Piccata Piccata

The weather has been so unbelieveably hot here in Chicago… and has prevented me from cooking my fave fall dishes. But I was determined to cook up something tonight. I decided to cook up a light chicken piccata, which was inspired by Ina Garten’s show on the Food Network. She made it on a recent episode so I decided to whip up my version at home.Here is my recipe for Chicken Piccata with Mushrooms:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded flat
salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder to season
1/2 cup flour
1 egg + 1tbsp water (egg wash)
1/2 breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon italian seasoning
olive oil for cooking
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced mushroom
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 pats of butter

Pound chicken flat to form a paillard.
Season chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder on both sides.
Add italian seasoning to breadcrumbs and stir.
Dredge chicken in flour to coat.
Dip chicken in egg on both sides.
Dredge chicken in seasoned breadcrumbs.
Heat oil in pan and fry up chicken until golden brown.
Place chicken on a baking sheet & keep warm in 300 degree oven.
Pour out frying oil, reserving about 1/4 cup.
Stir in 2 tablespoons flour to create a roux.
Slowly add lemon juice, mushroom & thyme.
Bring to a boil and stir.
Before serving, remove pan from heat & stir in butter.
Pour lemon butter sauce over chicken.

I served this with thyme roasted potatoes & steamed broccoli.
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Braisin’ Beef

Tonight I was in the mood for a rich fall meal… and had some leftover port wine to use. So to hit the spot, I made braised beef shanks in a port wine sauce. Here’s my recipe for port braised beef shanks

4 beef shanks
salt, pepper, italian seasoning to taste
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
miripoix: 1/2 cup each carrots, celery, onions diced fine
1 cup port wine (I used Jonesy)
1 cup beef broth
2 springs fresh rosemary
4 springs thyme leaves
1/2 cup frozen peas

In a dutch oven, brown beef shanks in olive oil on both sides.; remove from pot.
In the same pot, add the miripoix and garlic. Stir until softened.
Return the browned beef in the pot.
Add port wine & beef broth.
Stir in fresh thyme & rosemary leaves.
Reduce heat, cover and let it simmer for 2 hours.
Just before serving, add frozen peas and stir.

I served this over steamed brown rice.

Only in Chicago…

After my Celebrate Chicago dinner for my cooking group gals, I had some left over Italian Beef. It was nice soup weather today with Chicago’s gray cloudy sky and cool air so I transformed my italian beef leftovers into a hearty soup.
For those outside of Chicago, an italian beef sandwich consists of thin slices of beef served inside italian bread or some other crusty bread (often soaked), which has been cut lengthwise and into individual portions. Even though it is served on Italian bread sliced lengthwise, this is the only thing it has in common with sub sandwiches. Italian beef is made using cuts of beef from the sirloin butt or the top/bottom round. It’s wet roasted in a broth with garlic, oregano and spices until medium rare or medium. The roast is then cooled, then sliced very thinly (“shaved”) using a deli slicer, and then served dripping wet after a reintroduction to its reheated beef cooking broth, topped off with sauteed green bell peppers, or hot Chicago-style ” giardiniera” peppers (mix of Serrano peppers, carrot, cauliflower, celery, olives, and oil/spices).With my leftovers, I made my experimental italian beef soup which turned out wonderfully!

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped white onions
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 -2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2-3 cups italian beef broth
1 lb Cooked Italian beef
1 cup sliced cremini mushroom
1/4 cup caramelized onions
3-4 springs of fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup half & half
2 teaspoons water + 2 teaspoons cornstarch (slurry)
1 1/2 cups cooked dry pasta (cavatappi)
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

In a pot, saute chopped onions and minced garlic in olive oil.
Sprinkle the flour over the onion/garlic mixture and stir to create a roux.
Slowly add broth to the pot and stir to thicken slightly.
Add the cooked italian beef, mushrooms and caramelized onions.
Add the fresh thyme leaves.
Bring to a boil for 10-15 minutes.
Add the cooked pasta into the pot; stir.
Remove from heat.
Add the half & half, slurry & frozen mixed vegetables.
Serve with your choice of bread or crackers.

I served my hearty soup with melba toast squares.

Cheddar Herb Beer Bread

Savory Breads
fresh out of the oven:


We made the following bread during my Quick Bread Cooking Class, which you can read & view pictures of HERE.

Cheddar Herb Beer Bread
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
12 oz. beer
1 teaspoon chili or cayenne powder
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients.
Pour into greased loaf pan.
Bake at 375 degrees for 50-55 minutes.

Autumn in my Kitchen

I love the fall weather! To celebrate the first weekend of fall-like weather here in Chicago, I prepared maple braised pork ribs which I served with a butternut squash risotto.

Here is my recipe for the maple braised pork ribs, which is versatile enough for making in both a crockpot or conventional oven:

1-2 lbs pork ribs
maple rub (recipe below)

Maple Rub
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
splash of worchestershire sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Combine above ingredients in a bowl.
Consistency will slightly clumpy and paste like.
Coat pork ribs with this paste using your hands – a basting brush isn’t as effective.
Place coated pork in a dutch oven or shallow baking pan.
Bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees for 3-4 hours OR
Place coated pork in your crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours.

I served this with a butternut squash risotto, using a jarred butternut squash puree which I got from Wiliams Sonoma.

When I made my basic risotto recipe, I used chicken broth and about 1/2 cup of the puree I stirred in while my risotto cooked. I also added 2 cloves of minced garlic, finely chopped small onion and a few springs of fresh thyme leaves.

Crank Up the Oven!

Finally! The crisp air of fall came through tonight and seemed like a great opportunity to bake dinner for a no fuss meal. Using what I had on hand, I prepared brie stuffed pork on a bed of garlic spinach and thyme roasted red potatoes. Initially I had planned on stuffing the pork with chopped granny smith apples and brie, but the apples I planned on using mysteriously disappeared.But here is my recipe for apple & brie stuffed pork chops anyway… only for tonight I prepared them sans apples.

1 small granny smith apple, finely chopped
1-2 oz double cream brie, finely chopped
2 center cut boneless pork chops
seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.
To prep your pork chops for stuffing, cut a horizontal slit or pockets on one side of the pork chop, being careful not to cut all the way through.
Use your fingers to work the pocket open.
Season the outside of the chops with seasonings.
To prepare the stuffing, combine the apples, cheese and seasonings to your taste.
Carefully place apple cheese mixture into the pockets of the pork, being careful not to overfill.
Place stuffed pork on a baking sheet.
Drizzle some olive oil over the tops of the pork.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until done.Along side of the pork, I roasted my potatoes which were tossed in a little olive oil, the same seasonings above and a few fresh thyme leaves.

Turkey & Spinach Mini Sandwiches

No need to make fancy food to pair with wines. For my Sauvignon Blanc Wine & Dine event , I made these simple sandwiches which paired so nicely.

Turkey & Spinach Mini Sandwiches

Loaf of french bread, sliced
deli turkey
spinach leaves
tarragon thyme infused cream

Create sandwich by filling the bread with the above ingredients. You can toast this for mini panini.