Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

This was one of my dad’s favorite dishes that I can remember from my childhood. It was usually always served for his birthday and maybe one other time a year, but this was not something typically made in the home. For me, Chicken and Dumplings is comforting and healing the way Matzo Ball Soup is for my Jewish friends. I simply cannot get enough and there is no pot that can ever make enough dumplings.

I think it’s because the length of cook time can be incredibly long if you make your own chicken stock (which I cannot recommend enough). But if you utilize a pressure cooker, this dish can be put together in about 75 minutes from start to finish. And if you don’t have a pressure cooker, do yourself a favor and still make your own chicken stock ahead of time.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 lbs chicken, shredded
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp thyme, fresh
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4c chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Place the chicken stock and shredded chicken in a large stock pot. You can add some of the vegetables from the chicken stock or you can add some fresh celery, carrots, and/or onions to the pot. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. If adding fresh vegetables, allow 20 minutes or so to soften before eating.

2. Place the butter in the bottom of a medium size stock pot over high heat. When the butter has mostly melted, add the chicken stock and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then add the flour, baking powder, and salt. The flour will immediately soak up the liquid and form a dough. Cook this until the color turns a mustard-ish yellow.

3. Place the dough in a mixing bowl with the two eggs. Mix with a hand mixer until the mixture just comes together. The batter should be thick like cake batter. You do not want to over mix this. Season with pepper if you wish. Add the thyme to the dough and fold in with a wood spoon.

3. Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter into the simming chicken stock. When you have filled the pot, cover with a tight fitting lid. Allow the dumplings to cook for 10 – 15 minutes until they are puffed, but firm.

4. Ladle the soup mixture into a wide mouth bowl. Ensure everyone gets a sufficient amount of dumplings. Garnish with more fresh thyme.

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Biryani was originally a Persian dish that remains wildly popular in Southeast Asia. Biryani has as many variations as stir fry in that you can use any vegetables, meat, fish, or eggs in this dish. I appreciate the versatility of the dish in that if you learn how to cook one version, you can easily substitute ingredients to suit your fancy. But what I really appreciate  about this dish is that the whole thing cooks entirely in one pot making clean up a snap.

Cooking will go fast on this one so make sure you have your ingredients in order and accessible. Even though there is a bit of prep to go through before you even touch the stove, it’ll pay off in the end.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2c chicken stock
  • 1c basmati rice
  • 1/2c golden raisins
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Cut the chicken into cubes. Place a skillet overr high heat with 2 tbsp of canola oil in the bottom. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper and place in the pan. Sear the chicken on all sides. Take the chicken out of the pan and set aside.

Note: The chicken does not need to be cooked through as it will finish cooking later.

2. Lower the heat to medium high. Place the onions in the pan and sauté until nearly translucent.

3. Add the cinnamon, curry powder, cumin, garlic, and ginger to the onion and stir to combine with the onion. Cook until fragrant – around 30 seconds.

4. Add the chicken stock to the pan to deglaze. Be sure to scrape up as many brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan and add the raisins and rice. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to simmer and cook covered for 20 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.

5. Turn off the heat and let the dish sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve the Chicken Biryani piping hot in large bowls.

At some point, I think we’ve all heard that what has commonly been regarded as “stuffing” should actually never be stuffed inside of anything. While pictures from the 1940s and 1950s showed an iconic turkey bursting with goodness, putting stuffing inside a turkey or chicken actually slows down the cooking process and leads to what I believe is a lesser quality flavor. So yes, for your geniuses out there that will inevitably critique my recipe, this should be called “dressing” and not stuffing, but I suppose if you really wanted to, you could easily stuff this inside a chicken or turkey after everything is cooked separately.

Ingredients

  • 16oz unseasoned croutons
  • 1 lb lean pork sausage (without casing)
  • 1/2 lb thick cut bacon
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 3c chicken stock
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 tsp sage, ground
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1/2 tsp basil, dried

1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the bacon strips. You are probably going to have to do this in two batches. The goal is to achieve a beautiful crispiness that will not become soggy once inside the stuffing. Set aside to cool on some paper towels.

2. Remove all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat. Keep the heat on medium high and place the carrots, celery, onion, and apple in the pan. Saute for 5 minutes or until the carrot just begins to soften. Add the garlic, oregano, basil, and sage and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Add the white wine to deglaze. Continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Place the cooked vegetables inside a large mixing bowl.

3. In the same pan, add the sausage and cook through. You can choose to cut the sausage into small bits, or keep in large clumps. The choice is yours. Cook until you cannot see any pink. Add the sausage to the vegetables.

4. Chop the bacon and add to the mixing bowl with the croutons. Add the chicken stock 1/4 c at a time until the croutons begin to get soggy and fall apart slightly. Combine the vegetable and meat mixture to the bread crumbs. Add to a casserole dish.

5. Cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until the top begins to get crispy. While cooking, the outside will get brown and crispy, the inside will remain moist and delicious. Serve piping hot.

If you are like me, then you have been invited to a least one holiday party in which the host expects you to “Just bring your selves.” I wasn’t raised this way and I feel pretty uncomfortable showing up to even a  simple dinner party empty handed.

I think most people think to bring a bottle of wine, but I’ve noticed that whenever I do bring a bottle, it’s rarely opened. Wine is an acquired taste and you never know if your offering will be well appreciated and enjoyed or banished to the cooking wine shelf to collect dust. So in the spirit of the holidays, I offer you five new ideas that you can bring with you as gifts for your gracious hosts:

1) Champagne: I know what you’re saying. “Isn’t this the same as wine?” No, it’s not. Champagne is luxurious and bubbly and festive and I have never met anyone who didn’t enjoy a glass of champagne at any point in the evening. If you are unsure of your hosts preferences, stick with a Brut which will be sweeter and not as dry. For the holidays, you can bring a Rose champagne which are pink in color just to give a little more festive vibe.

2) Gourmet Chocolate: Who doesn’t enjoy a nice bar of chocolate every now and then? For a special host gift, stay away from the big chocolate companies such as Lindt and Godiva and give an array of chocolate bars from a company your host may not have heard of such as Vosges-haut Chocolate. This company makes some pretty wild, yet delicious flavors such as their Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar and Black Salt Caramel bar. Wrap three or four of these bars together tied with some ribbon and you have a pretty memorable gift.

3) Dog Chew Toys: If the host has a dog, it’s never a bad idea to bring a new chew toy to keep their canine companion occupied while you enjoy your meal. If you don’t have a pet store near you, your local supermarket probably has some chew toys. But here’s a word of advice: don’t give them a squeaky toy. You may find yourself without an invitation the next time a party comes around.

4) Homemade Preserves: If you spent anytime during the summer or fall doing some canning, your host would love a jar or two complete with a homemade label and gift tag.

5) Small Gift Basket: Lastly, you can put together a small themed gift basket for very little cost. Grab a bag of colored pasta, a small bottle of good olive oil, and a jar of tomato sauce and you’ve given an instant dinner. Raid the sale racks and you’re bound to find a small collection of fun items your host might enjoy.

There are a bazillion ideas that you can give your hosts that would cost about the same as a bottle of wine. The question becomes whether you are willing to take a little extra time to think about your hosts and hostesses and what you might be able to give them for inviting you to their holiday party.

So readers, what host gifts are you giving your party hosts this year? What have you given in the past? Let me know. I’d love to get some fresh new ideas!

If you own a roasting pan, you are probably like 99% of other Americans that take it out once a year to cook a turkey or roast for the holidays. There really is no shame in this. There is actually very little information out there on how to use a roasting pan in your everyday rotation and even less information as to why you should invest in one.

But this article is not for those of you that already own a roasting pan. This article is for the holiday cooks who buy the disposable roasting pans at the supermarket for around $4 and try to cook a 20 pound turkey inside its flimsy walls. Don’t let the packaging fool you. They have different sizes for different sized birds, but in the end, physics and gravity still play a vital role in the cooking process.

My message to those of you who are disposable pan buyers is simple and straight forward:

You have to stop the madness!

I present to you my top five reasons for investing in a quality roasting pan over their rival disposable.

5. Better for the environment: Perhaps my weakest argument, but still. A roasting pan gets cleaned up and put away until its next use while a disposable gets tossed away and sent to a landfill to sit for centuries.

4. Multi-purpose: Turkey, chicken, pork tenderloin, pork shoulder, prime rib, etc. The list of potential cuts in nearly endless, but the point is that your roasting pan is worthy of more than just one use. But wait, there’s more. Not only can the roasting pan be used for different meats, it can also be used for multiple steps in the cooking process. Need to sear your prime rib before cooking it? Just remove the rack and put the pan over two burners. Want to cook some root vegetables with your meal? Just stick them under your meat. Not only will everything come out hot together, the juices dripping off the meat will season your vegetables.

3. Easier clean up: This is one area that disposable lovers have tried to get me on for years, but my retort is air tight. Yes, at the end of a meal, the disposable pan gets tossed away and that’s it. However, in my world, it’s never that simple. What happens if your flimsy disposable has a tiny hole in it and turkey juice begins to drip into your oven creating a solid mass of carbon that no amount of oven cleaner or scrubbing will take off? What happens if on your way to delivering your turkey from the oven to the counter, the flimsy pan buckles under the weight and not only does the turkey hit the floor, but hot juice scalds you and ruins your nice new shoes? I find the potential risk of using a disposable to far outweigh the ease of throwing away a pan at the end of the night. Besides, you’ll have very little to clean up if you consider number two.

2. Ability to make pan sauces: Roasting pans are long enough to cover two burners making it easy to turn your post dinner cooking vessel into a stovetop pan that is ready to make some gravy. Pan sauces, especially after cooking a roast turkey or chicken, are wildly tasty and require no additional kitchen equipment. In fact, the idea of not using more vessels to make a pan sauce makes clean up even easier and by deglazing the pan, you’re going to cook out the worst of the mess from the pan. But if even after all this, consider taking a moment and….

1. Just look at that rack: The rack is put there not as a storage challenge; it’s put there to keep the meat off the bottom of the pan and out of the fat. While roasting, the fat on the meat tends to melt off and drips into the bottom of the pan. Disposable pans do not come equipped with a rack leaving your roast to sit for hours in its own fat. The rack also allows for more air to move around the meat which will give you even cooking and that crispy skin that you’re craving.

Roasting pans are generally inexpensive and by no means should you feel obligated to spend more than $50. I find that most stores offer a great bargain during the holiday season, and almost every department store will have a bargain basement deal on roasting pans the day after Thanksgiving. As for recommendations, ensure that the pan is made of aluminum (plain or hard anodized) in order to keep the weight down and that the handles are riveted to the pan. Some roasting pans have the handles fused to the sides. This is a problem because the handles will heat up as hot as the pan and the handles have more potential to break off over years of use. Calphalon and Cuisinart make a pretty decent pan in general and I find their roasting pans to be fit for the job.

My favorite neighborhood gem in New York was this little sushi place on W Houston St, Ushiwakamaru (Warning: not for the sushi beginner). It’s plainly decorated, and there is no attempt to create any kind of typical restaurant atmosphere, but the food is incredibly delicate and you can’t beat the service.

While eating a late dinner, the sushi chef told me that he spent an entire year learning how to sharpen his knives and slice vegetables. Only when he was able to cut a cucumber into a 10 foot tall paper thin sheet was he able to begin touching the fish. This isn’t bad considering he spent a year and a half before this making rice. This kind of disciplined training is common among sushi masters and something I revere. If you’ve never been to a sushi restaurant, I can tell you that the best seat in the house is not the one you have to tip to Maitre’D for, but it’s sitting right at the bar so you can watch the chefs at work.

With this is mind, today begins Sushi Week! Each day will feature a new roll or appetizer that I have come to know and love. However, I would never leave you stranded on Culinary Island, so in hopes of getting you started, below are two important but basic sushi techniques that you will need to know: making rice and rolling a maki roll.

Making Rice

Rolling a Maki Roll (You can tell this chef has been doing this forever).

Now that you’ve got a better idea of the basics, check out my easy to follow guides for a California Roll, Spicy Salmon Roll, an adaptation to a Spider Roll, and a beautiful Avocado Ball appetizer with grilled shrimp and tuna..

I have no idea when I first roasted a whole chicken. I can tell you though that I have memories of crispy, blackened skin and meat needing a hack saw to cut through. This had nothing to do with poor culinary skill as much as poor attention to detail. I had cooked the chicken at 450 degrees for two hours when the cookbook clearly stated 350. Oops.

This dish is the best kind of one pot meal because all ingredients go into the pot raw and they all come out cooked at the same time. Other than some prep work and periodic basting, you will not have to work in the kitchen long. There are literally thousands of recipe variations for roasting a chicken. Here I offer a simple version that will show the basic technique. If you get nothing else out of this post, please pay close attention to step 4. It is the secret to even cooking and perfecting presentation without having to deal with trussing the chicken with kitchen twine.

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 pound roasting chicken
  • 2 lbs butternut squash
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 large spanish onion
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then peel the butternut squash. Cut off the narrow end and set aside. Cut the wide part in half. Scoop out the seeds and pulp. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Repeat with narrow end of the squash. Put into a large dutch oven or at the bottom of a roasting pan.

2. Peel the onion and cut in half. Cut into 1 inch chunks and add to butternut squash in pot. Drizzle olive oil on top of vegetables. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Your chicken will be placed on top of the vegetables and the juices that will drip off. This will add more salt from the chicken into the squash and onion.

3. Remove the gizzards (should be in a plastic bag inside the cavity of the chicken) from the chicken. Rinse the chicken inside and out with water. Pat inside and out with paper towels until dry.

4. Working with the chicken, breast side up on a cutting board, cut a small slit in the skin flaps just next to the drumsticks. Insert two fingers to stretch the hole to the size of a quarter. Take the end of the drumstick and insert through the hole you just created. Repeat with the other drumstick. Then tuck each wing underneath the back of the chicken into what I call the Chicken Yoga position.

Note: I’ve pictured the process below. The purpose of this is to ensure everything cooks evenly and the wings do not burn. It also makes for a nice presentation when the chicken has finished cooking.

5. Place the chicken on top of the squash and onion mixture. Drizzle olive oil on top and rub into skin with your hands.

6. Zest 1 orange and then cut the orange into quarters.

7. Season inside chicken cavity with 1/2 tsp of salt. Rub the zest on the outside and inside of the chicken. Then, squeeze 2 of the orange quarters over the chicken . Place oranges quarters inside the cavity of the chicken. Season chicken salt, thyme, basil, and oregano. You can go heavier with the salt as it will melt into the skin and then into the meat. About 1 1/2 tsp should do. Let sit out for 20 minutes before cooking.

Note: The orange juice will not flavor the chicken, but will act as a browning agent. In the oven, the sugars will caramelize and give your chicken the beautiful brown color you see in magazines.

8. Cook chicken covered for 1 hour. Cut the second orange in half. Squeeze 1 half over chicken. Put squeezed half into pot continue cooking for another 30 minutes covered.

9. Squeeze second half of orange over chicken. Continue cooking for 15 minutes uncovered or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees in the thigh and the juices when pieced run clear.

Note: If the breast meat is already browned to the point below, cover the breast with aluminum foil to protect the meat from drying out.

10. Drain vegetables. Serve chicken on a platter accompanied by vegetables. Sit back and let your family and friends sing your praises.

Variation

For orange flavored skin, mix 2 tbsp orange marmalade with 1 tbsp dijion mustard and 1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinager. Before cooking the last 15 minutes, brush this mixture onto the skin.

If you prefer squash al dente, cut the onion into thin slices instead and cover the bottom of the pan. Place the chicken on top. Add the butternut squash  around the chicken during step 8. Don’t forget to season with olive oil, salt, and pepper.