Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sassy Chicken and Black Bean Chili leftovers

You'd have thought I checked the weather channel over the weekend and based my eating out of the freezer decision on it because it was such a perfect thing this week. You'd be wrong as I simply lucked out. Or my dinner selections now control the world.

Tonight it is 52°F here in "sunny" southern CA and man, this chili hit the spot. It is still sassy!

Having allowed the frozen chili to thaw in the fridge a few days, it was reheated on the stove before serving.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Southern Greens with Hot Bacon Vinaigrette

I'm not sure which is better: crisp salads or wilted salads. This salad offers wilted greens with some crunchy toasted nuts and bacon! It's gotta be good!

Other than cutting the quantities in half, I didn't do much tweaking of this recipe.

Southern Greens with Hot Bacon Vinaigrette
click to print

3 thick-cut bacon slices
2 tbsp chopped shallots
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbsp white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
8 oz. young greens, such as dandelion, collard or spinach (about 5 c)
1/2 c toasted pecan halves

If you haven't toasted them yet, toast the pecans by spreading them in a baking sheet and bake at 375°F about 7-10 minutes or until browned.

Cook bacon in large covered skillet over medium-high heat 10 minutes or until crisp. Place on paper towels to drain.

Drain all but about 2 tablespoons of drippings in skillet. Coarsely crumble bacon.

Add shallots and garlic to skillet.
Cook and stir over medium heat 2 minutes or until shallots are just softened.

Stir in vinegar and pepper.

Place greens in large bowl. Just before serving, toss with enough of the hot vinaigrette to lightly coat greens; toss quickly to mix and barely wilt greens.

Divide among 4 serving plates; sprinkle with crumbled bacon and pecans.

What I actually did, and what is imaged above, is one serving of greens in the bowl with about 1/4 of the dressing, nuts and bacon. I saved the rest of the salad ingredients, kept separate, in the refrigerator for the following day.

First, the salad rocks. It's really tasty. My greens should've been coursely chopped to make eating the salad a bit more manageable, but otherwise it was perfect. Saving the salad to eat the following day wasn't a horrible idea except for the fact that the solidified dressing sort of grossed me out. It was a container of solid white fat with tasty bits in it. I couldn't get with warming it and then dressing the greens which is, I realize, completely irrational.

Next time, I'll cut the quantity in half again and plan on having a big salad in one sitting.

bacon: $1
shallots: $0.42
greens: $1.99
pecans: $1

Total: $4.41 or $1.10 for each of four servings.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Papas Bravas

Looking for a Cuban side dish to accompany the Chicken in Mojo Pan Sauce, I stumbled across one calling for a lot of potatoes and paprika. Knowing it would be good, I tried it out.
click to print

4 strips bacon, cubed
1/4 c olive oil for sautéing
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 c potatoes, washed, peeled and sliced thin
salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 tsp paprika

Cook the bacon over low-medium heat in a large covered skillet until it is cooked and the fat is rendered, about 15 minutes.

Add olive oil, onions and bell pepper; stir occasionally over 3-4 minutes or until the onions and peppers are softened.

Add the minced garlic and potatoes and toss to coat well.

Increase heat to medium. Lightly salt & pepper the potatoes, sprinkle on the paprika, cover and cook for five minutes.

Reduce heat to low and let simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, approximately 30-45 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Oh yeah, I can see why these were recommended by those Three Guys from Miami as breakfast food. The flavors are great and would be excellent with a side of eggs. The potatoes were good with chicken too, but the meal was pretty heavy.

I really thought the outcome would be really greasy, but potatoes are like sponges and turned out nicely moist. It looked like quite a lot of paprika, but no worries, regular paprika isn't overwhelming. I'll try this again using smoked paprika -- I bet it'll be tip-top. The bacon? When is bacon ever the wrong?

  • bacon: $1
  • green bell pepper: $0.50
  • onion: $0.35
  • garlic: $0.20
  • potatoes: $1.09

TOTAL: $3.14 or $0.63 for each of five servings.

Shun Classic 8" Chef's Knife

Outside of the recipes, Bourdain talked about three primary things in his cookbook. I briefly discussed the points in the chicken stock post and glanced over knives.

I'd considered buying a high-end knife before but became more studious about cutlery since then, slowly and meticulously judging a wide variety of knives and determining whether I could justify such a purchase. After all, the 10-piece Made in Spain set of Henckels purchased from Costco* over four years ago for about $200 were still going strong; I had no complaints.

I learned a lot while using those Henckels: how to hold a knife to prevent fatigue, improved my knife-work skills, how to use a honing steel, determined which knives I used regularly and which still held their original edge from lack of use.

The Henckels chef and Santoku were overdue for sharpening by about three years. Oddly, I never felt comfortable with the thought of handing over my knives to some stranger for sharpening and just kept them safe in my home.

Finally, I decided to check out a store called Chef's Toys. I took my chef and Santoku knives with me on the off chance I'd have the strength to turn them over to Stranger Who Sharpens.

I became mesmerized with shiny blades and felt the weighty metal of various knives in my hands. But it was this simple handle that sealed the deal.

Besides, I couldn't go a full week without a chef's knife. It's my go-to knife.

Shun Classic 8" Chef's Knife available at Chef's Toys for $151.40 plus tax.

*Henckels higher end cutlery comparable to Wustoff, Shun, Global is available, just not at Costco. 

Food Plan and Grocery List, 022512

I have quite a bit of ready to reheat food in the fridge (the chicken dishes from last week) and freezer (chili, hambone soup, and lots of French Onion soup). And there's quite a bit of frozen meat in the freezer too. We're talkin' 4 chicken frames to make stock with, a pound of shrimp, 10 drumsticks, 8 wings, 4 bone-in skin-on thighs, a pork tenderloin, riblets, and pork chops.

This week, I'm going to work on eating the food that can be reheated and supplementing them with salads. Next week I'm going to work on using the frozen meat so it doesn't get freezer burnt and nasty. The pork chops are probably already there.

Grower's Direct
  • fresh cut pineapple: $1.94/2.45 lb
  • clementines: $3.99/3 lb
  • lime: $0.22/0.25 lb
  • lemon: $0.28/0.36 lb
  • fennel: $1.49
  • green beans: $0.82/0.55 lb
  • radicchio: $1.50/0.50 lb
  • baby greens: $5.97/3 packs
  • fresh mint: $2.89
  • C'est Si Bon 1/4 rolls: $2.25
TOTAL: $21.35

I'm questioning the raddichio. It's not crisp like I think it should be.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chicken in Mojo Pan Sauce

This dish was selected simply for the fact that it serves two: me now and me later. Well, that and it sounded good. Trust me it looks better in real life than it does in that crazy photo above. I didn't realize until I was doing my mise en place that I was out of cumin seeds. I used ground cumin instead.

Chicken in Mojo Pan Sauce
click to print

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper, divided
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c fresh orange juice
2 tsp lemon juice
2 thin orange slices
2 thin lemon slices
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, divided

Sprinkle both sides of chicken breasts with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and ground cumin.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add chicken; cook 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown and no longer pink in center, turning once. Place on plate; cover loosely with foil.

Add garlic to skillet; cook and stir 30 to 60 seconds or until fragrant.

Add orange juice, lemon juice, orange slices, lemon slices and 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of skillet. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Serve chicken with sauce; spoon lemon slices and orange slices over chicken, if desired. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley.

Fresh citrus packs a serious wallop! I was almost overwhelmed with the fruitiness and my chapped lips were recoiling. I am, for the first time since the great cumin debacle, sorry I didn't have cumin seeds to press into the breast halves. The cumin would've provided a nice balance.

Unlike the last chicken breast dish, these weren't overcooked. Seven to eight minutes over medium heat is plenty of time to cook a breast without reducing it to cardboard. Cooking Club of America was right, this is a great weeknight dish as it is quick.

I prepared Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts to accompany the chicken, but it wasn't the greatest pairing. Savory citrus with buttery greens just wasn't right. I'd certainly make it a point to have more traditional Cuban sides of black beans and maduros instead. Oh shoot! And now I just remembered I was originally planning to make Cuban potatoes! Zoinks! Tomorrow night, I will do the potatoes to go with the leftover breast.

  • chicken breast halves: $1
  • garlic: $0.40
  • orange: $0.35
  • lemon: $0.28
  • parsley: $0.10
Total: $2.13 or $1.07 for each of two servings.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 022412

Monday: holiday
Tuesday: La Salsa Chipotle Shrimp Salad and lunch for a coworker: $14.51
Wednesday: La Salsa Chipotle Shrimp Salad on a coworker
Thursday: Carl's Jr. Low-Carb Burger and chow for a coworker: $11.50
Friday: Subway 6" Italian BMT on wheat, on a coworker

Total: $26.01
Total for the year: $326.11

Shiitake-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Shiitake in the title caught my eye as it did plenty of times before but that was before I knew I could buy the mushrooms without making a trip to a specific store. Turns out, they are also available loose at Grower's Direct.  Originally written to generate four servings, I portioned it to get two servings.  After all, I have plenty of risotto left.

Shiitake-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
click to print

3.5-oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp peanut oil, divided
2 tbsp dry sherry, divided
1/4 tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp water

Remove and discard stems from shiitake mushrooms. Reserve 4 of the smallest caps. Place remaining mushrooms in food processor with ginger and garlic; pulse until finely chopped or chop by hand.

Who doesn't have a food processor? That would be me!

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil; heat until hot. Add chopped mushrooms, ginger and garlic; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until softened, stirring frequently.

Add 1 tablespoon of the sherry and 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms form paste.

My sherry evaporated almost on contact with the mushrooms.

Stir in tomato paste. Place in small bowl; cool.

Place chicken breasts on flat surface. Slice chicken almost in half horizontally, cutting to about 1/2 inch from edge. Open; press to flatten slightly. Spread one-half of the mushroom mixture over one side of chicken.

Fold breasts in half over mushroom mixture; tuck in pointed end of breast. Seal with toothpicks; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat same skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; heat until hot. Add chicken; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown.

You can sort of tell when the bottom will be golden brown when the edges are white and if you gently scootch the meat in the skillet it moves freely. If it doesn't move, an uncooked part is sticking and not yet brown. Of course, simply lifting the breasts and peeking works too.

Turn; add reserved mushroom caps, cap side down.

Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center, turning mushrooms and chicken once. Place chicken on platter.

After 8 minutes covered, the lid is really sweaty with condensation.

Add water and remaining 1 tablespoon sherry to skillet; increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of skillet. Boil 1 to 2 minutes or until slightly reduced.

Serve chicken with mushroom caps and sauce.

Beautiful presentation, the sauce was nicely flavored, but unfortunately the chicken a little dry. Cooking for a full eight minutes when covered was on the long side. I'd check the temperature before cooking covered for a better estimate on how long to let it go. Stuffing the chicken with mushrooms made for a pretty surprise when the chicken was sliced but wasn't quite as great  as I'd hoped flavorwise.

When preparing the mushrooms, I was a little annoyed with the part where the mushrooms were supposed to become pasty. The sherry and soy sauce evaporated so quickly there was no opportunity for paste to form. The mushrooms were quite loose and didn't even get very paste-like when the tomato paste was stirred into it. It's quite possible that in this case, the recipe is best left with original quantities in mind just because of skillet-mushroom ratio.

Or, more likely a possibility, I didn't chop the mushrooms fine enough. Mushrooms have a lot of moisture and it just might have been that I didn't cook my too-big mushrooms long enough to release the water that would help make a paste.

Will I do this one again? Not likely. However, if looking for something a little more elegant, I'd certainly consider this one. Also because the breasts can be stuffed in advance and cooked later, it's a reason to consider it for a busy day.

  • shiitake mushrooms: $1.40
  • ginger: $0.11
  • garlic: $0.10
  • sherry: $0.24
  • tomato paste: $0.20
  • chicken breast halves: $1
 Total: $3.05 or $1.53 for each of two servings.