Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Biscuits

A few weeks ago, we went to a luncheon honoring James Farmer, one of my favorite writers and authorities on all things Southern.  I’ve followed his blog for years, finding inspiration for table settings, family meals, and even wedding calligraphy.  I have been after a set of the china that his Aunt makes ever since before Michael and I got engaged.  And after much persistence, I finally got a set of my very own just a few days before the luncheon.  It was perfect timing.  James’s talk at the luncheon focused on the importance of bringing everyone together at the family table.  What you serve is less important than being together, which to him, is only slightly less important than the table setting.  As his Mimi used to say, “you feast with your eyes first” so the table should be just as beautiful as the food you’re about to serve.  He also talked about how he used to make fried chicken and biscuits for all of his friends during his days at Auburn.  So in honor of James and his Aunt Kathy, I thought it would be fitting to make fried chicken and biscuits for my first meal on our new china.

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Having never made either before, I opted to invite over some of our closest friends to serve as our guinea pigs.  As with all things new, it took longer than we thought, and I also think I forgot the baking powder in the biscuits, but hopefully they had fun anyway and subscribe to James’s philosophy that it’s really all about being together.  With practice, maybe next time the togetherness will accompany a more timely presentation.  Fingers crossed!  Regardless, once it all finally got to the table, everything was really good.  I made the biscuits again the next night when we had my mom over for leftovers and got the kinks out, so we’re already a step ahead on those for next time.  If you want to start practicing for your own Sunday fried chicken dinner, here are a few pointers to get you started…

Ranch Dressing

Fried chicken just tastes better with a salad with ranch dressing.  This homemade version was really good and something we’ll for sure make again.  It’s adapted from the recipe for blue cheese dressing that we made over the holidays.

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1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 garlic clove minced
Lemon juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon each of minced flat-leaf parsley, chives, and dill
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper

Whisk together, taste and adjust seasonings.  Keeps in the refrigerator for about a week.

Buttermilk Biscuits

These were awesome.  Just don’t forget the baking powder, like I did, and they will come out perfectly plump, buttery, and amazing.  I have to be careful about how often I make these, because they disappeared pretty quickly, and I caught Michael using the last one to make a breakfast sandwich the next morning.  So be forewarned…

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(Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc)
2 cups cake flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks of very cold unsalted butter cut into a small dice
2 to 3 tablespoons melted butter to brush over the tops
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Place all dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add in the butter and pulse just a few times until the butter is incorporated and all mixed in.  Place the mixture in a bowl and add in the buttermilk in a little well.  Mix together using a wooden spoon and turn over onto a large cutting board.  Pat the dough out into desired thickness and cut into rounds using a cookie cutter.  Place onto a greased baking sheet and brush each one with a little butter and a sprinkling of salt.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.  Serve with butter, hot sauce and honey.

Braised Collard Greens

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For the collard greens, wash and trim the greens and cut into large pieces.  Render the fat from a few slices of chopped bacon in a large Dutch oven.  Remove the bacon once it’s crisp, and add in a half of a chopped yellow onion.  Once the onion is translucent, add in the collard greens and toss until just starting to wilt.  Add back in the bacon, and deglaze the pan with a little white wine.  Add in some chicken stock and cover to simmer while you finish up the rest of dinner.

Fried Chicken

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Having made it myself once, I’m hardly an authority.  We soaked ours in a little buttermilk and then dusted with flour and a Tabasco spice blend that came in our monthly BeshBox.  It was delicious once it got to the table, but here are the real instructions, straight from the horse’s mouth…

“Remove chicken from the fridge.  Cut up and season with Tony’s seasoning.  I use enough to make it tasty.  Dredge in flour and set aside.  Wash up and then add oil to the Fry Daddy and put in a few kernels of popcorn. It should take about 10 minutes to get hot.  When the kernels pop, the oil is ready.  By now the chicken should have been out for about 20 minutes and not so cold.  Recover in flour if needed and fry 3 or 4 pieces at a time.  Don’t crowd in the Daddy.  White meat usually takes about 10 minutes and dark meat about 15. If you have a smaller chicken, it may take less.  It is done when it is cooked to golden brown and the juices run clear when you pierce with a knife.  Set aside and do the second batch.  I’ve tried all sorts of other things, but I find this tastes great.  Good Luck!!!  MOM”

Happy Sunday!

It’s a Wonderful Night for Oscar…

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Along with Callie, her annual Oscar party made the move to Dallas this year.  And with the promise of a free ticket and the chance of winning a Tom Ford swag bag of goodies, I showed up to help her throw it all together.  In a show of support, my Mom sent up a batch of the Oscar cookies she’s been perfecting over the years to serve as favors for all of Callie’s lucky guests.

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For the menu, we decided on heavy appetizers so that everyone could graze during the commercials and the awards for sound mixing and foreign animated short films.  Not having a Nit Noi or a Rice Epicurean nearby, we found new places to pick up spring rolls and chicken tenders.  And then we spent the better part of the morning picking up everything else we needed from Central Market.  Thank God there’s one of those in Dallas.

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For my part, I made a caramelized onion dip that turned out really good (even if it did take two hours to make) and a couple of different kinds of crostini.  The onion dip was adapted from a recipe I found on Food52.  It sounds like a ton of onions, but they cook down significantly while they’re caramelizing.  The original recipe had you put everything in a food processor to blend together, but I thought it would look better with at least some of the caramelized onions kept whole.  I added a few cloves of garlic as well for extra flavor.

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Caramelized Onion Dip (Adapted from Food 52)

5 lb. yellow onions, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
8 ounces cream cheese
16 ounces sour cream
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch chives, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper

Melt butter and olive oil together in a large dutch oven.  Add in the onions and saute on medium-low heat until they caramelize and turn a rich, dark brown.  This takes about an hour and a half, so just leave it on the stove and stir occasionally, scraping up any brown bits that develop on the bottom of the pan.  Add the garlic cloves towards the last few minutes of cooking and saute for another minute or so.  Allow to cool, and blend half of the onion mixture in a small food processor with the remainder of the ingredients.  Stir in the other half of the onions with a spoon and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.  Season to taste and top with some extra chopped chives and fresh black pepper.  Great with your favorite potato chips.

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I also made a couple different kinds of crostini.  The first was based on an Ina Garten recipe for herbed ricotta.  I added some fresh chopped basil, lemon zest and juice and a little olive oil to the mix, and they were great.

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I think the second batch was my favorite though.  I had seen this recipe for minted pea dip on Dinner a Love Story and had been waiting for a good occasion to test it out.  So, so easy, and really good.  You just throw everything in the food processor and you’re done.  We topped ours with some toasted pine nuts for texture and color.  Pretty though with or without them.

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For desert, Callie made these awesome cupcakes that looked like little boxes of popcorn.  She bought the little cups and then made vanilla and chocolate cupcakes from a store-bought mix.  Once they finished baking, she coated the top of each with some honey, and covered them with marshmallows.  Under the broiler for a few minutes, and voila!  Popcorn cupcakes.  They were so cute!

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It was a really fun party.  Excited for next year!!!

Valentine’s Recap: Grilled Oysters and Salted Caramel Lava Cakes

IMG_6935Oysters have always been kind of a big deal around our house.  Michael spent the first few years we were together perfecting his fried oyster recipe, and the Fry Daddy he now uses to turn them out is undeniably his most cherished wedding gift.  If you’ve ever been to a party at our house, you know they are going to be on the menu regardless of whether they actually go with the main course or not and regardless of whether everyone we’ve invited over is either pregnant or just generally afraid of the little guys.  We’ve gotten in such a bad habit of requesting fried oysters off the menu at Brennan’s, that our favorite waiter knows to bring them without us even asking.  So it should come at no surprise that when we moved into our first house together, Michael gave me a set of sterling silver oyster forks as a house-warming present.  The one thing we haven’t really done at home is to shuck them fresh, so I set out to remedy that situation for Valentine’s Day this year.  I bought him a really cool oyster knife (and a set of gloves to protect his paws) and picked up a couple dozen oysters at Airline Seafood on the way home from work on Friday.

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The shucking part was easier than I thought it would be.  This little video was really helpful in learning how should you want to try your hand at it.

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I made a fancy mignonette sauce with champagne and pink peppercorns to accompany the raw ones, but it turns out classic cocktail sauce and a little Tabasco was all we needed.

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I also thought it would be fun to throw a few on the grill.  We had some once in Galveston that were just about the best things I’ve ever eaten.  We’ve tried desperately since to pry the recipe out of the guy who made them, but to no avail.  These were a pretty great runner-up though.  I made a compound butter based on an Emeril recipe, and put a little round on each oyster before they hit the grill.

IMG_6946They turned out pretty great, and are something I’m sure we’ll have fun playing with the recipe for over the years.  Maybe one day we’ll stumble upon the recipe for the ones we had in Galveston.  If we do, y’all will be the first to know!

IMG_6950For now though, this is a good starting point:

Grilled Oysters with Lemon Garlic Compound Butter

For the butter:
10 tablespoons softened  unsalted butter
4 tablespoons finely grated  Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons minced  parsley leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon salt and fresh cracked pepper
1/4 teaspoon  cayenne pepper
Zest from one whole lemon

Combine together and roll into a little log using parchment paper and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.  This makes enough for about two dozen oysters, but the leftover butter is great on all sorts of things.  We melted it over our steaks and it was awesome.  For the oysters put a little round of butter on top of each oyster and place on the grill for about 4 to 6 minutes until the edges curl and the butter begins to bubble.

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Michael was in charge of dinner, and this is what he came home with, for the TWO of us…

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Ridiculous, but pretty amazing regardless.  He made some scalloped potatoes and brussels spouts too, both of which were delicious.

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For desert, I made these salted caramel lava cakes that would be perfect for a dinner party.  You make the batter ahead and just refrigerate until you’re ready for desert.  Throw them in the oven for 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of your ramekins), and they’re done.  If you come over for dinner any time soon, don’t be surprised if they’re on the menu.  Just oooh and ahhh and pretend you didn’t see them here first, okay?  The original recipe called for you to make your own salted caramel, but then there was a little note at the bottom that you could just buy salted caramels and stick one inside the batter in each ramekin.  Perfect.

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Pretty delicious with a little blue bell on top!

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Successful Valentine’s if you ask me!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!  This one is a quickie, but I wanted to share a little something in case you’re searching for a recipe for Saturday morning.  I made these last weekend and they would be so cute for breakfast in bed on Saturday.  Deliver to your Valentine with some hot coffee and you’ll be all set.  Hope everyone has a happy Valentine’s day!!

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Raspberry Barley Scones (Adapted from Good to the Grain)

Dry Mix:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons barley flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

Wet Mix:
1 stick cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (If you don’t have any, this works perfect in a pinch)
1 egg

1/2 cup raspberry jam
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly butter a baking sheet.  Sift together dry ingredients.  Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the dry mixture.  Work quickly, rubbing the butter into the mixture with your fingers until you have small even pieces everything is well combined.  Whisk together the wet ingredients and add to the dry mixture.  Stir until just combined and turn onto a lightly floured surface.

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Using your fingers work into a large disk about a half of an inch thick and cut into about a dozen hearts using a heart-shaped cookie cutter.  The number you get will vary with the size of your cookie cutter, but you only really need a few, so use whatever size you have.  My finished hearts looked like this.  IMG_6913Once they’re all cut out, spread the raspberry jam on one half of the hearts and cover with another heart to make a little sandwich.  Brush the tops with the melted butter and top with the sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet and cook for about 22 minutes until golden on top and oozing with raspberry jam.IMG_6914Serve with a little extra raspberry jam on the side and cuddle up to enjoy with your Valentine.  xo!

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Tuscan Lemon Chicken and Cooking Lessons from Mom

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What’s a newlywed kitchen without a few lessons from Mom?  Michael was in New Orleans for the weekend, so I invited my Mom over on Sunday to teach me how to butterfly a chicken.  She of course, learned it from Ina.  I intended to take pictures while she did it, but I was too busy trying to pay attention to the lesson at hand.  I watched as she nipped off the little tail so it would sit up straight, and then made a large cut down each side of the backbone to remove it.  Then she laid it down flat and removed the center breast bone with a little knife.  I was pretty surprised how easy she made it look, so hopefully I can duplicate her efforts next time.  Here’s a little video in case you’ve never done it before either.

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For the marinade, we used another one of her favorites from Ina.  Really simple, and really delicious as usual.  I was shocked she didn’t want to join us for dinner to get to enjoy all of her hard work, but she had pressing plans with the Tanglewood Garden Club, so we were left to ourselves on Sunday night.  Michael got home from New Orleans just in time to run a few errands with me and settle in for a nice evening at home.  He even gave me a few grilling lessons and let me pretend I was the one in charge of the Green Egg for the evening.  Turned out really tasty, and butterflying the chicken makes it cook so much faster.  This could easily become a Sunday staple.

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Tuscan Lemon Chicken (Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

1 3 lb whole chicken, butterflied
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
Zest of one large lemon
2 to 3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1 lemon, halved

Butterfly the chicken and sprinkle both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Lay the chicken flat in a large baking dish.  Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, juice, garlic closes, and rosemary and pour over the chicken.  Allow to marinate for about 4 hours or overnight.

Prepare the grill, lighting the coals and allowing the temperature to rise to about 350 degrees.  Lay the chicken on the grill skin side up and cover with something heavy to weigh it down.  We used a cast iron skillet, but you could use  a bacon press or a brick wrapped in foil too.  Grill for about 12 minutes and then turn skin side down for another 12 to 15 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  While the chicken is cooking, place the lemon halves cut side down on the grill for about 10 minutes.  Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes, carve, and squeeze the grilled lemon halves over the top.  We served ours with rosemary and whole-grain mustard roasted potatoes and braised mustard greens.

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Super Bowl Sunday

Michael and I are headed to Nashville this weekend for a wedding.  One of his best friends from Ole Miss is getting married and another one just got engaged, so it should be a really fun trip.  Personally, I’m pretty excited about the lunch we have booked at Husk.  We’re flying home late on Sunday, so we’re going to miss most of the Super Bowl fun.  Semi-sad to miss the game (who’s playing again?) but mostly sad to miss all the fun cooking and eating that’s going to go down on Sunday.   The following are a few ideas for your Sunday feast that we’ve made recently and one that I’m dying to try…

This turkey chili would be perfect for having friends over on Sunday.  Michael made it this week on one of our “snow days” and  it was awesome.  We used about a half teaspoon of oregano and thyme and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne, but otherwise kept the recipe intact and it was great.  I read in the comments that someone’s secret ingredient for chili is cocoa powder, which would be a fun addition to test out.

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Smoked ribs on the Green Egg would be another fun one, but you’d have to ask Michael how he makes them.  Maybe I’ll get him to do a guest post about them sometime soon.  He’s made a few batches recently to rave reviews.

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If you’re tasked with bringing something sweet to your Super Bowl party on Sunday, these whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies would be a great option.  They’re sourced from the critically acclaimed, Good to the Grain, which is all about using different flours to add richer taste and texture to baked goods.  (Any health benefits are strictly a bonus.)  The cookies have become something of an internet sensation, so I made a batch last weekend to accompany my coq au vin delivery, and they were pretty fabulous.  Huge, nutty, and delicious.  And the process is  really fun too.  You get to chop up whole bars of bittersweet chocolate…IMG_6871

get out all your fun baking gear…

IMG_6873 and scoop out huge cookies with an ice cream scoop.

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And after about 20 minutes, they come out looking like this.

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Although the recipe on the link above doesn’t mention it, you can roll up any leftover dough in a log, wrap it in parchment paper, and refrigerate or freeze to slice and bake for another occassion.  Would be a nice gift for your Super Bowl hostess!

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I’m also DYING to make these on Sunday.  If anyone has the guts to do so, and publicize it, let me know!  They would be a hilarious and perfect addition to your Super Bowl spread.

Happy Super Bowl weekend.  Go team!

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Coq au Vin

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There are lots of recipes for coq au vin out there, but for me, this one–from an old, red, tattered copy of Julia Child’s The French Chef Cookbook –is the only one that will ever matter. The book was published before I was born and has been on the cookbook shelf in our house for as long as I can remember. We apparently bought my Dad an updated copy in 1985 when I was just beginning to learn how to write my name.

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While I’m sure he loved it, it never took the place of the original.  When we were little, it was the one he and my Mom turned to over and over to knock out spectacular Sunday dinners.  I can still see my Dad standing in our kitchen, left hand on his hip, kitchen towel over his right shoulder, peering into whatever was simmering on the stove and talking about the “critical part” of tonight’s recipe.  Coq au vin was always one of our favorites.  It’s warm, comforting, and for me at least, just tastes like home.  It’s a perfect Sunday dinner and also just about the best thing to take to a friend in need of a home-cooked dinner, a glass of wine, and a big hug.  Sunday, I set out to do just that, and spent the whole day in the kitchen chopping, browning, and braising until it was just like I remembered.  Hopefully the finished product would have done my Dad proud and hopefully it also made my sweet friend feel loved.  As I said, there are a lot recipes and shortcuts out there, but if you really want to make coq au vin correctly, this is the only way to do it.

Coq au Vin

Browning and braising the chicken:
3 to 4 oz. center cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch lardons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole chicken cut into pieces
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/4 cup cognac
1 bottle Burgundy
1 to 2 cups chicken or beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves plus a few additional sprigs
1 bay leaf

In a large heavy-bottomed pan or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and add in the bacon.  Sauté until bacon is lightly browned and remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan.  Dry chicken pieces thoroughly and season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken to the pan and brown on all sides over medium-high heat, working in batches if necessary.  Turn down the heat to medium, add all the chicken and the bacon back to the pan.  Cover and allow to cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove the cover, add in the cognac, and ignite with a long kitchen match.

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Once the flames subside, add in the wine, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and enough stock to cover the chicken.  (I think it’s easiest to add the tomato paste and the garlic to the stock and stir to combine before adding it all to the pan together. )  IMG_6867

Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the chicken is tender and cooked through.  While the chicken is simmering, prepare the onions and the mushrooms.

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For the mushrooms:
1/2 to 1 lb cremini mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

Rinse the mushrooms, and wipe clean with a dry kitchen towel.  Remove the stems from the caps, and cut in half diagonally.  Cut the caps into quarters.  Melt butter in a large skillet, add the olive oil, season, and sauté mushrooms until golden brown.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

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For the onions:
About 2 dozen small pearl onions
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

Drop the onions into boiling water and boil for about a minute.  Drain into a colander and rinse in cold water to cool slightly.  Cut the ends off of each onion and peel carefully.  Cut a small cross into the bottom of each onion.  According to Julia, this helps the onions stay intact during the cooking process.  Heat butter and olive oil in the large skillet, season, and brown onions on all sides.  Pour water in the pan about half way up the sides of the onions, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes or more depending on the size of your onions.  Test one to make sure it’s tender.  When they’re all cooked through, remove and set aside.

Finishing the chicken:
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons flour

Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pan, leaving the braising liquid behind.  Bring the liquid to a boil and allow to simmer and reduce for a bit to concentrate the flavors.  Carefully skim as much of the fat from the top as possible.  Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Mix the flour and the softened butter together in a small bowl.  (If the butter isn’t warm enough to mix well with the flour, you can add in a little of the braising liquid to heat it up.)  Add the butter and flour mixture to the braising liquid, whisk to combine, and simmer until thickened slightly.  Add back in the mushrooms, the onions, and the chicken and admire all your hard work.

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At this point, it can be set aside and reheated when you’re ready for dinner.  Allowing the flavors to meld for a bit only enhances the finished dish.  You can serve it with parsley potatoes per Julia’s request, buttered egg noodles like we had when we were little, or mashed mixed red and yellow pee wee potatoes like I did this time around.

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Just boil potatoes until fork tender, and mash with a few tablespoons of butter and a 1/4 cup or so of heavy cream.  Season with salt and pepper and top with minced parsley and chives.  For something green, Julia requests buttered green peas, but skinny french beans sounded pretty good too.  Just sauté a small, diced shallot in some butter, toss in cooked green beans, season and finish with a sprinkling of lemon zest.

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Serve and enjoy with someone special.  If you’re really feeling indulgent, hot French bread is delicious dipped in the sauce.

 

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Curry Powder and Coconut Milk

Brrrrrr!!!  Hope everyone is bundled up for the weekend!  I just came in from feeding the puppy and tucking in our flowers for the night and nearly froze to death.  We had big plans to head to Galveston for the weekend, but may have to set those aside.  It’s probably a better weekend to stay in, make something warm, and cuddle up on the couch.  Below are a couple of outtakes from our week that would be pretty great for a cold-weather dinner at home this weekend.  The first, Curried Mussels with Mustard Roasted Potatoes, comes from the last stretch of our Food Lover’s Cleanse.  And the second, Butternut Squash and Roast Chicken Curry, was inspired by a recipe I found in John Besh’s, My Family Table.  The goal of his book is to get people back to the dinner table by sharing some simplified takes on family classics.  What’s great is a lot of the recipes are presented as methods, encouraging you to use what’s in season and on hand to make them your own.  I hadn’t really worked too much with curry powder and coconut milk before, but after this week, they’re likely to become staples around here.  Mixed in with a little heat and a little lemon juice, they’re a pretty amazing combination.

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The recipes do require a short trip down the international aisle at the grocery store.  At Central Market, the canned coconut milk, Madras curry powder and Sambal chili paste were all right together with the rest of the Asian ingredients. Madras curry powder is apparently a spicier version of regular curry powder.  It’s also a bit richer in color due to the addition of ground chilis to the spice mix.  I’m sure either would be good, but I took a shot of the one we found in case you want to seek out the real deal.  The Sambal chili paste is made by the same company that makes Sriracha, and according to John Besh, necessary for a well-stocked pantry.  Coconut milk comes in both light and full-fat versions.  We opted for the latter, and I’m a little addicted, so be forewarned!

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 Curried Mussels and Mustard-Roasted Potatoes (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

For the mussels:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large leeks, white and light green part only, thinly sliced, rinsed, drained
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 pounds mussels
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves minced, plus a few whole to garnish
Lemon wedges for serving

Clean and scrub the mussels, discarding any that are cracked or open.  Remove the beards using a clean kitchen towel.  In a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Saute the leeks until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add in the garlic and the curry powder and saute for another minute or so until fragrant.  Add the wine, and allow to reduce by half before adding in the mussels, coconut milk and water (or chicken stock if using).  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes until the mussels have all opened up (discard any that fail to open).  Taste the broth and adjust seasoning to taste.  Serve in bowls with a sprinkling of cilantro on top and a lemon wedge or two on the side.  The lemon juice really makes a difference in the flavor of the broth, so don’t skip this part.

For the potatoes:
2 cups Dutch yellow pee wee potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 shallot, diced
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
3 to 4 fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Rinse the potatoes and cut any large ones in half so they’re all similar in size.  Place in a medium-sized, oven-proof saute pan, cover with salted water, and boil until tender.  Drain and crush each with your palm or the back of a wooden spoon.  Place the pan back on the stove, add in the olive oil and saute the shallot for a few minutes.  Add in the potatoes and the mustard and toss to coat.  Remove from the fire, add in the sage leaves, and place the pan in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning once or twice until they’re all brown and crispy.   Serve alongside mussels or really anything.  They’re delicious.

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 Butternut Squash and Roast Chicken Curry (Adapted from My Family Table)

1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bone-in chicken breasts
About 2 cups cubed butternut squash
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Sambal chili paste
1 cup short-grain brown rice

Pre-heat the oven to 425.  Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes until an internal thermometer reads 165 degrees.  Once cooked, cube or shred into bite sized pieces.  John Besh suggests that you use leftover roast chicken, so if you have that on hand, that would be great too.

In a small pot, bring 1 cup of the coconut milk and 1 cup of water to a boil.  Add in the brown rice, season, reduce to a simmer and cover.  The rice will take about 45 minutes to cook depending on the variety used.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat and add in the butternut squash.  Saute until browned on the edges, and softened a bit, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add in the leeks and continue to cook until softened.  Add in the ginger, garlic, and curry powder, and saute for a minute more.  Squeeze the lemon over the pot, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the ban.  Add in the coconut milk, chicken broth, and chili paste and bring to a boil.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding in more curry powder or chili powder to taste.  Add in the cooked chicken and simmer for about another 15 minutes.

Serve curry over the brown rice and garnish with a little fresh parsley.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.  Stay warm!!

Food Lover’s Cleanse Week 2.5

Week two of our cleanse started out great.  We had lemongrass chicken and black rice on Monday night, which made for delicious asian-chicken salads the next day.  Tuesday we did the albacore tuna brochettes along with the plan, but by Wednesday night, we just could not load the dishwasher one more time.  So, we took a break and headed to this cute new place in Highland Village, Drexel House.   Few glasses of wine, a good meal, and no dishes to clean up afterwards felt pretty good, I have to admit!  So week two extended out a bit into week two-and-a-half.  Overall we’ve really enjoyed it–lost a few pounds and picked up a few new healthy habits along the way.  Below are some of our favorites from round two…

Lemongrass Chicken Black Rice with Coconut & Garlicky Bok ChoyIMG_6820This one was a pretty fun meal.  Lots of pretty colors and interesting ingredients.  How often do you use lemongrass at home?  The chicken is marinated in a mixture of spices and coconut milk overnight and then roasted in the oven at a high temperature to finish it off and brown the top.  The only real edit I would make to the cooking method would be to pound the chicken breasts a little so that they’re more even in size.  Mine were a bit disparate and the larger one made the cooking time in the oven a bit too long for the other.  These could easily be cooked on a stove-top grill too, and they’d be really good.  

We cooked the black rice as suggested, but added in a small pat of butter to the cooking water, and then tossed in some sliced green onions, slivered almonds and toasted coconut just before serving.  Central Market was out of baby bok choy (something to do with the polar vortex?), so we substituted red swiss chard.  I would pull back on the soy sauce and just add to taste.  A full tablespoon proved to be a little too much for a single bunch of chard.  Great meal overall though and it certainly looked pretty, especially next to the flowers left over from Callie’s party and our haul from Central Market’s citrus week…  IMG_6824I didn’t take a picture of the salads we made the next day for lunch, but they were awesome and easily one of my favorite meals on the cleanse.  The sesame-miso vinaigrette is definitely a keeper.  (I skipped the miso a) because we didn’t have any and b) because when I looked up substitutes it said I could use anchovy paste.  No thanks.) 

Orange-Date Muesli with Coconut and Cacao Nibs

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This was a fun one too–and good to make the morning after you make the lemongrass chicken because you’ll already have toasted coconut on hand.  It’s essentially a mixture of old-fashioned rolled oats and Greek yogurt that you refrigerate overnight with some orange juice, orange segments, and chopped dried dates.  In the morning, you just pull it out of the fridge and top it with some toasted coconut and cacao nibs–which is apparently Whole Foods speak for chocolate.  They’re on the aisle with all the bulk bins, right next to the hemp seeds!  I thinned ours out just a touch in the morning with some almond milk.  Tasted like desert and was a great way to start off the day. 

Hope everyone is having a happy Monday and a great day off.  I have the curried mussels on the cleanse planned for tonight.  Fingers crossed they’re worth all the random ingredients I had to buy to make them!

 

Farro Salad

 

One of the blogs that I am currently loving recently posted a recipe of a farro salad the same week that I cooked up this one and was planning to write about it and share the recipe. As I read along thinking how trendy I was, I came across this sentence indicating that “The internet needs another recipe for a farro salad like it needs more pop-up ads.” However, like the author of that little quip, I think mine is pretty tasty and worth sharing anyway. And doesn’t everyone have a pop-up blocker by now? How often do you really see them anymore? Hmmmm?

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Butternut Squash Farro Salad (Adapted from Farmhouse Delivery)

1 large butternut squash (or two small ones) peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
8-10 oz. farro
1 small sweet red peppers, diced
1 bunch green onion, thinly sliced
1 small handful parsley leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces (toast in a 350 degree oven for about 5 to 7 minutes until the walnuts are just beginning to brown)
4-6 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 c. olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the butternut squash cubes with about a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet for about 30 to 45 minutes, tossing once or twice, until tender and lightly browned. The cooking time will vary based on the size of your squash cubes. You just want them nice and browned, so keep an eye on them.

Bring 3 cups water to a boil and stir in the farro. Turn the heat down, cover, and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. Farro is done when it is cooked through, but still a little al dente and chewy in texture. Once, cooked, drain any excess water and allow to cool on a baking sheet.

Place lemon juice and mustard together in a small mixing bowl. Whisk together until combined and continue whisking while drizzling in olive oil until dressing is emulsified. Add the farro and the remainder of the ingredients, mix thoroughly, and season to taste. The salad will keep in the refrigerator for a few days and makes great week-day lunches.