Chicken and Waffles with Molasses Butter

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Easter Sunday was a bit low-key for us this year.  I had a wedding to shoot on Saturday so we couldn’t go out of town to be with family and we didn’t have time to prepare the feast we normally do.  We typically like to have brunch-type foods when we know it’s going to be just us because breakfast is usually easy to throw together in less than an hour after church and, well, who doesn’t like breakfast for lunch?!

A few months ago I ran across a wonderful yeast waffle recipe that you mix up the night before and let it sit out on your counter to get all bubbly.  Sounds strange, but it imparts such an amazing sourdough, yeasty flavor to the waffles which helps balance the pure sugar you typically use to drown the waffle.  Matt and I have had a slight obsession with the Southern dish of chicken and waffles and every where we go where it’s on the menu, we always feel the dish falls a little short of the expectations in our mind.  The chicken should be juicy, super crispy, salty and flavorful on its own and the waffle shouldn’t be too heavy – it should be light, airy and buttery with just enough sweetness to give that perfect balance of flavors.  A lot of waffles are too heavy, too bland, too sweet or the chicken is an after-thought – dry or not seasoned.  So, taking matters into our own hands, we used the amazing recipe for Korean fried chicken that we did at the Super Bowl and paired it with a yeast waffle recipe and the combination was juuuuuust right.
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I added my own sentimental flair to the dish.  Growing up, I distinctly remember at family gatherings, often at Sunday lunches, my Pappaw would request molasses and then he’d take a large chunk of soft butter and whip the two together into a smooth paste for his biscuits.  I thought it was odd, but as far back as I can remember, there has never been a food strange enough that I wouldn’t try it.  I immediately began to imitate his method and loved the tangy sweetness of the molasses butter on my biscuits, too.

This Sunday as I was thinking about Easter and family, I had my Pappaw on my mind because just a few days ago, he underwent extremely intense cancer surgery and was, up until yesterday, still in pretty critical condition in ICU.  I thought about our family get-togethers when I was young and Pappaw’s love of biscuits, molasses and black coffee and thought for our brunch, what better accompaniment to our waffles, which beg for that salty/sweet balance, than his molasses butter?  It was an amazing addition to the waffles and it may be my new favorite topping instead of maple syrup.  Matt wasn’t convinced, but then again, he doesn’t have the memory to go along with it.  And food is so much more than just ingredients on a plate.  If you have a story or a face or a memory of light streaming in from the window across a little dinette set in your grandparents’ kitchen as you slather biscuits with creamy molasses, it’s bound to become your new favorite thing. :)

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Korean Fried Chicken Strips

Kosher salt
3/4 cups corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 pounds chicken strip tenders
2 quarts peanut oil or vegetable shortening
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup vodka

Combine 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder in a large bowl and whisk until homogeneous. Add chicken strips and toss until every surface is coated. Transfer chicken to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, shaking vigorously as you go to get rid if excess coating. Transfer to refrigerator and let rest, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes and up to overnight.

When ready to fry, preheat oil to 350°F in a large wok, Dutch oven, or deep fryer.  We used a wok on the stove.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, flour, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk until homogeneous. Add water and vodka and whisk until a smooth batter is formed, adding up to 2 tablespoons additional water if batter is too thick. It should have the consistency of thin paint and fall off of the whisk in thin ribbons that instantly disappear as they hit the surface of the batter in the bowl.

Add half of the chicken strips to the batter. Working one at a time, lift one strip and allow excess batter to drip off, using your finger to get rid of any large pockets or slicks of batter. Carefully lower chicken into hot oil. Repeat with remaining strips in the first batch. Fry, using a metal spider or slotted spatula to rotate and agitate strips as they cook until evenly golden brown and crisp all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season immediately with kosher salt. Keep warm in a 175F oven while you fry the remaining chicken.

Yeast Waffles*

1 3/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more melted butter for the waffle iron
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (from 2 envelopes)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the milk, 1/2 cup melted butter, flour, yeast, eggs, agave and salt and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until the batter is very puffy, about 2 hours at room temperature (or refrigerate overnight, which is what we did since we wouldn’t be using it first thing in the morning).

Preheat the oven to 250°. Preheat a waffle iron and brush it with melted butter. Gently stir the batter to deflate it. For each batch, fill the waffle iron about two-thirds full (the batter will spread and rise); brush the waffle iron with melted butter as needed.

Cook the waffles until golden crisp.  Keep the waffles directly on your oven racks to keep warm and crispy until you’re done cooking them.  I find that using a traditional sized waffle iron works best than a Belgian waffle maker because sometimes the Belgian waffle irons are too deep for the batter to rise into every crevice. Also, from the two different yeast waffle recipes we’ve tried, I prefer cooking them from room temp if you leave the batter out on your counter, as opposed to keeping it in the fridge.  The batter seems lighter at room temp than cold, so you may want to test that out for yourself.  Both are delicious, but I felt the batter at room temp was thinner and more of that super crisp, light texture I wanted.

*from Food and Wine magazine but I think I prefer the recipe from Smitten Kitchen better.  They’re almost the same, but she uses a little less flour.

Molasses Butter

Dark Molasses
Unsalted Butter – room temp

Use equal parts butter and molasses and whip together until completely mixed.  Spread on waffles before topping with chicken strips.  I added a drizzle of maple syrup on the chicken and then salted it to make the salt stick better.

A Big Announcement and Some Serious Cravings

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So I’m happy to announce that we’re expecting a sweet little addition to our family in November!  I can’t imagine another baby in this house, but I am so excited to get to relive the squishy baby phase, again!  Nothing like it :)  I am also glad to finally announce it because this blog has been suffering from a lack of posts lately and it’s because NOTHING SOUNDS GOOD TO ME.  Truly.  I’ve not bought packaged snack foods in at least 5 years but lately, the ONLY thing that sounds good is potato chips, frozen egg rolls, bacon and eggs and popcorn.  Salt, salt, salt.  Sweets don’t go down too well and the thought of roasting a vegetable makes my stomach turn.  As a food and cooking lover, it’s been utter torture!  I peruse the pages of Tastespotting and Pinterest and say, “Ew, ew, ew, that looks gross, who would eat that?!”  I can not WAIT to get out of this trimester and into the next where I feel like cooking, again!

So for the next few posts, I’ll share some recipes and product reviews of things that make my crazy pregnant self happy and in a few weeks, I’ll get back to nice, wholesome, well-rounded meal posts.  For now, I give you a glowing product review of:

These chips!  They always sound like a good idea.  And remember:  I am NOT a chip-buyer unless there’s a specific need like an outdoor burger grilling party.  But these.  Super crunch, super flavorful and they are actually not loaded with preservatives, which makes me happy.  Just potatoes, oil and salt!  Win.

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These chips dipped into…
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THIS DIP.  It’s seriously the most delicious dip, EVER.  Go buy it NOW.  I’m not 100% sure on the integrity of the ingredients but I do not care and I will not listen to you if you tell me it’s bad.

To complete the salt-fest post,  I will tell you my little recipe for the best topping for homemade popcorn.  I have never been so excited by something as I have been about popcorn, lately.  It’s so sad what’s become of me.

We use this little gadget and love it:

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Over medium heat, add 3-4 tablespoons of oil.  We love using coconut oil!  Add a half cup of kernels and a tsp of salt and start stirring continuously until the kernels start to pop.  Once the popping has nearly stopped, dump out into a big bowl and top with browned butter and dried Parmesan cheese and more salt.  And then more butter.  I think I browned about 4 tablespoons of butter for the batch.  It.  Was.  The.  Best.  Ever.

Stay tuned for more crave-worthy posts to come!  Like this amazing Southern curry my husband made yesterday.  To die for.  See you soon!

 

Palmiers for Palm Sunday

almond palmiers
Matt suggested I make Palmier cookies for Palm Sunday to take into our church class this morning.  I love word play and an excuse to make a cookie and I hadn’t tried making them before, so I figured I’d give it a shot!  Turns out – it’s the easiest cookie to make, looks refined and tastes amazing with a cup of coffee!  I’m a big fan of keeping a box or two of puff pastry in my freezer for various recipes, and now I have a new go-to cookie to make on the fly if someone is stopping by for coffee or just because!

Palmier

Palmiers
makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 box frozen puff pastry – sheets separated and thawed
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract

Spread a half cup of the sugar out on a clean surface evenly and lay both sheets of puff pastry out on top of the sugar.  With a rolling pin, roll the sheets a bit flatter in each direction until about an 1/8th of an inch thick. In a bowl with the remaining sugar, add the almond extract and stir with a fork until blended and the sugar resembles wet sand.  Spread the almond sugar over the surface of the puff pastry sheets.  From each end, start rolling up the pastry as you would a cinnamon roll.  It’s like rolling up a scroll!  When both sides almost meet in the middle, lay one side on top of the other, like shutting a book.  Press down slightly and lay on it’s side, cutting 1/4″ slices and placing the cookies on parchment lined baking sheets.
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(bad pic, but you get the visual)

It’s important to line your baking sheets with something because the sugar needs to caramelize to make these cookies what they are and you may have a hard time getting them off the sheets unless they are lined.

Bake cookies in a 450 degree oven for 6 minutes.  After 6 minutes, flip one and if it’s golden on the under side, flip them all and bake for another 5-6 minutes.  If they aren’t browned, yet, leave them in the oven for another 2-3 minutes.  You’re aiming for a good, golden caramelization on each side and each oven bakes different, so you may need to rotate your pans during the baking process.

Let the cookies cool completely before serving.  Have fun with the filling.  You could add lemon zest, orange zest, jam, vanilla – whatever you want to the sugar on the inside of the cookies.  Have fun with it!

Palmiers
riding in the car on the way to church this morning :)

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownies

The Ultimate Brownie
Just look at them.  Super dense.  Fudgy.  Chewy.  Crisp around the very edges and topped with a square of caramel chocolate so it oozes out when it’s cut.  Simply put: the best brownies you will ever eat.

The Bread Man made these a few years ago when we decided to host a Brownie Battle and invite about 20 of our friends to all bring brownies to taste test and enter into the competition for the Golden Whisk.  Yes, there was a golden whisk trophy.  We are serious about our food battles.  Matt baked these brownies and topped his with dark chocolate toffee bars, which is his favorite combination.  They tied up with another contender for Best Traditional Brownie out of about 20 pans of brownies!  When I went to make them last week, I bought Ghiradelli bars – the individually wrapped ones.  And I bought sea salt caramel (as seen pictured) and sea salt soiree with almonds to place on top of the batter.  Check it out, sinking down into the glossy batter…
Ultimate Brownies
This recipe is super simple and I nearly have it memorized.  We’ve adapted it from a stunning UK recipe and put it in slightly easier steps and terms for everyone.  I hope you make these soon.  If for nothing else than to cry with happiness.  It’ll happen.  And be creative with the type of chocolate bars you put on top!  There’s so many to choose from!  I thought if I were in the mood, a dark chocolate mint bar on top would be good.  Or dark chocolate and strawberry!  The fun thing about going with the individually wrapped bars is that it’s instant perfect portioning for cutting!  Have fun and let me know how you like them!

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownie

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownies
makes about 16 depending on how to slice it ;)

8 oz unsalted butter
8 oz dark chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli 60%)
10 oz superfine sugar (I used Baker’s Sugar)
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
pinch of salt
5 oz cake flour
Your favorite chocolate bars for topping (I used these two kinds)

Preheat your oven to 400F.

In a double boiler (or a medium saucepan over low heat filled a couple inches up with water with a big heatproof glass bowl setting on top) melt the butter and chocolate together and stir with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated.  Gently stream in the sugar and whisk constantly until fully incorporated and smooth.  Whisk in the vanilla.  In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and lightly whip them up with a pinch of salt.  Take the bowl off the double boiler (if you haven’t already) and whisk in the eggs until smooth and then add the flour in two batches, stirring well to smooth out as many lumps as possible.

Line a 9×13″ pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Pour the brownie batter in the pan and smooth out the surface.  Dot the entire surface with chocolate bars and bake for 20 minutes.  It’s not going to look done, but take that sucker OUT and let it cool COMPLETELY before cutting.  Restrain yourself.  Plan ahead.  Gently lift the foil out of the pan and place the sheet of brownies on a cutting board and cut into squares.  Enjoy your life more than you ever have before. You’re welcome.

Double Dark Chocolate Brownies

 

Homemade Sweet, White Sandwich Bread

Two Loaves of Sweet, White Sandwich Bread Sandwich Bread
This is home.  To smell this bread baking is to realize that everything is going to be alright. One of the blessings of being married to The Bread Man is that he bakes stuff like this.  He started baking this bread a few months ago. The recipe makes two loaves at a time and we can blaze through both in a week.  Perhaps we shouldn’t and in a better world, I’d give a loaf away.  But it makes the perfect toast in the morning, the perfect grilled cheese sandwich at lunch, the perfect cinnamon toast for a snack in the afternoon and the perfect toast with jam for dessert after dinner.  No, we don’t do all those things in one day.  I’m just telling you that you will NEVER tire of this bread.  It stays fresh for so long AND, unlike most homemade breads, this stuff doesn’t get mold for more than a week – on the counter!  It’s perfect.  Sweet, smooth, silky inner texture and a perfectly crisp crust when toasted – not too thick, not too thin.  Your kids won’t even tear off the crust.

Homemade Sandwich Bread
You can see my lack of restraint that in the thirty seconds it took me to cut the slice to put the slices in the toaster, I bit the corner of that cinnamon/sugar slice.  I could NOT help it.  You’ll see why.  This bread is what’s good about being a kid, again.  This bread sings of wholesome goodness and peace and harmony.

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I may be going too far.  Just try it out. And start it the night before you want it because I don’t want you to get all fussy when you see that it has to rise in your fridge for 8 hours.  Suck it up – it’s worth it.

Sandwich Loaf

Homemade Sandwich Bread*
makes two, 8″ loaves

9 grams (1 tbs) instant yeast
425 grams (1 3/4 cups, plus 2 tbs) lukewarm whole milk
794 grams (6 1/4 cups) unbleached bread flour
14 grams (2 tsp) salt
78 grams (5 1/2 tbs) sugar
85 grams (6 tbs) vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter
1 egg (50 grams)

Do Ahead:

Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm milk until dissolved.  Set aside for 1 to 5 minutes.  Combine the flour, salt, sugar, oil, and egg in a mixing bowl, then pour in the milk mixture.  If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes.  If mixing by hand (go you) use a large spoon and stir for about 2 minutes.  The dough should be coarse and slightly sticky.

Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky.

Whichever mixing method you use, knead the dough by hand for 1 minute, then form it into a ball. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days. (You can bake the dough in batches over different days if you want and portion the dough into two or more oiled bowls at this stage.)

On Baking Day:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 1/2 hours before you plan to bake and divide it in half; each piece should weigh about 25 ounces (709 g) which is perfect for 4 1/2 x 8 inch loaf pans.  For a 5 x 9 inch pan, use 28 to 32 ounces of dough.  Shape into sandwich loaves (read method below), then place them in greased loaf pans to rise. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap or a towel; then let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 1/2 hours or longer, until it domes about 1 inch above the rims of the pans.

About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.  The bread is done when the top is a rich, golden brown, the sides are firm and the loaf sounds hollow if tapped on the bottom and the internal temperature is at least 185F in the center.

Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.  I DID exercise restraint, here.  If you cut into them too early, you’ll have gummy bread.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

* from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day – we love him

 

Shaping the Sandwich Loaves for baking:

To shape a sandwich loaf, flatten the dough into a 5 by 8 inch rectangle.  Working from the 5 inch side of the dough, roll up the length of the dough (like a fat cinnamon roll).  Pinch the final seam closed using your fingertips or the back edge of your hand.  Gently rock the loaf to even it out.  Don’t taper the ends; keep the top surface of the loaf even.  Place the loaf in a greased pan, seam side down, cover, and proof.

The Amazing Pea Puree

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This recipe is one of the most delicious things we’ve ever made in our kitchen.  I’m serious.  How can a pea puree be that good and be something adults want to eat, instead of just babies?  Because yes, I agree, it looks like baby food.  But let’s be honest with ourselves: any high-end restaurant is selling you baby food under the name “puree” and you LOVE it.  This stuff is creamy and almost like a really soft whipped mashed potato consistency.  I know I’m fighting an uphill battle trying to make this sound appealing, so I’ll stop.  Just make it.  Especially if you want something different in your week night repertoire.  You certainly have some frozen peas in your freezer.  You certainly have a head of garlic.  The only thing you may not have on hand is heavy cream.  This puree has been a simple accompaniment to our meals, the base sauce and flavor for seared scallops (as pictured) and every time Olive basically licks her bowl.  Heck, we all do.  Seriously, it’s that good.  And we have Nigella Lawson and her awesome book, How to Eat to thank for this gem.  In her book, this recipe didn’t even get it’s own title or section, but it was sandwiched in alongside a fish recipe and we felt so lucky to find it.  We’ve made it at least four or five times since!

If you’re looking for a great baby food, toddler-friendly food or high class side dish for a dinner party, this is it!

Pea Puree*
serves 4 as a side dish

2 1/2 cups frozen peas
6 cloves garlic, left whole
4 TBS butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

In a medium pot, bring salted water to boil with the garlic cloves.  Boil for about 5 minutes and then add the peas.  Boil the peas till they are very tender and then transfer the peas and garlic cloves to a food processor.  Add the butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to the peas and garlic and pulse until smooth.  Drizzle in the heavy cream while the processor is running.  Taste to see if it needs more salt and then serve immediately!  Easy peasy!  Har har.

*adapted from How to Eat

How to Make a Patty Melt – without rye bread!

Patty Melt with Beet Chips
My dear sister in law called me last week and asked my advice for making a patty melt at home.  It occurred to me that I hadn’t actually ever made one, before.  I think Matt did at one point, but I wasn’t involved.  So I gave her my best guess-advice and when we hung up, ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT was eating a patty melt.  So, the next day, I went to the store and bought some ground beef and when I got home, I realized I’d forgotten rye bread.  Honey child, you simply can’t call a sandwich a patty melt if you don’t put it on rye.  It becomes a hamburger sandwich.  No go.  However, we had three loaves of homemade bread at home, already, and I felt it would be batty to go buy a fourth.  So I got creative and put the rye flavor IN the patty by toasting caraway seeds and adding them to the ground beef!  Then I added tons of diced onions and grilled the patties and then melted gooey Swiss all over the bun and patty.  It was actually perfect.  Tasted exactly like a patty melt on rye!

I highly recommend you try this method.  Now, it might be easier for you to go buy a loaf of rye than it would for you to hunt through your spice drawers and find caraway seeds, which I’m sure you’ve only used maybe once or never.  If you go that route, you can still follow my recipe – just leave the seeds out of the beef!  Cheers to you all – I’m super hungry, now.
Patty Melt

Homemade Patty Melt
makes four patty melts

1 lb ground beef (85/15 is a good fat ratio for flavor)
1/2 cup sweet yellow onion, diced small
1 TBS caraway seeds, toasted and crushed
salt and pepper for seasoning
vegetable oil for the griddle
8 slices Swiss cheese
8 slices toasted bread – any kind, I used a sweet homemade white bread, which will be blogged about later this week – so good

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, onion and caraway seeds together until well mixed.  Form four patties from the meat and set aside.  Season both sides of the patties with kosher salt and pepper.

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat and brush with vegetable oil.  Cook the patties about 5-8 minutes on each side.  Lay a slice of Swiss cheese on top of each patty and place a lid over the patty until the cheese melts all around it.  Toast the bread in a toaster, then lay a slice of cheese on the bread, top with a patty and the other slice of bread.  To gild the lily, melt a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick skillet and toast the bread again on each side.  This further melts the cheese slices and gives everything that super awesome butter flavor.

Beet Chips (I served them on the side and got a request for the recipe, so here you go)

4 large beets, peeled and rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425F.  Slice the beets about 1/8th of an inch thick – if you’re knife skills are lacking, use a mandoline (just watch out for your knuckles). Toss in a large bowl with olive oil and then spread them out on a foil lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes and start checking them.  You’ll need to remove the smaller ones so they won’t burn and leave the bigger ones in so they won’t just be soggy.  Let them cool for about 5 minutes before serving!

Chewy Mexican Chocolate Cookies

Mexican Chocolate Cookies 3
This is one of my most favorite cookie recipes.  I found it a few years ago in a baking issue of Cooking Light magazine.  I’ve made it several times and I always get requests for the recipe.  The original recipe is soft out of the oven but then it hardens up pretty fast and becomes sort of like a short bread or pecan sandy texture.  I love the original, crunchy, good-with-coffee version, but I’m a soft and chewy cookie kinda gal.  So I adapted the recipe a bit to make the cookies more flat and chewy and I LOVED the results!  Crispy along the edges, soft in the middle – with a bite from the pepper and cinnamon!  As you can tell, I’m a fan of the Mexican chocolate flavor and I hope, within my life, to incorporate it into as many baked goods as possible.

Chewy Mexican Chocolate Cookies
I hope you try this recipe out!  If you’d like the cookies to be the original crunchy style, leave out the extra egg and cut back to 4 TBS butter.  But I don’t think you will want that after you taste these :)

Chewy Mexican Chocolate Cookies
makes about 30 cookies

5 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use Ghirardelli 60% chips and skip the chopping)
3.4 oz AP flour (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
a pinch of cayenne
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 TBS butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the chocolate in a small glass bowl and microwave for one minute, stir and microwave 30 seconds more to fully melt.  Stir with a rubber spatula to full incorporate and ensure it’s all melted and set aside to cool.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, cayenne and black pepper and stir well with a whisk.

Combine sugar and softened butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer or by hand until well blended.  Add the eggs and beat well.  Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla and beat until just blended.  Fold in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.

Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I’ve tried it without and they will come off a regular sheet pan if you spray it with enough oil.) Bake at 350F for 12 minutes or until cracked on top and almost set.  Let the cookies cool on the pan for a couple minutes and then transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired!

Mexican Chocolate Cookies 2

*recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine, 2010

Chicken Piccata with Thyme and Mushrooms

Chicken Piccata and Buttered Noodles
This was the first full meal I made on our new gas stove that Matt installed for us last weekend!  He worked so hard rerouting gas lines (scary) and changing out new electrical outlets (scarier) and sawing a bigger hole in our counter top (can’t turn back, now!) and it all ended up totally awesome!  We have wanted a gas stove for years – they just heat so much quicker, they come down from high heat quicker – everything is more precise.  And plus – FIRE!  It’s pretty appealing.  I am tempted to roast marshmallows on this thing.  But I won’t.  I am very thankful for this machine and I swear I’ll deep clean it more than I did our old electric one…
Buttered Noodles
For the first meal, I did a simple chicken piccata with mushrooms and thyme and some soft, buttered noodles.  It was very comforting and yet refreshing at the same time.  I love the bite of the lemon juice and the capers in this dish and so for a twist, I added my favorite herb, thyme, instead of the traditional parsley and I also added some sauteed baby portobello mushrooms.  It all came together great and we thoroughly enjoyed our first meal from the shiny new stove!

chicken piccata

Chicken Piccata with Thyme and Mushrooms
serves 4

3 chicken breasts, butterflied and split in half
1/2 cup flour for dredging
salt and pepper to season the chicken
6 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
1/4 cup capers, drained
1 cup mushrooms, sliced thin
8 oz. long pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti

Heat your oven to 200F.  This is to hold your chicken as you cook it and until the noodles are ready so that everything stays hot until you’re ready to serve.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Salt it.  Salt it some more.  As it’s heating…

Butterfly the chicken breasts by sliding a very sharp knife length-wise into the thickest part of the chicken breast (kinda like you’d cut an english muffin in half) and lay the chicken breast open and cut down the middle, forming two, thinner cutlets.  Do this with the remaining chicken breasts and dry them on both sides and season both sides with a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat in a large, stainless skillet.  When the butter starts bubbling and popping, coat each chicken breast in flour, shake off the excess and lay floured cutlets on a paper towel until ready to fry.  I worked in two batches – three pieces at a time.  Fry for about 3-5 minutes per side, until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer says at least 160. (It’ll cook some more as it sits to warm in the oven.)  Place fried chicken on a plate and place in the oven to keep warm as you fry up the rest.  For the second batch, add two more tablespoons of butter to the pan before frying the rest.

Remove the chicken and place on the platter in the oven.  Add the lemon juice, chicken stock and capers and thyme to the pan and scrape up the brown bits and season with salt and pepper.  Add the mushrooms and let the sauce reduce for a couple minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining two tablespoons of butter and spoon sauce/mushrooms over the chicken and serve with buttered noodles.

To finish the noodles once they are done boiling, add the drained noodles to a bowl, add a splash of pasta water, a tablespoon of butter and fresh cracked pepper and stir to combine.  Garnish with fresh chopped herbs if you like!

Chicken Piccata with Thyme and Mushroom

Wright’s Smoked Sausage and Leek Orecchiette

sausage and leek pasta
I’m here to proclaim my love for a particular brand of sausage.  No one is paying me, I’m just that fanatic about it.  If you try it, you will feel the same way.  Wright’s has been making amazing pork products for years.  We first fell in love with their peppered, thick-cut bacon a few years back when our friend, John, made these amazing bacon wrapped jalapenos for a company party and said, “The secret is Wright’s!”  Just a couple months ago we noticed their line of ground sausage.  They have a regular, hot and spicy, sage and smoked.  The smoked is astoundingly good.  I can’t adequately describe it so I’ll just say – go buy it and put it in everything from eggs, to pizza to pasta to your sausage gravy and you will not only gain at least ten pounds at the end of your quest, but you will be happier.  At least that’s how it happened to me.

I created this little pasta dish with ground smokey sausage, sauteed leeks and crushed red pepper.  A pretty classic combination but with that smokey sausage, it takes it to a new level.  The orecchiette pasta was perfect for holding little bits of sausage and leek – this is a fast dinner that is completely satisfying and easy to throw together after work.  After you try this sausage, you will keep one on hand at all times.

leek and sausage pasta

Smokey Sausage and Leek Orecchiette
serves 4-6

8 oz orecchiette pasta, or any short and broad pasta
2 medium sized leeks, cleaned, halved and chopped into 1/4″ strips (about 2 cups of leeks)
8 oz Wright’s Smoked Sausage
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup leftover pasta water after boiling
crushed red pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. (More salt than you think – for a gallon pot, I’d say at least 1/4 cup of salt.  I know – the pasta is flavored by it, it doesn’t absorb it all.  Your pasta will be good enough to eat plain.) Add the pasta and cook to the package directions – usually 12-15 minutes until al dente.  While the pasta water is coming to a boil and while the pasta cooks, cook the sausage, leaving in moderate sized chunks, until cooked through.  Drain the sausage on paper towels and drain off all but a tablespoon of the grease and saute the leeks until  starting to color on the edges.  Then, add a splash of water, cover, and let steam for 10 minutes until soft.
Add the cooked pasta to the leeks and fold in the sausage.  Add the cheddar cheese and stir till melted.  Then add the 1/2 cup of pasta water and stir until fully incorporated and everything is smooth (pasta water is an instant sauce-maker for pasta.)  Garnish with crushed red pepper and serve!  The baby ate this UP.