Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chicken Cutlets with Tarragon Pan Sauce and Grilled Summer Squash

One day last week, I was coming in from the garden, and looked over at my herb beds. I saw my big tarragon bush, and though,

Why haven't I made anything with tarragon lately?"

I already knew how to make a pan sauce, and wanted to make it was something simple and easy. We were right in the middle of Vacation Bible School the week I made this, helping out in the kitchen (where else?), and making snacks. And let me tell ya...I was a little tired by the end of the week.

Tarragon has a wonderful, licorice-like flavor with a little bit of lemony tang...and is great with chicken. Dried tarragon works fine, and if you are close by, you are welcome to get some off my bush. As you can see, I have plenty to spare :-)

Chicken Cutlets with Tarragon Pan Sauce and Grilled Summer Squash

6 chicken breast cutlets (if you have regular chicken breasts, just pound them to 1/4 inch thickness)

Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
2/3 cup half and half
Juice and zest from 2 lemons
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley (or 1 teaspoons dried)
2 small yellow squash, sliced 1/3 inch thick
1 teaspoon olive oil

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Heat your indoor grill pan or outdoor grill to "medium."

Tarragon has tall, sturdy stems, and we're only using the leaves. I just chop it up really small, like this:

Pat the chicken dry, and season both sides with salt and pepper. Season the yellow squash with some salt, pepper, and a little olive oil so it doesn't stick to the grates.

When the pan is ready, sear the chicken on both sides. It should take 4-5 minutes per side.

Remove the chicken to a plate, cover, and keep warm.

Maintain the heat on your pan.

Pour in the chicken broth and scrap all the browned bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon.

Once all the bits are incorporated, let the broth boil until reduced by half...about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, grill your yellow squash for 3-4 minutes per side. It won't take very long at all. You still want a little bite to it.

Back to our sauce. Turn the heat down to low. Very slowly whisk in the half and half. Add the tarragon, and bring the mixture back up to a gentle boil. (And you know what? I completely forgot to put the parsely in...just pretend I did, okay? Sorry about that :-). Let this cook for about 2 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly and the tarragon smell comes up and tickles your nose ;-).

Add salt and pepper to the pan sauce to taste. Slice the chicken on the diagonal. Spoon some of the tarragon pan sauce over, and serve immediately.

I made some brown rice on the side, and it was very good with some of the tarragon sauce over it, especially for my condiment-loving husband.

This was a great summer meal that didn't heat up the kitchen too much :-).

God bless your table tonight!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fettucine with Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce and Grilled Shrimp

About 3 weeks ago, I was at Kroger, and saw red bell peppers on special, 2 for a dollar. There was no way I could pass that up! I promptly bought 4 of the biggest ones I could find, and was already dreaming of what I would make with them...a roasted red pepper cream sauce....ahhh! (The one rouge pepper is from the garden).

This was the first time I'd made a sauce with roasted peppers, but I've had it before in restaurants. I read through a few recipes online, and compiled this version after seeing similarities of ingredients (sour cream, lemon, parsley, etc.)

You can grill the shrimp ahead of time, and stash them in the fridge. And you can make the sauce ahead of time too...just reheat it later on. All you have to do come dinner time is drop the pasta.

Fettuccine with Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce and Grilled Shrimp

4 large red bell peppers, cut in half, and cleaned free of membrane and seeds
1 cup reduced fat sour cream (you are not allowed to use fat-free...don't do it!)
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and patted dry
2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and black pepper
1 pound fettuccine pasta (or pasta of choice)

Line a sheet pan with a sheet of aluminum foil. Move one of your oven racks so your sheet pan is 4 inches away from the heating element (this will probably be the highest or second highest position). Preheat the broiler ("high" if you have that option).

Place the peppers skin-side down on the sheet pan. (Yes, I know, I forgot to use foil).

When the broiler is ready, put the peppers in the oven and let them char until the skins are black and blistered. really do want them burnt, like this...

Stack the peppers up, fold the foil over, seal tightly, and let steam for 10 minutes. This will help the skins peel off.

You can gather up the rest of the ingredients while you're waiting...the lemon juice was camera shy...sorry.

After 10 minutes, open up the foil, and let the peppers cool until you can handle them.

To peel the peppers, just pull the skin away should come right off. Discard the skins.

As you're peeling, drop the peppers into a blender. Then blend the peppers until they're nice and smooth.

Now that the peppers are pureed, (sounds like a tongue twister, doesn't it?), add the sour cream, lemon juice and zest, parsley, salt, and cayenne pepper. I only used 1/8 of a teaspoon, since I have children with sensitive tongues.

Now blend everything together again until fully incorporated. Taste and adjust the seasonings...a tad more lemon juice and salt if you'd like (I did :-). If you like a thinner sauce, you can add 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half (don't use won't give the sauce a nice creamy texture).

Time to cook some shrimp!

Set the sauce aside and heat your outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium. If you don't care for shrimp, fell free to substitute chicken, scallops, pork...whatever!

Season the shrimp with some oil olive, salt, and pepper, and grill until tender and opaque.

It will only take a couple of minutes. Remember that any seafood will continue to cook after you take it off, so you can under cook the shrimp just a hair, and it will finish cooking on the plate.

While the shrimp are cooking, drop your pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water, and cook according to the package directions.

Man...I am ready to eat! Pile up a nice serving of pasta, top with a few spoonfuls of the roasted pepper sauce, and add the shrimp.

And if you've got it, a grating of parmigiano-reggiano cheese, or parmesan cheese is really, really good.

Oh...I could eat this EVERY DAY. Seriously...I made noises at the dinner table that were not normal.

In fact, I was so in love with this sauce, I went out, bought 4 more red bell peppers, and made some more sauce the following week. Then I made my Easy Eggplant Parmesan and served it with the roasted pepper sauce instead of marinara sauce. It was awesome...David told me he liked it too :-). See?

If you need to die temporarily and pretend you're in need to make this dish!

God Bless your table tonight!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Smitten Kitchen's Cherry Brown Butter Bars

David was going through the Kroger ad over the weekend, and asked me to get him some fresh cherries, since they were only $1.77/lb. Once I got to the store, the price posted was 99 cents a pound! Yee I got two big bags ;-).

We love cherries just by themselves, but I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, and I really wanted to try them. Anything with nearly 2 sticks of butter in it has got to be good, right?

I don't have a cherry pitter, but I knew I didn't need one. After reading some tips on the web, I simply used a glass bottle with a very small opening and a chopstick.

Just put the cherry on top of the bottle, use the chopstick or a pencil without the eraser to push the pit out (it will fall into the empty bottle), and that's perfectly pitted cherry, ready to eat or use in your favorite recipe.

I also don't have a brownie pan with a removable bottom, or parchment paper, so I used a glass 8x8 pan, lined it with aluminum foil...and it was perfectly fine. Make do with whatcha got, right?

While I was digging in the pantry for the flour, I found a partial bag of sliced almonds, so I measured out 1/4 cup, and processed them in my mini-food processor until they were very fine.

I added them to the mixture for the crust...because I hoped for a nice almond flavor to complement the sweetness of the cherries. I think added a nice crunch too :-).

When you cook the butter to brown it (which I had never done before) it very carefully, it really does start turning brown in the blink of an eye. I had some dark brown bits after my butter was done, and didn't want it in the filling, so I carefully poured all the browned butter into the filling mixture and left the bits behind.

The butter should taste very nutty...if you burn it, you'll know (and have to start all over again).

If you want to check out the original recipe, click
here. I just took a few pics of the bars in progress...

And yes, these are DIVINE! You simply must make some...and you don't have to use cherries. Deb from Smitten Kitchen says blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or even thinly sliced pears or peaches would be great too.

Enjoy...we've already eaten half the pan, lol! God bless your table tonight!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blueberry Cobbler

Ever since I found this recipe for blueberry cobbler, I refuse to use anything else...period. The recipe is adapted from Joy of Cooking and I've yet to cook a recipe from this book that didn't taste good. It's really one of my cooking "bibles," I know I can refer to it without any hesitation. The lime zest is a surprising ingredient...but it brings out the flavor of the blueberries. A regular cobbler dough will work fine...but the sour cream flavor in this recipe just takes it to a whole different level.

I used the last of the fresh blueberries from our trip to make this cobbler. I was so looking forward to making a cobbler with fresh blueberries, and let me tell you...I wasn't disappointed. The berries didn't need much sugar, and when I took that first bite...all the juices just burst in my was awesome!

Blueberry Cobbler

*3 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and patted dry (frozen berries can substituted)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest, divided
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup half and half
Additional cream and sugar for the top of the cobbler

*If you use frozen blueberries, do not thaw before using. Decrease the oven temperature to 350 and bake for about 1 hour. This will ensure the berries thaw completely and the crust is baked through.

Wash the berries and let them dry on a sheet pan with several layers of paper towels. I let these sit out for a couple of hours.

Have ready a 2-quart baking dish, (round, square, rectangular, whatever melts your butter). It needs to be about 2 inches deep.
In a large bowl, toss the blueberries with the 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon lime zest and flour.

Set aside while you gather the dry ingredients together. (If you're using frozen berries, make the dough first, so the berries stay frozen). Spread evenly into your baking dish.

In another bowl, combine the flour, remaining lime zest, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and baking soda.

Add the 5 tablespoons of butter, and use a pastry cutter (I just use my hands) to work it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, with a few pieces of butter visible.

Whisk the sour cream and half and half together, and then add it to the flour mixture.

Stir the flour and creams together gently just until a soft dough forms. This will be rather sticky, so lightly dust your work surface with some more flour and turn the dough out.

Sprinkle a little more flour on top, and pat the dough together...

and then form into a nice flat round, just big enough to cover your baking dish. This isn't a pie, so it doesn't have to be perfect.

Lay your dough over the berries, and pat into place. This dough is soft...mine actually split right down the middle, but I just pushed it back problem!

Cut at least 3 vent holes into the top. I did four, because last time I made this cobbler, the juices bubbles out all over the place.

Brush the dough with the half and half, and sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons of sugar. The cream will help the dough brown while it bakes, and the sugar adds a sweet crunch.

Bake the cobbler for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and you see berry juices bubbling up in the middle of the cobbler. Adjust your baking time accordingly if you're using frozen blueberries.

About halfway through the baking time, check on the vent holes. Since this dough is soft, the vent have a tendency to close up during baking. If that happens, just use a small knife to poke open the vent holes again.

Mercy...doesn't that look good?

Let the cobbler cool for 15 minutes before serving. You don't want to serve it screaming hot...and this gives the juices a little time to set up.
I usually serve this with vanilla ice cream, but we'd been on an ice cream kick I broke out some whipped topping instead.

Rebecca had been waiting and waiting for dessert, so when she finally got her bowl, she took a HUGE bite and said, "Mommy, this is SOOOO yummy." Let me tell y' was DIVINE :-).

I couldn't help but think...if heaven could be placed on a spoon and eaten, this is what it would taste like. Now all you have to do is make one yourself :-).

God bless your table tonight!