Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Drag Me Kicking and Screaming


If you need me, I'll be in my closet, on the floor, next to the dog in the sorted piles of dirty laundry.  I don't even care.  Judge me if you must, but seriously, I'm really not coming out.  You'll have to drag me, kicking and screaming.  I'm sure it's no surprise to you that I pretty much loathe confrontation.  So much so that I would rather compete with a snarling terrier for floor space among dirty clothes than have to deal with the work situation that I desperately want to avoid.  I'm squirming inside even contemplating it and yet, I can't stop. My head aches and my heart hurts and I can't stop turning over every single detail of what has already happened and what will have to happen.  So I'll just be here, in the closet, with the dog.  If I give you a recipe will you go quietly?  There.  See?  I knew you could be bought off you cheap thing you. 

adapted from Donna Hay.  Lord how I love Donna Hay.

1 pound of chicken thighs (I used boneless skinless ones)
plain flour (for dredging) - make the recipe gluten free by using rice flour or a gluten-free mix
2 T olive oil
5 oz pancetta (I use duck bacon)
2 leeks, pale green parts only, sliced and cleaned (I slice these and then pop them in bowl of water to rinse. Make sure to separate the rings so the dirt and sand fall out )
8 oz button mushrooms (you could half or quarter them, I buy them presliced because of being lazy)
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1.5 C chicken stock
1 C white wine
1/2 C cream (feel free to use half and half)
1 T flat-leaf parsley (I always skip)
1 T thyme
salt and pepper.


Start by cutting any nasty bits off the thighs.  I cooked this in a dutch oven, but any large pan or pot will do. So put half of the oil in the pot and heat until medium.  Dredge the chicken thighs in flour, shaking off any excess flour.  Then put the thighs in the hot pan, make sure there's room for them all to touch the bottom.  Brown the thighs, but they don't need to cook through, so basically do about 2-3 minutes per side and then pull them out, set them on a plate and keep to the side.  Then add the rest of the oil and the duck bacon or pancetta. Let your bacony product render some of its fat, so about 2-3 minutes, then add the leeks, mushrooms and garlic.  Let cook until the mushrooms are nice and golden and the leeks are getting tender, about 8-10 minutes. Remove them to a bowl and set aside.  Lower the heat and add the wine and stock to the pot.  Scrape up any tasty brown bits from the bottom.  Raise the heat until it is simmering and simmer for 3-5 minutes.  Then pop the chicken back in, lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.  You can pull it apart if you like, or keep it in big pieces for serving.  Once the chicken is cooked, add the pancetta, leek, mushroom and garlic mixture back in. Then pour in the cream, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 more minutes. 

This is delicious served over mashed potatoes or rice, even brown rice, all of which are gluten-free options. If you don't care about the gluten, you can serve it over pasta - I used egg noodles this time.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Year? No Thanks.

I'm one of those people that totally buys into the concept of a New Year.  There's something sort of magical about that tiptoe crossing out of one year and into something shiny, new, fresh unmarred by disappointments and pain.  I made it exactly eight days into 2012 before I wanted to give it back.  Crawl back to the familiar if somewhat worn 2011.  Unfortunately, unlike unwanted Christmas presents, you are unable to return unwanted years.  You're stuck with them.  You can hope that they get better (hey, we even get a whole extra day to try this year); you can hope that how they start is the opposite of how they'll end, but you can't really do anything else.  So when the only way out is through, I'm the kind of person who'd rather not eat.  I don't want to give a false impression, I'm a real believer in comfort food and the ability of delicious things to lift up your mood, but when things are really, really tough, my appetite goes missing.

This is a soup you can eat when you don't think you can force yourself to swallow one spoonful.  This is a soup you can cook when you don't think you can stand at the stove.

Adapted slightly from my mother's trusty Time-Life series. Serves two with some leftover.
I even messed up and kind of curdled the eggs, but it was still delicious.

1 boneless skinless chicken breast
6-8 C chicken stock
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (really, seriously, fresh juice, don't use bottled)
1/2 C rice
4 eggs
salt and pepper

In a large, heavy bottomed stockpot (I used my dutch oven), pour two-three cups of the chicken stock.  Rinse and dry your chicken breast and lightly salt and pepper the breast.  Heat the stock to a low simmer.  Add the chicken breast and cook 4-6 minutes a side until cooked through.  Tear the chicken into little bite sized bits.  Add the rest of the stock. I cook my rice separately because I am rice impaired.  I put the 1/2 C rice with the appropriate amount of chicken stock into my rice cooker and dealt with it that way. You can certainly cook it directly in the soup. I would add raw rice to the stock after removing the chicken and then cook it for 15 minutes or until tender.  Using cooked rice, I simply added it to the stock when it was done, along with the torn chicken.

In a small bowl, whisk the 4 eggs until light and frothy.  Then whisk in the lemon juice.  Stir in a quarter cup of the simmering stock, this will help keep the eggs from curdling.  Lower the heat under your soup because I felt like I couldn't get it low enough.  Slowly pour the egg/lemon juice/stock mixture into the soup pot, stirring constantly.  Cook over low heat for 3-5 minutes or until the soup thickens enough to coat the spoon lightly.  Do not let this boil or even bubble really because the eggs will curdle.  Add additional salt to taste.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Christmas Presents

One of my very best presents this year did not come in a box under the tree, wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow.  It arrived instead, by plane, from Seattle. My aunt, uncle and cousin came to stay for the holidays!  Not only did this mean excellent company, it meant that once I finished my marathon baking extravaganza, I barely cooked a thing for the rest of December. Better still, the food was delicious.  Because Ryan doesn't eat red meat, he had a special Christmas dinner, duck breast with a soy balsamic glaze.  The rest of us were begging for scraps around the cutting board and once we'd tasted our quarry we insisted that the duck make another dinner appearance.  Luckily my husband is very easily convinced to eat the same thing two nights in a row when it's something he really loves. 

recipe from Uncle John
for 2 people
1 duck breast - we buy D'Artagnan brand, preferably the Moulard, but the Muscovy will work as well, it will just give off more fat.
kosher salt
1/3 C soy sauce - if you want to make this gluten-free, please be sure you use a gluten-free soy sauce.
1/3 C balsamic vinegar

Fat side up, score the duck breast by making diagonal cuts in the fat (you can see this in the picture above).  Make sure you do not cut deeper than the fat.  On your stovetop, heat a stainless steel or cast iron pan to medium.  Once hot, place the duck in the pan, fat side down.  It should sizzle, if it does not, the pan is not yet hot, so remove the breast and return it once hot.  Cook for 6-8 minutes until the fat side is browned and tasty looking as shown above.  Then flip the breast and cook another 3-5 minutes or until the duck reaches an internal temperature of about 110 F.  You will be letting the duck rest under foil for 10 minutes or so and it should come up to 120.  Slice the duck and drizzle the glaze over the slices.

For the glaze:
In a shallow pan, combine the soy and balsamic.  Heat on medium-low until it reduces and becomes syrupy in consistency. 


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