Pickle Brined Chicken Tenders

Alright y’all, listen.

I know what you may be thinking, but before you say anything or just click away because you feel like this is just a bad idea, just stay for a few minutes hear me out.

Yes, I mean you too. Stay.

So, I too was skeptical when I first heard about this. Not gonna lie, I was even a tad bit grossed out. I like pickles on my sandwiches, but the idea of my chicken tasting like a pickle? Not so appetizing.

But fortunately, that’s not what’s going on here at all. Let me be clear: you are not going to take a bite of this and just taste pickle.

I promise, you won’t.

The whole purpose of brining in the first place is to flavor and tenderize the meat so that it stays juicy and doesn’t dry out while frying. Most times people do this by brining their chicken in buttermilk. I’ve brined chicken in both buttermilk and now, pickle juice.

Would you like to try and guess which one that I prefer?

Yep. The pickle juice. Seriously.

Normally when I did my buttermilk brines before, I would flavor the buttermilk with some spices, just to try and get some extra flavor infused into the meat. But this time, I didn’t have to bother; the pickle juice does all the work for me. All I did to prepare the chicken for the brine was throw it in a gallon size Ziploc bag, then pour the pickle juice over it, seal the bag, then put it in the fridge and walk away. That’s literally it. The spices in the pre-made pickle juices worked together to not only keep the meat moist, but they infused incredible flavor into it as well.

Once the chicken is taken out of the brine, it gets tossed into my tried & true flour mix & batter. This is the best fried chicken batter I’ve ever had or made, bar none. The crust is just out of this world. It crunches in your mouth. It’s full of flavor. It stays absolutely PUT. Even when it gets cold. Even after it’s been refrigerated, OVERNIGHT. Believe me, once you’ve made it this way, you will never go back to another fried chicken batter as long as you live.

I’m not worried about sharing this recipe with y’all because I know that once you put aside your doubts and just try this out, I’m going to make pickle brining believers out of all you. The results will speak for themselves. Your meat is going to be so tender and juicy, with just the *faintest* tang from the pickle juice. That tang is offset perfectly by the savory saltiness of the crust. It works– I was honestly surprised by how well it works.

You know how much I was won over by this? Every time we finish off a jar of pickles now, I keep the jar of juice in the back of my fridge, impatiently waiting until we go through enough of them to have enough juice to brine another batch of chicken so I can fry it up again. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what it is. Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #237, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

************************************************************************

Pickle Brined Chicken Tenders

Print

Ingredients

  • About 3-4 lbs of chicken tenderloins
  • Up to 3 cups of pickle juice (enough to fully submerge the chicken, but if you don’t have enough then supplement with buttermilk)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Lawry’s or other seasoning salt
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite mix of dry herbs (like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary)
  • Plenty of seasoning salt & pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon of onion powder
  • Vegetable, Canola or Peanut oil for frying (4-6 cups)

Directions

Place the chicken inside gallon size resealable plastic bags, or a large shallow dish with a lid. Pour the pickle juice over the chicken, seal and refrigerate overnight.

In a medium size, shallow bowl/baking dish, combine the all purpose flour with the seasoning salt, pepper,  and dried herbs. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, rice flour, onion powder and water with a large whisk or flour until thoroughly combined (it’ll be thick, like tempura batter. If need be, you can thin it out with a few tablespoons of additional water).

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Remove the chicken from the pickle juice and discard it. Dip each piece of chicken in the shallow dish of all purpose flour with a fork to get a light dusting on both sides, then dip it into batter, holding it up to allow some of the excess to drip off. Then, re dip it into the all purpose flour until the wet batter is sufficiently covered. Place the chicken on the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

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.

Vanilla Wine Braised Beef

I remember a long time ago, way back before I could even cook at all, that I really liked vanilla extract. Whenever I saw my mom take it out, I knew that something delicious was going to get baked. You know how some little kids love the smell of permanent markers? When she wasn’t looking I would sneak into the kitchen, open her spice cabinet and just smell the vanilla extract. I’ve always loved what vanilla can do to sweet treats, and now that I bake a lot myself I absolutely will not do without it.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I first saw savory applications of vanilla in recipes. I was intrigued and admittedly, a little unsure. I tried to envision what a savory vanilla dish would taste like, but couldn’t really get a grasp on it by thinking alone. The obvious concern is that it’s going to make the food taste too sweet, which then makes me nervous about wasting money on ingredients–if you bake with vanilla often, then you know it isn’t too cheap.

But y’know, as with most other things you’re afraid of trying, the best way to get over it is to just… try it out and see what happens. This was my first attempt to put vanilla into a savory dish, and I’m happy to say that it went pretty well.

It starts out with a spice rub that you’re going to let marinade on the meat overnight. It’s also got soy sauce (my go-to ingredient for just about ALL of my marinades by the way), and a splash of orange juice. After you sear the meat the next day, you put together the braising sauce that’s made of wine, tomatoes, and the vanilla extract. Don’t worry if it seems a little…’tomato-y’ at first. Once it gets time for the flavors to develop in the oven, they do balance out.

I think that this is a very, very good recipe to use for those of us who aren’t used to eating vanilla savory-style. It’s an easy braise with easy to find ingredients, and actually very little hands-on time. I paired this beef with the Sweet Potato Challah Buns I made a little while back and they made absolutely DELICIOUS sandwiches. Just saying.

Sharing this at this week’s Fiesta Friday #233.

********************************************

Vanilla Wine Braised Beef

Recipe Adapted from Nielsen Massey

Print

Ingredients

For Spice Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Seasoned salt and black pepper
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Soy Sauce
  • About 4 lbs of chuck roast, London broil, or tri-tip steak cut into large cubes

For Braise:

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28 fl. oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 fl. oz.) can tomato sauce
  • juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Seasoned Salt and pepper
  • A few dashes of soy sauce

Directions

Combine the dry spices together in a small bowl with a fork. Place the beef cubes into 2 freezer gallon size bags. Sprinkle soy sauce onto the surface of the beef and use your fingers to gently massage it in. Divide the spice mix evenly between the two bags. Seal the bags, then toss around until the meat is evenly coated. Place both bags into a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the meat on all sides, 1-2 minutes per side until browned. Keep the seared meat in a bowl covered with foil, as you may need to do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan.

Deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of broth, then add the onions. Saute until the bits are loose and the onions are softened, about 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic. Continue to cook until most of the liquid is cooked off and the garlic is fragrant. Temporarily remove from the heat.

In a small saucepan combine the wine, sugar and the vanilla. Whisk together over medium heat and allow to reduce by half. Remove from heat.

Pour the rest of the broth, the dice tomatoes, tomato sauce, reduced wine, orange zest/juice, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and the rest of the spices into the Dutch oven with the onions/garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, allow to cook down for about 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning (But flavors will also further develop while braising).

Place the beef cubes back into the Dutch oven, cover then braise in the oven for 2– 2 1/2 hours until beef is fork tender.

Asian Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

How’s it going y’all?

If you’re on my side of the planet, then the answer to that is probably…kinda hot.

Like, really really REALLY hot.  I was recently back in Michigan for a visit and the heat combined with humidity there was just unbearable. We get heat here, but because we’re in a desert valley, it’s really dry heat. The air back in the Mitten felt so noticeably wet. I’d forgotten how wet the air is there in the summer time. My hair was as unprepared as can be. Thankfully, we’re back now. But it’s still hot.

Not a lot of people out here have air conditioning, and in this type of heat the thought of turning on the oven to cook while not having A/C is just unbearable. So aside from take out, the solution to preparing food would be to opt for meals and recipes that don’t require any stove or oven so that your kitchen doesn’t turn into anymore of a sauna than it may be already. Today’s recipe is one of those meals.

The inspiration for this came from a post a few weeks back–this Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette Chicken Salad I did, where I took rotisserie chicken and mixed it with some other fresh ingredients, then tossed the whole thing with a homemade vinaigrette dressing. We really loved it, and before the leftovers were even gone I was thinking about different renditions I could give to the base idea of the recipe. Asian was a direction that I knew I wanted to take and I decided to go ahead and test some things out with it.

The base of the dressing from the first recipe is a whole head of roasted garlic. This time around I decided to use a combination of garlic cloves with fresh ginger root as the base. The ginger cuts the raw flavor of the garlic while lending a spicy sweetness that works. From there, I also added rice wine vinegar, orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and brown sugar. It’s going to taste very strong–but keep in mind that rather than being meant to be eaten alone, the dressing is meant to season the salad, where all those assertive flavors are going to be mellowed & balanced out, especially after they’ve had time to marinate.

My mix-ins before were roasted red peppers, yellow onions, baby cucumbers and parsley. This time around I went with shredded carrots, green onions, sauteed cabbage and fresh mint. I also added some dried chow mein noodles for a crunch factor that’s supposed to mimic croutons. If you’d prefer to use different mix-ins than what I did that’s fine but one thing I absolutely insist you DO NOT try and substitute anything else for is the mint–besides the dressing, the mint is my favorite part of the salad. It gives this such a bright, fresh flavor that I don’t think can be replicated with anything else. So don’t skimp or do without it.

I’ll be sharing this at the Fiesta Friday #231, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Laurena @ Life Diet Health. Stay cool everyone!

*********************************************************

Asian Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

Print

Ingredients

For Dressing

  • 1/2 cup whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons Rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • Salt and plenty of Black pepper

For Salad

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned (It should yield 2 1/2-3 cups of shredded chicken)
  • About 3/4 cup (a generous handful) of fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup of matchstick carrots
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup of sautéed cabbage
  • Dried chow mein noodles, optional

 

Directions

Finely mince the garlic cloves and the fresh ginger. Place the garlic and ginger, as well as the rest of the dressing ingredients into a blender.

Process on high until smooth—taste and adjust for seasoning. If it’s still a little thick you can add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out.

Combine the chicken, mint, carrots, green onions, and cabbage 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. When ready to serve, sprinkle the chow mein noodles on top as croutons.

Pulled Jerk Chicken

I cook often, but my actual taste preferences are limited. I like what I like and because of that, I don’t tend to try a lot of new things. There are few things that can kill my mood than a meal that I didn’t like. So I don’t take the risk. However, if someone I trust recommends something new to me, I’ll give it a shot, which is what happened for my birthday back in 2016. My sister took me to a Caribbean spot downtown and I had jerk chicken for the first time. There were greens and plantains on the side. It was delicious.

We try not to eat out too often to save money, but recently I found myself still really wanting some jerk chicken. I did a quick internet search to see what goes into making it and found out it’s really not that complicated. And as chicken itself is one of the cheaper proteins, I decided to give it my best shot. This is what ended up happening and I thought it turned out well enough to share with y’all.

I really believe in letting my meats sit in marinades overnight, even if it’s mainly just a spice rub. It gives the spices plenty of time to permeate the meat and maximizes the amount of flavor you’ll get the next day–and also minimizes the amount of extra seasoning you’ll have to add the next day of cooking. For this spice rub, I used a combination of cinnamon, cumin and allspice, along with soy sauce that I rubbed into the meat to help it stick (it also gives a great ‘rich’ salty flavor).

After the chicken gets seared, you’re gonna put together the sauce–and I really do love this sauce. I did some tweaking from other jerk recipes I’ve seen, swapping out lemon juice for lime, cutting out the vinegar (as I think the lime juice makes it plenty acidic enough) and adding some brown sugar and chicken broth just to round things out. Altogether, along with those Scotch bonnets, it makes a sweet and spicy sauce for the seared chicken to braise in the oven with until it’s fork tender and falling off the bone. This is also another one of those braises that tastes even better the next day as the flavors have even more time to develop and deepen. For a perfect Caribbean meal, make it with these Maple Curry Plantains alongside rice and crusty bread.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #225, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

***********************************************************

Pulled Jerk Chicken

Recipe Adapted from Chowhound.com

Print

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 4 lbs chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce, plus more for spice rub, divided
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, sliced into wedges
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 medium scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cilantro (about 1 bunch), coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, sliced into rounds
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Directions

Combine the cinnamon, cumin and allspice together in a bowl with a fork. Massage a few dashes of soy sauce into the surface of the chicken (not the 1/3 cup, that’s for later), then rub the spice mixture into the meat. Place the meat into sealable gallon size bag, seal it, then toss the meat around in the bag to make sure the seasoning is evenly coated. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of  Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the chicken on both sides about 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Remove from pot once browned and keep covered with foil. Deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of the chicken broth, scraping up the brown bits. Allow to simmer until liquid is mostly cooked off, then place the onions in the pot. Allow to cook until they’re translucent and softened, 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes more.

Add the lime juice, molasses, orange juice, the 1/3 cup of soy sauce, peppercorns, brown sugar, scallions, cilantro, thyme, ginger, remaining 1 cup of broth and peppers. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and bring to a simmer, allowing to cook for about 5-7 more minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Add the chicken back to the pot. Cover tightly and place in the oven, bake until meat is fork tender and pulling off the bone, about 1 1/2-2 hours. When the chicken is ready, remove it to a cutting board.  Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer, and pour it back into the pot. Pull the meat off the bones and discard them along with the fatty parts and skin. Place the meat back into the pot and toss in the sauce.

Serve with rice or on crusty sandwich bread.

Orange Sage Glazed Ham

We don’t eat ham very often, but every time we do I wonder why and how I always seem to forget how much I love it. I don’t understand why ham catches the flack that it does–people either seem to love it or hate and the majority of people I know are inclined to the latter. Crazies.

Debate among yourselves about the whys–we like and eat ham ’round here and in case some of y’all will be too, I thought that Easter weekend would be a good time to share the most recent way that I made it.

I really don’t think that much needs to be done to a ham if it’s pre-smoked. So long as you have a good spice rub and glaze, the oven should be doing most of the work. That’s certainly the case here. It may take some time to cook, but this recipe couldn’t be easier to put together.

Citrus works really well with pork, especially orange.  You’ll be using both the zest and the juice; nothing wasted. For the rub, fresh sage gets mashed together with oil and the zest to form a thick paste that you’re going to schmear all over the ham. Let it do its thing in the oven while you put together the orange glaze that’s spiced with cloves and cinnamon. By the time it finishes cooking it’ll be thick, syrupy and spicy-sweet, which is exactly where you want it to be.

I know it takes a little bit, but your patience in letting the ham bake low and slow will allow the oven to render out the fat across the top. Once it’s cooked through and the glaze gets poured over it, the sugars in the glaze caramelize to form a thick, dark crust; it’s such a beautiful thing. The smells alone are gonna get you. The sweet tartness of the glaze balances out the saltiness of the ham. The spice of the cloves is also a nice flavor to balance out them both.

Also, let’s be honest: half of the reason I love making ham so much is that the leftovers make the BEST sandwiches or protein for salads. Or, if you really wanted to get creative you could use some of your leftovers on this bread pudding I made a few weeks ago.

Happy Easter to all who celebrate, and a Happy Fiesta Friday#217, co-hosted this week by Abbey @ Three Cats and a Girl and Angie@ Fiesta Friday.

************************************************************

Orange Sage Glazed Ham

Recipe Adapted from Tyler Florence

Print

Ingredients

  • 1 8-10 pound bone in, skin on spiral ham
  • Seasoned salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cubed
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Place ham in a large roasting pan, fat side up. Using a sharp knife, score the ham with cuts across the skin, about 2-inches apart and 1/2-inch deep. Cut diagonally down the slashes to form a diamond pattern; season the meat generously with the seasoned salt and pepper.

Roughly chop the sage leaves and place in a small bowl with the orange zest. Drizzle in the oil to form a thick paste. Rub the paste all over the ham, making sure you get down into some of the slits. Bake uncovered for about 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the orange juice, the butter, brown sugar, water, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Slowly cook down until it form a syrupy glaze—this will take 45-50 minutes.

At the end of the 90 minutes, pour all of the glaze over the ham, cinnamon sticks and all. Continue to bake and baste with the pan juices every 15 minutes for an additional 35-45 minutes. Crank the heat up to 400 to allow a dark sugary crust to form across the top of the ham, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow the ham to rest before carving for about 15 minutes.

Spinach Ham Bread Pudding with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Hey y’all.

Sorry about missing last week. I don’t have a good excuse–I was just in an off mood and for some reason couldn’t get enough focus. I kept pushing back and procrastinating in writing the post until I finally just decided that it wasn’t going to happen. I have been doing quite a bit of both cooking and baking to try and perk myself up though, so you’ll get to see the product of that in the coming weeks.

When I cook and bake, I usually have a habit of making quite a bit of food at one time. This is mostly so that I don’t have to do very much heavy cooking throughout the week. I know it’s not for everyone, but we’re staunch believers in meal prep and leftovers round here. As such, I try and re-purpose the leftovers into new dishes, just to mix things up and not get bored.

Last week’s post were these English scones that I flavored with orange. Because I doubled the recipe we actually had quite a few left over and although it would’ve been fine to just eat them on their own, I got an idea for another way to use them.

We usually have breakfast for dinner once a week and I wanted to do something a bit different than biscuits or pancakes (either one is what I’ll usually make). When I saw that I also had some leftover ham in the fridge, I knew that there was one of two ways we could go with it: scone breakfast sandwiches, or I could go ahead and try to make a bread pudding-strata…thingy to share on the blog.

As you can see, the bread pudding-strata thingy won out.

First of all, I know that most strata and bread pudding recipes call for a French bread or a sturdy type of bread like challah or brioche to be used as the base. If you are in a hurry then you can of course go ahead and buy some in a store for this–it’ll still turn out great. However. If you’ve got the time, I really do recommend making and using the scones as the bread base. I know it may seem like an odd choice, as the scones are on the sweet side and this is a savory dish.

But they work. They really do. The orange flavor gives the dish a special taste that we agreed it wouldn’t have if I had just used regular bread. The next time I make this, you can bet I’ll be putting in the extra effort to and baking the scones to use as the base.

If ham is not your favorite protein, then you can definitely substitute it for another protein–sausage, turkey sausage, chicken-sausage. You could leave the meat out entirely if you’d like to make it vegetarian and just use mushrooms. Don’t sweat it too much. This bread pudding-strata thingy is very forgiving in terms of swapping out ingredients.

I know I could’ve left it plain and still had a tasty dish, but I’m a huge condiment lover. Plus, as most bread puddings DO have sauces on the side I decided I would make a sauce for this one.

This is what I like to call a little ‘recipe recycling’. You guys remember the spiced meatballs I made earlier last August? Well I decided on a whim to try and see if the sauce that I made to go along with the meatballs would also pair nicely with the bread pudding-strata thingy. The sauce looks like it’s a tomato base, but it’s actually roasted red peppers, roasted onions and roasted garlic that I pureed together in the blender, then simmered over the stove with smoked paprika and a few other spices. I really love it all on its own and I thought that it would be worth a try to see what else I could ‘recycle’ it with.

I was once again, pleasantly surprised. The sauce was a perfect smoky compliment to the bread pudding/strata, that in and of itself has a very nice balance of sweetness from the scones, and saltiness from the ham and cheese. Even with the meat and carbs, it filled me up without making me feel too full. I’m not really sure what the proper term for this thing would be considering that I think it somehow manages to check all the boxes of bread pudding, strata, casserole, and breakfast bake at the same time. I’m not sure the name of it really matters considering that we really liked this, and I think you would too. So why not give it a try?

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #214, co-hosted this week by Abbey @ Three Cats and a Girl and Antonia @ Zoale.com.

*******************************************************

Spinach Ham Bread Pudding with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

Print

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk, divided
  • 4 cups 1-inch cubes of bread (I used these leftover English scones, but you’re free to use any kind of bread you like)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • Seasoned salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups diced ham
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed as dry as possible
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese

Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

  • 6-7 red bell peppers, de-stemmed, seeded and cut into halves or quarters
  • 3 sweet yellow onions, cut in halves
  • 1 whole head of garlic, outer loose skin removed, but still whole
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons ras el hanout spice mix (optional, if you can’t find it you can always use cumin)
  • 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2- dashes Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

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.

In a separate bowl combine the eggs, the remaining 3/4 cup of milk, garlic, sage, thyme and seasoned salt and pepper. Beat together with a fork.

Grease a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Spread half of the bread cubes in the dish. Scatter half of the ham, spinach and cheeses 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 ham/spinach and cheese, 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, 55-60 minutes. Serve warm with the sauce.

For the Sauce: Rub about 1 teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil on top of garlic head. Sprinkle the top with salt & pepper and place in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the garlic, like a package. Place on a half sheet pan and bake in the oven for about 50-55 minutes. Remove and allow to cool until warm enough to handle.

Meanwhile, crank oven up to 450°. Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.  Drizzle the peppers with oil, salt & pepper, then arrange with the cut sides down on the pans. Roast in the oven until the skins have started to char & separate from the inner flesh and the peppers have started to collapse, about 25-30 minutes (you may need to rotate pans halfway to ensure even roasting).

Remove the peppers and onions to a bowl and cover with foil to allow to cool down, about 30 minutes. Once cool, use your fingers to rub away the outer skins of the red peppers (they should come away easily). Discard skins and place roasted veggies into a blender or food processor. Take the roasted garlic head and break off individual cloves. Use your fingers to press/squeeze out the pulp into the container of the blender/processor with the veggies. (It should come out very easily). Place the lid on, and puree the mixture together on high speed until very smooth.

Pour the mixture into a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Pour in the beef broth and add the spices, Soy and Worcestershire sauces, sugar and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and allow sauce to cook for about 20 minutes.

Soy Ginger Chicken Fajitas

I’ve said before on the blog that I’m not a huge fan of most 30 minute or less recipes and with a few exceptions, I’m standing behind that. No shade to Rachael, but I just prefer to take a little bit more time with preparing my food. The longer that the spices have to cook, the more they can infuse into the ingredients and make them taste better. There are certain dishes–like braises or stews that I actually prefer to eat the next day after I’ve cooked them, just to give the flavors time to develop. I could name a few desserts that work the same way.

For the most part, it’s just better to have at least one hour of cooking time available for your dishes–better for the food and also better for your tastebuds. Now, I did say ‘for the most part’. There are exceptions to every rule.

After all, sometimes after a very long day when you come home hungry and dog tired,  the last thing you probably want to do is get out a bunch of dishes and stand over a stove for a prolonged period of time just to whip up a meal. You just want to sit down and be able to eat. I get it.

A perfectly cooked and steak can (and depending on the size, should) certainly be made in thirty minutes or less. With a tasty enough sauce, most stir fries can be whipped up in 30 minutes. I can make myself a delicious egg in the basket in less than 10. I’m certainly not above browning some ground beef, using a taco seasoning packet and taco sauce to make quick tacos. And if I REALLY don’t feel like cooking, yes. I too will pick up a rotisserie chicken, shred that bad boy and mix it into a homemade salad for dinner.

And then there’s fajitas. Chicken fajitas is another one of the ‘quick meals’ we whip up around here when no one feels like doing much labor intensive cooking, but we also don’t want to order out either. I usually make huge batches of it to last a few days and we can use the meat for various types of meals: tacos, salads, sandwiches, whatever. Today’s recipe is the latest version I made for us. Normally I stick to a Latin cuisine flavor profile, but this time I switched it up a bit. Here the chicken is flavored with soy sauce, mirin, ginger and sesame oil so that they have more of an Asian flair to them.

A few things I particularly love about this: first, it doubles as both a 30 minute meal, BUT the spices have also been given plenty of time to permeate the chicken and give them plenty of flavor thanks to a marinade that they sit in overnight. The night before, mix together the marinade and place the chicken inside. The next day when you’re ready to put dinner together, all you gotta do is cook the chicken over high heat so that it cooks quickly, then give a quick saute to some onions and peppers. That’s it. Plenty of flavor to go around for what’s a pretty low effort meal. I know I don’t have to say it but I will anyway: this was really good stuff. Please do help yourself.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #209, co-hosted by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

************************************************************

Soy Ginger Chicken Fajitas

Recipe Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Print

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 1 large yellow sweet onion
  • A few tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil
  • Tortilla shells, for serving

Directions

Cut the chicken into small strips and place inside a gallon size Ziploc bag.

Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and brown sugar in a bowl. Pour over the chicken in the Ziploc bag and seal. Place the bag in a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Pour the oil into a large skillet and bring to a medium-high heat. Take the chicken out of the marinade and sear it in batches in the skillet until golden brown. Keep cooked chicken in a bowl you cover with foil until all of it is cooked.

Once the meat is finished, saute the peppers with the onions in the skillet until softened and slightly charred, about 5-10 minutes.

Spoon the chicken into tortilla shells with the veggies and serve drizzled with sweet chili sauce and/or sriracha.