Thursday, March 31, 2011

Simple Elegance: Quick Coq Au Vin

I used to make a quick version of Coq Au Vin, or so I thought, as part of our regular weeknight meal rotation. I had a recipe that was all made in one pot and could be done in less than an hour. The hubs really liked it and I liked that it was easy. I hadn't made the dish in quite some time and I thought of it the other day when trying to come up with something delicious but a little more special to make for the hubs on my day off. I figured since I had the day off I could find a different recipe that maybe would be more work but would be more like the classic Coq Au Vin, which takes a whole lot longer to prepare. When searching for a new recipe, I learned my old dish was really nothing like what Coq Au Vin is supposed to be. It was a good dish, but now I don't even think it can be called Coq Au Vin. Here I was searching for a chicken dish with tomatoes and wine but apparently I was way off. Obvi, Coq Au Vin is the super fancy french way of saying chicken cooked in wine, and to my surprise, there are no tomatoes involved. There is however a whole lot of wine, yummy mushrooms, bacon, garlic, shallots, chicken, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. What I realized in the end that I was not wrong that I love Coq Au Vin, I was just totally wrong in what it actually was... and boy am I glad to be wrong!

The absolute best thing about this dish is that it sounds totally impressive but I'll let you in on a little secret- it's totally easy! Totally simple elegance!

Quick Coq Au Vin

3 tbsp olive oil
3 slices thick cut bacon, roughly chopped
4 chicken thighs
1 handful flour seasoned with salt and pepper
8 oz crimini mushrooms, halved
8 shallots, cut into slices
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 bottle red wine, less one glass (for the cook!)
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Set bacon aside.

Shake chicken with the seasoned flour in a plastic bag until coated. Shake off any excess flour and brown chicken in pot, 4-5 minutes per side. Set chicken aside with bacon.

Saute mushrooms, garlic and shallots in pot until they just begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Pour half of wine into pan and cook over high heat for about 8 minutes. Add broth and the rest of the wine. Bring to a boil and add the chicken, bacon and herbs to pot. Return to a boil then cover and simmer 45 minutes. Remove bay leaf, thyme and serve.

Recipe adapted from 2 epicurious recipes found here and here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Deliciously Simple Suppers: Peppered Beef Stroganoff

If your anything like me, then I know what you're thinking right now.... beef stroganoff? Beef stroganoff is one of those dishes that I'm well aware of but has never sounded particularly yummy to me. Actually, it kind of sounded the opposite- steak with some weird creamy sauce served over egg noodles?? It just seems so un-natural. Then, a couple weeks ago, while out running errands with the hubs I was searching through my ever trusty epicurious iPhone app and stumbled upon this dish. The photo looked incredibly appetizing and the recipe sounded a lot better than what I had originally perceived to be beef stroganoff. I read the recipe to the hubs and he seemed to think it sounded just fine so I figured now was as good a time as any to attempt a well known classic and hope that it didn't suck. You also should be aware by now of my new found love/addiction to mushrooms and this dish screams mushrooms so I had to try it! So, I give to you a pretty darn delicious recipe that will hopefully change your mind like it did mine on a deliciously simple classic dish.

Peppered Beef Stroganoff

1 tbsp coarsely ground peppercorn melange (mix of green, pink, white and black peppercorns)
2 8 oz beef tenderloin steaks or strip steaks
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
8 oz crimini mushrooms, halved
1 1/4 cups beef broth
1 tbsp cognac or brandy
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 8.8 oz pkg wide egg noodles
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Sprinkle pepper and salt all over both sides of steaks and press to adhere. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add steaks and cook to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer beef to plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add 1 tbsp oil and mushrooms to same skillet. Saute until browned, about 4 minutes. Add broth and cognac and bring to a boil. Add cream, boil until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Whisk in mustard.

Meanwhile cook noodles in pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain and return to pot. Toss with parsley and 1 tbsp oil. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, divide noodles among 2 plates. Slice steaks into 1 inch thick slices and place atop noodles. Spoon mushroom mixture over steaks.

Recipe adapted from epicurious

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Supper For the Hubs: Chicken Parmesan with Homemade Chunky Tomato Sauce

I'm doing my best to strive in my wifely duties lately while working the crazy hours that I do. Most nights, I'm not home to make dinner and I have to admit, that is one thing I really miss about having a 9-5. There was nothing I enjoyed more than coming home after a long day at work than pouring myself a glass of wine and spending a little quality time in my kitchen. I still get to enjoy nights like this a couple times a week but I've found that now that I am not able to cook as much during the week, I need to find meals that can last a couple days for the hubs to enjoy on those nights when I'm not around. Not that he isn't self-sufficient. He absolutely is. I think he just got very pampered the last few years when it comes to his dinners and he misses that. So, while he is paying the bills, I'll do my best to oblige and ensure that he still gets delicious home-cooked dinners as many nights as possible. One way I am able to accomplish this is by making one of his favorite dishes last.

The last few weeks he's been requesting Chicken Parmesan. I have to admit, this isn't one of my favorite dishes and after each request for it, I'd try to find something else that he would be just as happy with. But when I wasn't going to be home really at all to make dinner a couple weeks ago, I gave in and made him chicken pram. Clearly chicken pram can be incredibly easy- a jar of good tomato sauce, some chicken cutlets, and some bread crumbs. But that is just not how I roll so I turned to one of my bff's, Miss Martha Stewart, and made it a little more special with her recipe for easy homemade chunky tomato sauce.

Easy Chunky Tomato Sauce

3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried thyme or Italian seasoning

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic, salt, and pepper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice and thyme. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened, 20-25 minutes.

Chicken Parmesan

3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 chicken cutlets
salt and pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups Chunky Tomato Sauce, recipe to follow
1/4 cup olive oil
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into eight 1/4-inch-thick slices

Heat broiler. Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan in a shallow bowl. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in beaten egg then dredge through breadcrumb mixture, turning to coat both sides.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Cook chicken in skillet until golden brown on both sides. Spread tomato sauce on bottom of a baking dish and place browned chicken cutlets on sauce. Top each cutlet with slice of mozzarella cheese. Broil about 4 inches from heat source until cheese is melted and lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately over pasta.

Recipes adapted from Martha

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Inspired by Jersey, Created By San Fran: Pork Sugo

A few weeks ago, one of the very lovely ladies that I work with told me about this dish that her boyfriend was working on. And by working on, she meant that he had started the dish one morning and it wouldn't be complete and ready for them to eat until the following night. I have to say, this really sparked my interest. I'd never heard of pork sugo before but clearly, I love pork and I really love a dish that slow cooks for a long time and takes lots of love and heart to prepare. I know it's totally cheesy, but I have to agree when chefs, and eaters, talk about how much better food tastes when it's made with love. Luckily enough, a few days later this recipe arrived in my inbox from my co-worker's very sweet boyfriend. I decided to try out the recipe this past weekend.

He suggested that I serve the pork sugo over polenta or grits. To be honest, I'm not very familiar with making either so I did a little googling to find other suggestions and I stumbled upon something even more amazing than I'd already thought I'd found. One of the most fabulous restaurants in San Fran, Delfina, where I spent a few lovely, much too short lunches with 2 of my SF bff's serves this dish and actually let San Francisco's 7x7 Magazine publish the recipe. I thought I'd died and went to recipe heaven! I mean... pork, San Francisco's Delfina, I learned of it in Jersey! How much more perfect could it be!! This recipe was a huge treat for me to find, to cook, and to enjoy. It was one of those dishes where I felt so good making it and my love and excitement for the dish shined through in every bite.

It took me two days to complete the dish but it was well worth it. This is actually something that would be really great to start on a Sunday evening, before your work week starts, as most of the work is done on Sunday. Then on Monday after a long day at work, you just have a few quick and easy steps left and dinner is ready. It makes for great leftovers too!

Pork Sugo

1lb pork butt
1/2 rack pork spareribs
salt & pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup sliced yellow onion
1/2 cup carrots, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup celery, sliced on the diagonal
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 sprig rosemary
3 sage leaves
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
pinch chili flakes, optional
grated parmesan, to taste
1lb pappardelle or other fresh pasta

Cut the pork butt into 2 large pieces. Season the pork butt and the spareribs with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot. Brown pork on all sides. Remove and set aside.

To the pot add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and herbs and saute for a couple minutes until the vegetables start to get tender, stirring occasionally to scrape up brown pork bits from bottom of pan. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 minutes. Add wine to deglaze pot and cook until reduced by half, about 5-6 minutes.

Return pork to the pot and add chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer to 325 degree preheated oven. Braise in oven until pork is tender and falling off the bone, about 2 hours. Remove from oven, let cool, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day scrape any congealed fat from the top and discard. Over low heat, warm sugo through. Remove pork and ribs from pot. Pull meat from bones and shred the rib meat and the pork butt (the pork should shred rather easily using 2 forks).

Pour veggies and liquid from the pot into a food processor and puree until smooth. Return to pot and reduce sauce over medium heat until it thickens. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add meat to pot, bring to a boil and turn off heat.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. To serve, warm some pork sugo in a pan with butter, parsley, and chili flakes. Serve over pasta and top with grated parmesan.

Recipe adapted from Delfina as featured in SF's 7x7 Magazine

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dinner For Two: Seafood Paella

This Valentine's day I wanted to make something a little different. The weather in central Jersey is starting to get a bit more springy but it is still chilly and there is a little snow left on the ground, therefore I was in search of something that felt a bit lighter but was also warm and cozy. When perusing my cookbooks, this dish jumped out at me as the perfect dish for a romantic dinner for two on a not quite spring evening. After making Cioppino I've really been into dishes with lots of different types of seafood. It also reminded me how much I love mussels and now that I know I can cook them at home I figured I'd give this Spanish classic a try. I have to say it also looks really beautiful when it's all composed. So many gorgeous colors and yummy seafood bits.

Seafood & Sausage Paella

2 tbsp olive oil
2 thick cut slices of bacon, diced
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cups rice (Arborio rice is great)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
2 cups bottled clam juice
2 Spanish chorizo sausages, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 canned whole tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp saffron threads
1/2 lb shrimp
1/4 to 1/2 lb squid
1/2 lb monkfish, cod, or seabass
1 lb mussels
about a 1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper

In a heavy flameproof casserole dish or dutch oven over medium high heat, heat the oil. Add bacon and cook until crisp, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and bell pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes more. Stir in rice, oregano, and coriander and cook, stirring until rice is opaque, about 2 minutes. Heat stock and addict with chorizo, tomatoes, and saffron. Mix well, cover and cook over low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is almost tender, about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally as the rice cooks and add a splash of water if it becomes dry.

As rice is cooking, prepare seafood and set aside. Shell and devil shrimp. Cut squid into 1/4 inch rings. Cut fish fillets into 1 inch cubes.

Put mussels and wine in a covered pot, discarding any that do not close to the touch. Steam mussels until shells open, about 5 minutes. Discard any that don't open. Remove from heat and set aside. Strain broth from mussels through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth (a coffee filter works great!).

Add shrimp, squid, fish, peas, and mussel broth to the paella and cook for 5 minutes until fish is cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve paella and top with mussels.

Recipe adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook: The Essential Recipe Collection for Today's Home Cook