In which the world of culinary hedonism is explored with a cup and a half of curiosity, a heaping tablespoon of passion and a dash of clumsiness.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Forty-fourth Post ~ Chicken in Bleu Cheese Cream Sauce Topped with Sauteed Mushrooms

This meal might sound gourmet, but in all honesty, it was born from determination to use (and use and use and use) leftovers that I might already have in my fridge. You all remember the chicken from last night - well, here was a good way to use part of it up. This is a pretty easy meal to make with substitutions - any meat would do, really.

Here's what you'll need:

~ Pasta (I used zitti)

For the mushroom topping
~ Mushrooms (I sliced up some baby pearls using my Chef's Knife - that's right - I've got one now, as part of a gloriously beautiful set in a wooden block, courtesy of my absolutely wonderful dad - or Santa... not quite sure, but I know they were given to me by a jolly man who loves me!)
~ One scallion, chopped
~ Bit of garlic (jarred or pressed, your choice)
~ White wine (Vetter Vineyards Brig Niagara was a perfect cooking and drinking companion)
~ Salt
~ Olive oil

For the cream sauce:
~ Chicken (preferably cooked leftovers, for ease)
~ Cream
~ Blue cheese
~ Any other cheese you might want to add (I had some grated parm on hand, so in it went)
~ White wine
~ Paprika
~ Thyme
~ Salt
~ Butter

Start your water boiling for your pasta, and cook and drain as you make the rest of the food:

In one pan (the only pan you'll need, if you work the sequencing right) start some olive oil heating. Add your chopped mushrooms and scallions, then some white wine. I'm starting to learn that I really like New York whites to use for sauteeing mushrooms. Other less-sweet wines can give the mushrooms a tart taste, but New York whites make them sweet and savory, all at the same time. Add salt and garlic to taste. Once they've sautéed, put them into a prep bowl to wait patiently.

In the same pan (now empty) add some butter and your chopped chicken. Add salt, thyme and paprika to taste. Once it's nicely golden, add the blue cheese crumbles (I used a crumbled Danish bleu from Wegmans) and some heavy cream and wine. Stir the mixture 'til it melds, adding more liquid as needed.

Top the pasta with the chicken in blue cheese cream sauce and top THAT with the mushrooms. I paired tonight's meal with Vetter Vineyard's Brig Niagara. It was sweet enough to par down the sharpness of the blue cheese, yet smooth enough to cleanse the palate, as this meal is a rich one. It had a soft finish, which made it a nice match, rather than contrasting pair, to the meal.

All in all, a nice dinner, and a nice re-use of leftovers!
Yours in the love of good food and wine,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Forty-third Post ~ Cornish Hen with Wild Rice and Mushroom Stuffing and Fingerling Potatoes

I've been wanting to make a Cornish hen for a while for two reasons: Reason 1: It just seems like it would be fun to make a Cornish hen. Reason 2: My mom and I cooked some up years ago together, and I thought it would be fun to come home on a Friday armed with two birds and a bag full of ingredients and surprise her with a home-cooked dinner made from my own original recipe.

So this week, in strategizing my meals, I realized that I'd be making a box of Uncle Ben's rice to go with my pork: BAZINGA! Instant stuffing. This was my moment. This was my chance to test my poultry prowess.

So here's what you'll need to make what I had hoped would be (and I guess still kinda was) an easy-peasy-one-two-threesey Cornish hen:

~ Cornish hen (obviously)
~ Cooked long-grain wild rice
~ Fresh herb of choice (rosemary is in season in my refrigerator at the moment)
~ Spoonful of jam (you know how much I love apricot)
~ One scallion
~ Handful of mushrooms (I used washed baby pearls)
~ Fingerling potatoes (not familiar? Go to Wegmans. My mom and I discovered them over break and tried them out eagerly, not knowing what to expect. Weroasted them with a pork loin and, oh, were they good. Slightly creamy in texture, each color yields a slightly different flavor. I'm a fan.)

On your chopping block, chop up some mushrooms, one scallion, and one small sprig's worth of rosemary needles. Start a little olive oil and white wine heating up in a pan. Add everything with a dash of salt. Add a good helping of the wild rice and stir everything around a bit. If you made the rice like I did for yesterday's dinner, you've added ginger and cinnamon to the rice as it cooked, so all of these aromas will meld together beautifully. Add a spoonful of apricot jam. As it looks evenly heated, take it off of the heat.

Pierce the fingerlings and place them on a piece of parchment in a pan. Over pan, place a cooking rack. Open the package containing your hen.

:: PAUSE ::

Giblets. Did NOT know Cornish hens came with giblets. Unlike other kids, I was the one picking the giblets out of the stuffing - out of the pan of stuffing - so I could get extras. I love them. So even though this was not on my agenda tonight, I really could not simply toss away all that savory, vitamin-packed goodness. So I got out a second pan and melted some butter and cooked up the giblets. Once they were done I added the stuffing and stirred it all around a bit. If I had known Cornish hens came with giblets, I would have done them first, then sautéed the rest of the ingredients for the stuffing and only had one pan to wash. Live and learn.


So, now that the stuffing is done, rinse off the hen and stuff it. Secure the closure with a toothpick. Years of watching my mother stuff turkeys (we have about four a year) has given me a good sense of how much stuffing can fit in a bird - and that you can always, always, ALWAYS find room for more to fit SOMEWHERE.

Place the stuffed hen on the cooking rack over your fingerlings. The juice that drips off of the bird will give a nice savory taste to the potatoes.

Bake for between 35 minutes and an hour (depending on the size of the hen), checking here and there. Work on schoolwork, wash dishes, play with puppy, check email, etc. I am becoming a huge fan of "hands-off" dinners that have to be left alone for a while. When the juices run clear, it's ready to go!


My apologies for the multiple pauses. But this tale merits telling. So I poked it a few times with a knife, and all juices ran clear. Onto my plate it went. First slice, and it was evident that I had obviously not poked deep enough. So back into the oven it went with the stuffing spread out on a pan (which I had already consumed in forkfuls by this point - one of the many benefits of testing out a recipe before you make it for other people: if there's going to be food-borne illness-related death as a result of your cooking, at least only one person has to die). Out onto my plate it went, and I flipped it over this time (more meat to be found opposite the backbone; never was one for chicken anatomy) and the juices ran pinker than ever. Back into the oven. In the mean time, I ate the stuffing and the potatoes, which I figure, HAD to be done. Out came the chicken. At this point, I was pretty much full with the stuffing and potatoes, and had become so paranoid about the meat that I ate a few bites but then foiled the rest up and put it in the fridge to reheat and eat the next day Here's the moral of the story, folks: Invest in a meat thermometer.


So, while the chicken proved to be a bit of a logistical challenge, I can quite honestly and shamelessly say that the wild rice and mushroom stuffing was probably one of the best things I've cooked yet. So there is still hope for my mother's surprise meal.

I paired tonight's dinner with the last of the Pepperwood Grove's Pinot Grigio. It gave a nice acidic company to the herbs and fruit overtones in the stuffing and chicken, and in my opinion, was a natural pairing.

Yours in the love of good food and wine, and not letting the chicken win,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Forty-second Post ~ A Quick Rejuvenation for Leftover Pork

The other night my mom and I got a pork tenderloin from Wegmans. It was a honey mustard marinade, and quite honestly, we were a little underwhelmed with the mustard quality and a little overwhelmed with the black pepper. We agreed that we liked other Wegmans pork marinades (teriyaki RULES) but this one was a bit lackluster.

I got the rest of it as leftovers, and decided that this "leftover treatment," tried and true on other such meats, just might tone down the pepper and enhance some of the other more subtle flavors. It certainly worked for me.

So now, fine readers, I pass this trick on to you. I believe it would work well on pretty much any white meat, marinated or un-marinated, flavorless or flavorful.

Here's what you'll need for a pork-or-poultry-pick-me-up:
~ Brie
~ Jam of your choice (I think apricot jam and brie are a match made in heaven)
~ Fresh herb of your choice (tonight I used rosemary, but thyme works just as wonderfully)

Set your oven or toaster oven to pre-heat on 350. Prepare your side (I made Uncle Ben's Wild Rice fast-cook recipe and added a healthy dose of ginger and cinnamon) then the meat. Here's all you do:

Lay the meat slices out on a sheet of parchment paper (or tin foil). Lay one sprig of your fresh herb of choice over the meat. Next, set an ample slice of brie on top (I used Wegman's medium brie, which has a perfect texture for baking) and top it off with several spoonfuls of jam. Pop it in the oven for about 5-10 minutes, until the brie is melted.

Serve with your side, and enjoy a whole new take on leftovers!

I had an Italian Pinot Grigio with tonight's dinner, and to be honest, I felt it went better with Friday's dinner of mussels in tomato and wine sauce than with tonight's dinner. I'm starting to find that Pinot Grigio is kind of a "red wannabe" - it pairs well with those meals that you might normally think to grab a red for - tomato based sauces, parmesan-heavy, any seriously savory dinners go well with a Pinot Grigio. The subtle fruitiness kind of got lost against the apricot jam, and the brie disappeared next to the wine's solid structure. I think a chardonnay would have suited this meal better - but, hey - you live, you learn, you blog!

Yours in the love of good food and wine (and the rejuvenation of leftovers!)

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.