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.

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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.

Gluten-Free Pastry Puff Party!

photo Brent Herrig

I’ve been obsessed with a gluten-free cream puff recipe.

Having gone without gluten for almost twenty years (minus the occasional succumbing to a bowl of homemade pasta passed to me or the gloriousness of a chewy piece of bread on my family’s island in Portugal just last week), delicate, precious things like filled pastry puffs had long been far from my food thoughts.

But when I sourced a bakery for gluten-free Easy Eats magazine’s Sweet Surprise column in our most recent issue, those thoughts shifted.  As I assisted the food stylist on the shoot I fell enamored of the smooth, thick dough that puffed into crackly rounds.  I was amazed by how such seemingly simple ingredients and a rather quick process could make something so delightful.

So my proposal for FoodBuzz’s 24×24 dinner party – where 24 bloggers from around the world host and post on the same day – quickly centered around the thought: how much can I play with this in one meal?  The owner of the bakery and creator of the recipe, Geri Peacock, had mentioned that, growing up as a child, her mother and grandmother filled the shells with things both savory and sweet.  It was a bit of her heritage that she had adapted for the gluten-free community years later.

So I rounded up some friends, checked in about their dietary issues and cultural backgrounds, and set them in the living room with some cocktails and a really random mix of music, and got to stuffing.

The pastry recipe is below, with my thoughts about how to make each batch spot on.  Click on the images for links to the other recipes.

And please check out Easy Eats magazine for the original recipe and other beautiful gluten-free recipes, lifestyle tips and stunning photos – and my most recent feature of five gluten free pasta recipes! Oh, and coming out in May, my feature of six top-notch chefs give us their own food thoughts and easy-to-execute classic recipes made gluten free (two of the chefs even put gluten-free options on their menus after!).

Oh, and mucho thanks to my photographer, Brent Herrig, for plating and snapping away.  All images are his.

Brent Herrig © 2012

Gluten-Free Pastry Puffs

Makes about 36 puffs, depending on size

The original pastry recipe took a teeny tiny bit of playing with – things like the position of the oven rack and sheets used made a huge difference in how one sheet would either rise and become too thin or remain deliciously eggy but too dense.  Luckily they are rather quick to whip up, and once you get the hang of it you can start swapping flours and fats with relative ease.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, Earth Balance or lard
  • 2 cups Cherbourg Bakery flour blend
  • 8 large eggs, at room temperature
  • dash of salt

Method:

Heat oven to 400° with rack in the center / one notch down from center.  Line 3 baking sheets with Silpat (the original recipe says ungreased cookie sheets but mine continually stuck that way – could be my ancient oven).

In a small pot on high heat, bring the water and butter (once it’s melted) to a full boil.  Lower the heat, add the flour all at once, and mix thoroughly, using a combination of smearing together and folding to completely incorporate the flour into the liquid.  Cook until a smooth ball forms.  Immediately transfer to a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat in eggs one at a time, starting on a low setting then raising to incorporate.  About halfway through, beat until smooth, and then continue with the rest of the eggs.  Once all are in, beat for about one minute on medium-high speed.

Drop on sheets in smooth lumps, about one tablespoon for smaller puffs (what I used for dessert) and twice the size for larger ones.  Bake one at a time for 30 minutes (I was lucky to use a neighbor’s oven as well).  Once you put the puffs in, don’t open the oven for a good 25 minutes to check – they need the heat to rise properly.  Cool for a few minutes before removing to cooling rack.

Depending on the sturdiness of the puffs, I cut out small tops and filled them or sliced them in half and used them in a slider-type of way.  As they’re light, eggy and rather flavor-neutral, they worked well with strong savory and sweet flavors equally.

Puff Pastry Party Menu

Piri Shrimp

This is the one dish for which I’m not posting a recipe, because I totally cheated and just threw 1 pound of ethically caught shrimp (as in not from Thailand and labeled with certain standards) with 1 bottle of Very Peri Mild (I was sent some to test out and it’s quite delightful).  I marinated it overnight and then threw them in a hot pan with the juice of one fresh lemon.  YUM!

Lamb Stew

Garden Chicken Salad

Jerusalem Artichoke and Kohlrabi

Mini Banana Split with Dairy-Free Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mini Strawberry Shortcakes with Dairy-Free Liquid Cheesecake


Garden Chicken Salad

Brent Herrig © 2012

I never think to make my own chicken salad, which is super silly because a fresh chicken salad – absent of mayo (though I love it) and teeming with bits of crisp, fresh veggies – is a ridiculously versatile little dish.  And for my FoodBuzz Gluten Free Puff Pastry party, I knew I had to have something springlike and comforting.

For this one I loaded it up with lots of fun things I had on hand and a poppyseed dressing I adore, along with some tart goat milk yogurt.  The combination of flavors, colors and textures, popped in to the little puff pastries, was a huge hit.

Click here for the gluten-free puff pastry recipe.

Brent Herrig © 2012

Garden Chicken Salad

Serves 4 as a main, or 12 appetizer portions

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • water, chicken stock and white wine (whatever your preference)
  • 1/2 cup Brianna’s Poppyseed dressing
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used goat milk yogurt)
  • 3/4 cup cooked green peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tbsp dried cranberries
  • 1 Tbsp poppyseeds
  • 1/2 recipe gluten-free puff pastry

Method:

Poach the chicken: place the 3 breasts in a medium stockpot.  Cover with water, stock or wine (or a combination of all three, whichever’s your preference).  Add rosemary, about 1/2 tsp kosher salt and a few healthy grinds of pepper.  Bring liquid to a simmer, then cover and remove from heat.  Let sit until the inside of the chicken comes to 160°, about 15 minutes.  Cool completely (or chill overnight), then cube or shred chicken.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients but sunflower seeds, cranberries and poppyseeds.  Mix well, cover, and let chill overnight if possible.  Just before serving, fold in seeds and berries. Sprinkle with poppyseeds.

Lamb Stew

I’m a rustic cook, leaning towards the comfort foods of my Portuguese and Irish / Italian roots, all of which focus on simple flavor combinations and fresh ingredients.  Lamb is one of my favorite meats to stew when cut well, and as I missed my beloved St. Patrick’s Day (I was in Portugal working on a few pieces where the celebrations don’t really exist), I was ready to throw this together for my FoodBuzz Gluten-Free Puff Pastry Party.

This recipe – like all stew recipes – is endlessly adaptable.  I didn’t include some ingredients that my diners couldn’t eat, substituting with what was at hand, fresh and affordable.  Don’t be afraid to add in other herbs or veggies that tingle your tastebuds.  And for a bit more formal of a dish, serve in these teeny tiny puff pastries for a hearty appetizer or in a bread bowl for a twist on the classic New England.

Lamb Stew

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Serves 3 as a meal, or 12 appetizer portions

When making for puff pastries, make sure to chop / dice your ingredients to a smaller scale, about 1/2 inch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lamb in small stew pieces (fry with paper towels to make sure there’s no excess moisture)
  • 1 large red onion, chopped fine
  • 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 small carrots, chopped
  • 5 small Yukon gold or red potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • 4 sprigs rosemary, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 cup dark red wine plus more to taste
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 1/4 cup cider or white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • The most dynamic blend of peppercorns you have, to taste
  • 1/2 recipe gluten-free puff pastry

Directions

Preheat oven to 300°.

In a medium oven-friendly, heavy-bottomed pot (my Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart dutch oven is a kitchen VIP), heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic, and saute until soft, about 6 minutes. 

Meanwhile, sprinkle both sides of meat with salt and pepper.  Add to pot, and brown on each side.  Turn heat to high, and add the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then put into oven. 

Cook until the meat is tender and the vegetables are soft, 1-2 hours as desired (you can keep the stew in the oven and it will continue to cook slowly, tenderizing the meat even more). 

The stew tastes better the second day, when you can bring it up to heat and adjust flavors as desired.

The Basics for Perfectly Cooked Chicken and the Bon Appetite / HSN Launch

All it takes is a few simple steps and one awesome sautee pan...

I’m not shy about the equipment that I love.  I’ve practically written sonnets to my Le Creuset 6-quart Dutch oven.  I sing along with my 8″ Hammer Stahl chef knife.  I swear by industrial baking sheets and Emile Henry bakeware.

But I can type so freely about those items because I’ve purchased them.

So, full disclosure, I was invited to the HSN launch of the new line of Bon Appetite Collection cookware, and walked away with a 10″ fry pan, a belly full of delicious food and some info on their entire new line.  I wouldn’t be blogging about it were I not completely comfortable in saying that I am impressed and am now a fan.

Yep, it's all in the details people.

At the launch Chef Ryan Scott walked through some of his favorite things about the line which I took into appreciation when making this dish.  Two layers of steel wrap around a core of aluminum, providing incredibly even heat to the entire pan, even with my slightly tilted stove.  The design is practically seamless, so oil comes up to temperature perfectly.  The little hook in the handle is an appreciated touch when you have little hands and a heavy pan.  And the weight is incredible, sturdy and even, and feels so hearty that my roommate mourned that we don’t have cheating husbands on whom to fully test its potential.

Pros:

  • Can trust it from stove to oven as it heats perfectly.
  • Little hook in handle adds extra comfort.
  • Three layers of aluminum and steel gives it the weight and durability of my favorite All Clad pals.
  • The cost is incredibly affordable for such classic and trustworthy elements.

Cons:

  • No cheating husbands on which to test its bat-like potential.
  • I don’t have a full set of pans and a hanging rack to suspend it on.

As far as the rest of the line goes, my wish-list item would be the counter-top pressure cooker.  I use my old-school, $20 from a Portuguese supply store pressure cooker for grains, beans and nada else.  The pulled pork that they cooked in 42 minutes flat in their pressure cooker… incredible.  Juicy and flavorful it contained less sodium and fat because when you pressure cook food more flavor stays in it and therefore you don’t have to add as much into the pot.  It’s got a timer, a sleek design and I can see myself using it in many, many ways.

Check out the HSN for pricing:  I’m impressed by the quality of these products for the prices listed. And each piece of equipment is tested and approved by Bon Appetite and includes some recipes specific to the machine that are incredibly rich and delicious.

Now, onto this “recipe”.

I recently interviewed Chef Daniel Holzman of The Meatball Shops in NYC for an Easy Eats magazine feature coming out in March, a side-tip of which was, when cooking chicken in skillet, not to get impatient and move it around when it sticks.  It will, Holzman affirmed, loosen its grip on the pan when it’s browned properly.  In general most chefs I interviewed were aligned with their advice to keep things simple and use top ingredients (check out Easy Eats for some stellar recipes and interviews).

So, I have this great new pan, some inexpensive free-range organic chicken thighs and legs, and a new tip to play with.  With just a few ingredients and proper technique, here’s how to make flawless, flavorful, juicy chicken… every time.

Chicken cooking, not sticking.

Ingredients:

  • Top-quality chicken thighs, drumsticks or breasts  at room temperature / not straight from the fridge (I had about 1.3lbs of skinless organic drums and thighs)
  • About 2-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 400°.
  • Heat skillet on medium heat for about 5 minutes while you chop onion and garlic.
  • Lower heat to medium/low and add olive oil, swirling to cover pan.  Bring up to heat but don’t let it thin / smoke (think medium/LOW heat).
  • Pat the chicken dry and salt and pepper one side.
  • Add onion and garlic to pan and saute for 5 minutes or until just slightly soft.  Move onions and garlic to the side of the pan.
  • Add chicken, seasoned side down, in a single layer and brown for about 3-4 minutes.  Do not move the chicken until browned up the sides a bit.  Season top side with salt and pepper, flip, and brown on the other side.
  • When chicken is just browned, pile garlic and onions around it and throw it into the hot oven.  Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the onions and garlic are golden and toasted and the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

There, easy peasy.  Add garlic and onion powder, lemon pepper, a dash of good vinegar… basics.  The result is juicy, perfectly cooked chicken where the poultry sings.

Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash with Lamb and Cranberries

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Lamb and Vegetables

For those of you who don’t know me very well, my food lifestyle and this blog started because of a lifetime of dealing with Lyme Disease and her related minions.  Since I was twelve I’ve had three serious flares of Lyme, which have resulted in severe joint and bone pain, muscle spasms, neurological waves of yuckiness (medical term) and scores of issues with food.

But I am very fortunate.  I have an incredible medical team, a supportive family, and health insurance through my family business (it’s practically impossible to get insurance outside of a business if you have a pre-existing condition).  And the intimate experiences I’ve had with my body have shaped my lifestyle and approach to wellness and food.  

This week I could feel the weather changing in my bones.  From a springy, energetic summer demeanor I’ve felt my body shifting into the Hunchback of Washington Heights.  Today, for the first time in a while, I had to medicate, and know the coming cold will make this a more regular occurrence.

But overall I still feel so far from where I’ve been before.  And that is a result of listening to my body, seeking out excellent medical advice and constantly nourishing my body with the goodness of positive things around me.

Enter this recipe.  I’d noticed I’ve been craving meat lately, suggesting that I may be slipping back into anemia.  The abundance of root vegetables and hearty leafy greens of the season is timed perfectly.  As is the new batch of Indonesian cinnamon I just picked up.  Along with the calming, inspiring affect I feel when working with food, a recipe like this provides so many nutrients to fortify us against the coming cold.

And it’s just plain tasty.  And not hard to make.

Many newer cooks can be intimidated by lamb – I know I once was.  But it’s one of my favorite meats to cook, and so deliciously versatile.  I find it takes the combo of sweet and savory that I so love better than pork or beef.  And it’s packed with iron.

Acorn squash is another of my favorite fall foods: along with simply roasting it, it’s the perfect nest for meaty and vegetarian dishes alike.  A favorite filling is tempeh stir-fried with quinoa, carrots and dried fruit.  Heck, even a Thanksgiving bread stuffing would taste divine.

But this one combines lamb, onions, carrots, cranberries, Brussels sprouts and sunflower seeds for warm, filling and dynamic results.

The recipe is endlessly adaptable.  Grab what you have leftover in the fridge or pantry, and have a blast.

Happy Autumn everyone!

Lamb, Carrots and Brussels Sprouts Inside Sweet Acorn Squash

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses, regular molasses or pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup rocking awesome olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 lb lamb, cut into small cubes
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 4 carrots, scrubbed and chopped into small pieces
  • 6-8 Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 2-inch ginger root
  • 1 tsp sharp cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • sunflower seeds or other chopped nuts to taste

Method:

  • Heat oven to 350°.
  • Place squash in a deep baking pan skin down.  Brush with molasses / maple syrup.
  • Place in heated oven and bake for 30 minutes while prepping lamb.
  • In a large skillet or cast iron pot, heat oil on low.
  • Add onions and garlic and cook on low until golden and soft.
  • Season lamb with salt and pepper and add to skillet, browning on all sides.
  • Add rosemary and toss to coat.
  • Remove lamb to plate.
  • Into the hot skillet drop cranberries and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add carrots, Brussels sprouts and cinnamon.  Grate ginger over the mixture and stir to combine.  Cook for about 8 minutes until the vegetables soften.
  • Add vinegar and toss to coat.
  • Turn off heat, return lamb to skillet and mix thoroughly to combine.
  • Remove squash from oven, fill evenly with lamb mixture.  Cover with tin foil.
  • Return to oven and cook an additional 30 minutes or until lamb just starts to brown on top.

Serve sprinkled with nuts and a drizzle of molasses and vinegar, if desired.

Makes four hearty servings.  Great as a main course with a salad or wilted greens on the side.

Beautiful to present at a special dinner, too!

Holiday In a Hand Pie!

Holiday in a Hand Pie

Runner Up: Best Pie (Judges Choice)

Winner: Most Creative Pie (Audience Choice)

at the

Great American Pie-Off!

Pie and dogs make me happy.  The connection?  The other night I told a friend I don’t think I could date anyone who doesn’t like dogs.  Especially since my dog is particularly awesome.  And as I sit here eating leftover turkey and stuffing from this recipe, I’ve decided the same goes with pie.  You don’t like pie, no date with this little dusty baker.  Also, if you’re a vegetarian I just don’t see how it could work out between us.

Moving on.

This weekend was pretty incredible, and I’ve got the tired eyes, slight headache and absence of writing wit to show for it.

Saturday I participated in the Great American Pie-Off, a fundraising event for the New York Theatre Experiment‘s Lift Every Voice program, which brings artists together with NYC Teens to build nurturing creative environments and foster self-expression.  In one of those glorious friend-of-a-friend things I heard about the event a few weeks ago and was asked to participate.  Baking for a good cause?!?! Um, sign me up, lady!

Now pie is pretty much my favorite dessert.  I make it yearly for my gluten-free birthday indulgence (this year was Blueberry Fig), when I’m particularly blue (My Broken Heart in a Pie was quite messy) and when I just need to throw a bunch of good things in a pastry (Bourbon Molasses Apple Pie with Candied Bacon pretty much rocked my world).

For this event I wanted to do something savory, and keep it in line with the way I prefer to bake: gluten-free, minimal (if any) dairy and naturally sweetened.  And as the weather began to change and I started daydreaming about holiday baking, Thanksgiving dinner came to mind.  Particularly the awesome sandwich made the day after, where turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and baked pumpkin gets layered between bread.  Could I get them all into a pie?  I’d give it the old college try and see what happened.

Oh, and I decided to make hand pies instead of one big one.  Why?  I have no clue.  But once I got the idea into my head I couldn’t shake it, so creating a flavorful and durable crust was a must.

After a few Goldilocksian crust creations (one was too buttery and flakey, perfect for a sweet pie but neither savory nor strong; the other had too high a content of cornmeal and so fell apart) and some different wrapping techniques (true empanada hand pie style or shaped in oversized muffin tins?!), I had my pie. And, yes, Goldilocksian is a word.  Now.

Setting up my little "tastes"

It wasn’t until setting up my little gluten-free pasties that I questioned my choice: all around me were incredibly sweet, luscious looking pies of varying deliciousness.  To one side was a pumpkin pie with bacon and candied pecans.  To the other was a chipotle pecan pie with homemade ice cream.

I don’t have a competitive bone in my body.  Friends often send me casting notices for food reality shows and my manager is looking into food hosting for me.  And while I obviously geek out about food with anyone who will listen, I would generally WANT someone else to win if I felt their creations beat the frosting outta mine.  And, well, I’m a dusty baker.  Messy.  Often swapping ingredients or proportions if I’ve just happened to run out of something.  Alton Brown I am not.  Food reality competition show thingy – not gonna happen.  My skills aren’t that badass.

Hawking my hand pies like a London lass circa Sweeney Todd

But as the tiny space filled I relaxed into what I love and the reason I was there: delicious things baked for a cause.  While I took in the pies around me (that obviously I couldn’t taste), I appreciated more and more the only one I could.  And as I started to describe it to tasters, I fell back in love with my little pies.  The gluten-free crust was made with a combination of quinoa, millet and brown rice flours and arrowroot starch with a little palm sugar, Vietnamese cinnamon and nutmeg.  I had decided to use Earth Balance instead of butter because I found during my empanada days that it helps bind the savory crust together best while still giving a butter flavor that a good shortening lacks.  I used no white sugar to sweeten any aspect, choosing maple syrup and honey for their delicious darker flavors.

Now, these are meant to eat hot, with your hands.  I had to serve the room temperature in little bites.  So a lot of my worry was making sure that everyone got every aspect of the pie and not too much crust (handpies were created so that you had the thick part of the crust literally as a handle, which you threw away once you ate all the filling).   A few of the pies had been baked the day before and suffered some stiffening from being in the fridge.  Perfect, they were not.

Breaking down the pie to the judges

Being a novice to the whole competition thing I was unaware that we actually had to present our pies to the judges.  Johnny Iuzzini (Top Chef: Just Desserts judge and Executive Pastry Chef at Jean-Georges), Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff (owners of NYC favorite Big Gay Ice Cream Truck) and Jordana Rothman (editor of Time Out NY’s Food and Drinks and overall awesome food writer) obviously know their way around a recipe.

I didn’t expect to enjoy discussing it so much.  As I talked I realized I actually knew what I was talking about.  In deciding to start this blog almost a year ago and take a few months off from auditioning to start transitioning into food more directly, I’ve had to look more specifically at my ingredients and figure out how best to share them.  When baking for charitable organizations I’ve had to keep costs in mind and how long it takes me to make certain things (400 pipes cookies for the Susan G. Komen / Frosting for the Cause became a series of various cookies, with less hand cramping).  The other day the guys at the office I was squatting in  said they’d actually pay for my Morning Jolt Cookies: the same guys that raised their eyebrows when hearing that they were gluten and dairy free.  18 years of eating alternatively and now, here I was, talking about flours.  With food people of whom my knowledge is comparatively at about .5%. 

I did feel an affection for my bin of refrigerated alternative flours in that moment.

And I think it’s time I start branching out myself.  It’s been a long time since I used red wine and mesquite flours, specifically.  Just ordered them again.  Expect recipes soon.

Until then, here’s a Holiday in a Hand Pie.

Special thanks to Allyson and Steve for getting me involved, NY Theatre Experiment for doing what they do so well, Kym at FreeSpiritEater for the awesome event photos (she took all the live ones and has an incredibly sweet, supportive, enthusiastic energy) and to the judges for being such rockstars. 

Stuffing, baked pumpkin, baked turkey and cranberry sauce

Pumpkin

Pumpkin:

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Quarter and remove pulp from a small pumpkin (mine was about a pound).
  • Place in deep baking dish and pour on about 1/4 cup of maple syrup.  Use a pastry brush to make sure it coats completely.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes uncovered or until the edges of the pumpkin start to brown.
  • Allow to cool, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

Pre-baked.

Stuffing: Ingredients

  • 5 cups of cubed gluten-free bread
  • 1/4 cup ground walnuts, pecans or almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (either unsweetened or sweetened with fruit juice)
  • 1 Tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
  • 2 tsp dried Herbes de Provence
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp groundcinnamon (preferably Vietnamese or Indonesian)
  • Baked.

    1 1/2 cup leeks, whites and greens chopped thinly

  • Swirl of olive oil
  • 2 cups turkey or chicken broth / stock

Stuffing: Directions

When I normally make stuffing for Thanksgiving I’ll toast up the bread all crusty-like, use my own stock, pile in butter and roasted vegetables and chestnuts and all.  But this had to be rather simple and just serve its purpose. I left it a little drier than I would normally as well, so that it wouldn’t literally mush the pie when filled.

  • In a dutch oven, bring a healthy swirl of olive oil up to a low heat.  Add the leeks and let sweat until soft (keep it on low and wait it out – don’t brown them).
  • Toss the dry ingredients together in a baking dish and stir in leeks.
  • Add enough broth / stock to moisten the bread but not enough that it sits in the dish.
  • Throw in the oven (uncovered) and bake alongside pumpkin until the bread is soft but slightly toasted at the edges.

Cranberry Sauce

OK, I didn’t make cranberry sauce from scratch, as I couldn’t find cranberries in the shops I went to and wasn’t going to kill myself to find them.  So I just doctored up some whole-berry cranberry sauce with the zest of one lemon, about 1 Tbsp of red wine vinegar and 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice.  Done.

Not just for Thanksgiving...

Turkey:

Instead of baking a whole darned turkey I used 2 large wings and 4 breast cutlets.  I spread them out in my largest Creuset, melted about 2 Tbsp of unsalted butter, whipped in about 1 Tbsp of my awesome Greek olive oil (thanks to a friend who sends it over in 25 gallon jugs), and poured that on top.  Then I stole about 1/4 cup of my roommates chilled Sancere white wine and threw that in too, along with kosher salt and cracked tricolore peppercorns.  Baked at 300° for 35 minutes they were perfect.  Juicy and slightly underdone to finish in the pie.  I then used my fingers to shred them.  Made me miss my grandmother, for some reason.  Maybe because one of my first, favorite, food memories of her is finding her in her garage, plucking chickens that she then baked to perfection.  Love you Avo.

Ingredients: Dough

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 cup millet flour
  • 1 cup tapioca starch
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Vietnamese cinnamon*
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg**
  • 4 Tbsp palm sugar
  • 20 Tbsp Earth Balance Butter or unsalted butter, cubed
  • Up to 1 cup ice-cold water
  • About 2 Tbsp ground cornmeal

*I love Vietnamese cinnamon because it’s sharper and more fragrant than others, with a darker tone.  If you have a more generic grocery store cinnamon (which I have and use too), just add another half teaspoon or more to taste.  In general, having several kinds of cinnamon on hand is fun.

**Oh, and a jar of whole nutmegs will last forever and give you so much more pop if you grate it directly with a microplane than using pre-ground.  Obviously all spices are better pre-ground.  Little thing that makes a great difference.

Directions: Dough

  • In a food processor, whip all flours, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar together to combine.
  • Add the cubed Earth Balance and pulse to combine until the butter is wrapped in flour in little pea-sized clumps.
  • Slowly add the water, bit by bit, until the dough just comes together into a ball but is not wet.
  • Roll out directly on a floured pastry board (I used millet to roll as it’s not as bitter as quinoa and less grainy than rice).

This amount of dough made me 6 large hand-pies and one VERY large empanada.  Because there’s no gluten you don’t have to worry about over-working, but you may want to pop it in the fridge between rolling / filling so that the earth balances doesn’t soften too completely.  This dough doesn’t require rolling between wax paper yay).

Warm, crusty deliciousness

Assemblage:

  • Roll dough out to about 1/8 thick.
  • If using muffin tins to shape, find a good cereal bowl to press into the dough to create large round circles.
  • Press into pans, making sure dough is pulled slightly away from the tins on top.
  • Sprinkle with ground cornmeal.
  • Layer the four ingredients so that all quarters of the crust contain a little of everything, using the cranberry sauce throughout as a bit of a moist binder.  Leave a bit of room- about 1/2 inch –  at the top so that you can press the top layer in to seal.
  • Use a 3″ cookie cutter to create a round for the top.  Or just cut with a pastry knife.  Whatever ya got.  Press onto bottom filling and seal completely with fingers.  Do not cut vents in the top crust – this pie needs the moisture to stay inside and help keep it steamy.
  • Wash with egg, milk or water (I used egg whites) and sprinkle with cornmeal.  If desired, use a cookie cutter or press to make a little decorative shape on top.  I was going to press some leaves but time ran away with me and a tiny heart was all I had nearby.
  • Bake at 400° for about 25 minutes or until the crust is brown slightly.
  • If planning on eating hot, let cool in pans for about 7 minutes (yes 7) before popping out of the pan.  I found a miniature frosting spatula very helpful.

Serve with a little apple sauce if desired.  Eat outside, preferably.  With your hands.

 

Super Bowl Chili

Full disclosure – I have no idea who is in the Super Bowl this year.  I rarely ever know who’s playing. I don’t quite understand football.  I mean, I get it, I understand the rules and all.  But huge men running at each other, the purpose to either knock another down, not get knocked down, or catch a ball without getting piled upon?  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m 5′ 2″.  I can hardly see on top of my fridge.  When I’m around big men I suddenly feel like my neck is really thin.  Just saying.

But, I LOVE the Super Bowl!  Why?  Because it’s the one day a year I make Super Bowl Chili.  Literally, I don’t let myself make it any other time.  It’s a recipe I’ve adapted from a friend, and it’s delicious.  Warm, filling, gluten-free and vegetarian-optional.

I don’t have a picture of it, but you know what chili looks like, right?

Go team.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 lbs. sirloin steak, cubed (to make vegetarian, cube 4 packages of tempeh and follow directions as if cooking steak)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 green zucchini, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large can Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 1 lb plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp each cumin, basil, paprika, chili powder and oregano
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can dark kidney beans
  • 1 can dried chickpeas
  • 1 can white beans
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Chopped scallions, greens and whites
  • hard bread of choice
  • shredded Manchego cheese

Directions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large (preferably cast iron) pot, add onions and garlic, cook for 4 minutes
  • Add steak and saute till browned on all sides
  • Add zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, all fresh and dried seasonings.  Cook for at least 30 minutes.
  • Add beans and lemon juice.  Cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Keep on low until ready to serve.
  • Serve with chopped scallions, shredded cheese, hard bread or sour cream if desired.
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