Sunday, February 27, 2011

Simple and Satisfying Chicken Marsala

A few weeks ago I was checking my email when my son Matt popped up on G chat.  We frequently "talk" on G chat, and I have to say,  I am grateful for technology.  It gives me the ability to "bump into" my kids, have a quick chat, and not feel like a pain in the butt mother, constantly bothering my children with phone calls at inopportune times.  Quick chats, texts with and without photos, help keep us connected, where ever their journey takes them, we can keep in touch.

Anyway, Matt popped up on G chat and asked if I could help him out with a Chicken Marsala recipe.  He wanted to surprise Lauren with a homemade dinner when she got home from work that evening.  Lauren was the one who usually had dinner waiting for Matt on nights when he worked late.  Now she is working some late nights and going to school as well.  How sweet I thought to myself, Matt can be such a considerate mush.  I was impressed by his ambition.  Not that Matt wasn't capable, I've just never known Matt to be a "cook".  He makes an awesome smoothie, but he was more of a frozen pizza kind of guy.

I was happy to oblige.  Actually, I had been planning to blog about chicken marsala that weekend and had an easy recipe.  I never got around to writing the blog, but Matt ran with the recipe. Lauren was impressed.

I picked up some nice mushrooms at the market today and Paul asked for a Chicken Marsala dinner.   I figure now's the perfect time to finally write this post.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dijon Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Garlic Herb Potatoes

What can I say?  I love rack of lamb.  It's something I don't eat often.  As a matter of fact, I hardly ever cooked lamb because my kids and husband wouldn't eat it.  It all started one Easter when my children were very young.  I decided to make a leg of lamb for dinner.  Paul made it known that he wasn't a fan.  I was convinced that he did not like lamb based upon some bad lamb experience he had as a child.  I was going to change his mind.  As soon as the lamb hit the oven, and its aroma filled the house, Paul began making baby lamb noises.  Melissa began to cry, and Matt decided at that moment, he will never eat lamb.  Paul continued to make his baaaaaaa... baaaaaaa sounds, until the roast was done.  I ate alone that Easter,  like I was the monster that killed the lamb?  It really wasn't fair; no one ever made moooing, oinking, or clucking noises when I cooked their favorite meals!

Fast forward about 15 years.  Paul begins to open his mind to lamb...Matt still wouldn't eat it, Melissa hardly ate any meat.  I would occasionally order it when we would dine out; perhaps lamb in a Merlot reduction, grilled baby lamb chops or my favorite, rack of lamb.  Paul would taste it with an open mind.   A friend once served a grilled, marinated leg of lamb and Paul decided that lamb was not so bad after all.  Yes, I think he was traumatized by overcooked mutton before I met him.  Now that the kids are living on their own, I am free to cook what I please without fear of traumatizing anyone.  That's exactly what I did this past Sunday.

I knew Paul would be watching the Daytona 500.  I was feeling ever-so-slightly guilty because I kind of put the kibosh on taking a trip down to Daytona and Florida this week .  I wasn't quite ready for a vacation.  I'm also not a race fan.  I've humored Paul by going to a few races, I just can't share in his enthusiasm.  To make up for my selfishness, I decided to make Paul a special dinner, one that he wouldn't have had in Daytona.  Rack of Lamb, I decided.  I'm going to make him LOVE rack of lamb!  I figured if I encrusted the lamb in enough garlic, herbs, spices, and could he resist?  As long as I was mincing up fresh herbs, I minced up a few more for some roasted potatoes.   A good bottle of red wine didn't hurt either.  You know what?  I think I have a full fledged convert on my hands!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Good Morning Granola

Have you ever had homemade granola?  It's one of the simplest things to make, and in my opinion, tastes  far superior to any packaged granola.  When you make your own granola you can develop your own custom blend, controlling the amount of sugar, oil, and add-ins like fruit and nuts.  The possibilities are endless.  It's not a science, there is a basic formula I follow;  8 cups of dry and 1 cup of wet, bake, then mix in some dried fruit and voila... granola!

Suggestions for dry ingredients, use your imagination to total 8 cups:

  • Rolled oats
  • Wheat germ
  • Flax seed
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Coconut
  • Wheat bran
Suggestions for wet ingredients, use a combination to total 1 cup:
  • Canola oil
  • Honey
  • Agave nectar
  • Molasses
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Maple syrup
You can also add a teaspoon of vanilla, orange zest or your favorite spices to the wet ingredients.
Any dried fruit add-ins are combined after baking.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Make Ahead Chocolate Souffles

What's not to love about chocolate souffle?  They may not be the most convenient thing to make, but they sure taste good.  I think chocolate souffle is the perfect dessert for Valentine's Day.  First of all, it's CHOCOLATE!  It's light and sophisticated. And most of all... you will be loved and appreciated by the recipient.   I spent the better part of the evening a few days ago searching for my souffle recipe.  It has vanished off the face of the earth.  I searched organized binders filled with recipes, no luck.  I'm convinced someone swiped it  borrowed it and misplaced it.  I'm not saying who, but I have a pretty good idea who, as evidenced by pictures of souffles (taken in my kitchen) on a Facebook page.  It's better to let it go and move on.  Sometimes things happen for a reason.  I found a better recipe.

Better recipe?  I think so.  After reading countless recipes, and trying to remember my old favorite, I came across this recipe in The New Best Recipe  from the Editors of Cooks Illustrated.  This cookbook is a massive collection of "exhaustively tested recipes" from America's Test Kitchen.  These folks have never steered me wrong, so I decided to take the chance.  These souffles are made ahead.  They must be frozen for at least 3 hours and can stay in the freezer for up to a week before baking.  How awesome is that?  If you are having a dinner party you can make them a day or a week in advance and just bake them off in less than 20 minutes while you are clearing away the dinner dishes, perfect timing.  Not having a dinner party?  Make up a batch or half a batch, freeze them and you have dessert for 2, 4 or just for yourself if you are so inclined in 20 minutes. This really has the potential for being a "go to" dessert.  They pop directly into the oven from the freezer, no thawing involved.  The outside of these souffles have a wonderful flavor and texture with a rich moist center.  Seriously, you have to try them.  Look what's in my freezer drawer!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Scallops Provencal, a Perfect Dish for a Monday Night Valentine

I've been really busy lately.  I haven't had much time to devote to my blog and I'm a little surprised to say, that I've missed it.  It's not that I haven't been cooking, I have.  But cooking with the intent to blog and photograph, takes time and patience, neither of which I've had much of lately.  On my way home from work yesterday I realized I had not given dinner a thought, and decided to stop at Kings Market, where I had not been for quite some time.   Kings carries quality products.  You may pay a little more, but it is well worth it.  Their fish is always fresh, and they display where it caught or harvested.  I was excited to see that they had "dry" sea scallops yesterday, and they were on sale to boot!  I purchased 3/4 of a pound then headed over to the produce department.  As soon as I saw fresh baby spinach, I knew what I  was making.  I also knew that I would have to get this blog out in a hurry, because this is an impressive, quick, knock your socks off, delicious meal, perfect for a Monday night Valentine.

I can't stress enough, if you want to make this dish, you need to find "dry" scallops.  Scallops are either wet or dry.  Wet scallops are treated with phosphates.  They are soaked in water that is treated with phosphates.  The scallop absorbs the water, increasing their weight. When you purchase them wet, you get fewer scallops per pound than dry scallops.  Cooking the scallops causes the water to release, and the scallops are left dry and tasteless.  They will not brown.  Dry scallops are natural.  They do not release liquid when cooked and caramelize nicely.  They are sweet and have a superior flavor.  If your fish monger can't tell you if they scallops are wet or dry, go somewhere else to buy your fish!