Southwest Strata

I got into making stratas a few years ago, when I found myself in need of a relatively easy and quick dish to make for brinner, and happened to have a lot of bread sitting around that I didn’t want to go to waste.

A strata is basically a casserole thingy where stale bread and veggies are baked and set in an eggy-milk mixture. The possibilities of how you choose to compose it are pretty endless so far as the mix-ins are concerned. I’ve made two before that I’ve shared on here, with really great results. (Here, and here.) Today, I’m sharing a third.

While the meat- base itself is like others in having sausage, this time, I decided to make a strata with a southwestern flavor profile; put another way, the mix-ins and spices matched with things I typically like to put in my tacos and burritos. I used sauteed red peppers, onions, green chiles, spinach and corn as my veggies. I also seasoned the egg base with a good deal of cumin and smoked paprika.

One thing I will say when it comes to the egg-milk base: it’s always better to have too much than too little. If there’s not enough egg-milk custard poured over the strata and allowed to set, then it’s not going to bind and hold together while it bakes.

Another thing to be mindful of is the size of the baking dish you use. You want to make sure it’s high enough to be able to accommodate/fit both the ingredients and the egg custard, so I would strongly recommend using one that’s between 2.5-3 inches high, and also placing the bakign dish itself on top of a sheet pan while it bakes–just in case there’s seepage.

Keep in mind that because stratas are so customizable/adaptable, you can be very preferential with how you choose to fill this thing. For instance, I didn’t use mushrooms, beans or salsa , but those are all mix-in options that would work very well in this. You can also feel free to use whichever cheese you prefer on top.

If you’re in need of a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast/brunch dish that feeds a crowd (especially on/for holidays, for instance) look no further. This strata is the way to go. For such a small and relatively simply list of ingredients, it makes a TON of food that’s very filling and quite delicious if I say so myself.

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Southwest Strata

Recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 10-12 cups lightly packed garlic or herb flavored bread, slightly stale and cubed (I used leftover rolls from this recipe, but really any sturdy herb-y bread will work)
  • 3 lbs. ground pork sausage (or turkey sausage, if you prefer)
  • 3 red bell peppers, chopped into cubes or strips, your preference
  • 2 large yellow sweet onions, chopped into cubes or strips, your preference
  • 20 oz frozen spinach, cooked according to package and squeezed completely dry
  • 8 oz. canned diced green chiles
  • 15 oz. canned yellow corn
  • 16 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • Onion powder, garlic powder, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumim
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican Blend cheese

Directions

Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish (I recommend one that’s roughly 3 inches high) with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil to medium heat.

Brown the sausage, then drain off excess grease. Set the sausage aside in a large-medium size bowl.

Add some more oil the skillet, and saute first the bell peppers, then the onions until they are softened and translucent. Combine the peppers and onions with the canned corn and green chiles in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings until well combined and yolks are broken.

Layer a third of the cubed bread in the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of the sausage. Add a layer of the vegetables. Add a layer of the spinach. Repeat until you’ve layered all the bread, vegetables and sausage in the dish.

Pour the egg-milk mixture over the strata, using a rubber spatula to ensure that it gets into the corners and absorbs all of the ingredients. This may take some patience to allow the liquid to seep into the bread. (It’s also okay if you don’t use all of it in this step. Save the excess for later.)

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours and up to 24 hours. (If chilling for later, be sure to let the strata sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before baking.) 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you have excess milk-egg mixture leftover, pour the remainder over the strata, using a rubber spatula to help absorb it into the ingredients. Place the baking dish on top of a foil lined sheet pan and cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake the strata until puffed, golden brown around the edges, and set in the center, about 60-70 minutes. (Insert a knife in the center; if it comes out clean and without eggy residue, it’s ready.)

Remove the strata from the oven, remove the foil, and preheat broiler.

Sprinkle the top with the 1 cup or as much cheese as desired. Return to the oven and broil until the cheese is browned and bubbling.

Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #448.

Honey Curry Chicken

When I was first learning how to cook,(about 10-11 years ago–yeesh) my mom gave me some advice that is still helping me to this day: get really comfortable good at making a handful of dishes so that you can put your own spin on them, and always have a ready meal to ‘whip’ out at and make at a moment’s notice.

I took the advice, and it’s served me very well. Like a lot of home cooks, I too now have a list of ‘go-to’/’old faithful’ recipes that I depend upon and keep in a regular rotation just because #1, They come together pretty easily, #2, They’re pretty popular with the crowd I’m feeding, #3 I’ve made them enough times to where I can put my own spin on them to the point where I don’t really need the recipe anymore, and it’s just more for occasional reminders when certain things slip my mind.

I’ve shared most of those recipes on the blog already, and today I’m sharing another one. Like the majority of the others, it’s chicken breast (which we prefer) as it’s generally inexpensive and so far as proteins go, also pretty good for you. It’s also very much one of those ‘blank canvas’ ingredients that can be adapted for a number of different cuisines.

I hope I don’t piss any purists off by what I decided to call this recipe. I do recognize that a true/traditional curry from pretty much any cuisine takes hours to make and has a long ingredient list of fresh spices. I admit right off rip that this is very much a quick, nontraditional, ‘shortcut’ to a curry. I use jarred, pre-ground curry powder, and from start to finish, it probably doesn’t take much longer than 2 hours to put together.

But, whether you think it should be called a curry or not, it is good.

The honey and the soy sauce are a really great salty-sweet offset to the bite of the spices, and as it cooks, then sits, the flavors get even better. This is far from a conventional curry, both in the method and the ingredients, but they do work well together, and it’s relatively easy to make–thus explaining why it’s now in our regular rotation.

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Honey Curry Chicken

Recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 4-6 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into medium sized (about 2 inches) cubes
  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 2 cups, plus 1/3 cup flour, divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of your favorite multi-purpose seasoning (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Saute)
  • 40 ounces of chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2/3 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 4 tbsp honey dijon mustard
  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Divide the cubed chicken into two 1 gallon sized plastic bags.

In a medium size bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with the multi purpose seasoning and stir together with a fork.

Evenly divide the flour mixture between the two ziploc bags. Seal tightly, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.

Coat the bottom of a large non-stick stockpot or Dutch Oven with a few tablespoons of canola, vegetable or olive oil. Brown the floured meat over high heat on the stovetop. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. When it’s browned, temporarily move the meat to a sheet pan. Don’t overcrowd the pot, you’ll have to repeat/do this in about 2-3 batches to get through all of the meat.

When you’re finished browning the meat, add a little bit more oil to the pot, then add the onions. Cook over medium heat until they’re softened and translucent, 5-10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pot and place them with the browned chicken.

Add about 1/3 cup of flour to the pot/Dutch oven. Stir with a whisk over low-medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, just until you can smell the flour begin to toast.

Pour in the chicken broth, bay leaves, melted butter, honey, soy sauce, honey mustard and the spices.Use a wire whisk to stir, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 20 minutes, tasting and adjusting for seasoning (but also keep in mind, it’s going to develop even more flavor in the oven, so it’s okay if it doesn’t taste perfect just yet).

Spray an 11×13 and an 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray. Place the browned chicken and the onions in the dish in an even layer.

When the curry sauce has reached your taste level, ladle it over the chicken so that is is at least half-submerged. (You’ll have extra broth leftover, this is fine) Cover the baking dishes tightly with foil.

Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, until the chicken can be easily pulled apart with a fork.

Serve over white or brown rice.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #435.

Chicken Pot Pie

I didn’t initially plan on sharing this recipe this week, but with the way that the weather’s been going lately in my corner of the country, it felt like an appropriate time to break out some comfort, stick-to-your-ribs food, and this one’s pretty much at the top of that list.

I attempted to make chicken pot pie for the blog several years ago, and it didn’t really turn out at all. Rather than accept complete defeat, I improvised on the fly and still came out with what I thought was a pretty tasty meal anyway.

But the L I took that day still bothered me. I wanted to make it right.

It’s taken me a while, but I finally think that I have.

When it comes to chicken pot pie, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for error. You can’t lean on one ‘element’ of the dish more than the other. You may have a great crust, but if the filling is bland/soupy/off, it won’t really matter. You may have a great filling, but if the casing is wack, then you’ll just be trying to eat ‘around’ it, which makes for a less than ideal eating experience.

Both the crust and the filling of a chicken pot pie have to be good, or the whole thing is going to bomb.

Making a good filling or crust for any kind of pie comes down to two things: seasoning and time. Salt and pepper alone for a pot pie filling don’t cut it for me; bay leaf, herbs and onion powder are musts. And even after the filling’s been seasoned, the flavor needs time to become more pronounced and tasty. Plus, the colder the filling is when you bake the pie, the better the bottom crust will brown and actually cook through instead of just becoming mushy/soggy.

Flaky pie crust comes from chilled and relaxed pie dough with big flecks of butter spread throughout. Relaxed pie dough is dough that’s been chilled for a while and gone even longer without being touched or handled. This takes time.

Making chicken pot pie isn’t difficult, but my recommendation for the actual labor of the dish is to spread it out across two days. Make the filling and the pie filling on Day 1, and let them rest overnight in the fridge. This will chill and relax the pie dough long enough to make it flaky, and it will allow the filling to grow cold enough to fill the pie but not soggy-ify the bottom crust, and most importantly, to develop maximum flavor.

On Day 2, the only thing there’ll be left to do is roll out the dough into the pie dish, fill the pie, then roll the second crust on top. The whole process of assembly takes less than 30 minutes, and in give or take another hour, you have what is a pretty amazing dinner if I may say so myself.

Chicken Pot Pie

Pie Crust Recipe Adapted from Food52, Filling recipe by Jess @CookingisMySport

Ingredients

For Pie Crust

  • 2 1/4 sticks (254 grams) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 2 cups (256 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons very cold water, plus more if needed

For the Filling

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Onion Powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock*
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 large sprigs rosemary
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 tbsp-1 tbsp. honey mustard (depending on taste preference)
  • 4 cups chopped, cooked chicken (about 1 large rotisserie chicken)

Directions

For Pie Crust:

In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, sugar and black pepper. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients, and stir together with a fork. Add the water, adding more tablespoon by tablespoon if needed just until it holds together.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into two portions. One should be slightly larger than the other. The larger one will be our bottom crust, the smaller one will be the top crust. Wrap both of these blobs in plastic, then press down to form a well-sealed disc. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling and assembling the pie. (I typically let mine rest overnight)

For Filling

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat until the onions are translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Cook until the mixture is just starting to turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth.* (The amount of chicken broth you use here is going to depend on how ‘runny’ or thick you want your pie filling to be. If you’re unsure, I would start with 2 1/2-3 cups, then gradually add more if after adding the chicken and veggies you think it’s a little thick. Also remember that it has to refrigerate, which will also make it thicken.) Bring the mixture to a simmer.

Add the onions, bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Season with salt, black pepper, onion powder and the honey mustard. Allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes, tasting adn adjusting for seasoning.

Add the frozen vegetables and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, just long enough to warm the veggies through. Stir in the chicken.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Remove to a resealable container and refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Take the pie dough discs out of the fridge, unwrap, and let hang out on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes.

Roll out the larger disc into a 12-inch circle and set into a 9-inch glass deep dish pie pan. Use your fingers to gently press the dough into the corners of the pan, so it’s as snug as can be. Roll out the smaller disc into a 10- to 11-inch circle. Fill the dough-lined pie pan with the cold chicken pot pie filling and use a spoon to smooth out to fill the pan completely. Top with the smaller round of pie dough. Trim any excess so you have an even ¾-inch overhang. Use your fingers to squeeze the two layers together, then fold the overhang under itself, so the edge is tucked into the pie pan and a ridge is formed. Use your fingers to reinforce this ridge, so it’s distinctly shaped, then crimp the edge of the pie crust into ruffles. The easiest way to crimp is by creating a guide with the thumb and pointer finger of your left hand, then pushing the dough outward with the pointer finger of your right hand. (If you’re a lefty, flip accordingly.) Use a paring knife to cut four slits in the center of the top crust. Place the pie pan on a rimmed sheet pan (this makes getting in and out of the oven a lot simpler).

Bake for 65 to 70 minutes (rotating halfway through), until the crusty is deeply golden brown. Let sit on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes—the filling will still be very warm, but not too liquidy.

Cut into big wedges and serve warm.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #418.

Pizza Strata

I don’t know what the weather is like in your area, but in mine, the temperatures are plummeting. It’s really really cold. I’ve spent the past few years living on the West coast, so these are temperatures I have not had to live with in a very long time; it’s been, and continues to be a (re)adjustment.

Apart of that readjustment is my leaning more towards cooking food that is hearty and stick-to-your-ribs. The kind that makes you want to burrow under a blanket and take a nap afterwards.

I spent most of my life in the Midwest, and in the Midwest, we love our pizza. We take it very seriously. I love to eat and also make it, and as I’ve shown on the blog before, that’s not necessarily always strictly in solely pizza ‘form.’ There are some pretty interesting ways to transfer the pizza ‘flavor’ to other dishes, which is what we’re doing here today.

This recipe happened for the reason that a lot of strata recipes happen; I had an excess of slightly stale bread in my fridge that I didn’t want to go to waste. I decided to make a strata, but rather than go the typical breakfast-y route with sausage/ham/bacon, I started thinking about other possibilities that could work.

This is where I ended up.

Right off the bat, I want to emphasize that this is NOT Chicago Style deep dish pizza, which is not a favorite of mine at all. A Chicago style pizza is a pie composed of mostly cheese, with some toppings and sauce thrown on top. This is a strata, where stale bread and veggies are baked and set in an eggy-milk mixture. Think a breakfast strata, but it’s pizza ‘flavored’.

Another thing I’ll say that this recipe is HUGELY customizable. I used pepperoni, bell peppers and onions as my ‘toppings’, but so long as you keep to the ratio of bread, eggs and milk, you can customize the rest of the recipe ingredients to whatever your personal tastes are for pizza.

One thing that surprised me about the finished product was that it wasn’t as ‘heavy’ as I expected it to be in eating it. The flavors were of course, still reminiscent of pizza, but my stomach didn’t feel as heavy as it does after I’ve eaten pizza. It was satisfying without bringing on the lethargy.

Plus, it’s pretty delicious, if I may say so myself.

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Pizza Strata

Recipe Adapted from Food52

Ingredients

  • 10-12 cups lightly packed garlic or herb flavored bread, slightly stale and cubed (I used leftover rolls from this recipe, but really any sturdy herb-y bread will work)
  • 16 large eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion
  • 6 oz. of sliced cooked pepperoni* (You can substitute mushrooms here to make this vegetarian, or even add 6 oz of mushrooms to the existing strata itself; feel free to use whatever are your favorite pizza toppings)
  • 14 oz. pizza sauce, plus more if desired
  • About 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese (or more, if you prefer)

Directions

In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil to medium heat. Saute first the bell peppers, then the onions until they are softened and translucent. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings until well combined and yolks are broken.

Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray.

Layer a third of the cubed bread in the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of the peppers and onions. Add a layer of the pepperoni. Repeat until you’ve layered all the bread, vegetables and pepperoni in the dish.

Pour the egg-milk mixture over the strata, using a rubber spatula to ensure that it gets into the corners and absorbs all of the ingredients.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 24 hours. (If chilling for later, let the strata sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before baking.) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Drop large dollops of about half (7 oz) of the pizza sauce on top of the strata, using a spoon to spread it out a little.

Cover with aluminum foil, and bake the strata until puffed, golden brown around the edges, and set in the center, about 55-60minutes. (Insert a knife in the center; if it comes out clean and without eggy residue, it’s ready.)

Remove the strata from the oven, remove the foil, and preheat broiler.

Dollop the rest of the pizza sauce on top and sprinkle the top with as much cheese as desired. Return to the oven and broil until the cheese is browned and bubbling.

Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with additional pizza sauce is desired.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #405.

Roasted Garlic & Herb Smothered Chicken

I thought up this recipe in what’s probably the most ‘me’ way possible:

I was lying awake one night in bed, staring at my ceiling and trying to decide what I was going to cook for dinner that weekend. I had plenty of old options that I’ve made before and would’ve worked, but I wanted to do something new and different. I didn’t feel like being very finicky or working with a lot of ingredients. I just wanted a simple, but hearty and comforting dish.

There are certain ingredients that I know from experience of both taste and cooking can make chicken shine better than others.

Herbs and garlic are right at the top of that list.

By the time I made up my mind about using those ingredients, I still didn’t have an exact play by play for the dish, but I figured that as long as those ingredients remained the main flavor profile, it would be almost impossible to screw up so that it would be inedible.

The recipe title really says it all here, you guys. I brown the chicken first to give it good flavor, then I braise it in a broth/gravy that I made from a base of roasted garlic paste and herbs of thyme, parsley, rosemary and bay leaf.

It turned out exactly how I wanted it to. The flavors here created from the roasted garlic and herbs are just outstanding. It tastes clean and comforting without being heavy and braising the chicken makes it easy to pull into shredded pieces that as you can see, are perfect for sliders (which is another way that I served them).

This was a great experiment and well worth sharing here on the blog.

Roasted Garlic & Herb Smothered Chicken

Recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 6 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into medium sized (about 2 inches) cubes
  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 3 whole garlic heads
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of your favorite multi-purpose seasoning (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Saute)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 full bunch) of fresh parsley
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 80 oz. chicken broth*

Directions

For Roasted Garlic:

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Peel the loose skin away from the garlic and cut the tops off of the heads, but make sure the cloves stay attached to each other. Place them on a long strip of aluminum foil. Drizzle them with the oil and sprinkle evenly with salt & pepper.

Draw up the ends of the foil and tightly seal it into a package. Place the foil package in a shallow dish. Roast in the oven for about 50 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then remove the roasted garlic to a small bowl by pressing the cloves out of the remaining skins and into a small bowl with your fingers (they should come out easily).

Set the garlic aside for now.

For Chicken:

Divide the cubed chicken into two 1 gallon sized plastic bags.

In a medium size bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with the multi purpose seasoning and stir together with a fork.

Evenly divide the flour mixture between the two ziploc bags. Seal tightly, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.

Coat the bottom of a large non-stick stockpot or Dutch Oven with a few tablespoons of canola, vegetable or olive oil. Brown the floured meat over high heat on the stovetop. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. When it’s browned, temporarily move the meat to a sheet pan. Don’t overcrowd the pot, you’ll have to repeat/do this in about 2-3 batches to get through all of the meat.

When you’re finished browning the meat, add a little bit more oil to the pot, then add the onions. Cook over medium heat until they’re softened and translucent, 5-10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pot and place them with the browned chicken.

Mash the roasted garlic with a fork until it is in a smooth paste.

Pour the chicken broth into the pot with the garlic paste, the herbs, the bay leaves, the honey and the soy sauce. Use a wire whisk to stir, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes, tasting and adjusting for seasoning (but also keep in mind, it’s going to develop even more flavor in the oven, so it’s okay if it doesn’t taste perfect just yet)

Spray two 11 x 13 baking dishes with cooking spray and place the browned chicken and onions in the dishes. When the garlic-herb broth is at your taste level, ladle it over the chicken so that is is at least half-submerged. (You’ll have extra broth leftover, this is fine) Cover the baking dishes tightly with foil.

Braise in the oven for 50-60 minutes, until the chicken can be easily pulled apart with a fork.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #394, co-hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Browned Butter Chicken Salad

I can just hear what some of you may be thinking:

Good grief, she’s at it agaiiiiiin!

Yeah. I know. More browned butter. I still just can’t quit using it.

But in my defense, today I finally found a way to put it to a rather healthy use.

I mean, as healthy as things can be considering the fact that we’re talking about butter here.

But in all seriousness, I am still excited about this recipe; first because it’s not only another tasty use of one of my favorite ingredients, but also because it’s a savory application of it, which I’ve mentioned before was something that I’ve really really wanted to experiment with.

About once every month or so, my taste buds experience a strange phase where they don’t want anything that’s ‘cooked.’ I mean, nothing. The only foods that I’ll be in the mood for during those particular phases is cold cut sandwiches and salads.

Weird, I know.

But when those times come around, I do honor my cravings and stick to the cold cuts and salads for dinner for several days. This past time, I decided to deviate from my norm of turkey sandwiches and/or using shredded rotisserie chicken that I just chop up and toss in salad, try to test out a recipe I’d had my eye on for several months or so.

Vinaigrettes are my favorite, and actually the only type of dressing that I’ll eat. They have that perfect balance of acidity, sweetness and savory that amplifies the flavors of salad veggies without making them ‘eat heavy’ if you know what I mean. The ingredients for today’s recipe are inspired by a similar chicken salad dish I did a few years ago where I made a roasted garlic vinaigrette to dress the salad in. The primary difference between then and now is that rather than roasted garlic, browned butter is now the star of this show.

You may be skeptical of this at first, especially because I’ve only ever shared browned butter as an ingredient for desserts. But let me tell you, this really works. Browned butter has a golden, nutty flavor to it and I was surprised at just how well that nuttiness played against the sharp acidity of the vinegar and lemon juice in the salad dressing.

This was light, refreshing and delicious. I recommend eating it as a sandwich on a sturdy, crusty bun…like these from last week.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Be kind.

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Browned Butter Chicken Salad

Dressing Recipe Adapted from MyRecipes.com

Ingredients

For Dressing

  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 sprig of sage (about 4 leaves), finely chopped
  • ½ shallot, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)

For Salad

  • 2 rotisserie chickens, deboned (It should yield about 4-5 cups of shredded, and/or chopped chicken)
  • 1 red onion
  • .75 oz (21 grams) fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 oz fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 roasted red peppers, chopped

Directions

For Dressing: Melt the butter over medium heat in a 2 quart saucepan. Let it cook and watch it closely until 3-5 minutes until the butter begins to foam, forms a golden brown color and browned bits form on the bottom. (It will have a sweet, nutty smell).

The moment you see the right color, remove the pan from heat and add your chopped sage and shallot. Sizzle and swirl in the hot pan for about a minute, then transfer to a heatproof bowl.  Add salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, balsamic and lemon juice, and whisk together until vinaigrette looks glossy and smooth. Taste and add salt to your preferences, then allow to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the chicken, onion, red peppers, onion, mint and parsley together in a large bowl. Slowly drizzle in about half of the dressing and stir thoroughly to combine. Taste it—if it’s to your satisfaction, you can leave off the rest of the dressing and save it for later, or you can add and stir it into the rest of the salad mixture.

Cover the chicken salad and refrigerate for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight to allow flavors to meld.

Serve salad on crusty, sturdy sandwich rolls, like these 🙂

Linking to Fiesta Friday #376, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Cornmeal Sage Chicken Biscuit

As much as I love it, I actually don’t fry chicken at home very often.

For one, it’s time consuming, especially if you’re like me and you prefer to put your chicken in a marinade beforehand to make sure it’s juicy and flavorful. It can get messy, even when you set up separate stations for flour, buttermilk, the rack for the raw chicken, then the rack for the cooked chicken–and don’t even get me started on the clean up.

But even with all the finicky details, whenever I do decide to make fried chicken, I’m never disappointed. It’s a project, but the end result is always oh so worth it.

Y’all, I’ve been so excited to share today’s recipe. It was not only worth the time and effort, it exceeded all of my expectations as far as taste. If you saw last week’s post you’ll know I said it was actually a two parter, with the biscuits being Part I. When I originally made them, I paired them with the fried chicken of today’s recipe to make one of my favorite foods of all time: the chicken biscuit.

The chicken biscuit dish is exactly what it sounds like: a piece of fried chicken sandwiched between a biscuit that’s been cut in half. It sounds simple–perhaps even too simple–but those of us who love them that it’s anything but.

Fried chicken and biscuits as individual components themselves require a certain amount of know-how to execute. A biscuit for chicken biscuit needs to rise high enough to be able to stand up to the bulk of the chicken itself, and it doesn’t hurt for it to have enough of it’s own flavor so that it’s not just bland bread. Apart from being seasoned properly, the fried chicken should also have a thick, crunchy crust to contrast with the soft texture of the biscuit.

But when you get both components right and put them together, it’s a truly beautiful and delicious thing.

This was my first time frying chicken with cornmeal in the batter and I have to say, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The texture, and even the flavor it gave to the crust was amazing. And as I said last week, the combination of sage and cornmeal in the biscuit dough gave it enough of its own flavor so as it’s not just a ‘container’ to hold the chicken. It more than held its own. This really was one of the best things I’ve cooked in a long time, and I highly recommend you give it a shot.

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Cornmeal Sage Chicken Biscuit

Recipe Adapted from A Previous Recipe on Cooking is My Sport, and Country Living

Ingredients

For Biscuits:

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, (1 1/2 sticks) frozen
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2-2 cups buttermilk, plus more if necessary

For Chicken:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of your favorite seasoning blend; I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 c. Buttermilk
  • 5-7 chicken cutlets (about 1 lb.) halved crosswise
  • 7 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. hot sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 3 tbsp. Honey

For Biscuits

In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, sugar, sage and the seasoning mix. Stir together with a fork.

 Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the sour cream. Use a fork to ‘cut’ it into the dry ingredients until it forms thick clumps. Make another hole in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pour the buttermilk. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add the additional buttermilk, just until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process 4-5 more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a biscuit cutter, or a knife to cut the dough into rounds about 2″ each. You can recut the leftover dough into new biscuits, just try not to handle it too much.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Place the tray into the freezer about 15 minutes.

Spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, covering them with foil if they brown too quickly.

For Chicken:

Line a baking sheet with wax paper, foil, or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Pour buttermilk into a separate bowl. Working with one piece at a time, toss chicken in flour mixture, dip in buttermilk, then toss again in flour mixture. Transfer to the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Repeat dipping process one more time. Then, working in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. (It may look a little pale, but it browns more when you take it out, so don’t worry) When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

To assemble sandwich: Whisk together hot sauce and honey in a bowl. Split a biscuit in half, drizzle chicken with spicy honey, then assemble sandwich with pickles.

Sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday #366.

Chicken Taco Stew

I think that I’ve mentioned this before on here, but because it’s relevant to this post/recipe I’ll say it again: I don’t like soup.

I never really have, even as a child. I didn’t really know why back then. Now that I’m older and have embraced my love of my food, I have a very clear awareness of what I like, what I don’t like, and the reasons why. My reasons for disliking soup can be summed up in one word: consistency.

I just don’t like the consistency of soup. When I was a child I can remember never really liking Campbells’ soup from a can, but I can also remember holding a particular preference, even a like for Dinty Moore’s stews. Looking back, I can say that the preference came from the consistency of the food.

I never really liked having to ‘slurp’ my food, the way you would have to slurp a broth. In my mind, slurping has just always been for beverages and chewing has always just been for food; the lines between the two just don’t need to be blurred. I like my food to have texture, richness and ‘body’ to it; body is just something that to me, most soups are lacking. They lack heartiness to me. I’m never full after I eat them, and for that reason I don’t cook or eat them very much at all.

What does that have to do with today’s post? Well, in the spirit of full disclosure, the inspiration for the flavors of this recipe came from another recipe that some of you may have heard of: taco soup. I’ve seen it floating around mainly Pinterest and it’s become pretty popular as most iterations of it are low calorie, low fat and great for dieting. The flavors in taco soup are supposed to emulate eating a taco; a food that is safe to say, not low calorie or low fat. I like tacos, for sure; soup? Not so much.

So this is my riff, or rather, my improvement on taco soup: Chicken taco stew.

I can’t speak for how low carb, low fat or low whatever my taco stew is, y’all. That’s really not my ministry. What I CAN tell you, is that it is absolutely delicious.

I make the base of my stews to be rather thick and hearty. Again, it’s all about the consistency for me. In my mind, the perfect ‘broth’ of a stew can form a coating on the back of a spoon. The thicker and richer the base, the more I can appreciate the flavors of the food itself.

Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients here. It’s mostly seasoning, and the actual process of putting everything together is very straightforward and easy to follow. Combined with the heartiness of the base, the chicken and the beans, this is comfort food to the nth degree. It really is like eating a bowl of tacos that wrap you and your stomach up in a warm hug.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe.

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Chicken Taco Stew

Recipe from Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 5-6lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large or 2 mediums yellow sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • (2) 14.5 oz. cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • (2) 4 oz. cans diced green chiles
  • (1) 15 oz. can corn
  • (1) 15 oz. can black beans
  • (1) 15 oz. can pinto peans
  • (4) 1 oz. packets of taco or fajita seasoning
  • (1) 1 oz. packet of dried ranch dressing seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  •  64 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 cup water or milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Divide the cubed chicken into two 1 gallon sized plastic bags.

In a medium size bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with the onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin, black pepper, and cinnamon. Stir together with a fork.

Evenly divide the flour mixture between the two ziploc bags. Seal tightly, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.

Coat the bottom of a large non-stick stockpot or Dutch Oven with a few tablespoons of canola, vegetable or olive oil. Brown the floured meat over high heat on the stovetop. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. When it’s browned, temporarily move the meat to a sheet pan. Don’t overcrowd the pot, you’ll have to repeat/do this in about 2-3 batches to get through all of the meat.

When you’re finished browning the meat, add a little bit more oil to the pot, then add the onions. Cook over medium heat until they’re softened and translucent, 5-10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pot and place them with the browned chicken.

Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of flour into the pot. Allow it to cook over medium heat until it’s browned and smells toasty, about 3-5 minutes (don’t walk away from it, it can burn easily.)

Once you can smell it begin to toast, pour in the chicken broth, the diced tomatoes, green chiles, taco/fajita seasoning, ranch dressing seasoning, bay leaves, honey, and the water/milk. Use a wire whisk to stir to dissolve the flour clumps quicker.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Salt and pepper to taste. Depending upon your taste preferences you may need to add a little more cumin, or onion powder too.  Allow it to cook for about 10 minutes, until it begins to thicken and the flavors begin to meld together.

Taste and adjust for seasoning, then add the chicken and onions back to the pot.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stew, uncovered for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is fork tender.

Add the beans and the corn to the stew, stir with a large spoon and allow to cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Serve with chips, salsa, sour cream, cilantro or melted cheese on top.

Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #355, co-hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook.

Coconut Beef Curry with Garlic Naan

Today’s recipe is about taking a shortcut, but also going the extra mile.

That sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

It’s also become my cooking lifestyle.

Once you start cooking and baking things from scratch, it can be hard to go back to taking certain shortcuts. When I was a kid, I loved eating canned stews–nowadays if I want stew, then I’m going to just make one myself that will have five times the flavor and ten times less sodium. I literally cannot eat box mix cake anymore. Break and bake cookies are a HARD pass. I admit that the biscuit dough you can buy in a can aren’t awful ….but mine are still better.

On the other hand–sometimes, I’m not above taking a shortcut in the kitchen. For example, (in full disclosure) making rice is a stumbling block of mine. I just cannot get it right. Minute Rice is my remedy for that. Whenever I get a craving for sweet potato waffle fries, do you think I’m above going to the frozen foods section and picking up that bag? Tuh. Sometimes the shortcut is just the way to go.

A traditional curry recipe will likely have up to ten or fifteen different spices in it that are also usually freshly ground. It’s then cooked and stewed for HOURS. I’ve seen some that take all day long. On the day that I made this dish, I didn’t have all day long. I also didn’t have ten to fifteen spices that I ground up from scratch. I took a shortcut.

Instead of 10 to 15 spices, I used jarred, pre-ground curry powder. Quite a lot of it, since we’re trying to make up for the loss of flavor from the fresh spices. Mine also won’t take you all day long to cook–a slow braise in the oven for bout 90 minutes to two hours is all you should need. That’s the shortcut.

Now for the extra mile.

There are a lot of stores and delis that sell pre-made naan bread. I’m not above buying Trader Joe’s brand myself. But the truth is, I’ve never had naan bread that I enjoyed as much as when I made it myself, from scratch. I just haven’t. So far as bread baking goes, the difficulty is on the lower end of the ladder. Because it is so easy, if you have the time and the inclination I STRONGLY recommend you go the extra mile and make these naans. You’ll taste the difference.

I’ve got to say, the shortened cook time and curry powder did nothing to skimp on the flavor or tenderness of the beef. Having the freshly baked, fluffy naan bread to dip into the sauce was the perfect accompaniment. I may or may not have *completely* cleaned the plate.

This meal is worth both the effort and the shortcut–so take both.

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Coconut Beef Curry with Garlic Naan

Recipe Adapted from Epicurious and Cook with Manali

Ingredients

For Beef Curry:

  • 2 lbs beef chuck, chuck roast or tri-tip, cut into large chunks
  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • 1 large yellow sweet onion, thickly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons of finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup curry powder (preferably Indian)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 (13.5 ounce) cans coconut milk
  • 32 oz low sodium chicken broth (like TJ’s)
  • Rice, for serving

For Naan:

  • 450 grams (About 4 cups) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, plus more if needed for kneading
  • 2 large garlic cloves (grated or extremely finely minced)

For Garlic Butter to Brush Over Naan:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or ghee)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

Directions

For Beef Curry:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the beef chunks on a sheet pan. Sprinkle both sides of the beef with a thin coating of soy sauce and use your hands to rub it into the surface. Sprinkle an even coating of pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder on top of the meat on both side.

Melt a few tablespoons of canola oil, or ghee in the bottom of a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over high heat. Sear the beef on both sides until deeply browned all over, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Deglaze the pan with a little bit of the chicken broth if need be, then add the sliced onion. Cook until softened and translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger cook just until fragrant. Add the curry powder and stir it together until it begins to stick to the pot, about 3 minutes.

Add the bay leaves, coconut milk and about 2 1/2 cups of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

In a small bowl dissolve about 3 heaping tablespoons of all purpose flour in 1 cup of the chicken broth, stirring with a fork until smooth. Add it to the pot.

Season the sauce with additional pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and curry powder to taste. Allow it to cook for about 5-10 more minutes, until it reaches the consistency you like.

Add the beef back to the pot. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and place in the oven for 1 1/2-2 hours, until the beef is fork tender. Serve curry spooned over white or brown rice.

For Naan:

Place the warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer or another large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Sprinkle one tablespoon of the sugar on top of the yeast. Allow it to sit for ten minutes, until proofed and frothy.

Place 3 1/4 cups of the flour in a medium size bowl with the salt and stir together with a fork.

When the yeast is proofed, add the vegetable oil and grated garlic to it and stir together with the dough hook (or a large spoon). Add the flour in about 1 cup increments, just until the dough begins to come together around the hook. (You may not need to use all the flour, this is dependent upon the time of year and your location). Once it has, turn off the mixer and scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface that you’ve sprinkled with flour (like a pastry mat or a smooth countertop). Use your hands to firmly knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes. You can use additional flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) if it’s still too sticky; I also prefer to rub my hands with canola, olive or vegetable oil before kneading and that helps a lot without having to add more flour.

(The dough is ready when you can stretch one piece of it out very thin, and it’s translucent enough to see through.)

Grease the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow it to rest in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 hours.

Turn dough out onto your clean work surface and punch down to deflate air bubbles. Divide it into 8 equal parts. Loosely cover them with plastic wrap and leave on the countertop to rest for about 10-15 minutes.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and add minced garlic to it. Set aside for brushing on top of the naans later.

Oil your hands and a rolling pin to gently stretch and roll the dough balls out into oval shapes (they don’t have to be completely flat like tortillas, these are meant to be a tad thick).

Heat an iron skillet over medium heat. (Cast iron is best, but not completely necessary) Lightly coat with ghee (or butter).

Cook until lightly blistered, puffed, and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Immediately brush with garlic butter when you remove from the skillet.

Keep naans on a rack in the microwave or the oven to stay warm while you cook the rest.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #281.

Chimichurri Meatballs

As the Spring winds down and we get geared up for summer, I start getting craving for certain flavors that I associate with summer. The flavor of fresh herbs reminds me of summer.

A few months back, I made chimichurri for the first time. I absolutely loved it.

It’s bright. It’s fresh. It’s sharp. It’s one of those condiments that I just want to put on everything.

So y’all know me: I’m definitely going to try.

My first chimichurri had a basil base. This one has a parsley and cilantro one. I know some people have a real hate-hate relationship with cilantro, so I actually think that you can use whichever combination of those herbs that you want and it’ll still turn out fine. But I do have to insist on the herbs being fresh, especially since they’re going in both the chimichurri and the meat itself.

One of the things I like most about this is how easy it is to put together. I even feel fairly confident about putting it in the “You Can’t Mess This Up. No, Seriously” categories on the blog. If that and the yummy pictures doesn’t give you enough incentive to try this out, I don’t know what will.

The base for the chimichurri actually doubles as as a seasoning for the meatballs themselves, which  means that you’re going to get double the chimichurri flavor in one bite. The herbs get blitzed together with some garlic in a blender, then half gets set aside, while half goes into the ground meat. (I’ve made this with both beef and turkey and it’s turned out great either way, so don’t worry about swapping out one for the other if you’re not a red meat person).

I prefer to bake my meatballs in the oven for a more even cook. To minimize the mess, I usually line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, then place a baking rack on top of that, sprayed with PAM. It makes for a pretty easy clean up. However, these can be cooked in a skillet. They probably won’t be as round by the end, but that definitely won’t affect the taste.

I actually made a double batch of the chimichurri sauce to have on the side with these. It’s just that good. The bright, fresh and zesty flavors lend themselves so well to the seasoning of the meat, and when it’s added as a condiment I wanted to have a bit of it with every bite. It tasted like summer and I couldn’t wait to share it here. Enjoy.

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Chimichurri Meatballs

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh parsley
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (preferably fresh)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper
  • onion powder
  • 1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Puree the parsley and cilantro with the garlic cloves in a blender.

In a large bowl, combine half of the garlic-herb mix with the ground beef. Season generously with salt, pepper, and onion powder. Add the beaten egg. Add the breadcrumbs. (Try to stir with your hands as quickly as possible, the more you stir, the tougher the meatballs can be)

Shape into meatballs (about 2 tablespoonfuls each). Place 1 1/2 inches apart on a lightly greased rack on an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until browned.

Pulse the remaining herb mix in a blender with the olive or vegetable oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve with the meatballs.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #276, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats & Greens.