Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Leapin' Leftovers!! - Gingered Pear Chicken Salad

Chicken Chicken Chicken Chicken.... What to do with left over chicken.  It's a never ending conundrum.  For there always seems to be some left over chicken somewhere in the refrigerator.  My answer is usually Chicken Salad.  (Lots and Lots of Chicken Salad - Cause I eat a lot of Chicken)

I have never really blogged about chicken salad before, cause it's just sort of something that I do and never really think of it as particularly interesting.  I mean, it's just chicken salad after all.  It usually changes depending on what is in the cupboard or in the refrigerator.  It always contains chicken, of course, but the accouterments change all the time.  Isn't that the essence of chicken salad?

THIS time, however, I happened to have all my favorite additions available, so I figured I would go ahead and give the whole thing a whacky whirl and document the deliciousness.

My Favorite Chicken Salad

4 cups (16 oz) Chicken Breast or Thighs, cubed
3 ribs of Celery, diced
1 can of Water Chestnuts, drained and sliced
1 d'Anjou pear, diced
3 Green Onions, sliced thinly
1/2 cup Homemade Mayonnaise
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1 TB White Wine
3 TB Fresh Ginger, grated fine (I use a microplane zester)
1/2 tsp Dry Mustard Powder

Place the cubed chicken in the bowl.

Add the Celery, Chestnuts, Pear and Green Onions.

In a small bowl, whisk the Mayonnaise, Yogurt, Wine, Ginger and Dry Mustard together to form a smooth dressing.

Pour the ginger/mayonnaise dressing over the bowl full of Chicken and bits.

Toss until everything is well coated.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours.

Serve as you like, on a bed of lettuce.....

or in a sourdough roll, as a sandwich.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Peter Piper Prepared a Pot of Pepper Porridge - Cream of Bell Pepper Soup

The world is full of cream soup...

Cream of Asparagus, Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Chicken, Cream of Celery, Cream of Broccoli... Heck, even the famed Vichyssoise is a Cream of Potato and Leek.  But I don't think there is a cream soup out there that is quite as delicious and versatile as Cream of Bell Pepper.

To start with, you can use just about any Bell Pepper.  They all taste slightly different, giving you a myriad of flavor possibilities from the exact same recipe.  Red, Orange, Yellow, Purple, White or Green they are ALL delicious.  You can make one batch or divide the recipe into two 1/2 batches with 2 different colors of pepper for a little panache at the table.

In my case, I used Red and Yellow for their complimentary flavor qualities.  The Red pepper has a stronger, more pungent flavor while the Yellow Pepper has a more subtle and creamy flavor.  A perfect balance of deliciousness.

Creamy Bell Pepper Soup

2 TB Olive oil; divided
1 medium White Onion, diced; divided
1 1/2 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1 1/2 Yellow Bell Pepper, seeded and sliced thin
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced finely; divided
1/2 cup White Wine; divided
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt; divided
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper; divided
4 cups Chicken Stock; divided
1 cup Heavy Cream; divided
4 TB AP Flour; divided

Divide Olive Oil between to medium saucepans and place over medium heat. Once the oil is hot divide the chopped Onion between the two pans and sweat for 5 minutes, until a little soft.

Add the the Yellow Peppers to one pan and the Red Peppers to the other along with a minced clove of garlic to each pan; saute for an additional 5 minutes.

Add the 1/4 cup of White Wine to each pan and let it reduce by half.

Season each pan with 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt and 1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper.

Add 2 cups of Chicken Stock to each pan.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 11 minutes, until the peppers are soft.

Strain the Yellow Peppers and return the stock to the sauce pan.

Puree the Peppers in a blender or food processor, until smooth.

Add the puree back to the stock and place over medium heat.

Rinse the blender jar or processor bowl and repeat the above steps with the Red Peppers.

You know, like washing your hair - Lather, Rinse, Repeat.... Or in this case - Puree, Rinse Repeat.

Raise the flame to medium high and mix 1/2 cup of Heavy cream with 2 TB of AP Flour for each sauce pan of soup.

Add the Cream/Flour mixture to the soups.

Grab a whisk, and whisk the soups until they thicken slightly.

Serve in 2 separate small bowls with crusty bread, or serve both soups in a single bowl. (I like the whole Yin Yang presentation).

Ah!  The Zen of soup.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dog Catcher in the Rye - PB Puppy Biscuits

I was torn about what to blog about this evening....  It's been one of those days.  Saturday and nothing pressing to do. So I spent most of the day in the kitchen making Streusel Scones, Cream of Bell Pepper Soup and Peanut Butter, Oatmeal & Rye Biscuits for Puppy.  Sounds like an odd dinner, No? LMAO

So after several coin tosses and a round of eeny meeny miney moe...  The Peanut Butter Biscuits won.

Dogs do not "taste" the same way we do.  In fact, they have 1/6th the amount of taste buds that humans have; about 1,700 as opposed to 9,000 in humans.  A dogs sense of smell, however, kind of makes up for the lack of taste buds.  Since, you cannot "smell" salt, nor can one "smell" sugar...  They are completely unnecessary ingredients when it comes to dog treats.  Since both of these can be detrimental to the health of your canine pal, it's best just to leave them out.

The key to a good dog treat is smell.  The more "aromatic" your dog treat, the more they will enjoy it.  Peanut Butter or Hazelnut Butter are excellent additions to these canine crunchables.  Does your dog not care for peanut butter?  That's OK, you can substitute 4 ounces of shredded Cheddar for the Peanut Butter and make Cheese Biscuits.  Neat-o Frito, huh?

Why am I so stuck on uncommon flours for my dog treats.  They tend to be whole grain flours instead of refined as wheat so often is, and they are either gluten-free or only contain minuscule amounts.  Gluten intolerance in dogs seems to be on the rise.  Otto, my previous companion, had gluten issues (it caused hot spots) so I am not taking any chances.


(Peanut Butter Puppy Biscuits)

260 g (2 cups) Barley Flour
60 g (1/2 cup) Oat Flour
60 g (1/2 cup) Dark Rye Flour
235 ml (1 cup) Peanut Butter
1 Large Egg
60 ml (1/4 cup) Olive Oil
118 ml (1/2 cup) Water

Whisk the all three flours together in a large bowl.

Make a well in the center and add the remaining ingredients.

Mix with a spatula, or your hands until you have a somewhat cohesive, if mottled, dough.

Move dough to the counter and knead until smooth, if a little crumbly.

Wrap in plastic and allow to rest while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Roll on a rye floured surface to 1/2 inch thickness.

Cut out biscuits (I made 1 pan of small 1/2 inch biscuits and 1 pan of larger 1 3/4  inch biscuits)

Place biscuits on parchment lined baking sheets. (you can place them very close, they do not spread)

Bake small biscuits for about 20 minutes and large biscuits for 35 minutes.

Cool on racks and let your puppy enjoy after a long afternoon of chasing your niece around the yard.

Good Dog!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Amazing Amatrice - Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

A tantelizing pasta dish hailing from Amatrice on the border of Lazio and Abruzzo in Italy.  If you love things like Bacon Tomato hash, the Classic BLT and/or Goulash, this pasta dish is for you.

Though classically made sans onions, a Roman affectation, the key to this dish, what separates it from all the others is the use of Guanciale.  Guanciale is cured porcine cheek, as opposed to Smoked Pork Belly (American Bacon), Dry Cured Pork Shoulder (Hot Coppa), or Dry Cured unsmoked Pork Belly (Pancetta).  And while all the meats listed can be used as substituted in a pinch, they are mere shadows of the real thing.  Guanciale has a much more intense flavor so a little goes a looooooong way.  It also lends almost a "Creamy" texture to the dish. 

Sadly, I was forced to use Hot Coppa this time...  I thought I still had some Guanciale in the refrigerator.  Alas, much to my dismay and forgetfulness, I did not.  Angels wept, as did I.   But since I already set my teeth on having all'Amatriciana for dinner I went ahead and substituted.

Traditionally, at least in Amatrice, this "Sugo" (sauce) is served over Spaghetti; while in Rome, Bucatini is the preferred pasta vehicle.  Me?  I am a Spaghetti kind of guy... But, in Roman fashion, I like a little onion in mine as well. 

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

1 TB Olive oil
1/4 cup Onion, chopped
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flake
4 oz Guanciale (though I used Hot Coppa this time)
1/2 cup White Wine
15.5 oz can Diced San Marzano Tomatoes
1/2 cup Pasta Water
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano, freshly grated

So cut the Guanciale/Hot Coppa/Pancetta/bacon into cubes.

Heat olive oil in a pan, then add the onions and saute briefly.

Sprinkle the Red Pepper flake over the Onions and saute a couple minutes more.

Add the cubed Guanciale (Hot Coppa) and saute an additional 2-3 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with White Wine.

Let the wine reduce to about 2 TB, then add the tomatoes.

Continue simmering the sauce while you drop the pasta into boiling water. (about 8 minutes)
Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and set aside.

Drain pasta and place in a large tossing bowl.

Add 1/4 cup of the starchy water to the sauce.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss briefly.

Add the Pecorino Romano and toss again.

If the sauce is a little too stiff, add the 1/2 cup pasta water to not only wetten things up, but bind everything together as well.

Serve with extra grated Pecorino Romano.