Monday, January 31, 2011

Breakfast Pizza with Capicola Ham and Eggs

All of 2011 will be Pizza!  Mondays are my day to post a new pizza each week for a year.   So far, so Good, starting with a Pizza Quattro Stagioni (that beautiful presentation 4 seasons pizza, ham, olives, mushrooms and artichoke hearts), followed by The Classic Pepperoni Pizza, followed by a wonderful Caramelized Onions and Peppers, Italian Sausage pizza.  Last week, I went a little outside the box with a Cheese Board Focaccia Pizza - Apple, Blue Cheese and Grilled Onions.  Along the way, I showed my "go-to" pizza dough recipe as well as my winter easy sauce recipe.

January was a fun month!

Today's pizza is my Breakfast pizza.  Raw eggs, baked on the crust and ham slices, all with a coating of thick tomato sauce and flavored with a bit of Pecorino Romano cheese and finally just a few green onions to accent.

The Capicola Ham is wonderful on this pizza.  Dry cured from a hunk of pork shoulder.  Seasoned with garlic and salt cured, it is a very powerful cold cut indeed!

OK... Here's how to make a 

Breakfast Pizza...

Crust of choice, premade or homemade 
My "go-to" pizza dough recipe)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Pizza sauce of choice

my winter easy sauce recipe.
Pecorino Romano Cheese (freshly grated of course)
4 slices Capicola Ham, sliced thin

4 raw eggs
2 green onions sliced thin

  • Preheat oven and pizza stone (or heavy baking sheet) to 550 degrees for at least 30 minutes.
  • Roll your crust out on parchment paper to your likeness... Thin, Chewy or thick like a bread.
  • OK, for this pizza, commit a cardinal sin in home pizza making.  It is important to have all your ingrediends ready to top, as you take the stone out of the oven and assemble the pizza.  Work fast before it cools off too much.  Since the eggs are raw, it is nearly impossible to slide from a pizza peel without the eggs rolling off.
  • Brush Olive oil around the edges to get a beautiful Golden Brown and Delicious looking crust.
  • Salt and pepper the crust at this time
  • Layer the pizza sauce to within 1/2 inch of the edge
  • Top with the cheese..
  • add 4 slices of the ham
  • press the ham down so the edges form a slight bowl.
  • crack the eggs into the ham bowls
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until the eggs get solid.
  • Top with the green onions and serve for breakfast!


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Frozen Girl Scout Cookie - How to mix a tropical drink like a pro!

 Frozen Girl Scout Cookie...
They taste like a Chocolate Thin Mint Cookie,
really they do!

Girl Scout cookies have arrived.  We did our part, but don't get me started on the quality and cost of those little fund raisers.  

But it dad make me recall a "near Girl Scout Cookie" experience... Just a little more um... Grown up.

I like them frozen, like a milkshake. My wife prefers hers straight up, over ice. That is even odder when you consider the extra ice in a frozen drink waters down that alcohol, so hers is a stronger drink. So, nightly, I have been breaking out the Rum bottles, and making different drinks. I thought a little post on the basics of how to mix a drink (including frozen drinks) would be in order...

First, Any and all drinks can be made "frozen". Just add a cup of ice per drink and mix in a blender.
But, I am ahead of myself... let's start with the straight up drink...

A straight up drink (or "neat") is served room temperature. Just assemble the drink, stir and serve. Generally, Scotches and whiskey shots are served like this. Very classy, very potent.

No tropical drink I know of is served straight up. Most are served chilled, on ice or frozen. So, here's how do do that...

Have everything handy, assemble your ingredients, same as with a recipe. It is even more important, as you are dealing with ice ... work fast.

For a GIRL SCOUT COOKIE, you need ...A blender for frozen drinks, or a mixer for chilled and rocks drinks

Creme de menthe
Creme de Cacao
Light Rum
Half and Half

The formula for the drink is easy, 1 ounce of each of the 4 liquids, put 3 large ice cubes or 1/2 cup crushed ice into a cocktail shaker (shown).

add the drink mix, top the shaker (be sure to put the cap over the strainer before you do the next step...)

And Shake, Shake, Shake...
Warning, don't do this with a carbonated ingredient (like rum and cokes). Those type drinks get a stir stick.

Pour into a chilled glass and your "chilled" GIRL SCOUT COOKIE is ready to serve. The built in strainer in the cocktail shakers will strain the drink over the ice for one last chilling, without any ice ending up in the drink (and deluding it).

If you would like to add 3-4 ice cubes, a "chilled" GIRL SCOUT COOKIE now becomes a GIRL SCOUT COOKIE "on the rocks".

To make a "Frozen" GIRL SCOUT COOKIE", put the liquid ingredients into a blender (Any blender made in the last 5 years should have an "Ice Crusher" setting, if yours doesn't, time for an upgrade... I just bought a new one for $25). On top of the liquid, add 1 cup of ice...

And blend away until you reach a smoothie or milkshake consistency. You may need to add a little extra ice, or a little extra liquids. It is best to add extra of the non alcoholic mixer if you need to add liquid (in this case, the milk).

And here they are... Jackie got her's on ice, I got mine frozen and we enjoyed a recap of our day.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pan Seared Rib Eye Steak

It's COLD... My Grill is buried in snow.

But I still want a steak dinner...

Sometimes you just want a great steak. No fancy marinades, no fancy sauces, no fancy spices... And much as I like my Grill... Sometimes you just want to have pan to serving plate in less than 15 minutes. Give this a shot and you may never eat a steak another way... The technique comes a bit from Alton Brown. Although he finishes in the oven (which I would do if using a thicker slice of meat). Here's the key... HOT HOT HOT pan. Not a hot pan with oil, but a HOT pan. I use my cast iron skillet for this. Heats evenly, retains heat and is so much fun to hear the sizzling steak when you start cooking. Fair warning, the process will cause smoke. No, it is not burning, but you do want to have a window open or the fan over your stove top running.

OK, here we go...
2 - 1 inch thick Boneless Rib-eye Steaks (about a 8 oz each)
1 teaspoon Canola Oil
1 TBS Kosher Salt
1 TBS freshly ground Black Pepper
1 tsp freshly Ground Sea Salt

Allow steaks to come to room temperature for 1 hour.
Heat your skillet... High for 5 minutes. No oil, no seasonings... just cast iron and heat. You want the skillet to be about 500 degrees.
Lightly coat steaks with conola oil, then liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the steaks in the pan and do not touch them for 1 minute. Use a kitchen timer. (Note: expect a lot of smoke, turn the fan on your hood).
Flip the steak with tongs (note: NEVER use a fork, never put holes in your meat when cooking, always use tongs) and cook for another 1 minute. Your steaks are now temped @rare.
Repeat each side for 1 minute each and your steaks are @medium rare (perfect for me)
Repeat each side for 1 minute each and your steaks are @medium (perfect for Jackie)
OR... Check the internal temperature of your steaks. Medium Rare steaks are done when they reach an internal temperature of 130 to 135 degrees (mine took 4 minutes to cook). Medium Well steaks (shudder) are done when they reach 145-150 degrees (Jackie's took 6 minutes).
Rest the meat for 5 minutes (Note: this step is VERY important. Have you ever seen steak served in a pool of blood? This step will fix that unsightly problem. The juices will collect in the meat and remain if you rest the meat uncut for 5 minutes. Actually, I rest mine in a double layer of aluminum foil. This also keeps the meat hot the entire time, so you can serve a HOT medium rare steak at the same time you are serving a HOT medium well steak. Just trust the temperature prob, and DO NOT EVER CUT INTO THE STEAK TO TEST DONENESS!
Alton does explain the proper way to check for internal temperature (from the side, not the top. You want to measure the temp at the thickest part of the meat, in the center. When you check from the top, it is hard to find the center).

He also explains a complicated set up for resting. I confess that aluminum foil works for me, and I did not follow his resting collection method for collecting juices. Buy the book and take a look for yourself if you want to get complicated.

Here's a shot of a medium rare steak and a medium steak (trust me, medium rare is better), but notice no dripping juices, they are all in the rested meat.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Salmon with a Butter-Passion Fruit Vodka Garlic Dill Sauce

If it's Friday, it must be a Fish Course!!!

One month in on my resolution to have a fish course at least once a week.  And for the second time this month, Steelhead Salmon was on sale!  So, fully half of my posts are Salmon posts.  But that is a good thing.  Salmon has so many health benefits it deserves a place of honor.

The last time I made Salmon, I made an Orange Juice Marinated Steelhead Salmon.  Other than salt, pepper and a little grated cheese, the secret to that recipe was the marinade.  Today, I wanted to Have a more pure taste of the salmon and the secret was going to be in the sauce.  And oh my what a sauce...

Butter-Passion Fruit Vodka Garlic Dill Sauce

The secret to this sauce is Alize Gold Passion brand Passion Fruit blended Vodka.  Alize is one of those finds I made when I lived in the US Virgin Isles and the booze was cheap.  But a great find it is.  I love to cook with the stuff!  When you cook Alize Gold, the alcohol cooks out, and what is left is the strong taste of the passion fruit, with the earthy hints of the vodka.  It also adds a beautiful rich color to the sauce that makes the garlic practically glow.  Golden garlic... Now that's presentation!

The actual recipe is inspired by one using white wine.  So, if wine is handy, or you prefer not to try a new bottle of liquor just for a single recipe, feel free to substitute White Wine.

For the fish, All I did was put the fish in a baking dish with 1/8 of an inch (just a splash) of a sweet rice wine vinegar.  Just enough to steam the fish and keep it moist while it cooks.  I used a remote prop thermometer to cook the fish to an internal temperature of 135 degrees.  This only took about 15 minutes.

While it cooked, I made the sauce.

2 TBS Butter
2 TBS Alize Passion fruit Infused Vodka
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
4 cloves garlic (smashed and minced)

Start with the butter melting.  This is one of those impossible to follow directions, but heat the butter to just before it starts to brown.  Hard to explain, but you want the butter HOT.  Add the garlic and reduce the heat to medium.  Sautee for just 3 minutes.  Add the Alize and the lemon juice.  Continue to heat until the alcohol burn off, about 10 more minutes.  As the sauce reduced, it takes on this incredible golden color!

When the fish is done, add the sauce and sprinkle Dill over the top.  The fish is wonderfully cooked, to just flaky moist degree of done.  Please DO NOT OVERCOOK THE FISH.  Best way to insure this is to use that remote thermometer.  Every degree above 135 takes away from the texture and taste of a fabulous fish!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snap peas with Garlic and Shaved Almonds

I made these as a side dish for Pecan Crusted Catfish last week.

The beautiful thing about snap peas is that they taste great raw.  So, only way to mess em up is to over cook them.  Seriously, this is a 5 minute dish.


1 TBS Canola Oil in a pan...

Add 2 TBS smashed minced Garlic
Saute for a few minutes until the oil gets fragrant.
Add almond slivers
and add the beans...

A little of that fancy pan flip maneuver you see on TV and 3 minutes later, they are done.

Just that fast.  If they don't have a snap to their bite, you cooked them too long.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Single Serve BBQ Meatloaf Muffins (Just BBQ flavored, baked in an oven)

Just another comfort day around the house.  Meatloaf, some veggies and a slice of Eng Bread Garlic Toast.

So, another simple post...

1 pound Ground beef
1 pound ground bulk Sausage
1 cup bread crumbs
2 Eggs
1/2 onion diced
1 Poblano Pepper, diced with stems, seeds and inner membrane removed (I am boycotting Bell Peppers due to their outrageous price increase this year, Poblano have just as much flavor, and are half the price)
2 TBS Brown Sugar
2 TBS Raspberry Chipotle BBQ sauce

1/4 cup Raspberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce for the top

Mix everything together, reserve the 1/4 cup of sauce to top the loaf.  Once everything is mixed, I cook these up in individual muffin tins for single servings.  The leftovers can easily be warmed up for lunches.

Bake in pre heated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, until the internal temperature of the muffins reaches 160 degrees.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pasta with Peas in a Creamy Lemon Mascarpone Cream Sauce

Oh boy, yet another meatless main course.

It is very simple, but the secret is in the sauce.  I had about 3/4 a cup of mascarpone cheese left from another project that I did not want to go bad.  So, the sauce is more a leftover recipe that worked.  Came out exactly the way I wanted and tasted amazing!

I made plenty, as I wanted to have some for a side dish 

I used a full bag of frozen peas
I used a full box of fancy curvy pasta (sorry, I forgot the type)

For the sauce, I used...

3/4 cup Mascarpone Cheese
the juice of 1 lemon
3 Oz Fresh grated white Cheddar cheese
and I thinned it out a little with a couple TSP of 1 % Milk

And that's it.  While the pasta was boiling (10 minutes for an al dente doneness, boiling salted water with just a bit of oil so the pasta does not stick), I heated the mascarpone with the lemon juice.  When it got nicely HOT and smooth, I added the cheddar cheese.  Then added the peas!

And when the pasta was doner, I added the sauce, and ground some fresh peppe and enjoyed my 4th meatless night of the year!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Cheese Board Focaccia Pizza - Apple, Blue Cheese and Grilled Onions with a Crust Recipe

The inspiration for this came from a cheese board appetizer I had recently.  What is better than a little slice of blue cheese with a bit of granny smith apple?  Always my favorite part of a cheese tray.

Regular readers know that Mondays this year will be my pizza post.  At the end of the year, 52 different pizza recipes.  But pizzas are more than just crust, tomato sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese.  And this one is a great example.  Maybe you will believe me that this is a pizza if I show you the whole pie...

See... Think outside the box.  It's not a far stretch from an apple pie to a pizza pie.

And sure enough, little bit Apple Pie, A little bit Cheese board appetizer; BUT, using my definition of a pizza (Crust, sauce and toppings)...

This is a pizza.

And speaking of crust, After 3 posts in my year of Pizza, it's about time I gave out a crust recipe.  I have made several different crusts.  This one is a good basic recipe.  Easily made in a food processor or in a kitchenaid mixer (or by hand).  the oil in the dough makes for a soft chewy center, while the little bit of whole wheat makes for a crunchy bottom.  Nothing soggy here.  With the aid of a pre-heated pizza stone (500 degrees... HOT like a stone fire pizza oven), this crust cooks up nicely.  Like a pizzeria crust.

Here's what I did...

3 1/2 cups all purpose Flour
1/4 cup whole wheat Flour
2 1/2 tsp Quick Rise Yeast
1 TBS Sugar
1 TBS Salt
1 1/4 cups warm (110 degrees... caution, too hot and the yeast dies, too cool and the yeast does not thrive)
2 tsp Olive Oil

  1. In a food processor (or kitchenaid, with the hook attachment), combine all the dry ingredients and mix well.
  2. With the motor running, add the water and oil.  Pulse until the dough comes together in a rough mass.  If it does not, add another tsp of oil.
  3. Let the dough mass rest for 5 minutes.  Then process again for 1 minute.  If you use a kitchenaid, continue to mix (it's doing the kneading) for about 5 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn the ball to coat.
  5. Cover the bowl and allow the first rise for about 2 hours, until doubled in sixe.
  6. Punch down the dough, and divide.  You can put half in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer, or the fridge if you are going to use the second half within a week.
  7. The other half, do a quick knead for a couple of minutes, and cover for about 10 minutes to rest the glutens.
  8. And now, you have pizza dough.  You can roll it thin for a thin crust, a little thicker for a thick crust, or very thick (like this) for a focaccia crust.

As to the care and feeding (prep work) for your dough, before you add any toppings, drizzle a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil and use a brush to spread it around.  Taking great care to be sure and coat the outer edge as well as you can.  this coating will help the crust brown up nice for color, as well as crisp up nice for texture.

Now is also the time to Salt and Pepper the crust.  

Like I said, this is a great all purpose crust.  Thick (Sicilian style), thin (Neapolitan style) or this Focaccia style, all depends on how you roll it.

So, Here's the formula for the Cheese Board Focaccia Pizza

1 Granny Smith Apple, cut into very thin slices
1 Onion, Sliced into rings and grilled with a little oil and 
1TBS Brown Sugar
6 ounces of Stilton Blue Cheese (Divided), 3 ounces crumbled, 3 ounces sliced
2 TBS Heavy Cream

1 Basic Pizza Dough, rolled to 1 inch thick, with edges formed to hold the liquid into the pizza.

  1. Pre-heat oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees
  2. Start by caramelizing the onion in oil and brown sugar for about 15 minutes.  The onion will finish caramelizing as it cooks.
  3. Melt the slices of blue cheese in the cream to make a creamy cheeses sauce.
  4. As shown above, form the dough into a circle (can be made square if you like) with a 1/4 inch lip around edges.  Add 2 TBS EVOO , spread with a brush around the edges and even out around the pizza.
  5. Add the cheese sauce
  6. line up the apple slices.  I cut mine VERY thin, and form a complete layer.
  7. Add the onions over the apples
  8. Add the remaining Blue Cheese crumbles
  9. Bake at 500 degrees for @15 minutes, until the top is starting to get golden brown and delicious, the edges are nicely toasted and a few of the onions start to char.
Here's you a collage that shows the steps...

And here are a few more shots showing the finished product... Like a cheese board on a pizza!  I LOVED THIS PIZZA!  Would make a great appetizer, or even a dessert pizza.

This is a rich tasting pizza.  A little goes a long way.  I like to cut this into strips to serve.  As good as it tastes, just two or three pieces are enough.  All things in moderation.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cornbread Taco Casserole

Here's a Sunday night quickie...

Just about all leftovers...

1 pound of hamburger with taco seasoning, browned, drained of grease...

I added some Olives, Onions, Sweet Corn and Diced Tomatoes  No measurements, just used up.

Mixed some cornbread together, topped the meat in a casserole dish and cooked according to the directions on the box.

It was fast and really good

Just like this post

Saturday, January 22, 2011

OATMEAL SCOTCHIES - With a Chipotle Pepper Spice Kick!

I seem to do this post once a year... for good reason...

It's just a tiny bit, but OMG, what an addition.  Here's what I did...

Really, it's all there in the title, but I have photo proof just in case you don't believe me... AND IT WORKED!

I got this idea from a grilling class I took ages ago, where the instructor suggested that a 1/4 teaspoon of Chipotle Pepper added to a "sweet" recipe is too small an amount to overpower the sweet, but it will add an indefinable taste to the recipe that will set your dish apart from the masses.
So, armed with the plan to make a common recipe special, here's what I did...

The recipe I used is on the back of every bag of Nestle's butterscotch chips. I was planning to see if that small amount would make a difference, so I went with a classic.
I made the recipe exactly as printed, I just added ONLY 1/4 teaspoon of the chipotle spice.
The recipe made 4 dozen cookies. I passed some around the neighborhood. NO ONE noticed the pepper taste, but several people without prompting noticed that there was "something extra". I pressed, no one said it was unpleasant, everyone agreed that it added to the cookie. ME, I loved em. There are different types of taste buds in your mouth. The front of the tongue tastes sweet better than the back, and the back tastes spicy better. By adding such a small amount, you get the entire tongue having a little kick.

It takes a little bit of nerve to tamper with a classic. But I really do believe the combination of a tiny amount of spice (chipotle) added to a sweet dessert (in this case, the classic Scotchie) Made a subtle but BIG difference... It worked! I am now very excited to give this theory a try next time I make a chocolate cookie..

Even my wife's lazy good for nothing cat, Chang was excited to give em a try.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pecan Crusted Swai (Vietnamese River farmed Catfish)

If it's Friday, it must be Fish Night!!!

2/3rds of the way through January and I am still sticking with my new year's resolution of a new Fish dish once a week for the year.  And this week I not only have a real winner, but also a new cooking process to get very tender, fully cooked, flaky fish fillets.  

Cooking fish is an art.  I am on a quest to rid the world of rubbery, over cooked, tasteless fish.  This method is similar to a trick lots of BBQers know as "Foiling".  That is to remove the meat from the grill/smoker about 5 degrees shy of the optimum internal temperature.  Immediately double wrap the meat in aluminum foil and then put the foil wrapped meat in a cooler (no ice) for a few hours.  The external temperature of the meat evens out to the center for a fully cooked piece of meat.

Well, since the fish fillet is so much thinner, you can do a similar process without the foil.  

Here's what I did...

HOT heavy nonstick pan.  Your fish will not stick if the pan is hot enough.  Add just a small amount of Canola oil to the bottom (just enough to coat, maybe 1/8th inch deep).  Heat the oil  (hot is your friend).  Once the fish is breaded (recipe will follow the cooking method), add to the oil...

Turn the heat down to medium.  You are pan searing the top.  It takes about 8 minutes for the breading to get golden brown and delicious.  Occasionally, take a fish turner and take a look to see how the GBD is proceeding.  You do not want to burn your nuts (put that line in so Chris would have something to comment about since he does not prefer fish).

Your goal is to only flip your fish once.  So be sure the side is finished.  Flip the fish over and bask in the beauty of the golden brown delicious looking crust...

Your pan is still HOT, even though the temp was dropped to medium, still plenty hot.  Now is the fish foiling trick....

With the pan still hot, and after the 1 minute while you bask in the glory of the GBD coating (One minute with the heat on medium), take the pan off the heat.  But IMMEDIATELY put the lid on the pan...

It's a boring photo, no images of golden brown and delicious, but while you are looking, the fish is continuing to cook.  The HOT top, combined with the still HOT bottom is cooking the fish evenly.  It will take about 10 more minutes (long enough to make the side dish of Snap Peas with almond slivers and garlic... but that's a post for another day).

And sure enough, golden brown and delicious, completely cooked throughout, but the fish was very moist, tender and flaky.   

OK... Here' a winner of a recipe.  Based on a Paul Prudhome Creole New Orleans style recipe...

2 large SWAI (catfish) fish fillets
1/2 cup Cornmeal
1/2 cup Pecans finely ground

Mix the cornmeal and pecans, rub the mixture into the fish (both sides), coating completely.

Cook in the method outlined above, HOT pan, HOT oil, turn the heat to medium, 8 minutes one side, flip, 1 minute on the other, remove from heat, cover pan and wait 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your simple cream sauce...

1/2 cup Butter (melted)
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
2 dozen whole pecan halves

Melt the butter, add the cream, mix well and simmer.
add the pecans to the mixture and continue to simmer for 5 minutes to soften the nuts (again... just for Chris).

And plate the fish, top with the sauce and nuts...



Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Chicken Sandwiches - Restaurant Quality

It was the best of times... It was the worst of times.

Well, not really.  Just the best of times.  Which brings up (for a second time this week) Mr. Dickens and his wonderful book.  More and more, I understand George Bernard Shaw when he said, "Youth is wasted on the young.".  When I was young, I was "forced" to read "A Tail of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens.  I was also "forced" to analyse word by word Mr. Dickens famous opening paragraph.  I hated that assignment.  Until I read the book.  It started me on a love of Mr. Dickens that lasts to this day.  Seems silly to even say this, but, Mr. Dickens - What a way with words he had!
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
That last line really has stayed with me for the last 40 plus years.  "In the superlative degree of comparison only".  I'll be honest, unless I get it on tape for my daily walk, I will probably never read the Tale again.  And that's a little sad.  Great literature is "forced" on our youth.  And that is the best of times to do that.  BUT, it is the worst of times as well.  But ever since Mr. Kirk back in Pekin, Illinois 40 plus years ago "forced" me to think of superlative comparisons, I just can't stop.  If I had it to do over again, i would call my blog either "2 Ways 2 Cook", or "Superlative Comparisons".

Ah well, I am digressing.  The reason I bring this up, is for the "superlative degree of comparison" that two chicken sandwiches provide.  If you are going to make them, if you plan on blogging about them, make them superlative.  What I like to call Restaurant Quality.  

Start with bread.  As usual, this week, I made a loaf of Eng Bread.  My own version of a sweet French Bread.  This time, I made it a larger bowl shape instead of the usual torpedo shaped loafs.

My Chicken came from it's usual source.  Actually, it came from my usual underpriced grocery store.  $4.99 for a rotisserie chicken.  Wonderfully seasoned, fully cooked and sitting near the poultry section of the meat aisle where whole uncooked chickens are $6 or $7.  I will never understand that, but I will take advantage of it.

BTW, when you buy a rotisserie chicken, be sure and save the carcass.  Once you have the bones and a little flesh, can stock be far behind, and once you have stock, can soup be far behind (Crab corn bisque this week, but that's a post for another day!).  But I am digressing again (come to think of it, maybe that would be a truer title to my blog)...

I sliced all the chicken from the bird.  I wanted to make a batch of chicken salad for Jackie's lunches.  I am going to be completely honest.  I have yet to eat a better chicken salad than mine.  Filled with extras, Sweet Onions, Grapes, Granny Smith Apples, Gherkin Pickles (dice the pickles, much better than putting pickle relish in the salad).  But for this, I made a substitute from the usual mayonnaise.  For this, I added Greek yogurt.  Jackie requested something a little lighter than the usual.  Switching out the mayo for the yogurt was logical and WONDERFUL!  I found a vanilla flavored Greek yogurt.  Just that little extra made a big difference

3 cups diced Chicken (mostly breast meat)
3/4 cup Grapes cut in half
3/4 cup Granny Smith Apples, diced
3/4 cup Sweet Onion, diced
3/4 cup Gherkin Pickles, Diced
If you like, add some Cilantro and Paprika for color and a little extra zing

And mix everything together.  I am more  than willing to make that superlative comparison with anyone elses' chicken salad recipe.  Even more, I would certainly stack this recipe up with any restaurant sandwich shops' chicken Salad!

And sandwich number 2 is an open face chicken sandwich topped with a Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Provolone Cheese and run under a broiler for just a few minutes to get the cheese bubbly, golden brown and delicious.

Only thing that needs the recipe is the pesto...

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup Sundried tomatoes, packed in oil (comes in a jar)
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cups finely chopped Walnuts
4 clove Garlic, smashed and minced

One final note on this.  unlike the chicken salad that has LOTS of flavors and ingredients, this sandwich needs the best parts of the bird.  The Thigh Meat!  Whenever I get a rotisserie chicken, i always save the thigh meat for sandwiches (or just nibble myself while I trim the bird).

So, there you go.  Go ahead and make your own "Superlative Comparisons" of my 2 Ways 2 cook a chicken sandwich.

And BTW, the inspiration for this post came from an exchange I had with fellow blogger, Emily Z from EZRecipes.  We were sharing budget goals for the new year.  I dropped her a comment which is  this week's tip for Empty Nester Cooks...
Cooking for Empty Nester's Tip #3
Next tip is leftovers. Get creative, make mashed potatoes, but the next night use the leftovers to make a shepherd’s pie. They are new dishes, but the difference in cost to make a double batch of mashed potatoes is almost nothing. My tip is to make larger batches planning on leftovers, but then get creative to make a completely different dish (Pizza is a great way to make left overs different)...   
OR get creative when planning to make chicken sandwiches a couple days in a row.
 And finally, My buddy BIZ from My Bizzy Kitchen is hosting BSI (Blogger Secret Ingredient) this week.  The secret ingredient is yogurt, so I am submitting my Chicken Salad recipe.  If you want to play along and submit a yogurt recipe (for fun and profit (winning recipe gets a prize!), click HERE for the rules.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan yet another Vegetarian Meal, single serving instructions

Week number 3 of my New year's pledge to go meatless once a week.  And they said I couldn't stick with it. But oddly enough, I've had a few tasty dishes so far, so no sacrifice at all.  And this is no exception.

Filled with taste and a variety of flavors, this dish taught me quite a bit about eggplant.

For instance, did you know that the seeds in the plant are filled with bitter liquid.  That liquid needs to be leeched out before you can get the best taste from your vegetable...

Here's how...

First, cut the rind off the eggplant.  Then slice the plant into 1/3 inch slices/

Next, lay out all the slices flat and salt them.  Always be polite and stick your little pinky out while you grind the salt. 

Salt both sides, then stand the slices up in a colander.  The salt will "leech" out the bitter liquid.  It took about 45 minutes and...

And, it's hard to tell from this photo, but about a teaspoon of liquid did indeed drip out.

And to top it off, just before you start the dredging process for the egg plant, take a paper towel and pat the slices dry.

OK, we are ready to start cooking...  here's what you need...

I made individual stacks, so I am giving the measurements for 1 serving.  Of course, you can double, triple or multiply by 20 if you need that many...

5  Eggplant slices, leeched
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup flour
Enough Canola oil to coat 1/4 inch of a frying pan
1 cup Marinara Sauce (I used my winter fast and easy tomato sauce)
5 slices of Mozzarella Cheese
2 TBS fresh grated Parmesan Cheese

I put mine on a bed of pasta, Jackie preferred hers without the pasta.  your choice.

Get your oil hot over medium heat before starting to dredge.  Once the slices go in the oil, you want them cooked fast so they do not get oily tasting.

As I said, dry each slice with a paper towel.  Set up three bowls, flour, egg and finally bread crumbs.  Coat each slice in the flour.  Then, put each slice in the egg dip.  Finally, coat each with the bread crumbs.  Put into the oil and brown each side...

Next, it's time to layer the dish.  I wanted single serve towers.  You can easily do everything in a large oven safe pan and only have a couple layers.

One slice of eggplant
topped with one slice of cheese
topped with a heaping TBS of Sauce

Add the Parmesan over the top...

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes...

And if you serve on a bed of pasta, with a simple drizzle of White Truffle Oil, you have a very tasty, very filling meal!

Buon Appetito