Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cook's Illustrated Pan-Seared Chicken Breast Technique

The March/April issue of Cook's Illustrated featured an article on a new way to cook chicken breasts. 

To achieve juicy pan-seared chicken breasts that weren't leathery on the outside and that didn't need any advance prep work prior to cooking, the author salted and par-cooked chicken breasts in a covered pan in the oven and then brushed the breasts with a butter-flour-cornstarch slurry and pan-seared them.

In other words, he reversed the technique, which is to pan sear first and then finish off in the oven.

The verdict? The chicken was moist and the slurry created an appealing browned crust.

Since I had asparagus on hand, I sauted them with some garlic and made a marsala sauce and linguine to accompany the chicken.

My husband got the no-carb dinner, as he's an Atkins kind of guy.

This chicken would work with any kind of sauce, such as dried cherry and apple sauce, garlic, butter and white wine sauce, etc. Whatever floats your boat!

Cook's Illustrated Pan-Seared Chicken Breast Technique
(in my own words and with my own variations)

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6-8 oz. each), trimmed of excess fat
Kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. per breast

Cornstarch and watter slurry (whisk 1 tbs. cornstarch and enough water together to make a loose paste; increase if you have more than 4 chicken breasts)
2 tbs. butter, melted
1 tbs. flour
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Your favorite pan sauce or bottled sauce

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Place breasts on a piece of aluminum foil on a cookie tray or baking dish. The foil should be big enough to wrap over and full enclose the breasts (this is for easy clean up).

Poke each breast with a fork 5-6 times, and sprinkle each breast with 1/2 tsp of kosher salt. This will act like a mini-brine.

Cover the breasts with foil, so they are enclosed. Place on middle rack in the oven and bake 30-40 minutes, or until they're 145-150 degrees inside. (I cooked my chicken breasts 30 minutes).

Remove chicken from oven. Open foil and move chicken onto paper towels. Pat dry. Any juice that's in the foil can be used for a pan sauce if you're making one.

Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-hight heat until hot. Add 1-2 tbs. of oil. Make slurry and brush 1/2 on the top of chicken breasts.

Place chicken, slurry side down, and brown for 3-4 minutes. While that side is browning, brush the remaining slurry on the other side.

Flip chicken with tongs when browned and brown the other side for 3-4 minutes, or until the chicken is 160 degrees internally.

Transfer chicken to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. You can make a pan sauce now, use a prepared sauce, or serve as is.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy 1st Year Blogversary to BBB and Shrimp Etouffee for Mardi Gras

A year ago this month I launched Big, Bold, Beautiful Food.

What started as a new year's resolution to achieve work-life balance and cook more for my family has been so much more than I expected. I've made many new friends, been wowed by all the great cooking going on in the blog world, and have had hours of fun cooking and writing about my life through the lens of food.

To those of you who read and comment on my blog, thank you. You enrich and nourish me. As many bloggers will tell you, we live for the comments!

To my friends and family whom I write about, thank you. I am blessed to know you.

Since today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I am celebrating my blog's birthday with shrimp etouffee.

The first time I had etouffee was at the Louisiana Community Bar & Grill on Broadway near Houston in New York City in the early 1990s. At that time the Food Network was a fledging network on from 11 pm to 2 am in the morning, Emeril was the inexperienced, stuttering, and thin tv host of How to Boil Water, and dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and etouffee were unknown to the majority of the country.

I ordered the crawfish etouffee, not knowing what to expect, and I was blown away by its spicy, bold flavors. I fell in love.

My friend Rob did too. I met his girlfriend Claire that night for the first time. Now she and Rob have been married for 14 years and have four awesome kids.

He got a family. I got etouffee. Sounds like a successful night all around.

Cook's Notes:

1) For etouffee you make a Cajun roux. A roux is equal parts flour and oil/butter (or a little more oil than 1/2) cooked together and used to thicken gravies and sauces. The difference with a Cajun roux is that you brown the flour until it's as dark as peanut butter or even darker (about a 7-minute roux), which achieves a nutty, browned flavor. Or if you have time, you can cook it even longer, up to 30-40 minutes for a roux the color of dark brick, which will have more flavor and color. As you brown the flour, it loses some of its thickening power, which is fine.

I usually will make a roux of 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup oil with two cups of liquid as my standard ratio. For etouffee, you can use shrimp stock, diluted clam juice (1/2 clam juice, 1/2 water), and/or beer for the liquid. In the recipe below, I simmered the shrimp shells with beer and water.

There are several rules of thumb when making Cajun roux. 1) Don't leave your roux unattended. Stir constantly so it doesn't burn. If it burns, it will have black flecks in it, and you have to throw it out and start over. 2) Be careful not to burn yourself with what's called "Cajun napalm." The stuff is hot. 3) Be patient. You could be there stirring for quite awhile.

Experienced Cajun roux makers heat the the oil/butter mixture over high heat until it's almost at its smoking point and whisk in the flour, stirring over high heat until it's where they want. If you're afraid you can't handle the roux over high heat, turn the heat down to medium or medium-high. It may take longer, but you'll get there eventually.

(Note: To avoid the stirring and possible burning of the roux, Alton Brown mixes his roux paste in a dutch oven and then sticks it into a 450-degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes until it reaches a dark brick color. This would take 30-40 minutes on the stove with frequent sstirring.)

2) When the roux is the color you want, add your vegetables, which is the Cajun mirepoix of diced onions, celery, and green bell pepper (vs. the French mirepoix of onions, celery, and carrots). The veggies will cool down the roux and then you will cook the veggies until they are translucent.

3) When the veggies are cooked, you can add your liquid slowly and Cajun seasoning until it makes a sauce. Simmer down to concentrate the flavors and then add the shrimp which will cook quickly.

Shrimp Etouffee

For printable recipe, click here.

1-1/2 lb. large shrimp with shells (if you don't have shrimp with shells, buy a bottle of clam juice)
1 bottle Dos Equis

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced

2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. oil
1/4 cup flour

1 can Rotel tomatoes
2 bay leaves

1 tbs.+ Penzey's Cajun Seasoning (or Prudhomme's or Emeril's Bayou Blast)
Kosher Salt

Sliced scallions for garnish
Fresh parsley for garnish

Peel shrimp and add shrimp shells to a small/medium saucepan and shrimp in a bowl. Toss shrimp with cajun seasoning and put the bowl in the fridge.

Add bottle of Dos Equis and 1/2 cup of water to shrimp shells in saucepan. Set to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. When done, strain out shrimp shells for about 2 cups of liquid. If you don't have shrimp shells, you can set aside 1 cup clam juice and 1 cup dos Equis for your liquid at this point.

Put garlic, celery, onion, and bell pepper in a bowl and set next to the stove. Have flour, a whisk and wooden spoon next to the stove too.

In a large saucepan or medium-sized dutch oven, heat oil and butter over high heat until almost smoking. Add flour and whisk until incorporated, turning down heat to medium if you're worried about burning the roux. Keep stirring for 5-7 minutes until the roux has become the color of peanut butter or darker. Do not leave the roux unattended at any time and keep stirring.

When the roux is the desired color, add the vegetables and cook for about ten minutes or until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally. Halfway into cooking the vegetables, add some salt and 2 tsp. of cajun seasoning to the vegetable-roux mixture.

When the vegetables are cooked, add the tomatoes and stir to incorporate. Add 2 cups of liquid to the roux, 1/4 cup at a time so that the sauce does not become lumpy. Add 2 bay leaves. Cook at a simmer for 30 minutes or until at desired consistency (from stew-like to soupy) and then add shrimp. If it's too thick, you can always add water; if too thin, continue cooking down before you add the shrimp.

When shrimp is cooked -- around 5-7 minutes -- the etouffee is ready to serve. Sprinkle with parsley and scallions and serve with rice.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Barcelona's Mushrooms with Herbed Goat Cheese

A few months ago my friend Andy Pforzheimer gave me a copy of his restaurant cookbook, the Barcelona Cookbook. I love eating at Barcelona Wine Bar -- I've tried almost 75% of their tapas by now -- but I also like making his tapas at home.

Tonight I decided to serve his wild mushrooms with herbed goat cheese. It was easy and delicious, particularly with a few short cuts. For example, I bought herbed goat cheese instead of making it. I also used whatever mushrooms I could conveniently find at the grocery store.

One of the best things about this dish was that I could make it in advance and then throw it into the microwave to warm it up. It made entertaining very stress-free.

If you'd like to find out about or buy this wonderful cookbook, more information can be found at the book's website or Amazon. What a great gift to give for Valentine's Day!

Note: I found this recipe already typed out at Leite's Culnaria, so I'd like to credit the blog here and thank them for saving me a lot of work.

ChampiƱones Salvajes con Queso de Hierbas

by Sasa Mahr-Batuz and Andy Pforzheimer with Mary Goodbody
from The Barcelona Cookbook
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2009)
Serves 4

This is a flavor combination that Andy has always liked—wild mushrooms and balsamic vinegar. It’s the way he used to prepare them at Stars in San Francisco, where they also used goat cheese as a counterpoint. At Barcelona, our original recipe used a piece of French goat cheese, but now we use an garlicky herbed goat cheese mixture, which melts much better and more evenly. This dish perks up quickly in the microwave, so it’s a great last-minute piece of a meal

convert Ingredients
For the herbed cheese
Two 8-ounce logs goat cheese, at room temperature
1/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
Leaves from 6 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
Leaves from 3 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
1/4 bunch fresh chives, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the wild mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
10 ounces oyster mushrooms or other forest mushrooms, torn into 1/4-inch pieces
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, all but 1/4 inch of stems removed, sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups veal stock
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

Prepare the herbed cheese
1. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and set on medium speed, mix together the goat cheese, cream cheese, thyme, parsley, rosemary, chives, and garlic for about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper and beat for 2 to 3 minutes longer or very well blended.

2. Spread a sheet of plastic wrap about 12 inches long on a work surface. Spread about half of the herbed cheese along the bottom third of the plastic wrap, leaving 1 inch on each end. Roll the plastic wrap around the cheese to make a log approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Twist the clean ends of the plastic wrap closed. Repeat with the rest of the cheese to make another log. Refrigerate the logs for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

Prepare the wild mushrooms
1. In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat. Add a third of each of the wild mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the mushrooms develop a golden crust. At this point, lift the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Add more oil and cook the next batch of mushrooms. Repeat with the rest of the mushrooms and oil.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallots to the pan. Return the mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 7 minutes or until the shallots are translucent.

3. Add the stock, vinegar, and thyme leaves, increase the heat to high, and simmer rapidly for 9 to 10 minutes, or until the liquid reduces to about 1/2 cup. The mushrooms should be juicy but without much extra sauce.

4. Remove the cheese logs from the refrigerator and slice into rounds about 3/4 inch thick. (This is very easy to do with dental floss.) Reserve any extra for another use.

5. Put about 1 cup of the wild mushroom mixture into each of 4 microwave-safe serving bowls. Top each serving with 1 or 2 rounds of herbed cheese. Microwave for about 1 minute, or until the cheese softens and the mushrooms are piping hot. Serve immediately.

Closet Cooking's Reuben Dip

Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday, and I knew the perfect dish to make: Closet Cooking's Reuben Dip.

The dip was delicious, creamy and filled with corned beef, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut. A definite winner!

I doubled Kevin's recipe, and good thing I did, because it was gone in the blink of an eye.

Reuben Dip
(makes 2 servings)
Printable Recipe

1/2 cup corned beef (diced)
1/4 cup sauerkraut (squeezed and drained)
1/4 cup Swiss cheese (shredded)
4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon horseradish (or mustard)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Mix everything in a large bowl.
2. Pour the mixture into a baking dish.
3. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until bubbling on the sides and golden brown on top, about 20 minutes.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Super Bowl Recipe Roundup

Since the Super Bowl is just around the corner, here are my collection of Super-Bowl worthy recipes. Good luck to both teams!



Note: One reader pointed out that this was not a very appetizing picture, and I agree. This was one of the first recipes I posted, and I was new to photography. Photo aside, I confirm that the recipe is great.








Pork Spareribs after four hours on the Big Green Egg