Let’s talk a bit about friends. There are all kinds of friends; casual, situational, childhood, fair-weather. There are also those rare kindred spirits you feel as if you’d known forever, even if the calendar says otherwise.
How are these bonds forged? How do you quantify the unquantifiable? Is it the fact that they are always game for that ridiculously early yoga class? Is it because they make a killer latte or that they aren’t stingy with the name of the hairdresser that makes them look so fabulous? Perhaps it’s because they willingly helped you both pack and unpack this summer? Maybe it’s because their name appears on the donor list of every single fundraising mission you have embarked on? Or is it because they are both a wine lover and a fearless co-chef? Passionate reader, loving mother, wisdom dispenser, career advisor….You all know who you are :)
It might also be the fact that they share every good recipe they come across. My most recent favourite is this amazing baked chicken recipe that I am about to share with you, as everybody could use a good friend, right?
Baked Parmesan Chicken
Original origins unknown – shared with me off a well-used piece of scrap paper
2 lb chicken thighs/drumsticks, skin on
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cayenne/chipotle/paprika – favour your preferred flavour profile
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley/oregano/thyme (see above)
I, like everyone else in North America right now, am a bit obsessed with Yottem Ottolenghi. My copy of “Jerusalem” is littered with so many post-it notes that it resembles something from “A Beautiful Mind”. I have turned to Yottem on many a special occasion and my sister’s birthday was no exception. After mixing and matching dishes from “Jerusalem” and “Plenty”, his vegetarian offering, I had it sorted. We would celebrate with a menu of Braised Quail with Dried Apricots, Steamed Rice with Herbs, and Roasted Beet And Fennel Salad.
The first time I make a dish, I normally follow the recipe religiously. However, when I caught myself pondering whether or not the spices would be better toasted, I knew I was going rogue.
Braised Chicken with Dried Apricots and Figs (adapted from “Jerusalem”)
2 Corish Game Hens, butterflied and halved down the breast bone. You can just as easily use a chicken, quartered.
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1.5 tsp dried chile flakes
0.5 tsp coarse salt
healthy dose of ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 c dried apricots, sliced
1/2 c dried figs, sliced
1/8 c raisins
1.5 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp tamarind paste
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 c white wine
1 c water
Fresh flat-leaf parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice to finish
I was feeling sort of French on Sunday. I think it was due to the fact that we finally made it to Pied-A-Terre, a beautiful restaurant down the street, the night before. So lovely….a sophisticated room with a menu to match. Definitely left me wanting more.
So there I was, Sunday, leafing through my cookbooks when I came across a recipe for Chicken Bouillabaisse. Chicken? Really? I had always associated this dish with fish. However Ina Gartner (aka the Barefoot Contessa) had a different take on it. Now, totally confused, I decided to do some research. According to Wikipedia, bouillabaisse is derived from the Provencal Occitan (a dialect spoken in south of France/Spain) words “Bolhir” (to boil) and “Abaissar” (to simmer). So, it seems as though the term references the cooking method, as opposed to the ingredients. Mystery solved – although in hindsight, I don’t think I had ever bothered to translate bouillabaisse any further than “yummy fish soup”….tres french, non?
Adapted from Ina Garnter
3 lbs chicken (I used thighs but you can mix it up with whatever parts you like)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
coarse salt and pepper
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tsp saffron threads
1/8 c. pernod (I didn’t have any so I used cognac – equally as lovely, or you can skip it entirely)
1 15 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 lb yellow fleshed potatoes (I like Yukon Gold, but that’s just me)
I have noticed, after many years of subscribing to (ahem) many cooking magazines that there seems to be recurrent themes that run throughout the year. You can count on the BBQ issues in your mailbox in late June or early July and the Thanksgiving dishes are on display in October (for which we Canadians are truly thankful). April delivers delicate dishes with things like pea tendrils and salmon fillets and November’s issues are guaranteed to include some very impressive holiday desserts. January has a theme too; it’s all about the new. New year, new trends, new ingredients, and so on. There is also a heavy dose of atonement for all of the over-indulging you did over the holidays, but that is sort of a separate post, isn’t it?
Sesame Noodles (with Chicken)
Normally, I don’t pay too much attention to their proclamations (Pie is the new cupcake…pass it on!) but there is one trend that I feel is worth paying attention to; flexitarianism. Wikipedia describes it very succinctly with this definition; “a term used to describe diets that are not vegetarian but include less meat than typical diets”. Many cooking magazines have been exercising this concept by showcasing dishes that are wonderful with/without meat. This is one of those dishes…just as great with or without the chicken. Be on the cutting edge, and try it out both ways.
Sesame Noodles (with Chicken) adapted from Gourmet Magazine
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (optional)
1 bell pepper (pick your favourite colour)
1 bunch of scallions, green and white parts chopped and separated
2 Tbsp sesame oil
Sesame Sauce (can also be used for sate….omit the water)
1/2 c smooth peanut butter (or you can try tahini, if you would like)
1/4 c soy sauce
2 Tbsp cooking sherry (or you can use red wine vinegar)
I am about to state a fact that many of you who read this blog may have concluded on your own. I cannot photograph food. Yes, I can point the camera in the general direction of my subject and even manage to push the button. I just can’t produce those small works of art that you will find on so many other blogs out there. If you go here, here, here, here, here and most decidedly here, you will see what I mean.
Worse than my poorly lit, slightly fuzzy efforts are the nights where I sit down to a great meal and realize that my camera is resting peacefully in its case, unbothered by my exploits in the kitchen. To be honest, there are some fantastic dishes that have gone unposted as I didn’t have time/completely forgot to document them visually. For example, the Chicken Masala with Cucumber Raita and Roasted Carrots with Cumin Seeds we had on Saturday was truly great. The Braised Fennel in Cream from last week was a hit. The Bolognese Sauce on Sunday was one of my best.
So…new policy. Photos or not, here I come.
A photo that has nothing to do with leeks or gorgonzola!
Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Leeks & Gorgonzola adapted from Canadian Living
4 chicken boneless chicken breasts (with or without skin…your preference)
2 medium leeks, white & light green parts, washed and chopped into half moons
1/4 c. cooking sherry (or you can substitute chicken stock or even white wine)
1/4 crumbled gorgonzola TIP: put this in the freezer when you get home, it is easier to crumble when it is really cold.
1 heaping Tbsp of fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
I generally don’t advocate the preparation of anything with the word “sticky” in its description when feeding my children, but I will make an exception for this dish. It is so simple to prepare, taking about 25 minutes in total, leaving you plenty of time to wash off all of the sticky fingerprints left behind.
Sticky Lemon Chicken I believe this dish originated with Gordon Ramsay
8 chicken thighs (or whatever pieces your family prefers)
coarse salt and pepper
glug of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp of dried)
1 Tbsp of cooking sherry or red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp of soy sauce
3 Tbsp honey
1 lemon washed and cut into thin slices (remove the pits if you can)
This dish was inspired by lemons, of all things. I had a few beautiful lemons that I wanted to use so I went hunting for something unusual to do with them. I turned to my (husband…if you are reading this…skip the next line) giant collection of cooking magazines and found inspiration in the pages of an older issue of Saveur. There was a beautiful photograph of stuffed chicken breasts surrounded by lemons that were caramelized in the most appealing of ways (you can find the original recipe and photo here).
I made a few alterations to the recipe based on need (couldn’t find any raclette) and desire (I have decided I don’t like tarragon).
Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Proscuitto, Thyme and Fontina
You will need to tie up the breasts with some kitchen twine…if you are unfamiliar with a good technique, improvise. It could be fun.
4 bone-in chicken breasts (larger is better)
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. fresh thyme
4 large slices of proscuitto TIP: Ask the deli not to slice these too thinly
This is one of my “stand-by dishes” when having guests over. It is rich, flavourful and does give off an air of sophistication (not my usual state I know, but I do like to mix it up a bit). The best part of it, however is that it maintains all of those aforementioned qualities while only taking a minimal amount of time and effort to create.
Chicken Marsala with Gorgonzola Adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue 63
4 chicken cutlets (if your butcher doesn’t have any, 4 chicken breast halves pounded thinly between sheets of wax paper will do just fine).
1/3 c. flour for dredging
2 glugs of olive oil
1 lb. cremini or white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thinly
2 – 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced or crushed
2 – 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 c. marsala
1/3. heavy cream (you can lighten this up and use half and half)
1/3 c. crumbled gorgonzola TIP: Pop this in the freezer about 20 minutes before you intend on crumbling…it will be much easier if it has had some time to “chill”
Do you recall the “5 a day” campaign, which set out to encourage us to get at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day? After consulting the Canadian Food Guide, I discovered that the recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables has been increased to an average of 8 servings per day (depending on gender and age). We all have the best of intentions in meeting these goals but sometimes it’s not that easy.
I often turn to stirfrys and curries to sneak in all of the vegetables my family needs. They are quick, easy and adaptable which is ideal for weeknight cooking. Feel free to alter recipe this in any way you see fit…a few suggestions would be to swap out the asparagus for green beans (which are in season right now) or add some mushrooms. The idea is that this recipe caters to whatever is in your vegetable crisper at the moment.
Chicken & Prawn Stirfry with Black Bean Sauce
The whole idea of this dish (aside from the veggies) is for it to be quick. Therefore, I turn to purchased black bean sauce. My favourite comes from our local farmer’s market but there are several good ones out there. In fact, you should let me know your preference, as the farmer’s market season is coming to an end in October and I will have to find a new source.
Glug of canola oil
1 tsp. sesame oil (can be eliminated if you don’t have it on hand…it simply adds a bit more flavour)
2 large chicken breasts (skinless)
However many prawns you feel like peeling
1 large crown of broccoli
1 bell pepper…yellow or orange are great for visual appeal
1 bunch of asparagus, washed and trimmed
1 c. (250 ml) of your favourite black bean sauce
1/2 c. grated carrot
1 bunch of scallions, white and light green parts only
Yes, it’s another recipe for roast chicken! This one is a bit more summery than my recent “Roast Chicken in Milk”; full of beautiful fresh tomatoes and basil…among other things. I also have to point out that this dish takes me approximately 10 minutes to prepare and is hearty enough to make one of those “one dish meals” that are so very popular at Chez Wittmann.