Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Chive Sauce

One of my favorite comic strip memories is from the Far Side by Gary Larson showing a snapshot of the "boneless, skinless chicken farm"...all these chickens just flopped over.  Although I grew up with this particular cut of meat I have shunned it for a few years, only using it occasionally.  I mean, it is a pretty boring cut, you have to admit.  Usually overcooked, not a lot of flavor, and generally sliced on top of a "California" salad.

So I was curious when I found this recipe in Cooks Illustrated.  (By the way...I've recently discovered that recipes and fashion cannot be copyrighted)  The chicken breasts are first roasted in the oven at a low heat, warming them up to about 150 degrees.  Then they are brushed with a flavorful paste and pan-seared until they have a nice crust.  AND THEN THE SAUCE....

Oh, the sauce.  Saucing a dish is so very fancy, so Top Chef, so professional.  I fervently wish that I could just whip up various sauces without breaking my neck looking back and forth from recipe to dish.  The lemon-chive sauce recommended for the chicken is FANTASTIC (and easy)!!

I may just start liking chicken breasts again.

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Chive Sauce
(serves 4-6)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp kosher salt (1 tsp table salt)
1 TB veg oil
2 TB butter, melted
1 TB flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 recipe lemon-chive sauce (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Prick the thickest part of the breasts with a fork 5 to 6 times.  Sprinkle each with 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  Place chicken, skinned side down, in a 13x9 inch baking dish and cover tightly with foil.  Bake 30-40 minutes until breast is about 145 degrees.

2.  Remove the chicken from the dish to a paper towel lined plate.  Pat dry.  Heat oil in a 12 inch skillet over MH heat until almost smoking.  While pan is heating, whisk the butter, flour, cornstarch, and pepper together.  Lightly brush the top side of each breast with the mixture.  Place chicken in the skillet and cook 3-4 minutes.  Brush other side of breast with the butter mixture.  Flip the chicken over, reduce heat to Medium and brown the other side for 3-4 minutes.  Transfer to a large plate while preparing sauce.

Lemon-Chive Sauce

1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 TB)
1 tsp flour
1 c chicken broth
1 TB juice from 1 lemon
1 TB minced fresh chives
1 TB butter, chilled
Salt and pepper

1.  Add the shallot to the empty skillet.  Cook over Medium heat until soft (2 minutes).  Add the flour, stirring constantly about 30 seconds.  Add the broth, increase heat to MH, bring to a simmer and scrape off any brown bits from the bottom.  Simmer rapidly for 3-5 minutes reducing liquid to about 3/4 c.  Stir in any accumulated juices and cook another 30 seconds.

2.  Off heat, whisk in the lemon juice, chives, and butter, season to taste.  Spoon over the chicken and serve immediately.

It is not difficult...I served it with my bacon-leek cream corn (another recipe on this site...just use the search button).  While the chicken is roasting, there is plenty of time to make the rest of dinner and set the table.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Julie Jams is also an Artist

Hello friends,
  Along with being a food writer I am also an painter.  Please check out my website to view my portfolio.  If you are ever interested in a custom portrait just let me know.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dutch Baby

One of our favorite things to order at a nearby pancake joint is the made-to-order Dutch Baby. It's this eggy, souffle-ish thing that puffs way up in the oven and then deflates. The original is my favorite, served with powdered sugar sprinkled on top and lemon wedges squeezed over the surface.

It seems really fancy, but is actually simple to make. Much simpler than even scones or muffins or pancakes.

Of course, recipes vary, but here is a simple version of a fabulous breakfast dish. Make sure to turn on the oven light so you and your kids can enjoy the view on the Smellavision.

Dutch Baby

2 large eggs
1/2 c milk
1/2 c all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
2 TB butter
2 TB confectioners sugar
lemon wedges

1. Place a 10 inch skillet in the oven, then turn the oven on to 475 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until they are light in color and frothy. Add the milk and mix thoroughly. Slowly whisk in the flour and the salt. Let is sit until the oven is preheated.

3. Remove the skillet and reduce the oven temp to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in the skillet, swirling to evenly coat the pan. Pour in the egg batter and return the skillet to the oven.

4. Bake for about 12 minutes until the Dutch Baby is lightly browned. It is fun to watch it puff way up in the oven.

5. Remove from the oven and using a spatula or a knife, lightly slide the Dutch Baby onto a large plate or platter. Sprinkle copiously with the confectioners sugar and serve with lemon wedges. Yum.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Grilled Cheese Therapy

Every couple has some sort of ongoing, long-standing disagreement. Ours has to do with me thinking that I'm right about the "proper" way to make food. On all seafood matters, I happily defer to my husband who grew up eating so much seafood that I trust he knows what it should taste like.

However, on the slim chance that he's taking a risk and making something in the/my kitchen, I find it almost impossible not to hover about dispensing tidbits of advice or, at the very least, disapproving looks when things seem to be going awry. But there is a phrase he likes to deliver that usually makes me tuck tail and leave.

"Remember the cheese sandwich?"

See, early on in our now decade-long marriage we had a little run-in regarding the proper method to make a cheese sandwich. Funny thing is, I can't remember either one of our methods. But his was appallingly wrong and, of course, being so much more "schooled" in cooking know-how I pointed out how wrong his approach to the cheese sandwich was. His gentle response was that people can do things in different ways and that is okay. Um, okay.

Ten years later, thanks to one of my favorite publications (Cook's Illustrated), I can finally and with confidence be sure that there is a "right" way to make a grilled cheese sandwich.

You know the two main issues plaguing a good sandwich...either the outside is charred black while the inside is still solid, unmelted cheese --or-- the cheese is melted but the outside is a soggy mess. The secret? Read on...

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

2 slices of good quality bread (I was using that Innkeeper's Bread from Costco)
A good handful of grated cheese (Gouda is gooda, but choose something you like)

Heat the skillet to Medium Low. Place a piece of dry (unbuttered) bread in the skillet and top with a good lot of cheese. Warm the bread and cheese, checking to see that the bread is not browning much. Top with the other slice of bread and carefully flip to warm from the other side. The cheese should be starting to melt by now.

While the second side is warming, spread soft butter over the top slice. Turn the heat up to Medium. Flip the sandwich so that the buttered side is down. Cook until it is a nice golden color. Butter the second side and repeat.

Perfect ooey gooey cheese. Perfect toasted, crisp bread. Perfect for this freezing cold and wet spring.

Hey, I can admit when I'm wrong about something. Especially now that I know the real "right" way to do it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Scones that will keep you home

One of my all time favorite breakfast items (right now) are delicious fresh-baked scones. I first came across the recipe in Edible Seattle in an interview with the chef at Boat Street Cafe. The interviewer even suggested that these are really the only scones worth eating. That may be a little bit of a stretch having tasted good scones here and there (sorry, Starbucks, but I'm not talking about yours).

Many factors influence a good scone...freshness (for sure), good quality cream, and not overworking the dough to name a few.

I admit that I've had to rework the original recipe. For starters, I cut it in half. Not because I didn't want all those scones but because I found that I couldn't bake the full recipe at once with consistent results. I ended up with a lot of crowding and melting with the full recipe. Secondly, I took out the orange zest because it is just not my most favorite flavor. And lastly, I increased the baking time because I kept getting doughy scones. Perhaps that is because of my particular oven. You'll have to experiment a little to find the perfect combination for yourself.

Cream Scones

2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 c sugar (I fill my 1/4 c just over half full)
1 tsp baking powder
A good pinch of Kosher salt (less if using table salt)
1/4 c dried currants (soak them in water for a bit to rehydrate...or rum is really good, too)
1 1/2 c heavy cream (use a tiny bit less than this, add more if needed)

Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients with a whisk. Drain the currants and add to the flour mixture, combining until evenly distributed. Add the cream to the flour mixture. Bring together with a fork or sometimes I use a pastry cutter. Mix until the flour is moistened and then stop mixing. Over-mixing leads to tough scones. The dough is pretty wet and sticky. That's okay.

Get some flour on your hands, then dump your dough onto the parchment covered baking sheet. Push the dough together and pat into a six inch round. It will be fairly 1.5- 2 inches tall. I use a steak knife to cut the round into 8 pieces (like a pizza). Separate the pieces by at least 2 inches so they don't bake into each other.

Using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, brush a little cream onto each top, then sprinkle with some sugar. Bake 15-18 minutes, until they start to look a little golden. They will not get very brown. I tend to need 17-18 minutes in my oven, although the original recipe only called for 10-15 minutes.

You might have to experiment a few times to find the perfect temperature. Also, if you want to double the recipe, I recommend making the first batch, baking, and then making a second batch instead of simply doubling. But that's just my way.

Don't forget to serve with soft butter, honey, or jam. They are great with a cup of English Breakfast tea. To reheat, loosely wrap in foil and warm in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Now y'all can impress at the next brunch. I love these so much that I made my own Mother's Day breakfast. Who needs a hectic coffee shop when you can sit in your pj's at home and eat these?

And a little guilty admission from me...I normally do all my own photography, but this scone image was snagged from another site. However, they look just like the scones I make and I thought you'd like a visual. Please forgive!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

French Comfort Food Starts with "Boof"

A few years ago, I received a little gift in the mail from my college roommate, Julia. She'd seen this funny little green book with a title that just urged her to buy it. Can you guess?

The book is called "Julie & Julia". Of course, now it's a major motion picture starring little ol' Meryl Streep and the cutsie Amy Adams. I'll admit, I read the book way before I started blogging or even before I really knew what a food blog was. And I know like a billion people thought they could write a food blog after that everyone who's ever eaten has this witty wise writer lurking beneath the surface. I mean, I feel that way every time I read a book thinking, "There must be an amazing story somewhere in my brain. I could totally have written that book if I, like, wanted to."

Anyways, I liked the movie as a story of its own...not so sure about the choice of Amy Adams, though. As much as I like her, can't say I ever thought "Julie Powell" when considering her acting characteristics. While we were watching, my husband asked if I wanted Julia Child's cookbook, to which I said, "Not really." Don't get me wrong...Julia Child deserves praise as the godmother of the American cooking revolution, but I can't see myself making any aspics.

However, I am a huge beef stew fan...always trying new takes on the dish, whether it's the gravy style with potatoes that my dad adores, the Newcastle Brown Ale (ala Jamie Oliver) that my friend Kasey was so fond of, or my personal favorite...the red wine based dish. So, feeling veeery cliche, I googled "Julia Child beouf borggg.....(that goodness, Google finished that word)". Of course, even with my infinitely minimal knowledge of the French language I know how to pronounce it thanks to the popularity of the movie. It does make me feel quite refined to mouth the word "boof" like a proper Frenchie.

(Is there a way to make stew look good on "film"?)

So here I was facing a full day of's like a 6 hour preparation, you know. But I was excited! I mean, I love cooking and haven't gotten to do it much lately, hence the excitement. Call me a food nerd, but I just love prepping...cubing meat, slicing veg, heating oil, and making sure the meat gets very browned. Building flavors at the bottom of the Dutch oven is strangely exhilarating...okay, I'll move on now...

Like I said before, my personal favorite beef stew is a red-wine based concoction without potatoes (on the side is excellent, but in the stew is mushy). The main difference between what I've made in the past and Julia Child's version is the sheer quantity of wine used. I'm used to the main liquid begin beef stock (well, broth in my case), with like a cup of wine. But she uses 3 whole cups...and just so you're not bitterly disappointed when you make this recipe, 3 cups is a full 750 mL bottle of wine (so buy 2 bottles to make the meal as you'd anticipated to enjoy it).

Plus, she includes mushrooms and separately braised onions which were DIVINE! It calls for 20 small (pearl) onions. Of course, my favorite grocery store was out...something about cold storage and not looking too great. So I took a chance with 12 small white cippolini onions. Good move, let me tell you. They were so buttery and sweet. Wow...I'm still savoring their flavor and texture in my mind...again, I'll move on now... was an amazing dinner. Totally worth the umpteen hours of prep. The house smells amazing, too. Very good, very good. Well, it's not like I invented the dish, so how about a link to the particular recipe I borrowed? Ok, click here. Time to pass out from cooking satisfaction now.

(You know a pot that looks like this after cooking produced something good.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spinach Ricotta Manicotti

An excellent vegetarian manicotti perfect for Meatless Monday or Tofu Tuesday or whatever night you take off from eating animals. Sorry, but totally not vegan for Way-Out-There Wednesday.

Spinach Ricotta Manicotti

2 c shredded mozzarella
1 carton (12 oz or so) ricotta cheese
1 (10 oz) package frozen spinach, thawed a bit
1/4 c fresh grated parmesan
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 package of manicotti shells (14 pieces)
1 jar pasta sauce (26 oz)
1 c water

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Spray a 9x13 inch pan. Fill with half of the pasta sauce.
3. Combine 1 1/2 c mozzarella, ricotta, spinach, parmesan, oregano, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Spoon into shells, filling them completely.
4. Place the filled shells into the pan and cover with the remaining pasta sauce and the water. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 c mozzarella cheese.
5. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving (or it will be soupy).
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