Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

I have had a busy last few weeks and really not by any sort of choice. First, I found myself with a full week of jury duty, which saw me spending full days at the courthouse. While the experience was educational and informative, I am glad to once again have control over my schedule.

Unfortunately, right at the end of my jury service, my dad had an accident and broke eight ribs; two of the ribs were displaced and he also had a Hemothorax. Needless to say, I flew to be with him as soon as I could, and I spent six days visiting him. He is, unfortunately, still in the ICU, so I will likely be traveling to see him again shortly. I am hoping and praying for good news soon. It would be great to see him finally turn the corner. Yes, 2019 has not been kind to me thus far.

Coq au Vin

In an effort to distract myself and do something productive, I’m sitting down to write up a dish I actually prepared weeks ago:  Alton’s Coq au Vin. Coq au Vin is an old French dish that was originally composed as a means of cooking old, tough roosters (I was informed of this fact by both Alton and my dad). This dish certainly takes some time to prepare and you need to start a day ahead of eating. Salt pork is the first ingredient in this recipe, but you can substitute slab bacon if you are unable to find the salt pork. I lucked out and found salt pork at my local grocery store.

IMG_1639

Salt pork.

Cube six ounces of the salt pork and place it in a large skillet over medium heat, along with 2 T water. Cover the skillet and let the pork cook for 5-10 minutes.

IMG_1647

Cubed salt pork in skillet with water.

While the pork cooks, place four chicken thighs and four chicken legs on a metal rack over a sheet pan and season them liberally with Kosher salt and pepper.

IMG_1641

Chicken thighs and legs seasoned with Kosher salt and pepper.

Put 1/4 to 1/2 C flour in a large plastic bag and add a few pieces of the seasoned chicken at a time. Shake the bag to coat the chicken pieces with the flour until all of the chicken has been coated. Set the coated chicken pieces back on the wire rack and set them aside.

When the pork has darkened in color and has rendered some of its fat, remove the lid from the skillet and continue to cook the pork until it is crispy and brown.

Remove the pork from the pan and add 24-30 pearl onions to the pork fat. You will need to peel your pearl onions prior to using them; you can do this easily by cutting off the root end of each onion and cutting a deep V where the root was. Place the onions in boiling water for a minute and let them cool. Once cool, the skins should slide right off.

Cook the peeled onions in the pork fat until they are golden brown, and then remove them from the pan.

Next, add three or four chicken pieces to the skillet and cook the chicken until it is golden brown on all sides.

While the chicken browns, prepare a “bed” for the browned chicken by placing the following ingredients in the bottom of a Dutch oven:  two quartered ribs of celery, two quartered carrots, a quartered onion, 6-8 fresh Rosemary sprigs, three crushed garlic cloves, and one Bay leaf.

IMG_1637

Vegetable bed in Dutch oven: celery, carrot, onion, Rosemary, garlic, and a Bay leaf.

As the chicken pieces finish browning, place them on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven.

IMG_1660

Browned chicken placed on vegetables in Dutch oven.

When all of the chicken has been browned, add 1 T butter to the skillet, along with eight ounces of quartered mushrooms. Scraping the pan, cook the mushrooms for about five minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Remove the mushrooms from the pan, let them cool, and combine them in a container with the cooled pork and onions. Set the mushroom mixture in the refrigerator until the next day. Pour any excess fat out of the pan and discard it (I had very little extra fat in my pan). Remove the pan from the burner and add 1 C Pinot Noir to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a spatula.

IMG_1663

Pinot Noir added to deglaze pan.

Add 2 T tomato paste to the skillet, stirring to combine, and pour the liquid over the chicken in the Dutch oven.

Finally, add 2 C chicken broth to the chicken, along with the rest of the open bottle of wine and another full bottle of Pinot Noir.

Put a lid on the Dutch oven and place it in the refrigerator overnight. The following day, place the Dutch oven in a cold oven and set the oven to heat to 325 degrees. Set a kitchen timer for two hours and check the chicken a few times to be sure it is submerged in the cooking liquid. After the two hour cooking period, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and use tongs to transfer the chicken from the Dutch oven to a packet of foil. Place the foil packet of chicken in the cooling oven to keep warm.

Strain the cooking liquid into a saucier, discarding the vegetables (or you can feed them to your dog, as Alton did in the episode).

Place the saucier over high heat and reduce the liquid by one third, which should take about 30 minutes. You can check the fluid level by placing a rubber band around a long spoon handle at the initial fluid level. When that level has dropped by 1/3, you are good to go.

Once the sauce has reduced, add the onions, mushrooms, and salt pork to the saucier and cook for 15 more minutes.

IMG_1685

Salt pork, onions, and mushrooms added to sauce.

Serve the chicken and sauce over cooked egg noodles.

IMG_1688

Coq au Vin served over egg noodles.

This is a really delicious recipe, but it does take some effort and time. For me, it took two and a half hours of prep the first day, followed by the cooking time the second day. I would certainly consider this to be a special occasion dish simply because of the amount of prep. We did, however, get several meals out of this one recipe, so perhaps the time per meal is not much. The chicken in this dish comes out super moist and tender, and has a slight purple hue. The sauce has many layers of flavor, but is light in body. If you want a chicken dish that can serve a group and results in perfectly cooked chicken with lots of flavor, this is the one.

Alton Brown fans probably know that he is going to back on our TVs starting Monday. He is going to revisit Good Eats, revamping the old recipes he is unhappy with, and adding new methods, techniques, and information. I am anxious to see which recipes he chooses to alter, as there have certainly been some less than perfect recipes along the way. Of course, there have also been some fantastic recipes that have become mainstays in our house. Now, back to my personal assessments of Alton’s original Good Eats.

Beef Paillard

Alton’s beef paillard calls for a good cut of meat, namely beef tenderloin. To serve four people, he calls for a pound of beef. Since it was just the two of us, I had the butcher cut us a couple steaks from the tenderloin, rather than buying a larger cut of tenderloin. Prior to cooking, place your meat in the freezer for two to three hours, as this will make it easier to cut thin slices. When your meat has chilled, remove it from the freezer and slice it into thin slices; Alton used an electric knife for this, but I used a sharp chef’s knife.

IMG_9571

Beef tenderloin, after freezing for two hours.

Place the slices of beef between sheets of plastic wrap, spritzing the beef and the plastic with water (this decreases friction and prevents tearing of the meat and plastic). Pound the meat until it is very thin – probably about 1/8-inch thick.

When all of your meat slices have been pounded, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat for a few minutes.

While the skillet heats, brush both sides of the meat slices with vegetable oil and sprinkle them with pepper and Kosher salt.

IMG_9576

Paillards of beef tenderloin, brushed with vegetable oil and seasoned with pepper and Kosher salt.

Once the skillet is hot, invert the pan and brush the back of the skillet with vegetable oil. Place the beef paillards on the inverted skillet and they should begin sizzling immediately. Alton said his beef took about 10 seconds per side, but I would say that mine took about 30 seconds per side. I would err on the side of caution here, as you really do not want to overcook the beef.

IMG_9578

Inverted cast iron skillet.

IMG_9579

Paillards added to oiled skillet.

IMG_9580

Paillards, flipped after cooking on one side.

Transfer the beef slices to plates, drizzle them with olive oil, and garnish them with some capers, shaved Parmesan, and greens.

IMG_9585

Alton’s beef paillards with olive oil, capers, greens, and shaved Parmesan.

With this recipe, my biggest concern was that I would overcook my beef, but it turned out perfectly. The meat was amazingly tender and seemed to melt in your mouth. And, Alton’s garnishes of olive oil, Parmesan, capers, and greens were spot-on, complimenting the flavor of the beef without overpowering it. The salty nuttiness of the Parmesan, along with the tang of the capers was just perfect with the fruitiness of the olive oil. The best part of this recipe is that it is worthy of a special occasion, yet you can put it together in a very short period of time. This is a recipe that, in my opinion, needs no revamping.

Turkey Piccata

While I had previously eaten chicken piccata (piccata means “sharp”), I had never before had a version with turkey. Alton’s recipe calls for a whole turkey breast, which, surprisingly, was just impossible for me to find. I had to settle for some pre-sliced turkey breast, as that was all I could find after going to numerous stores. If you are able to find a whole turkey breast, slice it into half-inch slices. Place the slices between sheets of plastic wrap, spritz them with water, and pound them until they are twice their original size.

IMG_9543

Slice of turkey placed between sheets of plastic wrap.

Season the top sides of your pounded slices of turkey with Kosher salt and pepper, and place them, seasoned sides down, in a pie plate of flour. Season the second sides of your slices of turkey and coat them also with flour, shaking off any excess.

Next, heat 4 T unsalted butter and 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high.

When the butter has melted, add the floured turkey slices to the pan, cooking them until golden (about two minutes per side).

Move the cooked turkey slices to a foil packet and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while you make the sauce.

IMG_9552

Cooked turkey transferred to foil packet.

To the pan in which you cooked your turkey, add 2 T chopped shallots, cooking for about a minute.

IMG_9553

Shallots added to the pan.

Add 1/2 C white wine and 1/3 C fresh lemon juice to the pan, allowing it to simmer for two to three minutes.

IMG_9554

Wine and lemon juice added to the pan.

Finally, whisk 2 T butter into the sauce.

IMG_9555

Butter, stirred into the sauce.

Spoon the sauce over the warm turkey slices, garnishing with parsley, capers, and peppercorns, if desired.

IMG_9557

Capers added to finish the sauce.

IMG_9562

Turkey piccata.

I had mixed feelings about this recipe because I found the sauce to be tangy and delightful, but my turkey was tough. I see that Alton tells you to cook the turkey for only one minute per side in the online recipe, but he cooked his turkey for two minutes per side in the episode, which seemed to be too long. I also think my turkey piccata would likely have been better if I could have found a whole turkey breast and sliced it just prior to cooking. I’m tempted to give this one another try because the sauce was smooth, buttery, and full of lemon tang. I would recommend opting for chicken if a whole turkey breast is unavailable.

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev is something I remember my mom making once or twice. She viewed it as a special occasion dish, as her mother served it to her father’s business clients who came to dinner. Chicken Kiev is actually of French, rather than Russian, origin, but was brought to Russia by the French in the 18th century. I remember my mom sometimes being frustrated with her Chicken Kiev because the filling would leak out during cooking. Having never made it before, I was hoping Alton’s recipe would keep my filling intact. This is a recipe that you will want to start at least two hours prior to serving, or even the night prior. The first step of this recipe is making a compound butter by combining a stick of softened unsalted butter, 1 t dried parsley (I used fresh, so I used twice as much), 1 t dried tarragon, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper in a stand mixer.

IMG_9203

Butter, parsley, dried tarragon, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Place the compound butter on wax paper, roll it into a log, and place it in the refrigerator to firm.

After the butter has firmed up, place a chicken breast between pieces of plastic wrap, spritzing the chicken and plastic with water.

IMG_9212

Chicken breast in spritzed plastic.

Pound the chicken until it is thin enough to roll. Chicken breasts are fairly thick, so it is tedious to get the chicken thin. Place a couple slices of compound butter in the center of the pounded chicken, along with 1 T panko bread crumbs.

IMG_9214

Pounded chicken topped with compound butter and panko bread crumbs.

Roll the chicken over the butter and bread crumbs by folding the longest edge of chicken over the filling and then folding in the ends. Continue rolling the chicken, using the plastic to help you roll and keeping the ends tucked inside. Wrap the rolled chicken tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, or overnight.

IMG_9216

Rolled chicken.

When ready to cook your chicken, roll the chicken in a pie plate containing two eggs beaten with 1 t water.

IMG_9219

Chilled chicken being rolled in egg wash.

Next, roll the chicken in a plate of panko bread crumbs.

Put a half-inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet and heat it to 375 degrees. Once hot, add the breaded chicken rolls to the pan, cooking for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a rack, letting it rest for five minutes.

IMG_9227

Chicken resting after cooking.

I found that my chicken took considerably longer than 10 minutes to reach 165 degrees inside. You do get some carryover cooking, so I think it is best to pull the chicken from the oil when the internal temperature hits 158-160. Otherwise, your chicken may be slightly overcooked by the time you cut into it.

IMG_9236

Alton’s Chicken Kiev.

We were pretty happy with Alton’s Chicken Kiev. His method for rolling the chicken worked well, and kept the filling intact for the most part (my one roll split a little bit). It is easier to roll the chicken if you get it really thin, so try to get it as thin as possible before filling/rolling. Also, don’t skimp on the chilling time for the rolled chicken, as the chicken really needs that time to maintain its shape. The panko bread crumbs gave Alton’s chicken a really great crispy crust, and the filling of the chicken had lots of anise-like flavor from the tarragon. I do wish that the compound butter would have melted a bit more, though. I just wouldn’t cook the chicken all the way to 165, as my chicken was just a tad overcooked. My mom can’t really cook anymore because of her Parkinson’s, but I think she likely would have adopted Alton’s Chicken Kiev recipe as her go-to.

French Onion Soup

I’m not gonna lie – I was excited when I saw that Alton’s French onion soup was next on the agenda. I have loved French onion soup since I was a kid, even vaguely recalling the first time I had it. I was in a restaurant with my parents and brother (I believe it was a restaurant called Jonathan’s, but I may be wrong on the location) and my parents encouraged me to try onion soup. When I saw the crock full of steaming broth, crusty bread, and bubbling cheese, I was not sure how to go about “attacking” it. My dad, describing the best onion soup he ever had, instructed me that the key to properly eating French onion soup is to be sure to get a bit of broth (and onion), bread, and cheese in every bite. Oh, and he also advised me to use the side of the crock to help to “cut” the cheese. It was love at first bite for me, and I, along with the rest of my family, have continued to love this classic soup ever since. Somewhere along the line, French onion soup even managed to become our go-to Christmas Eve meal. How? I don’t recall, but I know the idea was my mom’s… and that it was pure genius.

I have made a plethora of French onion soup recipes, including those from Julia Child (though delicious, I do not recommend this recipe if you plan a family outing in a confined car the following day), Thomas Keller, Tyler Florence, and Cook’s Illustrated. I am sure there have been others. Last weekend, I added Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats to this list.

I watched the 9th episode of Good Eats, taking notes on Alton’s preparation in the show. He strictly recommends using sweet onions (preferably Vidalias), or a combination of sweet and red onions. I opted to do the latter. Since I was making a double batch of soup, I ended up using about eight pounds of onions, with half being of each type of onion. Alton suggests using an electric skillet for the soup, but I do not have one, so I used a standard stockpot.

Per Alton’s instructions, I melted butter in my pan and added my sliced onions in layers, sprinkling Kosher salt over each layer.

Melting butter

Melting butter

First layer of sweet onions in the pan.

First layer of sweet onions in the pan.

Combination of sweet and red onions, along with salt.

Combination of sweet and red onions, along with salt.

After the onions sweated for a while, I began stirring them every 15 minutes until they had drastically cooked down and were caramelized to a dark brown. This took at least a couple hours for my onions.

Onions beginning to cook down.

Onions beginning to cook down.

8-12-2014 010

Onions after a couple hours on the stove.

Onions after a couple hours on the stove.

Once cooked down, I covered the onions with Gewurztraminer (Alton recommends this or a Chardonnay), and allowed the wine to cook down to a syrup-like state.

Wine to add to my onions.

Wine to add to my onions.

Onions with wine.

Onions with wine.

At this point, the remaining liquids were added:  beef consomme, chicken broth, and apple cider; in the show, Alton says it does not matter whether the cider is filtered, so I used filtered cider.

Beef consomme and apple cider. Not pictured:  chicken stock.

Beef consomme and apple cider. Not pictured: chicken stock.

The bouquet garni is also tossed in at this point, and the soup is simmered to allow the flavors to combine.

Bouquet garni of thyme, parsley, and a bay leaf.

Bouquet garni of thyme, parsley, and a bay leaf.

After simmering, the soup is seasoned with Kosher salt, pepper, and Cognac.

Completed soup, simmering.

Completed soup, simmering.

To serve, the soup is topped with toasted bread (toasted under the broiler), grated Parmesan, and sliced Fontina. The bowls go back under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and voila!

Bread to be toasted under the broiler.

Bread to be toasted under the broiler.

Soup with bread on top.

Soup with bread on top.

A combination of cheeses to top the soup.

A combination of cheeses to top the soup.

Parmesan and Fontina cheeses on the soup.

Parmesan and Fontina cheeses on the soup.

The completed soup.

The completed soup.

I shared some of this onion soup with my parents, and Ted and I had it twice for dinner. My parents felt that the soup was a bit too sweet, but we did not think the same. To me, all onion soups are sweet, and this one actually had a nice tang on the finish. Perhaps it was the cider that my parents did not much care for. Overall, I thought this was a very good French onion soup. It was far less labor-intensive and time-consuming than some others I have made, but it still had well-developed flavors. I also really liked the combination of Parmesan and Fontina to top the soup. Traditionally, my mom always topped her soup with Gruyere or Emmentaler, but I think I maybe liked Alton’s combination more. Alton’s recipe is quite different from some of the others I have had, using white wine and chicken stock, as opposed to red wine and beef stock. The addition of cider is another twist. I think that the flavor of the actual onions shone more with Alton’s recipe, as the onions were not overpowered by liquids in the soup, and the soup still had a nice “bite” to it. I think it is safe to say that we will be turning to this recipe again in the future… Christmas Eve, perhaps?