Monday, September 29, 2008

chicken paillard

In spite of it's recent political reputation, I encourage you to go ahead and drink your wine, and eat your arugula, and try out a great French classic, elitism be damned! Everyone from Rachel Ray to Julia Child (great equalizers, both) have favored this quick, light meal, so I thought I'd give it a try last week. It was fantastic!

Paillard (Pie-YARD) just means "a thin cut of meat that is cooked quickly." You can use chicken or veal for this, and if your cuts aren't thin already, you can pound them thin fairly quickly with a big mallet, a heavy (non-glass) jar, a frying pan, or a rolling pin. The ingredients and method that follow are the ones that I used and recommend, but I'm sure there are lots and lots of great variations. Leave your suggestions in the comments! I really liked this recipe, which I adapted from Tyler Florence's "Ultimate Chicken Paillard" on The lightly flavored chicken has a deliciously crispy coating, and it pairs well with assertive, peppery arugula and a tangy lemon vinaigrette. The parmesan shavings round out the flavors with robust nuttiness.

Chicken Paillard
Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes (1o minutes active, 10 minutes inactive)
Cook time: 10 minutes

You'll need:
4 chicken breasts
2 C. panko bread crumbs
1 C. flour
2 eggs, beaten well
1/2 C. olive oil (1/4 C. for vinaigrette, 1/4 C. for cooking)
1 bag baby arugula
1 5-oz wedge parmesan cheese
2-3 lemons
Salt & Pepper

First, place your chicken breasts between two layers of plastic wrap OR one-at-a-time into a large freezer bag (will make pounding less messy). Pound out to an even thickness, about 1/3 in. thick. (If you use good-sized chicken breasts, the end product may be as large as a small dinner plate.) Pound well, but be careful not to over-pound, or your chicken will fall apart.

Next, assemble your "breading station" thusly with three separate bowls: 1 bowl with flour, salt, and pepper (1 t. each), 1 bowl with your beaten eggs, and 1 bowl with your panko and 1/4 C. grated parmesan, salt, and pepper (again 1 t. each). First flour the breasts, then dip in egg, then coat well with panko. IMPORTANT: Let the breading "set" by placing paillards on a baking sheet in the fridge for ten minutes. This will help the breading not to fall off when you saute it. Repeat for each chicken breast.

When your paillards are chilling in the refrigerator, make the vinaigrette (but don't toss with arugula until the last minute). Whisk together juice from 1 lemon, plus 1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 t. salt and 1 t. pepper). Set aside.

To cook the paillard, heat 1/4 C. olive oil on medium heat in a large frying pan. Gently place your paillard in the pan, working in batches if necessary (this dish does not need to be served piping hot, is completely delicious warm or room temperature). Let it cook uncovered and undisturbed for two to three minutes per side, then turn. These cook quickly, but it's also important to let the breading get nice and golden.

When you're ready to serve, toss the arugula greens with the vinaigrette. Place one chicken paillard on a plate, and top with greens. Garnish with parmesan shavings and lemon wedges.

Wine, anyone?

Since this is a light, chicken dish, I'd pair this with a nice bright Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre. Both have nice citrus notes which will complement the lemon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

herbal renewal

Back in the cold, dark days of college, I used to really enjoy getting dinner at a place called Bhindi Bazaar at 95 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. One of the things I loved to eat there was the awesomely tangy and spicy chicken cafreal, which is a Goan dish of chicken bathed in a green, cilantro-based curry. I have agonized about not being able to find cafreal on many restaurants' menus, and when I do, would it be the same? Imagine my delight when, last night, I found a recipe online claiming to be Bhindi Bazaar's recipe for chicken cafreal. Joy! I decided to follow it verbatim to test the results...and the verdict is: pretty, pretty, pretty good. There are a couple of things I will tweak next time to make it better, but this recipe will be a staple in our files from now on (my adjustments included in recipe below).

A quick bit of information, in case you wanted some: this recipe uses cilantro and turmeric. Both are known anti-inflammatory agents. I read somewhere, too, that cilantro has antibacterial powers. So, eat up!

Chicken Cafreal
Serves: 4
Cook time: 20 minutes
Prep time: 20 minutes

You'll need:
1.5 lbs. chicken breasts, diced to 1 inch pieces
2 onions, diced
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large bunch of fresh cilantro
4 garlic cloves
2 C. fat free greek style yogurt
1 t. turmeric
3 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground cumin
1 lemon, juiced
2 limes, juiced
5 T. olive oil
4 green chiles (jalapenos) de-stemmed and de-seeded, roughly chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and chopped or grated

Part 1: The Chicken
Dice the chicken into one inch cubes. Measure 1/2 C. greek style fat free yogurt into a bowl, and add 1 t. turmeric. Salt, and stir well with a fork to combine. Toss in chicken, turn to coat, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.

Part 2: The Tomato and Onion Base
Peel and dice your onions, and sautee them with 3 T. olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes until they are translucent. Peel your garlic and either chop or crush it into the pan with the onions. Next, chop your peeled tomatoes and add them to the pan. Stir, then add 3 t. coriander and 1 t. cumin, plus 1 t. salt, plus your ginger. Sautee for an additional 5 minutes, until onions are translucent and mixture is fragrant. Turn off heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Place in food processor or blender and mix on high for 1 minute until completely paste-like.

Part 3: The Green Curry
Roughly tear or chop the entire bunch of rinsed cilantro, and put it in your food processor or blender. Add the juice from the lemon and limes, plus the 4 green chiles (I used jalapenos, de-seeded). Add 2 T. olive oil, and blend or process on high speed for 1 minute or more until mixture is completely paste-like.

All together now:
In a deep skillet, add the onion and tomato base, and turn heat on low. Remove your chicken from the fridge, and place into onion and tomato base. Stir to combine, then cover and let simmer with the LID ON for 15-20 minutes. Occasionally lift lid and stir chicken. Meanwhile, add 1 C. yogurt to your green curry mixture, and stir well to combine. When chicken is cooked through, take skillet off heat. Add green curry and yogurt mixture, and stir until heated through. Taste, and adjust seasonings before serving.

Serve over cooked white basmati rice, with a tall, cold Kingfisher beer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

retro feast

Have you been watching AMC's latest and greatest, Mad Men? If not, you should. It's a show about a group of Advertising Executives working on Madison Avenue in the 1960's. They called themselves the "Mad Men." The producers make every effort to capture and re-create the essence of the sixties, from the music to the products to the fashion (oh, the fashion!), right down to what these folks order in restaurants (Oysters Rockefeller. Gin Martinis. Ceaser salad. Steak Tartar.). Last night, I was inspired to create a little retro feast while we watched our favorite show. On the menu? Meatloaf and gravy, mashed potatoes, asparagus, and red wine. Mad Men airs on AMC at 10 p.m. EST on Sundays.

Betty Draper's No Salt Meatloaf
Serves: 6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes

You'll need:
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 green bell pepper
1 lb. gound beef
1 lb. ground veal
1 C. ketchup, divided (1/2 C. goes in the mix, the other 1/2 C. goes on top, later)
1/4 C. tomato paste
1 egg
1 C. bread crumbs
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. ground pepper
1 T. olive oil

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Next, chop your garlic, onion and bell pepper in a fine dice, and sautee in olive oil for 20 minutes or until beginning to brown. While your vegetables are browning, measure the rest of your ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Mix your meat, breadcrumbs, herbs, egg, and tomato products until combined. Add the vegetables and stir to incorporate. Put in a loaf pan, top with remaining ketchup, and bake for 50-55 minutes.

You-don't-want-to-know-what's-in-these Mashed Potatoes
Serves: 6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

You'll need:
2.5 lbs. potatoes (your favorite kind, I use white organic)
3 T. butter
1/2 to 1 C. whole milk
1 C. sour cream
3 oz. cream cheese
2 cloves garlic
1 T. salt
1 t. ground pepper

First, scrub your potatoes well. Chop them into quarters, then drop them into a large pot of cold water. Cover, and turn the pot on high heat. The potatoes should be fork tender in about 30 minutes. Drain the water from the potatoes, and crush two garlic cloves in with the hot potatoes. Cover, let stand for 5 minutes. Gradually add the other ingredients while smashing potatoes with a wooden spoon or a potato masher. Adjust seasoning and milk to taste.

Good Gravy
Prep time: N/A
Cook time: 10 minutes

You'll need:
2 C. beef stock
1 T. butter
1 T. flour
1 T. corn starch whisked with 1 T. water (slurry)
Plenty of cracked black pepper

First, melt butter. Next, whisk in flour. When paste turns golden, add beef stock, gradually, whisking to remove lumps. When you have added all your beef stock, let simmer over low heat until it begins to thicken. If not thick enough, gradually add some cornstarch slurry, whisking well to ensure it's smooth. Crack plenty of black pepper, whisk to combine, and serve over meatloaf.

Green-with-envy Asparagus
Serves: 6
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

You'll need:

1-2 bunches fresh asparagus
2 T. olive oil
Salt & Pepper

First, spend a couple minutes rinsing your asparagus in cold water, and snapping off the woody ends. Next, lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet with edges, and drizzle 2 T. olive oil over the stalks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roll them around a bit to ensure even oil coverage. Pop the stalks in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Serve hot, on the side.

Don't forget your favorite bottle of red wine. I'm not sure, but I get the feeling that Betty Draper is a Pinot Noir kind of girl.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

ratatouille (rat-ta-too-ee!)

Save for once back on Capitol Hill after too much scotch on a chilly day...I haven't had homemade ratatouille. America re-discovered the joys of this hearty stew thanks to the magic of Pixar, and last night, I decided to give it a go. Having eaten it enough times in various restaurants (a good vegetarian standby), I knew enough to taste the difference between ratatouille the right way, and ratatouille the lazy way. A good ratatouille highlights the best flavor from each vegetable, and blends them using herbal under and overtones.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

You'll need:
Olive oil
1 Onion
5 cloves garlic
1 medium/large eggplant
2 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1/2 28 oz. can peeled whole tomatoes
1 t. fresh Thyme
1 T./10 leaves Basil
1 t. Dried Oregano
Salt & Pepper
Jarred or homemade Pesto (I like Torino brand)
Goat Cheese (5 oz.)

First, wash all of your vegetables. Peel the onion and the garlic. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dice your eggplant into 1-inch cubes, then toss eggplant with 1 T. salt, and put in a strainer over a bowl for at least 30 minutes. (The salt helps the eggplant lose moisture so it will brown more readily/evenly when you roast it).

Next, chop your onion and your garlic. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large pot over medium/high heat, and add your chopped onion and garlic. Let these brown for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut your zucchini and your squash in 1 cm. cubes. When your onions are brown, add the squash and zucchini.

Brown your zucchini and squash with the onions. This should take another 15 minutes, then you should take your pot off the heat before the vegetables become mushy.

Returning to your eggplant, press down on it firmly to get as much moisture as possible out of the pieces. Quickly rinse under cold water, and squeeze again to dry. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet with edges, and continue to pat dry with a paper towel or a kitchen towel. Next, drizzle with a liberal amount (3 T.) olive oil and toss until evenly coated. Finally, put in oven for a total of 30-35 minutes, turning once to roast.

When your eggplant chunks are getting near-done, return your attention to your pot of onions, zucchini, and squash. Return pot to medium-high heat, and stir, adding 1 T. olive oil to coat vegetables. Add 1 t. chopped thyme, 1 T. chopped basil, and 1 t. dry oregano, stir to combine.

Open your can of tomatoes, and add 4-5 tomatoes to the pot, along with some of the canning liquid. Break them up with your wooden spoon, and salt to taste. Your pot should look more stew-like now.

When your eggplant chunks are browed, remove them from the oven and add them to the stew pot. Stir to combine all ingredients, and let it continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. By using separate cooking processes for the vegetables, you ensure that you get the best flavor from each vegetable.

To serve: Put 1 T. pesto in the bottom of each dish, and spread it around to coat the bottom of the dish. Place 2 C. ratatouille in each bowl. Add another T. pesto on top, plus 1-2 T. goat cheese. Serve with a rustically torn piece of french baguette, and a big glass of your favorite red wine. Bon apetit!

The pesto, though not traditional, highlights all the herbal notes from the ratatouille and adds a deep earthy, nutty undertone - it really is the perfect complement. I won't eat ratatouille without it!

Friday, September 05, 2008

tangeringe beef

My go-to dish at Chinese restaurants has always been orange peel beef. Last night was my first attempt at re-creating the magic at home - and I found out that not only is it surprisingly easy (near foolproof), it's almost a dead-ringer for any restaurant dish.

The recipe I ended up with is adapted from Food Network's Guy Fieri's files - I like his style in the kitchen - adventurous, but not pretentious. So, I encourage you to try it out, I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Tangerine Beef

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

You'll need:
1.5 lbs. flank steak
4 T. soy sauce (I used Tamari, I like the deep flavor)
1 T. corn starch

2 T. soy sauce (again, Tamari is good)
2 T. hoisin sauce
2 T. olive oil
2 T. honey
2 T. dry sherry
1 T. hot chili paste
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 T. ground ginger
1/4 C. fresh squeezed tangerine juice
1/2 t. tangerine zest

3 Scallions - chopped

For the meat marinade: Whisk together soy sauce and corn starch. Slice flank steak across the grain/on the bias into very thin slices. Toss flank steak with soy sauce/corn starch, and let marinate in fridge for at least 20 minutes.

For the sauce: Whisk together all the ingredients and set aside.

To cook the beef: Heat 2 T. oil in a deep skillet for 2 minutes, until it's very hot. First, sautee the beef. once you put it in the pan, let it sear for at least one minute and up to two before tossing. (Tongs are helpful when working with strips of beef). When you are happy with the level of caramelization on the beef, give the sauce a quick stir and add it to the sautee pan. Sautee until sauce reduces slightly, or until you are happy with the done-ness of your beef. And that's it!

I served this last night with whole grain rice, as well as a very simple, colorful salad of red cabbage and shredded carrot, tossed in Ken's Lite Asian Ginger Sesame dressing - delicious, and healthy.

For the salad, either finely chop or use a mandolin to slice half a head of red cabbage into a deep bowl. Toss with shredded carrots (you can buy carrots pre-shredded at the store, or do it yourself using a cheese grater at home). Toss with 1/4 C. Ken's dressing - and chill for 30 minutes.