I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chicken Spiedini

Joe and I are packing up to visit Kansas tomorrow. We will be home for the wedding of one of my college roommates, visiting some babies (one of them better decide to make an appearance. Come on Penny!! "Aunt" Sarah wants to meet you before I have to come back to NYC!), and spending time with family and friends. And eating really hearty, meaty, midwestern meals. I'm particularly looking forward to lunch at my grandma's with my mom's side of the family--we always eat really, really well there.

I'm posting this recipe because it takes me home. Chicken Spiedini isn't really something you see on the menu around NYC, but it is all over the place on certain Italian chain restaurants (and at a particular restaurant where I used to work overlooking the large fountain on the Plaza). Perhaps it's not very authentic, but it always, always tastes good. How can it not with crispy breadcrumbs, Parmesan and lots of lemon? I especially love it served over a lemony pasta tart with capers.

My version isn't technically spiedini, as it isn't on skewers, but it is made in the style of spiedinis I have loved so will continue to call it so. You could do it on the skewers if you so choose, but then you won't get the crispy edges all the way around the chicken.

Chicken Spiedini
3-4 servings

For Chicken: 
1 lb. cubed chicken breast (1 1/2" cubes)
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
2 t. lemon zest
1 TB chopped parsley
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
cooking oil

For Pasta:
9 oz. spaghetti
6 TB butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
zest of 2 lemons
1/4 c. capers
2 TB chopped parsley
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
extra lemon wedges for serving, optional

In a small bowl mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, lemon zest, parsley, salt and pepper for the chicken. Dip the chicken pieces into the beaten eggs then roll in the breadcrumb mixture and set aside until all the chicken has been coated.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta as directed. Be sure to save back at least 1/2 c. of the pasta cooking water before straining.
Heat 1/2" of cooking oil in a heavy bottomed saute pan over medium heat. (You don't want the heat to go too high or you will burn the breadcrumbs before cooking the chicken). Once hot add the chicken and cook until crispy on the outside all around and cooked through, working in batches if necessary to keep from crowding the chicken in the pan. Remove the cooked chicken to a paper towel covered plate.

After the chicken is finished and the pasta is cooked, finish the pasta. Add the butter and garlic to a pan (perhaps the pan you cooked the pasta in initially) and cook over medium until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant. Add the pasta and toss, then add 3 TB of the pasta cooking water and toss some more. Turn off the heat and then add the lemon juice and the capers to the pasta and toss some more. If the "sauce" seems too thin add another tablespoon or two of pasta cooking water. Then toss in the lemon zest, parsley and Parmesan cheese.
Serve the pasta piled on a plate topped with the crispy chicken with extra lemon wedges on the side if you want even more bright acidity.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Layered Ratatouille

New York has been gorgeous the past two days. I love how at the end of the summer 84 degrees feels almost cool after the 100 degree temps. It is way too darn pretty outside to sit in front of the computer typing (or keeping you here reading) so I will keep this short and sweet.

This recipe is by no means authentic ratatouille. It's really more of a layered vegetable saute, but that just doesn't have the same ring to it. Mostly I just was feeling the desperate need to buy as many vegetables as possible at the greenmarket (how can you not with the bounty as it is at this time of year?) and this was a great way to get a lot of them into one meal! I did a layered version of this since I cook each vegetable separately to not overcook them, but if you want to toss it all back into the pan at the end to mix in the herbs and rewarm everything, go right ahead. This can be a side, but turns into a full meal when served over couscous and topped with the crumbled feta cheese and capers (mmm. I should have fried the capers for some crispy texture. Next time).

Layered Ratatouille
serves 4 as an entree

1 large onion, chopped
2-3 TB olive oil
1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped into 1" cubes
3 cloves garlic, chopped and divided
2 t. Herbs de Provence, divided
1/2 t. fennel pollen, divided
2 zucchini, sliced
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
Goat's milk feta cheese
3 TB capers
4 servings of cooked couscous

In a saute pan heat 1 TB of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, then add in the eggplant. Cook until tender, but not too soft, about 4-5 minutes, depending on size of cuts. Add in 1/3 of the garlic, 1/3 of the Herbs de Provence, and 1/3 of the fennel pollen the last minute of cooking. Remove the eggplant to a medium sized platter.
Add a bit more oil to the saute pan if needed and return to heat. Add the zucchini, 1/3 garlic, 1/3 Herbs de Provence, 1/3 fennel pollen to the pan and saute until the zucchini is tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and layer on top of the eggplant.
Once again return the saute pan to the heat and add a bit more olive oil. Add in the last 1/3 of the garlic and then immediately add the tomatoes. Cook for about 30 seconds and then remove from the heat. Add the last 1/3 of the Herbs de Provence and fennel pollen and add the basil. Layer the tomatoes on top of the zucchini. 
Sprinkle the feta cheese and the capers over top of the tomatoes. To serve scoop some couscous onto a plate and top with the ratatouille. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chocolate Pudding Mousse

I had a really rough night at work last night. Suffice it to say I was yelled at and belittled by a customer over our lack of oyster crackers to be served with the oysters (yeah, I don't get the anger over that either). Not really the greatest way to end an evening.

I beseech you my readers--be nice to your servers! They are humans and there are many things that happen in a restaurant that are beyond their control. The kitchen may screw up your order even if your server put it in correctly. The bar could be overwhelmed making your drinks take forever--trust me, it's frustrating for us too. If you ask a runner for something instead of asking me sometimes I don't get the message (not always the runners fault--they are pretty darn busy themselves). And I do have other tables that take up some of my time as well! Just things to keep in mind... (I think you my blog readers are all very kind folks, though, so I have faith that you are kind to those in the service industry.)

What do I do to take the edge off of a rough day? My job's answer is tequila--which is a beautiful thing, don't get me wrong--but I think I would usually rather have some chocolate. Dark and rich and the perfect thing to melt away all sorts of negative thoughts or feelings passing through you. Who doesn't feel better after some chocolate?

This particular recipe is somewhere along the lines of a mousse, but is thicker and denser. It feels something like an adult pudding cup. Maybe it would pair nicely with a Don Julio Anejo, neat??

Chocolate Pudding Mousse
4-5 servings (depending on cup size)

12 oz. chocolate (I had semi-sweet chocolate chips on hand but use what you will--I recommend a dark chocolate)
4 eggs
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 t. cream of tartar (optional)
1/2 t. sea salt (+more for sprinkling, optional)
extra virgin olive oil, optional

Add the chocolate chips and heavy cream to a double boiler over simmering water and slowly melt the chocolate chips.
Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Add the yolks and the salt to the chocolate and quickly stir. Set aside. 
Add the egg whites to a mixer and add the cream of tartar if using. Beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
Add a large spoonful of egg whites to the chocolate mixture. Fold in. Repeat slowly with the remaining egg whites, being careful to not over mix the chocolate, trying to keep the mixture as light as possible.
Once all the whites have been added, portion the chocolate mixture into small ramekins, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to serving.
To add extra depth of flavor (which I highly recommend), drizzle the chocolate "pudding" with a high quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with extra coarse sea salt.