Food & Drink

I'm Chris - or Christopher - or Mr. Dean - or Master Christopher - or just plain Sir. I'm a self-professed foodie. I love to cook and I take great pleasure in all things edible. My husband and I are relatively new to Portland, Oregon and are enjoying our culinary explorations of the area!

Food is NOT just fuel!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Margaritas at Caliente Cab Company

Chrissy joined Lori and I on Friday morning - while poor keith went off to work. So we hit the city (it never knew what was coming). Around midday I had walked these poor ladies feet off, and we were ready for something cold and refreshing...oh, and some food too.

Caliente Cab Company is a cute place - not one of my regulars, but I do like their homemade guacamole. And they can make a mean margarita. Lori and Chrissy opted for the frozen variety - however I'm a purist. I don't do frozen - I like mine hard and on the rocks. Pomegranate margarita, with Patron Silver & Pama, on the rocks, with salt. 'Nuff said.


This past weekend I had two of my high school friends come in for a visit: Lori & Chrissy. As Lori put it, we spent the entire weekend walking and laughing. I think that truly sums up the weekend. :)

Lori arrived first on Thursday, and based on the number of times I've mentioned Momofuku restaurant to her, she decided that was her first destination in NYC. It's in the East Village, not too far from my office, so off we went.

There's something so wonderfully relaxing about a carafe of cold, unfiltered sake in the middle of a warm weekday. And from there, I insisted she try the roast pork buns - absolutely one of my favorite things to eat in this city. The fatty and delicious slow-cooked pork slab is heaven, and it is served on it's own little cloud - the steamed pork bun. Simply delicious.

And apparently the laughing and the sake got to me, because I forgot to snap a photo of my Momofuku Ramen (my absolute favorite - I think it's because of the poached egg on top of everything). At this point Momfuku is an East Village staple - and I highly recommend it. So does Lori.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Quail Eggs

First off, they are DARN cute, aren't they?  But I will admit, they can be difficult to work with because of their size.  None-the-less, there are times when I simply must have quail eggs.  A couple of Thanksgivings ago we had a full apartment and I decided to make an amuse bouche (actually I made two, but only one had to do with quail eggs) - on each serving spoon was 1/2 boiled quail egg, chopped chives, shaved baby bello mushrooms, salmon roe and a touch of pepper.  YUM!  And once I pan fried some quail eggs and laid them on top of little toast squares and topped them with black truffle shavings.  It seems apparent that quail eggs come to play in the most decadent of dishes for me.  :)  This weekend will follow suit.  Per one of our guests requests I'm making Italian Cheese Fondue (followed by chocolate fondue, but that's another story).  It's a great recipe with lots of flavor, and I'll have the typical things to dip: endive leaves, hard salami, bread, etc.  But I also wanted something new.  Enter the quail eggs.  So last night I boiled the little eggs (truly you bring the water to a boil and then turn off the heat and let them sit in the hot water to cook).  These will fit perfectly on the fondue skewers, and once dipped in the cheese I think a dusting of bottarga over the top will be just the right touch.  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chicken Satay Lettuce Wraps

Another interesting craving that turned into something delicious for dinner!  Here’s how my train of thought moved:  I have an indoor grill that works really well, but it’s HUGE and heavy so we’re getting rid of it – spring cleaning, you know.  So I started thinking of things I could use on the grill one last time – a good send-off.  So I thought of chicken satay skewers.  But then I completely altered my plan and decided on sautéing the chicken and a bunch of vegetables.  So the grill will have to wait for another day.

I did some random searches for chicken satay, and ended up combining a number of recipes (with additions and omissions as the palate in my head dictated).  One recipe called for wrapping the chicken and some vegetables in naan wraps, but I wanted an additional texture and flavor component and thought I’d wrap mine in lettuce leaves.  Into the store – thankfully I did not find any iceberg or bib lettuce (my original choices) because I “settled” on large romaine leaves and they were perfect!  They have just the right strength to carry the pile of food I subjected them to, and they have a fantastic crunch.  And to finish it off, I made a spicy peanut sauce to drizzle over top.

The colors of all the vegetables are great, and when you hit the hot pan with the minced ginger and garlic you get a fantastic and fragrant facial!  I served some jasmine thai rice with this dish which I infused with some minced garlic & ginger.

Chicken Satay Lettuce Wraps
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
3 Tbl. ginger, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbl. olive oil
3 Tbl. rice wine vinegar
3 Tbl. creamy peanut butter
1 Tbl. soy sauce
1 tsp. red chili flakes
3 Tbl. sesame oil
1 cup red onion, sliced thin
½ cup carrot, shredded
½ cup red bell pepper, sliced thin
½ cup bok choy, sliced thin
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 Tbl. minced ginger (I grated mine)
1 garlic clove, minced (I grated mine)
4 – 6 large romaine leaves, cleaned & dried
Spicy peanut sauce (recipe below)

Combine the ginger (3 Tbl.), garlic (2 cloves), olive oil, vinegar, peanut butter,  soy sauce, and chili flakes in a food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Place the chicken strips in a resealable plastic bag and pour in the contents from the food processor.  Mix thoroughly and put In the refrigerator for at least an hour.  (This would be a good time to make the spicy peanut sauce).

Heat up the sesame oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Using your fingers (or a paper towel), wipe off any excess marinade from the chicken strips and place them in the pan.  Cook the chicken for 3 – 5 minutes, turning a couple of times, until cooked through.  Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with a paper towel to keep warm.  Keep the heat on and into the same pan add the onion, carrot, pepper and bok choy.  Saute for 2 – 3 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.  Add the minced garlic & ginger and the bean sprouts and cook for 1 – 2 minutes to combine all the flavors.

Place your large romaine leaves on your plate.  Down the center of each leave, layer the strips of chicken.  You could drizzle the peanut sauce directly over the chicken (I didn’t, but I probably will the next time I make this).  Pile the vegetables on top of the chicken and enjoy.

Spicy Peanut Sauce
Recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse

10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tbl. ground coriander (original calls for 2/3 bunch of fresh coriander)
¾ cup creamy peanut butter (original calls for ½ cup)
¼ cup plus 1 Tbl. soy sauce (original calls for ½ cup – too salty)
¼ cup sesame oil
5 Tbl. sugar
Dash of rice wine vinegar
1 Tbl. red pepper flakes (original calls for 1 Tbl. hot chili oil)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Pour contents into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.  Immediately remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kettle Chips

So bad...yet so good.  Late night snack.

Heightened Hamburger & Baked Kale Chips

I bought some ground beef at the Farmer's Market (direct from the source!), and decided it was a night for hamburgers.  But true to form, it had to be an extra special hamburger.  I wanted interesting textures and flavors INSIDE the burger as well as on top as condiments.  It became a fun challenge - and I settled on an open faced burger in order to easily pile more stuff on top.  :)

Kale: before baking
Baked Kale Chips
And while I nearly went with some potato-heavy side dish (roasted...mashed...wasn't sure), instead I opted for an old favorite: baked kale chips.  Satisfyingly salty & crunchy like chips, but infinitely better for you (or so I continue to tell myself).  And I also definitely wanted some cheese - I knew it would Gruyere.  However my initial thought was to melt it on top - so pedestrian!  Instead I chopped up the cheese into small cubes and they went into the patties along with some mushrooms and garlic.

Gruyere cubes

Heightened Hamburger
1 1/2 - 2 lb. ground beef
Olive oil
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 - 6 dashes, Worcestershire sauce (plus 2 dashes at the end)
1/4 pound Gruyere, cubed
4-6 stalks Asparagus, chopped
1 sweet onion, sliced
Potato buns
Chipotle mayonnaise
1 tomato, sliced thick

I used the same pan for the whole dish - so in a large pan, heat up some olive oil and saute the mushrooms and garlic with a pinch of salt.  Set aside once cooked through to cool.  While this is cooling, wipe out the pan and add a little more olive oil.  Cook the onions without salt for 10 - 12 minutes, until they brown lightly and soften.  Set aside.  Wipe out the pan again, and add some olive oil and saute the asparagus until tender.  Set aside.  Wipe the pan, and heat it over medium-high heat without olive oil.  In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with the mushroom & garlic mixture.  Add salt & pepper to taste, and 4-6 dashes of Worcestershire sauce.  Add the cubes of cheese and mix thoroughly.  Divide the mixture up into four even patties.  As you're forming the patties, be aware of any cheese cubes that might be sticking out.  Push them in with your finger so that all the cheese is contained within the burger.  These would be great grilled, but I don't have a grill - so 8-10 minutes in the hot pan per side.  Press the burger to check for done-ness (or if you're unsure, you can make a small cut and check the inside).

Open a potato bun and add some chipotle mayonnaise.  Once the burgers are done, add a patty to each bun (top and bottom).  Pile the chopped asparagus over the hamburgers, and then add the onions.  Finally top with a thick slice of tomato, and add one dash of Worcestershire sauce to each to finish it off.

Baked Kale Chips
1 large bunch Kale, washed & torn into pieces by hand
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lay out the washed kale on a baking sheet, drizzle over olive oil, salt & pepper.  Mix by hand to ensure each piece of kale is coated.  Make sure the kale is lying in a single layer.  Into the oven for about 20 minutes - keep an eye on it to watch for crispiness.  I like mine quite crispy, but you could take it out when it still has some heft and moisture to it.  Serve immediately.

Celebratory Cocktail: Cherry Smack

In addition to the watermelon, I also juiced about 2 pounds of cherries.  Note to self - never again until you buy a damn cherry pitter!  I sliced each cherry in half, and pried out the pit with my fingers.  It took forever!  YET - the juice was delicious.  And I had inspiration from some place deep in my soul...a voice kept saying "whiskey, whiskey" I listened.  And the created drink officially became my celebratory drink for the end of graduate school, and I call it a Cherry Smack!  And keith snapped a photo of me enjoying my Cherry Smack while sitting in the window.  :)

Cherry Smack
3 parts Makers Mark Whisky
2 parts fresh Cherry juice

Combine in a glass with ice and stir vigorously.  Don't shake this drink as it might alter the color of the cherry juice.

Watermelon Juice

I know, I've already mentioned fresh watermelon juice.  And I'm making a special drink that uses watermelon juice this weekend when Lori & Chrissy come out for a visit (drink is called the Zig Zag).  But I couldn't resist making some fresh juice for the weekend - especially considering the end of my graduate studies on Saturday!!  Besides, aren't these photos pretty?  The juice is fantastic - and goes perfectly with vodka.  I made a watermelon cosmo - of sorts - and it was delicious!

Saturday Morning Breakfast from the Farmer's Market

I rolled out of bed, put on a hat and made my way downstairs to the Farmer's Market.  Gotta love that convenience!  I filled my bag with beautiful apples, some fresh eggs from the guy who thinks I'm Leonardo DiCaprio, and some pastries for breakfast.  As usual, the pastries are reflective of the differences between myself and my husband.  Pumpkin Bread is both savory and sweet at the same time, so we each got 2 slices of the small loaf.  And then my additional pastry was a cheese covered bread stick, while keith's was a chocolate croissant (although there are times I can't resist chocolate croissants like this one - it reminds me of our trip to Venice...we ate one of these at a stall right outside our apartment just steps from San Marco Square).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fresh Watermelon Juice

So I have no photo yet - but I have to divulge my newest obsession:  fresh watermelon juice.  Yes we all know watermelon is delicious.  Yes it's full of juicy goodness.  But funny enough I've never juiced it by itself before (I'm sure I've added it to juice concoctions though).  I wanted to test out a new drink recipe in anticipation of next weekend - a visit from two of my high school chumettes, Lori & Chrissy.  The watermelon juice alone is worth the effort - but add in fresh squeezed/homemade lemonade, Kettle One Citron vodka and Cointreau, and you have a party that just won't stop.  And funny enough one of my favorite things about this drink is that you garnish it with a slice of lemon and some blueberries...why?  I don't care, it looks as good as it tastes.  You'll have to trust me - I'll get a photo and a recipe up soon.

Until then - juice a watermelon.  Just have a glass by itself.  And then add the vodka.  Summertime heaven.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Roasted Creamery Potatoes

So far this week has been cold and rainy (well cool - but also humid - so I'm cold but sweating - it's disgusting).  So last night was most certainly a comfort food night.  Roast chicken - but in all honesty in my mind it was just the side dish to one of my favorite things:  roasted potatoes.  Can't really explain why I love them so much, but I do.  Comforting, delicious, filling, savory...sigh... 

I opted for white creamery potatoes, diced.  Hot oven (I would normally do around 400 or so, but I had to accommodate the chicken - so it was 375) for about an hour.  I didn't gussy them up with anything other than olive oil, salt & pepper.  Although some rosemary would be sexy - paprika would be daring - or a small squeeze of lemon with some pepper would be crazy!  I did turn them once halfway through cooking to get some crunchy edges all around.

Slow-Cooked Short Ribs

Before I begin, let me first say that I almost always braise my short ribs.  Why?  Because they're so big, and so meaty, and they hold up really well to a good braise.  But avid blog follower and now friend Holly put the seed in my mind to make some ribs.  So - off to Whole Foods.  And wouldn't you know it, no slabs of ribs - of any kind!  No pork, no beef...nothing.  Thus the decision to grab some HUGE short ribs.

Every single time I slow cook ribs in the oven, I always layer the bottom of the baking dish with sliced onions.  It adds a really great flavor to the entirety of the dish.  And if you like onions, like I do, they get caramelized and they soak up a lot of the bbq sauce - in other words they are delicious.  :)

I also always start with a rub - for these huge short ribs, I estimated they would cook for about 2 hours at around 300 degrees.  So I cover them in the rub, place them on top of the sliced onions, and then cook them for 1/2 hour.  Then I pull them out, slather them with sauce, and cook for another 1/2 hour.  Then I pull them out (see a pattern here?), turn them over, slather them with sauce and cook for 1/2 hour.  Then I pull them out, slather them with sauce (making sure to really cover any parts that are beginning to darken) and cook for another 1/2 hour.  If they aren't done to your liking at this point, you can put them back in for up to another 1/2 hour.

Alas, I have no recipe for you aside from that.  Both my rub and my sauce are highly guarded secrets that you can only experience by being a guest in my home.  However I WILL give you the list of ingredients for each - just not my special combination of quantities.  Ain't I a stinker?

My Rub

Rub (some ground, some not - I used a flavor shaker to combine)
garlic salt
grains of paradise
celery seed

garlic salt
apple cider vinegar

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


We're getting ready for keith's parents!  They are coming for a visit on Friday and staying through Monday.  It's always fun when they visit - and we always have at least one night in with food, drinks and games.  So in anticipation of their visit, I decided to work on some home-infusions of vodka.

I re-purposed the Svedka vodka bottle for the cucumber infusion (well, really I just had a half bottle of vodka and I shoved cucumber into it!).  The mason jar is filled with layers of fresh pineapple, strawberries and blueberries.  Should be delicious!!  And keith can't wait to eat the fruit - he'll be the drunkest.  :)

Cucumber Martini

Just a little experiment that turned out to be quite nice and refreshing!

Cucumber Martini
1/2 cup cucumber
3 - 4 ounces vodka (how big do you want your martini??)
tiny spray of vermouth

Muddle the crap out of the cucumber in the shaker.  Add some ice, then the vodka.  Shake vigorously.  Spray a bit of vermouth into your dry glass (or add a touch to the shaker), and pour.

Birthday Cake: Heavenly Chocolate Cake

This was the portion of the birthday food weekend that did not live up to my standards.  I found the recipe over at Smitten Kitchen and I thought it looked cute, whimsical, and delicious.  And I don't bake - I just don't follow direction well, and you MUST for baking recipes.  It's just not my thing.  But I tried.  Yet, to my credit, I think the directions in the recipe threw me off a bit.  Smitten Kitchen suggest rolling the cake up in a towel as it cools - this supposedly makes it easier to roll back up later.  That did NOT work for me.  Instead, the towel sucked all of the moisture out of the cake, and it STILL broke apart.  Thankfully I was able to save it and turn it into a layer cake - but the cake portion was a little too dense for me.  I also had to double the whipped topping/filling - as well as double the sugar content in it (3 tablespoons of powdered sugar is NOT enough for the frosting of an entire cake).  And I did finish the cake by shaving some semi-sweet chocolate over the top, which was a nice touch.

So since I don't think I'll ever make this again, and since I'm sure there are tons of other cakes out there that would work better (like those I can buy from a bakery!!) - I'm not posting the recipe.  Instead, I'll just give you a link to the recipe at Smitten Kitchen:  Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll.

Maybe it will turn out better for you?!  But here's mine, none-the-less.  keith still loved it - but he likes anything sweet.  I mean, he likes me, right?  :)

Birthday Dinner: Macaroni & Cheese

I make a version of macaroni & cheese for keith every year for his birthday.  This one was lusciously decadent - so rich and creamy it was hard to put the fork down.  And then a food coma set in immediately upon finishing the meal.  :)

I've made many, many different versions of macaroni & cheese over the years.  And I believe I can say with certainty that one of my favorite ingredients is cherry tomatoes.  I also really like wilted spinach served with macaroni & cheese - but I resisted that this time.

I'm warning you ahead of time, this is a rich and heavy meal.  I think in the future it's going to be a side dish and not the main need something light and green to balance out the weight of this macaroni & cheese in your tummy!  But it was for my husband on his birthday, so we indulged!!

Macaroni & Cheese
6 Tbl. butter
1/2 cup flour
2 - 3 cups milk**
1/2 pound Gruyere, freshly shredded
1/2 pound Cheddar, freshly shredded
1/2 pound Aged Provolone, freshly shredded
1/2 pound Fontina, freshly shredded
5 slices bacon
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pound pasta (elbow macaroni is classic)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. pepper
bread crumbs

**I used 4 cups - WAY creamy.  I'd go with 3 if you like it creamy & rich.  Add up to 2 cups and then add more depending on personal taste.  Also, I'm lactose intolerant so  I used Lactaid and it worked just fine.

First the bacon - I laid them out on a baking sheet, and baked them at 350 degrees until crispy.  Set aside on a paper towel to drain.  Leave the oven on at 350 degrees.  Start heating up the water for the pasta in advance so it's ready when you are.

In a pot over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the flour, whisking it in completely.  Continue whisking for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour flavor out.  Slowly add the milk, whisking the whole time to make sure it incorporates.  Cook for 5 minutes or so, whisking frequently.  At this point you could cook your pasta according to the package instructions.  Add all of the cheeses into the milk mixture, stirring constantly to combine everything together.  Make sure all of the cheese is melted before continuing.

Add the cooked pasta, crumbled bacon, nutmeg, pepper, and the tomatoes (fresh - not cooked).  Turn off the heat and stir the mixture to combine everything evenly.  Pour into a baking dish.  Cover the top with a thin layer of bread crumbs (preferably big ones like Panko).  Bake for 30 minutes, until the macaroni & cheese is bubbling and the top begins to brown slightly.  Serve immediately!

The Perfect Birthday Breakfast (for my husband)

I don't think I need to say anything else.  (Other than I had a ham, egg & cheese sandwich - this is NOT the perfect breakfast for me...haha)

Duck Eggs for Breakfast, again

This is another of keith's favorite things I make.  I think I created it based on what I had available in the fridge one morning, but the result was great.  I had some leftover Rosemary Sourdough bread from dinner the night before, and this worked perfectly as the base for this breakfast.  And while the photo really doesn't show you much, there's so much flavor going on here!  And while this COULD be made with chicken eggs - I think they might break prematurely under the weight of the swiss cheese - so be warned!

Duck Egg Stack (assuming 2 stacks each for 2 people)
8 duck eggs
4 thick slices bread
4 slices ham
8 slices swiss cheese
Ricotta cheese
Olive oil

Lightly toast the bread - this is easy under the broiler as long as you remember it's down there!  :)  Once toasted, slather some ricotta cheese over each slice of bread.  Drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Layer the ham on top of each slice of bread.

In a pan, heat up some butter and cook the duck eggs sunny side up (sprinkle them with a little salt & pepper).  Just to make sure the top is firm enough to hold the cheese, I also throw them under the broiler for just a few minutes to firm them up.  Slide 2 eggs on top of the ham on each stack.  Gently lay 2 slices of swiss cheese - one over each egg.  Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the cheese melts.


Ever tried them?  If not, you should.  They're completely edible (skin included - just watch out for the little seeds), and they make a fantastic addition to cocktails in lieu of lemon or lime.  Just cut them in half, pick out what seeds you can, squeeze each half into your cocktail or shaker and then drop the whole thing into the glass (and eat them as you drink).

Birthday Cupcake

I saw this at Whole Foods and knew it would be a welcome surprise for keith.  He could eat sweet things from sunup to sundown - so unlike me.  :)  But it was also a cute little start to his birthday weekend.

Chicken Rolls

Where have I been?  Isn't it funny how life gets in the way of things - like a blog?  :)  I have some catching up to do, so bear with me.  This is going to be a post-tastic day!

Last weekend (specifically on Sunday, May 8) we celebrated my loving husband's 31st birthday!  In order to celebrate him all weekend long, I focused on something I'm good at - food.  Specifically, food that I know he loves.  So I started with Chicken Rolls on Friday night.  I made these the first time a couple of years ago - they're a little work intensive (just the beating your chicken breasts into submission part), but really delicious.  I think the original recipe was one I found from Giada DeLaurentis - however mine has evolved since then.

I usually avoid heat in a dish because keith isn't a fan.  I am, however, and frequently sprinkle some red pepper flakes over my dish to finish it.  In this case I decided a touch of heat would be good - and I judged it perfectly.  I only used 3/4 of a dried red pepper - how did I know that was the perfect balance for me and my husband?  :)

And if you make this - trust me, pounding the chicken is fun (pun always intended).  Just make sure to sandwich the breasts (again with a sexual-sounding reference?) between layers of wax paper to avoid chicken splatter.  And nothing flattens a chicken breast like my huge (wait for it...) rolling pin.  :)

Chicken Rolls
4 Chicken breasts, flattened to about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick
Asiago cheese, cut into long, thick slices
Fresh Sage leaves (2 per breast, plus enough to make 1 Tbl. chopped)
1 Onion (I used a Vidalia sweet), chopped
2 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
Olive oil
1 tsp fresh Thyme, chopped
1 dried red Pepper, chopped (I only used 3/4 of one)
1 28oz. can crushed Tomatoes
1 tsp. Tomato paste
Whiskey or Bourbon (I used Scotch - worked okay, but Whiskey would have been better)

Supplies:  Kitchen twine, or toothpicks

Season each flattened breast with salt & pepper on both sides.  Lay 2 sage leaves across one side, place a thick slice of Asiago on top and roll the breast, wrapping the sage & cheese in the middle.  Use either kitchen twine or toothpicks to secure each end of the roll (just make sure the rolled breasts can make contact with a hot pan on all sides).  Make sure all rolls are complete before the next step.

In a large pan, heat up 2 counts of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Place the rolls into the pan and let them brown.  This should take 2-3 minutes for the top & bottom, maybe a little less for each side.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Take the pan away from the flame of the stove and pour in a splash of Whiskey (if you have an electric stove, you can omit this - it imparts a bit of flavor, but it isn't necessary), bring back to the flame and ignite the liquor.  Let the flames die off on their own, stir around the liquid to release any bits of chicken that have stuck to the pan.  If necessary, add a bit more olive oil.  Throw in the onion and garlic and a pinch of salt.  Cook for 5-6 minutes until the onions start becoming soft.  Add the thyme, sage, red pepper and tomato paste.  Cook for 2-3 minutes to combine the flavors.  Add the crushed tomatoes and some more salt, and bring to a bubble.

Lower the heat to medium, and place the chicken rolls into the tomato mixture - push them down into the sauce.  Cover and cook for 9 minutes.  Turn the rolls, then cover and cook again for 9 minutes.  Remove the chicken rolls and slice (removing the twine/toothpicks as well).  Spoon the tomato sauce into a pasta bowl, and lay the sliced rolls on top.  Serve with some great crusty bread in order to get all of that sauce into your mouth easily!  :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Roasted Chicken & Saffron Rice

Last night I was craving something simple and tasty.  Nothing is simpler than roasting chicken and using a rice cooker.  :)  I cheated and bought a whole chicken that was already cut up (but I have been practicing my knife skills, and while I'm not crazy fast at separating a chicken, I'm getting very good at it).  And I did nothing more than spread some olive oil over each piece, and then sprinkle with salt & pepper - simple, right?  And delicious!

For the rice, there were a few more steps.  I got some simple (there's that word again...theme for dinner) long-grain white rice, and put a cup of it in the rice cooker.  My cooker is based on 1 cup rice, 2 cups liquid.  I boiled some water (about 1 1/2 cups) and then poured the hot water into a glass with about a full teaspoon of saffron.  [Fun note - saffron is more expensive than gold by weight.]  I let the saffron seep for about 10 minutes - this flavors and colors the water.  Then I poured the entire glass, saffron & all, into the rice cooker with the rice and then topped it off (up to 2 cups) with regular water.  The lid went on, and the button got pushed.  Easy.  For some additional color, flavor & texture, I sauteed one chopped sweet onion, and one chopped red pepper with a little salt.  When they were softened, and the rice was done, I mixed it all together in a bowl with a little more salt.  So simple. 

Can't resist this last photo - my best buddy Max is always nearby when I'm cooking.  And yes, he gets to can I resist this face?

Slow-Cooked Southwestern Pulled Brisket

My "official" birthday dinner was my husband's famous slow-cooked brisket.  He's made this (at my request) a number of times.  However the first was out of necessity - he was going to be at work all day and wanted something that could cook all day in the crock pot, and then be ready for me when I got home from work.  This meal brings me so much pleasure - it's warm, comforting, delicious, savory and there is such a wonderful array of texture in the mix of meat, onions and arugula. I unfortunately only snapped one photo - to be honest I seriously was so focused on the food I nearly forgot to do even that.  :)  But it was a fantastic birthday dinner.  And I'm happy to report that I convinced keith to make it for his parents next Friday when they come for a visit as well (so I get to have it AGAIN!).

Here's the recipe, direct from my husband:

Pickled Onions
1/2 cup red wine vinegar 
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 to 3 really good shots hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1 red onion, sliced into very thin rings

In a small bowl, combine red wine vinegar with 1/2 cup of cold tap water. Stir in salt, the sugar and the hot sauce. Add the sliced onions and let sit for at least one hour. [Do ahead: i often make these the night before to save time; they were even better pickled overnight.]

Slow-cooked southwestern pulled brisket
[Serves 4, says the recipe; you can stretch it a bit further if you go taco-style with fixings]
3 pounds beef brisket
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 Spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
1 to 2 whole canned chipotle chiles en adobo [Read: 1 or 2 from a can, not one or two cans]
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup molasses

Season the beef generously with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat just until beginning to smoke. Add the meat and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the meat to the slow cooker; leave the skillet on the heat.
Add garlic, onion, chili powder, coriander, and cumin to drippings in the skillet and stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add vinegar and boil until it’s almost gone (and seriously, get your head out of the way of the steam; inhaling vinegar is no fun!), scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in water and pour the mixture over the brisket. Crush the tomatoes through your fingers into the slow cooker; add the tomato juices, chipotles, bay leaves, and molasses. 

Cover the cooker, set it on LOW, and cook the brisket until it pulls apart easily with a fork, about 8 to 10 hours.  Leave the meat in the slow cooker and use two forks to pull it apart and stir it evenly into the sauce; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove and discard bay leaves. 

Serve on a soft tortilla shell, topped with the pickled red-onions and some fresh arugula for texture.