Sunday, November 28, 2010

spiced pot roast and roasted root veggies

My husband had been lodging official complaints about the lack of meat in the last few meals, so I decided I'd make a nice Sunday roast for him.

I didn't really want to do the traditional "stick the meat in the crockpot and let it cook until it falls apart" thing with the roast. I started flipping through Epicurious recipes and ended up finding something called Boeuf à la Mode, which is apparently some old French-Canadian specialty. Anyway, it's braised beef and onions, but you use a mixture of salt, pepper and allspice for a rub on it. I didn't have any allspice, but I found several references that said I could substitute a mixture of equal parts ground cloves, ground ginger, ground cinnamon and ground black pepper. I did that, and I backed off on the salt by almost a tablespoon because I'm very salt-sensitive. I split the roast into two pieces so it would fit in the pan better, and rubbed the meat with the spice / salt / pepper mixture. I thinly sliced my last four onions (recipe called for 1 1/2 lbs of onions and I was probably somewhat short of that) and finely chopped 6 cloves of garlic. I spread half the onions and garlic in the bottom of the pan, laid the two pieces of meat on top of them, then covered the meat with the rest of the onion and garlic. I covered the pan tightly with foil and put it into a 400 degree oven. After an hour I pulled it out, opened the foil and flipped the meat, then re-covered it and put it back into the oven. It ended up cooking for just about 2 hours 15 minutes, total. The smell was amazing pretty early on, and 2 hours was kind of torturous...;)

The root veggies were Yukon Gold potatoes, garlic cloves, carrots and parsnips all chunked up and tossed with olive oil and thyme. I roasted them on a cookie sheet at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes, stirring a couple of times.

The meat came out succulent. The onions cook down in the fat that renders from the roast, and they are absolutely divine. I could eat a huge plate just of those with some good bread! I was surprised that the combination of what I usually consider "sweet" spices melded so well with the beef, onions and garlic. I'll definitely make this again.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

spinach gnocchi

I had a can of San Marzano tomatoes sitting around, and basically I was just trying to come up with a vehicle for some tomato sauce this afternoon. Having an overabundance of leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving got me thinking about gnocchi. The recipe seemed simple enough, so I figured I'd give it a whirl. I had a bag of baby spinach that needed to be used up too, so I figured I'd add it in.

In retrospect, the spinach made the process a bit harder than it likely needed to be. I squeezed all the water I thought that I could out of the cooked spinach, but it still contributed quite a lot of moisture to the dough. I found myself struggling to get enough flour into the dough to get it to hold together, but I did finally get it to a point where it worked. I'm glad I took the advice in the recipe (Mark Bittman to the rescue for the umpteenth time) and plopped a few of the gnocchi into the water to see how they cooked up before I went and rolled them and cut them all.

Once I got the dough to the right consistency, the whole process was pretty easy and had a rhythm to it that I enjoyed: roll out a rope, cut the bits off, roll off the tines of a fork, plop into the boiling water, give it a stir. By the time they were floating and ready to come out, the next batch was all cut, rolled and ready to go.

The gnocchi came out on the slightly chewy side, but I think it was because I really overworked the dough trying to get the right amount of flour into it. Even so, they had nice flavor (I put a little nutmeg in them) and went really well with the tomato sauce. The tomato sauce is just my normal formula of onions, San Marzano tomatoes, a few cloves of garlic, and some dried oregano, which is totally full of win and I would eat it on just about anything.

Monday, November 22, 2010

stuffed chicken breast

Sorry the picture is blurry...doesn't seem to be quite enough light in the kitchen to make the macro function on my camera happy and I'm generally too impatient to set up a lighting rig when there's a plate of dinner sitting there waiting for me...;)

Anyway! Tonight I made stuffed chicken breasts, buttermilk mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. The chicken was very easy: I rinsed 4 chicken breast halves and cut a pocket in each one, being careful not to cut all the way through. I stuffed the pockets with a couple tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, a tablespoon of minced red onion, a tablespoon each of fresh thyme and fresh parsley, and a quarter of a cup of finely chopped cremini mushrooms. I sprinkled the top of the chicken with some plain bread crumbs and baked them at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes.

The mashed potatoes were made with 4 medium russet potatoes that I cooked and then mashed with buttermilk (I didn't measure, but if pressed, I'd guess around half a cup), a little salt and black pepper, and a tablespoon of butter. I really like potatoes mashed with buttermilk - they taste like they have sour cream in them, but not quite as unhealthy. Well, before I added the butter in anyway...;)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

apricot ginger glazed chicken

I got this recipe from this month's Cooking Light magazine, but I tweaked it a little...somewhat on purpose, and somewhat by mistake.

The recipe called for boneless chicken thighs, but all I had were breasts so I cut them into thigh-sized pieces. I browned them in some oil till they were cooked through, then removed them and made the sauce. The sauce consisted of apricot preserves (the recipe called for ginger preserves but said a combination of apricot and grated fresh ginger could be used instead), grated ginger, chopped garlic, and soy sauce. I ended up adding a little bit of chicken stock as well. I let it reduce down to about half, then added the chicken back to the pan for a couple minutes to coat it. I served it with brown rice with scallions, and steamed snap peas. It tasted a lot like a milder General Gao's Chicken from the local Chinese joint, except not so cloyingly sweet. I'd definitely make this again, though I think next time I might serve it with bok choy or cabbage, as the peas were quite sweet on top of the sauce.

chicken parmesan

For the chicken, I took boneless skinless chicken breast halves and split them horizontally to make cutlets. I dipped them in a beaten egg and dredged them in a mixture of bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and dried oregano. They went into a 425 degree oven on a lightly oiled baking sheet and baked for about 6 minutes, then flipped over and baked for another 6 minutes. Meanwhile, I sauteed a small diced onion in about a tablespoon of butter until it was soft, then added a 28oz can of San Marzano tomatoes and their juices, along with three chopped cloves of garlic, a pinch of salt and about a teaspoon of dried oregano. The sauce cooked down and thickened sightly while I cooked the spaghetti (I used a mixture of whole wheat and regular). During the last 2 minutes of the chicken cooking, I sprinkled a little bit of mozzarella cheese across the top of it and put it under the broiler to let the cheese brown. I finished the sauce off with a couple tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley.

I served the chicken on top of the spaghetti with sauce, and a side salad of baby greens and herbs with a quick vinaigrette dressing (balsamic, olive oil, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, whisked together).

The chicken came out nicely crispy but the meat stayed moist, and the sauce was refreshingly simple and very tasty. AND, there was no frying involved!