Breaded Chicken Cutlets

March 19, 2011

Fried chicken is one of my secret guilty pleasures… The crispy skin under the delicious breading with juicy meat all thrown in together with hot sauce, oh yea, I am in foodie heaven! Now that you know my secret obsession, I also need to let you in on a little secret that I am perfectly aware that I don’t eat it all that often. When Red and I were planning our wedding; we talked about having a low key fried chicken reception. But we backed away from that since we figured that not too many people would be too receptive of our “whacky” idea. We went with the traditional plated fish and beef dinners instead. This chicken recipe is a go-to recipe at our house; when we crave fried chickens, but want a quicker and less-messy version. It is also delicious eaten as a chicken sandwich, although I love them on their own without the buns. The key here is to make sure that you pound the chicken to even thickness so they cook thoroughly and can have that crispiness that we all want from fried chickens. Happy Eating!

Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Ingredients
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5 to 6 ounces each), tenderloin removed and reserved for another use, fat trimmed
1/2 cup kosher salt or 1/4 cup table salt
1/2 cup sugar
5-8 slices high quality white bread such as Pepperidge Farm, crusts removed and torn into rough 1-1/2 inches pieces (or, if you don’t have white bread available, use panko instead, this is what I did)
Ground black pepper
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 cup vegetable oil
Lemon Wedges for serving

Directions
Use rubber mallet, meat pounder, or rolling pin to pound chicken breasts to even 1/2-inch thickness. Dissolve salt and sugar in 1-quart cold water in gallon-sized zipper lock plastic bag. Add cutlets and seal bag, pressing out as much air as possible; refrigerate 30 minutes. Line rimmed baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels.

Remove cutlets and lay in single layer on baking sheet; cover with another triple layer paper towels and press firmly to absorb moisture. Allow cutles to dry for 10 minutes. Process bread in food processor until evenly fine-textured, 20 to 30 seconds (you should have about 1-1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs). Transfer crumbs to pie plate. Carefully peel paper towels off cutlets, sprinkle cutlets with pepper and set aside.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, set heat proof plate on rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees. Spread flour in second pie plate. Beat eggs with 1 tbsp oil in third pie plate.

Working one at a time, dredge cutlets thoroughly in flour, shaking off excess. Using tongs, dip both sides of cutlets in egg mixture, taking care to coat thoroughly, allowing excess to drip back into pie plate to ensure very thin coating. Dip both sides of cutlets in bread crumbs, pressing crumbs with fingers to form even, cohesive coat. Place breaded cutlets in single layer on wire rack set over baking sheet and allow coating to dry for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile heat 6 tablespoons of remaining oil in a heavy-bottomed 10-inch non stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering, around 2 minutes. Lay two cutlets gently in skillet; cook until golden brown and crisp, 2-1/2 minutes  total.

Flip cutlets using tongs, reduce heat to medium, and continue to cook until meat feels firm when pressed gently and second side is deep golden brown and crisp, about 2-1/2 to 3 minutes longer. Line a plate with paper towels, set cutlets on top. If you’d like, use an oven-safe dish, and keep the chickens warm in the oven.

Discard oil, wipe skillet, and repeat the frying process with fresh new oil. Serve with lemon wedges if desired.

Yield: 4 servings


Chocolate Scotcheroos

March 16, 2011

I have amazing co-workers, and I really mean it. A few weeks ago, our group had to cover some super early morning meetings, like 5 and 6 o’clock meetings *blah* and we couldn’t really get away from them. There are three of us who were responsible to do these, and between the two of them, they volunteered to cover those early slots for me so I didn’t have to disrupt my daughter’s morning routine. Isn’t that amazing? One of them actually took  all three of my morning slots three days in a row. When I asked him what was his favorite treat, he said chocolate scotcheroos. I was glad to bake these for him and brought them to work. He was kind enough to share with the rest of the people in the office, but happy to have four big pieces himself.  I really don’t think I need to “review” this recipe… if you have had them, you know how addictive they are! 🙂 Happy baking!

Adapted from Mrs. Sullivan

Ingredients
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
6 cup rice krispies cereal
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup butterscotch hips

Directions
Place corn syrup and sugar into 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil.

Remove from heat, stir in peanut butter. Mix well. Add cereal, stir until everything is well coated.

Spray a 13x9x2 baking pan with cooking spray. Press mixture into the pan. Set aside.

Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips together in large 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Let stand until firm. Cut into 2×2 inch bars when cool.

Yield: ~24 bars


Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

March 13, 2011

Red credits me for being able to come up with food ideas with the ingredients on hand. (Ehhmmm…, that’s probably because I’m either reading hard copy cookbooks or surfing through hundreds of food blogs on the internet). One weekend, I just saw a pack of mushrooms sitting in the refrigerator; and my mind was spinning trying to think of what to make with them without having to go out and get some more ingredients. I finally decided to make these sausage stuffed mushrooms because we try to make one night a week to be a movie and appetizer night. These little morsels were amazing; so delicious and the house smelled incredible when the filling was being prepared. I didn’t have “extra-large” mushrooms, so I only made half of the filling; but still ended up with tons of leftover filling.  I looked through several other recipes while making this; and a couple of them used a couple other type of cheeses that I didn’t have in hand. But I loved this version with cream cheese instead of mascarpone. I wouldn’t change a thing! Oh, and since I only had about 16 small to medium size mushrooms, I only baked them for about 30 minutes and they were perfect. Happy eating!

Adapted from Ina Garten, through Food Network

Ingredients
16 extra-large white mushrooms
5 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons wine or medium sherry (Did not use them)
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage removed from the casings
6 scallions, white and green parts, minced
2 garlic cloves minced
2/3 cup panko crumbs
5 ounces mascarpone cheese, preferably from Italy (I used cream cheese)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop them finely. Set aside. Place themushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and Marsala. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it’s completely browned. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the panko crumbs, stirring to combine evenly with all the other ingredients. Finally, swirl in the mascarpone and continue cooking until the mascarpone has melted and made the sausage mixture creamy. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste, Cool slightly.

Fill each mushroom generously with the sausage mixture. Arrange the mushrooms in a baking dish large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a snug single layer. Bake until the stuffing for 50 minutes, until the stuffing is browned and crusty.


Five Spice Pork Wraps {Slow Cooker}

March 10, 2011

I saw this recipe in my most recent Williams Sonoma catalog, and knew that I had to make them! However, with an active 8-month old to tend to, I wanted to turn this into a crock-pot dish that I can prep ahead of time, and let it cook for a nice 10-12 hrs stretch. I prefer to use bone-in pork shoulder, because I think that’s where a lot of the flavors are from; so that’s what I did instead. I modified this recipe to allow for the slow cooker version, and I was really happy with the result.

The tender, juicy, slightly spicy and warm pulled pork were delicious on top of cold crispy butter lettuces and bean sprouts. And don’t forget to save those little onion bits from the bottom of the crock pot, they added excellent boost of flavor to the pork. The only thing I would caution you on is that this dish was MESSY to eat! Make sure you have extra napkins around because you will need it. You can turn this into a low-carb dish by skipping the rice (I skipped the rice because I simply forgot to cook it). And it was still delicious! They are a great party dish, because you don’t spend a lot of time cooking this, and it serves a large crowd. Happy cooking!

Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Ingredients

4 tsp. Chinese five spice
1 Tbs. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
6 lb. bone-in pork shoulder
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, diced
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 Tbs. minced garlic
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup hoisin sauce, plus more for serving
2 Tbs. Sriracha chili sauce, plus more for serving
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Butter lettuce leaves, steamed white rice, bean sprouts, thinly sliced green onions and cilantro leaves for serving

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the Chinese five spice, salt and pepper. Rub the mixture evenly on the pork.

Combine the rest of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour into the bottom of a crock pot.
Let it cook on low for 10-12 hrs or high for 5-6 hrs.

When the crock pot is done cooking, using tongs and a fork, pull the pork apart into large chunks. Serve with lettuce leaves, steamed rice, bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro, hoisin sauce and chili sauce.

Yield: 14


Praline Cookies

March 8, 2011

In honor of Mardi Gras, Red’s office sponsored a food day with a Mardi-Gras theme. First of all, I have never met a group of folks who love to eat as much as they do.  They have awesome food days, especially around Christmas time. I used to wander around and sample all of the goodies especially since I also contributed to it :-). I especially love it since I get to unload all of my baked goods with them. It really came in handy when I took my Wilton classes last year; all of those cakes didn’t go to waste! 🙂 I wanted something portable that Red can take to work and Red, the self-proclaimed cookie monster, wanted “some sort of cookies” that can fit into the theme. I thought these praline cookies while may not be the official Mardi Gras dessert, still sort of fit into the Southern team.

The cookie base is what I would call a perfect cookie dough; it is not sticky, or too crumbly or too wet. It just has the right consistency to be scooped into small balls, and baked beautifully into rounds of cookies. They spread just enough (not too much, not too little that you have to press them down with a fork!) into these perfect little brown cookies. I actually love them without the praline topping, although the topping really heightened the flavor. I caught myself munching on the un-frosted cookies–and told myself to stop. They were delicious. This may be my new favorite cookie. I also decided to make pecan pralines using the leftover topping, and yum… they were delicious. Happy Baking!

Adapted from From Martha Stewart Living, February 2000

Ingredients

1 -2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 -1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more if necessary
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and broken into large pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups light-brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fully combined. Add dry ingredients, and beat on low speed until combined.

Drop batter in rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until firm and barely golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies from pan to wire rack.

In a small saucepan, combine remaining 1 cup light-brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add confectioners’ sugar, and whisk until smooth. (If frosting thickens, thin with cream.) Add pecan pieces. Place cookies on a cooling rack over a lined baking pan. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon praline mixture onto each cookie.

Yield: 3 dozens of cookies


Best Buttermilk Pancakes

March 4, 2011

Red and I love leisurely breakfast on the weekend… so much that sometimes we have a couple courses of breakfast meals. Usually, since I am not too patient with waiting 30 minutes or an hour until something is ready (depending on what I will make); I will start off with a cup of coffee or orange juice and a tiny slice of this super duper Easy Banana Bread, that I may bake a few days prior to the weekends. And then I will start baking or making my second breakfast course. Pancakes are definitely one of my favorite meals, breakfast or dinners. I love these sweet and tangy Banana Sour Cream Pancakes; but I needed to use up my buttermilk in the refrigerator – and I happened to have a pint of blueberries and no ripe bananas.

These pancakes were hands down “out of these world”. Red was like, “Why haven’t we tried these sooner?” I shook my head in agreement. They were fluffy and light, not too sweet, pretty much “melt in your mouth”. They are in the little bit flat, so if you’re looking for “cakey” pancakes – these are not for you. I didn’t change a thing about this recipe. I think they’re almost a cross between the “cakey” pancakes and crepes, but they were to die for. Definitely a big favorite at our house, and I will be making these again soon! I added blueberries to mine; and I am sure that they will be fantastic with other add-ins as well, like dried cranberries or other fruits, chocolate chips… the possibilities are endless! Happy eating!

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1/2 teaspoon for griddle

Directions

Heat griddle to 375 degrees if you use electric; or regular pan on the stove. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add all liquid ingredients; whisk to combine. Batter should have small to medium lumps. Do not over-mix – and leave those lumps alone. Don’t try to mix them into the batter.

Test griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If water bounces and spatters off griddle, it is hot enough. Brush remaining 1/2 teaspoon of butter onto pan or griddle. Wipe off excess with a paper towel.

Heat your oven to 200 degrees.

Using a 4-ounce ladle, about 1/2 cup, pour pancake batter, in pools 2 inches away from one other. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute. They will spread, make sure that you don’t over-crowd the griddle/pan.

Repeat with remaining batter, keeping finished pancakes on a heatproof plate in oven. Serve warm.

Yield: 9 6-inch pancakes


Roasted Vegetable Enchilada with Creamy Tomatillo Sauce and Melted Cheese

March 1, 2011

I recently wandered to my local library and saw Rick Bayless’ Fiesta at Rick’s at their new arrival section. I love being able to “test-drive” a cookbook prior to purchasing; and have had great luck that way. Mexican meal is something that I don’t normally cook at home; I think it’s just because I just didn’t really grow up eating it and am not familiar with the type of spices or ingredients used. I watched Rick Bayless compete at last season’s Top Chef and became fan with some of the meals that he cooked during the show; however I was a little bit hesitant with the complexity of the recipes. I was really surprised when I found myself bookmarking several of his recipes, and this was one of them!

The smokiness of root vegetables roasted at high heat were so wonderful combined with the bright and creamy tomatillo sauce. This dish was so delicious that I ended up making it twice two weeks in a row. I used carrots and butternut squash because that’s what I had in hand, and loved the sweetness from the two vegetables against the other earthy flavors. What I also love about this dish was that I only assemble what Red and I would have at one meal; and leave the rest of the ingredients in the refrigerator for the next day. That way the vegetables or the corn tortilla don’t turn mushy. I have since then tried several other of his recipes-so be in the lookout for future posts of Rick’s delicious dishes. Happy eating!

Adapted from Fiesta at Rick’s

Ingredients
1 lb (6-8) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 medium white onion, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (2-3 serranos, 1 or 2 jalapenos), stemmed
1-1/2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for roasting the vegetables and brushing or spraying the tortillas
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth, plus a little extra if needed
1/2 cup Mexican crema (that’s what I used), creme fraiche, or heavy (whipping) cream
8 cups of cubed vegetables (1/2-inch cubes), such as chayote, carrots, white/red onions, small turnips, kohlrabi, mushrooms and peeled butternut squash
Salt
12 corn tortillas
2/3 cup shredded Mexican melting cheese, or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
A few sliced rounds of white onion, separated into rings, for garnish
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish

Directions
Sauce (The sauce can be made ahead, and then refrigerated until you’re ready to assemble the dish)

Roast the tomatillos, sliced onions, garlic and chiles on a rimmed baking sheet about 3-4 inches below the hot broiler. The tomatillos need to be soft and blotchy black on one side, about 4-5 minutes. Turn everything over and then roast the other side. After these are finished, turn oven down to 400 degrees.

Transfer all of the vegetables roasted into a blender or food processor, and blend into a smooth puree consistency. Heat 1-1/2 tbs of oil in a medium to large pot over medium high heat, and add all of the puree at once. Stir constantly for several minutes until darker and thicker, make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking. Add broth and crema, and reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.

Vegetable Filling

Spread all of the cubed vegetables into a single-layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Mix with your hands to make sure they are evenly coated. Stir regularly until carrots are crunchy, approximately 25-30 minutes.

Finishing

Once the sauce has thickened beyond the consistency of a cream soup, stir in a little bit more of the broth or water. Taste and season with salt (approximately 1 tsp). Lightly brush or spray both sides of corn tortillas with oil. Slide into a plastic bag and microwave on high for 1 minute to warm and soften (for easier rolling).

Smear a few tablespoons of the sauce over the bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish. Working quickly, fill each tortilla with about 1 cup of roasted vegetables. Line the rolled tortillas up on a baking dish, with seams side down. Douse with remaining sauce; sprinkle with cheese.

Bake until enchiladas are heated through (the cheese will begin to melt and brown), about 10 minutes. Garnish, and serve quickly. Best served right out of the oven.

Yield: 4-6 servings