friend Kevin has led me to believe that ANYTHING is possible in a cast iron skillet, and the internet seemed to confirm this argument with promises of a whole chicken roasted in half an hour.  Half an hour!

We both left work early for an appointment with a mortgage lender – fact finding in hopes of buying a house next year – making it possible to set the chicken out with plenty of time to get to room temperature.  As soon as we got home, I fired up the oven to 450F and cleaned the chicken, stuffing herbs under the skin and in the cavity.  Following a tip here, I put the cast iron in the oven near the end of the preheat.  Using an assortment of veg, I built a little log cabin to keep the chicken breast off the searing heat of the cast iron.  I’m not sure this was worth it, but it did clear out some fading veg from the crisper while making the kitchen smell delicious.

Once in the oven, the chicken roasted about 20 minutes breast up, then another 20 minutes breast up.  The temperature readings were a bit uneven, so we left it in for another 5-10 minutes.  We probably should’ve let the chicken rest a bit longer before carving it up, but we were hungry and I was impatient, so Shane braved the very hot bird and burnt his fingers serving up dinner.

The verdict? Good in a pinch, but I’ll stick to my usual recipe from Jamie’s Dinners.  The meat was moist and the herbs imparted a lot of flavor, but there were no noticeable advantages other than speed of preparation.

Recipes consulted:
Fastest Roast Chicken from The Paupered Chef
A Thomas Keller Roast Chicken from MeatHenge
Roast Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary Roast Potatoes from Jamie’s Dinners

0422 A Simple Chicken Pasta

I don’t know what’s happening, but I just haven’t been feeling the cooking love this last week.  Maybe this is the dénouement of the exciting wedding weekend?  Maybe I’m feeling spoiled after a few weeks of eating out on trips and with visitors?  I dunno.

The net result, though, is that we plan meals and then don’t feel like making/eating them, and THEN end up with stuff in our fridge that needs to be used before going bad.  Last night’s asparagus was intended to be eaten with pork chops, which were intended to be grilled about a week ago.  Instead they’re in the freezer, waiting to be used later in the week (perhaps) (if we don’t flake out again), and the asparagus was perfect with our snacky cheese dinner.  Tonight’s chicken breasts were intended for this recipe from Bon Appetit, but then we got lazy, and then we ate the peppers with something else, and then and then and then…sigh.

SO in the end, we had chicken and pasta.  I sliced the chicken breasts into cutlets and browned them in the cast iron skillet with garlic and a little butter.  While the pasta was boiling, I melted some of last night’s City Goat in the skillet, then tossed it with the pasta and served it immediately.  Simple and flavorful, and on the table in under 30 minutes.  I suppose if this is what ‘not cooking’ looks like in our house, we’re still doing better than most.

0417 Wedding Dinner OMG

So hey guys? We got married!  I’ll save the whole story for later, as I feel you need to see the photos to understand how damned cold it was, so for now, let’s focus on the food.

0417 Wedding Dinner!

After we very nearly froze our married asses off on the beach makin’ it legal, we shared a really excellent dinner at Mia + Grace with a selection of our nearest and dearest.  I owe a great big thank you to Jamie and her staff for getting us in early and plying us with bottomless cups of coffee, desperately needed to warm our icy little hands.  I wish I’d gotten more photos of dinner, but I didn’t, so I’ll do my best to give you a flavor:

First, we shared several plates of local cheeses, preserves, and crackers.  Slices of cumin-studded leyden, a black-pepper rolled ball of chevre, a wedge of brie, and a creamy Gouda-esque cheese whose name I’ve forgotten.  Cubes of berry (elderberry? blackberry? both?) geleé.  A smear of quince preserves.  Small bites of honeycomb in the center of the plate.  Peppery homemade crackers.

I had the flattened chicken (pictured above) for my entree – Shane enjoyed the pecan-crusted trout, and the vegetarians among us had handmade cavatelli.  My chicken was pounded flat, dredged and fried, and topped with a Gorgonzola cream sauce, candied lemon zest, and red onion jam, all of which arrived atop a flavorful mash of sweet potatoes and carrots.  I shared half of my chicken with my brother so that I could eat all of the veg – and the cake coming after.  A fantastic combination of savory, sweet, and tart.

The trout was served atop vegetables and black rice, and surrounded by a orange-rosemary butter sauce.  Shane’s uncle was disappointed that he couldn’t get lemon or tartar sauce, but that didn’t stop him – or anyone else – from digging in and thoroughly enjoying a moist and flavorful piece of fish.  We had pre-ordered, and my dad seemed to regret not getting the fish once he heard the full description.  I don’t blame him.

Neither of us had the pasta, so I can’t give you the full scoop – but when Shane had it two months ago, the sauce was warm and rich, and the pasta fresh and delicious.   Everything on the plate was made in-house, and the dish was entirely vegan, though not when served with the Italian sausage (as on the menu).

I really couldn’t believe that anyone had room for dessert, but we managed to put away slices of the most dense and wonderful carrot cake I’ve had in a very long time – the one thing I’d been firm about when we were picking our menu.  The cream cheese frosting was thick but not overwhelming, and the layers of cake were full of nuts, fruit, and chewy carrot.  I wish we’d split a slice so that we could’ve had more for later – but alas, we’ll just have to pay Mia + Grace another visit for more.

On the whole, a wonderful meal in good company, and one that proved that New American cuisine can make happy even the pickiest palate.

0412 Chicken Paella

I’ve had a bit of a love affair with Spain over the last 10 years – partly to do with the spring break I spent there when I was 20, partly to do with the time I spent on (and dreaming of) the Camino, and partly to do with Spain’s love of pork in the forms of chorizo, jamón ibérico, and the Museo del Jamon. So it’s a bit surprising that I haven’t attempted paella before, right? It’s only the national dish!

0412 Chicken Paella

I’m not sure if tonight’s dinner was the best representation of said national dish, but it sure smelled killer.  It also weighed enough that I needed both hands to lift it in and out of the oven.  The chicken was moist and flavorful, and the snow peas had a satisfying crunch.  If I were to make this again, I would probably use a LOT less rice – but I’m satisfied with the first attempt!

Quick Chicken Paella with Sugar Snap Peas from Bon Appetit

0315 Mediterranean Chicken Stew

I actually made this stew for dinner last night, but I think I’d rather talk about its incarnation as tonight’s leftovers.

Leftovers are an important part of our weekly meal planning.  We both brown-bag most days, and leftovers make up most of those lunches.  It’s never really made a lot of sense to me to buy separate food for lunches, apart from extras like string cheese, granola bars, small pieces of fruit, and the occasional treat, especially when we’re putting so much effort into main dishes in the evening.  So instead of sandwiches, Hot Pockets, or Lean Cuisines, all of which have previously made up substantial parts of our lunches, we take jars of soup or thick slices of meatloaf with fresh bread, with small containers of grapes, crackers, or other snacks to eat throughout the day.  As a result of this, meals often make multiple appearances in our house.  Soup made over the weekend may show up in 3-4 additional lunches, as will be the case this week.

This stew, made for last night’s dinner with our friend Marla, was supposed to produce 4 portions, but instead resulted in at least 6.  We enjoyed the stew with warm polenta last night, the bitter escarole nicely balancing the sweetness of the polenta and the savory chicken.  Like Saturday’s soup, it was hearty and warm, but not so hearty that we fell stuffed after.  But when I had a portion for dinner tonight, I felt decidedly ambivalent.  The chicken was boring and a little chewy.  The greens were limp and unpleasantly bitter.  The broth was watery.  I had no desire to finish my bowl, much less the 2-3 portions still in the fridge.

So what to do?  I hate throwing away food, but I also hate wasting calories on things I really don’t enjoy.  What do you do to rescue meals (or leftovers) you no longer want to eat?

Mediterranean Chicken Stew from Whole Living