Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chicken Breast with Walnut Aillade and Tomato Jam & Polenta

In my last post, I shared how I made a Savory Tomato Jam.  The recipe for  Chicken Breasts with a Walnut Aillade comes from "Two Fat Ladies".   If you've never watched their show, it's quite interesting. I've caught a few episodes on the Cooking Channel, and their British humor is quite entertaining.  So, what is an aillade sauce?  It's a garlic sauce. I loved the simplicity of the sauce, that is the star of this show.  I thought this would be a perfect work night dinner-- and it was.  Within the last minutes of making this dish, I was inspired to top the chicken off with some tomato jam.  It was a great idea, my husband said. He loved the whole dish. 

Whole foods had a  terrific sale on free-range boneless chicken breasts, so I stocked up and froze a few packages. I thawed the chicken, in the fridge,  the night before.  The chicken is marinated in plain yogurt with fresh lemon juice-- for about 30 minutes.

I usually keep a container of Fage Greek Yogurt on hand. I love how thick it is, and the non-fat version is excellent. But, any kind of plain yogurt will work.

I whisked in the juice of one fresh lemon.

I seasoned the chicken with just salt and pepper and set them into the yogurt and lemon juice...

These marinated for about 30 minutes, so the sauce can be made, next.
The sauce is very simple to make. (A food processor plays a helpful role). We begin with two ounces of fresh garlic.  (I used two large cloves.)  I always keep shelled walnuts in the freezer-- grab a large handful, or about 2 1/2 ounces. Add about one Tablespoon of water, and grind the walnuts. Season the ground walnuts with some salt...

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Savory Tomato Jam

Tomato Jam? That's what my husband's reaction was, when I started making this on a Sunday afternoon.  I can understand why he couldn't bond with the idea of tomato jam on toast.   I didn't create this recipe for toast and jam.  I was inspired to make a Savory Tomato Jam out of pure lust.  You see, there's a local restaurant that served a dish that I fell in-love with.  It was a lemon-rosemary marinated grilled chicken breast, served over a risotto cake with tomato jam.  I loved it!  But, that special is no longer on the menu, and I was pining for more.

I spotted these beauties at Whole Foods, and it was already October. At $3.99 a pound, I grabbed a couple of baskets and decided that these were destined for my own version of tomato jam.  I did a lot of surfing the internet, but most of the recipes I saw had heat from hot pepper-- and I didn't have a jalapeno in my fridge, anyway.  My taste buds were leaning towards more of a  combination of sweet and sour.  I reviewed my recipe for Peach Chutney, and then I jumped in and started to throw things together:

I had two pints of these beautiful organic tomatoes.  After washing them, I added them to a non-stick pot, and seasoned them with coarse salt & pepper. I decided to use brown sugar-- about a 1/2 cup.
I added about 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. White vinegar would work, too. 

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Perfect Pot Roast with Creamy Mashed Potatoes (My Way)

I've made many pot roasts in my life.  I've made them in my slow cooker, pressure cooker and in the oven.    I've been reading The Pioneer Woman's food blog for three years.  I even bought her cookbook, when it first came out-- and I've posted many of her recipes.   Every so often, Ree will post something with salad greens... or vegetables....or soups.  She's not always about comfort food, you know!  However, when I recorded an episode of PW's new Food Network show, and I watched Ree make her Perfect Pot Roast... well, my mind was set on making it.  However, I didn't exactly follow Ree's recipe.  I will tell you, in advance, that this is the best pot roast that I've made so far!

 Behold, a nicely marbled piece of 5 pound chuck roast... (season with salt & pepper)

 Three yellow onions and whole carrots...

 A Dutch oven, in my opinion, is my favorite way to braise.  I liked Ree's idea of cutting the onion in half, instead of chunks.  With a little olive oil, just give them a nice brown, remove and set aside.

Add a little more olive oil, and toss in the carrots (cut in really large chunks). Give those a nice sear, and here's my own touch-- in the last 30 seconds, add two whole cloves of garlic. Set those veggies aside...

 Add some more oil. and keep that Dutch Oven hot!

 Now, sear the meat.  Hear that sizzle!

...and give that meat a beautiful sear on both sides, and all around. 

Remove the meat.

I'm lucky enough to have an herb garden, where I could cut three sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme. We're about to build some flavor for the braising liquid.

Ree tosses her herbs into the broth.  I wanted to tie them, so I could easily remove them. (I don't particularly care for bits of rosemary floating around in my gravy).  I have kitchen twine, but I save the rubber bands from when I buy celery.  I think they're easy to use, and then I just toss them.

I decided to deglaze all that beautiful brown bits with some red wine-- oh, about 3/4 cup.

 I added about 3 cups of beef stock.  I had to add something that Ree did not...

Tomato paste. I love that richness and depth of flavor and color it adds to sauces and braising liquids.
TIP:  At a restaurant supply store, I buy a package of those small plastic containers that you find in take-out foods.  I freeze 1-2 Tbsp. portions of tomato paste, once I open a can and only use a portion of it.  I also freeze leftover chipotle peppers and pesto sauce.

With a sharp knife, I carefully cut about 1 Tbsp. of frozen tomato paste...

...then, tossed it into the braising liquid.

Please pardon the out of focus Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce.  Again, this was another layer of flavor that I added to Ree's original recipe.  Trust me, this adds a lot of flavor! Give it a taste... adjust the seasonings with more salt and pepper, if you feel it needs it. 

Add the meat back into the pot. Toss in the two garlic cloves. 

Set the tied herbs into the liquid.  Tuck those beautifully caramelized carrots and onions along the sides... nice, and cozy.
NOTE: In reading the many comments people left about pot roast, some people said that the carrots should only be added at the end, lest they become mushy.  I set aside half of the carrots, to test that theory. I'll let you know.

Add enough beef stock so that the liquid comes up to about halfway of the meat. Put the lid on, and put into an oven, preheated to 275F.  Relax, and let this cook low and slow for 2-3 hours.
Of course, you could put all of this into a slow cooker.  On a lazy Sunday, I'm content to use a Dutch Oven.  It's just my preference.  

So, it's been about 3 hours, and I have to tell you-- the pot roast smells so good!  I decided to add the remaining carrots and let this go for another 45 minutes.

Pot roast. From scratch. No onion soup mix.  This is home cookin'!

 Toss away the herbs. They've done their job well.
The meat is very, very tender.  NOTE:  I recently watch Anne Burrell (Food Network/Secrets of a Restaurant Chef) make a pot roast, and she ties it so that slicing the meat is much easier.  In the future, I'm definitely going to do this. 

Overall, the meat was easy to slice.  I debated thickening the braising liquid into a thick gravy.  But, I decided not to.  Truth be told, I was hungry!

I made these Creamy Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, earlier in the day.  My secret to terrific mashed potatoes is to use a food mill, and I don't peel the potatoes.  I stir in a combo of cream cheese and butter, and some heavy cream. Yes, the fat gram police aren't pleased.  Once in a while, I say, live it up... and these potatoes are the best you can make.  I simply heated these in the last half hour that the pot roast was cooking-- right next to it.  They were hot, and steamy.  Serve the pot roast, and veggies and gravy right over a mound of creamy mashed potatoes.  Dig in!
VERDICT:  Seriously, this is the best pot roast I have ever made!  Let's start with the sauce-- the red wine, tomato paste, garlic and Worcestershire sauce kicked up the flavor a lot.  The meat was tender.  I loved the caramelized large chunks of onion. Yummy! The carrots were not mushy. They were sweet, and I couldn't tell the difference between the carrots I cooked at the beginning vs. the end.  The rosemary and thyme herbs were perfect, and I much preferred not having them in my sauce.  I did not regret that I didn't make the gravy thicker with flour or cornstarch.  The next day, the pot roast was even better!  Sadly, there were not enough leftovers to make pot roast soup.  With all due respect to The Pioneer Woman, my additions to the her recipe were an improvement.  We loved this recipe, and I can hardly wait for that first  California frosty cold winter night to make this again.  

A printable recipe card, with my adaptions, is at the end of this post.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Cinnamon-Pecan Filling

October is National Cookie Month.  Tate's Bake Shop is offering a few food bloggers an opportunity to taste their award winning Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Cookies.

Owner Kathleen King made her reputation--and a thriving bakery business-- on her famous chocolate chip cookies.  Her bakery is located in the Hamptons-- a place I hope to visit someday.

Last December , I was one of the fortunate bloggers who was able to taste Tate's Chocolate Chip cookies-- and Tate's Bake Shop offered a giveaway to one of my lucky readers .  My family and I really loved these cookies, that are thin and crisp and buttery.  They disappeared really fast. I also received a signed copy of the Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook, and I  made the recipe for chocolate chip cookies. They were delicious, but not quite as crispy as the authentic cookies that Tates Bake Shop can ship to you! 

Denielle contacted me, again, and asked if I'd like to sample their Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies.   I love cookies, but I asked her if there were any other options.  She cheerfully offered to put together a breakfast package for me, and said that she'd also let me choose a lucky recipient to receive the same.  A week later...

...I received a box with their Sour Cream Coffee Cake and a bag of their Granola.  The very next morning, I opened up the package, and started fresh hot coffee brewing.

The coffee cake was carefully wrapped. Look at all of those pecans!

We each cut a generous slice, and my husband particularly loved all of the pecan-cinnamon. Heaven!

The granola was wholesome, and generously mixed with golden raisins, hazelnuts, almond, and honey...

Here. Take a look!

My favorite way to eat granola is with vanilla yogurt.  It's really delicious!

The coffee cake was gone, by the next day.  I picked up my copy of the Tate's Bake Shop cookbook, and looked through the many recipes I had bookmarked. Aha!  On Page 128, I found the recipe for Sour Cream Coffee Cake.  I loved that 2 cups of sour cream is used.  I love the moistness and tang of sour cream in cakes.  My mind was made up, that this would be our Saturday morning breakfast treat.

The recipe lists 2 cups of chopped pecans.  I decided to cut it back to 1 cup of pecans.  Your choice.

I used 1/2 cup of brown sugar (rather than white), the chopped pecans and 1 Tablespoon cinnamon.

Mix it up, and set aside.

For the batter, I creamed one stick of room temperature butter (the recipe listed 2 sticks of butter, but I reduced it) with 1 1/2 cups sugar, until it was light and fluffy.  I then added 2 eggs, 2 cups of sour cream, and one tablespoon of pure vanilla.  The dry ingredients were 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 Tablespoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. 
I dumped all of the dry ingredients at once, and pulsed my stand mixer a few times...then I folded the batter just until it was mixed.  (I think this method was used, so that the dough isn't overworked. )

I love using Baker's Joy spray.  My cakes no longer stick, and I've had my share of bundt cake disasters. The batter is very thick, and I put half into the prepared pan and spread it evenly.  Then, I layered half of the pecan-cinnamon mixture evenly.  I added the remaining batter and finished it off with the remaining pecan-cinnamon mixture.  Then it hit me... I should have used a spring form pan, so that the cinnamon topping would remain on top!  Too late, now...

Bake at 350 for 1 hour and ten minutes, is what the recipe says. HOWEVER, I could smell the heady aroma of cinnamon wafting from my kitchen, and throughout the house.  I checked the cake at 50 minutes, and a toothpick left just a few crumbs attached. Done!

I waited about five minutes, and placed a wire cooling rack on top of the cake-- then flipped it. The cake slipped right out. I placed another wire cooking rack on top and flipped the cake again.

There. The topping is where it belongs.  The moment has arrived, as I sliced into the warm cake...

The texture looks very promising.

VERDICT:  The cake had a very tender texture, indeed.  It was moist, and the sour cream gave just the right amount of tang.  Reducing the amount of butter, from two sticks, to one worked out fine, in my opinion. We loved the cinnamon-pecan filling, and I don't regret cutting back on the amount of pecans. I love pecans, but I wanted the cinnamon to be equal.  I think using brown sugar was another bonus.  Everyone went back for seconds. This is a great recipe, and I'll definitely make it again.

Thank you, Tate's Bake Shop for your generous gift.  You, too, can have the opportunity to receive the same breakfast treats that I did, plus a signed copy of the Tate's Bake Shop cookbook!  

A printable recipe card for this coffee cake is at the end of this post.

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