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 Empanadas

Meatpies are one of my favorite foods. Back when my kitchen skills were as advanced as scrambling eggs or boiling pasta, I used to tell myself that if I ever learned how to cook one of the things I was going to learn and learn well, was how to make a meatpie.

While I still may have some more things to learn, I do think the practice I’ve had thus far has led me to understand what really makes a good meatpie. It depends on giving equal amounts attention and consideration of both the casing and the filling because a good filling encased in tough pastry is no bueno, and a good pastry with bland filling is also not so great.

My strategy for avoiding bland meatpie filling is to as Chopped judge Marc Murphy says “season with authority.” I’ve tried to inject flavor at just about every step of the cooking of this empanada filling. And then after it’s finished, I allow it to rest in the fridge just to give the spices the time to really set in so that they come through after the empanadas are finished baking.

The key to flakiness of this crust is the shortening. It’s VERY easy to work with and roll out. I could obviously still use some more practice when it comes to my crimping/sealing skills, but that’s completely on me, not the recipe. Trust me, it really does melt in your mouth when you eat it.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe. Be Kind.

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Chicken Empanadas

Filling recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport, Pastry recipe courtesy of The Kitchn 

Ingredients

For Chicken Filling

  • 2.5-3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 (1 oz.) packet of your favorite taco or fajita seasoning
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (you can mix and match different kinds; I used 1 red and 1 green)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 16-32 oz low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of smoked Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Pastry

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or lard, frozen
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Directions

For filling:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a small bowl combine the taco/fajita seasoning with 1/3 cup of the flour. Place the cubed chicken in a gallon sized resealable plastic bag. Pour the flour-seasoning mixture over the chicken and seal the bag. Toss the bag to season the chicken in the flour until evenly coated.

Pour a tablespoon of oil (canola, vegetable or olive) in the bottom of a Dutch oven or pot. Sear the chicken over high heat, just to get a crust on the outside of it (it doesn’t need to be cooked through here). Remove the chicken to a 13 x 9 baking dish and keep loosely covered. (you may need to do this in batches).

When the chicken has finished searing, pour a bit more oil into the bottom of the pot and saute the peppers and onions over medium heat until they are soft and translucent. Remove them to a bowl and set aside.

Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of flour into the pot, and allow to toast for about 2 minutes. Pour in 16 oz of the chicken broth and stir briskly with a whisk or fork until flour is dissolved and a smooth and somewhat thick ‘gravy’ forms, then pour in the other 16 oz of broth. Season the mixture with the cumin, smoked paprika, honey and salt and pepper. Allow to come up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Pour the gravy mixture over the chicken. Tightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until chicken is fork tender.

Remove the chicken from the baking dish and mix with the sauteed onions and peppers. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to meld and for the filling to completely chill.

For crust:

Place 3 cups of the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Use a box grater (or cut it up into small cubes) to cut the shortening/lard into the dry ingredients. Stir together with a fork. It should have a sandy texture.

Whisk the egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl until combined. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients.Continue mixing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Empty mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to shape it into a rough ball. Using the heels of your hands, gently knead the dough into a smooth, elastic ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.

Lightly flour a clean, large work surface and a rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 4-inch-round pastry-cutting mold, cut circles from the dough. (Alternatively use a knife and trace around a 4-inch plate to form the circles.)

Gather the dough scraps and form into a ball again. Roll out the dough and cut more circles. (If the dough springs back and is difficult to roll out, let it rest before rolling again.) Makes about 16 dough circles.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.Take 1 of the cut circles and and place 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling in the center. Brush the edges of the empanada with the beaten egg. Fold the circle in half to form a half moon and seal the edges together with a fork or pinch with your fingers. (Be mindful when sealing to squeeze out any air pockets.) Place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough circles, spacing the formed empanadas a few inches apart.

Chill the formed empanadas for 20 minutes before baking. Meanwhile, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 375°F.

Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the sheets front to back and top to bottom, and continue baking until the empanadas are golden-brown, about 10 minutes more. Let cool a few minutes before serving with salsa.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #363, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

I’ve said it before, but one of the goals I set for myself in doing this Christmas series every year is to try and include at least one savory option in the mix. There are plenty of people out there who aren’t into sweets. God knows *I* don’t know or understand that lifestyle, but I can at least acknowledge that it exists by trying to factor it into my offerings on the blog for Christmas.

The savory baking I tend to do at Christmas usually translates into warm, comfort food-style dinners or brunch foods. In 2016, it was Stuffing Bread. In 2017, it was Tourtiere. In 2018, it was chicken hand pies. This year, I decided to do a little bit of recipe recycling to come up with something different.

Last week, I kicked off the series with these Orange Cranberry Buns. The recipe made quite a lot of them; there were leftovers. Granted, they were perfectly delicious all on their own, but I did get to thinking about ways I could use them for something else. What do you guys do when you’ve got a bunch of leftover bread sitting around? My thoughts exactly; you make bread pudding.

Now granted you don’t HAVE to make those buns just to make this dish. Any flavor or style of bread will work so long as it’s bread with a strong and sturdy crumb that can hold up under the milk and egg soaking. Look around the bakery aisle of your grocery store for challah, brioche, potato rolls; any of those will work perfectly here. But I will say that using these buns for it would be an AMAZING choice. Your tastebuds would thank you for it.

Most times, bread pudding is extremely sweet; a dessert, really. But, I’ve experimented with savory variations of it before here on the blog, which is what gave me the idea for this dish in the first place. That recipe used ham. This one uses sausage. Sausage is a very common ingredient when it comes to traditional dressing, and the flavors in that dish are the inspiration for the flavor profile I was shooting for. When it comes to mix-ins, I kept it simple. Spinach and onions and that was great for us. However, it’s really up to you as to what else you put inside. It’s kinda hard to screw this up when it comes to the mix-ins.

The cranberry sauce may seem like an odd choice for a savory dish, but just hear me out: it works. The saltiness of the sausage plays against the sweetness of the bread, and when you add the tartness and slight bitter flavor of the cranberry sauce to that, it’s a REALLY great bite. My sister took one bite of bread pudding together with a bit of the cranberry sauce, smiled and said, “Wow. It tastes like Christmas.”

That should tell you everything you need to know.

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

 

Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Adapted from a previous recipe on Cooking is My Sport, and Anne Burrell

Ingredients

For Bread Pudding

  • 7-8 cups cubed leftover, stale bread (you want a nice and sturdy bread, like a challah or brioche)
  • 3 lbs pork sausage
  • 16 oz fresh spinach
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of your favorite herb blend (Italian seasoning will work fine)

For Cranberry Sauce

  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 6 clementines, peeled and sectioned
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Directions

For Bread Pudding

Place the bread cubes in a medium size bowl and stir together with 1 cup of the milk. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until bread has absorbed most of the liquid.

Meanwhile, pour about 1 tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a large skillet or pot, and brown the sausage over medium heat. Drain the grease and set aside sausage in a medium sized bowl.

Saute the spinach in the same pan/pot until it is just wilted and vibrantly green, about 5 minutes. Remove to a separate bowl and set aside.

Saute the onions in the same pot, until they are translucent and limp, about 7-10 minutes. Remove to another bowl and set aside.

In medium size bowl, using a wire whisk combine the eggs, the milk, and the seasonings, beating until yolks are broken.

Spray an 11 x 13 baking dish generously with cooking spray. Spread half of the bread cubes in the dish. Scatter half of the sausage, spinach and sauteed onions on top of the cubes in an even layer. Drizzle half of the egg-milk mixture over that. Repeat, layering the rest of the bread, then the sausage, spinach and onions. Then, pour the rest of the egg-milk on top.

Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F. Uncover the dish then bake on the middle rack until the top is golden brown and the pudding is firm in the middle, 60-65 minutes. Serve warm with the cranberry sauce.

For Cranberry Sauce:

In a small saucepan combine fresh cranberries, clementines, orange and cranberry juices, sugar, cinnamon stick, and star anise.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the dried cranberries and simmer for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Store overnight in the fridge to allow sauce to set, then serve alongside bread pudding

Linking to Fiesta Friday #357, co-hosted this week by Diann@Of Goats & Greens.

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.

Sausage-Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole

When I get into conversation with people about my love of food and cooking, sometimes I’ll get questions about how I learned. Sometimes I get asked for advice as to how to help someone else, who isn’t a huge cooking fan, still become a better one.

I’ll tell y’all like I was told by the cooks I learned from: start with something simple. Something so simple, you would have to go out of your way to mess up.

Once you pull that dish off, practice it a few more times until you get comfortable with it. Maybe even so comfortable you don’t need the recipe itself anymore–you just throw the stuff together and it still turns out, because it’s just that easy. Once you reach that level of comfort, that’s when you can start experimenting and flex a few more of your cooking muscles.

Trust me, they’re under there.  You just gotta work em out a little bit more to see them.

Whether you’re an experienced or a novice cook, everyone needs to have a set of what I like to call ‘Go-To’s’ for the kitchen. Go-Tos are recipes that can be thrown together with minimal ingredients, minimal effort, and a minimal recipe and still turn out a perfectly satisfying meal.

Breakfast Casserole was one of the first simple recipes that I began practicing when I was first learning how to cook. It’s simple, it’s minimal, it’s nearly impossible to mess up. Because the recipe itself is versatile, there’s plenty of room for experimentation and variation in the ingredients. To this day, it’s one of my Go To recipes that I always find myself coming back to when I know I’ve got to cook something for dinner, but don’t feel like putting up much of an effort. Cause that happens, even to me.

A breakfast casserole is basically where you throw all of your favorite omelette fillings together, pour beaten eggs and milk over them, then bake it in the oven until it’s firmed up. All of us love different things in our omelettes, so that’s where the versatility of this recipe comes in. This exact recipe is what I like, but don’t feel as though it’s carved in stone; swap out the individual ingredients to fill it with whatever you prefer to eat in yours.

The most important thing to ensure that breakfast casserole turns out is to make sure you’re using enough eggs and milk to cover all of the solid ingredients in the pan. Too little liquid and the ratio of the bake gets thrown off and it won’t hold together when you cut into it.

That’s really all there is to it, y’all. This one goes into the “You Can’t Screw This Up Category” for sure, so I would recommend trying it out for yourself. It’ll brighten your day–or weekend.

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Sausage Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground pork sausage (or turkey)
  • 1 lb spicy ground pork sausage (or turkey)
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • 2 bell peppers, finely diced
  • 1 30 oz package of Frozen shredded hashbrowns (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • Salt and pepper, onion powder
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese  of your choice (I think Cheddar or Swiss would work fine for this)
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 11 x 13 baking dish.

Brown the sausage in a large greased skillet, until no longer pink. Drain and set aside in a bowl, but save about 1/3 cup of the sausage grease.

Pour a few tablespoons of the reserved sausage grease back into the skillet, then saute the onions and peppers in it until they are softened and have a bit of color to them. When they’re done, remove them to the bowl with the sausage crumbled and stir together. Set aside.

Prepare the hashbrowns according to the package instructions, using the remaining reserved sausage grease to cook the hashbrowns in, seasoning them generously with salt and pepper. When the hashbrowns are finished, stir them together with the sausage and veggies.

In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk, using a large whisk to stir until the yolks are all broken up. Season the mixture generously with salt, pepper and onion powder.

Spread the meat and veggie mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over the top, using a spatula to make sure the filling is coated and mixed in thoroughly with the eggs.

Place the baking dish on a sheet pan, then bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until puffed/firmed up and the center is clean when pierced with a butter knife. In the last 15 or so minutes of cooking, sprinkle the cheese on top and move the baking dish up one row in the oven to help it brown more on top.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #287, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Rita @ Parsi Cuisine.

 

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.

Halal Style Chicken and Rice

My older sister lived in NYC for two years while she was getting her Masters. I remember that while she was there she told me about the halal carts that she bought food from in the street. She raved about the Halal Chicken, and was so positive that I would rave about it too, if I were there to try it.

Unfortunately, I still haven’t made it out to New York to try street Halal Chicken. But today’s post, I think, is a decent substitute to tide me over until I do–because that day is coming. I’m sure of it.

When food in general is called ‘halal’, it refers to food that is processed or prepared in a certain way as to be permissible under Islamic dietary laws. Halal meat is supposed to be slaughtered and cleaned in a specific way. When you refer to Halal chicken in another context, such as street food, most people (especially in the US) are going to think of it as a chicken and rice dish with primarily Mediterranean flavors.

My take on Halal Chicken starts with a yogurt marinade. I learned a few years ago when I made Chicken Shawarma that marinading chicken in yogurt is an excellent way to keep it from drying out while cooking. I wouldn’t leave the chicken in it overnight though, as the marinade does have lemon juice. Sometimes if chicken sits too long in an acidic marinade, the acid in the lemon could begin to break down the proteins in the meat, and it will end up cooking mushy. A few hours is all this one needs.

I used my electric griddle to cook the chicken, but if it’s a bit warmer where you are and you’ve got one, I think that grilling it would give even better flavor. If you’ve got neither one of those, a cast iron or regular skillet will work fine as well. When the chicken seared on my griddle, I found that the residual yogurt created a blackened crust on the outside of it that is often associated with halal chicken. It smelled soooo good while it was cooking.

The rice and white sauce come together easily and quickly. The turmeric and cumin are a must to give the rice that warm, smoky taste. I also cook mine in chicken broth to give added flavor. I’m so proud that when my sister tried this, she announced that it tasted JUST like the halal chicken she used to buy on the streets of New York. High praise indeed. If you’re like me and have never been to NYC and still want to find out what the fuss is about the halal chicken, maybe you’d like to try this out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Halal Style Chicken and Rice

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients

For the Chicken:

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole fat plain yogurt
  • 2 1/2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast

For the Rice:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain Basmati rice
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper

For White Sauce:

  • 1 cup of whole fat, plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Place the chicken breast in gallon size resealable plastic bags, or in one large container.

Combine the lemon juice, herbs, spices, garlic, olive oil and yogurt together in a blender. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then pour over the chicken breast.

Turn the sealed bags over a few times to make sure marinade throughly covers chicken. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to four hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium high heat in a skillet, or you can use a griddle, like I did.

Cook chicken until browned on its sides, about 4 minutes per side. If need be, you can finish it in the oven; place a wire rack over a foil lined sheet pan and bake chicken for about an additional 5-10 minutes. (The inner temp should read about 165 degrees Fahrenheit)

Keep chicken loosely covered with foil while you make the rice.

Melt the butter in the bottom of a medium size pot. Add the turmeric and cumin and cook until fragrant but not quite browned, about 1 minute.

Add the rice and stir. Add the chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring the heat the high and allow to come to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes without disturbing.

Remove from the heat and allow to sit for an additional 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

For the sauce: combine all of the ingredients together and taste and adjust for seasoning.

Serve with pita bread, lettuce and tomatoes and hummus.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #266, co-hosted this week by Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Chicken Lo Mein

There are usually only three things that I’ll want when ordering Chinese takeout. These three things are also the standard by which I judge whether or not the place has good food or not. I figure that they’re deceptively simple; not hard to do per se, but also so simple that they’re easy to mess up. When they’re done badly, they’re awful. When they’re done well, they’re fantastic.

Sesame chicken.

Lo mein.

Egg rolls.

Together they’re the perfect trifecta of takeout. The only thing better than finding a great place that makes it, is being able to make it yourself at home. (Not to mention, it’s cheaper.)

I’ve been making my own egg rolls and lo mein for several years now. I posted the recipe for the egg rolls here shortly after first starting Cooking is My Sport, but I waited to post my recipe for lo mein. I wanted to wait and see if I could improve it while also keeping it pretty simple, with ingredients that could be found in most general grocery stores.

This is a great weeknight meal to make. Once you get all of the ingredients together and prepped, the dish comes together pretty quickly. I used cabbage and carrots with the noodles and chicken, but if there is any other vegetable that you prefer to have instead, feel free to use it. Stir fries are very flexible recipes and this one is no exception. The sauce for the noodles is sweet from hoisin, salty from the soy sauce and tangy from the rice wine vinegar. It’s delicious, and I’ve found myself using it for more than just a stir-fry sauce. I’ve used it as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, spread it on sandwiches–it’s that good.

Now I just have to get around to making my own Sesame Chicken. TBC.

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Chicken Lo Mein

Recipe from Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • onion powder
  • ground ginger
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

For Stir Fry

  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 20 oz. shredded cabbage
  • 10 oz. shredded carrots
  • About 15 oz of your choice of Asian style noodles (I prefer wide and flat ones, like Guan Miao Sliced Noodles)
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint, chopped
  • 2-3 stalks of green onion, chopped
  • peanuts and sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Arrange chicken in one layer in a sheet pan. In a small cup, stir together 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar.

Sprinkle an even coating of onion powder, ground ginger and black pepper on both sides. Pour the soy sauce-vinegar marinade over the chicken, stirring it a few times to make sure it’s evenly coated. Allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup combine the 1 cup of hoisin sauce, 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil and whisk together with a fork. Set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a wok or other large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken to the wok and cook on both sides until it’s cooked through. (You may have to do this in batches).When the chicken is done, remove it to a separate platter and keep loosely covered.

When chicken has finished cooking, heat some more oil into the wok. When it’s nice and hot, add the carrots and cabbage to the wot and allow to cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the skillet to another platter, and wipe the skillet clean.

Meanwhile, cook your noodles according to the package directions and drain when they’re finished. Keep the heat on the stove up on high and add 1 more tablespoon of oil to it. Add everything back to the wok/skillet: chicken, vegetables and noodles, and stir together. Pour the stir fry sauce from the glass measuring cup over the lo mein and stir quickly so that it’s evenly mixed. (You may not need to use it all; it all depends on how ‘saucy’ you want the lo mein to be. Use your own discretion.) Allow to cook for 1-2 more minutes–this is just to make the sauce coat the noodles.

Remove from the heat and add the fresh mint and green onion to the lo mein. Sprinkle with the peanuts and sesame seeds.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #259, co-hosted this week by Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.