Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chilean Pork Soak

So this is a two-parter, to include my own delicious take on a Chilean-style pork soak (read: marinade) and then my twice cooked oven potatoes...which are a recent mistake gone right in my kitchen!

Often if you look up a Chilean rub or marinade, be it for chicken, pork or what have you, there are about 45 ingredients listed. I tried making one of these two weeks ago and wound up pouring it all out before the meat ever touched it as I found it nauseating. So, I sort of chose the key ingredients, added something on my own and came up with this delightful 'soak' as I call it. I think it would work for chicken, but for me, the flavors lend themselves to pork like it was meant to be...so I opted for thick, bone-in pork chops.

The morning you plan to make your chops, place them in a sealed container with the following: 3 cloves crushed garlic, few splashes of tabasco (more or less depends on you), two pinches of salt (I used freshly ground pink Himalayan), 1/3 cup lime juice, 1/3 cup OJ and then 1 tsp cumin. As usual, my idiot savant-ness in the kitchen means that I am estimating these measurements since I don't believe in them....but this my best guess. Now you pop this in the fridge and forget about it until it is time to slap the chops on the grill. When you first place them on the heated grill, sear both sides (about a minute or two each side) and then let them cook on a lower flame for another 5 minutes or less each side...you want the thermometer to read 150 - no higher!  Then, as always, remove and let them sit under foil for 5 minutes. The pork should have great flavor and be moist...no need for sauces to dress this up.

I have since perfected the potato cooking time and they
are coming out crispier! (10 minutes is better than 5.)
As for the potatoes, you want to dice them up (shown size is above) and then put them in a pyrex dish with olive oil, salt, pepper, a little thyme and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Cook these for close to 45-60 minutes at 350. Once the liquid starts to really bubble and the potatoes are softening with just a little browning, pull them out and set them aside. Get a cast iron skillet (or a frying pan) and turn the heat to high, coating the pan with just a little PAM. Next you want to dump the potatoes and the remaining liquid (probably very little at this point anyway) into the skillet/pan. Now you stir these around for 7-10 minutes and watch as they develop a heavenly, crisp exterior. You want the insides to remain soft though, so be careful of how hot they get and make sure to keep flipping them every which way while they cook. 

Served with a salad and dijon vinaigrette. 

- Melissa

Friday, September 16, 2011

Quick Brie Appetizer

Ok, this is a SIMPLE little teaser you can throw together and impress your dinner guests...not really a recipe as much as 'inspiration' for exhausted hosts/hostesses on this weekend-eve.

For starters, take a baguette and slice it into thick slices. You want to then drizzle half of the slices with balsamic vinegar (I used regular, aged balsamic for some and a pear-infused balsamic for the rest) and then place a chunk of brie on top. I tore some basil leaves as well and added them to the balsamic doused slices. Then I used a fig jelly on the other unadorned slices and topped them with a chunk of brie as well. Really you can substitute any type of fruit-based jelly, within reason. For instance, if you are thinking grape or orange marmalade, just stop reading right now. If you are considering blackberry or perhaps some other fabulous berry (see: boysenberry, marionberry, etc.) then carry on. And for the record, we are not talking Smuckers or Polaner's here - though they are fine for toast. I mean a more high-end, fresh fruit containing type of jelly that is sold in the gourmet section of the store and not by the peanut butter.

After they are all dressed up, you want to throw them on a cookie sheet and bake them at 325 degrees for maybe 10 minutes, give or take. They get just crispy enough, the brie melts and heaven in your mouth can begin.

- Melissa

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Paella, Paella, Paella!

'What am I gonna do with all this Paella?' - Estelle Constanza said (screeched) that, but I digress. Today we're going to talk about my first attempt at paella...which was *almost* a complete success. For starters, I purchased a paella pan...not that you actually need to do this. In fact, you can sort of make the rice separately in a pan and then use another flat, cooking pan (cast iron, large skillet) to make the rest. Then just mix it all together when serving. I honestly think it will still be good that way, I just needed to have the right pan since I'm me.

Anyway, first, you need to start the rice and to make life easy, I did start mine in a smaller saucepan. Paella calls for short-grain rice, and while it is typically white, I used brown rice and it worked just as well. So start the rice - I used a 1 1/4 cups - in the pan with boiling chicken broth - little less than two cups. Let that simmer on medium heat for close to 10 minutes, while stirring and once the rice grows and softens a little, so the liquid is reduced some, turn to the paella pan (or flatter pan). You want to put some olive oil, garlic (two or three cloves, minced) and about 1/2 onion (yellow or Spanish) diced. Let that sauté over medium heat until the onion and garlic brown. The paella pan is large, so you want to sort of position it across two burners, the best you can.

Now, my attempt with the chicken was not spot-on. So rather than teach you that, I am going to teach you what I will do NEXT time to make it work! Take some chicken thighs and smaller breasts (bone-in), rub them with olive oil, paprika, salt and oregano and then you can preferably grill them outdoors or bake them in the oven on a cookie sheet, either way, cook the chicken pieces until they are almost done, but not entirely.

At this point, snag the rice pot and pour it all into the paella pan, along with a few pinches of saffron, which will give the rice its happy yellow glow. Continue to stir and pour a little more broth in as the rice stiffens, stir and pour and don't give up! I also toss in a bay leaf but remember to remove this and not let anyone eat it before serving. In a frying pan, you want to take the chorizo sausage (about three to four links, thickly sliced) and pre-cook/brown it a little, then set it aside.

Behold my Paella Pan! The red handles were just a bonus ;)
Take your chicken and now fold it into the rice, along with chunked/sliced (your preference) red and yellow pepper, and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Next, toss in the partially cooked chorizo and let it cook together until the sausage is done; note: being in the broth will speed this up a little. Once the sausage is looking a little better, it is time for seafood. ALSO at this point, stop adding broth - nothing should be really sizzling as the heat should still be on medium - plus some moisture will come from the next ingredients no matter what. As for seafood, I opted for shrimp rather than scallops, but you can totally include both and lobster, mussels, etc. If left to my own devices (and palate) I would've used it all....but I was cooking for a group, so shrimp are the most universally accepted shellfish :) Toss the shrimp in, cover them with the rice...they obviously will not take long, whether they are raw/fresh or raw/frozen.

I used frozen peas because canned is gross and, well, who the hell is shelling fresh peas?? Not this girl. So let the bag sit out for a few minutes to avoid a chunk of ice peas and then dump them in and let them all mix together. Once the peas and the shrimp are in, there should be maybe 20 minutes, give or take, left to the cook time. At the end of the process, you really want the rice that was on the bottom to have become crusty, which you can then stir up with the rest of the softer rice, as per the dish's authentic origins. If this isn't happening, let the dish cook a little longer to try and absorb more liquid.

Finally you want to pull out the larger meat, so the chicken basically, and then arrange it all nice and pretty over the rest of the paella. I do not have a photo of this plated as I was serving to a table full of friends who were eager to eat at that point. Served with a Tempranillo, as well as tabasco and wedges of lemon to squeeze on the paella, as desired.

¡Buen apetito! - Melissa 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The BEST Vodka Sauce You Will Ever Make!!! (Courtesy of Tiffany James)

I figured I would attempt to redeem myself in the eyes of my fellow bloggers with the first blog post of September.  Danielle and I took the entire month of August off to participate in some family activities that ended up consuming our entire summer vacation.  That being said, I am coming back with a vengeance!  What I am posting for you today is a recipe that I had to beg for months to get from my dear friend Tiffany.  I am so happy to finally have it that I don't really want to share it with anyone...no offense.  This is a recipe for THE BEST VODKA SAUCE!  Hands down, without a doubt, this is what vodka sauce is supposed to taste like!  Here is what you will need:

1 Pound of penne
1-2 Cans of crushed tomatoes
1 Med. onion, chopped
3/4 Tsp. of crushed red pepper
1-2 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar, salt
Chopped basil leaves
1 Pint heavy cream
1/4 Cup vodka (or more) 

Here is how to put it all together.

1. Saute the chopped onions in EVOO.  Once they are clear, add the chopped garlic.
2. Add crushed tomatoes.  (1 can for 2 people, 2 cans for 4 people.)
3. Add red pepper, salt, sugar, and basil.
4. Simmer sauce for 30 minutes, or longer. 
5. Add vodka and let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Cook penne and add cream to sauce.  Sauce should be ready when penne is cooked to al dente.

There is no picture to accompany this recipe because as soon as we make it, it is gone!  Enjoy!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pork Chops with Avant-Garde Applesauce

Who doesn't love pork chops? I mean, when they are done just right they can be so juicy, so flavorful and best of all, pork pairs pretty well with everything. While I have shared some of my various chutney recipes for pork tenderloins, I decided to try to make an avant-garde applesauce (AVA) the other night that would be a lot better than an individual cup of Mott's per diner and really do the thickly cut chops justice.

For starters, the chops need nothing other than to be rinsed and slapped on a grill for about 8-10 minutes each side. Much like with steaks, you want to almost cook them all the way and then let them rest inside under foil for 5 minutes before serving. For the AVA you want to first cut up one granny smith apple into small chunks, then put that into your sauce pan and let it simmer over medium heat with some grape seed oil (you can use olive oil, but it will alter the flavor) and a little apple cider vinegar. Then you want to add some sliced shallots (about 1/4 cup) and 1/2 a small habanero pepper, finely diced. Continue to let this all simmer and then add in about 1 tbsp of brown sugar (brown sugar Splenda for me) and lastly - surprise - pour in some tequila. As usual, you be the judge of how much booze you pour...it will mostly cook off anyway. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let this all meet & greet for about 5 minutes. If the chops aren't ready yet, just keep stirring and if need be, remove from heat.

Spoon the AVA over the chops and enjoy. Served with grilled zucchini and warmed red potatoes. 

- Melissa

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chicken Balsamico with Broccoli and Tomatoes

Chicken Balsamico is one of my favorites, not to mention how much T loves it, so I've actually developed a few different varietals that pair with pasta or rice and involve different vegetable partners. This one combines full broccoli spears and sun dried tomatoes - though canned, diced tomatoes or even fresh grape tomatoes will work just as well.

For starters, you want to slice up some boneless chicken breasts so you have smaller, close to bite-size pieces. Place these into a hot pan, coated with just a little olive oil and about two cloves of crushed garlic. Let the chicken sear on both sides until it gets browned and then you add a little onion, some more olive oil and some crushed almonds (again, I use this but breadcrumbs are also useable here). Then you want to turn down the heat, add in some balsamic vinegar (say 1/2 cup) and let this all simmer until the sauce thickens up. Next up, mix in the sun dried tomatoes and the broccoli spears.

Let all of this simmer, covered, for close to 10 minutes or until the broccoli is softened. Note: this does not mean to make the broccoli less than crisp - in fact, you want to retain some green or else it will suck - for reference, see the done photo below! Pour in some more balsamic vinegar (1/3 cup or less if yore not a balsamic fan) and give it another few minutes over very low heat, with the lid off.

I served this stop some brown rice, drizzled it all with the balsamic mixture and grated some parmesan.

- Melissa

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