Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chicken Parm

Here's the thing.  Everyone should know how to make chicken parm.  If there's a person on the planet who doesn't like it, I don't want to know them.  It's perfect - a little fried, a little cheese, and served with a side of carbs.  

Here's the other thing.  It just takes practice.  It's hard to heat the oil to the right temp so the chicken cooks through but the breading doesn't burn.  You have to figure out if you like regular breadcrumbs or panko, how much cheese is just the right amount for you, whether you prefer it with pasta or spaghetti. There's no right answer; it's always delicious.  But it takes practice - the first few times the chicken will be burnt, or gummy, or be ready 15 minutes before the pasta.  When you have a good chicken cutlet down, though, there's nothing you can't do in the kitchen.

Chicken Parmesan
4 thin sliced chicken breasts
1/3 c. panko
2/3 c. italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 eggs
olive oil for frying
jar of tomato sauce
3/4 c. grated mozzarella cheese

Mix the panko and traditional breadcrumbs together on a plate.  In a wide bowl, beat the eggs.  Carefully and completely dip each chicken breast in the egg, then dredge through the breadcrumbs, pressing down so each piece is completely coated.  There will probably be some breadcrumbs left over.

In a deep wide frying pan, heat about 1/2 c. olive oil.  A good test for heat is to drop in a small piece of regular white bread.  If it sizzles and browns in about 30 seconds, it's a good heat.  Place 2 chicken breasts in the oil and cook until a golden brown, then flip and do the same on the other side (this should take about 3 minutes per side, depending on how thin the chicken is).  Remove from heat and place in a lightly greased 8X11 glass dish.

Add about another 1/4 c. of olive oil to the pan and repeat the process with the second two chicken breasts.  

Pour tomato sauce on each of the chicken breasts.  Top each piece of chicken with some of the grated mozzarella.  Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.  Make it perfect by broiling it for a minute or two to brown the cheese slightly.  

Serve over pasta, grating parmesan cheese over all.  Add a side salad and your meal is perfect.  Viola!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Knight of Carver, Princess of the Apple Orchard

We've been busy as heck.  There was the annual trip to the King Richard's Faire 
Waiting for the jugglers

Human powered rides

Jax being knighted.  Apparently now we'll have to call him "Sir Jackson"

With the King and Queen

On the jousting field, being introduced with the other new knights

On the way out.  Sir Jackson didn't want to be seen with the rest of us, apparently.

and our annual trip apple picking with good friends.  (Then there was some delicious pulled pork and an apple pie, but I didn't make the pulled pork, so no recipe for that, and the apple pie used a store bought crust, so that's too "cheater" to post).

Sassy princess and her good friend Kaley

Got a good one.

Suffering.  The Pats game was on.  Made only mildly more bearable by the fact that they lost.

She's gonna be a rock star someday, that one.

And today was Rosh Hashanah.  We dined at my folks house, but I was responsible for the sides.  And the kids wanted to make challah, so we took that on as well.  So in case you're curious about what sides are easy to make (and yummy) for a crowd of 12, here you go.

First, the outsourced recipes:

I used this smittenkitchen recipe.  It was perfect.  The only thing that I did differently was make four small loves instead of 2 large ones, and so I used a single (3 strand) braid.  

Braided and round and raisin.  Booya.

Braided and round and plain.  Perfect for any occasion.

So.  Good.

Mustard Potatoes
I used this recipe from epicurious.  Again, the only tweak was that I steamed the potatoes before roasting them because I like my potatoes extra soft.  I also used a little extra olive oil in the mustard mix, but my mustard didn't stick very well, so maybe I shouldn't have.


Coated, but not cooked.

Ready to be served.

Couscous with Sweet Potato and Zucchini
(remember - this recipe generously served 12.  You could easily halve it.  This would also make a good vegetarian main dish)
2 boxes couscous
1 large sweet potato
1 medium zucchini
olive oil
1/3 c. pine nuts
1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water to soften
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon 

Preheat the oven to 425.  

Peel and dice the sweet potato into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Chop into bit sized pieces.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet and coat lightly with olive oil.  Dust with the cayenne and cinnamon.  

Ready to go in the oven

Roast at 425 for about 20 minutes, then turn and roast for about 10 more minutes.  Add the zucchini to the pan and cook for about 10 more minutes.  Remove from the oven.  

Toast the pine nuts.  Heat a small pan over medium heat and add the pine nuts.  Stir frequently.  You cannot walk away from them, because they go from pleasantly nutty and browned to burnt and unedible in 3 seconds.  As soon as they are golden brown, remove from heat and set aside.


Starting to brown.

Removed from heat.  It's a miracle I didn't burn them.  I always do.

Cook the couscous according to the box directions.  

Mix the couscous, pine nuts, vegetables and raisins (drained).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Creamed Spinach with Blue Cheese Breadcrumb Topping

This was a hit.  The whole thing went.  I highly recommend it.

5 slices of white bread, toasted
6 oz crumbled blue cheese
36 oz fresh baby spinach
1 large shallot, finely diced
8 tbsp butter, divided
1 c. lowfat sour cream

Crumble the toast in a cuisinart until it is pulverized into large breadcrumbs.*  Sauté the breadcrumbs in 3 tbsp of the butter until lightly toasted.  Remove to a bowl and mix with the blue cheese.

Melt 11/2 tbsp of the butter in the pan and add half the spinach.  Sauté over medium heat until wilted.  Remove to a strainer in the sink.  Repeat the process with the second half of the spinach.

Uncooked, and practically spilling out of the pan.

Wilted and ready for straining.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan, and, over low heat, sauté the shallot until tender, about 8 minutes.

As the shallot is cooking, squeeze as much water as you can out of the spinach.  

When the shallot is done, return the spinach to the pan.  Add the sour cream and cook for a couple of minutes until the spinach is creamy throughout.  Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the spinach to a greased 8X11 glass dish, and spread out so it's even.  Top with the breadcrumb mixture.



**Cook in a 375 oven for about 35 minutes, or until the spinach is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are a golden brown.  

*if you don't have the time and/or wherewithall to make your own, try panko.
**  If you wanted to make this in advance, you could cover and refrigerate and bake in a day or so.  Just add about 10 minutes to the cooking time if it's starting cold.

Alright, folks.  It was a lovely long weekend.  Back to the grind tomorrow.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


I feel silly even listing this as a recipe, because it's so versatile and you can use almost anything in it.  Leftover bacon?  Sure.  Different veggies?  You bet.*  Sourdough bread?  Go for it.  Vegetarian?  Leave out the meat.  Here's the recipe that I created to use leftover italian sausage.  

Best part of this recipe?  If you're using leftovers, it goes together in about 15 minutes the night before, and then bakes in about 45 minutes the next day.  Perfect for a weeknight.

Leftover Strata

about 6 cups cubed bakery bread (I used about 1/2 loaf of challah)
3 cooked italian sausage, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp butter
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 c. fresh baby spinach, chopped
optional: 1/2 c mushrooms, sliced
1 c. shredded cheese (I used cheddar, you could use gruyere, monterey jack, or swiss)
6 eggs, scrambled

Grease an 8X8 glass dish.

In a large bowl, toss together the bread cubes and the majority of the cheese.

Let's be honest - this could be a meal in and of itself

In a medium pan, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the pepper and onion (and mushroom, if using) for about 10 minutes, or until soft.  In the last minute or so, add the spinach and cook until wilted.  Add the sausage.  

Toss the vegetables and sausage in with the bread cubes and cheese, and transfer to the baking dish. 

Pour the egg mixture over the bread, and top with the remaining cheese.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Ready and set for tomorrow's dinner!

About 45 minutes before you are ready to cook, remove from the fridge and let come to room temp.  (This isn't 100% necessary, but it makes the cooking much more even.  If you can't do this, figure the cooking time will be slightly longer).  When you are ready to cook, heat the oven to 350 and cook for about 30 minutes, until the edges are browned and the egg is set in the center.  

Again, imagine it cooked.  There was some serious melting down in the Murphy household, and I forgot to take a picture.  Instead have a picture of Lea in her new ballet stuff.
It was very handy to have this dinner to throw in the oven when we got home from dance class.

*really, anything.  You could add fresh tomatoes, leftover asparagus, jarred artichoke hearts, peas, broccoli, whatever floats your boat.  This is a good recipe to play around with.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

50th Birthday Beans

We had more plans this weekend than we've had in quite a while.  Friday we had the Auf Ruf for my sister and her fiancee.  For the non-Jews amongst us, that's the community blessing in temple that happens sometime before your wedding.  

The children were extremely well behaved and were rewarded by getting ice cream for dinner.  What?  They ate a carrot after services.

Saturday was a ladies paint-your-own-pottery get together as a pre-wedding thing as well.  
G.G. (Great Grandma) carefully polka-dotting an ice cream dish.

Gail, Lea, and Grandma making works of art.  

Saturday night was my brother in law's 50th birthday party.  That was a good time.  It's always nice to have an excuse to throw a bash with way too much food, and this was an especially good reason.  

Happy Birthday, Dan!

The various brothers and sisters-in-law divided up the menu.  I was responsible for ribs, baked beans, and cupcakes.  The cupcakes were courtesy of my friend Aimee, who's started up her own cupcake business.  We had strawberry margarita cupcakes and salted caramel.  They were quite tasty.

I have to admit, I think that my ribs and beans turned out pretty good too.  If you're thinking about making baked beans from scratch, and you have a slow cooker handy, definitely try these.  I started with this recipe, and then tweaked it a little; I wanted it a little less sweet, a little less bourbony, (don't worry.  Mine were still quite heavy on the liquor) and a little meatier.  Mine delivered.

You should know that you need to start these at least a day before you want to eat them.  If you're doing the overnight soak for the dried beans, you need to start two days in advance.  

Slow Cooker Bourbon Baked Beans
1 lb dried navy or cannelini beans
1 medium onion, medium chop
1 clove garlic
2 c water
3/4 c. your favorite BBQ sauce
3/4 c. loosely packed light brown sugar
1/8 c. ketchup
1/8 c. mustard (I used gouldens)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 c. bourbon
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbsp smoked salt (if you can find it).
6 pork ribs, sliced apart (I used baby back)

Soak the beans, either using the quick soak method or by soaking overnight for about 8 hours.

Once the beans have been through an initial soak, drain the water, and refill the pot with fresh water.  Boil the beans while you do the rest of the cooking steps.

Sauté the onion in a couple tablespoons of whatever fat you prefer (butter, oil, or bacon fat).  When the onion is soft and tender, add the garlic and sauté an extra minute or two.  Remove from heat.

In the slow cooker, mix the rest of the ingredients, excluding the ribs.  Then, drain the beans and add them to the liquid mix.  Stir in the onions and finally put the ribs in the mix.  Cover the slow cooker and cook on low heat for 10 hours.  

After 10 hours, the beans will likely still look quite liquidy.  Remove the lid and let cool for an hour or two.  The ribs should be falling off the bones at this point.  Remove the bones from the mix and shred the meat that needs shredding.  Turn the slow cooker back on, and let cook on low heat again for anywhere for 6-10 more hours.  Serve hot.

Imagine there's a picture right here of the finished beans.  I forgot.

If you have leftovers, you could always use them like I did tonight, as part of a leftover pulled pork, baked bean, zucchini pizza.  Totally delicious.