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A Killer Southern Supper

7 Apr
Chicken Thigh dinner

Pan roasted chicken thighs with long simmered green beans, Lady Cream peas, and rice & gravy.

Like most true Southerners, I was raised on fresh peas and fresh beans. To this day, one of my favorite meals is a big ol’ pot of either one. (A big ol’ pot of greens, too, of course, but that’s another post altogether.) In our house growing up, a pot of peas or beans and some cornbread was all we needed for a very satisfying meal.

Given my obsession with chicken thighs, however (well documented on this blog… here and here, for instance), I figure beans and peas can only be improved upon by a genius new chicken thigh preparation. Add in maybe my favorite food in all the world, rice & gravy (yes it is a single entity), and you have a killer southern supper like no other. So I give you:

Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs in a Mustard Tarragon Cream Sauce, with Long Simmered Green Beans, Lady Cream Peas and Rice & Gravy.

I must note that most cooks wouldn’t serve peas and beans on the same plate. Too much! Overdoing it!

Whatever.

I will admit that when I first starting serving this meal, it was only the chicken, peas and rice & gravy on the plate:

Chicken Dinner 2

A divine plate of food for sure. But a little color on the plate is nice, as is a green vegetable.  I certainly could choose broccoli or spinach or even greens of any type. But can there be too much of a good thing? In a word, no. Thus, I couldn’t resist going full bore southern and adding my long simmered green beans. 

If you’re looking for heaven on a plate, this is it.

Below you will find the recipe for the chicken thighs I’ve developed the last few months, as well as links to recipes for the Lady Cream peas and the green beans.

As for the rice & gravy, just make some white rice (yes, for this, it must be white rice) and cover it with the pan sauce from the chicken.

Did I mention this was heaven on a plate??

Oh and don’t forget the best cornbread in the world! (Courtesy of Suzanne Goin.)

Cornbread

Suzanne Goin’s Brown Butter Cornbread

PAN ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH MUSTARD TARRAGON CREAM SAUCE

Note: This needs a pretty long simmer, so the total cook time can be close to an hour. But the long simmer causes the chicken to be very moist and flavorful, while also creating an incredible sauce.

Also, don’t be put off by the long directions. It’s very easy. I just want to make sure everyone understands exactly how to make this perfect.

Serves 4…. though this also is a great dinner for 2 hungry people who like two chicken thighs each…. like me.

INGREDIENTS

4 chicken thighs on the bone

2 preserved lemon wedges and 2 T of the ‘gloop’ from the jar:

(*You can use  the juice of 2 lemons in a pinch but, really, start making your own preserved lemons. They are damn easy and so damn good. Recipe here.)

9 cloves garlic: 6 smashed, 3 minced

2 shallots diced

1 cup white wine

3 cups chicken broth

2 T best quality mustard:

(* I like both smooth and course. Just make sure it’s a good mustard. You can’t beat Zatarains.)

3 T heavy cream

4 thyme sprigs

2 Italian parsley sprigs

3 tarragon sprigs

salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

The night before or morning of:

Put chicken thighs in a large ziplock bag with smashed garlic cloves, preserved lemon wedges and gloop, thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs, 1 T salt and 2 T fresh cracked black pepper. Zip up and toss all around, making sure it is well mixed. Let sit in fridge overnight or at least all day.

Remove bag with chicken from fridge an hour before cooking to come to room temp.

When ready to cook:

Place cast iron skillet over high heat for 3-5 minutes. Get it HOT.

Remove chicken thighs from bag, scraping the herbs and garlic from the chicken to get a good clean sear on the skin.

Pour two glugs olive oil into skillet and let sit for a minute. You want the oil hot.

Place thighs in pan, skin side down. It will fire up! In 3-5 minutes the skin will be nice and browned and crisp. Don’t move the chicken but watch it so it doesn’t burn. When skin releases from the pan and the skin is nice and crisp and brown, flip the chicken. Let the bottom side sear for 3-5 minutes as well, getting a nice brown sear on the bottom. 

Turn heat to medium and remove chicken from pan to plate.

Toss the shallots into the skillet and stir stir stir. You want them to cook down in the juices in the pan, yum, but not burn. When they are starting to soften, throw in the garlic and stir stir stir so the garlic also does not burn. After about 60 seconds, pour in the wine. Turn back to medium high and let the wine cook down until the wine is mostly gone. (No need to go all the way!)

Pour in 2 cups of the chicken broth. Add the mustard and stir everything around as the broth comes to a soft boil. Add the tarragon sprigs.  (I add salt and pepper again at this point but that is up to you.) Turn heat back up to medium high.

When it is all mixed and the liquid is at a nice slow boil, put the chicken back in the skillet, skin side up. The liquid should come up to the skin but not cover the skin so it doesn’t mess up the crisp skin. Cook the chicken on medium: the liquid should be at a soft bubbling boil, for 20 or so minutes, until when pierced the chicken thigh juice runs clear not pink. (Or use a thermometer to get the chicken to the temp you desire, remembering it will continue to cook when you remove it from the skillet!)

If you need to add extra broth as it cooks, use that extra broth. I usually add a little. I like this sauce more liquid than thick… better for topping the rice.

Thighs Simmering

When at your desired temperature, remove the chicken thighs to a plate. Add the cream and let the sauce thicken to your desired consistency. (You may want to turn the heat up a little at this stage.) As noted above, while I want a good sauce, I like this to be still slightly liquid, not a total thick sauce. This is “gravy” for the rice, after all.

Remove the tarragon sprigs. Serve chicken thighs with white rice and with the sauce poured over both the rice and the chicken.

WOW.

And don’t forget these as well:

Lady Cream Peas recipe

Long Simmered Green Beans recipe

  

 

 

Spaghetti Squash Amatriciana

3 Feb

I love me some pasta but lately I’ve fallen in love with Spaghetti Squash. A quick roast in the oven turns the insides of this amazing gourd into strands pretty close to the real thing. Depending on your diet, spaghetti squash is healthier than pasta. Once you start using it, there are an almost infinite number of ways you can use the ‘noodles’. And except for pesto, every pasta sauce I’ve tried with it sings. 

spaghetti-squash

Spaghetti Squash noodles

I fell in love with Spaghetti Squash making a marvelous Cacio e Pepe version. Cacio e Pepe, made with pecorino cheese and fresh ground black pepper, is a pasta dish I could eat every night of my life. After making the spaghetti squash version dozens of times, I decided to branch out and invented an oven roasted version of another classic pasta sauce, Amatriciana. The name comes from the Italian town Amatrice, recently in the news as the town was hit badly by a number of earthquakes in 2016.

A spicy tomato sauce made with red and black pepper, red onions and guanciale, I first tried Pasta Amatriciana at a wonderful neighborhood Italian restaurant in New York City, Lupa. That dish blew me away so much I ordered a second bowl at the same sitting. More please. In the years since I’ve made various versions at home, usually substituting pancetta for the guanciale. I still love the pasta version, made entirely on the stove top, but lately it’s this oven roasted version, tossed with spaghetti squash, I eat all the time. 

Don’t just trust me. A great friend of mine, Rob, who is Italian, says he loves the spaghetti squash version better than with regular pasta. (Don’t tell his mother he said that.) Trust me or trust Rob, you will love this version of the classic dish. It might not be the most beautiful plate you’ve ever served, but when it tastes this terrific, who cares?

And you can eat it guilt free!

spagsquashamatingredients

Ingredients for Spaghetti Squash Amaticiana

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Antipasto, Please

30 Sep

Antipasto is a bit if a catch-all. Literally defined as ‘before the meal’ antipasto can and does include almost anything, depending on who is preparing it, and it can be served in a variety of ways… as a platter of unmixed items, as single items on a buffet or as hors d’oeuvre, or, my favorite way, combined all together for a mixture of divine goodness.

antipasto-ingredientsOlives, meats, cheeses, marinated vegetables, pickles, peppers… these are wonderful ingredients all that when combined create not only a terrific appetizer but a fast and delicious lunch or light supper.

Antipasto is also practical as you can also prepare it in a few minutes on a Sunday and then use it in a variety of ways during the week. This is a perfect excuse to use mostly jarred items so I almost always have in the pantry the ingredients I need.

It may not be the most attractive dish you’ve ever made but did I mention how incredible it tastes?

For the recipe, click here:
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When Friends Cook, Vol. II

4 Sep

I cook so often for people it’s always a treat when someone cooks for me. Case in point is my close friend Chris Boghosian. Chris is not only one of the best people I know, he’s also a wonderful cook. I’m lucky enough to have him drop by at least twice a month for dinner. About half the time I’m able to cajole him into doing the cooking.

I’m also lucky because while he loves my kitchen and loves cooking here, he’s often irritated I don’t have some utensil or device he wants to use. Which means he usually shows up with said utensil or device as a gift so he has them on hand when he works his magic in my kitchen.

(Yes, there is a method to my madness. I’ve even added three incredible knives to the kitchen this way, thank you Tiffiny, Tee and Dennis.)

When Chris cooks, I usually request his chicken thighs. They are, simply put, The. Best. Chicken. Thighs. Ever. Chris makes light of this in his recipe below, but don’t let him fool you. I am not being overly hyperbolic here. It’s the truth.

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BEST. CHICKEN. THIGHS. EVER.

So without further rambling on my part, here is Chris (with a couple of italicized asides from me):

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Your Ultimate Green Salad

11 Aug

Oh my, do I love salad. Of all kinds. Cobb Salad, Antipasto Salad (coming soon), Cole Slaw, Greek Salad, Salad Nicoise, Panzanella (OMG), Tabbouleh, Caprese… I can’t get enough. And while my ‘last meal’ would probably include a Caesar Salad, ultimately my favorite salad is a green salad. Of a very specific kind.

Green Salad Ingredients

Green Salad ingredients

One reason I love green salad is that I love lettuce. Love. It. Basically, I’m a rabbit. Years ago I saw my dear friend Tanja eating lettuce out of a bag like potato chips and I thought, ‘Yep, that’s another reason why we are such good friends.” Crispy, crunchy heaven, that lettuce. The basis for all green salad.

The term green salad, however, can conjure an image of a pitiful scattering of withered lettuce served for free before something better arrives. As the late great comedian John Pinette said, “Salad is not food. Salad comes before food. Salad is a promissory note that food will soon arrive. If my brain sees a salad it says ‘Something good is going to happen soon, wait right here.'” This might be true at a low-rent diner but it misses the genius of an amazing green salad.
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A Killer “No-Cook” Summer Pasta

30 Jun
Summer Pasta Ingredients

Ingredients for a fresh summer pasta

My favorite season is Fall for a variety of reasons, not least of which is I look best in fall clothes and it’s all about me. Summer is wonderful, however, because summer means fresh vegetables everywhere. If a bounty of fresh veg doesn’t mean happiness to you, you haven’t been served vegetables the right way.

I have a good friend who refused to eat vegetables, no matter how I served them. Only after years of cajoling did I convince her to try some of mine. She is now a vegetable freak, she can’t get enough. One night she finally explained, “My mom used to take broccoli and boil it until it was white. That’s how she cooked all our vegetables. I thought that was how vegetables tasted!”

Makes me want to weep for vegetable haters everywhere.

blossoms

Summer’s Bounty

While we covered a great way to cook vegetables in an earlier post about roasting (Sunday Night Vegetable Roast) another of my favorite ways to eat fresh vegetables is with pasta. In the fall when not in season, roasted vegetables are a wonderful combination with pasta. But when you have vegetables fresh off the vine, there’s no need even to cook them! Trust me on this.

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A Winter “Risotto”

15 Feb

It seems odd posting about winter dishes when it’s almost 90 degrees outside and looks like this:

view

Ah, Southern California!

Whatever the temperature, it is still winter and for most of the country, a soul-warming bowl of goodness is a perfect dinner. Actually, this kind of dinner sounds wonderful to me even when it’s 90 degrees out.

Risotto ingredients

ingredients for winter risotto

Risotto used to make me nervous. I read over and over that it was very difficult, that you have to stir it constantly, never leaving the stove; if you look away for a nanosecond, it’s ruined. Oh and chances are whatever you do, you will ruin it.

Total BS. Risotto is pretty easy to make.  You do not have to stir it continually or even watch it constantly. True, this isn’t stew which you can leave for hours and never look in the pot but you can be in the kitchen doing other things and not be scared your risotto will get messed up. I assure you: once you make a risotto, you will make it over and over again. You probably already have on hand what you need to make a basic risotto, the variations from the basic recipe are almost infinite and risotto tastes so damn good!  It’s also great to learn because this dish is a perfect meal any time of year. Spring and Summer risottos, for instance, with fresh vegetables from the garden or the Farmer’s Market are divine.

Let me then give you a wonderful recipe. But first, a few notes on my winter risotto:

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