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A Classic Michelle Favorite for Her Birthday – Chicken Parmesan

Michelle’s birthday was earlier this week and with every birthday we have in our little family, the person celebrating gets to pick what they might like to have for their birthday meal. Since she travels a lot for business, she doesn’t always get the chance to enjoy a lot of home-cooked meals so I wanted to be sure to make something for her that I know she really enjoys. Since I typically do not make a lot of dishes that involve cheese or pasta and these are two of her favorites, it seemed only fair that I make one of her all-time favorite dishes for her birthday – chicken Parmesan. Chicken Parmesan is one of those meals that many people say they love but not it is often relegated to something you order out when you go to an Italian place and are not sure about what to get. The fact is that it is pretty easy for you to make on your own, requiring just a little bit of effort and ingredients, so that you can make a good meal. I used this recipe from Melissa Clark at New York Times Cooking this go around to turn out a flavorful meal.

Chicken Parmesan

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, turkey or pork cutlets (or use chicken thighs for even more flavor)

½ cup all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

2 to 3 cups panko bread crumbs, as needed

Kosher salt, as needed

Black pepper, as needed

Olive oil, for frying

5 cups Simple Tomato Sauce (see recipe below) or your favorite store-bought or homemade sauce

1 cup finely grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

½ pound fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-sized pieces

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cutlets between two pieces of parchment or plastic wrap. Using a kitchen mallet or rolling pin, pound the meat to even 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Place the flour, eggs and panko bread crumbs into three wide, shallow bowls. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Dip a piece in the flour, then the eggs (shaking off any excess), then coat with the panko. Repeat the process until all the meat is coated.

Fill a large skillet with 1/2-inch of the olive oil. Place the skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, fry the cutlets in batches, turning each halfway through the cooking process, until they are just golden brown in color, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the cutlets to a paper towel-lined plate.

Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan cheese over the sauce. Place half of the cutlets over the Parmesan and top the cutlets with half the mozzarella pieces. Top the cutlets again with half the remaining sauce, sprinkle with another third of the Parmesan, and repeat layering, ending with a final layer of sauce and Parmesan.

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake the cutlets until the cheese is golden and the casserole is bubbling, about 40 minutes. Let the chicken Parmesan cool a few minutes before serving.

For the Sauce:

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon red chile flakes (optional)

2 (28-ounce) cans whole or diced plum tomatoes

2 sprigs basil or 1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon black pepper

In a large, straight-sided skillet set over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until it is just lightly golden. Add the chile flakes if desired and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomatoes and the juices, basil or bay leaf, and salt and pepper.

Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick and the tomatoes have mostly fallen apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the sauce at a steady simmer. If you are using whole plum tomatoes, mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to help them break down. Remove the sauce from the heat and discard the basil or bay leaf.

The recipe itself is quite simple; you just need to do some of the prep work to get the chicken ready for frying. I used as little oil as I could so that there is minimal grease and frying and the chicken turns out very nice and crisp thanks to the panko. The layering then becomes the key so that you can get a really nice mix of the Parmesan, crispy chicken, sauce and fresh mozzarella. The cooking process leaves you with very tender yet crispy chicken with a great blend of flavors. You could use breasts or thighs here or even use turkey or pork or eggplant instead if you prefer. The process is still the same no matter the protein. Pounding it flat helps to ensure even cooking overall. I served this with some pasta and having some nice crunchy bread or garlic bread and a salad to go with it can help to round out the meal. The recipe makes plenty (it says six servings, but I think there is more), and we had leftovers that make for great lunches or to have as a chicken Parmesan sandwich at another time. The sauce recipe is a nice one as well – very easy to make with a hint of heat – and it makes more than enough for the chicken, but you can always use your favorite tomato sauce from the store instead if you like.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on November 9, 2016 in Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Poultry

 

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A Fitting Feast Anytime – Make Ahead Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is one of those things people love to eat but hate to make. Granted it is not the healthiest way to eat chicken but to me it has to be one of the tastiest. I may not make it very often because of all the oil it uses the big cleanup that typical follows making fried chicken, but if you can make the time to make a big batch of it (provided the weather is cool enough in your kitchen in the summer to do it), it can be great to have for outdoor parties, picnics or as your favorite meal. Fried chicken is one of those things that tastes great anytime you want it, whether it is for dinner that night, cold for lunch the next day, re-heated or even as a late night snack. I have tried a bunch of fried chicken recipes in the past but recently i have found myself returning to this one from Melissa Clark at New York Times Cooking for make ahead fried chicken. It seems to strike the perfect balance of spices, good coating and great taste.

Make Ahead Fried Chicken

FOR THE MARINADE:

1 quart buttermilk

2 torn bay leaves

2 thinly sliced shallots

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons hot sauce

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon honey

12 drumsticks or a mix of chicken pieces, about 2½ to 3 pounds of chicken

FOR THE COATING:

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon good chile power such as chipotle powder

Corn, grapeseed or vegetable oil, for frying

Make the marinade: Whisk together all the marinade ingredients, except the chicken, and place the marinade in a large bowl or plastic bag. Submerge the chicken in the marinade, cover the bowl or seal the bag, and let the chicken rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or, better, overnight.

Make the coating: In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cayenne pepper, salt and chile powder. Place a paper bag inside another paper bag (this is to prevent seepage, use large bags or several small ones) and transfer the flour mixture into it. This is so you can shake the chicken pieces. (You can also just mix the flour in a large bowl and dredge the chicken parts in it, or use a heavy-duty plastic zipper bag for shaking.)

Take a piece of chicken out of the marinade and place it in the bag with the flour mixture. Close the bag and shake it so the chicken is fully coated. (Or, if you are using a bowl, dredge the chicken in the flour mixture.) Remove the chicken piece and place it on a plate or sheet pan. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken pieces, one by one. Let the chicken rest for 30 minutes so it can come to room temperature. Reserve the coating mixture.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy cast iron skillet with a lid, heat the oil until it reaches 350 degrees on an instant-read thermometer or candy thermometer. Just before frying, shake the chicken pieces in the coating mixture once again, one by one.

Fry the chicken for about 6 to 8 minutes in a covered pan, then uncover the pot and flip the chicken with tongs. Continue frying the chicken for about another 6 to 8 minutes, or until the coating is dark golden brown and the juices run clear when the meat is pricked with a fork.

Place chicken on a wire rack set over a paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain and cool. Serve the chicken within  8 hours, but it’s best to serve within 4 hours.

The recipe indicates that you could leave the chicken at room temperature for 4 hours, and while you probably could I personally don’t feel right about and refrigerate it. I like cold fried chicken anyway so it’s fine with me and you don’t have to worry about any potential bacteria from leaving the food out too long. I made a mix of chicken pieces – wings, legs, thighs and breasts I had cut in half – and found that the timing worked out well, though I did make the chicken in batches and kept the finished pieces on the rack in a sheet pan in a warm 250 degree oven so that they kept warm. I also checked the temperature of the chicken along the way with my instant-read thermometer to make sure the pieces were at 165 degrees just to be safe. Keep a close eye on your oil and the temperature as you go along if you cook in batches to make sure it stays at the right temp so you can get an even crust on the chicken. The chicken was very flavorful and juicy thanks to the marinade and the double coating you put on the chicken really helps to give it a nice crunch. For the marinade I actually do not always use the Old Bay as Michelle finds it a bit overpowering, so I do occasionally leave it out and the chicken still tastes great. I still use other fried chicken recipes, but this is one that always seem to fall back on as a good go to recipe everyone likes. It tastes just as good the next day for lunch as it does the day you cook it.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on August 18, 2016 in Dinner, Leftovers, Lunch, Picnic Fare, Poultry

 

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Savor the Summer for Lunch with This Tomato Sandwich

Summertime brings about some of my favorite vegetables and fresh fruit to make all kinds of great things with. I love to go to the farmers’ markets and see what I can get from some of the local farms and I always come back with something great and delicious. Know that Monroe finally has its own farmers’ market every Sunday I can just drive to town and get some great stuff, which I did this past weekend. I got a great haul of strawberries and peaches, but I also picked up some local beets,  cauliflower, honey, heirloom tomatoes and even a chuck roast from one of the local farms that raises organic beef. Tomatoes are just starting to hit their stride now and instead of turning to what you can get at your local supermarket and pay lots more for sub par fresh tomatoes, go to your nearest farmstand or farmers’ market and get some great heirlooms. I got a basket of heirloom tomatoes which had 6 good-sized tomatoes in it for only $6.00 where they easily sell for at least four dollars a pound in my local store. Now that I have some great tomatoes to use, I needed to find something to make. The first thing I thought of was to have a great lunch with a classic and simple tomato sandwich. You probably don’t even really need a recipe for a tomato sandwich, but I took this idea from Melissa Clark at New York Times Cooking, followed her idea and added a bit to it to really make it my own.

Tomato Sandwich

4 slices crusty bread

1 fat garlic clove, halved crosswise

1 ripe, soft tomato, halved

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mayonnaise, as needed

1 ripe heirloom tomato, sliced

Thinly sliced red or white onion

1 ripe avocado, pitted and sliced thinly (optional)

4 slices cooked bacon (optional)

Toast the bread slices until they are golden. Take each slice and rub one side all over with the cut side of the garlic clove. (The clove should start to disintegrate into the bread.) Rub each slice with the cut sides of the soft halved tomato, pressing so the tomato flesh sticks to the bread. Drizzle the bread with the olive oil, then sprinkle each slice with a bit of salt.

Spread the mayonnaise over the tomato pulp on the slices of bread. Place the sliced heirloom tomatoes on top of 2 pieces of the bread. Cover the tomato slices with the onions and sprinkle them with salt. Top with the avocado slices or the bacon if using, sprinkle on some freshly ground pepper to taste and then use the other 2 slices of tomato-rubbed bread to make sandwiches.

You have lots of options of course, as you do with any sandwich. I omitted the bacon she suggested as I just wanted the taste of the tomato and avocado with the onion. I prefer the bite a red onion provides, but if you like something mellower a white onion is also good. The combination on the sandwich of the great-tasting tomatoes with the onion, avocado and the little hint of garlic on the bread makes it all a perfect lunch. I put a little bit of parsley on mine for some extra flavor and you could do the same with some lettuce, arugula, spinach, fresh basil or anything else you might like. I made the sandwich on my favorite homemade bread and it was divine. It is the perfect sandwich to have during the summer and it makes me wish I could get heirloom tomatoes like this locally all year-long.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Wow the Crowd With Porchetta Pork Roast

Cooking up a pork shoulder roast slowly in the oven produces a really tender and flavorful roast unlike any other, especially if you choose some type of rub or herbs that really help to boost the flavor of the roast itself. I have always been intrigued by porchetta roasts, but I hardly have the time or room to make a real traditional porchetta where you make use of the entire pig and de-bone it, stuff it, roll it and slow roast it. This particular recipe from Melissa Clark at New York Times Cooking lets you get the great tastes and flavors of the traditional Italian dish without having to use anything more than a pork shoulder roast and some great spices. Just the picture alone at NYT Cooking made me want to make this and getting a pork shoulder on sale just made it even more urgent for me.

Porchetta Pork Roast

1 (7- to 8- pound) bone-in, skin on pork shoulder roast, or a 6- to 7- pound boneless roast, fat trimmed to 1/4-inch thickness

1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds

1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

5 garlic cloves, grated or mashed to a paste

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon fennel seed

3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Score the skin and fat all over the pork roast, taking care not to cut down to the meat. In a food processor or using a mortar and pestle, combine the fennel fronds, rosemary, sage, garlic, lemon zest, kosher salt, fennel seed, red pepper flakes and the black pepper. Pour in the olive oil. Pulse or mash the mixture until it forms a paste. Rub the paste all over the pork. If you are using a boneless roast, tie the roast with kitchen twine at 2-inch intervals. Transfer the pork roast to a large bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the roast for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight.

Remove the pork from the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before you want to cook it. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Transfer the pork to a rimmed baking sheet and roast it for 35 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and cook the roast for an additional 2 hours 45 minutes to 4 hours, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 180 degrees, which will give you sliceable, tender meat. Bone-in roasts will take longer to cook than boneless, thus the varying time range.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board and allow the roast to rest for 15 to 30 minutes before serving. Make sure everyone gets some of the cracklings of the roast.

This roast is really easy to make and if you are leery of trying to score the skin yourself, you can always ask the butcher to do it for you, but it can be done pretty simply with a good knife. The recipe produces a super tender pork roast and the cracklings you get from the fat and the skin are out of this world. You get a lot of meat from this recipe, so it is good to make for a crowd and the rub that you use gives great flavor to the roast with the fennel and the sage. Leftovers are perfect for sandwiches the next day and you can even throw the meat in some of your favorite store-bough or homemade barbecue sauce to make a pulled pork like sandwich for yourself or use the meat on some nachos. I’ll definitely be making this one again since it was so easy to do.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on January 10, 2015 in Cooking, Dinner, Pork

 

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One More Easy Turkey Recipe Before Thanksgiving – Simple Roast Turkey

Okay, there is still plenty of time left if you haven’t really decided want you want to do with your turkey on Thanksgiving. It’s only Monday, so you still have time to do some kind of brining if that is what you want to do. I made another turkey this past weekend to try out a dry brine method that I saw from The New York Times and Melissa Clark recently because I wanted to see if it made any difference in the bird. If it seems like I have made a lot of  turkey the last few weeks, well I have. I wanted to try some things out to give people some options and see how things work and since I wasn’t cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year myself, it seemed like a good idea. I even have 1 turkey left to cook, but my family is getting kind of tired of eating turkey at this point so I might hold on to that one until we get closer to Christmas. In the meantime, here is a very simple dry brine recipe that adds some great flavor to the turkey.

Simple Roast Turkey

1 turkey, 10 to 12 pounds

Coarse kosher salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 lemon, zested and quartered

1 bunch fresh thyme or rosemary

1 bunch fresh sage

12 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 bottle hard cider (12 ounces)

Dry white wine or water, as needed

2 onions, peeled and quartered

3 bay leaves

Olive oil or melted butter, as needed

Remove any giblets from the cavity and reserve for stock or gravy. Pat the turkey and the turkey neck dry with paper towels; rub the turkey all over with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per 1 pound of turkey, the pepper and the lemon zest, including the neck. Transfer the turkey to a 2-gallon or larger resealable plastic bag. Tuck the herbs and 6 garlic cloves inside the bag. Seal and refrigerate the turkey on a small baking sheet or wrapped in another plastic bag for at least 1 day and up to 3 days, turning the bird over every day or after 12 hours if brining for only 1 day.

Remove the turkey from the bag and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the turkey, uncovered, back on the baking sheet. Return it to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours to dry out the skin. This will help to crisp the skin while it is cooking.

When you are ready to cook the turkey, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for one hour.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. In the bottom of a large roasting pan, add the hard cider and enough wine or water to fill the pan to 1/4-inch depth. Add half of the onions, the remaining 6 garlic cloves and the bay leaves. Stuff the remaining onions and the lemon quarters into the turkey cavity. Brush the turkey generously with olive oil or melted butter.

Place the turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack set inside the roasting pan. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Cover the breast with aluminum foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165 degrees, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

A couple of things about roasting turkey. Though you have probably heard it a thousand times by now from every cooking show, magazine and blog out there, brining isn’t a necessity when cooking turkey; it does seem to help as far as flavor and the skin itself, but the only real key to having moist turkey is removing the turkey from the oven when it is the right temperature. Don’t go by those little buttons that pop up on the turkey; they are often set to pop when the internal temperature is already high, sometimes 180 degrees, and the bird will continue to cook as it rests outside the oven, leaving you with dry turkey. Invest the money in a thermometer and insert it into the thigh to check the temperature. When it is at 165, pull the turkey out and LET IT REST. Don’t carve it right away; it won’t be ready, you’ll lose all the liquid that needs to re-distribute while the bird rests, and you will end up with dry meat.

If you don’t have a roasting rack to put the turkey on, you can make something of your own to get the turkey up out of the liquid so it browns all over. Form a solid ring out of aluminum foil to place under the turkey to lift it out of the liquid. That is what I did with this bird since I wanted to use one of those disposable pans this time and my rack did not fit in the pan. It worked out really well and it is easy to do.

The dry brine in this recipe really seemed to add some flavor and I did like the combination of the cider and the aromatics. It helped to create some very tasty gravy for the meal. This is one of the easiest turkey recipes I have come across and one of the most effective. If you are making a larger bird, the New York Times does have a scale so you can adjust the herbs and seasonings and cooking time of your bird accordingly. You can check it out here if you wish. I would use this recipe if you want to do things easily for yourself and have great tasting turkey.

That’s all I have for today. I still have a couple of more side dishes to share before Thanksgiving, so check back for those. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Cooking, Dinner, Holidays, Poultry, Turkey

 

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Jennifer Probst

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