Friday, September 20, 2013

Vegetable Pasta with Chicken

Is there anything better than a big platter of pasta to feed a crowd? At the end of the summer, I find myself always left with a few squash and tomatoes from the Farmers' Market and wanted to try a new way to dress them up. When some friends came over for dinner recently, I resolved that rather than head to the grocery store, I'd take a look on my counter, in my pantry, and in my refrigerator and come up with something scrumptious and seasonal without having to leave the house. Vegetable pasta with chicken was born. I will not pretend this is revolutionary, but it was well-received and I took pictures, so I wanted to share.

Vegetable Pasta with Chicken
Serves 6
Prep Time: 15 min.
Cook Time: 30 min.

Ingredients
2 medium summer squash (such as zucchini and yellow or gold bar)
2 medium carrots
1 large tomato
1 medium onion
1 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano leaves, crushed
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 pound short pasta, such as penne
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
salt and pepper to taste

 Dice the vegetables into evenly sized pieces, roughly 1/2 inch cubes. Crush the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the vegetables, except the tomato. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until they are softened and just slightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes.

Meanwhile, cube the chicken breasts into larger chunks, roughly 1 inch. Season liberally with the herbs, salt, and pepper, tossing to coat. Sear in a separate skillet until browned on all sides and cooked through. Set aside to rest.

When the vegetables are completely cooked and the chicken is rested, bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the pasta according to package instructions.

In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the warm vegetables and chicken until evenly mixed. Pour into an attractive serving dish and top with fresh herbs and the reserved parmesan.


The final product, ready to enjoy.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lowcountry Boil

No food so perfectly captures the culture of the coastal South as the Lowcountry Boil. Sometimes called Frogmore Stew, sometimes called a simple shrimp or seafood boil, this steaming hot marriage of earthy potatoes, spicy sausage, plump seafood, and sweet corn makes me feel like I'm on a dock in Charleston in just one bite (or sniff). We usually enjoy it outside on a table covered with newspaper, but we were a hair more civilized last evening.
I'm writing from the shores of North Carolina, taking in an incredible week of sun and sand. My gracious hostess here in the Outer Banks put together an delicious iteration of this classic combination. I am sharing my recipe, but the photo features our beach supper.

A match made in Heaven.

Lowcountry Boil
Serves 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients
4 lbs. small red new potatoes or fingerlings
4 lbs. 21/25 count (21-25 per lb) shrimp, shell on
6-8 blue crabs, halved
5-6 ears corn, cut in half
4 lbs. spicy sausage, such as andouille or kilebasa, sliced 1' thick
1 large onion, quartered
1 head garlic, halved
1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning
1 tbsp liquid seafood boil (recommended: Zatarain's)
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup hot sauce (recommended: Tobasco)
1 1/2 gallons water

In your largest stock pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the onion, garlic, Old Bay, seafood boil, salt, and hot sauce. Add the potatoes and boil for 20 minutes. Add the corn and boil for an additional 10 minutes. Add the sausage and crabs and boil for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the shrimp. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.
Strain and serve.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Birthday Barbecues

I love birthdays. I have always loved them. When I was a little boy in Charleston, I said to the guests at the first birthday party I remember, "See you next month," believing that my next party would be in a mere 30 days. Only my charmingly merciless grandmother corrected me, "No, Andy, say see you next year! Birthdays are once a year!"

It's not just my birthday that I enjoy celebrating. As the saying goes, "It is better to give than to receive." I had the honor to co-host a friend's birthday dinner this weekend and used the occasion to experiment a bit. A few weeks ago, I had Chef Greeley's signature mixed grill at the incomparable 21 Club in New York City. It was a delicious and complex assortment of meats, vegetables, and flavor. My dining companions gently teased that I'd ordered the "petting zoo," as the meal consisted of rabbit, lamb, venison, and wild boar. Any Walt Disney characters aside, it was an excellent dish that I wanted to recreate with my own personal twist.

While I am proud of my apartment (an elegant renovation of part of a floor of a grand mansion built in 1840 Baltimore), I cannot hope to reproduce the atmosphere that is the 21 Club. Elegant but accessible, this is the essence of American fine dining. While jackets are quite rightly required, it would be quite wrong to call this place stuffy. Decorated with toys and memorabilia from sports, pop culture, and old New York, you can't help but find this place iconic. In the spirit of last weekend's Kentucky Derby, here's an image of the facade of the restaurant, complete with 21 jockeys standing guard.

Service, atmosphere, and incredible food await at the 21 Club.
Recipes and more of the story after the jump...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Quick and Easy Brunch

Zucchini, Caramelized Onion, and Mushroom Frittata
Who says real men don't eat quiche? Well, this isn't exactly a quiche because there's no crust. It's best termed a frittata in Italian or tortilla in Spanish. Simply put, eggs and vegetables join forces to create a large, puffed omelet.
Don't get me wrong, I love quiche, but sometimes short crust can be fussy first thing in the morning. Even if you haven't planned ahead, this technique will produce a delicious and easy brunch in 20 minutes. It can feed a crowd or just a few people, depending on how many eggs and extras you wish to employ.

This is the place for a sturdy, oven-safe, non-stick pan. Many of my purist food-minded friends will scoff at non-stick, but Julia Child swore by them. You can achieve a delicious result in cast iron or stainless steel, but this works really well in my 12-inch "Green Pan" brand skillet, pictured above. You can start everything on the stove, as I do, or let it bake the entire cooking time. I like a little brown on the bottom of the eggs and a fluffy top, which is achieved by 5 minutes on the stove and another 7-10 in a hot oven.

I started by slicing a dozen or so medium-sized button mushrooms, slicing a medium onion, and thinly slicing a zucchini. Starting with the onions, I sauteed them in a teaspoon each of butter and olive oil. I lowered the heat and allowed them to caramelize, which means turn brown and slightly syrupy. It took about 20 minutes over medium low. I then added the mushrooms, seasoning with sea salt and cracked black pepper, which I cooked with the onions over medium heat until they were brown and had released much of their juices. This takes no more than 7 minutes or so. I then added the zucchini in an even layer and covered for about 5 minutes to create some steam. Once the squash started to soften, I scrambled 6 eggs with a quarter cup of whole milk. I seasoned the eggs with a little bit of pepper and nutmeg and poured them into the pan. I shook it so as to evenly distribute the eggs. I cooked it on the stove over medium high undisturbed for 5 minutes and put it in a hot oven (about 450) for another 10 minutes. It puffed just enough and sliced into perfect wedges.
I made a fresh salsa from garlic, onion, and cherry tomatoes, which I chopped together finely and used to top each slice. I served with a small green salad dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice.

The whole operation was done in under 30 minutes, before anyone even knew I was cooking!

If you wanted to go a distinctly Spanish direction, you could keep it simple with sliced potatoes and onions (and lots of olive oil). Carnivores among you may see fit to add crumbles of bacon, sausage, or slices of deli meat. There's certainly plenty of room in the mix for cheese of any kind. I'm especially fond of gruyere and cheddar. I don't think I have made the the same frittata twice, so I'm glad I kept track of this one. Give it a try!

Chicken Stock

A lazy afternoon of stock making.
When I roast a chicken, I hate to see anything go to waste. Frequent visitors to my kitchen will know that I typically have multiple bags in my freezer filled with the carcasses of previously enjoyed chickens. The necks, unused giblets, and aromatic vegetables from inside the birds freeze well and will, with minimal extra effort, create a luscious stock for soups, stews, and sauces. Nothing out of a carton or can will compare to your homemade chicken stock. Many cookbooks have exact recipes and techniques, all of which are perfectly fine, I'm sure. My method, however, uses scraps and permits flexibility.

Basic Chicken Stock
Yield: 4-6 quarts of stock
Cook Time: 4 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken carcasses, with giblets, vegetables, etc... from roasting
  • 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
  • 2 carrots, broken into chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, broken into chunks
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tbsp. coarse salt (less of table salt)
  • 1 tbsp. whole peppercorns
  • 10 stems of fresh thyme (dried is fine here, just use a tablespoon or so)
  • 10 stems of fresh parsley (see above)
  • any other leftover vegetables such as squash, parsnips, turnips (avoid cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage)
  • Water to cover
All ingredients can start very easily from frozen. I almost always do. Place all of the ingredients in a large stock pot and fill with water to cover by an inch or so. Some may float. It is a good idea to put a plate of vegetable steamer on top of everything to keep things weighted down, although it isn't necessary.
Chicken stock stores well for months!
Bring the mixture to a boil and then allow to simmer, uncovered, for 4 hours. If things reduce too much, add some water. Make sure it's not a rolling boil, but a slight simmer. You should see bubbles, but not a ton of agitation at the surface.
After 4 hours, taste the liquid. There will be some fat on top, which you can remove later. Get a sense of the flavor. It should be like intense chicken soup. If it is too bland, let it go a while longer. If it is too strong, you did it right. You will use this as an ingredient, which requires it to stand up to the other flavors of your dishes. It shouldn't be too salty, so you may dilute it with some water if that is a problem.
Allow the stock to cool to room temperature. Strain it through a colander lined in cheesecloth into a large mixing bowl or stockpot. Refrigerate the stock overnight and peel off the layer of fat that will settle on top.
Ladle the stock into individual freezer containers to keep as you need it for the next few months. It will be delicious -- and you made it yourself from scraps in the freezer!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Updated Roast Chicken

Deceptively simple, the roast chicken is incomparably satisfying when done properly. Even among professionals, according to Jacques P├ępin, a well-roasted chicken is the mark of a truly skilled chef. Every celebrity chef and classic cookbook seems to have their version of what's "perfect." I have several versions in my archived blog, In Good Taste, but have been toying with the recipes over the years and wanted to share an update. This version takes just over an hour with a thawed chicken that's been sitting out for about 20-30 minutes.

Roast Chicken
Serves 2-4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients
1 whole fryer chicken, wishbone, giblets and neck removed, about 3.5 lbs (removing the wishbone before cooking will make carving much easier)
4 tbsp softened unsalted butter
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp kosher salt + 2 tsp for seasoning the bird
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper + 2 tsp for seasoning the bird
1 small onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a clean, dry oven-safe skillet in the oven to heat with it. I use a 12-inch All-Clad frying pan.

In the mean time, combine the butter with the garlic powder, half the salt and a tsp of the pepper. Carefully stuff the butter evenly under the skin of each half of the breast. The skin should loosen easily, but take care not to tear it. This step ensures the breast meat will not dry out during the high heat cooking.

Place the onion and garlic cloves inside the cavity and season the bird all over, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Tie the chicken's legs together (as in the photo) and fold the wings behind the back. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and add the olive oil. Allow to coat the bottom of the pan and add the chicken, breast side up. Place back in the oven immediately and roast for an hour. Check the thigh meat at around 45 minutes. It should read 180 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Allow the chicken to rest, covered with foil, on a carving board. De-fat the pan juices and drizzle over the chicken once carved. Serve arranged on a warm platter. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Braised Cabbage

This winter staple can be made in a vegetarian style or with hearty slices of bacon. It's up to you. It keeps for a few days in the refrigerator and can be paired with everything from fish to fries.

Braised Cabbage
Serves 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
    • white/ green, savoy, or Napa cabbages work beautifully
  • 4 slices of bacon OR 2 tbsp olive oil (depending on your vegetarian preferences)
  • 1 onion, roughly diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes, more to taste
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
Chop the bacon into 1-inch pieces and render out the fat for about 10 minutes, until crisp. Alternatively, pre-heat the olive oil in the pan.

Add the onion, garlic, and chili flakes and cook until softened and lightly browned. Add the cabbage, salt, and pepper and toss together as evenly as possible. It will seem like a lot. Be patient, as it will cook down. Just make sure the bottom doesn't burn. I find a non-stick pan is helpful.

Taste for seasonings and cook covered for about 15-20 minutes, until the cabbage is softened. Keep tossing to distribute the flavors. Serve hot.