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.

I have a weakness for candy …

… but not chocolate. Just cheap suggary candy that I have loved since I was a kid of 10 or so. I have heard there are two types of sweet thing you can favor. One is chocolate which happens when you are older, or if you are like me, you keep that sugar tooth – the one that never grows up. So, if you are like me, you can give chocolate, the big whatever, but you still want all that sugary candy you grew up with and in my case that is amazingly true. And sad at the same time. Very sad.

The things I love in the candy department are truly weird. Let us just start with Swedish Fish – which are not Swedish or Fish, but when I was young I was very allergic to seafood my father said “I just brought you some fish” – ha ha I thought – and then there were Swedish Fish from a department store and I was happier than you can imagine. Every time I eat a Swedish Fish or two it makes me think of my father. Especially now that the come in more “flavors” than red. Not sure what that is flavor that is supposed to be, but i kind of like the lemon and the lime ones the best.

I also love sweet tarts, jelly beans, licorice (black only – the red kind is, so, not licorice), lemon drops, life savers (if they are the flavors I like), Juju Bees (don’t think I am spelling that correctly), Ju Ju Fruit – yes, a very immature palette.

D&D_2099But one of my favorite candies is Zotz – but only the grape ones. Oh, lord this is such a long story, but since it is amazing late, I will save it for a day or two later.

But I do have a grape Zot* now and it is just pretty much amazing.

Just realized I am writing this while Elvis Costello is singing “So Like Candy.” Irony much from Mighty Like the Rose (1991.)

* Do not have the singular and/or the plural of this candy figured out at all. Maybe I am over thinking once again.

M & M Cookies – the best ever.

Okay – best M & M cookies ever. My mom always made these for Christmas, I am not sure why, but I tend to make them year round. I guess it just one of those things I make to make the Boy happy at anytime of the year – and, yes, it really does seem to work. I think I need picture of him eating them, but do not expect he will allow that at all.

D&D_20831 cup Crisco
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
1 1/2 cups M & M’s, plain or peanut, but no – do not do peanut – just saying

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together Crisco and both sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix to combine. Add vanilla. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in 2 batches, scraping down the mixing bowl as needed. Add M & M’s and stir to combine.  Use a #30 disher to scoop dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 10 minutes or until golden – turning half way through.

D&D_iPhone_image6I am not sure what else there is to say about this recipe that I have not said before. I keep Crisco in the fridge just for this recipe because I love it so much. Maybe it is just a reminder of my mom, but at the same time it is a really good cookie recipe too.

I am guessing it is a bit of both. Yep, it is.

 

Scottish Sharp Cheddar Shortbread

You know me – any chance at a cheese cracker, especially a cheddar cracker, and I am all in. This was a new recipe to me, but it seemed like it had all the things I like about a cheese cracker – with one glaring exception – you had to roll the damn dough out. Ugh. I just hate that beyond words. I will roll out sugar cookies. I will roll out pie dough, but why should I have to roll out crackers. It just seems unnecessary when you can roll cracker dough into a log – chill – slice – and bake and make perfectly good crackers.

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So I decided to buck the recipe and go for what made the most sense to me. Guess what? It totally worked and has made me be a little more critical of all future cracker recipes. Make it easier – why not; it also fits into my favorite way to bake – make the dough one day and bake a day (or two) later. Fits my work week baking plan to a T.

8 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper – 1/4 tsp at a minimum
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Using electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat together butter, salt, black pepper, and cayenne at low speed just until blended. Add Cheddar and flour and mix at low speed just until smooth, Do not over-mix because that makes crappy crackers.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake shortbread until lightly golden and beginning to brown on edges, about 13 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Source: Epicurious

Original Directions: Shape dough into disk, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and chill 30 minutes. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4- to 1/8-inch-thick round. Using 1 1/2- to 2-inch round cutter, cut out rounds and arrange 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Reroll scraps if desired (rerolled scraps will be tougher).

This is why rolling out crackers is just annoying. I think I have figured out the best way to do it. Out of laziness. Yep, that is me.

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.
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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

Making Baking Easier 

When most of your cooking / baking takes place on the weekends, which mine always do, anything you can do to make it easier goes a long way towards motivation. So this is something I learned from my mom. Ever Christmas my mom would make loaves and loaves of banana nut bread – it was like an assembly line. She was only slightly famous for her banana nut bread. Everyone wanted to be on the list. It wasn’t Christmas without her banana nut bread and I still make it every year since I finally got it right. Lord, that took a few years because the temperature has to change during the baking process, but I never had the timing or the temperature. Thanks mom. Can’t really blame her, I think this recipe was in her blood in a certain way. Once I figured it out, I would take it to Fred and he was happy. And it is just something I need at Christmas, but sometimes I make it in the summer because it has been six months since I’ve had it last. Guess that means it is time to make one this summer. DD_0206

Okay, back to making baking easier – my mom would always prep her dry ingredients ahead of time. Then all you had to do the day baking is get your butter and eggs out and it is super quick to mix everything up and boom! you are done.

So by Thursday night I like to have my plans for the weekend baking finalized and then measure out all my dry ingredients and put them in zip top bags to make the weekend baking easier. And once it is easier bake, it makes motivation happen. To be honest this also makes weeknight baking, when I’m in the mood, easier to just put something together to make me, The Boy, and the test kitchen happy.

I think my office and students would prefer to be called my test kitchen rather than my guinea pigs.  But I also want my friends to challenge me to try new things. 

So this is what I do on a Thursday night … get ready for my baking weekend. Yep.D&D_1950

It really works and makes life so much easier. Thanks mom!