Saturday, January 8, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu with a white wine cream sauce

Kerrie's Birthday was mid week this week so we delayed her birthday dinner until Friday night so I would have time to cook. She decided she wanted Chicken Cordon Bleu this year so I went to work finding recipes. In the end I kind of combined two that appealed to me and the results were excellent.

The main recipe was from Tyler Florence,  while he can be a bit of a tool at times I generally like his recipes.
I didn't really diverge from it at all other than adding some paprika and garlic to the flour before dredging the chicken. I also used a really nice aged gruyere cheese instead of swiss.

the other recipe I pulled from was for a non breaded chicken cordon bleu recipe. The recipe itself might be worth trying at some point but it's lack of breading ruled it out for birthday dinner. The sauce however looked great and I thought it would be delicious to serve with the chicken and the steamed asparagus and broccoli I was serving on the side.

One major problem of course, I could not make the sauce in the way described in the recipe without soaking my nice crispy breading. That would not do.

Enter whole chicken breasts. Whenever possible I like to avoid buying boneless skinless chicken. there are many reasons for doing so, cost is a big one but flavor drives me. The other advantage to buying bone in breasts is that you always get the tender. Those got their own coat of breading for the kids to eat. Sometimes they are included on boneless skinless breast but there is no guarantee.

So after separating the breasts and tenders from the bones and skin, I took the "waste", seasoned them up with some salt and pepper and tossed them into a hot pan with some olive oil. This gave me a nice pan full of tasty browned bits to make the wine and cream sauce with.

One other wrinkle to this meal was I had to stage it so I could carry everything to Kerrie's mom's house. Kerrie's mom is laid up with a broken leg and can't travel yet so we brought birthday dinner to her house.
The chicken is easy, you roll and bread it and set it in a baking dish for cooking later. Realistically you could freeze it at this stage and have a meal in the can for anytime.

For the sauce I added the butter to the browned chicken bits and then deglazed the pan with the wine. I seasoned and reduced it then set it aside to bring with us.

Once I put had the chicken in the oven for 10 minutes or so I reheated the sauce and added the cream and cornstarch mixture as directed so it was hot and fresh to serve with dinner. With all that cream and butter I was pretty sure it wouldn't reheat well and would most likely turn into a pasty thick slop. It wasn't worth the risk.

One other really interesting offshoot to the recipe was around portion size. I liked the idea of slicing the chicken and serving it up family style. I made 5 portions and sliced up 3 and 1/2 for service for 4 adults. We didn't come close to finishing what I had sliced and had 1.5 breasts left untouched. Typically with Codon Bleu you give each person a whole portion and if they are anything like me, they eat what is on their plate. It was a nice way to apply some portion control without looking like a skimpy plate.

I served it with a loaf of Wegmans Garlic Tuscan bread.  and the remaining wine,which was a Standing Stone Semi dry vidal

If you live near a Wegmans and have not tried the tuscan garlic bread then shame on you, go buy some, now.
If you don't live near a Wegmans, well I'm sorry.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A simple composed meal

Sometimes I can't help myself, I have to get cute with my food. While I usually try to stay within a general theme for a meal I rarely put much thought into carrying flavors from one dish to another or make sauces to tie all the elements together. Sometimes it happens naturally, sometimes, like today I have a plan.
We decided to have a late dinner tonight so we could eat like civilized adults after the kids went to bed, which gave me the opportunity to focus on the meal. I would be lying if I said that a good sprinkling of kid free silence was a key ingredient.

 The menu

Grilled Pork Chops, Caramelized brussel sprouts, and a cucumber ribbon salad.

While the kids were eating their oh so tasty dinner, I made the dressing for the salad.  Really the whole idea for the salad came from the the fact that I had half a cucumber sitting on the cutting board  left over from the kids. I figured I would hit it with the peeler and figure out what to do with it from there.

I looked up a few recipes while I planned and I found one that had most of the flavors I was after.
However I wanted something creamy to make it a bit more reminiscent of tzatziki sauce but with a different overall flavor. So I added a scoop of Greek yogurt, some honey and a touch of buttermilk to loosen it up. I added some mixed field greens and baby spinach to a bowl, mounded the cucumbers on top and added the dressing. A few kalamata olives later and it really came together.

I went back to the well with the caramelized brussel sprouts, I omitted the feta this time for no real reason.
The pomegranate molasses was going to be the thread for the whole meal. It's origins are from the Middle East and it is used in a lot of Mediterranean dishes so those are the flavors I was focusing on.

We got some great pork chops from Sweet Grass Farms which I coated with a bit of olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper and cumin. While they rested and came up to room temp I cut and prepped the sprouts. heated up my grill pan for the chops and a big frying pan for the sprouts.

Once both pans were nice and hot I got to work, getting all the sprouts down on the cut side to develop their lovely brown color and dropping the chops onto a hot pan.

I cooked the chops for about 6-8 minutes per side to an internal temp of 150-155. With good quality pork I don't mind a bit of pink inside. Really it won't hurt you and your delicious tender pork will make you a  happier person. Let the pork rest for a few minutes before serving.

I drizzled the pomegranate molasses over the chops and the sprouts on the plate and enjoyed, added a mound of the salad and voila, a complete meal.

The juice from the pork, the molasses, and the dressing all blended very well on the plate and each bite of the different dishes carried the flavors of the others.

All in all it turned into a nice quiet tasty meal.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Easter Cheese Bread for Rebecca

1 LB grated Romano Cheese (you can use a Parmesan Romano blend but all Romano is the best)
1/2 cup sugar (a scant 1/2 cup)
1 tsp salt
1/2 Cup crisco
2 Cups scalded milk

2 oz yeast cake
dissolved in 1/2 cup lukewarm water

8-12 eggs beaten ( the variance is based on size of eggs, when this recipe was written by my great grandmother eggs were pretty inconsistent)
11 cups (or less) flour
1/2 (or more) tsp black pepper

I have a 4.5 quart Kitchen Aid mixer which cannot handle this recipe as a whole batch so I split it in two. If you have a big 6 quart mixer you might be able to do the whole thing.

Add the first 5 ingredients to your mixing bowl. I like to leave a few chunks of Romano cheese in the mix. They provide a happy little bite of cheese to the lucky souls who find them in the bread.

Blend together in the bowl of your mixer, the scalded milk should melt the crisco pretty nicely. Be sure the mixture is not to hot then add your yeast. Mix well, then add the beaten eggs, mix well. Then add the pepper and 4-5 cups of flour. Start mixing and add flour about 1/2 cup at a time until the dough forms a soft sponge. This is the step that takes the most practice and feel. The dough will still be pretty sticky and you should be able to see bubbles in it. It won't be a typical elastic bread dough.

Place the dough in a warm oiled kettle or mixing bowl, cover with a picee of wax paper and a clean kitchen towel and let it rise.

After it rises the first time punch it down and divide into 4 loaves. Place each loaf into a greased bread pan or suitably sized  vessel. It is part of the tradition in our family to to make at least one loaf in a different shaped or sized thing. Most of that stems from my mother never owning four loaf pans but having a lot of cool pottery that was made by my Aunt and/or Uncle.

Cover the loaves and let the dough rise again in the pans.

Preheat the oven to 425

Brush each loaf with beaten egg.  Now at this point if you aren't careful the loaves will collapse a bit in the pan so I usually plan on letting them rise for 10 minutes or so after I have brushed them.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

The tops of the loaves should be a dark mahogany color and the loaves will be surprisingly light for their size. Let them cool before cutting, it will be hard because they smell amazing but if you cut them too soon they tend to fall apart a bit.

As much as I love this bread fresh and served with Easter dinner, it is really the toast it makes the next day. Toasted Easter cheese bread with butter is a delight that I look forward to every year.

The two full rises and the process of putting this bread together turns it into a long project which is why I only make it once a year. It is very well worth it.