Friday, May 31, 2013

Grilled Lamb and Pork Shoulder Chops and Veggie Pasta

Ever have one of those days when you Really want to grill meat but you have that nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you to eat your vegetables?  I did last Sunday.  I wanted to grill lamb shoulder chops, but some logical part of the eternal mystery that is my brain bugged me about Needing to eat a balanced meal, so I devised this meal.  It is sure to meet everyone's needs.  Here's the starting line-ups:  

Arugula Salad and Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1 - 2 cups arugula
1/2 red onion or two shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
feta cheese

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, except the arugula and let sit until you are ready to serve your meal. 
Once ready, add the arugula to the vinaigrette and top the meat with the salad. 

Marinade for the Lamb and Pork Shoulder Chops:
2 Lamb Shoulder Chops
2 Pork Shoulder Chops
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 large sprigs fresh rosemary, washed
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped, set aside
3 sprigs fresh thyme, washed
3 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped, set aside
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Zest of one lemon and Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 large, gallon sized zip-lock bag

Pat dry the lamb and pork.  Combine all of the ingredients, except the large sprigs of rosemary and thyme, in a bowl. Place the meat into the plastic bag and add the fresh sprigs.  Drizzle the marinade into the bag and tightly zip the bag closed.  Smoosh (my word, yes) around the meat until the meat is clearly coated with the marinade.  Allow to sit for thirty minutes in the refrigerator.  Remove thirty minutes before you will grill the meat. You want the meat at room temperature before grilling.

When you are ready to grill, remove the meat, and add to the grill.  Some learned "grill masters" have told me that it is best to pat the meat dry before grilling, but I want some of that favor to remain on the meat, so I disobey and leave it as is.  I had my son grill the meat and he did a good job.  I did not get the cross grill marks I'd hoped for, but he did a fine job. I did have him sprinkle on a mixture of the finely chopped rosemary and thyme on both sides as it grilled.  Such good flavor!

 I sliced the meat away from the bone after allowing the chops to rest so both my son and I could have lamb and pork, and I topped the sliced meat with the arugula salad.  That was healthy choice number one!

Healthy choice number two:  Rather than have potatoes or some other major starch, although I have garlic sourdough bread, I decided to make a whole wheat veggie pasta.  It's my simplest recipe for pasta.  Here's the starting line-up:

1 pint of cherry tomatoes
1 6 ounce can chef's cut tomatoes
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (I love Cento)
2 sprigs fresh oregano
8 fresh basil leaves
1 large red onion, chopped into slivers
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 pound whole wheat angel hair pasta
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 cup of red or white wine
Parmigiano Cheese 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Bring a pot of water to a boil, about 4 quarts, salt the water liberally, and add the pasta.  Stir the pasta as it softens so it does not stick to the bottom of the pot.  Cook the pasta until al dente, about eight minutes, or as per directions on the box.

In a high-sided sauce pan, add the extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat.  When the oil ripples, add the onions and the garlic. Add a little salt and pepper.  Saute until the onions begin to soften. Add the cherry tomatoes and a cup of wine, red or white, your choice.  Cover the sauce pan or pot until the cherry tomatoes burst. 

Meanwhile, chop the spinach.  I recruited my son to chop the spinach while I worked on the pasta sauce, in which the spinach is to go, and I found that we also had a supervisor. 

Chopping the spinach

Supervisor Sophie

 When the cherry tomatoes have burst in the sauce, uncover, add the canned tomato products, the spinach, the Italian seasoning, the fresh oregano and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, stir to incorporate all of the ingredients, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  

When the pasta has finished cooking, reserve a cup of the starchy pasta water and add it to the pasta sauce.  Strain the pasta and add it to the pasta sauce. The spinach will wilt with the heat of the sauce and the pasta.  Using tongs, toss the pasta with the sauce and serve topped with freshly grated Parmigiano cheese. 

Slice the chops, top with the arugula salad and feta, and twist pasta onto the plate and top with cheese.  Don't forget the sauce!                                      Enjoy!


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bacon Belted Stuffed Chicken 

This has been one of my favorite dishes to perfect and serve.  It gets easier and better every time I make it.  The third time was the charm, and I would like to share it with you.  Here is my starting line-up:

6 - 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 shallots or 1 red onion, finely chopped
6 sage leaves, finely chopped + 6 - 12 sage leaves (to go on the chicken)
1/4 cup smoked mozzarella and 1/4 cup Fontina cheese or 1/2 cup your favorite cheese, such as mozzarella or Gouda
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, or, a pinch of dried oregano, dried thyme and dried basil, blended to make two teaspoons
1 tablespoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
12+ strips of smokey or peppered bacon
2 - 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Combine the garlic, shallots, finely chopped sage leaves, herbs, Paprika, vinegar and cheese in a bowl, and set aside in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to marry.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. 

Meanwhile, prep the chicken.  Add a little salt and pepper to both sides of the chicken thighs and open them up (no need to butterfly them).  Lay out a strip or two of bacon (depending on the size of the thigh; one strip for a medium to small thigh and two for a larger thigh) and place the thigh cross-wise over the bacon.  Using a teaspoon, add a good spoonful of the cheese and herb mixture to the center of the thigh. Close it up and roll the thigh tightly in the strip of bacon.  No need to add toothpicks.  Add a sage leave to the back side of the thigh.  The sage leaf will stick to it.  

Add the olive oil to a high-sided large skillet over medium-high heat.  add the bacon-wrapped thighs, sage leaf side down when the oil begins to ripple, telling you the skillet it very hot and ready for searing. Gently brown the thighs on both sides, and add them to a large baking sheet lined with rack.  Place the rack in the oven and allow the chicken to finish cooking through in the oven, about 20 minutes.  This process will ensure thorough cooking and maintaining the crispness of the bacon and the thigh.  

Do not be alarmed when some of the cheese begins oozing out.  It very well may, but some will be left and the flavor is incredible.

 Serve this meal with potatoes or rice or salad.  I served it with a citrus salad with pomegranate balsamic and honey drizzle. 

 Simple, easy, quick, and beyond flavorful.