Sunday, January 29, 2012

40 Cloves and a Chicken

My BFFs make this dish all the time and rave about it. I finally made it tonight and it's a winner for sure. No vampires will be bothering us tonight with the 40 cloves of garlic that make this dish so delicious. This recipe calls for a whole chicken, broken down into 8 pieces. I prefer to just use the breast, but suggest using bone-in chicken breast otherwise the chicken will dry out. The chicken is seared on the stove top first but then roasted in the oven with olive oil and garlic, which gets soft and spreadable. Serve with a yummy loaf of crusty bread to sop up the oil and spread the garlic on. This recipe is courtesy of Alton Brown.

1 whole chicken (broiler/fryer) cut into 8 pieces (or 4 bone-in chicken breasts)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
10 sprigs fresh thyme
40 peeled cloves garlic (you can find already peeled garlic in the produce section)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Toss with a 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown on both sides in a wide fry pan or skillet over high heat. (I used my cast-iron skillet, but just make sure your skillet or pan is oven safe.) Remove from heat, add oil, thyme, and garlic cloves. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove chicken from the oven, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, carve, and serve.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cider-Glazed Pork Chops

Pork chops are a very economical and versatile option for dinner. Apples and pork just go together and I love how when the cider thickens and forms a glaze, it really concentrates the flavor. The only thing I would change about this is next time I am going to double the glaze so I have more to drizzle over the finished chops and potatoes. Oh yeah, this dish is great with roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes doused with the cider glaze. This recipe is courtesy of iVillage.

1 cup apple cider    
2 cloves garlic, minced    
Leaves from one 2-inch rosemary sprig (I used fresh thyme leaves because that is what I had)
2 center-cut bone-in pork chops
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400˚.

Bring the apple cider to a boil and add the garlic and rosemary. Cook until reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

Brush the pork chops with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat a heavy ovenproof cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium high heat for 3 minutes. Add the pork chops to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes per side to brown the meat.

Brush the pork chops with the cider glaze and transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork chop reads 145˚.

Drizzle the chops with additional glaze before serving.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lighter General Tso's Chicken

My husband loves Chinese food, especially General Tso's Chicken. Here is a lighter version from Everyday Food. I am not going to pretend that this is anything like what you get from the neighborhood Chinese takeout restaurant, but it was good and approved by my taste tester, my husband.

1 1/4 cups long-grain brown rice (or any rice that you like)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled (I despise ginger, so I left this ingredient out)
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (please use a low sodium variety)
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower

Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).

Add snow-pea mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.

Balsamic Skirt Steak with Creamy Polenta

This recipe has been adapted from an Everyday Food recipe.

Skirt steak might be my new favorite. Last night was my first night cooking it and it was so easy. It literally only takes 2-3 minutes per side for medium rare. This is not a steak that works cooked well done, but what steak really does work at well done? Anyway, I wasn't expecting it to be so tender and flavorful, but it was. And another positive is that skirt steak is very economical. I definitely like it better than a flank steak. This cut of meat would be great for fajitas.

Reducing balsamic vinegar down, thickens it and turns it into a great sauce. Place the steak on a bed of creamy polenta and drizzled with the vinegar glaze is an absolute pefect combination of flavors. I completed the meal with sauteed mushrooms and a side salad. (The mushrooms complemented the steak and polenta wonderfully.)

If you're making this for two people, consider cutting the polenta serving in half because it does make quite a bit.

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak (cut into 2 or more pieces, if necessary, to fit in skillet)
1 cup balsamic vinegar

Bring milk and chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt; reduce heat to low and gradually whisk in cornmeal. Simmer very gently over low heat, whisking occasionally, until polenta is thickened and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Whisk in butter and Parmesan, and keep warm over very low heat (whisk in some more broth or milk just before serving if polenta becomes too thick).

Meanwhile heat oil in a large skillet over high. (I used my cast-iron skillet.) Season steak with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Cook, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest, 5 to 10 minutes (reserve skillet).

While steak is resting, add vinegar to skillet, and boil over high until reduced to 1/2 cup, 5 to 7 minutes; stir in any juices from resting steak. Slice steak, and serve with vinegar sauce and polenta.