Chicken, tomatoes, romaine, and bread, coated and broiled; sugar snap peas – 23 December 2011

I spotted this recipe when looking through the last issue 😦 of Gourmet, from November 2009, for good dinner ideas for Christmas. This caught my eye because of its beauty, and it looked pretty easy. The reviews on epicurious made me eager to try it, and it really turned out well.

I had to double the recipe b/c it is written for one – a nice service on Gourmet’s part, since relatively few recipes are written for the lone diner. Everything gets put under the broiler at once, and you take things out as they are done. I put the chicken in one pan and the non-meats in the other. The chicken I sliced into two layers, each less than 1/2 inch thick. The recipe calls for “cutlets” about 1/4 inch thick, so I had some concerns about whether this would cook in the time alloted. I ended up cooking stuff till it looked done, without regard to the clock, and those times were very different from the times in the recipe. I cut up two Costco chicken breasts, each into two parts, and broiled them for about 2 minutes, turning the pan in the middle b/c of the uneven heating on our broiler, then turned the chicken over to Side Two. I lopped on some of the mayonnaise/dijon/lemon dressing as instructed in the recipe (but it has you cook the chicken only on one side) and returned the chicken to the broiler. When the mayo/dijon sauce got rather brown, I moved the chicken pan to the bottom of the oven to keep warm (noting that it might actually cook some more but not burn) until ready to serve.

The bread, cut from the center of a round loaf we baked yesterday, and brushed with olive oil, was done on both sides well before the chicken (as the recipe suggested it would be). Two tomatoes – Romas – cut in half, cut sides brushed with oil, and sprinkled with dried thyme – took the longest – several minutes beyond the Romaine. The lettuce was tossed in a lemon/oil/S&P dressing before broiling. I was going to give each of us the larger piece of chicken from the flat side of the breast, but it really looked like too much, so we ate the smaller pieces, and the larger ones will be for sandwiches for lunch, probably for both Saturday and Monday.

I used up some more of the “use-me-quickly” sugar snap peas I bought on Thursday at the Bowl. Just stemmed them, washed and dried, and sauteed quickly in oil and some butter for flavor, with salt and pepper while cooking.

D brought up what is becoming our official Friday Wine, Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and we loved it again.

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Avgolemono; sugar snap peas with orange peel – 22 December 2011

D made a stock from the chicken carcass, and I suggested he make this soup with it, which is one where the quality of the stock really shows.

The soup has mushrooms (or chicken as another option), riso, and finally egg dropped into the hot stock. After serving into bowls, you add parsley, freshly grated nutmeg, and grated parmersan. It’s a great soup, and really quite easy. D also cooked up some sugar snap peas, using some oil from our current crop of marinated olives and also some peeled orange zest. Overall, a good idea, though I thought the oil from the olives had gone a bit off.

The bread was beautiful again 🙂

D added a bit of amaranth into the bread, which I bought last spring from some kids who sell it to support a training program. It was interesting addition: Something of a darkish taste, and also teensy crunchy bits here and there. I liked it.

D chose our house friend Chateau Saint-Sauveur Cotes du Ventoux, which of course was great with the meal, since it is great with just about anything.

{Written the 27th}

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Lamb tagine with aprocots and prunes; sautee mix with red-dyed garlic – 21 December 2011

This was the second real success from my tagine book. More than half have been uninteresting, but this was quite good.

Lamb chunks are cooked with onion and garlic and also blanched almonds and a bunch of good-smelling spices; then water is added and the lamb is cooked till tender. About 20 minutes from the end, dried apricots and prunes are added. Of course parsley is sprinkled over the top just before serving. We were out of couscous, but D dug up some millet that I had bought in spring from some kids, in support of a training program they were in. I found the millet pretty bland, but it did make a good base for the tagine.

I bought some sautee mix at the Bowl, and it has mustard greens, very foldy kale, and some unidentified flat red leaves in it (among others). I’m sure the red leaves or some of the others were beet greens, b/c when I added the cleaned greens to the oil with garlic, they dyed the garlic a glorious shade or pink-red.

I’ve finally gotten used to the idea that white wine can go with red meat, so long as we’re talking about red meat in sweet surroundings. This tagine is cinnamony and fruity and cardamomy and would not treat a red wine all that well, but the BearBoat was just fine for it. This wine was quite a find at Grocery Outlet earlier this year (I think it was this year) for about $6. We still have several bottles, I’m pretty sure.

{Written the 27th}

It is disturbing me that I think I have already written this, and that the tags are there, but I can’t find the post…

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Pasta with chicken, capers, lemon, and parsley; braised greens – 20 December 2011

D suggested this use for the remaining, hard-to-use bits from the chicken. Great idea!

I heated the chicken bits in olive oil, and added some lemon juice (we decided some zest would have been a good addition to spike up the lemon a bit) and capers – a chicken piccata over pasta, basically. Parsley is sprinkled on after the pasta and sauce are tossed together.

I also bought some sautee mix at the Bowl, and cooked it up with oil and garlic – really tasty mix, with mustard greens, beet greens, and some kale, among other ingredients.

D chose my Valreas from Trader Joe’s, and it was very good with the meal.

{Written the 27th}

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Split pea soup with smoked ham; pear salad; Petit Basque – 19 December 2011

This is an incredibly easy soup, and incredibly delicious, especially for a chilling evening in December. I think it is better when there is more meat on the soup bones, but this one was still quite tasty.

I started the soup a day in advance, the better to defat it. It is usually made with green split peas, but we had just enough yellow ones and too few green ones; plus, the yellow ones had been around for quite awhile and wanted eating. Two green ones had indeed made their way into the yellow pea bin, but not enough to alter the color of the soup.

Step 1: look for things that are not split peas. I measured 2 c of split peas, and then poured them a bit at a time onto a white plate, so as to see any interlopers easily. One might find a pea-sized rock, for example. I found only a couple unwanted bits. Then I put the peas into a medium bowl and covered with cold water, swished them around to rinse, and carefully poured off as much water as I could. Repeated this a couple times.

I rinsed three smoked ham hocks – about 1 1/2 pounds, and called by their producer pork hocks – and put them into 2 1/2 quarts of water with the peas, brought to a boil and let simmer for a long time – could have been a couple of hours but really, I didn’t look at the clock. I pulled out the ham pieces and rinsed the peas off them into the soup, and let both cool. When the ham is cold, I typically remove the meat and replace it in the soup; however, there was almost no meat on these bones. Odd. Any fat rises to the top of the soup and can be removed after chilling. This time there wasn’t much, which was puzzling. A layer of consomme-sort-of-gel was on top, but it wasn’t fatty, so I stirred it back into the soup today while reheating it for dinner. The ham hocks are cheap – $2.99/lb – and also very salty. There is no need to salt the soup. These cost just under $4.50, but I remember in the past spending more like $7.50, so perhaps these were unusually small.

Reheat, serve.

D made a new no-knead bread today (of course, that means he actually made the dough yesterday…) and it was beautiful again (of course) and delicious (of course…)

The salad was one ripe Bartlett pear (Bartletts are great: they tell you when they’re ripe and they are juicy and quite delicious) the last of the romaine, and some arugula. I made a dressing of olive oil, red raspberry vinegar, salt and pepper. It was a really nice salad (again). I also served some wedges of Petit Basque cheese, which I took out of the fridge several hours before dinner so it would get to a nice temperature. It is a fascinating and delicious cheese. Costco carries it, here.

D pulled up a cheap but very tasty wine called Monte Antico, which we get at Costco – or used to… they didn’t have it when we were there earlier this month 😦

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Mom’s chili; green beans; exceptional wine – 18 December 2011

Tonight I made the chili that Mom used to make every Christmas Eve, to have when everyone was hysterically wrapping presents and generally going nuts. After a simple beginning, the chili simmers for 3-4 hours, while you do other stuff. I couldn’t find my recipe card of it, and had to call and have her read it to me, but of course that was fun anyway. Mom calls this “Janet’s Chili” after the friend who gave her the recipe, probably 50 about years ago.

Then, I found out we actually had only 1/2 pound of hamburger in the freezer, so I had to go to the Bowl and get an additional pound. I bought the 15% fat version ($5.15/lb) and did have to suction off quite a bit of fat after browning the hamburger and onions in olive oil. [I tipped up the pan up at an angle, and mooshed the hamburger and onion to the upper half to let the grease drip to the lower part of the pan for awhile, then used a basting tube to suction it out of the pan.]

I browned the one chopped onion (a biggie) and 1 1/2 lb hamburger in a bit of oil, salting with 1 tsp salt early in the process. I removed the grease as above and added the rest of the ingredients: 2 cans (~14 oz each) tomatoes with their juice (I used Costco diced tomatoes – I think they were S&W), 2 cans kidney beans with their liquid (ditto), 1 Tbsp chili powder (I used ancho from the Bowl’s bulk area), and 1 tsp brown sugar. Then the chili just cooks for 3-4 hours on top of the stove. I added some water at least once. Be sure it doesn’t burn.

D went out to our shed and brought in the kidney beans, and also some green beans from a Costco large batch we bought awhile ago. These are in our EQ stash, but have to be rotated, so we eat them occasionally, even though they are canned. I just heated them up and drained them, then added a bit of butter. They have a pleasantly warm taste, but they don’t taste much like green beans. It’s like Sanka, which is nice, but it’s nohow coffee.

D opened a remarkable bottle of wine, which, the donors (E&R) say we were supposed to drink awhile ago. It was really wonderful, before, during, and after dinner. It was a Graves, a Grand Vin de Bordeaux from 2001.    A very special treat!

{Written the 18th, edited and pictures added the 20th}

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Roast chicken and root vegetables; salad; tree decorating – 17 December 2011

D suggested roasting a chicken for Saturday dinner, while we decorated our tree. He looked up a method in Alice Waters’ Simple Foods book, and it was terrific.

He began by salting and peppering the chicken a day in advance and returning it to the fridge. Then he stuffed it very full of rosemary branches for roasting. He cut up root veggies all into about the same sized pieces: carrots, parsnips, turnips, fennel, and …. um, Brussels sprouts. OK, the sprouts are not roots by any stretch of the imagination, and the fennel bulb is above ground too, but they worked extremely well. The veggies are just tossed in oil, salted and peppered, and roasted. Fantastic taste!

We started with a salad of romaine, some treviso, and pomegranate seeds. I think D used sherry vinegar and also my basil & garlic grapeseed oil from Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma (bought at Ghirardelli Square).

We had a Sauvignon Blanc with the salad that was a gift from our neighbor T, and we let that stretch into the chicken course. Then with the main course we had a red called “Insoglio del cinghiale” the first word of which kept the etymologists busy for much of dinner. That one D bought at the Bowl.

We actually started the evening with eggnog (while decorating the tree), which R made with home-spiced rum and salmonella-proofed (slightly cooked) eggs. It was excellent!

we ended with a pumpkin mousse with candied ginger, also made by R – it’s a family favorite but we have not made it in years. a great way to end a fantastic meal!

{Written the 20th}

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