Thursday, February 23, 2012

Easiest Weeknight Dinner Ever

A filling, hot, GOOD Dinner in 20 minutes? Are you kidding? Nope! Here it is!

Capellini Florentine Balsamico

One Half Package Capellini (Angel Hair) Pasta
One Package Frozen Creamed Spinach
Grated Parmesan / Romano Cheese (1/4 Cup-ish)
Aged Balsamic Vinegar, to Drizzle. (REALLY good quality is important here. Thick, real aged stuff. The "Glaze" sold in supermarkets CAN be substituted in a pinch, but if you don't have the real stuff, I'd skip it. Liquidy Salad Vinegar just won't work here. I use 18 year Aged from Santa Fe Olive Oil Company.)

Prepare Spinach to package directions. Meanwhile, boil water and cook Capellini. (6 minutes or less!)
Drain pasta well.
In a medium-sized bowl, toss drained pasta with Grated Cheese until well mixed.
Add Hot Creamed Spinach, and mix until all pasta is well coated.

Divide into serving bowls and drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar.


(Serve with a quick Caesar Salad, and if you had time to plan, some hot Garlic Knots or Rolls.)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Buttermilk Chicken... NOMS!

Buttermilk Chicken (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

2 cups buttermilk
5 garlic cloves smashed
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika (Hungarian Sweet is my favorite)
Fresh Black Pepper
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken parts (I used Legs and Thighs.)

For Roasting:
Drizzle of olive oil
Sea Salt

Mix buttermilk, salt, garlic, sugar, paprika and black pepper in a large Ziploc Bag (Gallon Freezer Heavy Duty). Add Chicken to bag and swish around to cover with marinade. Place Closed bag in a bowl (Just in case of spills!) and refrigerate for at least 6 but preferably 24 and up to 48 hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove chicken from marinade and arrange in a Foil-Lined baking dish. Season with salt and paprika to taste, and drizzle olive over the chicken. Roast for about 35 to 40 minutes, until chicken has browned nicely and formed a nice crust.

I served mine with freshly made rolls (okay, thawed Rhodes Texas Rolls brushed with melted butter and garlic powder), roasted broccoli, and risotto-style rice.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Soul Food"

"Soul Food"... "Southern Cooking" ... "Comfort Food"...

For my money, if it brings you mentally back to a calmer, safer, easier place, it's one of these categories.

The above meal, from Tom's Home Cooking in Five Points, Denver Colorado, is a perfect example of all those categories. Fresh, Cornmeal-Crusted Fried Catfish that somehow escapes that 'greasy' catfish flavor and texture and is just crisp, clean, and amazing. Macaroni and Cheese, that classic Comfort Food, so velvety and rich. And the Collard Greens. Collards that, somehow, without the addition of smoked ham or bacon, are some of the best I've ever eaten. Accented with my favorite Tobasco Vinegar... This meal took me back to childhood (When, it should be noted, I'd never heard of most of these foods) and just a simple time when food was about love (hence the "Soul Food" moniker) and the preparation that went into it. The community and the safety of easier times.

All that with Collard Greens. Maybe there's hope for the world, after all. Until then, there's Macaroni and Cheese.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Capellini "Risotto" with Wild Mushrooms and Marsala

Capellini "Risotto"

Quite possibly one of the easiest, yummiest, Comfort Foods ever.

You know Risotto? That stuff in my last post that you stir for 45 minutes or more, over a steaming stove?

It's delicious. But forget that. This is the Working (wo)Man's Comfort Food.


Capellini (Angel Hair) Pasta
Mushrooms (This time I used Button, Crimini, and Porcini.)
Chicken Stock (Low Sodium, Organic, or Homemade.)
Marsala Wine.
Fresh Parmesan Cheese.

You'll notice that there are no quantities. I told you this is low-maintenance. Do whatcha want!


Slice and saute the mushrooms. Deglaze with some Marsala wine and set aside.

Melt some butter in a medium-heated pan. (How much depends on how much pasta you are making. I made half a box with 2 tablespoons of butter.)
Break the Capellini in half (I know, I know, Blasphemy.) and toss in the pan to coat with the butter. "Saute" the pasta in the butter until it begins to turn toasty and brown. Now comes the "Risotto" part:
Add in 1/2 cup of Marsala Wine, and stir until it's absorbed by the pasta. Then add in the same amount of Chicken Stock, and Stir again until Pasta is nearly dry. (You will notice that famous "Risotto" creaminess start to form.)
Repeat, adding (For half a pound of pasta) a total of 1.5 Cups of Chicken Stock and 1 Cup of Marsala. Ish. It's all "Add, Stir, Repeat."

When the Pasta is nearly cooked through to your liking (Taste it. It should be Al Dente, and this should take 7 Minutes-ish.) In the last "Add, Stir" session, add the sauteed Mushrooms, stir, and season with Salt and Pepper to taste.

Remove the Pasta from heat, and add in Parmesan Cheese (I used about 1/4 cup Freshly Shaved) and stir until it's completely melted and incorporated.

Voila. "Capellini Risotto"

Nobody will ever guess it only took you 10 minutes!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Wild Mushroom Risotto

The 40 minutes of constant stirring over the stove are always well worth it when you taste the resulting risotto. Wild Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods, being so earthy, with their depth of flavor, and power to infuse other foods.

Risotto is best stirred with a wooden, paddle style spoon.


1/2 Onion, diced
Dried Porcini Mushrooms, reconstituted in a hot sherry/water mixture (Drain and Chop Porcini and Reserve liquid for risotto)
Shiitake Mushrooms, diced. (I used about 8 ounces.)
Olive Oil
2 Cups Rice (Short-Grain Arborio works best. I use whatever i have on hand. It always comes out good.)
1 Quart Good-Quality Chicken Stock.

In large saucepan, melt 1 teaspoon each of butter and olive oil. Add onions and saute on medium until translucent. Add diced Shiitake and add more olive oil if necessary to saute until par-cooked. Add 2 cups of rice, drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Saute over medium heat 3-4 minutes, toasting the rice lightly, until mixture dries out. Add Porcini and stir.
Add reserved porcini liquid, stirring quickly with a wooden spoon or paddle. (Be cautions: Liquid will bubble, boil, and steam.) Continue stirring until most liquid is absorbed. In small batches, add Chicken Stock (1/2 Cup at a time. Ish.) Keep stirring the entire time, adding more Stock as the liquid is absorbed. You will do this for at least 25 minutes. At that point, taste the rice for done-ness and add salt and pepper to season to taste. (The rice will probably still be too al-dente.)
If the rice is still al-dente, add more of the stock, stirring, stirring, stirring *It's a great workout* until the rice is the consistency you'd like.

I prefer mine still a LIIIIITLE firm, but not crunchy. The liquid starts to "creamify" as time goes on, making a "sticky" texture that is the key of Risotto.

When the Risotto is the texture you'd like, remove from heat source.

You can finish with fresh, chopped parsley, if you like. It compliments the risotto quite nicely.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Comforts of Fall

Today was a Macaroni and Cheese kind of day. Not just the blustery weather, with a few snowflakes floating in the wind, and the grey, overcast skies, but the kind of day where you just *CRAVE* comfort food. And a warm hoodie to snuggle in. I paired this rich, creamy Mac 'n Cheese with Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts, because they're deliciously in season, and tossed in some mushrooms, because I had them in the fridge. Voila. Dinner.

I started out with a block of Medium Sharp Cheddar, a block of Swiss, and a Block Grater. Yep, I shred my own cheese, because that's how I roll. Like a Rockstar! Start working! (That'll give your water time to start boiling, anyway!)


Once there are piles of freshly shredded cheese on my countertop, and the rest of the ingredients are assembled, I get kickin'. The pasta should be par-boiled and drained, and the Cheese Sauce making shall commence. Melt the butter in the saucepan, whisk it with the flour to make a light roux, and don't forget add spices at this point to allow the heat to help them release their full flavors. Whisk in the warm milk and stir until the sauce has thickened to coat the back of a spoon. At this point, turn the heat to low and incorporate all the cheeses, one handful at a time. When you've got that creamy, rich sauce, you're in heaven. Just stir in the par-boiled pasta, and get that whole deal in a buttered casserole dish (Or individual ramekins.) For the last 10 minutes of baking, I uncover the dish, just to get a lil of that deeeelish "Pasta Crust" going, too. Adding to that crunch for this recipe is the Parmesan-Panko Crust, just barely broiled to a toasty, crispy goodness.

Mac N Cheese
Mac N Cheese Au Gratin

The accompanying Fall Veggies couldn't be simpler.

Remove the outer leaves of the brussels sprouts and halve them. Cut the mushrooms in to similarly-sized pieces. Toss in a bowl with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Kosher Salt. Arrange the sprouts on a cookie sheet cut-side down, with the mushrooms throughout. Roast at 375 for 10-15 minutes (Just until the Sprouts begin to brown... that roasted, charcoal-y flavor is heaven.) That's it!

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms with 4-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese


8 Ounces of Pasta (Shells, Elbow, Rotini, Whatever.)
3 Tablespoons of Butter
2.5 Tablespoons of Flour
Cayenne (Optional)
Grated Nutmeg
3 Cups Warm Milk (No less than 2% for this.)
2 Cups Shredded Cheddar
1.5 Cups Shredded Swiss
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan
1/4 Cup Velveeta. yes, Velveeta. Trust Me.

For Pamresan-Panko Crust:
3 Tablespoons Butter
Panko Breadcrumbs
Grated Parmesan.

(Melt Butter and Toast Panko, Sprinkle over the top of the Macaroni and Cheese with Parmesan Cheese, then Broil until Browned.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Xiao Long Bao

Xiao Long Bao, or Shanghai Soup Dumplings, are one of the many delectable little dumplings traditionally served steaming in a bamboo basket ("xiaolong" translates literally as "Small Steaming Basket") They are native of Eastern China (Shanghai.) In English, Xiao Long Bao usually refers to pork dumplings with soup inside the skin. They are eaten with Rice Vinegar and strips of fresh, raw ginger. They can be found at may Dim Sum houses for Yum Cha (Tea Drinking with Dim Sum) as well as at many Asian Noodle Houses. They can also be purchased in the freezer section of many Asian Markets, and steamed to sweet and savory perfection at home, on top of Napa Cabbage leaves.