Tag Archives: chicken

Browned Butter Squash Noodles with Lemon Basil Pasta and Chicken

24 Jun

 

Browned butter squash noodles with fettuccine, lemon thyme and chicken.

Browned butter squash noodles with fettuccine, lemon basil and chicken.

As mentioned previously, I visited the Bernice Garden Farmers’ Market on Sunday to load up on veggies. One of my wonderful finds was a huge load of Zephyr and zucchini squash from Hardin Farms.

I’ve used them a few ways already, but I think tonight’s dinner gets a special mention.

First, I cooked some gluten-free fettuccine noodles (Le Veneziane, the only kind worth using in this), just three of the six nests in a package, to al dente in salted water. I held it in a colander in the sink, tossed with a bit of olive oil, until everything else was ready.

Results of the amazing DeBuyer mandoline. Not sponsored, just true.

Results of the amazing DeBuyer mandoline. Not sponsored, just true.

I’ve had my trusty DeBuyer mandoline for years, but I’d never used it to make veggie noodles. Before I ran out to buy one of those fancy noodles machines I’ve seen lately, I decided to give it a shot. Using just the right combination of the two reversible blades, I got these babies. Amazing, crunchy, long squash noodles. I ate a quarter of them before I ever got around to cooking them or anything else. I used three largish squash, finding that the larger ones are easier to run across the mandoline.

I will tell you this: real French mandolines work great, but they often collect a penance in the form of a piece of your finger. Be wary. I even had to skip the safety shield and pusher so I could shove the whole squashes across. If you do that…may the force be with you.

Chicken cooking in the incredibly not non-stick pan

Chicken cooking in the incredibly not non-stick pan

I had a couple large chicken breasts in the freezer, so I thawed them in the fridge overnight. I sliced them into 3/4-inch slices, seasoned with salt and pepper, and tossed them with a bit of olive oil. Then I seared the slices in a large, stainless steel (as in not-nonstick) pan and cooked until they were just done, turning once. They may stick a bit, but they should turn just fine when they’re properly seared. I moved the finished pieces out of the pan and into a separate dish, covered with foil, while I did a second round. Two chicken breasts made plenty for four people!

Are you cooking along? Oh, good! DO NOT clean your pan. All those brown bits are about to make this dish amazing.

This stuff is gold, people. If you scrub it off, we can't be friends.

This stuff is gold, people. If you scrub it off, we can’t be friends.

I added a tablespoon (ahem, or more) of butter and cooked it until browned, which didn’t take long since it picked up some of the pan’s yummy goodness. Then I put in a half-cup or so of chicken broth to fully deglaze the pan (fancy terms for picking up all those yummy bits), whisking the whole time to scrape them up. The squash noodles went in next, tossed a bit with tongs. Then I added the GF noodles and half of my fresh lemon basil, tossing a bit over the heat. You can add the chicken back at this point if it needs reheating.

The whole shebang now went into a serving dish, with the chicken (if you didn’t add it earlier) and the rest of the lemon basil. Top each serving with a bit of fancy salt, if you have it.

squash noodle close

I’m not writing this one out recipe style, so if you have any further questions, just leave a comment below!

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Gluten Free Chicken Pot Pie Class at PTC March 22

14 Feb
gluten free chicken pot pie

Amazeballs gluten free chicken pot pie, if I do say so myself. Learn to make your own at my class!

I had a lot to do last night.

Pinterest-y Valentines for the Kindergartener’s friends. A not-so-Pinterest-y Beyblade Valentine mailbox for same Kindergartener. Spray-painting elements for said box outside. Realizing that wasn’t going to work and going out for red plastic plates. Baths. Homework. All that momma stuff.

For some unknown reason, I decided it would be a dandy night to make chicken pot pie from scratch. Well, sorta from scratch; my mom brought a rotisserie chicken over at lunch, and the leftovers pretty much demanded to be pot pie. They told me so.

It’s just as well, since I’m teaching a class next month at Pulaski Technical College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute on this very dish. Why not practice a few times? Yum.

The whole pot pie. In class, we'll probably make individual-sized ones. Equally delicious.

The whole pot pie. In class, we’ll probably make individual-sized ones. Equally delicious.

Last night’s version used (gasp) frozen veggies, just because it’s what I had and I forgot to go to Kroger. Sue me. (In class, we’ll bust out our real knife skills on real-life veggies. Because you need the practice.) Well, I did dice a real onion and some garlic, so there’s that.

Want to make your own? Of course you do. This dish was amazing, even with cheater ingredients. We’ll go over how to mix your own gluten-free all-purpose flour (and save a ton of cash) in our class. I’ll teach you how to make flaky pie crust that nobody will know is gluten-free, even your picky gluten-eating family. And we’ll package them up to freeze and bake whenever the pot pie siren calls. (Or, you can bring it home for dinner that night.)

The class is $75 for four hours of instruction and lots of tomfoolery. But productive tomfoolery. Let’s just say we’ll have fun.

Sign up for this class by calling (501) 907-6670, ext. 3407 or emailing Emily Story, Director of Community Education at PTC. See you there!

Gluten Free Pot Pie Class
Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute
Community Kitchen
Saturday, March 22, 2014
12:30 – 4:30 p.m.
$75 per person

Not-Really Coq au Vin

9 Jan
Not-Really Coq au Vin, served with jasmine rice.

Not-Really Coq au Vin, served with jasmine rice.

Coq au Vin (cohk ah VAHN), a traditional French recipe made famous in the states by the likes of Julia Child, is already a modern misnomer at best.

The title refers to a coq, or male chicken, a rooster. Good luck finding that at the megamart. And it was developed as a way to use an old bird, one that is so tough that only extended braising in alcohol could render it delicious.

Being Baptist and all, I don’t have a huge breadth of experience with wine, but I don’t find it particularly evil, either. If I find myself with a bottle, a recipe will usually come from it. If I have some red wine, which I usually don’t care for, it often becomes coq au vin.

Once, in my early days of marriage and my first gas cooktop, I was making this dish. I didn’t know yet that it was recommended that you turn off the heat before adding the wine. The resulting fireball was pretty spectacular; I’m amazed I came away with any eyebrows left. No damage done, but I certainly remembered from then on to turn off the gas!

Although this yummy dish used to be a staple when I first started really cooking, it has been a long time, mainly because we don’t go out of our way to buy the wine. But over the holidays, someone brought a bottle of cabernet, and it was actually darn tasty.

Back to the coq. Usually, these days, you just use a whole chicken for the dish, as well as some bacon and other yummies.

A few days after our holiday festivities, it was cold. Again, I didn’t want to get out and go to the store. I looked around the fridge, freezer and pantry to see what I could do. No bacon, but I do have a kielbasa in the freezer. No fresh or dried mushrooms, but I do have a can of them in the back of the pantry. No skin-on chicken, but I did freeze some boneless, skinless breasts a few days before.

The result: Not-Really Coq au Vin, and in reasonable portions for New Year’s eating.

I can feel the ghost of Escoffier chastising me, especially for the boneless, skinless chicken and those (gasp) canned mushrooms. The French are snobs that way. But trust me, it works.

One more note: I can’t exactly recommend buying the ingredients to make it this way. If you’re making coq au vin for the first time, get the goodies to make it right. (Simply Recipes has a nice rendition of the Julia Child original.) But maybe you’re like me and happen to have these things handy. If nothing else, be inspired to cook with what’s already in your house!

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Not-Really Coq au VinIMG_8298
Serves 4

  • One kielbasa sausage, medium dice
  • 1/2 c. frozen pearl onions
  • 1 small can sliced white button mushrooms
  • Two cloves garlic, minced
  • Two large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3 or 4 if they are smaller)
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • Half a bottle of cabernet sauvignon
  • 4 Bay leaves
  • 3-4 Parsley stems
  • 5 Whole peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 Stem (about 6″) fresh rosemary, stripped
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy pot (this is THE dish to use your enameled cast iron, if you have it), cook the diced kielbasa over medium heat until most of the fat has been released and it is almost crisp. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook for a minute or two more, until the onions have softened a bit. Add the garlic last, heating for just a minute, being careful not to burn it.

Make room in the pot for the chicken, and add it with as much contact to the surface as possible. Brown the chicken on both sides.

A side note about the chicken: I’m using boneless/skinless here just because it’s what I had. If you want to avoid the full-fat version, this is a good way to go, but you miss out on the full-bodied sauce that results from the skin and bones of the regular chicken. Your choice!

Add the chicken broth and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. These add a lot of flavor to the sauce. Plus, adding the broth now helps eliminate the risk of a flareup when adding the wine.

Turn off the heat and add the wine, then turn the heat up to medium-high. Place the bay leaves, parsley stems, peppercorns and rosemary leaves into a piece of cheesecloth or coffee filter paper, tied with cotton string, and add it to the pot.

Cover and reduce to a simmer. At about 20 minutes, use a food thermometer to check the doneness of the chicken. It is easy to over-cook boneless breasts, so be careful! When the interior reaches 155-160 degrees, remove the chicken and place it in a ceramic dish. Use a slotted spoon to remove all the kielbasa and vegetables and add them to the dish, too. Discard the cheesecloth packet. Cover with foil and place in a warmer or an oven set at 200 degrees.

Turn the heat up to high and reduce the remaining liquid until there is about a cup left. Stir in the butter and see if the thickness of the sauce is what you like. It will not thicken much if you used boneless/skinless chicken, so you may need to further thicken it with a cornstarch slurry. Place an ice cube in a small cup and add a tablespoon or so of water, allowing it to get cold. Remove the ice and add the cornstarch, stirring to a smooth paste. Add this to your reduced liquid, whisking well to avoid lumps. Once it heats back to a boil, it will thicken completely.

Quickly move the chicken to a cutting board and slice into medallions at a slight angle. Add the chicken and veggies back to the sauce to coat and reheat, then serve with fresh parsley garnish and jasmine rice.

IMG_8297

The Cure

20 Sep

After just a few seconds under the beet/horseradish cure, the salmon is stained a beautiful red.

No, I don’t mean that blissfully strange 80s band, nor do I mean a fix for what ails ya.

Unless what’s ailing ya is a hunger for something really salty and yummy.

In garde manger class this week, we studied curing, pickling, smoking and that sort of thing. In the days before refrigeration, these methods were used to preserve meats and other foods so they wouldn’t spoil and kill you. These days, they’re just paths to increased yumminess.

In the lab, we divided into groups, working on different projects. Ours made the assigned recipe for cured salmon with (get this) beet and horseradish. Don’t get me wrong; I love beets, and I can tolerate horseradish most of the time. But this was some powerful stuff. My mascara did not survive the grating process.

We placed the finished rub on the side of salmon (carefully checked for pinbones, of course), and I realized I should have taken an earlier process photo so you could see the lovely flesh. My fellow student just scraped off a bit, and the flesh was already stained a beautiful shade of red. Although I don’t think I’ll care for the pungency of this dish, the color and flavor of the beets will likely prove repeating at home.

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Norwegian Beet & Horseradish Cure
From Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen, published by the Culinary Institute of America

  • 1 salmon filet, skin on (3 lbs)

Cure Mix:

  • 12 oz. finely chopped or grated raw beets
  • 1 lb. grated fresh horseradish
  • 6 oz. sugar
  • 6 oz. kosher salt (don’t use table salt!)
  • 1/2 oz. cracked black pepper

Remove pin bones and score the skin of the fish. Center the fish skin-side down on a large piece of cheesecloth or plastic wrap, inside a perforated pan atop a hotel pan. (Ghetto-fab home cook workaround: Get two cheap plastic storage containers and poke a zillion holes in one. Put the holey one inside the other one, and construct your fish inside the top one.)

Mix the cure ingredients and pack evenly over the salmon. Use less at the thinner end of the fish, toward the tail, to avoid overdrying. Wrap loosely with the cheesecloth or plastic wrap.

Refrigerate 3 days to cure. After third day, gently scrape off the cure. Slice and serve immediately, or wrap and refrigerate up to one week.

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After wrapping and putting our fish away to cure for a few days, the chef told us to create our own cure or brine for whatever meat may be in the school’s walk-in refrigerator. I was hoping for some pork, but there were only whole chickens.

No problem.

Always wanting to do something different, I came up with this: kosher salt, turbinado sugar, dry mustard, fenugreek, a bit of dry garlic, and finely ground black pepper. I spatchcocked the chicken (a fancy word for just cutting down the backbone and spreading the bird out flat) and coated both sides with the dry rub, then wrapped it with plastic wrap.

Not familiar with fenugreek? I wasn’t either, until I was a nursing mother some years ago. I took it as a supplement to (sorry dudes) boost milk supply. I was told you had the dose right when your skin is oddly perfumed with the smell of maple syrup. In fact, fenugreek is often used in synthetic maple syrup production because the smell is so similar. It’s a lovely sweet/savory spice frequently used in Indian cuisine.

My chicken will sit in a perforated pan for a day or two until the chef or a student she assigns will come wash off the rub and cook it. (If it sits in all that salt for a whole week, until our class meets again, it will be completely dried out and “cadaverous,” as she put it.) I hope I’ll get to try it and see how my blend worked out.

Another group worked on duck confit, something I’d like to try for myself soon. The duck pieces are slowly cooked while submerged in duck fat (I mean, really!). The whole thing gets cooled, and as long as the pieces stay submerged in the solidified fat, they can stay in the fridge for several months. Confit is seriously delicious, so I’ll have to tackle that one another time on my own.

This was one of those fun days in culinary school where we get to play and develop something on our own. Even the assigned recipe, despite the horseradish, was cool, because I feel confident I can now cure salmon at home.

Maybe I can carry some of this renewed confidence to Food IV restaurant service this Thursday night. I’m starting to feel like a whipped puppy in there. Not the chef’s fault…he’s just bringing out all the things I need to work on. **whispering to self: this is why we go to school. this is why we go to school.** :/

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What’s Cooking in Food Production II

29 Aug

Wow…that’s all I had to say after the first day of production (actually cooking in the kitchens) in Food Production II. I so thought I was prepared, and I so…wasn’t.

First, I stayed up late the night before and reviewed what we’d be cooking the next day. Sauteed chicken with salsify and herb sauce, wilted spinach and spaghetti squash (later substituted to carrots). So I printed out the menu, wrote out all my mise en place, listed what equipment I’d need to gather, and figured out in what order I’d need to do things. I found a similar recipe in our textbook and attempted to copy it, but my printer wouldn’t comply. So I went to bed, knowing I had things a few steps ahead. It’s all in my notebook.

Fast forward, next morning in class, 8:30 a.m.

I realize I’ve brought the wrong notebook.

Egads, it’s elementary school all over again!!! Thankfully, the instructor went through everything anyway, and I was able to remember much of what I had written before. No problem.

She assigns me and another student as “food stewards,” which means we are to gather food product for everyone instead of each student running around (like we did last semester) looking for stuff. No problem. We take a break after the lecture and before setting up, and I cut it short so I can get a jump on setting up my station.

Oh crap moment #2: I realize I’ve brought my baking kit rather than my knife kit. They look EXACTLY the same. Sigh. (I managed to keep this from my instructor the whole time, but I guess she knows now, huh?) I managed to borrow a knife from a friend and keep moving.

Then, although I thought I was doing well and working ahead, I fall behind gathering the food for everyone. And as we begin production, I realize we had forgotten a few things. Sheesh. NOT. On. My. Game.

I oversalted, undercooked, and generally felt like a screwup the whole time. I forgot to add aromatics to the fond before deglazing with liquids. And it’s funny…I looked back at my blog post from almost exactly a year prior, where I am teaching this exact same technique. I KNOW this stuff. I just forgot!

But I managed to get my dish done, and besides a little too much salt, all other offenses were fixed. A few minutes in the oven went a long way with my chicken, which turned out quite well. The instructor, while tasting my dish, was talking with another instructor at that moment. She reached over and smacked my arm while nodding to her colleague about the conversation at hand…a silent gesture that told me it turned out OK after all. She did say I should sauce half-way down the chicken, so both the protein and the sauce are identifiable. Good sauce. A little too much salt.

Whew.

I’ll go over the actual recipe another day this week, when I make it at home for the family. It’s quite easy, and the sauce is sooooo delicious.

And I’m sure I’ll do better the second time around!

Chicken and White Bean Winter Soup

14 Nov

Soup

Thursday afternoon, I put a few things in the crock pot so dinner would be easy. I had some white beans left over from the pork rib dish from a while back, and I bought some chicken thighs (which, although higher in fat, I prefer for braising and soups) that day at the grocery store. I also had quite a few grape tomatoes left over from last week’s farmer’s market, just ripened on the countertop. After glancing at a few recipes for flavor profile ideas, here’s what I ended up with:

Chicken and White Bean Winter Soup

  • 1 c. dry white beans (I used Great Northern, but cannellini would also be great)
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 10 – 15 grape tomatoes, halved (may use cherry tomatoes or diced larger variety)
  • 6 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. dry white wine (optional, reduce 1 c. of broth if used)
  • 3 – 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 c. minced onion (I used 1/4 c. dried)
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme (dried)
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary (dried and crushed)
  • 1 Tbs. Cavender’s seasoning

Soak beans in cold water overnight and rinse in colander. (Quick-soak option: Place dry beans in a small pot and cover with cold water, with the water one inch over the top of the beans. Bring to boil on the stovetop and boil for three minutes. Cover tightly and turn off the heat, and leave to soak for one hour. Rinse with clean water in colander.)

Pour olive oil into bottom of crock pot and place soaked beans on top. Cover with broth and white wine, if you’re using it. Add bay leaves to the broth.

If you want to add a bit of flavor, you can salt and pepper the chicken thighs and quickly sear over high heat in a skillet with oil. (I was in a hurry and didn’t; just S&P’d the raw chix…still yummy!) Place the chicken on top of the beans in the crock pot. Place the celery, tomatoes, herbs, Cavender’s, and a little more kosher salt and freshly ground pepper on top.

Since I was starting later in the day, I put it on high (total of 4 hours or so), but you could surely put it on low for 8 hours-ish. When the beans are completely soft and creamy, and the chicken is falling apart, it’s ready.

At this point, mash a few of the beans and tomatoes against the side of the pot. Continue doing this until you’ve reached your desired level of creamy goodness. Then shred the chicken pieces up with a fork or spoon; they should happily fall apart at your bidding.

Taste, reseason as necessary, enjoy.

Wonderful with a crusty loaf of bread. Even better the next day. Noms!

New (Old) Cookbooks and Sage-Garlic Roasted Chicken

15 Sep

Obviously, I am still working out exactly what all Fancy Pants Foodie is and will be. But one of the things I will most likely always do is show you what I’m cooking, and what I learned from it. Tonight, you get to learn from both my success and my mistakes!

Recently, my friend Beth was participating in a fundraiser for her church that involved selling donated cookbooks. Upon getting her email with the available list, I “ordered” my stack of cookbooks, which I read like trashy novels. Not that I read trashy novels, but if I did, I would read cookbooks the same way. Anyway.

How to cookBeth recommended two that were not on my list, both by Pam Anderson, former executive editor of Cook’s Illustrated, a foodie favorite. (If you haven’t discovered the magazine yet, it’s worth clicking the link and picking up at least a trial issue.) The first book, humorously titled How to Cook Without a Book, focuses on learning techniques and simple formulas for making just about anything with what’s in your fridge and pantry at that moment. I like this approach very much, and it’s actually what I have tried to do myself over the years. Learn a basic technique — most of mine from the good ol’ Better Homes and Gardens basic book — and roll with it for years to come.

TPRcover

The second book, The Perfect Recipe, is Pam’s version of a research journal for home cooks. She took several basic recipes, from macaroni and cheese and burgers to cornish hens and prime rib, and tried them several different ways to find just the right technique. It’s interesting to read how she made batch after batch of burgers, experimenting with making the ground beef herself, and seasoning the beef at different stages in cooking, to report the best results to the reader. Then, for each final recipe, she outlines a basic, illustrated technique, with a few fancied-up variations afterward.

In The Perfect Recipe, Pam offers a simplified roasted chicken that makes it, as she categorizes, an “Everyday Classic.” Hmmm. I’ve done this before, but not lately. Chicken doesn’t seem the means by which to get Fancy Pants. But finally, I dared to step outside my rut of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and purchased a whole “roaster.”

What makes this recipe different is that the bird is not exactly roasted whole, but butterflied. This means getting out your best pair of kitchen scissors (neither of mine were really great) and cutting out the backbone, then flattening out the bird for roasting. This cuts down quite a bit on cooking time and makes it much easier to carve and serve. (Note: The video linked above has you take out the keel bone, which is fine, but not necessary. I didn’t, and neither did Pam.)

After I had rinsed, dried, cut, and flattened said chicken, my husband enters the kitchen. He looked at the bird. He looked at me.

“Why is the chicken spread eagle?”

“It’s not,” I replied. “It’s spread chicken.”

Here’s my version based on Pam Anderson’s technique, using the ingredients I had on hand:

Sage-Garlic Roasted Chicken

  • 3 to 4 lb. whole roaster chicken
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 6 – 10 leaves fresh sage
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 degrees and position top rack to be about 12 inches from the top element. Butterfly the chicken, rinse with cool water and pat dry. (See video for technique.) Place chicken on a large jelly roll pan or roasting pan. Tuck wings under the bird so they do not burn. Loosen the skin around the breasts and legs so that you can get between the skin and meat.

Crush garlic in a press or mince finely, and mince the sage. Mix these in a small bowl with the salt and pepper. Spread this mixture under the skin of the chicken.

Rub the skin all over with oil, and season with a bit more kosher salt and pepper. (Any further seasonings will burn in the high heat of the oven.)

Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. The skin will be a lovely, medium brown and the juices should run clear.

Remove from oven and loosely cover with foil to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

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OK, that sounds all peachy and lovely, right? Wondering why there are no photos today?

Actually, there should be. The chicken itself was beautiful. I was just too distracted (and hungry!) by all the shortcomings along the way.

First of all, the battery on my really good Polder meat thermometer is dead. I should replace it immediately. But I haven’t. So.

I took the bird out a little early, thinking it looked done. My ghetto turkey-frying thermometer said it was. After throwing together some sides that did NOT really turn out well (that’s another story for another day), I got the table ready and turned to my lovely birdie for carving.

Still red in the middle. Sheesh!

Not one, but TWO baking sessions later, I finally got it done. Thirty minutes left alone would probably have done it. Or, for a larger bird (which mine was), you can start it breast-down and flip it halfway through. Prolly shoulda tried that.

The other problem, Pam actually experienced herself. From The Perfect Recipe:
The broiling method also took some fine-tuning, for my first attempts set off two smoke alarms.

I didn’t set off any alarms, but the house definitely had a mystic aura for an hour or two. Someday I’ll have an oven with an outside vent, but for now, these things will just have to happen. The same thing occurred with my famous broiled steak from years ago. Darn tasty, but smokes up the house something awful.

What else did I learn?

That even when things get messed up, they can still come out tasting glorious. It really was, even if all the side items were cool by the time we sat down to eat.

The chicken was moist, and the sage/garlic mixture really permeated the meat. The leftovers will make a great shredded chicken somethingorother tomorrow.

More soon!

P.S. If you Twitter, please follow me… @arfoodie. Not only will you get notices of blog updates, you’ll also get local foodie news and updates, as well as the occasional random ROT (river of tweets) of useful foodie tidbits and links.

Labor Day Foodie: Marconi Bruschetta and Smoked Cayenne Chicken

7 Sep

Today was a busy foodie day!

At noon, I attended the Slow Foods USA Time for Lunch rally in Argenta. This event, one of hundreds held across the country, was to raise awareness about “slow food” (put simply, the opposite of “fast food”) and to support measures to bring fresh, local foods into school lunchrooms nationwide. It was a potluck, and folks were encouraged to bring dishes highlighting our local bounty of said slow foods.

Later this week I’ll post my photos and videos from this event, as I played the intrepid reporter. But for now, I’ll just show you what I made:

My Marconi Bruschetta

Marconi Bruschetta

  • 1 honey-molasses wheat baguette
  • 4 T. olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 c. shredded raw milk cheddar cheese (white, yellow or mix)
  • 3 large roasted marconi peppers (may use red bells), roughly chopped
  • 10 large kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 3-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Slice the baguette into thin rounds with a serrated knife, about 1/4″ thick. Brush with 3 T. olive oil and place on baking stone (preferred) or baking sheet at 400 degrees for 10 – 15 minutes, or until just crisp on tops and browning on edges.

Remove from heat and sprinkle cheese on each round. Return to oven for one minute or until cheese is just melted. Mix final 1 T. olive oil with remaining ingredients and season to taste. (I used much less salt than normal because of the briny olives.) Spoon a small amount of topping onto each round and serve immediately.

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I know, I’ve only been doing this blog for a little while, and I’ve already got bruschetta twice. But this bread was so perfect for making little toasty rounds, it had to be done!

After the potluck, I quickly ran to the next event, a cookout with friends at their house. I wanted to take some chicken breasts to this event to put on their huge, competition-BBQ style smoker. But I also wanted them to be full of flavor and character. So, last night, I put this recipe together using the smoked peppers I wrote about earlier:

Smoked Cayenne Chicken

  • 3-4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 hickory smoked cayenne pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 T. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Place olive oil in a zip-top plastic bag or glass container, and use scissors to snip the pepper into very small pieces into the oil. (To reduce the heat level, you may shake seeds out of the opened pepper and/or use less than a whole pepper.) Leave the pepper to reconstitute in the oil for at least five minutes.

Put garlic through a garlic press and add to oil. Add remaining ingredients to the oil besides the chicken and shake or stir to mix. Add the chicken and, if using a bag, reseal while removing as much air as possible. Move chicken within bag or dish so that the mixture is evenly distributed, then place in refrigerator overnight.

Cook on grill for 10-15 minutes per side, or until internal temperature reads 180 degrees with a meat thermometer.

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The chicken, I must say, was INCREDIBLE! It was juicy and flavorful with just a little smoky, spicy kick. Kudos to our buddy T. for cooking the chicken for me on his smoker grill. Would that make it Double-Smoked Cayenne Chicken?

Tonight, after eating so much all day, I just wanted a light, easy dinner. I mixed some leftover marconi topping with some leftover plain pasta, adding a dash more salt, pepper, basil and balsamic vinegar. I diced a half-piece of the smoked cayenne chicken that was left and mixed it in, and I had (actually, finished while writing this) a yummy, light meal.

More to come, Fancy Pantsers. Leave me a comment and let me know what you made for Labor Day!