TFF ~ Grilled Chicken Breast with Ginger and Soy

30 04 2009

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I have a dish ready for this week’s Tyler Florence Fridays.  Grilled chicken breast with ginger and soy.  This was really easy to prepare.  The marinade stirred together quickly and left my whole kitchen smelling like toasted sesame oil…and that’s just fine by me!  Ginger, soy, cilantro, garlic and sesame…what’s not to love about that??  I popped it all into a freezer bag, and waited…and waited…it smelled soooo good!

Let me just say for the record that Tyler’s Grilled Chicken Breast with Ginger and Soy was absolutely fabulous!  I served it with peanut noodles and an artichoke.  The only thing I did differently was I didn’t flatten the chicken.  I left it on the bone.  The chicken was juicy and fully flavored throughout.   I was tickled to be able to go out and pick my own cilantro…this never lasts long enough!  The heat will have it all bolting before it sprouts!   LOL!  This is a keeper!

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Happy Friday!!

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100th Post-Whisk Wednesday’s Huîtres Chaudes au Muscadet (Poached Oysters with Muscadet Sabayon Sauce)

27 04 2009

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What a fitting post for my 100th entry!  I doubt I’d have posted so often if I hadn’t stumbled upon Whisk Wednesdays…which has lead to several other blog following flights of fancy!  Thank you, Shari!!  You’ve made this journey possible – C’mon…I wouldn’t have thought about delving into that great big book all by myself!  Cheers to you for pioneering this adventure!

This is our last week doing just one item…and what an item this one was!!  Huîtres Chaudes au Muscadet (Poached Oysters with Muscadet Sabayon Sauce)…and I didn’t much care for cooked oysters…HA!  Simply put, this yields a lightly poached oyster on a bed of spinach slathered with the most incredibly decadent sabayon…and if you’re afraid of sabayon, if I can do it, you can too.  It was much easier than I thought it would be!

ingredients

Our cast of characters is simple…oysters, freshly shucked (a whole lesson in and of itself); butter (unsalted), spinach, eggs, shallots, Muscadet (Muss-ka-day) or any other dry white wine.  “Muscadet’s crispness has long made it an appealing match with shellfish, particularly oysters.” says MSNBC.  It’s not available where I live, so I used a pinot grigio, pinot gris not being readily available either.  I could only find 4 fresh oysters while I was on my shellfish search, but they were nice Pacific Oysters…not too big, not too tiny.  Here’s a great little shucking video from our friends at Hog Island Oysters of Tomales Bay.  I’m tickled with myself this time out.  I managed to successfully shuck 4 out of 4 oysters!  I’m notoriously slow at this, unless the oysters are really small.  I started with 3 different shucking knives, and the one in the picture was the one I had the most success with.

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This was another recipe that used pan after pan after pan and dish upon dish.  I used a whole set of mise en place bowls before I was through!  And…I got to use my 2 oz. Oxo measuring cup that Shari sent me when we exchanged kitchen gifts.  I see why she likes it!  I can’t wait to get the 1 cup measure as well!!  I had no idea it would be so neat to use!

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There’s certainly nothing low fat about this dish, even when I cut it down by half and then some.  I was afraid to reduce the recipe by more than half…I wasn’t comfortable that there would be enough of this that or the other thing for the sauce to work out right.  The sauce seemed to take forever to cook down.  That threw my timing off a lot.  But the sauce was the last step so it worked out fine in the end.  The taste was incredibly silky and rich.  Neither of us particularly care for cooked oysters…they tend to taste like too much hot sea water mostly, but not in this recipe.  The very brief poaching was simply marvelous.  It firmed them up ever so slightly, and they were buttery smooth, just like the sabayon and the spinach.  They were simply tasty silky bites, and this recipe is a keeper.  In fact, I’m in search of more oysters while we have left over sauce!





Jousting~Red, White and Green

26 04 2009

I really enjoy the various interpretive events among the food blogs.  I’ve tried, and tried to participate in Paper Chef, but one thing or another has prevented me from that.  I’ve participated in a few other little events here and there, but have really come to enjoy the challenge of the Foodie Jousts sponsored by the Leftover Queen.

The Joust for May calls for, not three particular ingredients, but 3 colors!  Way to go Peter and Christey!  This couple runs www.Fotocuisine.com.  They were voted Best Overall Entry in April’s food joust for their interpretation of the ingredients almonds, lemongrass and asparagus.  I have to admit…I voted for their dish too.

So…the challenge this month is to utilize red, green and white in our presentation.  Interesting…  Hmmm…  The first thing that came to mind for me was Salad Caprese.  Bright green basil…white cheese, and red tomatoes…so why not?

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The recipe is ever so simple…a nice sturdy whole grain bread, sliced fresh mozzarella, buffalo milk mozzarella is particularly yummy if you can get it…a whispy slice of proscuitto, topped by a generous slice of vine-ripened tomato  and pop it under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese and toast the edges of the prosciutto.  Add a sprinkling of extra virgin olive oil, and a chiffonade of fresh basil and just try to resist.  Good luck with that.  *Ü*





Mussels, Maraschino liqueur and Muscadet

25 04 2009

You might ask yourself what these 3 items have in common aside from beginning with the letter m…they’re 3 things I need for 3 Whisk Wednesday sessions.  Mussels were this week.  Muscadet is recommended for the sabayon for the sauce for next week, and we’ll be needing Maraschino liqueur the week after.  They’re also ingredients I am currently unable to obtain here.  And I REALLY tried!!!  I went to the Seafood Roadshow…found a few broken shells, and a couple with gaping shells…but not enough mussels left alive to even think of buying.  No…they didn’t have any more.  I asked.  Next.  They had 4 mussels left.  That wasn’t a lot of help either.  Next.  The next store didn’t even make a pretense of having HAD mussels.  Ok…those were my best options for shellfish I’d consider eating.  Off to search for Muscadet and Maraschino liqueur.

Searching for any wine or liqueur here is easy.  There are only a couple of stores known for having any kind of variety of anything.  If they don’t have it, you’re buying on-line.  Thankfully, here in CA we can do that.  I think the closest Bev-Mo is 80 odd miles away…if I’m lucky.  I know I can find both Maraschino liqueur and Muscadet on line…but not likely at the same place.  We’ll see.

So…mussels, again, elude me.  One of these weeks, on the new schedule, I’ll have a few nights off and I’ll find mussels and have a mussel-fest.  How crazy this is!  LOL!  Until then, dry white wine will have to do for a sauce for the oysters.  I did find oysters, though not many.  They had 4…and I bought them all.  And I didn’t see another oyster all day.  And I found osso bucco “veal shanks” and bought them.  I have to admit, the hardest thing about cooking Le Cordon Bleu so far has been the challenge of finding some of the ingredients!!





Big Tuna Sushi Bistro ~

19 04 2009

We’re giving Big Tuna 2-3/4 Whisks already…and they’re barely open.  The fish was fresh.  There was no odor.  The decor was bistro-ish, and will grow with them.  We recognized the Itabisan as an up and coming Itabisan in Chico.  He’s done the circuit locally, so he’s had the best and the worst trainers.  The rice was properly done…not over-seasoned nor over-cooked.  The grains  were individual as well as part of the whole, which didn’t fall apart halfway to one’s mouth.  Gotta like that part.

We tried 2 of their house rolls as well as our favorites…maguro, sake, and unagi.  We also had a piece of “Big Eye Tuna”…more like toro, which was good, but not a favorite.  We also had halibut…hirame, I think…but again, not a favorite.  The two house rolls were combinations that were very nicely done…one included fresh serano chiles, The Mexican Roll, I believe it was.  Cilantro, avocado, serrano chiles and fresh fish…and it was good…a sweat-popper, but yummy.

We visited at late lunch time…not exactly prime-time, but still…this little spot had quite a few spots full.  There were plenty of people around to tend to everyone’s needs though.  We’ll visit again, and again.  It’s in an easy to find spot.  It’s in the same shopping center as Fed Ex-Kinos on Mangrove…between 7th & 8th.  Since they’re close to S & S Produce, I’m sure we’ll stop by frequently as long as they last!





TFF ~ Pan Roasted Soy-lacquered Salmon

16 04 2009

The last two recipes I submitted have involved brining the meat in a salt water solution.  This recipe also uses a form of brining, even if you think of it more as a marinade.  This recipe calls for salmon to be marinated in a soy (salty),  sake, mirin (sweet rice wine) and miso (also salty) solution.  I have another recipe that uses a salt and sugar rub on salmon for a brief amount of time.  Gravlax is made by packaging a salmon fillet with a coating of sugar, salt and dill for a period of time.  This treatment pulls the moisture from the meat and changes the texture while it flavors the meat.  And I love Lacquered Salmon!

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I have a confession…I don’t like salmon much.  I prefer it raw with a tissue of lemon as nigiri sushi.  I can like it sometimes, smoked.  I prefer it as lox, if I have a choice.  And then I discovered Laquered Salmon.  Oh my gosh.  Yum.  I had no idea how to achieve that!!  A year ago I received a smoker-pan for Christmas.  I was also gifted with a recipe for the aforementioned dry rub that we use just before we smoke-cook the salmon on top of the stove.  I’ve actually eaten more salmon in the past year than I have in my entire life.  Now…there’s this recipe, which is even faster,  and tasty?   Oh yes, very tasty.

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This night, we had the salmon with Vietnamese Salad Rolls.  Bean threads, shredded cabbage, carrot, basil, mint and minced shrimp were rolled in rice paper, and served with a sweet-spicy dipping sauce.  This really made a great light dinner.  It was a night we didn’t get around to eating until late, late evening.  This had such great flavor and incredible freshness (salad rolls) that it was a joy to eat.  The salmon was buttery tender and had a slight teriyaki flavor, while the rolls were bursting with cold poached shrimp and sparkling cool double-mint…mint and basil, both of the mint family.

I highly recommend this dish and really appreciate Tyler sharing it with his friends throughthe Food Network!  You can find the recipe here:  Pan Roasted Soy Lacquered Salmon.  We’ll be enjoying this recipe for salmon often.  It cooks so fast that the oven time is negligible!  And it just doesn’t get any easier to cook either!  LOL!





Not Cafeteria Spaghetti ~

16 04 2009

Open House night has come and gone for another year.  Once again, we served a spaghetti dinner for the families.  In the past, we served dinner so parents who were pressed for time, juggling Little League schedules and such, had a way to feed their families at a low-low cost, and make it to Open House night in the process.  We started out using the school cafeteria spaghetti 5 years ago.  After serving it for 2 years, I asked if I could make the spaghetti instead of ordering it from them.  I was serving it, but I also knew I could easily cook spaghetti for 200.  School spaghetti doesn’t have much flavor, and the gals don’t have a lot of time to put TLC into the product because they’re jamming the extra work in between other chores.

Permission to go my own way with the spaghetti was granted 3 years ago.   The first year, I was able to find Italian sausage fairly easily.  I learned a lot about timing and how incredibly long it takes a 30 quart kettle to come to a boil.  Talk about a watched pot!!  The second year, I couldn’t find Italian sausage to save my soul.  I hunted and hunted…in all the wrong places I guess.  This year, I was afraid we were running into the same situation this year, except I found some spicy Italian Sausage pizza topping.  It was all meat and spices.  Go figure.  So…the weight of the package was the yield, there’d be no further loss due to cooking.  Hey…not too bad!  And all that spice mellowed in the sauce really nicely.  I use half ground beef as well, but that I had to cook.  That was fine.  It gave me an opportunity to remove the grease from the meat, and then season it to my taste.

Recently someone asked me where one even begins to cook something like spaghetti for 200…and I’d never thought of it that way.  I have school food service in my background, so it kind of comes relatively easy for me, mostly because feeding that many doesn’t make me shake.  We used to feed over 400 kids every day at my school.  Do that for a few years, and you quit worrying about numbers like that!  LOL!!  But it got me thinking…how would you find out where to start??

When I get into a project like this, I start with an estimate of how many servings we’re going to need, and how many we really expect.  The two can be different by quite a lot.  Let’s use the spaghetti…  Last year we fed 150.  The student group that was benefiting from the dinner has had huge turnouts for their events, and sold out of everything at their last event (family movie night) before intermission!  So…200 sounded like a reasonable number.  We have 280 students enrolled, so it’s a conceivable number.  Next I go to a reference book for quantity cooking, Food for Fifty.  They have a buyers guide which tells you how many servings you will get from how much purchased food, and it has recipes.  So, I take the recipe for spaghetti with meat sauce for 50 and multiply everything by 4.  I figure out my shopping list, translating cups to quarts, half-gallons and gallons, and tablespoons to ounces or portions of cups.  Be careful of quantity recipes though.  Sometimes the quantity of ingredient is just ridiculous.  For instance…2 cloves of garlic for 50 servings of spaghetti.  Get real.  Yes, I said cloves, NOT heads.

The next step is to calculate my game plan…How long does it take to boil a kettle of water for pasta?  What pans do I have for that?  How am I going to store, the cooked pasta until assembly the night of the dinner?  What am I going to cook meat in?  How long does it take for 10 pounds of ground beef to cook?  How long does it take for spaghetti to get hot all the way through?  How many servings can you get from a loaf of french bread?  Then I work backwards…the dinner starts at 5:30 Wednesday night.  It takes this much time to toss salad together; it takes that much time for the spaghetti to heat up; it takes this much time to mix up the pasta, meat and sauce components.  I not only can, but need to prep cook the ground beef and the pasta.  The meat will benefit from being cooked and seasoned in advance.  The flavors will have more time to blend and come out.  The pasta can be cooked almost al denté, rinsed, oiled and bagged until it’s time to mix the spaghetti.  So…one night before, I’ll do the pasta.  Two nights before I’ll cook the meat.  I’ll shop the afternoon before I start cooking.  Sketch out the time frame, as close as you can, figure out how and where you’ll store your components, and put your plan into motion when it’s time.

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I cooked the meat on Monday after doing the “fresh and frozen” shopping.  This also included the dry and non-food components.  I wanted the bread to be fairly fresh, so I wanted until Spaghetti Day to buy that.  I bought ground beef in 5# “sausages”.  I unwrapped the meat, and broke it into chunks in the pant.. Don’t press it in.  I cooked 2 of the chubs at a time, in my turkey roaster, at 350º, covered with foil for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Pour off all the accumulated fat.  Break up the meat as much as you want at this time.  Add 2 chopped onions and seasonings to taste.  Add 2 cups of water to the pan, cover again with foil, and bake another 45 minutes.  Cool rapidly.  So…there’s an hour and a half, probably more like 2 hours for cooking 10# of beef, if you only have 1 oven to work with.  I cooked 3 pans of meat, and it took around 6 hours.  That’s pretty accurate!  I used a big tub to hold the cooled ground beef until I had it all cooked.  Then I stirred in5 pounds of frozen Italian sausage crumbles.  That cooled the ground meat down!  We put the cooled meat into a BIG Ziploc bag and got it into the refrigerator somehow!

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Tuesday was pasta cooking night.  I had 20 pounds of pasta to cook.  The pasta came in 4 pound bags.  I was able to cook 2 pounds of pasta in each of 2 soup kettles at a time.  While the spaghetti only takes a few minutes to cook, once it returns to a boil, it takes awhile for that much water to start boiling.  Even starting with the hottest water I could get it still took almost an hour for the first pans to come to a boil initially.  Once we got rolling, it was taking about 40 minutes to cook 4 dry pounds of spaghetti.  When it was cooked, I pulled it out of the water with tongs, and into a colander with cold running water to stop the cooking.  I rinsed the pasta until it was cold, drained it and poured it into a large container where I sprinkled it with oil…olive oil would be my first choice.  From there, the pasta went into a 2-1/2 gallon Hefty zippered bag.

Now…I use a marinara sauce and work it over for my sauce.  I’m not too worried about my sauce being seasoned much, because the meat is.  Mix the sauce however it works best for you.   Make sure you have enough sauce for all the spaghetti.  It seems like a lot, and it is…but it’ s really easy to NOT have enough!  Then, mix it all together.  Spray down a pan with release spray, put in hot pasta (refresh in hot or boiling water), meat and sauce.  Lift and fold the mixture to work the sauce throughout the entire pan.  The meat will be worked through at the same time.  Cover and bake at 350º for 1 hour or until temp holds at 165º.  Maintain a temp not lower than 140º.  I started at 2:30 to mix the spaghetti, mix the salad, and slice, butter and portion 12 loaves of french bread.  I was finished panning up the spaghetti and cleaning up the kitchen in an hour and a half.  I would have had time to do the salads and the bread, but I had some volunteers who could help before the dinner but not during the dinner, so they did the bread and salads.  Score!  LOL!

I don’t know if I EVER want to know how much a 6 inch deep hotel pan full of spaghetti weighs.  All I know is I hate lifting pans that heavy, but I sure set myself right up to do that last night.  And I know better than to store something that heavy even a little high up, but there’s not much room in the walk-in right now.  I have body parts that are not being kind to me.  I know I had a workout last night! LOL!





WW-Bouchées aux Crevettes

13 04 2009

I’ve been off track with Whisk Wednesday for a couple of weeks…first health challenges, then recipe ingredient challenges.  This week it’s a time challenge, as you’ll later see, but this was worth squeezing in.  By the time I added a spinach salad with more of the mushrooms and fresh tomatoes and red peppers, and fresh green beans cooked with bacon and shallots, a small serving of these creamy shrimp was plenty.

This was a perfectly simple recipe to put together, and one of my favorites.  Ok…puff pastry from scratch is time consuming.  I admit that freely.  I rarely have time to babysit puff pastry, so I work with frozen a lot.  This time I used Pepperidge Farms bouchée shells.  The next time I run across my short-cut recipe for puff pastry, I’ll share it, I promise.  It’s got all the right ingredients, it’s just put together in a slightly shorter process than the traditional.  You still end up with a multitude of flaky layers, but instead of “all day” it takes a few hours.  It’s here…somewhere.

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We really enjoyed the light shrimp flavor that was tickled by the addition of cognac.  The cream sauce was wonderfully silky in the mouth.  The textures-yieldingly springy-were a nice contrast.  The smoky-crunchiness of fresh green beans with bacon was a really nice foil.  The shrimp tasted a little sweeter next to the bacon.  The spinach salad was lightly sweated with a sweet-tangy viniagrette…almost enough to wilt it, but not quite.

Now…about Wednesday…  I’m cooking spaghetti for 200 for Open House at school.  You can bet I’ll post.  Even if it isn’t pretty.   I did my shopping this afternoon…my car was so full!!  I needed to get the plates, cutlery, napkins, and so on and so forth all on one trip.  Now I’m off to cook 30 some odd pounds of meat and 20 pounds of pasta.





TFF-Pan Roasted Pork Chops with Spiced Apples

10 04 2009

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Last week I brined a chicken.  This week, I brined pork chops.  Oh my.  Goodness.  Serious goodness.  Even though I overcooked them…doggone it!…they had GREAT flavor and still weren’t horribly dry.  The sauce is made with the fond from the pan, apple juice concentrate, apples, and spices.  Oh…and raisins.  But I didn’t have any.  So…we did without raisins.  This recipe comes from Tyler’s book, Real Kitchen.

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The brine combines sweet and salty, along with herbs.  I confess…my fingers found some pickling spice and tossed a bit into the brine.  I just couldn’t help myself…  I mistakenly used the pan I browned the pork in when I made the sauce…that could seriously affect the flavors!  We ended up with a sweet-savory sauce rather than a sweeter sauce.  That also explains why I have dark flecks in my sauce…   I don’t think it’s going to matter…this dish just comes out wonderfully!  I served it with BIG steamed artichokes.  The artichokes really bring out the sweetness in the chops…it was a great foil!

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This is a keeper recipe.  Even if I didn’t want to do the apples as a sauce, I’d still consider using the brine for the chops.  And…I’m thinking this would be fabulous with a pork tenderloin…





New Japanese Restaurant in Chico

7 04 2009

Ojiya is a relatively new Japanese restaurant in Chico.  I first heard of the place back around Christmas.  It’s gotten mixed reviews from friends.  You know how it is with friends…you need to balance the tastes of the individual against their interpretation of food.  No slams or anything, but if my friend is perfectly content eating Minute Rice, I might want to be careful just how much weight her recommendation carries!  Ojiya got 2-gotta try it! and 2-don’t waste your $$.  Hmmm….even split.  Now, weighing that out…the Don’t Waste Your $$ folks were a little more credible…still…it’s been 6 months, it’s not a busy time of day, we’re in the mood for sushi, and we’re feeling adventurous!  Ok…Ojiya it is!!

Ojiya is located on the Northeast side of Chico…near the new Butte College center, off Forest Ave.  It’s got a fresh, new face…actually its backside, facing the street.  When I pulled into the parking lot, I was a little taken back that there was no apparent doorway…until I saw the signs pointing the way.  Ok.  They get a few points for having an entryway that’s away from the hustle and bustle of the busy street.  They have a nicely decorated entryway, no question you’re about to enter an Asian establishment…but nothing that really stands out.  The restaurant claims to have table dining, sushi bar, teppan, and table-side hibachi grilling.   We opted for the sushi bar.

The very first thing that struck me upon entering, which may explain why I didn’t take more notice of my surroundings, was an odor of old oil.  Not exactly rancid oil, but old frying oil…and it didn’t smell good.

By selecting the sushi bar, we weren’t able to see the remainder of the menu.  I have heard that teppan dining runs about $26 a plate.  I don’t know about their table side hibachi either.  This time we’re talking sushi bar.  There were a couple of singles already at the sushi bar, splitting up the “prime” dining area where the Itabisan works, so we were seated toward the far right, near the door into the kitchen.  The menu had the standard nigiri sushi, nothing really notable, but a good selection, the and standard Californicated Sushi rolls.  You know the kind…fusion sushi…mango and asparagus with cream cheese and smoked Salmon….Not really, but you get the idea.

We ordered a few of our favorites just to get a feel for the food – the quality of the fish, the quantity of a serving, the palate of the Itabisan.  Maguro, unagi, and fresh salmon are our mainstays.  After that, we have fun.  I ordered a Rainbow roll…I figured that was a good way to sample some of their fish.  I ordered a spicy something roll…it might have been hamachi, it might have been hirame…maybe even tuna.  The only thing that made it remarkable in the least was that the fish was slightly old, and the mayo tasted off a little.  It could have been the brand.  I’m particular.

We didn’t have anything that whispered “ocean fresh” to us…  We didn’t get the idea it was freshly flown in, either.  We didn’t get the idea it was fresh at all.  It just wasn’t cooked.  The nigiri had the freshest pieces of fish, and the rolls were filled with older-fish salad.  About the time we were finished, the Itabisan presented us a plate to share…no idea what it was…seared ahi maybe…it wasn’t any better than the rest of the food.

How many whisks?  1.  That’s all.  I really could do better.  $36 for sushi for two, sushi and green tea only…it’s a record low.  Rawbar…don’t break a sweat over this one.  I don’t know that we’ll make it back there…there are so many other choices that are really good.  Sorry Ojiya…Sayonara!