Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sauteed breaded boneless chicken breasts (p. 436),Chicken parmigiana (p. 437), and Eggplant parmigiana (p. 273)

I would absolutely love to write a very clever choose-your-own-adventure style post for this post but it's not going to happen--I'm not having a very creative day. In fact, I'm trying to pound out these posts as fast as I can so I can update my index and get an accurate idea of how far I am in the project. In fact, I should make that a contest--how far do you think I am in the book? Honestly, I would love to know what people think!

I decided to make two types of Parmesans (if I was in a place where I could easily find veal, I would have make all three types). I've never been much of a fan of chicken/veal/eggplant parmesan. They always seem to be bland, overbreaded, and covered in too much cheese and mediocre sauce. I didn't have particularly high hopes for the recipe.

The first step was to make Sauteed breaded boneless chicken breasts (p. 436).

I pounded the chicken breasts in a plastic bag. I always pound meat this way so that it doesn't fling bacteria-laden juices all over the kitchen and it really helps with clean-up.

I set out my three battering bowls. They included:
1. An egg with some water.
2. Bread crumbs, dried herbs, salt, and pepper. I omitted the Parmesan cheese so the end-product wouldn't get oversalted.
3. Flour.

I dredged the chicken in the flour, then the egg, then the bread crumbs:

Don't skimp on the egg mixture--it barely stretched as far as I needed it to:

I fried them in olive oil:

They were finished very quickly. The main problem was that it was difficult to make sure the whole thing was cooked through before burning on the outside--and I had to keep adding olive oil because the breading soaked it right up. I'm not sure what the solution to this would be--maybe turning down the heat? But they wouldn't get as crispy with lower heat.

The chicken was nicely flavored. It was sort of boring on its own but would have been really good with some sort of dipping sauce (a nice honey mustard, for example).

I decided to transform them into Chicken parmigiana (p. 437). I spread mom's tomato sauce all over the bottom of a dish (the other dish was sauced for eggplant parmigiana).

I arranged the chicken in the pan, sprinkled them with grated Parmesan, and spooned the rest of the sauce over the top. I then topped it all with a little more Parmesan and some mozzarella.

I baked it for about thirty minutes:

Delicious! Have a light hand with the salt, though, because the Parmesan adds plenty. I think this recipe was balancing right on the edge of being too salty. Even so, the chicken parm was good, heated up really well, and even froze well. I think the recipe would be really easy to double or triple and make plenty for a group.

I decided to make it a double Parmesan day and make Eggplant parmigiana (p. 273) as well. After saucing the pan (as shown above) I spread fried eggplant, slightly overlapping the slices. I sprinkled mozzarella and parmesan cheese on the eggplant, along with oregano and pepper. I poured more sauce over the top and sprinkled a little parsley on it:

After about fifteen minutes in the oven the cheese was melted and it was bubbly:

I actually thought the eggplant parm was better than the chicken parm. Eggplant is one of the few veggies that can stand up to being fried, smothered with cheese and sauce, and still be recognizable as a vegetable (in my opinion). The creaminess of the eggplant was enhanced by the tangy sauce and the whole was even more delicious than the parts.

One note--have a very light hand with the salt. Both mozzarella and parmesan cheeses are salty and they can start overpowering the dish very quickly.

Anyone else made these recipes?

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chimichurri (p. 566)

I was eyeing the Random list to see if there was anything on it that I could make quickly to go with dinner (a pork roast). I thought Chimichurri (p. 566) could be tasty.

The recipe was a quick one--I whisked olive oil and red wine vinegar together in a bowl and then stirred in chopped onion, chopped parsley (fresh from mom's garden), garlic, oregano, ground red pepper, and a little black pepper:

I let it stand for a couple hours so the flavors could meld.

Delicious! A really great complement for pork. The pepper and garlic gave the sauce a nice kick while the vinegar lent the sauce a tangy quality. I've never had actual chimichurri so I have no idea about the authenticity of the recipe but I would definitely recommend it. The recipe makes over a cup but got better over the next few days as it sat.

Not a very exciting post! I will supplement it with a couple of pictures from my visit to mom's house.

Caterpillars! I love caterpillars even more than I love butterflies. They were enjoying mom's parsley plant.

I gave myself a project at mom's house--removing the paint from the bathroom cabinet. It had so much paint on it that the corners were rounded. It really bothered me.

There were SO MANY LAYERS OF PAINT! The cabinet had been white, black, green, peach, and red--amazing! I really enjoyed the zen-like process of paint removal.

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Tomatoes Provencale (p. 312), Broiled tomatoes (p. 312), and Slow-roasted tomatoes (p. 312)

I was shopping at Dahl's with my mom when I came across a motherlode of tomatoes on the sale cart. Honestly, pounds and pounds of tomatoes. I bought three giant trays of tomatoes for about $2.50. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to knock out a few tomato recipes!

I thought Tomatoes Provencale (p. 312) looked like a delicious recipe. I combined bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley (from mom's plant), basil, garlic, and a little olive oil:

I squeezed the seeds from my tomato halves:

And added the breadcrumb mixture to the tomatoes, drizzling olive oil over the whole shebang:

I even domed the filling up like the recipe recommended:

I baked the dish for about an hour:

The tomatoes were so amazing! As I bit into the first tomato, I realized that the filling was very, very similar to the stuffing I use for my beloved baby artichokes. The tomatoes add a very different flavor than the artichokes (obviously). Tomatoes Provencale have a very home-y, comfort food feel for me. They remind me of something my grandmother would have made and they seem like something I would make for future generations. So if you love tomatoes, make this recipe. I don't think you will be disappointed. Plus they are extremely simple.

I thought Broiled tomatoes (p. 312) seemed easy. I sliced four tomatoes and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I sprinkled the tomatoes with Parmesan cheese and drizzled olive oil over the top:

They broiled for about five minutes:

Easy! There was nothing particularly exciting about these tomatoes but they were certainly good and only took about ten minutes from slicing the first tomato through pulling them out of the oven. This is a great recipe when you have too many tomatoes, want to do something different with them, and don't have a lot of time.

I thought Slow-roasted tomatoes (p. 312) sounded interesting. I combined powdered sugar, salt, and black pepper in equal amounts:

And sprinkled the mixture over sliced tomatoes. I drizzled the whole concoction with olive oil:

I baked the tomatoes at low temperature for two hours:

They were incredibly good--very interesting. Between the powdered sugar and the slow roasting, the tomatoes had a great sweetness. I've never made tomatoes this way before and I really liked them--I think they would be amazing on a sandwich or in a wrap (or even on a pizza with feta and basil!).

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Random post of September nonsense

This is a totally random blog post, I'm warning you now.

First off, make sure to follow me on Twitter @tjotjoc and tell me that you are a fan--I will follow you too.

Make sure to like TJOTJOC on Facebook!  The link is on the sidebar.

I'm thinking of having another contest soon but I'm wondering if everyone already has a copy of TJOC.  Would something else cooking-related be better?  Do you already have a copy?  Would you enter a contest?

Random pictures:

I dumped five eggs in a bowl and they were happy to see me!

Our fridge is so annoying, it seems to freeze foods if they are pushed too far back.  Somehow, all our eggs froze and refused to thaw out, even when left on the counter.  Frozen eggs were fun to play with, though, and rather pretty:

My mom and my dog--I think I've posted this picture before but I still love it.  Nobody loves food like my dog.

Any Halloween costumes being planned?  I had about five different costumes last year but my favorite two were Princess Leia (in the slave costume) and Jem (from Jem and the Holograms).  I think I will wear them again assuming I don't have to work.  Of course, I need to start that diet now for those two costumes :)

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sauteed corn (fried corn) (p. 271) and Caesar salad (p. 159)

Sauteed corn (fried corn) (p. 271) is such an easy recipe that it is barely registers as a recipe at all. I (or rather, Josh) sliced six ears worth of kernels off of the cob (fortunately, there was a 3 cobs for $1 sale). I sauteed them for a few minutes in butter and then seasoned the corn with a little parsley and chili powder:

Definitely tasty. Better than corn poured out of a can and almost as easy. That being said, corn is a heckava lot better in Iowa than it is in Colorado. No contest at all.

I'm not much of a salad girl. My mom finally admitted to me this year that she doesn't like salad either which probably explains why we never ate it growing up (even though my grandparents and aunt have it with almost every meal). Up until recently, I would refuse salad even if it came free with my meal. I just have never really liked salad--it seems so boring and like such a waste of calories.

If I am going to eat a salad, I prefer Caesar salad (p. 159), partially because I see the lettuce as a vehicle to get dressing, croutons, and cheese to my mouth. I wasn't particularly excited about the recipe, though.

I pressed garlic and added a little salt (much easier than mashing the garlic with a fork):

I whisked lemon juice, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper in with the garlic:

Slowly added olive oil in a slow, steady stream:

I tossed romaine lettuce, homemade croutons, grated Parmesan, and the dressing together:

SO GOOD! In fact, I don't think capital letters are enough emphasis--it was SO GOOD!! This salad was better than I thought salad could be! My croutons were big and delicious, the dressing was SO garlicky, it was so perfectly balanced that I couldn't stop eating it. When Josh told me he wasn't hungry, I thought 'Great! More for me!'--that's how good it was. Of course, he grazed the kitchen after telling me that he wasn't hungry and I walked in to the kitchen to find him shoveling the salad into his mouth as fast as he could. It was the stand-out dish of the night. Has anyone tried this before? What did you think?

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Chicken piccata (p. 436)--Choose your own adventure CHOICE 3

(Note--this post will make much more sense if you read THIS post first)

You decide that plain sauteed chicken isn't enough for you and you want to make a quick sauce. Chicken piccata (p. 436) catches your eye. "Yum" you think "I order this in resturants sometimes".

You add shallots to oil and cook them until wilted, adding a cup of chicken stock:

You scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen browned bits, feeling like a real chef. You add lemon juice and capers and boil until the sauce is reduced:

You swirl in a little butter and admire the finished product. Finally, you pour the half the sauce over some chicken to eat immediately, pouring the other half of the sauce over a chicken breast to pop in the freezer:

"Wow, that was really easy" you think "it only took fifteen minutes!". The piccata sauce is tangy and strong due to the lemon and capers but tasty. You only wish it didn't make the crust of the chicken so soggy. "Oh well" you think "I will definitely make this for mom the next time she comes to town, she loves capers".

The End

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Sauteed chicken breasts with mushroom sauce--Choose your own adventure CHOICE 2

(Note: This post will make a lot more sense if you read THIS post first)

You decide that plain sauteed chicken breasts aren't going to hit the spot tonight and you really want something fancy but still easy enough for a weekday night. You leaf through TJOC and notice Sauteed chicken breasts with mushroom sauce. "That sounds delicious" you think.

You saute shallots in a pan, adding thinly sliced mushroom when the shallots are wilted:

"What a great smell" you think. You grab your bottle of sherry and add some to the mushroom mixture, boiling until almost evaporated:

"I feel like a real chef you think", becoming proud of your culinary prowess. You add heavy cream and homemade chicken stock and boil until the sauce in slightly thickened, adding parsley a bit of nutmeg, salt and pepper, and a splash of lemon juice to finish the dish:

You pour the mixture over your chicken breasts. Although it has started to slightly separate, which disgusts you, you find the sherry and mushroom sauce absolutely delicious. The rich taste of the sauce compliments the slightly bland chicken and you feel impressed that you made such a fancy-seeming sauce. You pat yourself on the back, vowing to remember this recipe the next time you have company.

The End.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sauteed boneless chicken breasts (p. 436)--Choose your own adventure CHOICE 1

I've always wanted to write a "Choose-your-own adventure" novel. I assume everyone read those as a kid. If you weren't exposed to the awesomeness of the CYOA novel, the hero (you) would get to a point where a choice would have to be made. If you made one choice, you turned to one page. If you made a different choice, you turned to a different page. I always marked the choice points and read down each path, although I think that was probably an uncommon choice.

The books always went something like this (and were always written in second person):

"You are running down a path and fall down a well. You:
1. Whistle for your faithful dog. She is sure to come and rescue you (turn to page 221).
2. Try to climb out (turn to page 225).
3. Sit down to read the book you have in your bag. You have a book, a Snickers bar, and a bottle of soda, what more can you want (turn to page 551)?"

You can think of this blog post as the cooking version of the CYOA novel.

I decided to start with a great base, Sauteed boneless chicken breasts (p. 436).

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts always seem so expensive and I hate buying them. I usually just buy chicken thighs or buy whole chicken breasts and skin and debone them myself. I stumbled upon a great sale in the frozen food section on a bag frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts--I will buy them that way from now on! I totally forgot that chicken was sold in the freezer section, I tend to only shop for meat in the "meat section". I only wish we had a deep freeze so I could really utilize frozen food sales.

I heated a butter and olive oil mixture until it was hot:

The chicken fat oozed out in a very artistic way:

I dredged the chicken breasts in flour (just flour) and popped them into the hot pan. TJOC recommends that you cook the chicken for exactly four minutes on the first side and then 4-6 minutes on the other side--which was NOT long enough. So if you use this recipe, make sure to get out your handy meat thermometer and check if the chicken is actually done.

The finished product looked like this:

Now on to the Choose-your-own Adventure:
1. You are starving hungry and eat the chicken as-is (refer to the bottom of this post).
2. You want to eat something more fancy so you make Sauteed chicken breasts with mushroom sauce (follow this link).
3. If you are in the mood for something piquant decide to make Chicken piccata (follow THIS link).

Choice 1:
You bite into the chicken. It has a nice crust from the flour and the chicken is tender and moist but you feel as if something is missing. You go to bed full but unsatisfied, wondering if there was something else out there. You sigh. At least dinner was fast.

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