Category Archives: Low(er) Carb

Buffalo Hot Wings

Mild and Hot Wings, ready for dipping!

Mild and Hot Wings, ready for dipping!

I am not a fan of spicy foods.   I especially loathe the race to ever spicier foods.  Whole shows dedicated to making people eat foods that will likely lead to those foods making a return appearance later in the show, well, seem stupid.

Food is to be enjoyed.  Not designed to tear a hole in your stomach.

Which brings me to hot wings.  Buffalo hot wings.  Simple.   The origin story involves spare, cheap parts being repurposed for a quick meal.    Fast forward a few decades and now these cheap parts, the chicken wings, are actually quite a bit more expensive than the chicken thighs!!  Given the meat to bone ratio, the price for wings is rather ridiculous.  However, the idea of buffalo thighs is just an anathema.  Sacrilege!  So, I shall pay the outrageous price as an homage to tradition.  Granted, it’s a rather recent tradition, but tradition nonetheless.

Most hot sauces have lots of vinegar to punctuate the sensation of eating a hot food.  So, I figured why not use the same enhancement on my wings?  There are rumors a certain chicken fast food restaurant marinates their chicken in a pickle brine.  As luck would have it, I actually had some.  We love Clausen’s Dill Pickles.  They are crisp, not too tart, with the perfect level of dill.  After we recently finished a large, warehouse sized container of said pickles, I had a ton of pickle brine sitting around.  Since the price was right, and I wanted to try this technique, this brine served as my marinade.

The result?  Tender wings with a really complex flavor profile.  They didn’t taste like pickles, which was no small concern, but you could tell the influence of the brine was there.   My husband’s smoking hot wings were made more intense and my milder wings were really great without being crazy hot.

I would totally make this again.  It’s easy.  Cheaper than take out wings, and definitely better!

Buffalo Hot Wings, half really, really spicy, half “normal” spicy.
Serves: A Crowd
Prep Time: 2-3 hours (marinating)
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

Wing Base

2 1/2 – 3 pounds chicken wings
Brine from 80 ounce package of Clausen’s Pickles

Add chicken wings to a closable plastic freezer bag. Pour brine into freezer bag, careful not to overfill. Close bag and marinate in refrigerator for 2-3 hours.

Preheat Oven to 370 degrees Fahrenheit

Super Hot Wings Sauce
4 Tablespoons melted bacon drippings, lard, or vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons cayenne
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons salt

Combine well melted or liquid fat and spices, divide into two portions, three quarters and one quarter (reserved). In a small bowl, place three quarters of the liquid and half of the chicken wings. Toss wings with sauce. Alternatively, you could brush the sauce directly on the wings. Place a grate on a half sheet pan to elevate the wings. Place wings on grate.

Regular Hot Wings Sauce
1/3rd cup melted Ghee or clarified butter or vegetable oil
1/3rd cup favorite Hot Sauce

Combine well melted butter or ghee and hot sauce, divide into two portions, three quarters and one quarter (reserved). In a small bowl, place three quarters of the liquid and half of the chicken wings. Toss wings with sauce. Alternatively, you could brush the sauce directly on the wings individually.  Place wings on grate, next to spicy wings.

Bake wings for 25-30 minutes until completely cooked through, turning once during the cook time. At the end of the cooking, lightly brush the remaining sauce on the wings.

Serve with blue cheese dressing and any other accompaniments.

Buffalo Hot Wings

Had to see if they would all fit, which they did! Note the pickle brine pieces.

Buffalo Hot Wings

Buffalo Hot Wings

So spicy!!

Pulled Pork and Carnitas- Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

My husband and I work. We have two kids that like to do stuff. Our weeknight schedules are crazy and I have to tape (how old am I that I still use the word “tape”!!)  DVR The Daily Show and The Colbert Report because the thought of being awake at 11 o’clock is beyond hysterical.  I’m laughing right now, just imagining trying to stay up that late.  I really belong in the central time zone.  If it wasn’t for my DVR, I would not see any shows with a 10 o’clock start time.

More importantly, getting dinner on the table before 7 pm is a herculean effort.  Between arguing about doing homework, arguing about correcting homework, and actually making the meal, the night flies by really fast!  So, any shortcut I can find is greatly appreciated.

I was in a large warehouse store the other day picking up my month supply of paper towels and toilet paper and decided to pick up a Boston Butt, also known as pork shoulder.  At $1.69 a pound, it’s a hard bargain to pass up.  I realize that it’s not pastured or otherwise “green”, but as we eat that way most of the time, once in a while being cheap isn’t awful.  Being a warehouse club, I ended up with 14 pounds of the stuff.  No mean feat to cook this hunk of pork.

Now, I’m pretty reluctant to pull out my slow cooker due to less than optimal results and the fact that my daughter hates anything “saucy”.   I find pot roasts and chicken either turn out “dry” or mushy.   Let’s face it, once you remove “sauce” as an option for a dish made in a slow cooker, you pretty much remove the slow cooker as an option.  Except for this recipe.  You can really cook this pork rather plain in the slow cooker, and the pork stands up pretty well to a long cook time.  I put half the package (about 7 pounds) in the slow cooker.  The first night, we had “pulled pork”- my husband asked that I put the quotation marks, as the pork was not smoked.  Then two nights later, I repurposed the leftovers into carnitas.   Cook one piece of meat in the slow cooker, get two awesome meals on the table before 7 pm!!

I pulled no punches with the meat.  I made it pretty much as you would any piece of pork that you would put in the smoker.   I start with a light glaze of mustard and then heavily season with traditional barbecue spices, but I did add some spices that had been smoked- like smoked paprika.  I would normally leave that out of any seasoning mix to go on the smoker.  Here, to give it a more smokey feel, the meat needs, well, smoke.

For my second night, I placed all the meat on a cookie sheet and baked it in a fairly hot oven to make the meat a little more dry and the end bits a touch crispy.   In a few minutes, I had the perfect pork carnitas meat and I served the carnitas with the traditional toppings.  I can’t stress how easy this made dinner time for the week, especially in a week when my husband was working late most nights!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

5-7 Pound Boston Butt or Pork Shoulder Roast
1/4 cup yellow mustard (enough to cover meat)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons dry mustard (love Coleman’s)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy!)
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup water

Cover the Boston Butt with a thin layer of yellow mustard. In a small bowl, combine all the spices and rub over the pork. Add the onion and the water to the slow cooker. Add the pork. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours.

Remove pork from slow cooker and pull apart with a couple of forks. Serve with Cole Slaw and barbecue sauce.  Seriously easy stuff!

Pork Carnitas

Pork Carnitas

Left over pulled pork
1/4 cup olive oil
Onions, cut into strips
Green peppers, cut into strips
Round tortillas, slightly warmed
Avocado, chopped
Salsa
Queso Fresca

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat oil over medium heat in a sauté pan.

While the oil is heating, spread pork in an even layer over a cookie sheet. Place in oven and cook until less moist with some crispy bits, about 15-20 minutes.

Sauté onions and peppers until slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Serve with your favorite toppings.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and Carnitas

My best Jackson Pollock inspired work!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

When I came home, the house smelled amazing!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

So moist and ready to be pulled!!

Slightly dried and ready to go!

Slightly dried and ready to go!

Beef Shanks

Beef Shanks "osso bucco"

Have you ever walked by something in the store and just thought to yourself:  gotta cook that!!  It happened to me the other day.  Beef shanks.  Just look at them:

Beef Shanks

I couldn’t walk by these babies.  Awesome, meaty, lots of marrow.  If you eat meat, what’s not to love?    I looked at similar veal shanks and comparing $16.99 a pound for veal and $5.99 a pound for beef, well, that’s a no brainer.  Beef it was.  So, it’s not really Osso Buco, but it’s not far off.

My first time having osso buco was at Chiapparelli’s in Little Italy in Baltimore.  My sister had just graduated college and my parents took her out to celebrate.   Chiapparelli’s is a very old world Italian restaurant.  Dark and cozy and dripping with Italian charm. It was an amazing meal from beginning to end, but the osso buco was unforgettable.  When I began to learn how to cook, this was among my wish list items I wanted to learn how to make.

I wanted to be gluten free and lower carb, so I omitted the flour step.  Look, meat browns without flour.  I think this is kind of an antiquated step that everyone does just because it’s always been done.  So, I just salt and peppered these babies and browned them in my dutch oven.  No change difference in flavor.

See, they can brown without flour!

See, they can brown without flour!

 I know, somehow this little bit of flour is supposed to thicken the sauce.  I never find that to be the case.  I always have to add thickener or reduce forever anyway. Frankly, I don’t care if my sauce is thin or thick, I just care how it tastes.  And with this dish, the meat is so moist and tender, the sauce is really a bonus.  

Also, you may notice a distinct lack of gremolata that some recipes add.  First of all, I’m serving a 10 year old and an 8 year old.  I’m pushing it with beef shanks.  I’m not a fan of gremolata.   It’s not cheap, it adds a room temperature taste layer to a warm comforting dish that I just don’t see as necessary.  This dish is packed with flavor.

So, for a greatly reduced price, compared to the veal, I was able to make an amazing dinner that seems so fancy!  Yet, as you will see, so easy!

“Osso Buco” (or, Braised Beef Shanks)

Serves: 4 generously
Total Cook Time: 2 hours

1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper
4 beef shanks, about 3/4 lb-1 lb each
1 medium onion, medium dice
1 small carrot, medium dice
2 ribs of celery, medium dice
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup red wine (I used a zinfandel)
3 cups chicken stock or water
1 can cannellini beans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Liberally salt and pepper the shanks. Brown in batches in the dutch oven, about 3 minutes a side. Remove and set aside.

Turn the heat to medium. Add the onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Sweat the vegetables until wilted, stirring the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits. Add the tomato paste and rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf to the vegetables. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the red wine, cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours. If you are using enamel cast iron, the lid should be heavy and tight enough to maintain moisture throughout cooking. If not, you may need to check the dish occasionally to make sure you have adequate liquid. 20 minutes before the end of the cook time, add the beans and stir to make sure they are submerged. Check salt and pepper levels prior to serving and adjust as needed.

Country Captain

Country Captain

As you know, I love a good food story.  Somehow it elevates the dish beyond a concoction of ingredients.   Country Captain is one of those dishes that you may be inclined to pass over in a cookbook.  It’s a fairly old recipe, but born during a time when the name of the dish wasn’t exactly descriptive.   What’s Country Captain?  It’s a chicken dish.  A really, really good chicken dish, adapted by British soldiers who had visited India and brought to the southern port of Savannah, Georgia in the 1700s.

When I first started perusing historical cookbooks, I was so startled to see curry listed as an ingredient in an American Cookbook, you know, way back then.  Truthfully, in my little area, there are precious few Indian restaurants.  If you want Indian food, you have to travel quite a bit to find it.  So, I didn’t really have curry in my house until a few years ago.  I may cook gumbo, eat sushi, have kids that eat escargot, and go to Indian restaurants for lunch, but use curry?  Not so much.   Country Captain was my attempt to introduce my kids to something with curry in it.  They liked Greek Chicken, so I was hopeful this will go as well.

I should mention, the rise of this dish has an amazing backstory.   (See the whole article here) There was a famous socialite in Columbus, Georgia by the name of Mary Bullard.  Mrs. Bullard, legend has it, wanted to serve her guest, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a spicy southern meal.  After perusing many cookbooks, she came across Country Captain and with few alterations, served it to the President.  He promptly took her cook to the White House to become the head chef!  If that wasn’t enough, General George Patton, on his way to Fort Benning, begged Mrs. Bullard for her Country Captain.   Roosevelt and Patton are thought to have spread the word about  Country Captain and gave the dish great notoriety.  James Beard called Country Captain second only to Southern Fried Chicken as the most important inherited chicken dish our country has.  Frankly, had I not seen Country Captain in Mr. Beard’s cookbook, American Cookery,  I wouldn’t have known it existed.  He dedicated 3 recipes and 2 pages to it.

This is a sublime dish, combining chicken, tomatoes, curry, onions, peppers, currants and almonds.  If you have time for this dish, most of the cooking occurs in the oven, which for me suits my weeknight meal schedule.  While it’s in the oven, I can check homework, clean up, etc.

You’ll understand why Patton was desperate to get a hold of this dish before he departed for Europe. It’s truly, truly good. I didn’t change too much about the recipe, except updated the format and used cauliflower “rice” for real rice and used chicken thighs, skin on.  Otherwise this is Mary Bullard’s recipe she served to President Roosevelt and General Patton.  How cool is that?!?  As a bonus, it got two thumbs up from the kids!

Country Captain
Serves 6-8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 75 minutes

1 cup oil, lard, or any other frying oil
6-8 chicken thighs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 onions, chopped fine
2 green peppers, chopped fine
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
2 teaspoons of curry powder
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (or however you can get to about 40 ounces)
1/2 tablespoon of Chopped Parsley
3 tablespoons dried currants (or raisins)
1/4 pound blanched, roasted almonds
black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil over medium high heat in a frying pan. (Going forward, I would use a dutch oven, that way there’s less mess to clean up. But staying true to the recipe, I used two pans.)

Pat chicken dry. Combine flour, salt and pepper. Coat chicken in flour mixture. Fry chicken in heated oil, in batches, until each side is golden brown. Remove chicken from pan and set aside and keep warm. According to Mrs. Bullard, keeping the chicken warm is the secret to the success of the dish!

Lower the cooking temperature to the oil to medium low.  While stirring constantly, add onions , green peppers and garlic and cook slowly until the onions are translucent. Add salt, white pepper and curry powder, and cook for 1-2 minutes. At this point, Mrs. Bullard advises to taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings to taste. (Personally, I’d wait for the addition of the rest of the ingredients). Add the tomatoes, parsley and thyme, stir to combine and bring to a slight simmer.

Place chicken into roaster (I used a dutch oven), cover with tomato mixture. If the tomato mixture doesn’t adequately cover the chicken, Mrs. Bullard suggests rinsing out the frying pan and adding it to the roaster. Place the lid on the roaster and place in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.

Place chicken over rice or, as I did, cauliflower “rice”. Add currents to the sauce and pour over chicken. Garnish with almonds and additional parsley.  Serve with mango chutney, if desired.

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Lemon Chicken

Rao's Lemon Chicken- Incredibly easy weeknight meal

I’m not much of a lemon fan in food.  In drinks, sure.  Food?  Eh.  Don’t like Lemon squares, bars or pies.  My desserts should be sweet, not tangy.  Don’t like citrus in my salads.  About the only place where it’s really ok is squirted on seafood or part of guacamole.   Maybe as a flavor enhancer, but certainly not a main flavor.

So, why do lemon chicken?  One of my favorite cookbooks is Rao’s Cookbook:  Over 100 Years of Italian Home Cooking.  The recipes are amazingly simple and very good.  If you have never heard of Rao’s, it’s a much sought after traditional Italian restaurant in New York City.  Reservations are very prized.   But, if you follow the cookbook, you can easily recreate the experience at home.  One of their signature dishes is lemon chicken.   I decided to be brave and try it.  I’ve tried their lasagna and marinara to much success.  I had really high hopes for this.

First, some background.  Broiling chicken is a bit of an art, but perfect for a quick weeknight dinner.  It’s like indoor grilling.  All of the heat is high and coming from a single point.  On the downside, broiling is sort of messy and can cause the fire alarm to go off, many, many times.  You also have to flip things over, to ensure meat reaches a safe temperature.  Easier said than done.  Also, the type of chicken you use is critical.  There are actually chickens labeled “broiler chickens” — you want those.  Roasting chickens are too big for this dish.  Additionally, you have to keep the oven door a bit ajar when broiling, or your oven will cycle off because “temperature” has been reached.

The next bit of difference is how you prepare your chicken.  If you get a whole one, you need to “spatchcock” it.  “Spatchcock” is a fancy way of saying you need to cut the vertebrae out and open the chicken up to allow it to cook evenly.  Flip the chicken over (breast side down), and cut down both sides of the spine and open the chicken up so that it lies flat. I can sense some of you backing away now. It’s not hard, honest. The chicken bones you have to cut through are soft and more cartilage than anything else. You can seriously use good scissors with great success. If you would like to see a very good illustration of the technique:

http://www.marthastewart.com/891288/how-spatchcock-chicken/@center/897845/chicken-recipes#210562

I couldn’t really find my poultry shears and sort of did it with a bread knife.    I’m not one to pass along bad technique, so I will spare you the hideous techniques I used to get my chicken to look like:

Spatchcock Chicken

Note the bread knife handle on the side.

Good times, no?  Anyway, the rest is rather humdrum.  Broil on one side, flip, broil on the other, quarter the chicken, cover with sauce and bake for another 3 minutes.  One the whole, very impressive meal for a weeknight!

As far as the history of this dish goes, I believe it must be a mid-20th century invention, as lemons weren’t really commercially grown in Florida too much before the 1950s.  I found no mention of Lemon Chicken (or it’s Italian version Pollo al limone) in any of the historical (late 19th century) cookbooks I usually peruse.  Additionally,  this particular version uses an obscene about of lemon juice, 2 cups.  I squeezed 6 of them, and it wasn’t a cup. Most of the classic recipes were very conservative with the high dollar items, so this seems like more of a dish that would evolve later in our food timeline.

As mentioned above, this recipe is inspired by Rao’s Lemon Chicken Recipe I made some changes, however, as I didn’t think the original recipe had enough, I don’t know, something. This version was a bit more flavorful, in my estimation.

Lemon Chicken
Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30-45

Ingredients

CHICKEN:
1 (4 pound) broiling chicken, or 2 smaller ones, spatchcocked
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 large onion, large dice
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 sprigs of rosemary
1 lemon, sliced

LEMON SAUCE:
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 8 lemons)
2 tablespoons of lemon zest
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions

SAUCE:
Whisk together juice, zest, oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Whisk or shake vigorously before using.

CHICKEN:

Preheat broiler at least 15 minutes prior to using.

Place chicken on a cutting board and combine the olive oil, salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Rub olive oil mixture all over the poultry. Place onions, garlic, rosemary and lemons on the bottom of a baking pan (I used a cast iron skillet) and place chicken on top.
Broil chicken, turning once, for about 30 minutes or until skin is golden-brown and juices run clear when bird is pierced with a fork. Remove chicken from broiler, leaving broiler on. Using a very sharp knife, cut chicken into it’s typical serving pieces (leg, thigh, wings, and breast portions). Place chicken on a baking sheet (that will fit in the broiler) with sides. Pour half of the lemon sauce over the chicken and toss to coat well. If necessary, do this in 2 batches. Return chicken to broiler and broil for 3 minutes. Turn each piece and broil for an additional minute. Remove from broiler and portion the chicken onto each of 6 warm serving plates. While chicken is baking, slightly warm the remaining lemon sauce. Pour an equal amount of sauce over each chicken piece and serve with lots of crusty bread to absorb the sauce.

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Chicken Cacciatore

Lovely Italian Chicken and Tomato Dish

I was watching a BBC Program called “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” the other day.  As the new owner of such a dog, I was really interested in the subject matter.  The general gist is that line breeding and breeding for looks over purpose has substantial downsides.   Namely, some dog breeds are grossly exaggerated from their origins and/or riddled with significant health problems.  This particular show by the BBC inspired Crufts to implement vet checks on all the breed winners.  If the winners couldn’t pass the vet checks, they were unable to compete in the finals.   Many dogs were eliminated from this prestigious show, causing quite a stir in the dog world.

How does this show relate to my food blog?  As I’m watching this show as they compare what dogs used to look like versus what they look like now (and it’s not a favorable comparison), I feel some food has become about the same way.   Overly complicated and fussy, and not necessarily better.

Take this recipe for Chicken alla Cacciatore from The Italian Cookbook by Maria Gentile (1919):

Chop one large onion and keep it for more than half an hour in cold water, then dry it and brown it aside. Cut up a chicken, sprinkle the pieces with flour, salt and pepper and saute in the fat which remains in the frying pan. When the chicken is brown add one pint fresh or canned tomatoes and half a dozen sweet green peppers and put back the onion.  When the gravy is thick enough add hot water to prevent the burning of the vegetables. Cover the pan tightly and simmer until the chicken is very tender. This is an excellent way to cook tough chickens. Fowls which have been boiled may be cooked in this way, but of course young and tender chickens will have the finer flavor.

Let’s compare this relatively easy recipe with one from the Food Network’s Tyler Florence:

Ingredients
6 red bell peppers
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 egg
2 cups milk
1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
6 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
1 onion, sliced thin
2 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 lemon, sliced in paper-thin circles
3 anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 bunch fresh basil, hand-torn (1/4 bunch to flavor the base, 1/4 bunch to finish the dish)
1 cup dry white wine

Directions

Start by preparing the peppers because they will take the longest. Preheat the broiler. Pull out the cores of the red peppers; then halve them lengthwise and remove the ribs and seeds. Toss the peppers with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place them on a cookie sheet, skin side up, and broil for 10 minutes, until really charred and blistered. Put the peppers into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and steam for about 10 minutes to loosen the skins. Peel the peppers and roughly chop into chunks; set aside.

Season the flour with the garlic powder, dried oregano, and a fair amount of salt and pepper. Whisk the egg and milk together in a shallow bowl. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour and tap off the excess. Dip each piece in the egg wash to coat and then dredge with the flour again. Place a Dutch oven over medium heat and pour in about 1/4-inch of oil. Pan-fry the chicken in batches, skin side down, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side about 10 minutes longer. Remove the chicken to a side plate, pour out the oil, and clean out the pot.

Put the pot back on the stove and coat with 1/4 cup of oil. Add the garlic, onion, tomatoes, lemon slices, anchovies, capers, red pepper flakes, half the roasted red peppers, and half the basil. Season with salt and pepper. This part of the recipe is going to be your base. What we are looking for is a fragrant vegetable pulp, so simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often, until everything breaks down.

Add the remaining roasted peppers and the remaining basil. Tuck the chicken into the stewed peppers and pour in the wine. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.

End.

Wow, right? In the summer, I would have no trouble coming up with the ingredients for Mrs. Gentile’s recipe. For Mr. Florence’s? Lemon, capers, white wine and anchovies aren’t something I keep around. Not only is the Florence recipe infinitely more complicated, but much more expensive. No wonder people don’t cook anymore. Honestly, you’d think you needed these things to make what was known as hunter’s chicken. You see hunters pulling out capers? Lemons? Doubtful.

So, I modernized the format of the former recipe and it was really good and so easy to pull together.  It’s a one pot meal without a lot of mess. My husband adored it.    Summer’s bounty used to its greatest advantage.

Chicken Cacciatore
Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60-90 minutes

Oil (bacon drippings, lard, vegetable)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
6 chicken thighs, patted dry (you can add more, I just couldn’t fit more in my pot)
2 large green peppers, large dice
1 large onion, large dice
10 mushrooms, sliced (an 8 ounce container)
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
15 ounce can of diced tomatoes (may use fresh tomatoes as well, about 2 cups diced)
1/2 cup of water, white wine or chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat oil over medium high heat in a dutch oven large enough to fit chicken comfortably. I used a 5 quart oval one.

As the oil is heating, combine flour, salt and pepper in a large shallow bowl or plate. Dredge chicken thighs through the flour mixture. When the oil is ready (it will appear to be rippling), place the chicken skin side down in the dutch oven, careful not to crowd. You may need to cook the chicken in batches. Cook the chicken until each side is browned. Remove and set aside. Add peppers, onions and mushrooms to the pan and cook until soft. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic, oregano and bay leaf. Saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and water and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. You may need to adjust the seasoning more at this point. Return the chicken to the pot, cover and continue cooking in the oven until the chicken is tender, about 45-60 minutes. You can’t really overcook the chicken too badly at this point.

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Pho

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My husband has a few signature dishes, and this is one of them.  When I first met him, he was all about meatloaf, meat and rice, and Italian Sausage dishes.  Then, one day, he tried Pho at a local restaurant and was hooked.  He discovered how to make it and will make it for me if I’m feeling under the weather. Isn’t he amazing?

I love Asian foods.  However, I’m more than a little intimidated by the cooking styles, equipment, and ingredients.  The closest I came to making any Asian food at home growing up was busting open a can of La Choy brand Chinese food, heating it up and serving with rice.    But the hubs researched Pho and it seemed very doable with no special equipment or ingredients.  I hate to say it’s pretty easy, because I love the mystique of exotic foods, but it’s pretty easy.  We’ve been making it at home ever since.

Pho is the national dish of Vietnam. There’s some speculation that the dish is derived from the French influence in the country, as the charring of some of the ingredients is not really a common technique in Vietnamese cooking. The origins are usually traced to some point in the early 20th Century and the northern part of Vietnam. Interestingly, American portions are about 30% bigger than their Vietnamese counterparts. The garnish that accompanies the Pho we know in America is likely a southern Vietnamese influence, as the northern version eschews such extravagance. (Source: http://vietworldkitchen.typepad.com/blog/2008/10/the-evolution-of-pho.html)

Let me just say, your home will smell amazing.  Anytime you have broth cooking all day is a day to sit and enjoy the aroma.  It’s intoxicating.

As an overview, you are mostly cooking a beef stock and some noodles. You are letting the stock quick cook the beef in Pho. It’s important that your bowl not really be cold when you add the stock, or your meat may not cook all the way through. In other words, the bowl should be hot, the noodles hot, your mix-ins and the broth immediately added. The beef should be submerged into hot broth to cook.

One other tip, don’t think you can, say, substitute an eye of round and cut it really thin and hope to have a decent pho. What you will have is sore jaw muscles from all the chewing!

Inspired by a recipe from the Food Network show Calling All Cooks  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/calling-all-cooks/pho-vietnamese-beef-rice-noodle-soup-recipe/index.html

Pho
Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 hours

For the broth:
4 pounds Oxtails (or any beef bones) cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
3 stalks of celery, rough chop
1 large onion, halved and unpeeled
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
3-inch piece of ginger, unpeeled
1/3 cup nuoc mam (fish sauce)
8 whole star anise
5 whole cloves
3-inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 bay leaves
salt
water

For the garnish:
1 pound 1/4-inch rice noodles
2 bunches scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup basil, approximately, whole fresh plants (minus roots) if possible
3 large limes, cut into wedges and seeds removed
2 jalapeño peppers, sliced thin
Sriracha, or other chili sauce
3/4 pounds sirloin, filet mignon or any tender, higher end cut, trimmed of fat and sliced very thin

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put the bones, celery, onions, garlic and ginger onto a large sheet pan and roast brown or slightly charred, about 30-40 minutes. Smaller pieces may need to be removed earlier to prevent burning.

Put roasted bones and vegetables into a large stockpot and add enough water to cover the bones by 4 inches (about 2 gallons). Add the fish sauce and spices besides salt into the stockpot. Bring to a full boil and then lower the heat to a rapid simmer. Add 1 tablespoon of salt at this point. Skim any scum that rises to the surface.

Let the broth simmer, uncovered, skimming occasionally. After 4 hours, using a slotted spoon and small strainer, remove items in the broth, setting aside the oxtails. Let the broth continue to simmer. Remove any meat from the bone and return bones to the stock pot. Continue simmering, uncovered, until the broth is rich and flavorful, an additional 1 hour. Taste the broth and add more salt or fish sauce as needed.

As the broth is simmering, soak the rice noodles in cold water for at least 20 minutes. Arrange the sliced scallions, cilantro, basil, lime wedges, and jalapeño peppers on a platter in separate piles.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the drained rice noodles. Give the noodles a quick stir and cook until tender but firm, about 1 minute. Don’t overcook the rice noodles, or you risk “gummy” noodles. Drain the noodles.

Warm 6 large bowls by rinsing them with hot water and divide the noodles among the bowls.

Just before serving, return the broth to a full boil. Arrange the slices of raw filet and pieces of cooked oxtail meat over the noodles in each bowl. Carefully ladle the boiling broth over all; the raw beef should be submerged in the broth. Serve immediately, along with the platters of garnish.

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Chicken Marengo

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Want to get your kids to eat something they wouldn’t normally eat? Have a cool backstory. Seriously. My kids were not really interested in eating this dish until I told the backstory, then they couldn’t get enough. So, what’s the back story?

We need to go back in time to the Napoleonic Wars. In 1800, First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte had just barely eeked out a victory over the Austrians at Marengo in Italy. This victory helped to solidify the new French government’s position in France after the Revolution. Legend has it, Napoleon asked his chef, Dinand, to make a meal to celebrate the victory. According to the lore, the Austrians had captured the food supplies of Napoleon’s army, so there was precious little in the way of food available to cook for such a meal. Not even butter!! Quelle horreur!! So, Dinand dispatch people into the Italian countryside to find something, anything, to put together a dinner for Napoleon. They came back with a chicken, olive oil, a few mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs and crawfish fished from a local river. Dinand added some bread rations, some staples he had handly (garlic, onions) and a bit of cognac from Napoleon’s flask, and voila! Chicken Marengo is born, June 14, 1800! Upon returning to Paris, legend has it Dinand attempted to “correct” the recipe by using white wine instead of cognac and omitting the crawfish. Napoleon sent it back instructing the Chef that the dish is to be made the original way. No deviation. Napoleon was very superstitious and considered this dish his victory dish.

Now, who wouldn’t want to eat, or at least try a dish with such a storied history?!? Eating the dish Napoleon ate? There are very few things in history you can recreate and have the same experience. What I love is that food is one of them. Some things might change a bit, like the breed of the chicken, but it’s still pretty close. You get a window into the times and how people (mainly the well to do) lived.

Chicken Marengo over the years has been “modernized”. One cookbook from the late 1800s called for making the dish with half a pound of truffles!! Well, that wasn’t happening on my blog budget. So, I tried to stick to the original. I actually had most of the ingredients, save the crawfish. I substituted shrimp. I added juniper berries (you can substitute a bay leaf) because I thought it might be a staple hanging around and it would work well with the tomatoes. And, while the dish looks completely wild, it actually kind of works. The chicken holds it own against the tomatoes and olives. The cognac gives the tomatoes and olives a subtle depth of flavor. White wine would bring a brighter flavor, but this is more round. Shrimp is pretty much always good, and the eggs on fried bread is just amazing. You can imagine this dish is a victory dish. Chicken Marengo is extravagant in every possible way.

I used chicken thighs and legs, not a whole chicken, because that’s what was on sale. But you could try cutting up a whole bird, just be aware of the cooking time differentials between the pieces.

Chicken Marengo
Serves 4-6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

olive oil
4 chicken leg quarters, separated into thighs and legs
salt
pepper
3 tablespoons cognac (or enough to deglaze pan, plus a tablespoon)
1 onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 pound shrimp
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, rough chop
26 ounces crushed tomatoes (I used a box of tomatoes, you can use the large can too)
4 juniper berries (may substitute 1 bay leaf)
french bread, sliced
eggs

Cover bottom of a 3 quart of larger saute pan with olive oil. Slowly heat the oil over medium to medium high heat.

Generously salt and pepper the chicken pieces and place in the pan. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. I used a thermometer to make sure the pieces were cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Deglaze pan with cognac. Add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the shrimp and cook until pink and curled, about 7-10 minutes. Remove shrimp from pan, set aside. Add another tablespoon of cognac to neutralize the shrimp. Add the mushrooms and olives. Cook for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, juniper berries and a bit more salt and pepper. Simmer. Briefly return chicken to pan to warm through

Meanwhile, cover the bottom of a small fry pan with olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add the bread and “fry”. When golden on both sides, remove from the pan. Add more oil (or switch to a non-stick pan) and fry an egg for each person.

Assembly was alleged to be: chicken, covered with tomato sauce, topped with shrimp (crawfish). On the side, fried bread topped with a fried egg.

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Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps

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I love lettuce cups or wraps.  When I go out to dinner,  I’m the only one at the table usually that orders it.  I don’t know why.  Maybe when people order an appetizer, they are looking to be naughty and order the calorie rich lobster bisque, supreme nachos, crab dip or something similar.  Maybe lettuce wraps are too “salady” and you don’t want an appetizer salad to be followed by an actual salad.  I’m just at such a loss because these are amazingly good, yet pretty “healthy”, for an appetizer.

I started this blog to push myself outside my comfort zone and make food for dinner that is simple, healthy, and different.  Keep the same old, same old to a minimum.  This is the first time I’ve made this recipe and I was really pleased with it.  Very easy to make, extremely good. The dish is sweet with a hint of spicy and great Asian flavor, wrapped in crunchy lettuce. After grating the ginger and mincing the garlic, my husband said that whatever I was cooking smelled delicious!   Your kitchen will smell amazing as this is cooking.  There aren’t too many odd ingredients and the whole dish is fairly low carb, if you care about that.  As a bonus, both the kids and my husband loved it!!

The recipe was inspired by Mark Masumoto’s recipe on the PBS website: http://www.pbs.org/food/fresh-tastes/spicy-chicken-lettuce-cups/  PBS is  one of the few channels that features people actually cooking with real ingredients.

Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

2 heads iceberg or butter leaf lettuce
2 pounds ground chicken (you can also use ground pork or crumbled firm tofu)
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoons corn starch
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
5 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 scallions, sliced thin
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup cilantro
1 carrot, shredded

Remove leaves from head of lettuce, rinse and dry. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine ground chicken, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, corn starch, and Sriracha. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Add garlic and ginger to the hot oil and cook until they begin to turn light brown. Add mushrooms and salt. Cook until the mushrooms begin to get soft (you may need to add more oil to prevent sticking if you don’t use a nonstick pan). Add the chicken mixture to the pan. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, using a wooden spoon to cut the chicken into small pieces as it cooks.

Assemble lettuce wraps by adding the meat to a lettuce leaf and top with scallions, avocado, cilantro, and carrots.

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Greek Chicken

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As I was walking through my local Whole Foods the other day, I marveled at all the amazing food and how really beautiful the produce section of a good grocery store can be.  From the beautiful Fennel fronds, to the orange carrots, yellow bananas, purple blueberries, and red cherries and tomatoes, you can truly find some amazing variety in nature.  Of course, my perusing of the produce section was more time waster than deep reflection.  How often does a working mom get to be alone, at her own pace, and just wander?

Obviously not often if my gold standard is wandering through the produce section unmolested by cries of “I want!”  So, I had to snap out of my blissful haze before I lost any more time.  Honestly, I think the samples must be filled with magical lotus leaves.  I lose all kind of time there and I can’t really tell you that I was doing anything particular.

I was there to get dinner.  It doesn’t make itself, you know.   I walked past the fish and meat counter and nothing really jumped out.  Then, in one of the open refrigerators a small sign:  chicken legs, $.69/pound.  Really?!?  Chicken rated a 2 on the animal welfare scale for less than a buck a pound?   Sure, it was just chicken legs, but who can beat that deal?  I picked up a super sized package and went on my way.    What would I do with a whole bunch of chicken legs?

Sure, I could fry them, but I did that already.  Coq Au Vin?  Done.  I’m not stripping the meat off of them for gumbo.    So, I did what any respectable blogger would do, I googled “chicken legs”.    And there, in my search result was a recipe from Goop, a website run by Gwyneth Paltrow.  At this point, I must confess to a guilty pleasure of reading gossip sites.  These sites generally don’t like Gwyneth Paltrow.  In fact, they love pointing out that she’s fairly unaware that “peasants” don’t live like her.  We don’t cleanse, have a nanny (or two), aren’t married to a rock star, can’t choose which city to live in this week (London or NYC, so hard, right?), and don’t spend $458,000 on a “Spring Essentials collection” of clothes for just this Spring.  To paraphrase from the many Goop-haters, when you are born on third base, don’t think you hit a triple in life or that scoring a run is hard from that beginning position.  An example of her being “out of touch” (if the Spring Essentials didn’t drive that point home) may be the $950 silver shot cup that is part, just part, of her barware.   So, as a working mom who’s clearly not in the 1% scrambling to make dinner with cheap chicken legs on a busy weeknight, it was with great trepidation I clicked on the Goop link http://www.goop.com/journal/make/215/one-pan-meals.

Ultimately, I’m very glad I took a chance with this recipe. It’s really quite good and so ridiculously simple. This is based on a traditional Greek dish called Kapama. However, it is a bit of a shocking recipe.  Cinnamon, chicken, tomatoes and garlic.  In one pot.  One of my sorority sisters has a website called http://thefamilymealproject.com/ that examines what meals her kids would eat.  Well, I felt this would be a perfect recipe for that experiment.  As the house filled with the scent of cinnamon and tomato, I started to fret a bit.  It was a wonderful smell, just not something you expect.  You know, for dinner.  However, I received nothing but absolute praise from both my son and daughter.  My very picky, I only eat salmon daughter actually ate this.  I know, shocking.  The hubs gave his equivalent of a rave review:  I’d ask you to make it again.  Sigh.  Small victory, I will take thee!!

Cinnamon Braised Chicken Legs

6-8 Chicken Legs (what will fit in your dutch oven, and you can use any chicken parts you have handy)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water or chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup romano cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken legs, set aside. Combine cinnamon, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture over the chicken liberally.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven (I used my trusty 5 quart) over medium high heat. Brown the chicken, in batches. About a minute or so on each side. Remove from pan and set aside. Reduce heat to medium. To the pan, add the onions and cook while stirring until translucent. Add the garlic and soften. Add the tomatoes and the water and deglaze the pan. Add the cinnamon stick and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan. Cover and place in the oven and cook for one to two hours until cooked through or all the way to “fall off the bone”. Serve with pasta or rice and sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Note: I only cooked this in the oven for an hour. “Fall off the bone” would have taken too much time for a weeknight meal. In the hour it was cooking, I made brown rice, a salad and checked homework. Two hours and we would have been eating well after the kids’ bedtime. So, it might be even better with more time!

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