Tag Archives: pan

Menu for Two – Seared Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast w/ Rosemary Shallot Pan Sauce and Braised Kale

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

As a home cook, one of the ways I work on improving my “chops” is by challenging myself. Sometimes I’ll pick a “secret” ingredient, a la Iron Chef, and other times I’ll prepare what I call a Pantry Dinner. For these, I simply scan the fridge and the pantry for ingredients, check out what produce we have on hand and try come up with something tasty for dinner. (If anyone remembers Gordon Elliot’s Doorknock Dinners show…that’s where I got the idea.) This recipe was the result of one of those “Pantry Dinner” nights.

On this particular evening I had to come up with something quick because I was a little late getting home…so late in fact, that I had actually thought of just making omelets and toast. But upon scanning the refrigerator I discovered half a bottle of wine, a package of chicken breast, and ½ a bunch of fresh kale left unused from a previous night. With a stash of whole shallots (Albertson’s has had good ones for 2.99 a pound lately) and a fresh head of garlic I was off to the races.

This cooking method is a fairly foolproof way to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts; they always come out nice and moist. Just be very careful pulling that pan out of the oven! I have a potholder glove that I keep on the handle of the pan while making the sauce. The pan sauce is very quick, it should take no longer than two minutes or so to reduce the wine. Remember to remove the pan from the heat before you stir in the butter. For this tiny amount of butter there should be no need to return the pan to heat. (Doing so could cause the sauce to separate causing it to be unpleasantly greasy.)

Start to finish this “Pantry Dinner” was on the table in about half an hour. With a piece of crusty whole grain bread, a salad and the rest of the wine this ended up being a rather nice dinner for two…I hope you’ll try it!

Seared Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast with Rosemary Shallot Pan Sauce and Braised Kale

For the chicken:
Two – Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
¼ Cup – Dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1 – Med Shallot, chopped
1 Branch – Fresh rosemary (leaves only) chopped finely
Approx. 1 Tablespoon – Fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon – Unsalted butter, cut in 4 to 6 pieces and kept very cold
1 Tablespoon – Olive oil
Season with an Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

For the braised kale:
4 cups – Fresh kale, stems removed, leaves torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
1 – Med Shallot, chopped
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
¼ Cup – Dry white wine
Approx. 1 Tablespoon – Fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon – Olive oil
Season with an Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a 10” oven-proof pan over medium-high heat and using the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder, season the chicken fairly liberally on both sides while the pan is getting hot. When the pan is hot, add roughly 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl or shake the pan to cover evenly. (There should be “just” enough oil to coat the pan.)

Carefully place the chicken in the pan, skinned side down and sear until some browning appears around the edges, about 4-5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook 1 minute more, cover and place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm a large sauté pan over medium heat, when the pan is hot add 1 tablespoon of olive and swirl or shake the pan to cover evenly. Season the oil with a few good grinds from the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder then sauté the shallot and garlic just until the aroma of the garlic begins to fill the kitchen, about 1 minute. Add the kale and toss to coat with some of the oil.

Add the wine and a squeeze of lemon juice and cover. Cook covered, 15 minutes or until the kale is tender, stirring every few minutes. Toss again and check for seasoning just before serving. If necessary, add a little salt & pepper to taste.

After 20 minutes, very carefully remove the chicken from the oven holding the handle of the pan with a pot holder or “dry” dish towel. Remove the chicken to a plate (or cutting board) to rest. Place the pan with any remaining juices over medium-high heat. As the pan juices begin to boil, stir in the shallots. Cook about one minute then add the white wine and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Return to the boil and allow this to cook until about three quarters of the liquid has evaporated.

When the liquid in the pan has reached nearly the consistency of syrup, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner, stir in the rosemary and half of the butter. Continue stirring and when that butter has melted, stir in the remaining butter. Stir until all of the butter has melted into the sauce and set the pan aside while you prepare your plates.

To serve, spoon a healthy serving of the kale onto each plate. Carefully slice the chicken in diagonal slices, fan the slices out and serve next to, or right on top of the kale with the sauce spooned evenly over the chicken.



“Absolut” Fish: Pan-Seared Fish with Vodka Lime Butter Sauce, Capers and Fresh Dill

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

This has long been one of my favorite fish recipes. I love the taste of the lime and the capers and the vodka is always an interesting ingredient; together these flavors compliment the fish perfectly. The fresh dill brings a nice finishing touch by adding a fresh bite as well as an attractive visual component. Once you’ve had a little practice it only takes 10 minutes or so to prepare and it’s an impressive and tasty enough dish for company.

Pan-Searing 101

There is really nothing complicated about pan-searing. You may have noticed already, I use the technique a lot. It really is a very convenient way to cook fillets, steaks, or chops when you don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen. What makes pan-searing even more appealing to me is the browning really gives whatever you are cooking a real boost of flavor. Called the Maillard Reaction, this crust of caramelized goodness is the secret behind many delicious restaurant dishes.

With just a couple of key things in mind most anyone can use the pan-searing method, in most any kitchen…

Moisture prevents browning – You will often hear me preach about getting the surface of your fish (or any other protein) dry before searing it. When pan-searing it’s especially important to remember that moisture will inhibit browning. Oil on the other hand promotes browning.

How hot is hot? – Ok, as well as I can describe it; when you heat a pan and add olive oil, then leave the oil to get hot, there is a point just before the oil begins to smoke. At this point the molecules in the oil have loosened or thinned about as much as they are going to and the surface of the oil takes on a shimmering look. That is the right heat for pan-searing.

Wow! That’s really hot! – Always remember: you can move that pan off the fire. Any time you feel your pan might be getting too hot the first step is to simply move it off the burner. Never panic! Be careful and be confident.

Notes: Firm white fish is ready when the fish flakes easily with a fork and the flesh in the center is almost solid white showing very little if any transparency. Remember, fish will continue cooking for a minute or two after you remove it from the heat so be careful not to overcook it. Depending on the thickness of your fillets it should take no longer than 5 to 7 minutes in the oven to finish cooking through.

Side notes: Yes, this recipe contains butter…possibly as much a 1 tablespoon (or pat) per serving which if you think about it really isn’t that much. Once in a blue moon I do allow myself the pleasure and I hope you will too!

Pan-Seared Fish with Vodka Lime Butter Sauce, Capers and Fresh Dill

2 to 4 – (6 Ounce) Firm white fish fillets at least 1” thick. (Such as Mahi-Mahi, Grouper, or Halibut)
¼ Cup – Premium vodka, unflavored
1 Ounce – Fresh squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp – capers
2 Sprigs – Fresh dill
4 Tbsp – Butter, well chilled, cut into 16 equal cubes
Olive Oil
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400 and use a paper towel to dab the fish to dry it very well. Season both sides with salt & pepper then heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Swirl the pan to evenly coat the cooking surface and carefully place the fish, skin side up / flesh side down, in the pan. Cook 3 minutes (without moving) then gently turn over and cook 3 minutes more. Carefully remove the fish to an oven-proof dish and place it in the oven to finish cooking through.

While the pan is still hot, pour out any excess oil and with the pan still off the heat add the lime juice. Swirl the sizzling juice for about 30 seconds then add the vodka and return the pan to the heat. Simmer, swirling the pan from time to time until the liquid begins to thicken, about 3 minutes. Add 4 of the butter cubes and swirl the pan as they melt.

Reduce the heat to medium and when the first 4 cubes of butter have melted swirl or whisk in 4 more while alternately moving the pan on and off the heat. (Note: The pan should stay hot enough to keep the butter melting but not so hot that the butter burns or separates from the sauce.) When the butter has melted, add the capers along with 4 more butter cubes. Continue gently whisking as the butter melts, finish the sauce by melting the last 4 cubes of butter and set the pan off the heat while you plate the fish.

The fish should be done about the same time as the sauce. Check to make sure the fillets have cooked through, leaving it a little longer if necessary. Carefully (it’s hot!) remove the fish from the oven and place each fillet on a plate. Spoon some of the sauce and the capers over each fillet then use a pair of kitchen shears or scissors to snip a sprinkling of fresh dill over each serving. Serve with a little sprig of dill and a slice of lime on the side.



Scallops Two Ways: Pan-Seared with Grand Marnier Reduction Sauce and Pan-Fried Crusted with Panko and Orange

We decided to stay in last night and being that it was Saturday night I was in the mood for something a little special. After futzing around the house all day, the afternoon kind of snuck by and before I knew it, once again, it was too late to cook any long-cooking recipes. Seafood is a favorite when I don’t have a lot of time and scallops seemed like just the ticket for a nice dinner for two.

It is nearly impossible here in South Florida to find fresh sea scallops. Even when you find them at the fishmongers, scallops are often previously frozen or, even worse, wet-packed! I know I have written about this before but it bears mentioning again. Wet packed and even some frozen scallops (and shrimp) are soaked in a chemical solution called Sodium triphosphate or STP that ruins the flavor and texture. Take my word for it…you do not want to feed STP to your loved-ones! I always recommend IQF or “Individually Quick Frozen” scallops.

Thankfully, any time seafood is treated with STP it must be stated on the packaging and/or included in the ingredients. I visited our local BJ’s and picked up a nice two pound bag of IQF Sea Scallops. I’ve bought these here before but I always check the label and was pleased to find “Ingredients: Scallops” on this one. The two pound package should last Kat and I two, possibly three meals. So while scallops are a special treat for us, I don’t really consider them a splurge.

One of my favorite things to do when cooking shrimp or scallops is to prepare them 2, sometimes even 3 different ways, usually with a common thread tying the flavors together. I do this because, for me anyway, it makes the dinner seem especially nice…like something you might have at a restaurant. My common thread ingredient for this dinner was oranges. I have been on something of an orange kick lately and it’s a flavor that I think really compliments scallops. I am including both recipes here, either one would be a fine entrée (or appetizer) on its own.

I served these with leeks braised in white wine with orange rind and simple Old Bay seasoned and roasted Yukon potato medallions.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Grand Marnier Reduction Sauce

Recipe notes: This sauce is super concentrated and intensely flavorful. I would have preferred a little less sauce on the scallops pictured above. Plan on 3 scallops per person for an appetizer or a “Two Ways” entrée; use 6 per person if this will be your entrée.

3 to 6 – Medium scallops per person
¼ Cup – Grand Marnier
½ Cup – Fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. – Butter, cubed into 8 pieces and kept very cold
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Fresh Orange zest to garnish
Olive Oil

Prepare scallops by removing the tough adductor muscle from the side of the larger adductor muscle ( “see here” ) then pat them very dry using a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt & ground pepper.

Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium high heat. When oil is shimmering and just beginning to smoke carefully, one at a time, set the scallops into the pan. Sear the scallops without touching them until some browning becomes apparent around the edges, about two minutes. Turn them gently over and sear two minutes more or until scallops are cooked nearly through. (If you cut into one the center should still be a little translucent). Remove the scallops to a plate and cover to keep warm.

To the same pan add the orange juice and boil until the juice becomes syrupy and reduces to about three tablespoons. Remove the pan from heat, add the Grand Marnier and place back on heat. Cook, stirring or swirling occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to about 4 tablespoons. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter cubes 2 or 3 at a time. Continue stirring, adding more cubes as the butter melts and becomes incorporated until all butter has been added. The sauce should now be the right consistency for serving.

To serve place the scallops on your serving plates and drizzle a tiny bit of the sauce over each. Garnish each scallop with a pinch of orange zest and serve.

Pan-Fried Scallops Crusted with Panko and Orange Zest

Recipe Notes: The orange zest in the crust caramelizes quickly and turns a deep brown. Don’t worry! As long as you do not over-brown the crust it does not burn. Actually, I really liked the deep orangey flavor the caramelized zest gives the crust. The Grand Marnier sauce from the above recipe was good on these…just don’t use too much! Plan on 3 scallops per person for an appetizer or a “Two Ways” entrée; use 6 per person if this will be your entrée.

3 to 6 – Medium scallops per person
1-1/2 Cups – Panko crumbs
½ Cup – Whole Wheat or Unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Egg – Lightly beaten with 2 Tbsp. of water
Zest of one large orange (about 2 Tbsp.)
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Canola and Olive Oil

Prepare scallops by removing the tough adductor muscle from the side of the larger adductor muscle ( “see here” ) then pat them very dry using a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt & ground pepper.

In a small bowl combine the panko crumbs and orange zest, tossing to mix. Mix egg wash in another small bowl and place the flour in another. Dust the scallops first in the flour, then dredge in the egg wash, then toss them in the crumb mixture. Set crusted scallops on a plate and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Warm about 1/4 inch deep of 2 parts canola oil to one part olive oil in a med pan over medium heat. Allow oil to heat thoroughly before cooking the scallops. (Oil should measure 350 to 375 with a probe thermometer. When ready, a bread cube dropped into the pan should “boil” immediately and begin browning in about 1 minute.)

When your oil is hot, carefully place scallops, one by one, into the pan. Cook about two minutes, or until browning can be seen around the edges, turn and cook two minutes more. When golden brown (orange zest will be darker) remove the scallops from the pan to a paper towel or food rack to rest for about a minute.

Serve immediately with a little of the Grand Marnier reduction on the side.



Pan Fried Snapper with a Sesame Ginger Soy Glaze

What a busy week it has been! Kat cooked on Monday, we were out with friends for Vietnamese food on Tuesday, Wednesday I had the good fortune of being invited on a fishing trip, and Thursday it was pizza with more friends. Here it is Friday already and I haven’t cooked all week…it is a good night to stay in, have a quiet dinner, and perhaps watch a movie.

Getting back to that fishing trip; I think the warm weather here has the fish a little confused. We were out on the ocean from sunset until midnight and I only brought home 4 little fish. But fresh fish is fresh fish so I wanted to make the most of it. I knew we were busy on Thursday so I filleted the Snapper, and sealed 4 fillets airtight in a plastic bag, and put them on ice. The other 4 fillets were vacuum sealed and frozen for another day.

Fresh fish stays fresh for 2-3 days as long as you keep it cold…ice cold! For my taste, the refrigerator alone is not cold enough and flavor will deteriorate quickly unless the fish is kept on ice. I usually seal fish in an airtight zip lock or vacuum sealed bag then place it in a big bowl of ice. I cover that with another layer of plastic wrap over the top and put the whole thing on the bottom shelf of the fridge. This way, even if the ice melts a little bit, your fish stays nice & cold and doesn’t get waterlogged. Whole, cleaned fish will keep just as well stored the same way.

For this recipe I used boneless fillets. To get good browning it is important to that the fish is dry so after rinsing them I placed them on paper towels and patted them mostly dry, then I transferred them to another layer of paper towels and repeated the process. With sprinkling of salt & pepper…they were ready to go! The fish was served over a bed of Sautéed Spinach with Toasted Sesame Oil with Edamame and Brown Rice.

Pan Fried Snapper with a Sesame Ginger Soy Glaze

4 – 4 to 6 ounce Fillets, Snapper (Tilapia or Catfish would be a good substitute)
¼ Cup – Whole Wheat Flour
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

¼ Cup – Soy Sauce
¼ Cup plus 1/8 Cup – Dry White Wine, Divided
1 Tbsp – Agave Nectar
1 Tbsp – Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp – Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp – Fish Sauce
1 Tbsp – Fresh Ginger, Minced
1 Tbsp – Fresh Garlic, Minced
¼ Tsp – White Pepper
1 Tbsp – Dry Sesame Seeds
3 – Green Onions, Sliced
1 Tsp – Corn Starch

1 Tbsp – Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp – Canola Oil

Add the soy sauce and ¼ cup wine to a bowl along with the next 7 ingredients, reserve until fish is cooked. Add 1 tsp corn starch and 1/8 wine to another bowl and mix well (this creates a slurry), set aside.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium high heat adding the sesame and canola oil when hot. Pat the fish dry, season with salt & pepper and dredge in flour. Shake off any excess flour and cook the fish 2 fillets at a time browning well, about 2 minutes per side. Remove fish to a paper towel to drain.

When fish is done, discard any excess oil and add the reserved sauce. Raise the heat to high and as soon as the sauce comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the corn starch & wine slurry. When the sauce begins to thicken, stir in the green onions and sesame seeds.

Gently dip each piece of fish in the sauce to coat. Set the fish on the serving plate and spoon on additional sauce before serving.



Menu for Two – Pan Seared Sea Scallops with a Fresh Herb White Wine Sauce, Oven Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus Spears.

Last week my wife Kathy had a rough week fighting the cold that I probably gave her when I had it the week before. Since she was feeling somewhat better by Friday I wanted to cook her something special so I went browsing at Costco for something out of the ordinary. With a crispy salad and some crusty bread, these scallops fit the bill perfectly!

I shop at Costco or BJ’s often as bulk stores are a great way to stretch your grocery bucks. For instance, while you might find nice fat Sea Scallops (nearly always pre-frozen) at a local seafood market or grocery for 12.99 to 15.99 per pound, these came in just over 9.00 per pound for a two pound bag. Two pounds are enough for 3 dinners for the two of us and that boils down to about $6.00 per meal or $3.00 per person. Just try to find that kind of deal at a seafood restaurant!

Speaking of buying frozen seafood; for a very long time I absolutely refused to buy frozen scallops or shrimp. While I wouldn’t consider myself a food snob…I simply did not care for the way the frozen ones tasted when compared to fresh. Then I came across an article about sodium tripolyphosphate . Sodium tripolyphosphate is a preservative that packagers will “claim” is used to “retain tenderness and moisture”. In fact it absolutely ruins the flavor and texture of certain foods, especially shrimp and scallops, giving the flesh a diluted, soapy flavor and an unpleasant spongy, almost waterlogged texture.

So why do seafood packagers use this additive, which is also used in household cleaners, laundry detergent, and paint? The simple answer is Sodium tripolyphosphate “can substantially increase the sale weight of seafood in particular”. Need I say more?

Fortunately, in the U.S., Sodium tripolyphosphate must be listed in the ingredients list on the package label. Also fortunately, Costco and BJ’s both carry frozen shrimp and scallops that do not contain Sodium tripolyphosphate! Do yourself a favor and read the ingredients next time you buy frozen seafood. For the same reason I also try to avoid the “fresh” scallops that are sold soaking in “their own” liquid.

Menu for two – Pan seared sea scallops with a fresh herb white wine sauce, oven roasted baby creamer potatoes and asparagus spears.

Note: Before I get started on the recipe there is one other tip that I must mention: WATER KILLS BROWNING! In searing and roasting the browning that occurs on the outside surface is where the flavor comes from. Searing your scallops while they are wet will prevent them from browning. To get the most flavor from your browned foods always be sure to pat them dry with a paper or dish towel before cooking.

For the Scallops you will need:

12 medium – Sea Scallops, thawed, rinsed, and dried well.
¼ Cup – Dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
Juice of ½ – Fresh lemon
3 Tbsp – Butter, Cut into 6 or 8 cubes, and kept cold.
2 Tbsp – Shallots, minced
2 Tbsp – Fresh basil, sliced in thin ribbons ( see http://www.basilbasics.com/chiffonade.html )
1 Sprig – Fresh rosemary
Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil

For the Potatoes and Asparagus you will need:

12 – Baby Potatoes, I used half red bliss and half Yukon gold potatoes
12 Large or 16 Medium – Fresh green asparagus spears
Olive Oil
Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

To Prepare:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and dry the potatoes. Trim the stem end of the asparagus, rinse and dry. When the potatoes are dry toss them with just enough olive oil to coat, give them a good dusting of seasoning from the Italian herb seasoning grinder and toss again. Spread them evenly in a glass 9 X 12 inch baking dish and roast for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the asparagus spears with just enough olive oil to coat, give them a good dusting of seasoning from the Italian herb seasoning grinder and toss again. Set the asparagus aside.

2. Warm 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 sprig of rosemary in a non-stick pan over medium high heat swirling the oil occasionally as it heats. Dust the scallops lightly with the Italian herb seasoning.

3. After 15 minutes carefully remove the potatoes from the oven. Carefully tilt the baking dish so that the potatoes move to one side allowing room to add the asparagus spears. Add the asparagus and place the dish back in the oven for 15 minutes longer.

4. While the vegetables finish roasting, sear your scallops: When the oil in the pan is hot the rosemary will begin to crackle and pop. Remove and discard the rosemary then gently place the scallops, one at a time, into the pan. You should hear a distinct sizzling as soon as each scallop hits the oil. Sear the scallops for two minutes on the first side, gently flip, and sear one minute more before removing directly to serving plates. Cover each plate with a paper towel or foil to keep the scallops warm.

5. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set aside to rest.

6. As soon as the last scallop is removed, add the shallots and the wine to the pan. As the wine comes to a boil swirl the pan and, using a wood or silicone spatula, scrape any browned bits from the pan. Reduce until the wine takes on a syrupy consistency then add the lemon juice.

7. Turn off the burner and allow the residual heat to reduce the liquid by half. Gently swirl in the butter cubes 2 or 3 at a time letting these melt before adding 2 or 3 more. Continue swirling the pan until all of the butter has been incorporated, swirl in the basil and spoon the sauce evenly over the scallops.

8. Carefully place the roasted vegetables on the plate and serve.