Apricot, Ham, Cheddar, and Chicken Sandwich

I cannot remember when I started making this open-faced sandwich but it was an immediate favorite in this house. It seems odd at first, but it really works when you think about all the flavors mixed together. A little tart from the vinegar, some mustard, apricot jam for sweetness, then ham (pork is never bad in any form) and a sharp cheddar. It is a very special combination. And heats up well as a left over in the oven – or in my case in the toaster oven at the office – work lunch hack – woo hoo. If I can get it – usually the MotH and the Boy do not let me get much in the way of leftovers. But I guess that just means they like it  – a lot. And so do I.

D&D_21211/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 French bread, split horizontally, then cut in a half
1/4 cup apricot preserves – way more than that.
1/3 pound thinly sliced tavern ham, yes, specify tavern ham – I’ve tried others and this is the best.
1/2 pound sharp cheddar, deli sliced

Between two pieces of plastic wrap or inside a gallon plastic zip-top bag, pound the chicken slightly until it is more even. It does not need to be super thin, just a little more even. Makes for easier (quicker) marinade and more even cooking. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a resealable plastic bag, add vinegar, mustard, and chicken. I don’t even measure at this point any more. Once you do this enough, and once you taste it you will, you will get the hang of it.  You can also add a mashed garlic clove, but I have given up on that little bit trouble – not necessary in the taste department, to us anyway. Let marinade several hours or over night in the refrigerator. Over night is best, but not much longer than that.

Heat broiler on low and line a baking sheet with foil. Remove chicken from marinade (discard marinade) and place on the baking sheet, broil,  turning at least once until opaque throughout. Check by cutting into chicken to see if it cooked through. Transfer chicken to work surface and discard foil. Reline the baking sheet with new foil.

Place baguette on baking sheet, cut side up (duh). Spread each piece with apricot preserves, layer with chicken, ham and cheese. Broil until cheese is melted.

Source: Martha Stewart with my modifications.

Aged Gouda Orzo

I have become a huge fan of orzo. Thanks to Cutting Edge of Ordinary’s Everyday Orzo. This was just such an enlightening experience as I have mentioned many (many) times. But I liked the concept, so here is a version that I tried based on the cheese in the fridge. I expect I will try this multiple times with multiple cheeses. Not surprising really. I do love about all cheeses.  Well, I cannot think of any cheese I do not like, nope.

D&D_2064

2 Tbs unsalted butter
Small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ozs orzo
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock, warmed (microwave works)
8 ozs aged Gouda shredded

Melt the butter in a saute pan and add the onion and let it soften, then add garlic and stir in for about a minute. Add the orzo and stir until coated in the butter mixture. Add the vegetable stock and bring the heat up to a boil. Then turn down the heat to a simmer and cover the pan – leave it covered for 25 minutes. If you lift the lid you will mess this up.  You are letting the orzo steam and then you shall add the cheese. And it will be a glorious mess of orzo, alliums, and cheese. Which to me is just breakfast on a work day.

I seasoned with a good bit of freshly ground black pepper, because I am me.

Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato & Cantal

Another no-recipe recipe – some night cooking, which is something I do quite often, for work lunches for the week. I would have liked to have some cream for this, but to be honest, I managed pretty well with out it. Although, some mascarpone might have been excellent. D&D_2073

I was just trying to make something that I would like with what I had on hand and here is how it went. Again not going to the grocery store at this point in the evening – which was about 11pm, or so.

8 ozs penne pasta – one of my favorite pasta shapes – always use this for mac n cheese*
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced (or a shallot?)
8.5 ozs sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, but drained (save the oil!)
8 ozs Cantal cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grated
zest of lemon
Parmesan, finely grated

In a big pot, heat water to boiling with a really big handful of kosher salt. Cook penne until al dente.

In a sauce pan, heat butter over medium heat and add onions and saute until soft, but not browned in any way.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes and simmer for a bit, just to make sure they are really soft – this is key.

Add the cooked pasta and blend together. Remove from heat and add the Cantal, a semi-hard cheese from France that is slightly similar to a Cheddar. Specifically from Auvergne region of central France. Fancy French Cheese – always good.

Once the cheese is all melty, serve in a bowl with a bit of lemon zest (always a good thing with a cheesy pasta in my opinion) and a little bit of fresh Parmesan for that salty goodness.  The ratios are yours to decide.

This made great leftover lunches for about a week. And the Boy made a strange version of it for dinner one night – with eggs. I’m still not sure I understand that at all.

*no elbows for me.

Creamy Pesto ….

I know I have never done this before but I think the idea is really solid.   I love pesto. I could eat it in a different way and on daily basis. And that includes breakfast.  On pasta which might just be my favorite, but I love pesto mixed with sun-dried tomatoes and spread between layers of cream cheese. And it is amazing yes, and stupidly good.  I just keep saying that, don’t I?

D&D_2020Basil – 2 bunches, stems removed
Garlic – 2 cloves or or more if you would like it
1 1/4 cups walnuts or there abouts – fear the pine nuts.*
1/4 cup really good olive oil
Whole milk ricotta

First mix the garlic in the food processor. Then add the walnuts and mix it up again   Do this before you add the basil. Because this is a good thing. It just seems to work so well. Then stream the olive oil in until you have it the consistency you want. Since I knew I would be adding ricotta, I opted for a little less olive oil than usual. Add about 1/4 cup of ricotta and see what you think. You might want a smidge more oil or a little more ricotta. If you want to go all crazy, toss in a few oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. Never a bad thing.

As always I add my Parmesan last and make sure I have extra for garnish.

I have to say that I’m glad I tried this the night I made it because after that the Boy ate the rest. Guess that’s a testament to the fact that it was good. Yep really good. Adding the ricotta did make the pesto a bit heavier, so it might be better if the fall, but I will be doing it again and I think the next time sun-dried tomatoes will be added.

Pesto – amazing 

pesto [pes-toh]

noun, Italian Cookery.
1. a sauce typically made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and grated Parmesan blended together and served hot or cold over pasta, fish, or meat.
In college, I made some great friends, and one of them was a girl named Karen T. (cannot believe I remembered her whole name, but somehow that makes me feel good, but won’t divulge).
She threw excellent (read: grown up) parties. If you said you would attend, you were actually expected to do so. She was a great cook – the first person I knew to make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. She totally rocked, and she also introduced me to pesto. I think it was her mom’s recipe, photocopied, and I remember this most clearly, the recipe was called “Pesto by the food processor method.” Hysterical now, but at the time a totally new thing for me.
D&D_1998
It is basically the “recipe” I still make today, except I substitute walnuts for pine nuts. I don’t notice a difference, so it works for me. And I always have walnuts in the freezer.
It’s great for pasta, for pasta salad, add some sun-dried tomatoes and it is excellent in my sun-dried tomato pesto torte. Have I not made that for you? Damn, will rectify that situation soon.

Basil – 2 bunches, stems removed mostly
Garlic – 2 cloves or or more if you would like it
1 1/4 cups walnuts or there abouts – fear the pine nuts.
1/4 cup really good olive oil
A good bit of freshly grated Parmesan – indeed.

First chop the garlic in the food processor. Then add the walnuts and mix it up again   Do this before you add the basil. Because this is a good thing. It just seems to work so well. Then stream the olive oil in and the when it is all done, add the Parmesan. And if you want to go crazy add some sun-dried tomatoes. Because that is amazing. Yep.

I was to go to Italy with Karen and Dierdre in the spring of 1993, but giving birth to the Boy put those plans into a stall. Never regret it. And he was eating pesto as a 3 years-old – he was that kind of boy. Sushi, sure. Pesto, yep. Mushroom pate – always. Kids will try anything if you don’t make a big deal of it.
Karen moved to New Jersey and we lost touch, but some things stick with you in an important way. And I miss them both.

Pecorino Chicken with white wine, & lemon butter sauce 

I have been making this for so many years.  It was in a David Rosengarten newsletter, I can’t believe I have never posted it. Dear lord, this has been so many years. I have altered it over time to reduce steps and streamline, but the flavor remains one of my favorites. Honestly, as much as I love the whole recipe I would be just as happy with the jasmine rice and the pan sauce. That way I have my favorite part and leave the chicken to the boys and a lot of the time, I do just that. It makes a great lunch with a little more finely grated pecorino and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Lots of fresh lemon. No, I am not kidding. This is a thing you must do. Yes. do. D&D_2052

My version:
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino
1 cup dry white wine or one of those cute little individual bottles – that is just what I do.
1 1/2 cup vegetable or no salt chicken stock
2 lemons, sliced, seeds removed (duh)

Cut each chicken breast in half or in three pieces or so if that works better and place between two pieces of waxed paper. Pound with kitchen mallet until about 1/2″ thick, or at least until they are all even thickness.

So spread out another piece of waxed paper for the prepared chicken.  Place the flour on another piece of waxed paper and and some black pepper.  In a medium bowl, whisk an egg until combined and then on another piece of waxed paper spread the finely grated Pecorino.  Dip the chicken pieces in flour, then in the egg, and then press into the Pecorino.  Let sit on the additional piece of waxed paper until ready to saute in a bit of olive oil. Letting this sit is a good thing.

In a non-stick saute pan, add a bit of olive oil and let it simmer a bit – you want it hot, but not crazy. Add each piece of coated chicken and saute until each side is medium brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. At this point, add stock and simmer for a bit  – really reduce it until it is almost gone. Then turn the heat up and then add the wine. Now, add the lemon slices and let them simmer. Squish the lemon rounds and then remove them.

Add the chicken pieces again and let them simmer, but don’t turn them because you want part of the chicken to be a bit crunchy. Turning would defeat that purpose.

While this is going on make at least a couple of cups of jasmine rice. Because it will be the best part, at least to me, of the dinner.

Let the chicken simmer for a bit and then check to make sure it is cooked through. Then serve.  ~~~ A bit of rice, a piece of Pecorino chicken and a good bit of pan sauce.

You can see why I love the rice and pan sauce bit – well, if you cannot, I can. Amazing. Oh, and a little extra lemon is never a bad thing. Neither is a bit of extra finely grated Pecorino.  Sigh.

Original Recipe:
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 heaping tablespoons of finely grated Pecorino cheese
4 tablespoons very finely chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten well
Flour for dredging
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
6 thin, round slices of lemon, seeds removed
2 tablespoons butter

Cut the chicken breasts into 6 pieces of roughly equal size. Place the pieces between sheets of waxed paper, and pound with a mallet until they’re thin. Season with salt and pepper. Place cheese and parsley in a wide, shallow bowl. Slowly add the beaten egg, whisking until it’s smoothly incorporated. Place the flour on a wide plate. Dip the pounded chicken in the egg mixture. Remove, letting excess egg drip off. Place each cutlet in the flour, and coat lightly. Remove from flour and hold them in a single layer.
Add the olive oil to a saute pan large enough to hold the 6 cutlets in a single layer. Place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cutlets. Saute, turning once, until the cutlets are golden on the outside, just cooked on the inside (about 2 minutes per side). Remove the cutlets, and hold them in a single layer.
Spill the oil out of the saute pan. Return the pan to high heat. Add the white wine, and reduce it to 2 tablespoons. Add the chicken stock and the lemon slices. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove the lemon slices. Keep boiling the sauce until it’s reduced to 1/2 cup. Turn heat to very low. Swirl in the butter until the sauce is thickened. Add the reserved chicken, turning them until they are coated in sauce. Divide cutlets among 2 plates, pour remaining sauce over them, sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, and serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of David Rosengarten

Tomato Bisque

D&D_1907It is funny, or maybe just odd, that I do not like raw tomatoes, only cooked ones. Tomato sauce, yes, tomato bisque – absolutely. Sliced tomato on something – I’ll pass. Tomato bisque is a soup weakness for me. Another odd thing, I only like vegetarian soups. Not sure why that is, but it is a thing for me. I think it because when there is a protein in a soup, it is likely to get over cooked – at least to my taste. I might also be that I just prefer to make vegetarian soups – in this instance meat just seems to get in the way.

Growing up I do not remember a lot of homemade soups with the exception of homemade vegetable soup which I was never a huge fan of – my mom would put all kinds of veg in that I just didn’t care for – yes, lima beans. But if we had any tomato soup it was from a can. That’s not terrible, but making decent tomato soup is so easy and takes less than an hour, I just don’t see any reason not to make it from scratch especially when you have most of the things on hand to start with.

This is a cream soup, but to my mind it is a bisque but I realized that I really had never looked up the definition of a bisque. So here it is. Not what I was expecting to be honest.

Bisque – A thick rich soup usually consisting of puréed seafood (sometimes fowl or vegetables) and cream. p.57 Food Lover’s Companion 

Adapted from this Creamy Tomato Soup recipe in Bon Appetit via alexandracooks.com and modified by me, because I am, after all, me. Yep, that is what I do.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 sprigs thyme
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
¼ cup (or more) heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely grate Parmigiano-Reggiano
Chicago Italian bread

Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add thyme, onion, and garlic and add salt to help soften everything. Cook until onion is completely soft. Add tomato paste and increase heat to medium and cook until pasta starts to darken in color and you can smell it.

Add tomatoes with juices from the can – you can crush the tomatoes with your hands or with a potato masher – and 4 cups water to the pot. Increase heat to high; bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer until flavors meld and soup reduces, 45 minutes or so. Remove soup from heat; discard thyme sprigs. Purée soup with an immersion blender.

Reduce heat to low and stir in ¼ cup cream – let simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed – salt, freshly cracked black pepper, more cream. Simmer 10 more minutes and taste again.

I think this time I am going to make little cheese toasts with Parmigiano Reggiano on sliced Chicago Italian and add a little swirl of 14 year old sherry vinegar.

8 June 2017