Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday Dinner - Fried Chicken with Summer Salad

I lost my camera's battery charger, so I made Trey go out and buy me a new one last night specifically for this meal. It's such a pretty meal, and super quick (for fried chicken). The summer salad - as we have dubbed it, is a family recipe. We've added Oregonzola cheese for a nice bite and for something a little creamy.

Fried chicken is one of those things that some people I think are a little afraid to try - but we've found there's nothing scary about it and the payoff is so worth the time (about 45 minutes). Usually, if we are being super planny we will "brine" the chicken for up to 24 hours in buttermilk, but last night we decided last minute we wanted fried chicken so we skipped that step and just rolled it in flour. It was still really really good.

Fried Chicken:
As many thighs and drumsticks as you want
About 3 C. Flour
Oil for frying
Lawry's Seasoning
Garlic Salt
Fried Herbs (recipe to follow) - thyme, rosemary and sage

If you have time, put the chicken in a shallow pan or Ziploc baggie and cover with buttermilk. Put in the fridge and let is set for up to 24 hours.

If you don't have time you can jump right in! Heat about an inch and a half of oil in a good fry pan - we use our cast iron skillet (make sure it has a lid or something you can use to cover it, like another pan). You want it to reach between 350 and 400 degrees.

Put the chicken in a Ziploc baggie and generously add salt and pepper. Add Lawry's or garlic salt to taste. Shake it up to distribute seasonings.

In a shallow pan add flour, salt, pepper, Lawry's, Garlic Salt, dash of Cayenne, Paprika and crushed fried herbs.

When the oil gets up to temperature, roll the chicken in the seasoned flour and drop in oil carefully. Distribute chicken pieces evenly over the pan, don't overcrowd.

On medium-high fry for 12 minutes, then flip and cover the pan.

Turn the heat down to low and fry for another 12 minutes, with the pan or skillet covered.

Flip the chicken again, turn heat back up to medium-high and let fry for another 12 minutes.

Remove from oil and let drain on a cooling rack with paper towels underneath. Check internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. Chicken should be at around 180 degrees. Sprinkle with salt if you LOVE salt like I do. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fried Herbs:
Fresh herbs - We used sage, rosemary and thyme from our garden
Oil for frying

We just tossed the herbs in the oil while we waited for it to come up to temperature. They will let you know when they are done. They'll turn a brown-er color and cease to sizzle.

Remove them from the oil and drain them on a paper towel. Once their cool, crumble them into the flour mixture for fried chicken.

Summer Salad:
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes (you can use a mixture of red, yellow and orange. It makes it really pretty)
Oregonzola cheese
Italian dressing (we use Newman's Own)

Halve tomatoes. Core cucumber (cut it in half lengthwise, then use a spoon to scoop out the seeds). Cut each half in half and then chop.

Put tomatoes and cucumbers in a bowl and cover with Italian dressing, Let sit in fridge for up to 4 hours.

When you're ready to eat, crumble some of the Oregonzola over the salad and toss. Serve with a slotted spoon to drain off excess dressing.

Serve fried chicken and summer salad with white rice or mashed potatoes.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wednesday Dinner - Baked Chicken with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Last night I didn't have a meal planned - our trip to Houston almost two weeks ago somehow messed up our schedules and we haven't had a chance to make menus or get to the store. So, we had to make do with what we had in the fridge and freezer. Trey made himself a calamari pasta. I don't really like the idea of un-fried calamari so I defrosted a chicken breast (in a plastic bag set in room temperature water for about an hour). I pulled some asparagus from the fridge (a staple) and made myself a garlicky baked chicken breast which I then topped with sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese.

Trey's brother made this chicken for us once at their lake house in McQueeny, Texas and we make it all the time now. It's super easy and, if you LOVE goat cheese like I do, delicious.

Baked Chicken
(feeds one)
1 chicken breast
2 garlic cloves (husks on, slightly crushed)
Olive Oil
Handful sun dried tomatoes
Couple of ounces goat cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put the chicken in an oven proof dish and cover both sides with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Throw garlic cloves in the dish and bake for about 30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer says 180. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes. Top chicken with roasted garlic cloves, goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes (Trey's Mom used to get us the most amazing sun dried tomatoes I've ever eaten from Tuscany. They were like candy. We need to find out where she gets them and order some. In the meantime we are using some from a bag that we found in the produce section at Fred Meyer - I tossed these in with the asparagus as I was sauteeing to get a nice caramelization on them).


As you've probably already noticed asparagus is our go-to veggie. We have three ways of preparing it; grilling, baking and sauteeing. Grilling is my favorite, but here in Oregon sometimes rain gets in the way. So last night I opted for the sauteed method, it's quick (around 5 minutes) and gets the nice caramelization I'm looking for.

Asparagus (ends removed)
Olive Oil

Heat a skillet over medium high heat, pour in about 2 TBS of olive oil (about 2 times around the pan). Let the oil heat up, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

Add asparagus (for this recipe, I also tossed in the sun dried tomatoes to let them caramelize a bit as well) and sautee for about 5-7 minutes, until there are brown spots of caramelization all over the spears.

Remove from sautee pan and let drain on paper towels. Serve immediately. Top with goat cheese, if desired.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Monday Dinner - Fried Calamari and Tilapia

I love fried calamari. To some, it might seem icky - all those tentacles just waving back at you. If you don't like the tentacles, though, you can always just toss 'em and only fry up the white parts. The best calamari I've ever had was on Mykonos in the Greek islands. Unfortunately, we don't get fresh Greek squid here in the States (that I know of), so we usually buy it frozen from Zupans. It makes a great, quick appetizer. You'll probably make a bit of a mess, as all frying involves so keep a towel handy.
1 frozen package of calamari (body and tentacles)
1 TBSP Salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 TSP dried parsley2 TBSP Shredded Parmesan cheese3 C. Flour
1 quart oil for frying (we use Canola oil)
Marinara sauce (we used the jarred kind)1 Lemon, cut up into wedges
Defrost calamari and cut the bodies into rings about 1/2 inch thick.

Preheat your oil in a large heavy bottom skillet or fry pan to about 350 degrees.
Put flour, salt, pepper, dried parsley and parmesan into a shallow dish.

Dredge the calamari in the flour mixture and carefully drop it into the hot oil. Fry for about a minute, stirring lightly.

Remove from the oil and let drain on paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately with marinara sauce and lemon wedges.

Tilapia gets a bad rap, I think. I've heard it referred to as a "junk fish". I like it because it is light, tasty and healthy not to mention cheap. This farm-raised fish, which is available year-round, is rated a "best" choice when raised in the US, a "good" choice when raised in Central America and a "poor" choice when it comes "from China and Taiwan, where escapes, pollution and weak management are common." When shopping for tilapia, look for US raised tilapia filets in the fish case.
I love tilapia simply prepared with just olive oil, freshly grated black pepper and of course coarse salt (I try not to use Morton's unless I'm baking). It is great on the grill - but you can also sear it in a heavy bottomed cast iron skillet. We ate ours with grilled asparagus and medium grain white rice (a staple in our house!). We had a bottle of Clois Du Bois chardonnay, too - it's great with any fish.

Tilapia (serves two):
Two tilapia fillets
Few tablespoons of olive oil
Coarse Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
Preheat your grill or skillet to high. If you're grilling, use half a lemon and wipe the grill with the cut side. It will help clean off any gunk and lend a nice lemony flavor to the fish.

Brush all sides of the fish liberally with olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spray grill or skillet with non-stick cooking spray.

Turn your grill or skillet down to medium-high. Grill or sear on each side about 5 minutes. Be careful when you flip the fish, it has a tendency to fall apart. We use a big spatula to get under the whole fillet and then flip it real quick.
Serve immediately, with lemon slices.

Grilled Asparagus with Goat Cheese:1 bunch asparagus
Olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Goat cheese crumbles

Bend the asparagus until it snaps. Each spear cuts off in its own place. It's sort of magical how each spear snaps off right above the spot where the asparagus turns woody. You may feel like you're wasting half the stalk, but trust, the woody end is not good eats. You can keep the ends for vegetable stock if you'd like - or compost it!

Put asparagus in a Ziploc bag and add olive oil (about 3 tablespoons), salt and freshly ground pepper. Give it a good shake.

Right when you put the fish on the grill, add the asparagus laying them across the grate so they don't fall in. After you flip the fish (after 5 minutes) turn each spear over once and let them grill for another 5 minutes. They should have dark brown or black spots indicating caramelization. This is good.

Remove them from the grill and top with goat cheese crumbles.

Sunday Morning - Kolaches

I was introduced to kolaches when I lived in Austin, TX. A recent trip to Houston re-kindled my love of them so I had try my hand at baking 'em.

They are typically a breakfast pastry and can be made with either sweet or savory ingredients. My favorite is ham and cheese, so that's what I attempted to make on Sunday morning. I found this recipe on a fabulous blog called Homesick Texan. The dough was much more biscuit-y than the kolaches you get from bakeries in Texas (and now one on 30th and Belmont in Portland called The Happy Sparrow - YUM! Get you some!), but they were thoroughly edible and re-heated well so we had kolaches for days! The recipe does require about 1. 5 hrs of rising time so make sure you start them early if you want them for breakfast - or make a day ahead and re-heat the next morning).

Kolaches (from the blog Homesick Texan):
1 package of active dry yeast
1 cup of warm milk
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups of all-purpose flour*
2 eggs
3/4 cup of melted butter
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 lb. ham or bacon
1 C. shredded Extra Sharp Tillamook Cheddar cheese
*I used A LOT more flour while kneading - it probably took another cup or so of flour just to keep it from sticking to the cutting board.

In a large bowl, combine yeast, warm milk, sugar and one cup of flour. Cover and let it rise until doubled in size.

Beat together eggs, 1/2 cup of melted butter (reserve 1/4 cup for brushing on the pastry) and salt.

Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and blend.

Stir in about two more cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be soft and moist.
Knead dough for about 10 minutes on floured surface. Don't worry, it’s a joy to knead as the dough is smooth and highly malleable.

Put dough in a greased bowl and let rise covered until doubled in size—about an hour.
After dough has risen, punch it down and pull off egg-sized pieces. In your hands, roll pieces into balls and then flatten to about three inches in diameter. Brush with melted butter.

Place flattened pieces on a greased cookie sheet, cover and let rise again for another half-hour.

After second rising, with your finger gently make an indention in the center of the dough (be careful not to flatten it too much) and fill with your choice of fillings (we used small pieces of deli ham but you could also use bacon and grated Extra Sharp Tillamook Cheddar cheese). Top each one with a bit of shredded cheese before you pop them in the oven.

Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Brush with melted butter when you take them out of the oven and serve warm.

Saturday Dinner - Salmon

Trey and I are VERY into salmon this year.

I've eaten a lot of salmon in my life, I guess growing up the Northwest that shouldn't come as a surprise. My Dad used to get fresh, line-caught springers from our neighbors growing up and that has always set the standard for the fish for me. In college, broke but still craving salmon, we'd buy the farm-raised stuff from the fish counter at Ralph's in San Diego. One of these times I remember the fish was just so FISHY. Not at all what I remembered from the salmon our neighbors used to catch.

I haven't bought farm-raised salmon since. There is a huge difference between farm-raised and wild salmon in not only the taste, but the texture and color. The best fish you can eat is one you've caught yourself, however, Trey has spent hours with his line in the river this year, and so far, we've caught nothing. We've been getting ours from Zupans on Belmont - it's pricey but SO worth it.