Warm Weather Appetizers ~ Chicken Lau Lau on Purple Sweet Potatoes with Taro Chips

The weather is warming up, and that gets me into the mood for something tropical! I decided to cook a traditional Hawaiian dish called lau lau, which means “leaf leaf” in Hawaiian since it uses two different kinds of leaves. I recently learned how to make the classic dish from a native Hawaiian lady, and this is my spin on the tradition. 🙂

I served some of the shredded lau lau as an appetizer on rectangles of purple sweet potato with taro chips to garnish. I love how the colors of the potato and taro compliment one another, and I also think using both the leaf and the root of the taro plant balances the dish nicely.

We enjoyed the remaining lau lau as a main course for a few days (with the extra bits of baked sweet potato!) It is a bit of a project to make this dish, so I recommend making a lot for leftovers. Or, this is a great dish to serve a big crowd. Perfect for a summer backyard luau!

Chicken Lau Lau on Purple Sweet Potatoes with Taro Chips

9 chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed of excess fat

Hawaiian sea salt

About 18 fresh taro leaves

About 18 ti leaves or 2 large banana leaves

2 large purple sweet potatoes (I used Okinawan sweet potatoes)

Olive oil

Taro chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Set aside either a large pot with a lid, or a large casserole dish with two layers of aluminum foil to cover.

Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt, and rub the salt into the meat with your fingers.

Remove the tough stems from the taro leaves. If using ti leaves, remove the tough stems. If using banana leaves, cut into manageable pieces, approximately 8 or 9 inches in length.

Nestle 2 taro leaves together. Place 1 chicken thigh in the middle of the leaves. Wrap it into a bundle so the chicken is completely covered by the leaves.

Then wrap the taro bundle in the ti or banana leaves so it is completely covered. Either tie the bundles with kitchen twine (or traditionally, the stem of the ti leaf) or make sure the last fold is on the bottom so they stay closed while cooking.

Place the bundles in the prepared pot or dish. Bake for approximately 3 1/2 hours, or until the chicken falls off the bone and shreds easily.

The ti and banana leaves are not edible, so remove before serving.

Shred two or three bundles of chicken for the appetizers. Reserve the remaining lau lau to reheat for an easy weeknight main course.

Turn up your oven to 400 F.

Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut 2 large purple sweet potatoes into approximately 1/3-inch slices. Then cut the slices into rectangles.

Toss the rectangles (and the extra bits) in olive oil so every side is well coated. Sprinkle with sea salt, and toss to evenly coat. Arrange the potatoes on the baking sheets in a single layer.

Bake for about 10 minutes, turn the potatoes over, and continue to bake until fork tender.

To serve, top the potato squares with some shredded lau lau chicken. Top each with a piece of taro chip for garnish.

Happy Halloween! ~ Creole Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Chicken Sausage

Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted PumpkinTo celebrate one of my favorite days, I made a fun and festive dinner – A spicy Creole pumpkin soup served inside of a roasted pumpkin. 🙂

First I roasted a little sugar pumpkin. A friend of mine brought a larger version filled with fondue to a party, and it was a showstopper! I just had to try it! (Thank you for the idea and the tips, Karen!)

Just cut off the top of the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and goop, and then replace the top. Spread olive oil evenly all over the outside of the pumpkin, including the stem. Place the pumpkin on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and roast at 450 until the flesh inside is soft. My little sugar pumpkin only took 40 minutes, but a larger pumpkin would take a little longer.Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted PumpkinYou could use this pumpkin serving bowl with any favorite pumpkin soup recipe. The Creole pumpkin soup I made tonight was based on a recipe from a restaurant in New Orleans called Tableau. The unique soup was a little spicy, and perfect for our Halloween dinner!
Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted Pumpkin

Creole Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Chicken Sausage

Based on a recipe from Tableau

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved

8 cups water

1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower

12 ounces andouille chicken sausage, sliced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 15-ounce can puréed pumpkin

1 teaspoon mixed Creole or Cajun seasoning

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste

1 rotisserie chicken breast, shredded

In a large stock pot, add the shrimp shells and the water. Bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain. Reserve the liquid and discard the shells.

Preheat a large stock pot over medium high heat. Once the pot is hot, add the oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the sausage. Brown the sausage on both sides. Remove the sausage from the pot, and set aside onto a plate lined with a paper towel.

In the same pot, add the onion, celery, and thyme. Cook until the onion is translucent. Then add the garlic, and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin and cook until it starts to darken slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp stock, and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring often, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Working in small batches, transfer the mix to a blender, and blend until smooth. Return to a pot. Add the Creole seasoning, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chicken sausage and the chicken breast. Simmer over low heat to combine all of the flavors, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through. Serve immediately.

The Witches’ Brew wine bottle printable came from TheGraphicsFairy.com. They are free to use, and oh so cute! I hope you’ll check it out!Halloween Wine Label

October Teashop Mystery ~ Country Captain

Country CaptainI love a good cozy mystery around Halloween, and right now I am reading the latest teashop mystery from Laura Childs called Ming Tea Murder. It is set in Charleston, South Carolina around Halloween. This is the third book I’ve read in this fun series. (If you’d like, check out the recipes I made to pair with the other two mysteries I have enjoyed from this collection, Steeped in Evil and Jasmine Moon Murder.) In the latest book, one of the characters cooks a dish called Country Captain. It’s a Southern dish, but it uses curry spices, dried currants, and peanuts, which is an unexpected and interesting combination. Just like the book, this recipe combines the East and the West, and it is filled with surprising twists! It’s the perfect pairing. 🙂

I love to learn about the history behind classic dishes, so I dug a little deeper online. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America describes the origin of Country Captain in this way: “Legend has it that a British sea captain who served it in India introduced the dish to locals either in Charleston or Savannah, port cities accustomed to both spices and sailors.”

I used a recipe from Saveur magazine, but I tweaked it a little. First, I used all chicken thighs since they stew beautifully. Make sure to remove the skin or the dish will be far too greasy. I reduced the amount of oil, and omitted the butter and the bacon. I also served it with brown rice rather than white.Country CaptainCountry Captain

Based on a recipe from Saveur magazine

3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons high heat oil, such as safflower

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped

1 large yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained, 3/4 cup tomato juice reserved

3 tablespoons curry powder

1/3 cup dried currants

2 bay leaves

2 cups steamed brown rice, for serving

Roasted peanuts, for garnish

Season chicken with thyme, salt, and pepper. Preheat a large stock pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the chicken. Sear on both sides until golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium. Add the celery, peppers, and onion to the pot, and cook until softened. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and juice and cook until the juice thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in the curry powder, currants, and bay leaves. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In the meantime, heat your oven to 325˚.

After the sauce is thickened, add the chicken back to the pot. Spoon the sauce over the meat. Cover and cook in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the meat can easily be shredded off the bone with a fork.

In the meantime, prepare the rice according to the package instructions.

Serve the chicken with the sauce and rice, and garnish with peanuts.Ming Tea Murder

A Night of Gumbo and Dancing ~ Chicken Gumbo

Chicken GumboThis week, my hubby and I went out dancing on a beautiful summer night in downtown Seattle as a part of the Dancing Til Dusk series. For 15 nights, different parks around the city host live music and dancing. There is everything from waltz to swing to tango. The night we went happened to have a Cajun-style band, so I made chicken gumbo to get us into the mood before we went out!

I started with a recipe from Southern Living magazine, which was quick and easy compared to many other gumbo recipes. To make it a little healthier, I used half of the amount of oil that the recipe called for, and I only used one link of andouille sausage for the whole stew. If you can, use homemade chicken stock, since it is one of the stars of the dish.Chicken GumboChicken Gumbo

Based on a recipe from Southern Living magazine

1/4 cup high heat oil, such as safflower

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

2 teaspoons blended Cajun seasoning

2 garlic cloves, minced

5 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 link chicken andouille sausage, cut into thin slices

1/2 precooked rotisserie chicken, shredded

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, whisk the flour slowly into the pot. While constantly whisking, cook until the flour is the color of dark caramel. Watch very closely, so the mixture doesn’t get too dark.

Once the flour is a dark shade of caramel, reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the onion, bell pepper, celery, and Cajun seasoning. Cook until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock and sausage. Increase the heat again to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir the chicken into the pot, and continue cooking until warmed through.Chicken Gumbo

Family Dinner ~ Tuscan Sausage and Caramelized Onion Ragù

Pasta SauceThe flavors of this dish will transport you to the beautiful Tuscan countryside. You can almost see the rolling hills from your spot at the dinner table as you eat al fresco under the grape arbor. 😉

This sauce is perfect for a dinner party since it’s a crowd pleaser, and it doesn’t need a lot of attention on the stove once everything is combined. The house will smell delicious when your guests arrive, and the sauce can simmer on its own while you chat with your company.

The original recipe was from a homemade pasta cooking class at Sur La Table. To make the dish a little leaner than the one from class, I used olive oil rather than butter, and I chose lean ground beef and chicken sausage rather than ground chuck and pork sausage.

Tuscan Sausage and Caramelized Onion Ragù

Based on a recipe from a cooking class at Sur La Table

Yield: 8 servings

For sauce:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 large celery ribs, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1 pound sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed

2 (28 ounce) cans San Marzano whole tomatoes

1 cup dry red wine

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For onions:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar

Sauce:

In a large pot or large, wide skillet, add oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery, stirring well to coat with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables turn golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until paste turns a darker red, about 2 minutes. Add sausage and beef, stirring occasionally to break up large clumps, and cook until meat begins to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine, and bay leaves, stirring well to combine. Reduce heat to medium and simmer sauce until thickened and reduced, about 40 to 50 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Keep warm.

Onions:

While sauce simmers, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are deep golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar, stirring well to combine.

Just before serving, stir onions into the sauce. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. Use immediately with fresh pasta, or allow to cool and refrigerate up to 3 days. Any unused portions can be packed in an airtight container and frozen up to 1 month.

To make this meal even more authentic, make homemade fettuccine with your guests! It’s a fun and interactive project to do together, which is a nice icebreaker. The recipe for fresh pasta dough can be found here.

Lucky Dinner for the New Year ~ Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale SoupOne of our first meals this year had not only one, but two lucky ingredients to eat in the New Year! Lentils and kale. If I had used pork sausage, it would have been three, but the healthier option won out, and I chose chicken sausage. This is a hearty and delicious soup for a cold winter night. 🙂 Perfect for the New Year!

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Based on a recipe from MarthaStewart.com

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed

2 celery stalks (with leafy tops), thinly sliced

1 medium yellow onion, diced medium

1/2 cup dried lentils

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 bunch (about 1/2 pound) kale, preferably Tuscan, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces

Coarse salt and ground pepper

2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add celery and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, broth, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer, partially cover, and cook until lentils and vegetables are tender, 25 minutes.

Add kale and season with salt. Return soup to a rapid simmer, cover, and cook until kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat, stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

This month isn’t *all* about turkey ~ Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Chicken TagineTurkey doesn’t need to get all of the attention this month. 😉 I thought I would write about one of my favorite chicken dishes, as well. It is so flavorful and moist that it literally falls apart with a fork. This recipe works for a special occasion, but it is easy enough for a weeknight. That’s the kind of recipe I am most thankful for in this busy month of Thanksgiving. 🙂

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Based on a recipe from Sur La Table’s cooking classes

Marinade:

1 medium onion, cut into ½ inch dice

1 medium garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

Pinch of saffron threads

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

10 (4 ounce) chicken thighs, boneless and skinless

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup water

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced

In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together. Arrange the chicken in a shallow baking dish, and pour the marinade over the top, mixing so all of the chicken is covered on all sides. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat a large heavy Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add remaining oil. Remove chicken from marinade (reserving the remaining marinade) and sear. Pour the remaining marinade onto the seared chicken, and add the water. Cook until the liquid boils, reduce heat, and simmer about 40 minutes, until the chicken is tender and nearly falling apart. Add the thyme.

Serve with couscous.

Chicken TagineMake this dish and be virtually transported to a far off land in the desert. 🙂 Ahh…Sunshine and palm trees.

Desert Palms

Spooky Dinner ~ Chicken Bog

Chicken BogI love to read a good cozy mystery around Halloween. 🙂 Right now, I am enjoying one that takes place in October entitled The Jasmine Moon Murder by Laura Childs. It is another in a series I started this summer, set in a South Carolina tea shop. In the back of the book are recipes that compliment the storyline, including a recipe for a dish called Chicken Bog. Doesn’t that sound spooky and Halloweeny? I learned that the dish is a classic in the Lowcountry, and it is called “bog” because it isn’t a soup, but it is very moist. I thought it would be perfect to make to celebrate the Halloween season!

Chicken BogI based my dish on the recipe provided by Laura Childs, but I made a few tweaks of my own. One of the nice things about this recipe is that you also end up with a few cups of chicken stock to freeze for a future dish. It’s always nice to have homemade chicken stock in the freezer, especially now that the season for soups is right around the corner.

Chicken BogChicken Bog

Based on a recipe from The Jasmine Moon Murder

About 6 servings

6 cups water

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

Salt to taste

3 to 4 pound whole chicken (I used one that my butcher cut up already for ease)

5 carrots, sliced

5 celery stalks, sliced

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

1 cup brown long grain rice

½ lb smoked chicken sausage, sliced

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

Place the water, onion, salt, chicken, 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, and peppercorns in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Remove chicken and let cool, reserving the cooking liquid. Let the liquid cool, strain, and skim the fat from the top. Measure 3 ½ cups of the liquid, and pour into a fresh pot. (The remaining liquid can be put into the refrigerator or freezer for a future use.) Remove skin and bones from chicken, and chop into bite sized pieces. Add chicken pieces, remaining 2 carrots, remaining 2 celery stalks, rice, sausage, poultry seasoning, and parsley flakes to the stock. Make sure it is seasoned with enough salt to your liking. Add more if needed. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

The Jasmine Moon Murder

South Carolina Kind of Summer ~ Lowcountry Boil

I got hooked on a mystery that was set in South Carolina, and became fascinated with that part of the country. This summer, I continue to read more stories from that region. It’s an interesting and beautiful place that I have not had the pleasure of visiting in person (yet, it’s on my list now!) Reading feels like a kind of virtual vacation, though. 🙂 I am getting to know the place through the stories. I just started a beach read that is set on Sullivan’s Island in the Lowcountry called The Summer Girls. To celebrate that part of the state, I made a Lowcountry Boil, also known as Frogmore Stew. It is a simple one-pot seafood boil, but it feels festive and summery! It would be perfect for a summer party.

I used Trader Joe’s smoked andouille chicken sausage rather than a full-fledged pork sausage. I also used shelled shrimp for ease, but unshelled shrimp would be more authentic. Your choice. 🙂

Lowcountry Boil AKA Frogmore Stew

Based on a recipe from Southern Living magazine

5 quarts water

1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning

4 pounds small red potatoes

2 pounds chicken kielbasa, chicken andouille, or other hot smoked link chicken sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

6 ears fresh corn, halved

4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp (or peeled and deveined shrimp for easier eating)

Old Bay seasoning, for serving

Cocktail sauce, for serving

Bring 5 quarts water and 1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning to a rolling boil in a large covered stockpot.

Add potatoes; return to a boil, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Add sausage and corn, and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add shrimp to stockpot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain. Serve with Old Bay seasoning and cocktail sauce.

New Year’s Eve ~ Paella Mixta

Almost every New Year’s Eve, we get together with some dear friends of ours and ring in the new year together. We usually pick a theme for our evening. This year we chose to try some Spanish dishes. They made a delicious mushroom tapas-style dish and flan for dessert (and also made sure we had some Spanish wine to pair with our meal!) We brought paella with chicken, clams and shrimp to the party. It’s a recipe I’d like to keep in my arsenal, since it was fairly easy and delicious! It has a little something for everyone.

I substituted the chicken thighs with boneless and skinless chicken breasts. I also used only half of the sausage that the recipe called for, but double the seafood. I used the gas stovetop at our friends’ house instead of the grill, as well, since it was chilly and rainy outside! 😉 Other than that, I followed the recipe fairly closely.

It’s the perfect party dish!

Paella Mixta (Paella with Seafood and Meat)

Based on a recipe from Chow

2 medium, ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces)

32 large shrimp (about 24 ounces), peeled and deveined

1 ¼ teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón dulce)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, as needed

1 medium yellow onion, small dice

2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large pinch saffron threads

2 cups paella rice (about 1 pound), sometimes labeled bomba or Valencia

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the shrimp and chicken

4 cups (1 quart) low-sodium chicken broth

32 mussels, Manila clams, or a combination, scrubbed

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

1 medium lemon, cut into 8 wedges, for serving

Core and halve the tomatoes. Grate the flesh side of each half on the large holes of a box grater set over a medium bowl, stopping when you get to the skin. Discard the skins. You should have about 3/4 cup of tomato pulp and juice; set aside.

Place the shrimp in a medium bowl, add 3/4 teaspoon of the paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and refrigerate.

Place the chicken in a medium bowl and season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.

Heat stovetop on high heat. Place a 15-inch paella pan on the stovetop, and heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add the chorizo to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is starting to brown and the fat is rendered, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo to a large bowl; set aside.

There should be a thin layer of rendered fat in the pan. If there’s not enough, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan in a single layer, and sear, stirring occasionally, until both sides of the chicken pieces are golden brown, about 6 minutes total. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the bowl with the chorizo; set aside.

Add the onion to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed so that the onions don’t burn. Add the garlic, remaining paprika, and saffron, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the reserved tomato pulp and juice and cook until the mixture has slightly darkened in color, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and measured salt and stir to coat in the tomato mixture.

Add the broth and stir to combine. Arrange the rice mixture in an even layer. Distribute the reserved chorizo and chicken over the rice, adding any accumulated juices from the bowl. (Do not stir the rice from this point on.)

Bring the mixture to a lively simmer. Continue to simmer, checking occasionally, until the rice grains have swelled, most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 12 minutes.

Arrange the reserved shrimp and the shellfish (hinge-side down) in the rice, nestling them slightly. Cook until the shellfish have opened, the shrimp are just cooked through, and the rice is tender but still al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Before serving the paella, discard any unopened shellfish and sprinkle the dish with the parsley. Serve with the lemon wedges.

Happy Cinco de Mayo ~ Mexican Chicken Pozole Verde

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

This year, I made a fresh and springy dish from Mexico to celebrate the day. I had this soup in a class from Sur La Table a few months ago, but I thought tonight was a perfect night to recreate it at home. It has a long history in Mexico, which makes it even more interesting to me. But mostly, it is just delicioso! 🙂 I hope you’ll give it a try.

Mexican Chicken Pozole Verde

Based on a recipe from Sur La Table

Serves 6 to 8

7 cups low sodium chicken stock

2 cups water

4 chicken breast halves on the bone, with the skin

1 pound tomatillos, husked and halved

1 small onion, quartered

2 poblano chilies-cored, seeded and quartered

2 jalapenos, seeded and quartered

4 large garlic cloves, smashed

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 15-ounce cans of hominy, drained and rinsed

Finely shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced radishes, chopped onion, diced avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips and/or lime wedges, for serving

In a large and heavy stockpot, bring the chicken stock and water to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, skin side down, cover and simmer over very low heat until they are tender and cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and shred the meat; discard the bones and skin. Skim any excess fat from the cooking liquid.

In a blender, combine the halved tomatillos, quartered onion, poblanos, jalapenos, smashed garlic, chopped cilantro and oregano. Pulse until coarsely chopped, scraping down the side. With the machine on, add 1 cup of the cooking liquid and puree until smooth. Season the tomatillo puree with salt and pepper.

Preheat a large deep skillet at moderate heat. Add the tomatillo puree and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce turns a deep green, about 12 minutes.

Pour the green sauce into the cooking liquid in the stockpot. Add the hominy and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Add the shredded chicken to the stew, season with salt and pepper, and cook until just heated through.

Serve the pozole in deep bowls, passing the lettuce, radishes, onion, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips and/or lime wedges at the table.

This would pair very nicely with the Mexican Sidecar that I wrote about last year or the sparkling wine “margarita” from the year before. 🙂

The Winter Sea ~ Cock-a-Leekie Soup

I read a page turning novel this winter called The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. It is set in Scotland, and follows two interconnected story lines….One in the 1700s and one in the present day. I felt like I took a little trip to Scotland while learning a lot about their history. Much of the story revolves around Slains Castle, which looks to be an absolutely breathtaking place. That is now on my list of places I’d like to visit!

In the meantime, as I dream of that vacation, I cooked a Scottish dish at home for a little international culinary adventure today :). When I’m inspired by a place and a culture, I start researching their food. I discovered a Scottish soup called Cock-a-Leekie that looked intriguing, and I loved the name! It dates back farther than the 1700s, (a recipe for it was first published in 1598 according to Wikipedia), so the characters in the book might have enjoyed a steaming bowl at the dinner table of the castle. A perfect dish for a cold winter night, no matter the century or the continent :).

(Slains Castle photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

From Martha Stewart.com

1 1/4 pounds skinless chicken thighs (on the bone; 4 pieces)

1 1/4 pounds skinless chicken breast halves (on the bone; 3 pieces)

Four 14 1/2-ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat

2 cups white wine or water

2 large celery ribs, halved crosswise

1 large carrot, peeled

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

6 leeks, white and light-green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise

12 pitted prunes, quartered (2/3 cup packed)

1/2 cup barley

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat a 6-quart Dutch oven on medium-high until hot. Add thighs; cook until browned, turning once, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with breasts.

Add broth, wine, celery, carrot, and garlic to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; scrape any browned bits from pot; return chicken to pot, reduce heat, and simmer, skimming as necessary, for 1 hour. Transfer chicken to a plate; let cool. Transfer vegetables to another plate; reserve.

Add leeks, prunes, and barley to broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thick, about 40 minutes more. Once chicken has cooled, shred meat. Finely dice carrot and celery. Stir chicken, carrot, celery, and parsley into soup, heat through, season to taste and serve.

The Help ~ Southern “Fried” Baked Chicken

I just finished reading a really inspirational book called The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It’s about a group of women who take a big risk to make a big change in the Deep South of the 1960s. I would definitely recommend it if you’d like a book about a little American history mixed in with a story about friendships. Reading about that part of the country inspired me to try some Southern dishes…my way :).  To me, nothing says Southern cooking quite as much as fried chicken. I found a really good recipe for a baked version of “fried” chicken from a cookbook called The Best Light Recipe from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. That cookbook is filled with so many remarkable recipes, so while you are at the library or bookstore, I would highly recommend picking it up, as well! We were amazed by how much it really tasted like deep-fried chicken…only it’s much much lighter. I made it even a tad healthier by using whole grain Melba toast instead of the original kind.

Baked “Fried” Chicken Breasts

1 5 oz box of whole grain Melba toast broken into 1-inch pieces.

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 large egg whites

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 bone-in skinless split chicken breasts (bone in is important…boneless chicken breasts make the dish too dry)

Salt and pepper

Canola oil cooking spray

Adjust your oven rack to the upper middle position, and preheat to 450. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place a wire rack on top.

Using kitchen shears, trim the rib section off of the breasts by following the line of fat from the narrow end of the breast up to the socket where the wing was attached.

Pulse the Melba toast in a food processor until it is coarse crumbs. Place in a shallow bowl and mix in the oil.

In another shallow dish, whisk the egg whites through the cayenne together.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, and season well with salt and pepper. Dip each breast into the egg mix and then the Melba mix, pressing to make sure it adheres. Then place each piece of chicken on the wire rack and spray the top with cooking spray.

Bake until the center of the thickest part of the chicken breast registers to 160 degrees. (About 40 minutes.)

I hope you will give it a try the next time you are craving good old Southern fried chicken!

Happy Mardi Gras! ~ Red Jambalaya with Chicken, Shrimp and Lobster and Chandon Sidecars

This year, we had red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp and lobster for our Mardi Gras celebration. I’ve been working my way through the recipes on the Domaine Chandon website, and this one caught my eye awhile back. It seemed perfect for tonight, so I saved it until now. I must say, it was worth the wait!  I would recommend it highly. I did make a handful of changes to make it a little healthier. I used brown rice instead of white, I only used 2 andouille sausage links (chicken or turkey preferred to pork) instead of a pound, I omitted the bacon grease or butter and replaced it with grapeseed oil and I used skinless chicken with the bone in. Other than those differences, I followed the recipe closely. We thought it was a delicious gourmet spin on traditional jambalaya.

Red Jambalaya with Chicken, Shrimp and Lobster

3 lbs chicken breasts and thighs with the bone in but skin removed

3-4 tbsp grape seed oil, or any other oil with a high smoke point

2 medium-sized onions, chopped

1 green pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 tbsp flour

2 links of sliced chicken or turkey andouille (about ½ lb) (if you would like less heat, you might want to use only one link)

3 cups tomato plus one extra medium tomato, chopped

½ tsp thyme

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp Tabasco sauce
(if you don’t like things very spicy, use a little less)

1 cup water

1 cup tomato juice

¾ cup uncooked long grain brown rice

½ lb jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 small lobster tails, shelled and cut into small pieces (may substitute 12 oz small shrimp, shelled and deveined)

½ cup scallions, diced (discard green stalks)

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

 

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp oil and sauté until just browned and remove from pan. (It will not be cooked through.) Do not discard oil.

In the same pan, sauté onions, green pepper and garlic until onions are translucent. Remove from skillet.

Add remaining oil and gradually add flour, stirring often. Simmer until the color turns light brown.

In the same pan, stir in sausage, chicken, onion, pepper and garlic mixture and tomatoes (except for the extra medium tomato). Cook 10 minutes on medium high, stirring continuously.

Add thyme, ½ tsp pepper, Tabasco sauce, water, tomato juice and rice. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Stir in shrimp, lobster, scallions, remaining tomato and parsley. Cook an additional 5 minutes until the seafood is just cooked through.

Makes 8–10 servings.

We also had my take on a Chandon Sidecar cocktail to go with our dinner. We were first introduced to sidecars at one of our favorite nightspots in Seattle called the New Orleans Creole Restaurant, so I always associate them with Creole cooking. For our drinks, I used ¾ oz of Grand Marnier, ½ oz Meyer lemon juice (its a little sweeter than regular lemon juice, so we didn’t need any simple syrup to balance it) and ¾ oz of Cognac. Then top it with dry sparkling wine to your liking.

I hope you have a festive Mardi Gras! 🙂