Tag Archives: recipe

Weeknight Corned Beef Hash

http://www.flickr.com/photos/randy_lay/5513237025/

My mom used to make corned beef hash with poached eggs every now and then, always for supper. It was one of my favorite things in the world and to this day it is most definitely comfort food! I’m also fairly certain  that she is responsible for my current fondness for breakfast at dinnertime. This past weekend, not long after the corned beef brisket went into the oven and the house began to fill with that familiar aroma, my thoughts were again with her. I daydreamed of those evenings long past when I would rub my hands in anticipation of her wonderful meals.

As my sister and I were growing up mom cooked with love and she cooked with flavor and even though it was always with a nod to a tight budget, holy cow was it ever good! It is interesting to me how many of my current favorite dishes, and many that you’ll now see celebrity chefs cooking on TV, have their roots in such simple budget cooking.

Was the food of our youth so good because of the long cooking necessary to make the tougher cuts palatable?  Are the flavors that developed out of these techniques what makes meat loaves, chicken pot pies, stews and braises so popular even today? Or is it that these foods were prepared with so much love by so many of our moms that it touches our souls even today?

The brisket last Sunday was a small one and though I do love leftover corned beef on rye, I squirreled the leftovers away because there was just enough for a batch of my weeknight corned beef hash. This is a simple, peasant style recipe that I can make no claim to as it has been cooked for so long by so many. I only wish my mom lived a little closer so that I could have shared it with her.

Notes: It is not necessary to use leftover vegetables. If you do use fresh, pre-cook the potatoes by blanching the cubed potatoes until tender then drain and gently pat them dry. (Remember…the dryer you get them the better because moisture inhibits browning!) Optionally you may also use 1 cup of the leftover cabbage. Be sure to take a look at this Poached Egg video for a really simple way to poach an egg.

Weeknight Corned Beef Hash

2 Cups – Leftover Corned Beef Brisket, cubed, shredded, or chopped
2 Cups – Leftover cooked red bliss potatoes, cut in ¼” cubes
1-1/2 – Leftover cooked onions, cut in ¼ to ½ inch dice
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
¼ Tbsp. – Dried thyme
¼ Tbsp. – Fresh ground black pepper
1 Sprig – Fresh rosemary
1 Poached Egg per serving
Olive Oil

Warm 2 tablespoons of oil In a large pan over medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering add the garlic, thyme, and black pepper and cook stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring often, until the onions have just begun to brown.

Stir in the potatoes and lower the heat to medium. When potatoes are hot; stir in the corned beef and the rosemary. Cook, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally, until potatoes and beef have browned and formed a desirable crust, about 10 minutes more. Remove the rosemary and discard before serving.

Serve topped with a freshly poached egg.

Enjoy,

Randy

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.

Enjoy,

Randy

Fusion Recipe: Orange Beef with Rosemary Soy Sauce

Photo by Kathy

Much like our crock pot, the pressure cooker spends most of the time collecting dust on the bottom shelf of the bakers rack. And, also like the crock pot, every time I use our pressure cooker I end up saying “Man, I love this thing!” Invariably, I make a mental note vowing to use the pressure cooker more often. Considering how this dinner turned out…perhaps it’s time I kept one of those little promises to myself.

Some of my favorite and most beloved comfort foods are stews and braised dishes which are for the most part cooked long and slow. Not exactly weeknight fare if you will. But the pressure cooker brings it all within reach. This dish, prepared traditionally, could take as long as 4 hours to cook; on this night, thanks to the pressure cooker, dinner was on the table in just over an hour. Yep, that’s right; I made this on a Tuesday evening after work in a little more than an hour!

If you are unfamiliar with pressure cooking, there are some great articles on the web with two of my favorite sites being Miss Vickie’s and Fabulous Foods . As a bonus (much like braising) it is claimed that pressure cooking destroys far fewer nutrients than other cooking methods making it a healthy addition to your kitchen arsenal. If you do not own a pressure cooker, by all means start reading up on them…they are safe, convenient and I simply cannot recommend this cooking method enough!

Because pressure cooking happens so fast there is not always time for flavor to develop. To counter this trend I started this recipe cooking hot, almost like a stir fry, because I wanted to build up as much flavor as possible before putting on the lid. I call this recipe a fusion because I used red wine and rosemary which are not typical in an Asian style stew. As an afterthought, a few orange peels would also bump up the “citrusy” flavor and speaking of flavor, feel free to add a little more sriracha if you like things spicy.

I still had a bunch of fresh kale around so I served this stew simply spooned over quick braised kale with a little ginger, garlic, lower sodium soy sauce and a splash of water. Also I will include notes below for a traditional braise for those of you who will not be using a pressure cooker. P.S. If you go out and get one I promise to use my pressure cooker again before it has the time to gather that coat of dust!

Orange Beef with Rosemary Soy Sauce

1-1/2 Pounds – Beef chuck, trimmed and cut into roughly 1” cubes
1 – Medium Onion, halved lengthwise then sliced lengthwise
1 – Medium Daikon radish, peeled and cut into large cubes (the Daikon was about the size of a large cucumber)
½ Cup plus 1/8 Cup reserved – Fresh orange juice
½ Cup – Lower sodium soy sauce
¼ Cup – Dry red wine
3 Cloves – Garlic, minced
1-1/2 Tbsp – Fresh ginger, minced
1-1/2 Tbsp – Agave nectar
2 Sprigs – Fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp – Fish sauce
1 Tbsp – Corn Starch
½ Tbsp – Sriracha (Chinese red pepper sauce)
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Sesame oil
Olive oil
Sesame seeds and sliced green onions for garnish

In an uncovered pressure cooker over medium high heat, warm 1-1/2 Tbsp each of Sesame and Olive oil until shimmering. When the oil is quite hot, add the beef cubes and cook, stirring often, until any exuded liquid has evaporated and some browning has occurred. Add the onions and agave nectar to the beef and continue cooking and stirring about 1 minute before adding the garlic and ginger. Allow this to cook, while still stirring often, until the onions are transparent.

When the onions have become transparent stir in the red wine and as this comes to a boil, scrape up any browned bits that may have stuck to the cooking surface. Add all remaining liquid ingredients, the daikon radish cubes and the rosemary (leaving the reserved orange juice aside). Stir gently to mix the ingredients, and then lock on the lid to the pressure cooker.

Leave the heat on medium high until the pressure has reached optimal cooking pressure, then lower the heat to medium low. Cook 30 minutes while monitoring pressure, lowering or raising heat marginally as needed to maintain optimal pressure. After 30 minutes remove the pressure cooker from heat and allow it to cool naturally until the pressure falls to zero.

When the cooker is safe to open, carefully remove most of the stewed solids to a large serving bowl using a spider skimmer or a slotted spoon, leaving the sauce in the cooker. Return the cooker to heat and bring to a boil over medium high heat once more. In a small bowl, whisk the reserved orange juice and the corn starch together to form a slurry before stirring it immediately into the sauce. Continue stirring until the sauce returns to a boil and thickens slightly.

When the sauce has thickened, very gently fold the sauce back into the stew. Serve over brown rice, braised greens, or quinoa and garnish, if desired, with sliced green onions and sesame seeds.

Note: For a traditional braise follow the recipe to the point where the pressure cooker is closed (using a heavy bottomed Dutch oven rather than a pressure cooker). Cover the Dutch oven with a layer of aluminum foil, then a heavy lid and bake in a 325 degree oven for 1-1/2 hours. Check for doneness, re-cover and bake 30 minutes more if necessary. Then follow the recipe from the point at which the pressure cooker is opened.

Enjoy,

Randy

Chicken Penne Mediterranean

Boneless skinless chicken breast can be so boring sometimes! Yesterday morning I had taken two frozen breast halves out to thaw and thought all day about how I was going to prepare them; I ran the gamut from simple and uncomplicated to full blown kitchen chemistry lab. By the time I left work I had in my mind visited Italy, Spain, and the South of France, stopped off in Ireland for a while and even hung out in Mexico and the Deep South!

When I finally got to the grocery store I was feeling totally uninspired so I picked up salad ingredients and a bottle of Pinot Grigio and headed home. I figured I would cook the chicken simply, using whatever I could dig up in the pantry. Then as I dug around I began to form an idea; I had zucchini that needed to be used, pasta, a giant jar of capers, Spanish olives, a can tomatoes and bingo that was it…We were going to the Mediterranean!

Drawing on fond memories of Snapper Veracruz and Pasta Puttanesca recipes I had prepared in the past I landed somewhere between simple and a science experiment. I cooked the chicken separately from the sauce because oftentimes when chicken is cooked in a liquid, it produces an unappealing protein scum (for lack of a better description). This also allowed for a good browning of the meat, assisted by a little tomato paste, that really added a richness to the final product. The anchovy paste and the final tablespoon of capers also boosted the flavor of the sauce.

Note: If it seems your sauté pan is not large enough to hold everything use a large bowl to fold together, the sauce and the pasta.

Chicken Penne Mediterranean

1 – 28 Oz Can, Peeled Whole Tomatoes
2 – Lg. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves, trimmed and cut in ¾ to 1 inch chunks
8 Oz – Whole Wheat Penne
2 – Med. Zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced
1 – Med Onion, Quartered then sliced
1 – Small Carrot, finely grated
¼ Cup – Capers, 1 Tbsp reserved
¼ Cup – Green Spanish Olives, pitted
¼ Cup – Dry White Wine
¼ Cup – Balsamic Vinegar
¼ Cup – Chicken Stock
1 Tbps – Tomato Paste
1 Branch – Celery, sliced
3 Cloves – Garlic, minced (divided)
1 Lg. Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
1 tsp. – Dried Oregano
¼ tsp – Anchovy Paste (Optional)
Fresh Ground Pepper
Fresh Ground – McCormick’s Italian Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil
Fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved

In a large sauté pan over med heat warm 4 Tbsp. of olive oil until shimmering. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, anchovy paste and about ¼ Tbsp. of ground Italian seasonings to the pan and sauté 1 minute, stirring. Stir in onions and celery and cook stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn translucent. Stir in the carrots, rosemary, and oregano, and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine and allow it to come to a boil, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the tomatoes, carefully crushing them as you add them to the pan. Add the capers and olives and allow the sauce to come to a boil once again. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and cook 30 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and continue simmering.

Meanwhile warm 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat. When oil is shimmering, add 1 clove of garlic and stir briskly, 30 seconds. Stir in chicken and cook stirring for 1 minute then add the tomato paste. Continue cooking, stirring often until the chicken has browned and just cooked through. Add the cooked chicken, zucchini, and chicken stock to the sauce and continue simmering until the zucchini is just cooked through. Season to taste with fresh ground black pepper and remove and discard the rosemary sprig.

While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook per package instructions. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain (do not rinse!) in a colander and fold the pasta, along with the reserved tablespoon of capers, into the sauce. Serve garnished with shaved parmesan.

Enjoy,

Randy

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.

Enjoy,

Randy

Mmm…Turkey Stroganoff

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 3)

We’ve been eating a lot of plain non-fat yogurt lately and I have been using it more and more in my cooking. I started out utilizing it in place of sour cream on baked or twice baked potatoes, then we started mixing it with a little sugar-free fruit preserves and a touch of agave nectar for a guilt-free dessert. Nowadays I use non-fat yogurt in everything from cornbread and pancakes to French onion dip.

To boost the acidity to more closely resemble sour cream, I nearly always add a little lemon juice to the recipe. When using plain non-fat yogurt in a sauce remember to remove the sauce from the heat before incorporating the yogurt. The reason for this is because with no fat to assist in thickening or emulsifying, plain non-fat yogurt will separate or curdle if you boil it.

You can lessen the chances of your sauce separating by using Greek yogurt which is thicker by nature or by straining your plain non-fat yogurt to thicken it. This is done by draining the yogurt through a fine sieve, cheesecloth, or coffee filter to remove the whey (the watery stuff) and thicken it. This results in a thicker more flavorful “yogurt cheese” that is delicious in dips and cold sauces like Tzatziki. There is a great article here that explains better how to do this.

This Turkey Stroganoff is a “lower” fat recipe that is a good example of using plain non-fat yogurt in a savory recipe. It is also another way to use that good homemade chicken stock I’m always preaching about. Reducing the stock with the turkey, mushrooms, and onions creates a rich sauce with a depth of flavor that would fool even the pickiest of eaters in your house.

Turkey Stroganoff

1 Lb – Ground Turkey
1 Lb – White Mushrooms, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
1 – Med Onion, chopped
3 Cups – Homemade (or low sodium) Chicken Stock
1 Cups – Plain non-fat yogurt
Juice of ½ Fresh Lemon
1 Tbsp – Dry Rubbed Sage
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
1 – 16 oz Package Whole Wheat Extra Wide Egg Noodles
Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil
Fresh Parsley, chopped

Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a very large (12” or more) sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, carefully add the mushrooms and cook them stirring constantly much as you would a stir fry. When the mushrooms begin to release their liquid slow down a little on the stirring but keep them spread out so the liquid will evaporate quickly.

As the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, stir in the onions, sage, rosemary, and a few good grinds of black pepper. Continue cooking and stirring one more minute, then lower the heat to medium high. If the pan seems dry add one more Tbsp of olive oil then add the ground turkey and continue to cook stirring often and gently breaking up the turkey until the meat is mostly cooked through.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water and 2 Tbsp of kosher salt. Place the pot over high heat to come to a boil.

Stir in two cups of chicken stock into the turkey mixture, scraping up any browned bits that may have stuck to the pan, continue to cook stirring only occasionally. Allow the stock to come to a boil and cook stirring from time to time, until most of the stock has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add one more cup of stock and return to a boil cooking about 5 minutes more. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

When the pot of water has come to a full boil, stir in the noodles, reduce the heat to medium high, and cook according to the package directions.

When the noodles are done drain them in a colander and while the noodles are draining remove the turkey mixture from the heat. Gently (so as not to break up the mushrooms) stir the yogurt into the mixture to form a sauce. Now gently add the noodles to the same pan, folding the noodles and sauce until well mixed. Garnish with the fresh parsley and serve hot.

Enjoy,

Randy

Menu – Pan Seared Pork Chops with a Dijon “Cream” Sauce, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Sautéed Kale with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

Oh, but I do love pork! Granted, as we have grown both in age and in wisdom my wife and I eat much less pork than we used to. The old “everything in moderation” certainly holds true here and while I do eat more pork than beef, I also believe it’s all about balance and I try not to overdo it. No really…I do!

Ok, I admit it; I did pick up this lovely package of chops just last week and last night was the second Tuesday in a row that we enjoyed them. It will however be quite some time before we have them again as they are a fattier cut of pork. Even though there is still some debate regarding the health benefits of pork I do try to pick the leaner cuts if I am going to cook it.

So while you will see it here once in a blue moon I hope you can appreciate that we consider pork an exception to our otherwise healthy diet, a special treat if you will. The same holds true for beef. Some may call it rationalization but I firmly believe that eating whole grains, lower fat foods, and fresh vegetables as the major part of my diet gives me a little leeway. It allows me to enjoy myself from time to time and cook something a little less good for me without feeling guilty. And it tastes oh so good!

As a nod to that healthier diet this sauce is my lower fat answer to a Dijon cream sauce. There is no butter and there is no cream. I think the non-fat yogurt adds a nice creaminess to this sauce and in such a small amount that it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors. Adding the yogurt at the last minute, off the heat, keeps it from separating or curdling in the sauce. You can use plain non-fat yogurt in many dishes in place of sour cream, milk, or cream just be sure not to let it boil.

This recipe is written as a menu for 4 and it comes together in 1 to 1-1/2 hours depending on the size of the potatoes. Although I did not do it this night, I often sprinkle Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs over the kale as a garnish. Try it, you’ll like it!

Menu – Pan Seared Pork Chops with a Dijon “Cream” Sauce, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Sautéed Kale with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

For the Sweet Potatoes…

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry 1 Sweet Potato per person. Using a paring knife carefully pierce each potato once, at least halfway through (from the side). Rub potatoes thoroughly with olive oil and bake 1 to 1-1/2 hours until cooked through.

For the Kale…

4 Cups – Fresh Kale, trimmed and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 – Medium Onion, quartered then sliced thick
2 – Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Cup – Homemade or low sodium Chicken Stock
McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
2 Tbsp. – Olive Oil
Malt Vinegar (Optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and lower the heat to low. Add 4 good grinds from the Herb Grinder (about ¼ Tbsp) and cook slowly, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking and stirring occasionally until onions begin to brown (about 30 minutes over all).

Add the kale and toss to coat well with the olive oil, raise the heat and sauté for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and cover. As soon as the stock comes to a boil lower the heat and stir once more. Cover and cook on low 10 minutes more, stirring now and then. Remove lid, stir and continue cooking uncovered to allow most of excess stock to cook away. Stir in the vinegar (if using) and serve.

For the Pork Chops…

4 – Center Cut Bone-In Pork Chops, about 1/2” thick, trimmed of excess fat
1 cup – Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp – Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp – Plain Non-Fat Yogurt
1 Tbsp – Whole Wheat or Unbleached Flour
3 Tbsp – Olive Oil
McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

Sprinkle the pork liberally with the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder then with kosher salt and set aside (at room temperature) for 20 minutes.

In a large skillet heat 3 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Gently lay the pork chops into the oil and reduce the heat to medium. Cook chops 3 minutes to brown then turn the chops and cook 3 minutes more. Move the chops to a foil or parchment lined sheet and place into the 350 degree oven to finish.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. of flour. Continue stirring until the flour is blended with the remaining oil then return the pan to the heat. Cook, stirring for one minute more then add the chicken stock. Using a whisk, stir the stock until well blended then allow the sauce to come to a boil, stirring occasionally.

When the sauce has thickened somewhat, whisk in the mustard and continue cooking and stirring until the sauce becomes quite thick. Remove the pan from the heat and turn off the burner. Remove the chops from the oven and place on plates or a platter. With the pan still off the heat, whisk in the yogurt until well incorporated then spoon the sauce over the chops.

Serve with the cooked greens and sweet potatoes.

Enjoy!

Randy

Chicken Milanese

How to stretch those dinner dollars – Part 2

Last week when I made the Chicken Casserole I set out to demonstrate a use for my homemade chicken stock. Tonight when I rustled up one of my favorite quick dinners I realized that I was using the second of three large chicken breasts that came in a package my wife bought. The thought occurred to me that it was a great way to demonstrate getting a real value for your food dollar.

Kat picked up a package of boneless chicken breasts at Aldi last week. There were 3 large breast halves in the package weighing in at 2.43 pounds (or about ¾ pounds each) for $6.05. If I could use each of the 3 breasts for the basis for 3 different dinners for two that’s just over a dollar per plate! Sure I use other ingredients in the preparation but the protein is often the most expensive element of a meal. When you’re on a budget and trying to stretch your dinner dollars…a buck a person is an awesome start!

So once again I find myself posting a less than glamorous recipe but hey it’s Monday night after a tough day at work, after the NFL playoffs yesterday. I didn’t feel like spending all night in the kitchen and yes, at the risk of sounding silly I’ll say it again; this too is a Recipe Randy Cooks. It also happens to be one of my favorite ways to use boneless, skinless, chicken breasts.

Because I was using an extra-large chicken breast half I was able to get 4 nice pieces out of one breast by first butterflying it, then dividing it into 4 equal pieces. Here is a video that shows how to butterfly a chicken breast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySB2jgO1ljU&feature=fvw . For this recipe the breasts should be pounded very thin, no thicker than ¼ inch at the very thickest part.

Note that I dump out the oil and wipe the pan after cooking each batch of chicken. This is my secret method of ensuring a perfectly and evenly browned cutlet every time. Oh, and lest I forget… Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette is my favorite salad dressing and it’s a perfect choice in this dish. Traditionally the cutlet is buried under the salad but Kat and I both prefer it alongside so the chicken stays nice and crispy even after drizzling on a little fresh lemon juice.

Chicken Milanese

1 – Large Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast, butterflied and divided into 4 pieces, then pounded to ¼ thickness or less.
2 – Eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp – Water
2 Cups – Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Cup – Whole Wheat or Unbleached Flour
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive or Canola Oil

Salad of Green Leaf Lettuce with Grape Tomatoes and Celery slices.
Salad Dressing
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
Lemon Wedges

In one bowl, season the flour well with salt and pepper and stir to blend. In another bowl, gently beat the eggs and water to combine. Place the Panko Crumbs in a third bowl. One at a time dredge the chicken pieces first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the egg, then finally in the Panko Crumbs to coat evenly. Place the chicken in a single layer on a foil or parchment lined sheet pan to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.

Warm two tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering hot cook two pieces of the chicken, turning only once, until “light” golden brown on each side. Move the cooked chicken to a paper towel to wick away any excess oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Discard any oil left in the pan and carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then add 2 more tablespoons of oil and repeat the process, cooking the other two chicken pieces.

To serve, toss the salad, tomatoes, and celery with the dressing being careful to use only enough dressing to coat the greens. Place the chicken on the plate and cover partly (or not) with the salad. Top with shaved Parmesan and garnish with lemon slices to finish.

Enjoy,

Randy

Chicken Soup with Cannelloni and Kale

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 2)

One of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday morning is sipping coffee, listening to The Sunday Blues with Dar , and cooking a big pot of soup. The work is indeed therapeutic for me and I feel the stress of the previous week slip away as I slice onions, chop celery and carrots, and build the foundation of a flavorful meal. Then as the kettle begins to heat up and the steam begins to rise, that pleasant and familiar aroma fills the house and warms me to my soul!

To be honest I had misgivings about posting this recipe as the photo is not particularly glamorous and this soup in particular is really quite simple. Then as I thought about it I realized that soup is one of my favorite things to cook, I make it quite often, and it has become an integral part of the culinary routine in my home. Soup is economical as it is often made with the trimmings and leftovers from previous meals, and who can deny the heartwarming qualities of a big bowl of soup and a hunk of fresh bread?

So there you have it. This too is a Recipe Randy Cooks. And so it will be included.

This soup is a recent favorite and one of the easier soup recipes that I make. The garlic is a recent addition and it not only boosts the flavors but also raises the antioxidant levels of the dish. I guess the jury is still out on the old “Jewish Penicillin” theory but if we can raise the nutritional benefits of a dish by adding a little flavor then I am all for it! It may be surprising to you that with a whole head of garlic in the recipe, the garlic flavor is really quite subtle.

Sometimes I make this soup with chunks (2 cups) of browned Italian turkey sausage; sometimes I make it with chicken. Both are quite good and satisfying. Although I did not do it in the soup pictured, another favorite way to add flavor to this soup is to add a tablespoon or so of pesto to the bowl before ladling in the hot soup. Also of note in the photo, the “garnish” is a few good grinds from a McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder .

I served this soup with a fresh green salad and a warm whole grain baguette.

Chicken Soup with Cannelloni and Kale

2 Cups – Boneless Chicken Breasts, cubed in approx. ½ inch cubes
2 cloves – Garlic, minced
2 to 3 Grinds – McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning
2 – 14.5 oz Cans, Cannelloni (White Kidney) Beans, rinsed and drained
4 Cups – Kale, rinsed, trimmed and chopped large
1 Whole Head – Garlic
8 Cups – Homemade Chicken Stock
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 425°. Using a knife or kitchen shears trim the top of the garlic head just enough to expose the tops of the cloves inside. Remove as much of the papery “skin” from the outside of the head as you can, without the cloves falling apart. Place the garlic in the center of an approx 12” square of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper. Bring the foil up around the garlic and seal loosely into a package. Bake for 30 minutes or until the garlic cloves are brown and soft through and through.

Meanwhile, place a large soup pot on the stove and bring 7 cups of chicken stock to a simmer over medium heat. Add the beans and the kale, stirring to blend. Reduce the heat enough to maintain a light simmer.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and season the oil with 2 to 3 grinds from the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder. When the oil is shimmering add the chicken and 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook stirring frequently until the chicken is brown in places and cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon (or a Spider) remove the chicken and garlic from the skillet and add it to the soup.

When the garlic is done roasting, separate the cloves and squeeze the contents of each clove into a blender. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and blend until smooth. Add this mixture to the soup, stirring to incorporate. Simmer the soup another 30 minutes to allow all of the flavors to develop.

Enjoy!

Randy

Menu – Fresh Fish Francese with Cool Beans Salad, Zucchini and Yellow Squash

I actually made the dish in the photo one evening while my wife was out of town. After a couple of nights of take-out food I was ready for a real meal so I stopped by Costco on my way home from work. I was happy to find they had one of my favorite fish in the fresh fish section, Corvina! With this beautiful fish and the fresh lemons I already had on hand it wasn’t hard to decide on a theme for my dinner for one.

Often when preparing a meal I look for one common theme that will highlight each part of the menu. Whether it’s garlic, an herb such as thyme or rosemary, or in this case fresh lemon, I use my theme ingredient in each of the dishes I serve. To my thinking this creates a common thread throughout the meal that not only links and compliments the flavors of the food…I think it makes the meal that much more interesting!

The recipes for this menu are written for two but the ingredients can easily be doubled. The Cool Beans Salad is best made ahead of time and refrigerated at least two hours.

Menu – Fresh Fish Francese with Cool Beans Salad, Zucchini and Yellow Squash

For the Cool Beans Salad…

1 – 14.5 oz Can of Cannelloni (white kidney) Beans, rinsed and drained
¼ Cup – Fresh Cucumber, peeled, seeded and cubed
¼ Cup – Fresh Tomato, mostly seeded, and cubed
1 Branch – Celery, diced
1 – Med Shallot, minced (Optional)
1 Tbsp – Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 Packet – Good Seasons Italian All Natural Salad Dressing Mix
½ Cup – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ Cup – Fresh Lemon Juice
3 Tbsp – Fresh Water

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the first 5 ingredients. Follow the directions on the package for mixing the dressing, using lemon juice in place of the vinegar. Gently toss the salad with only enough dressing to coat. (There should be very little pooling of dressing in the bottom of the bowl.) Chill before serving.

For the Squash…

Two – Med. Zucchini, Halved lengthwise then cut into roughly ¼” slices
Two- Med. Yellow Squash, Halved lengthwise then cut into roughly ¼” slices
1 – Small Onion, Quartered, then sliced
1 – Sprig Fresh Thyme
1 Tbsp – Fresh Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Warm 1 tbsp of olive oil in a 10” skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer add the onions and cook stirring often until some browning begins to occur. Add the squash (zucchini and yellow) and thyme, and continue cooking.  Stir occasionally until squash is mostly cooked but still a little firm in the center (tender crisp) then season with salt & pepper. Toss with the lemon juice, turn off the heat, and leave the skillet on the burner to stay warm until serving.

For the Fish…

2 Fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each – Fresh Corvina (Grouper, Snapper, or Tilapia may be used)
4 Tbsp – Unbleached or Whole Wheat Flour
2 – Eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
4 Tbsp – Olive Oil

¼ Cup – Dry White Wine
Juice of one half lemon
Slices of one half lemon
2 Tbsp – Unsalted Butter, chilled and cubed into 8 pieces
2 Tbsp – Fresh Herbs such as Parsley or thinly sliced Basil (Pictured)

Heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Season fish pieces with salt & pepper, dust each with flour (shaking off excess), then dredge in egg to completely coat. Gently and carefully lay the fish into the pan, you should immediately hear sizzling.

Watch fish closely until you can see good browning around the edges, lifting gently after 2 minutes to check the bottom surface. After 2 to 4 minutes, or when the bottom looks nicely browned but not too brown, gently turn the fish over and repeat. Remove the fish to the serving plates. (Note: If your fish is more than ½ inch thick you may want to place it on a sheet pan in a 325 degree oven to finish cooking while you make your sauce.)

Drain any excess oil from the fish pan and discard. Back on the heat, add wine to the pan and whisk to dissolve any brown bits. Boil until about half the wine has evaporated (reduced), then add the lemon juice and 2 lemon slices. Continue boiling, whisking occasionally, until most of the total liquid has reduced and some thickening has begun. (If the liquid seems to boil too rapidly just move the pan off the heat until it is back under control.)

When the liquid has reduced to almost a syrup, remove the lemon slices and turn off the heat. Add the butter 2 or 3 pieces at a time whisking into the sauce as the butter melts. When each addition of butter has completely melted, add the next 2 or 3 pieces until all has been incorporated into the sauce. By the time the last of the butter has been melted the sauce should be just the right consistency. If it is too thick, stir in a splash of wine to loosen…if it is too liquid just let it cook with the residual heat another minute or so. Just before serving stir in the fresh herbs.

Serve the fish with a lemon slice and the sauce and enjoy!

Randy