Monday, December 29, 2014

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry
Over Udon Noodles

Ever get the hankering or craving for Chinese food but you already have protein in the refrigerator waiting to be used, or, you just do not have time or just are too tired to go out again after work or school?  That all happened to me a little while back.  As you know, I LOVE Chinese food, and one of my favorites is Kung Pao Chicken and Garlic Chicken.  I had already had boneless/skinless chicken thighs in my frig that were to the point they needed to be used or thrown away the next day or so and could not possibly go out to get Chinese food, so I made my own.  Fantastically, this entire dish took me less than thirty minutes, prep included.  This is also a perfect date night meal!

Here is my starting line-up!

  2 tablespoons grape seed oil
  1 tablespoon sesame oil
  1 teaspoon cumin seed
  4 cloves garlic, sliced
  1/2 red onion, cubed
  1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
  1 teaspoon or so of Sriracha sauce
  1  tablespoon Soy Sauce
  1 tablespoon Ponzu
  1 teaspoon fish sauce  
  1 package boneless, skinless chicken thighs (6 pc.), cubed
  Scallion greens, sliced at an angle, because, pretty
  small handful of toasted pine nuts or peanuts

I used a wok, but if you do not have one, use a high-sided skillet.  Start by prepping the garlic slices,  chicken thighs and the onion.  Now, if you want to use chicken breasts, that is fine.  I like to use chicken thighs, however, because they have a higher fat content and therefore, they are more tender and retain more moisture. I say, whatever you have on hand or whatever you like better!!!

In a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast pine nuts or peanuts, about eight minutes, and toss, to release their essential oils. 

Meanwhile, add the oils to the wok and add three or four of the garlic slices to infuse the oil. Shortly before you are ready to cook, turn the heat to low.  About every two or three minutes before full on cooking, turn the heat up a little at a time.  This will help the oil to take on the garlic flavor.  

When you are fully prepped, about ten minutes into the process, turn the heat to medium-high and remove the garlic slices.  When the oil begins to ripple, add the chicken cubes. Saute for three minutes.  Add the sauces, one at a time, stirring to coat the chicken completely each time.  Once all of the sauces have been added, add the onion and garlic and stir consistently for another three to four minutes, until the onions just begin to soften. 


The entire cooking process is about 8 to ten minutes from start to finish.  It is completely aromatic and you will want to pick at the stir fry as you are stirring.  Don't!  HOT!!!  Be warned!!!

When you are ready to serve, garnish with the scallion greens and the toasted pine nuts.  You can serve it over rice or noodles.  I served it over a package of udon noodles I'd boiled up.  You can also add yellow, orange and/or red sweet bell peppers to the mix for pops of color.  I did not any on hand, so added color with the red onion, scallions and pine nuts. You can add or change whatever you want based on what you have on hand or what you want to get at the store.  All up to you!!!  

Here are a few more photos of the plated stir fry.  Thank You and ENJOY!!!

 Thank You for your readership, gentle readers!
Now, Go Cook Something in Your Kitchen!!!

Cheesy Herb and Tomato Fritatta with Pancetta

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day - in most cases - and I love to make it a good one for family and friends.  A frittata is a perfect way to please the light eater as well as the meat eater.  Here is one of my fritattas, and, as my loyal readers know, I have several other recipes on the blog.  Please browse and enjoy!  Here is my recipe for my Cheesy Herb and Tomato with Pancetta fritatta.  

Starting Line-Up: 
6 - 8 eggs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3 green sprigs fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Scallion greens, slivered
1 tablespoon finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 tablespoon shaved parmigiano-reggiano
 salt and pepper
3 tablespoons diced pancetta, crisped
2 tabs butter
1/4 red onion, slivered
red bell pepper, slivered
4 cherry tomatoes, halved 
1-2 cloves garlic, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Prep the scallions, tomatoes, herbs, onion and cheese and set aside.  Add the two tabs of butter, or, if you prefer, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to an oven safe omlette skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced pancetta to the skillet and crisp.  I like to add a little garlic to it, but that is just me. Set aside for the end.

Meanwhile, crack and whisk the eggs in a large bowl.  Add a pinch of salt, but only a pinch, as the crisped pancetta will add greater salt content later, and fresh ground black pepper.  Gently pour the egg mixture into the skillet, reduce the heat to medium and allow the egg mixture to begin to solidify around the edges and bottom. 

Arrange the fresh oregano green sprigs as you like along with the sprinkling the fresh thyme leaves, garlic, peppers, tomatoes and the Italian seasoning around the fritatta. I like to arrange the red onion in a cyclical manner because, well, pretty. In addition, add the finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at this time. 

 Note:  This is a photo of my practice dish, and I did not arrange the onions and peppers and tomatoes in this practice dish like I had in the final product.  I must have deleted the final oven-ready fritatta.  My apologies!!!

Use a heat safe spatula and run it along the perimeter of the fritatta to loosen it up from the skillet.  Place the skillet into the oven for ten to fifteen minutes, depending on how many eggs you used.  Six large eggs, eight smaller eggs. 

Once the fritatta is done, and although you will want to set your oven timer for ten or twelve minutes, your nose will certainly tell you when it is done.  Once allegedly done, stick a toothpick in the center.  If it comes out clean - just like brownies or a cake - it is done; if not, another three to five minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes.  Place the shaved parmesan atop the fritatta along with fresh halved cherry or grape tomatoes and the long scallion slivers.   Add the crisped pancetta to the center, however you wish, actually, and enjoy!

 Thank You, gentle readers, for your time and consideration! Hope you enjoy this recipe and now, get into your kitchen and cook something!



Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bison Chili
Chili Dogs

It took me three years to make the decision to go through with this recipe.  Folks who know me well know that I have spent more than four decades studying my ancestors and ancestral history, Native American and Welsh. I am also part German, and I know that history, as well.  I am not a hunter, I am a shopper, and the thought of purchasing bison (American Buffalo) meat was a battle I fought internally for three years.  The battle raged because, one, there really is no need to harvest buffalo, which, until recently, have been extremely rare, but next, I wanted to try it because my Cherokee ancestors, long before forced removal in 1838, sent hunters to the west to hunt buffalo. Hunting parties would be gone for weeks, months, even, searching for buffalo herds. After quite a long time, I decided that I should at least know what the meat tasted like as my ancestors did. To be honest, I loved it. I am unsure, however,  if I ever will purchase it again, out of respect, but I wanted to share this journey with you. Sometimes connecting with your past - even in this way, through food - can help you have a deeper connection and understanding of things.  Makes sense to me, but it is difficult to put into concise words.  It is more of a feeling. 

Here is my recipe.  Please know that you could substitute ANY ground meat, even Soyrizo, or, Soy Chorizo, to make this vegetarian.  

Roasting Veg

To roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes prior to cooking the chili, add to a baking sheet or, as I did, my cast iron skillet after tossing in vegetable oil:

1 large quartered yellow onion
3 - 4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 - 2 serrano chiles
2 Fresno chiles
1  poblano chile

Once again, roast at 400 degrees for about fifteen minutes.  At eight minutes in, turn the poblano and onions over and let roast another seven minutes.  After roasting, place all of the chiles in paper bag and roll up or plastic zip-lock bag to steam. About ten or fifteen minutes later, remove the chiles, stem, seed and rib them.  Meaning, to new readers, remove those and the skins, as best as possible. 

Place the roasted chiles and the onions and garlic, now, into a food processor or blender, add the zest and juice of one lime,  and process until smooth.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.  

Spices for the chili cooking process:

2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon pasilla powder
1 tablespoon chipotle powder or, finely chopped chipotle in adobo
2 teaspoons crushed dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed  (Actually, I like two teaspoons, and I toast and grind the cumin seeds in my mortar with pestle)
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves

Fresh Herbs:
1/4 cup Cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Canned or Wet Ingredients:
2 16-ounce cans drained fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or, grape seed oil
1 box beef stock in a box
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1 large bottle of Mexican beef (16 - 20 ounces)

In addition:
2 ponds ground bison (American Buffalo)

In a dutch oven or large pot with a lid, add the three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over high heat.  When the oil begins to ripple, add the two pounds of ground bison.  Cook and crumble until the meat begins to caramelize.  This meat is softer, finer and looser than ground beef, so the crumbling and browning process will not take long.  Do not leave it unattended!  When the meat is half way cooked, add half of the dry spices and incorporate well.  The aroma is going to be amazing!

JUST before the meat has thoroughly caramelized, add the chile-veg puree' and stir well to coat all of the meat.  This, too, will smell fantastic

Now add the rest of the dried spices and half of the herbs and all of the wet ingredients. Stir until all are evenly combined.  Tip:  Pour the beer gently so it does not overflow the pot!  Scrape the bottom of the pot to work up the browned bits from the bison caramelization, which is pure flavor!  

I like to add fragrant fresh oregano and thyme sprigs to the top of my chili and I fish it out when it is done simmering. 

Reduce the heat to low and allow this mixture to simmer for an hour.  Longer, if you can, to allow the many incredible flavors to marry.  After an hour, move the lid a little to allow steam to escape to reduce the mixture by half. The beer and spices aroma will be awesome!!!

Now, you can either add beans after an hour, if you wish, or, not.  I chose not to, as I wanted to top hot dogs with the bean-less chili.  Here's what they look like.  You may choose to serve it with beans, atop rice or bread, or simply in a bowl topped with fresh chopped herbs and cheese. Whatever pleases you!


 I topped my chili dogs with bison chili with fresh chopped herbs and Myzithra cheese because the bison is a bit sweet and Myzithra is quite salty.  It adds a balance.  The hot dogs I'd sauteed in grape seed oil with cumin seed, so they were smokey, too, adding another complex flavor the mix.  

 I do hope you enjoyed this recipe.  Again, whatever meat you wish to use will work for this: pork, sausage, chorizo of any kind, beef, chicken, turkey and yes, even bison.  There are as many variations to chili you could employ as there are people in the world.  Make it your own and enjoy!  Thanks very much for your viewership and readership!!!  Much appreciation to you all!!!

Now, go to your kitchen and cook something!!!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

 Charcuterie Breakfast Pizza

Sometimes you wake up and you just want something that is a combination of all of the things you are craving.  Back when I was a kid, breakfast Monday through Friday was cereal.  On the weekends, my mom would make us bacon and eggs.  Sometimes waffles, and sometimes pancakes.  Fridays and Saturdays were Mexican food or pizza, go-to or take out.  My dad loved Mexican food, so we often went out to his favorite places Friday nights. I love pizza and I love bacon and eggs, so one morning the week of Thanksgiving, I woke up and wanted it all, so I made This, what I call my Charcuterie Breakfast Pizza. This is an easy to prep and easy-bake meal.  And yes, when you see the photos, you will see that I over-baked it a little.  I am over it. 

I did not go all-out and make my own homemade pizza dough. No. My cravings were stronger than waiting 24 hours or so for pizza dough.  I bought a roll out whole wheat square pizza dough from the store.  I always spray my baking pan with non-stick spray when I use this type of dough, rather than dust it with flour or corn meal, as it has a tendency to stick, anyway.  I used my thumbs to press down, almost poke the pizza to make ridges to catch cheese and hold the ingredients. Here's a list of items I'd used:

 1 charcuterie package containing coppa, prosciutto, salami and diced pancetta
1/2 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
8 eggs, fried to half done, and seasoned with Italian seasoning during the frying process
2 sprigs fresh oregano
Fresh basil for garnish
Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Prep.  I fried up the eight eggs, sprinkled Italian seasoning stop them,  and let them rest on a bed of paper towels to catch the butter I'd fried them in until I needed them again.  I layed out the charcuterie meats on a cutting board.  I'd crisped up the pancetta in the same skillet and set aside, also on paper towels. I set aside the cheese in a bowl, and halved the grape tomatoes, also placing them in a bowl. 

I added a small sprinkling of the extra virgin olive oil over the pizza dough and spread it out over the baking sheet I'd sprayed with evoo non-stick spray. I sprinkled a little mozzarella atop the pizza dough and pre-baked the dough about four minutes at 425 degrees.  I removed the pizza dough and generously topped the dough with cheese.  I created nests with the cheese and prosciutto and placed the eggs in the nests.  I added the cubed, seared pancetta atop the pizza. I arranged the halved cherry tomatoes about the pizza evenly.  Note:  I saved the salami in a plastic baggie for future use.  I sprinkled some Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper flakes over the pizza and sprinkled some of the fresh oregano over it.  

I baked the pizza for eighteen minutes (turned out to be 22 minutes, as I'd gotten side-tracked, ergo the extra crusty crust) and removed it from the baking sheet.  I'd garnished it with fresh basil, part for photo ops, but later for eating.  Delish!  I also sprinkled more fresh oregano leaves from my potted patio garden.  Love oregano!  

The following is a photo essay of the pizza.  Enjoy! 

Don't you wish you had smellaphone or smellaputer???  Yes, it smelled That Good!

I hope you have enjoyed this post!  Prep time is about twenty minutes, bake time is about twenty minutes, so about 40-50 minutes altogether!  Great to feed 4 to 6 people, Easy. Thanks for viewing and reading!!!
Now, go cook something!!!

A Happy Christmas 
Episode of 
What I Have Been Up To
In My Kitchen

Before I get into the good things I have been up to in my kitchen, a Christmas episode, I want to apologize for my absence!  Thank You all SO MUCH for hanging in there with me.  If you do not know, I am a teacher, I truly love my job and have been dedicated to my class.  They are an eager, fantastic group of learners and I have been working very hard to keep the learning environment stimulating and moving and grooving.  Therefore, my time has been happily consumed between that and taking care of things at my mom's; tasks I call "OMC", aka "OhMommaCare".  Yeah, a play on words.  It's what I do.  And, as we all know, I also cook!  

The most interesting part of this Christmas is, that for the first time in more than 54 years, Christmas was not spent at either my mom's or my aunt's house.  It was at mine.  My mom, aunt, sister and my youngest son all came for the day.  For the menu, I prepped a delicious menu of stuffed pork loin roast, my citrus and berry salad with baslamic drizzle, my whipped creamy cheesy potatoes, Italian Sausage Dressing with homemade garlic and cheese croutons and, the most delicious yet, Chef Vincenzo's Lasagna Bianca.  My aunt made her famous pecan and walnut pies, and my "bestest" former roomie, Miss J, who has a recipe posted on my humble blog, made us an amazingly delicious apple pie.  She is famous for her delectable pumpkin and apple pies. 

Now that introductions are out of the way, here is a visual essay and brief recipes of my Christmas meal.  Hope you enjoy!

Pork Loin Roast, stuffed with veg.  Now, when I was shopping, the stores did not have their pre-trestled pork loin roasts, so I purchased four half roasts and trestled them. Before tying them up, I stuffed them with leftover dressing veggies:  onion, garlic, the leafy tops of celery stalks, flat-leaf Italian parsley and shredded carrot. Of course, I had seasoned them with salt and pepper on every side.  Once tied, i sprinkled the roasts with Herb de Provence.  Love Herb de Provence and its floral, herbal aroma!  Makes poultry and pork amazing!  

This is a side view. This was my first time tying up roasts, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well they stayed together once the twine had been removed!

Next, while I do not have a photo of my Citrus Berry Salad from Christmas Day, I previously blogged it.  Please see the previous blog for photos and directions, which is very simple and extremely tasty!

Whipped Creamy Cheesy Potatoes.  For this dish, I cut up two pounds of washed Yukon Gold potatoes (not baby Yukons) and chopped them into as equal parts as possible for even cooking.  I placed the potatoes in a large pot, covered them with water and salted the water.  Due to sodium restrictions, this was the only time I added salt to this dish, but, next time, I will make it differently.  More on that later. I boiled the potatoes about fifteen minutes over medium-high heat, until the potato chunks were fork soft.  I drained them, added two tabs of butter to the large pot the heat off.  I added back the potatoes and tossed them in the butter.  I then removed the potatoes and placed them in a large metal bowl.  Actually, it was a mixing bowl.  I added two-thirds cup of buttermilk, a cup of Mexican Crema, black pepper and two cloves garlic, grated.  I used my KitchenAidTM hand mixer and whipped the potatoes until it was extremely light and creamy. Before finishing, I added, a little at a time, a half cup of finely grated mozzarella cheese.  I finally added the mixture to a pan treated with non-stick Extra Virgin Olive Oil spray.  I topped it with shaved parmesan cheese and a bit more mozzarella cheese, sprinkled it with smoked paprika and sprinkled fresh thyme leaves atop it.  

 Before and After!

Next, my Italian Sausage, veggie and crouton dressing.  I caramelized a pound of mild Italian sausage, added two cloves garlic, grated, half a yellow onion, finely chopped, two stalks of celery with the leaves attached, finely chopped, flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped and grated carrot, also chopped a bit more. I added only a pinch of salt, due to my aunt's sodium restriction, and a splash of Worchestershire sauce and black pepper.  For a final bite of flavor, I added a tablespoon of dijon mustard.  Finally, I added my homemade garlic, cheesy croutons.  For those, I chopped up nearly stale bread; one loaf was french baguette and one was sourdough.  I melted a stick of butter, added three cloves grated garlic, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of Italian seasoning.  I mixed them all together once the butter had melted and drizzled it over the bread cubes I'd spread over a baking sheet.  I baked them at 350 degrees for eighteen minutes, until they were golden brown.  Delish!  Once baked golden brown, I added the entire dressing mix to a large bowl and added that to a square baking dish also treated with non-stick spray.  Here is a serving of my dressing and a couple of shots of the croutons in action. 

 Now, on to the best dish of the night!  Chef Vincenzo's "Lasanga Bianca"!  I have made this amazing dish before and it is on my blog, as per Chef's permission, and it is here again!  I did change it up, only using broccoli, rather than broccoli and zucchini.  For the full recipe, please check my previous blog posts for March or April.  It is originally called Easter Lasagna. In the meantime, here are my before and after baking photos.  

Delicioso, yeah???

Now, I decided to not go with a traditional post-Christmas leftovers makeover meal on Friday.  Instead, I went a whole other direction.  I made nachos.  And not just any nachos.  I tossed small bits of pork belly in grape seed oil with my Mexican spice mix and seared the pork belly crispy and topped nachos with the pork belly and baked it.  I sprinkled torn cilantro atop that when the cheese had thoroughly baked.  Delicioso, again! 

I hope you have enjoyed this Christmas Edition of "What I Have Been Up To In My Kitchen".  Thanks for viewing and reading!!!

***You can follow Chef Vincenzo on Twitter at @vincenzosplate and on Facebook, Instagram and Google.