Friday, January 25, 2013

Fish Tacos and Clams With Black Bean Sauce

I suddenly craved clams! Must find clams to cook...And, in my head, I tasted my clams with black bean sauce. My actual clams didn't turn out like the one's I've had at Chinese restaurants, but these were definitely tasty. I basically started with a little bit of oil and some slivers of ginger. I added some Chinese sausage coins. Next, my clams with about 1/4 cup of rice wine, and a teaspoon of Lee Kum Kee brand black bean garlic sauce. Cover and steam. Five, maybe six minutes later...
Oh yeah, there was some Chinese celery in there, too. Not sure I needed it, but it didn't hurt things. I may have liked a little bit of pepper flakes, or even just white pepper, for a little kick. Such nice flavor, though.

Along with this, we had fish tacos...sort of. I cooked up a pound of true cod. The pieces were super thin and delicate, so I just gently cooked them with a touch of oil in a nonstick pan. There was no color on the fish, no crust, just cooked with a little salt. I served this with flour tortillas and a little "Asian slaw."
Red cabbage, carrots, shallots, cilantro, toasted sesame seeds, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, salt, and white pepper.

And, yaki soba noodles! I doctored up the stuff you get in a package that comes with a dry sauce you sprinkle over. I added carrots, Chinese sausage, and some of that Chinese celery. Pretty simple.

Tyler ate three portions of half tortilla with fish inside. Yes, basically 1.5 tortillas and some plain white fish. He also had some noodles. Vincent ate a tiny bit of fish, just as much tortillas, and mostly noodles.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chicken Parmesan

On a whim, I decided to make Chicken Parmesan for the first time today. I found a recipe from Simply Recipes to use as a guide. I basically followed the steps, but kind of winged it with the ingredients. And, since I didn't have enough onions in the house to make the sauce (I used my last 1/2 onion for a stock), I just went to the store and bought a tomato sauce. BTW, it was Newman's Own, Tomato Basil, and it was great.

Here's my end result, served with whole wheat spaghetti noodles.
Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. I quite enjoyed it, as did husband. The kids were so so. 

Now, here's the recipe I used as a guide:

Chicken Parmesan Recipe
Ingredients Sauce:
  • 1/2 large yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes (we use Muir-Glen)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 4 chicken breast cutlets (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • Salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (we make our breadcrumbs running pieces of stale French bread through a blender)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced


1 Prepare the sauce. Coarsely grate half of an onion. Grating the onion will create smaller onion pieces and release more of the onion's juices, and is faster than chopping. Heat olive oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the minced garlic. Cook until fragrant, about a minute more. Then add the tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, and sugar. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to maintain the simmer. Cook, uncovered while you prepare the chicken (about 10-12 minutes).
2 Preheat oven to 400°F. Working one at a time, place a chicken cutlet between two layers of wax paper (or plastic wrap). With a meat pounder, pound the chicken pieces to flatten them to an even thickness - between 1/4 - 1/2 inch. (If you don't have a meat pounder, you can use a rubber mallet, an empty wine bottle, or a heavy rolling pin.) Salt the chicken pieces well.

3 In a shallow bowl (large enough to dredge the cutlets), mix together the breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, and pinch of salt. In separate shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs.
4 Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. The oil should be shimmering, not smoking. Dredge the chicken pieces 1 piece at a time first in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs. Then lay the pieces in the hot sauté pan. Turn the heat to medium, then gently fry the cutlets until they are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side.
5 Spread enough tomato sauce to thickly coat the bottom of 9x13 casserole pan or baking dish. Once the cutlets are browned on both sides, arrange them on top of the tomato sauce in the baking dish. Place sauce over each of the cutlets. Sprinkle the tops with sliced basil. Then top the cutlets with slices of mozzarella and the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.
6 Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the mozzarella begins to brown.
Serve with spaghetti and the remaining sauce, or in a large roll.
Yield: Serves 4.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cookin' & Not Much Reportin'

Since Sunday, I believe I have cooked dinner at home every night this week. Whew! I remember a few years ago telling my brother-in-law about my 30-day dinner challenge, and he was kind of surprised by this, since he and his wife cook just about every single meal at home. They live in a small mountain town in North Carolina, so it's part of their lifestyle. I felt so spoiled. I guess, I still do. My mom cooked just about every night growing up. The only times she didn't cook was if there was some event to go to, which was pretty rare. So, yeah, I'm spoiled. But, one day, I think my kids will be saying something about how much I cooked at home for them...maybe.

Anyway, I cooked a lot in the past week. Here's what I made:

Sunday - chicken Marsala with whole wheat penne, sauteed kale
Monday - French dip sliders. I can't remember what vegetable we had! I think maybe there was a butternut squash soup...
Tuesday - Ooh, this was good...David grilled tri-tip steaks on the barbie, since it didn't rain! Served with roasted Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes. I almost made a chimmichuri sauce, but ran out time.
Wednesday - chicken noodle soup (see previous post)
Thursday - ramen noodle soup with broiled steaks, marinated with Asian-flavors (soy, sesame, ginger, garlic)
Friday - leftovers night. Okay, I didn't really cook this meal. I reheated leftover Thai from lunch yesterday, cooked whole wheat spaghetti noodles, and reheated some bolognese sauce, which I stretched with some extra tomatoes. Vincent actually ate very well, even though he only took about a tablespoon of sauce.

Tonight, as per Vincent's request, I'm going to make breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, bacon, sausage (because the boys disagreed on the meat), and maybe eggs. Protein-packed!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chicken Orzo Soup

aka: Chicken Noodle Soup

The chicken stock I made the other day got turned into two different soups. The first, veggie pho, for friends who just had their first baby. I used this pho spice packet, in addition to adding fish sauce. I boiled off some rice noodles for them, julienned a couple vegetables (carrots and broccoli stems - it's all I had on hand for a last minute meal), and gave them a package of Trader Joe's teriyaki flavored tofu. I put this all in a "kit" for them to cook up at home.

The remainder of the chicken stock got made into traditional chicken noodle soup. I actually had 3 chicken breast, still on the bone, that I used broke down for chicken Marsala Sunday night. I added the bones to the stock with some vegetable trimmings and simmered for an hour or so yesterday. I also set aside about 3-ounces of chicken that I cooked for the 'Marsala', to add to my soup. 

**Here's a quick little Amazon Fresh tip: when buying Mary's Organic chicken breasts, go for the 12-ounce 'split bone-in breast' over the boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You only get one, and you have to take the time to de-bone it, but it's more cost effective. You do waste the skin. Although, if you are so inclined, you can make crackling out of it. I buy two of those, versus the package with two breast, for less money and I get to use the bones for broth. In this case, I enhanced a stock I already had, rather than make more, but the result was a super tasty soup.

Carrots, celery, shallots (I ran out of onion), and garlic, sweated. White wine, deglaze and reduce. Add chicken stock, a sprig of fresh thyme, bring to a boil. Add diced, cooked chicken and pasta of choice. I used orzo, which I cooked first, but I don't think it was necessary. I par-cooked it because I thought my broth would get too cloudy from the pasta starch. I don't know. Maybe it was unnecessary.

We didn't eat the soup until tonight because I thought maybe letting it sit overnight would intensify the flavor. It was still pretty darn good yesterday, though. And, tonight...totally hit the spot for this chilly, low 40s, winter day.

Hipster Cookies

Tyler and I made these cookies today:

Ours did not look quite as scrumptious, but it could be because we didn't use all the different types of "chips" it called for. I only had semi-sweet morsels on hand, and I wasn't about to purchase a whole bunch of others to tempt me to snack on them. Nonetheless, they are yum.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Look What I Got

David got me my first Le Creuset cast iron pan for Christmas. It's 6 3/4 quarts, wide, and shallow. LOVE IT! Last night, I made chicken marsala in it. A big batch of it. No problem!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chicken Stock

My friends at Blue Valley Meats in Walla Walla offer frozen chicken soup bones for sale. Awesome, right? The thing I love most about these guys is that I know they're good. Truly. I've worked with a couple of the owners first hand for a couple of years, in two different kitchens. They are knowledgeable, passionate, and picky about food. Picky is important, in my eyes. 
Anyway, I ordered chicken bones from them over the summer, and this week, I dug them out of the freezer, as it's BIG TIME soup season in the Pacific Northwest. 
Before I could make my stock, I had to thaw the bones. In the couple days of waiting, I stumbled upon some freshly butchered chicken carcasses at Uwajimaya yesterday. Now, these chix probably weren't raised as well as the ones Blue Valley have, but the stuff at Waji's usually is pretty decent. And, they cost 1/3 of the price, and weren't frozen. If I'm going to make a pot of stock, why not make a bigger batch?
And, now, I'm making chicken stock.
I've just pulled the carcasses out of the oven. I roasted them at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. They didn't look as golden brown as I'd like, so I turned up the heat to 425 F, and let them go another 10-15 minutes. Here's the part I'm not sure of. Do I scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan or not? I've seen some chefs do it, others don't like it because it gets up too much impurities. In my case today, I'm skipping, as I opted to line the bottom of my pan with foil (easier cleaning), and it doesn't look like it'll be easy to scrape. But, overall, I think I'm in the school of thought of NOT scraping. Right or wrong, I'm not positive. Comments/thoughts?
I have about 4 pounds of bones. If my memory serves me correctly, it's about a 80/20 ratio of chicken:mirepoix for stock. I have about 10 ounces of it. I'd do a bit more, but I forgot to buy an onion yesterday. Typically, you'd want half onion/leek, a quarter carrots, and a quarter celery. I'm about 1/3 each. I also have 2 bay leaves, several small cloves of garlic and a small bunch of fresh thyme.
My bones have cooled, and now I'm ready to make my stock. 
Cover the bones with enough cold water to come up 2 inches above the top of the bones. I have an 8-quart stock pot, which the bones come up about halfway. Set this on the stove, turn the burner on to high, allow to come to a gentle boil. Immediately, drop the heat to a low simmer. Do not let it become a rolling boil, nor let it boil very long, as this will stir up the impurities and cloud your stock. Scrape off any "scum" that comes up to the top of the water, and add your mirepoix and aromatics. Now, let it simmer for as long as you can stand to wait. No, seriously, ideally, you'd let it go 8-12 hours, to really extract the flavors and richness from the bones. I had mine going until 9pm, about 6 hours. I didn't want to be putting it away at midnight. It was flavorful and lovely, but not super rich, as in gelatinous. I'm sure there will be no "jiggle" it when it's cooled. That could just be due to the part of the chicken I used. Nonetheless, there will be delicious soup had with this stock, I'm sure.
Oh yeah, strain through a fine sieve, if you have one, and cool. I used a coffee filter to help me strain. I strained the stock into a pot in an ice bath, then transferred to a shallow dish in the fridge to finish cooling. You want to make sure it cools within 2 hours for safety purposes.

Pork Ramen & Cumin Roasted Cauliflower With Pomegranate Seeds

Tuesday, January 8, 2013