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

Really, stupidly, good orzo – redux

This will be breakfast tomorrow. I don’t have much experience with orzo, but this seemed pretty easy and thankfully for me, idiot proof. The biggest point is to be patient. That I can do, especially since I was trying something new. Well not really new to me to eat, just the first time I made it – more to come on that shortly, but butter was involved.

The fact that Gruyere is involved in this recipe made it a no brainier for me since I’ve had a nice bit of it in the fridge that I’d been wanting to do something with … besides just eat it. I still have nice big piece left so expect some kind of cheesy something. Maybe some kind of crackers. Gruyere has a similar dryness (not in a bad way) that cheddar does, but also has an amazing nuttiness as well. Oh, and this is the good stuff, the real stuff, imported from Switzerland. Yep – I’m thinking some kind of crackers.  Sounds like a plan.

D&D_0309My thanks to the cutting edge of ordinary for sharing. Great name by the way. Maybe there is some truth in that name for all of us.

I made a half recipe and here are the proportions and method.

Everyday Orzo
2 Tbs butter
1 small onion, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
8 ozs orzo
1/3 cup Gruyere, grated (no substitution per the original)

Melt butter in a sauce pan on medium heat, add onion and sauté until translucent. Don’t let it brown. Add garlic and sauté for a minute more. In a glass measuring cup, heat the chicken stock to boiling in the microwave.

Add orzo to onion mixture and stir to coat with butter. Add in hot chicken stock, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 25 minutes without lifting the lid – this is serious – do not uncover. While waiting patiently, grate Gruyere. After time, check orzo and make sure liquid is absorbed. Add cheese and stir to melt. Season with salt and pepper. Lemon zest just makes it, but lemon juice also does the job.

This is a creamy lovely thing. Sigh. And amazingly great for breakfast. It’s just a thing for me. I think next time some lemon will be involved.  Indeed.

This was first published on 6 August 2015.

08 May 2017

Searching for … My Mom’s Meatloaf

Lunch Box NFL American Conference

My 2nd grade lunchbox

One of my favorite things when I was a kid was a cold meatloaf sandwich with ketchup – in my NFL lunchbox. Yep – I was that girl – or that tomboy.  I had the best NFL lunchbox in second grade. I think the boys were really pretty envious.

Just ask me – which helmet meant which city – I could tell you and the team name. Who was the quarterback? Totally got that. And could tell you a few other fun facts. Hello boys from the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Daddy raised me right. At least for me he did – I’m pretty sure he wanted a boy – duh. The lunchbox choice was all mine though.

Back to meatloaf. I do not remember caring for it at dinner, but for a left-over sandwich, it was nothing less  than sublime. Why is it most kid memories seem that way? I guess it’s just a filter that you didn’t know you had.  Nonetheless, I’ve been searching for my mom’s meatloaf – not because I want to eat it when I make it, but I want it the next day in a sandwich with soft white bread and some form of ketchup.

This time I looked at 6 meatloaf recipes I have on file. They are All-American Meat LoafMartha Stewart’s Meatloaf.  Turkey Meatloaf from Trisha Yearwood (but honestly, I would pretty much never use turkey). Cracker Barrel MeatloafMeat Loaf by Ina Garten who I adore, by the way, and AB’s meatloaf.

I have made the All-American meatloaf before, but not by following the actual recipe – no surprise there – in January of this D&D_0862year, and again in February. The right kind of weather is necessary for meatloaf. It is not spring or summer food. October, yeah, that seems like meatloaf weather. It really was good and here is the mixture of these six recipes along with the things I know to be true.

1 medium carrot, finely grated
1 small yellow onion, grated
4 Tbs fresh parsley, rough chopped
1/4 Parmesan, finely grated
2 slices white bread, torn into pieces
1/4 cup milk
3 Tbs ketchup
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 pound ground chuck

3 Tbs ketchup
2 Tbs yellow mustard
1 Tbs Worcestershire
2 Tbs brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grate the carrot and onion into a large mixing bowl. Add parsley and Parmesan. In a medium bowl, place the torn bread and milk until the bread has soaked up all the milk. Add to the large mixing bowl. Add ketchup, garlic and eggs. Mix until combined. Add the ground chuck and mix with your hands until just together.

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and mold meatloaf into shape on baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix together ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire and brown sugar.  After 30 minutes is up top with glaze and bake until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Let cool

I don’t bake this in a loaf pan – that just seems yuck to me (and to Alton who I learned the trick from), especially when using ground chuck. The only problem I have with this is it does not hold together well, but I don’t want to add more eggs or binders. I had a friend tell me to use oatmeal, so I may try that – or one of the other binders, dry bread crumbs, or saltines. Worth a try. But the flavor of this, for me and the MotH, was pretty damn good. Oh, and I made a little more glaze – using the same ratios – and put it on the bread for the sandwiches – very very good. Next time though, I make simmer the glaze a bit to let it reduce and meld together a little more.

Is it my mom’s meatloaf? Not quite, but getter closer and better every time.

 

Baked Chicken with Parmesan-Garlic Crust

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Baked Chicken with Parmesan-Garlic Crust – Cook’s Country

Baked Chicken with Parmesan-Garlic Crust

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs – two slices pulsed in the food processor until small crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp of table salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts – cut in half and pounded to about 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat over to 425 degrees. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Combine breadcrumbs, chees, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Dry chicken with paper towels and arrange in baking dish leaving room between each piece. Combine mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice in a small bowl. Top each piece of chicken with the mayonnaise mixture. Then top with breadcrumb mixture, pressing to make sure they adhere.
Bake until crumbs are golden and thermometer in thickest part of chicken is 160 degrees about 20 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges

My modifications on a Cook’s Country recipe.
25 March 2009
28 April 2009
16 February 2010
12 April 2010
28 August 2012 – Hurricane Issac
3 June 2015 – great left over the next day. Think they would make a good sandwich too, esp. when pounded thin.

Sloppy Joes

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Sloppy Joes

I know this was originally a Rachel Ray recipe (30 minute meals, I think), from at least ten years ago, probably more, but I’ve messed with it so much that it is not recognizable as such. This is what The Boy will inevitably request when I ask what he wants for dinner and for leftovers. He makes good use of leftovers after he gets home from work or from hanging out with his friends. I honestly have to hide some if I want leftovers for lunch myself.

1 pound ground chuck (easy to scale up)
1 yellow onion, diced
4 Tbs cider vinegar
1 Tbs Macormick “Montreal” seasoning
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
14 oz can tomato sauce

In a large skillet, heat a couple Tbs olive oil, add onion and sauté until it begins to soften. Add ground chuck and break up as the meat cooks until it is no longer pink and onions are soft.
Add vinegar, seasoning, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce to beef. Season with salt to taste. Let this simmer for a few minutes and taste for balance. This is key and I still do it every time.  It’s important to do that now before adding the tomato sauce because all those flavors intensify and if you like them now, you’ll like them better later. Then just let is simmer for about an half an hour.

I tend to make this a day ahead, because like spaghetti sauce or chili, it’s so much better the next day. Some times I make cole slaw with this, sort of the BBQ/cole slaw sandwich thing going on and it really works. But I guess you have to be raised with the BBQ/cole slaw thing as part of your life to get it. I was raised on Eastern NC (vinegar-based) BBQ because both my parents are from there. And every summer when we went to NC, we would come home with a cooler of Revels BBQ. Damn – that was amazing stuff and I still think about it – probably too often.

Apricot and Cheddar Chicken Melt

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Chicken, Ham, Apricot, Cheddar sandwich

I totally had a fit about this sandwich for, well, at least a year.  And it’s been at least two years since I made it and now it’s in the rotation again. I don’t want to over do it, but it’s pretty simple if you plan ahead (marinating) and it’s amazing.

1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, chopped (optional in my opinion but I like them)
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6-8 ozs)
1 baguette, split horizontally, then cut in a half
1/4 cup apricot preserves
4 ozs thinly sliced tavern ham
4 ozs sharp white cheddar, grated (1 cup)

Between two pieces of plastic wrap, 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, garlic, and chicken. Let marinade several hours or over night in the refrigerator.

Heat broiler on low and line a baking sheet with foil. Remove chicken from marinade (discard marinade) and place on the baking sheet, broil without turning until opaque throughout. 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.