Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lemon Chicken, two ways

Pollo al Limone

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 tbls clarified butter or 1 1/2 tbls butter 1 1/2 tbls olive oil

1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3 tbls chopped parsley

Pound chicken to about 1/4 inch thick. Lightly coat with flour/salt/pepper. Brown chicken over medium-high heat in two tbls butter for about 3 minutes per side. Set chicken aside. Wipe excess fat from pan. To the same skillet add stock, wine, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Boil over medium-high heat, reduce to low and simmer 5-8 minutes, until reduced by half. Return chicken to the skillet and spoon sauce over pieces. Cover and cook 2-3 more minutes until chicken is cooked. Uncover, add remaining tbl of butter and simmer 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Serve over pasta.


Ok, this is another really simple one. So, I am going to complicate it. Of course. Heh. The above is the recipe for this dish that I got from my brother. It is really, really good. But I have, surprise!, changed it. For one I never use 6 chicken breasts, I pretty much always use three since that's what comes in a package (and I'm only feeding two people normally). And instead of just cutting the recipe in half, I change a couple of things. I don't pound the chicken. I let it braise a lot longer which covers tenderizing and cooking evenly so pounding isn't necessary. And I just don't bother with flour, I think it's fine without it. I use maybe a million times more pepper. Ok, not quite that much, but lots more. I cut down on the butter to make it less fatty, even though the original isn't that bad. I also use more lemon juice and some of the zest. Here, why don't I just write up my version too.

My Lemon Chicken

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 - 1/2 tsp of lemon zest
1 tsp fresh black pepper (maybe more, I don't measure it. Lots.)
1 tbl parsley
1/2 tbl each butter and olive oil
salt as needed

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet to med-high. Rinse off the chicken then brown it till it's nice and brown. Three minutes per side is fine. While the chicken is cooking mix up the wine, stock, lemon juice, zest and pepper. Add the sauce mixture to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and let cook for 30-45 minutes or so, till very tender. Remove the cover and let it reduce for maybe 5 minutes. Add half tbl of butter, stir it in. Reduce till it is as thick as you want. Add parsley. If you have as much sauce as you like but it's not thick enough add a corn starch roux, bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then let rest for a minute.


So there you have it. Two lemon chicken recipes, both with the same basic ingredients, two different ways. And you must choose! Unless your stove is bigger than mine, then you can do both at once. But that seems a bit excessive. If you want to do both, why not one after the other? They aren't really that different, no need to go crazy. But, choices kids. They make life more interesting. In brief: mine is easier, more lemony and lighter but takes longer. My brothers is fancier, quicker and has more butter. I never said I would make the choice easy for you. Heh. Now, since I do it my way when I do it, here is my way.

Oil in skillet, check. Chicken in skillet, check. Browned... sorta. Ok, this chicken was mostly frozen when I started. It's a weeknight, what do you want? It will turn out fine. Now you can take the chicken out and wipe up the oil or just leave it. Olive oil is the good kind of fat and adds some fine flavor. While the chicken is browning, mix the broth (unfortunately I don't have stock... yet), lemon juice, zest, wine and pepper together. I don't have any pictures of that, it's not really that thrilling. The reason for zest and juice is my girlfriend loves lemon. If you aren't a great, big, huge lemon fan, you can omit the zest. Now just pour the mixture in. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover it. Simmer it for maybe 45 minutes or even longer, till it's really tender. Remove the cover and reduce the sauce till it's almost as thick as you want it. Or, if the flavor is good and the amount of sauce is how you want it, add a corn starch roux, bring it to a boil again for a minute (stirring the whole time) and that will thicken it right up. Bear in mind, the next step will thicken it just a little bit. Now add the butter. Even just a half tablespoon rounds out this sauce really nicely. This is also when you add the parsley... which I forgot. Please don't hold it against me. That's it. Serve it over pasta. I usually use fettuccine, this time it's the egg kind. Worked out well, the flavors are good together. And it comes in these weird little ball thingies. Can't go wrong with that.Now, see how the chicken just pulls apart? That's really good. That's some tender stuff right there.If you have a lot of folks to feed and only X amount of chicken you can cut the chicken into strips and reduce the cooking time accordingly. This lets you use the chicken more as an accent than as the main part. So that's it! I'd say choose wisely, but both ways are wicked good. Don't want to do either? Well then change it up how you want it. The only right way is the way the people who are going to eat it like it. But if you make changes, let me know! I thrive on new ideas here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Penne with Sausage and Tomato Cream Sauce

4 italian sausages (maybe 1/2 a pound?)
1/2 cup diced onion
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup wine or low sodium chicken broth
10 or so fresh basil leaves
8 oz can of tomato sauce
3/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
cooked penne about 1/2 a box or so

Remove sausage from the skin if needed and add it to a lightly oiled, medium hot pan. Brown it and break it up. Remove it and drain off most of the grease. Add the onions and cook them till they are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant. Deglaze with the wine or chicken broth. Add the tomatoes, stir, then cream and more stirring. Reduce heat to low and simmer for a couple minutes. Add the sausage and basil to the sauce, stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the pasta and let sit for a minute. Serve.


So this is how I come up with recipes, when I don't use one straight from some kind of source. First I decide what I want to make, then I scour the intertubes, cookbooks and people I know who cook and see what's what. Then I take that info, ignore most of it and just kind of throw something together. It doesn't always come out. But man oh man oh man. OH. MAN. This one did. I have been thinking about tomato/cream sauce lately, so I thought I would toss something together with one. I was originally going to do this with chicken and I still will at some point in the future. But when I offhandedly mentioned doing it with Italian sausage my girlfriend threatened me with bodily harm if I didn't do it like that. Well... not really. But she was excited about the idea. So sausage it is.

First off, take the casing off the sausages (if you aren't using the loose kind). I have found the easiest way to do it is to start with frozen ones. Run them under cold water till the casing moves around (15 seconds or so), slice the casing, it comes right off and you dont lose any meat. I don't have any pictures of the process because it takes two hands. Sorry. But here is the result. I am using these big ones, because that's what I have. Each of them is about the size of two normal ones, so if that's what you have then use four. Heat a skillet up to med-high and add a little olive oil. The oil helps the sausages not stick at the beginning. Add the sausages. I chop them into sections like this, let them brown a bit, then start to break them up more. In the end it should look like this. Nicely browned, thoroughly cooked, mixed size pieces. Now put all that aside onto a paper towel lined plate. The towel will sop up the extra grease and keep the whole dish from tasting like nothing but sausage. Mmmmm, look at that fond. And grease. We don't need the grease. Pour out almost all of it (although I like to keep it, it's good for frying burgers in). You want a little bit left, but just a enough to cook the onions in. They go in next. Brown them up just a little bit, making sure not to burn the fond. If you notice a part of the fond starting to get too dark, pile some onions on top of it. They will release some liquid and keep it from burning and getting bitter. Once the onions are just about done add the garlic and stir it around a bit. Once it's nice and fragrant pour in the wine or broth. I really prefer wine for deglazing, something about alcohol works chemically with the fond to make it break down really well. It's very complicated, it would take a scientist to explain and I'm just too mad. MuHAHaha..ha.. ahem. Excuse me. Now you want to reduce the heat and let that simmer till it doesn't smell like alcohol anymore, then add the tomatoes and stir. Then add the cream. Oh baby. Heavy cream rules. Stir that in. Now let that simmer for a couple minutes, stirring frequently. After a couple minutes add the sausage and basil and stir it all together. Add some salt and pepper to taste. If you used chicken broth make sure to taste before you add the salt so you don't add too much. Look at that. Man, I don't know if the leftovers are going to make it to lunch tomorrow. Anyway, now pour on the pasta and stir it around. One thing about the pasta, you want to stop cooking it just a tiny bit shy of how done you want it. Then let it sit in the sauce for a minute or two. It soaks it up and is just awesome. Now put it in a bowl and eat it. The consensus was that this experiment came out really well. The sausage isn't overpowering (thanks to removing most of the grease), adding the basil at the end keeps it bright and cream is just the best. But I will never try to figure out the calorie content.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


1 tbls corn starch
3/4 cup pls 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 pints (three of those little tubs) of berries
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tbl baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick cold butter
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tbls of milk

Note: The measurements are a little odd because this recipe is halved from the original. That's the way I have it written down, so that's the way it's getting posted. If you want to make a bigger batch just double everything and use a 9x13 inch pan.

Preheat the oven to 425 and grease a 8x8 baking pan. Mix together the cornstarch and sugar (reserving the 1/2 tsp of sugar) in a mixing bowl. Add the berries, coat them in the sugar mixture then pour them in the pan. Put the pan in the oven until the mixture is bubbly, about 10-15 minutes. While the berries cook whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Take the butter and cut it into small cubes then work it into the flour using a food processor, pastry cutter or your hands, till it's a coarse meal. Add the milk and stir it till its a dough. Remove the berries from the oven and drop scoops of the dough (1/3 of a cup or so) on them and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tsp of sugar. Put it back in the oven till golden, 20-30 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.


Sweet merciful crap, I love cobbler. This is by far the best recipe I have seen for this particular type, too. It is simplicity itself and comes out just amazing. There are a lot of recipes that call for eggs, buttermilk and all kinds of other stuff, but one of the things I like best about this one is how simple it is. Nothing but the basics. This kind of cobbler isn't really sweet by itself (uhm, discounting the berry part), it's more of a biscuit. So it needs something like ice cream or whipped cream. But that's not really a hardship, I don't think. First thing, preheat the oven to 425 and grease the pan. Mix together the corn starch and sugar. This time around I am using two tubs of blackberries and one of raspberries, but you can use whatever kinds of fruit you want. Peaches would be lovely. Mix together the cornstarch and all the sugar except the 1/2 teaspoon. I have found that mixing up store bought berries in a bowl like the recipe says really squishes up raspberries. So what I have taken to doing is just pouring half the berries straight into the greased baking dish,
(not bothering to mix them together to speak off... let's just pretend we don't notice that) sprinkling them with half the sugar/starch mixture, adding the rest of the berries and sprinkling on the rest of the sugar mix. It works just fine. Put the dish into the oven and cook it for ten to fifteen minutes. You want it to get bubbly. While the berries are cooking whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.This you do need a bowl for. Next is the hardest part of the recipe, especially in the summer. You want to take a cold stick of butter and cut it in half lengthwise. Then turn it and cut it in half again so you get four long, relatively equal sticks. Now cut those into half inch cubes. I didn't manage to get any good pictures of this because my kitchen was pretty hot and the butter was starting to soften already. You want your butter to stay cold for this part, so you need to work kind of fast. Add the butter to the flour mixture.Now you can cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or you can toss it into a food processor and work it till it's right. But I can't give you advice on those since I always do it by hand. And I mean really by hand. I just reach into the flour and squeeze the chunks of butter.Over and over. Until it's a coarse meal. After you squeeze a chunk you want to drop it back in and work another one. You want each piece to be completely coated with flour when you squeeze it. When you are done it should look kinda like cornmeal, but fluffier and a bit bigger.Those bigger lumps aren't butter, they are the mixture sticking together a bit. You shouldn't have any chunks of butter left. Now pour in the milk and mix it around till it's a dough.It doesn't take much, you don't want to over mix it. Once the berries are ready pull them out of the oven. It doesn't matter if a some of the sugar hasn't melted all the way, it's going back in the oven and it will work itself out. Now drop big spoonfuls (quarter cup or a third) of it onto the top. Don't worry about covering the whole thing, you want some of the liquid to bubble up through.Sprinkle that 1/2 teaspoon of sugar over the top of the batter. Now toss it back in the oven for 20-30 minutes. You want it to be gorgeous and browned, like this. Lovely isn't it? Now, like I said, this kind of cobbler needs ice cream or something. Tonight it's whipped cream. Yeah, it's from a can. What of it? It's still real cream. Look, I could stay here and debate the merits of canned dairy products or I could go eat my cobbler. Which would you pick? Heh.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Gina Kadlecs Spaghetti Al Amatraciana

2 Tbls Olive Oil
6-8 slices Thick Cut Bacon
1 med onion
2 cans 12 oz Tomato Puree
3 Tbls Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
1/2 Cup Fresh Grated Romano Cheese
1 Bunch Fresh Basil
1 Lb Spaghetti

Boil Pasta according to directions. I ONLY use De Cecco Spaghetti as I think it really makes a difference.

While the water is boiling and pasta is cooking make the sauce.

Cut bacon into 1/2" pieces. Over med-high heat add olive oil and bacon, cook until done (I like mine still chewy but almost crispy). Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon from pan and set aside. Cut onion in half then slice in thin slices to make 1/2 rings. Add onion slices to bacon grease and cook until translucent. Add Tomato Puree and reserved bacon pieces to onions. Then add Red Wine Vinegar, Red Pepper Flakes, Black Pepper, Romano Cheese and Basil. Cook over med-low heat stirring occasionally until pasta is ready.

I garnish with more Romano Cheese and Black Pepper.


So this is my first reader (I have readers! I honestly never expected that.) submitted recipe. As the title states, it comes from Gina Kadlec who says it is her favorite recipe. I can see why, it is wicked good. The above recipe is exactly what she sent me, although I did make a few very slight alterations when I made it. All I really did was I chopped the onion small (my girlfriend won't eat big pieces of onion) and I cut the olive oil back to about one tsp. I just couldn't use that much oil to cook bacon. I just couldn't. I'm sure it would have been delicious, but... well, like I said, I just couldn't. Other than that I made it just like she said to, I even used De Cecco pasta
(which is quite nice). So you start by starting the water for the pasta. Then start cooking the bacon. Ms Kadlec says she typically uses more than six slices of bacon and that seemed like a good plan, so I used eight. Next time, I think I will use more. Because bacon rules. I did it in shifts since my pan isn't very big. I also like my bacon still chewy, so that's how I did it. Take out the bacon and toss in the onion. This, my friends, is an amazing aroma. I mentioned chopping the onion, right? Well, do that before you put it in the pan. Cook them till translucent. Heh, Gina you are upping the vocabulary here. Then add in the puree (all I could get was a big 29 oz can, so I just used most of it) and bacon. Then add the vinegar, pepper flakes, black pepper, cheese and basil. I should have just cut and pasted her nicely detailed instructions and interspersed my pictures with them. Oh well. What's done is done. Mix it up, then simmer till the pasta is done. For me this was about 10 minutes or so since I used a huge pot of water and it took forever to get boiling. I don't know if that's how long she normally does it for, but it came out great. Nice and thick, lots of flavor. And the bacon isn't overpowering, which is a concern when doing dishes that have you simmer bacon in the sauce (well, sort of. It's hard to have too much bacon flavor.). But the other flavors stand up really well. I also garnished with more cheese and pepper. Then I ate it and it was awesome. And since it was a little too spicy for my girlfriend (which only meant she didn't want seconds, heh.), all the leftovers are mine! Mine I tell you! Mine! Muhahahaha!


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