Meat

Gluten-Free Chicken Fingers for Krissy’s Virtual “Baby Shower”!

Gluten-Free Chicken Fingers – Baby Shower and Kid Perfect!

Congratulations Krissy!

Krissy of Krissy’s Creations – photo by Jackie Wonders

This gorgeous mama-to-be is Krissy of the blog Krissy’s Creations. We met baking our way together with a small group of (incredible) bloggers through the Milk Bar cookbook we call Milk Bar Mondays. Together we’ve made some killer desserts, including Confetti Cookies, Apple Pie Layer Cake, Chocolate Chocolate Cookies and Carrot Cake Truffles. I’m always bowled over by Krissy’s creations. Seriously. Check out her Milk Bar Birthday Layer Cake. Her recipes are always featured in such gorgeous colors that befit how beautiful her blog is. She’s so inspiring – I’m wowed by her and can’t wait to see what yumminess will continue to come out of her kitchen.

But today’s a special occasion because a group of Krissy’s blogging friends are throwing her a virtual baby shower! She’s expecting her first child, baby Ezekiel, any day now! Check out her latest post at 36 weeks! The shower today is a surprise, so…

Surprise Krissy!

I’m so excited for you on this next stage of life!

Check out our virtual baby shower feast!

Audra of The Baker Chick | <Mini Salted Caramel Brownie Pies
Averie of Averie Cooks | Cinnamon Oatmeal Date Bars with Chocolate Ganache
Cassie of Bake Your Day | Red Bell Pepper &amp; Ranch Cheese Dip
Erin of Big Fat Baker | Blueberry Punch
Lauren of Keep It Sweet | Baby Blue Cake Pops From Scratch
Nicole of Sweet Peony Blog | Roasted Blueberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Don’t they all look just delicious?!?

Most of the bloggers brought a dessert to the table. I was totally on board with that. But then I started mulling on a few things…

…any kitchen-savvy mom should have a good chicken finger recipe under her belt…

…I make chicken fingers twice a week for the 13-year old in the family I work as a private cook for…

…I have yet to make myself a gluten-free chicken finger…

…adults like chicken fingers too…

…her husband is a professional baseball player… yup, makes me think of stadium food…

…Krissy loves Sex and the City. At Miranda’s baby shower, her one food request is fried chicken…

…(and, yes, I knew that without having to look it up or even think on it for more than ten seconds)…

Voilà!

I tried this version simply replacing regular Progresso bread crumbs that I use at work with a gluten-free bread crumb I found at the market. But a) not everyone can get them easily and b) they just didn’t kill it for me. I wanted a lighter, crispier crumb. So I found a gluten-free cracklebread that totally did the trick:

Light and airy, it pulsed to a good-sized crumb that didn’t dissolve when the egg-battered chicken was dredged in it, but it wasn’t so fine that it completely coated and crusted on the fry. I bought the tomato version simply because it was on sale. And gluten-free aint cheap.

Adding some basic Italian herbs to the crushed box (which resulted in the perfect amount of crumbs for 1.5lbs of chicken breast), I simply went through the basic steps I use at work and can now do, start-to-finish, in about 20 minutes: remove tenderloin from chicken breast, slice into “fingers”, dredge in (rice) flour, dunk in beaten egg, dredge in crumbs, fry on medium in canola or safflower oil, devour with ketchup and mustard. I originally made chicken cutlets for the kid this way, but was psyched when she bought the finger version – more chicken = more protein = less breading and oil.

So, perfect for a home-made replacement for fast-food chicken fingers, right? I so missed having these that I couldn’t help but snack as I shot. They will be gone by the time this post goes live.

So, congratulations, Krissy. I’m cheers-ing to baby Ezekiel with this kid-friendly classic. And while I hope he never has to deal with gluten intolerance issues, here’s a recipe to have on hand just in case you ever need it.

Gluten-Free Chicken Fingers

Makes about 16

Notes: You can substitute any light gluten-free cracker for this cracklebread – I recommend it over toasting and crumbing an actual bread. Play around with the spices as you see fit.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5lbs skinless chicken breast (there about… about 3 large breasts)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten together in a low, wide bowl
  • 1 cup of white rice flour, in a low, wide bowl
  • About 100g of a gluten-free cracker or cracklebread
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup (or so) pure canola or safflower oil (or another light oil)

Directions:

In a food processor, pulse cracklebread until it makes a small but not too-fine crumb. Place in a shallow, wide bowl and whisk in salt, basil, oregano and garlic.

Open the chicken breasts to expose the small tenderloin on the side. Slip a filet, boning or chef knife through this tissue to remove the tenderloin. Cut remaining breast into about 4 spears, following cut of meat for easiest shaping. Note: it takes time to get this quickly. Just go with it. It’s just chicken. Make it look like a finger. The size and shape of the chicken breast (often determined by the quality of the chicken) will give you a varied amount. What’s most important is to get the fingers as consistent in thickness as possible so that they cook evenly.

Pour oil into a medium pan (enough to fit 4-5 with space), about 3/4″ high. Put over a medium heat and heat until it just bubbles when you drop a droplet of water on it.

Dredge each chicken piece in rice flour, then egg, then crumb and place on a cookie sheet. (I find it’s easiest to do the flour and egg with one hand and then toss into the crumb with the other, to reduce caking on real human fingers and repeated hand-washing). Repeat with remaining chicken.

Cook each piece in bubbling oil for about 3-4 minutes a side. This will vary depending on how thick your pieces are and how hot the oil is. You want the oil on the low side of bubbling so that the chicken finger has enough time to cook through without getting too dark. Check for doneness by pressing with a spatula – if it’s firm or near to it, it’s done.

Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Yum!

Flat-bread pulsed into in a small crumb.

Chicken. Fingered.

My childhood given back to me at 31-years old.

Scallops with Bacon, Grapefruit and Pomegranate over Fancy-Pants Pasta and On Quiet in the Kitchen

Yesterday I got into the kitchen at work and didn’t put WNYC in my earbuds. I didn’t polish silver while watching Downtown Abbey on my iPad (yes, I sometimes do this at work). I didn’t let my phone shuffle my music.

I just cooked, and listened.

After a frantic summer of cooking in the Hamptons, where my days stretched for 14 hours and I had very little – if any – privacy, coming home to cook in New York City has been a gift. Waking up in my bed, doing yoga on my floor, taking Mitra for a long walk, and jumping on the subway to go to work has taken completely new significance.

The transitions are not going unnoticed.

On September 11th, part of my job was taking my boss’ cat across town to the dentist. Yes. The animal hospital was a block from where I lived my first year in NYC, straight out of college, back in 2003. Walking by it again I found my breath catch. On this beautiful, solemn day in the city I love so much, I was given the chance to reflect on my 9 years in NYC, who I am now versus then. Back then I was an actor hungry for the stage. I lived in that 10×30 apartment with three guy-friends from college. We loved it. We worked (sorta) hard and partied (maybe too much). We had fun. We’re still all good friends. How rich and full of love and hardship my time has been since then, now a calm and seasoned 31 New Yorker.

The transitions are not going unnoticed.

On Wednesday I got a heart-wrenching phone call from a favorite friend – the kind women want to push off as long as we can. The kind where you’re immediate reaction is, “we’re too young to be having this conversation!!!”. The kind where you cry, and pray, and carry about your day with a rock in your stomach and a flutter in your heart. We talked through it, we continue to talk through it, and we’ll deal with whatever comes of it. But we’re now at that age where these conversations happen.

The transitions are not going unnoticed.

I made a lot of food in the kitchen yesterday for the family I work for, and as all this reflection was bubbling away I really let myself listen to my movements and what they created: the sound of my knife slicing through parsnips; the sizzle of slab bacon; the rush of water going into the pasta pot; the click of the dishwasher; the clang of a plate on the marble counter.

I thought of my city, my dearest friend, the person I was almost ten years ago, the cook I am after a long summer in the Hamptons.

And I made this. It’s based on a recipe in the current issue of Food and Wine. It’s sweet and salty. It’s colorful. It pops in the pan. It brings a little fun into the kitchen as you teach the 13-yr old in the house the joy of opening a fresh pomegranate and finding the seeds hidden in the pockets of the coral-like fruit. It encourages several moments of praise from your boss. It’s comforting to make in a quiet kitchen when there’s a lot on your mind.

Scallops with Bacon, Grapefruit and Pomegranate over Squid Ink Spaghetti

Serves 2

Notes: I realize squid ink spaghetti is not easily found on a grocery store shelf. I was lucky to stumble upon it and snatched it up, as I love the deep color. When I recreated this dish for myself I used a gluten-free pasta from DeBoles I had around, and it was tasty. I would suggest, however, using as fresh a pasta as you can (find dried ones in specialty markets that take 3-4 minutes to cook) as they retain a bit of texture while weighted foods are placed upon them.

Ingredients:

8-10 large sea scallops
1-2 strips of slab bacon (depending on how salty / meaty you want the dish
1 large shallot, sliced thin
1 large grapefruit, peel and all white pith removed and split into segments
1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1/2 cup light and fruity white wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc or light Reisling
2 Tbsp caper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 Tbsp pomegranate seeds
Your choice of cooked pasta for two, al dente

Directions

Note: the scallops take about 15-20 minutes to cook, so prepare pasta accordingly.

In a large skillet, cook bacon on medium/high until crispy. Remove to a plate.

Season scallops with salt and pepper and sear on one side for 3 minutes. Flip and sear another minute. Add shallots and toss bacon fat, scallops and shallots together. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until scallops are cooked to your preference.

Remove scallops with slotted spoon to a plate or bowl.

Add grapefruit juice and wine and cook, scraping up browned bits, for about 2 minutes. Strain grit and onions, and return to pan. Add butter and capers and cook, shaking the pan to thicken the juices. Toss scallops back in with bacon and pomegranates, and shake the pan to coat completely.

Remove from heat. Add grapefruit segments.

Serve over pasta.

Sofrito Bean Soup – a Burwell General Store Recipe Swap

Sofrito Bean Soup

It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog.

Freelancing can be awesome – no crushing subway commute, the ability to cook my meals three times a day, and relative quiet to work in that my uptown neighborhood gives me.

But it also means constantly scrambling for work, juggling many projects at once and sometimes a feeling of isolation. Topping it off with a body that requires more time than I sometimes feel I have to give it, and the days start to run together without relief.

I admit to being a bit stressed, bloggereaders. But still content, overall.

Because there are days like today, when work and words and food and people come together.  It’s recipe swap time again, and the Burwell General Store swap was the first I joined, over a year ago now. Through it I’ve met and befriended some incredibly talented people, and joining monthly with our shared love of food has been one of my favorite things about this lil ol site.

This is this swap’s recipe:

I had been daydreaming making a condiment using this recipe as a base, but then a new book fell into my hands, Chef Seamus Mullen’s Hero Food. It comes out next week, and I was to review it for one client and interview Chef Mullen for my column on Serious Eats NY. The review fell through today, contributing to the slight melancholia. But I’m particularly psyched about interviewing Chef Mullen tomorrow because his beautiful book on primarily Spanish cuisine is based around the foods he, as someone living with rheumatoid arthritis, tries to incorporate into his diet as much as possible for optimum health.

I’m getting tested for RA soon, because while many things about my health are right back on track, I’m still losing cartilage in my joints and my white blood cell count is usually a bit higher than average. I’m not too concerned by what the diagnosis or lack of diagnosis will mean – I regulate what’s going on in my body rather tightly and am generally feeling in a good space. But I don’t want my knees and back to keep disintegrating, and want to continue to use my food as medicine. So the timing of this book in my life was, well, sweet.

I’m also generally trying to cut back on the pastry a tad, because I’m still very hypoglycemic and need to keep that in check. So, in continuing my desire for more balance in my life, I wanted to shy away from adding that much sugar to something savory.

The compromise for this swap was to use a tomato reduction as the base / condiment to something nourishing and fortifying, using some of what I’ve been reading in Hero Food as inspiration and the swap recipe as the core. The result is a dish that’s incredibly dynamic in flavor, emotionally comforting, and packed with little heroes to keep body and mind strong.

I highly recommend this recipe, both the sofrito to have on hand as a base for a braise or soup, and this soup in its entirety. And I recommend grabbing Chef Mullen’s book as soon as it comes out on the 24th: it’s not written like a “health book”. It’s an incredible collection of techniques and recipes from a seasoned chef that also happens to also fill you in on the health benefits of the heroic foods included. My interview with him will be up on Serious Eats NY that day.

And I recommend checking out the recipes from my fellow swappers by clicking on the little blue frog below. Knowing that there are such beautiful people out there is quite fortifying too.

– Happy swapping, Jacqueline xoxo

Small Lima beans, sofrito, greens, olive oil, pepper and sausage.

Sofrito Bean Soup

Sofrito is an incredibly rich reduction of onions, tomato, bell peppers and garlic, simmered to bring out the vegetables’ dynamic sweetness. You can make up a batch as a basis for soups, stocks, risottos… endless possibilities. I didn’t have as many onions on hand as is usual, but I wanted my base to be more focused on the tomato anyway, in keeping up with the spirit of the swap. Whip up a batch for the soup recipe, or just to freeze in small batches for added flavor to an abundant variety of dishes.

The more time the flavors have to meld with this soup, the better. Let it sit overnight when possible.

Sofrito

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 large onions, finely chopped (I used 3 Vidalia and one Spanish yellow)
  • 4 vine tomatoes, grated into a pulp (basically cut the tomatoes width-wise in half, then use a box grater to puree the pulp out of them, leaving the skins aside)
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted (I chop the bottom of the bulb off, then lay it cut side down in a ramekin of about 1 tbsp olive oil, then let it cook in the oven as I’m roasting vegetables or baking or something. It packs ridiculous flavor into recipes and I generally like to have it on hand. If you don’t, then just finely mince about 6-8 cloves of garlic)
  • 2 large bell peppers, finely chopped (I used one red and one orange)
  • a glug of white wine vinegar (about 2 Tbsp, red wine or cider would work too)
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes or preferred chili pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste

Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat. Bring the oil up to temperature and add the onions, sauteing gently until soft, about 5-8 minutes. Add the onion, grated tomato pulp, garlic and pepper, and cook on medium heat partially covered for at least two hours. During that time, stir occasionally and add salt, pepper and chili / red pepper flakes as desired.  When ready to use, stir in tomato paste and cook for 20 minutes more. Freeze in batches or use in the Sofrito Bean Soup, below.

Sofrito Bean Soup

I love using a pressure cooker for how much flavor get seeped into things like beans. I got mine at a Portuguese cooking supply store, but they’re pretty easy to find and wonderfully inexpensive. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, combine the ingredients in the same order below, just simmer on the stove until tender.

  • 2 cups dried lima beans, soaked very well for at least 24 hours and rinsed
  • 2 cups chicken or clear vegetable stock
  • 1 small Abruzzese sausage or chorico (about 4oz), sliced into thin rounds
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 cup sofrito
  • 1 handful greens (kale, mustard, or even a salad green like arugula)
  • Olive oil and red pepper flakes to taste

In a pressure cooker combine beans, stock, 1/2 of the sliced sausage and garlic cloves. Fit lid, and heat on high until it whistles. Lower to a simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes. Reduce pressure (either by releasing the steam valve or letting it come down naturally) and check on the beans; there should still be a little liquid left, but the beans should be incredibly soft. If they’re not, bring back up to heat and have another go for 10 or so minutes.

When soft and creamy, stir in the sofrito, combining gently. The beans should break down a bit and thicken the soup. Set the heat onto a simmer, and stir in the remaining sausage and greens, cooking for a few minutes just until they wilt.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of crushed red pepper.

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