Friday, February 23, 2007

Crunchy Chicken

When I was a younger mother and cook, I devised my own recipe for chicken like "Shake & Bake". This is my middle son's favorite dish, and we had it for dinner tonight. These measurements are an approximation because this dish is so old-hat for me. Also, this is not for the cholesterol-watchers because the crunchy skin is so delicious.

6 chicken leg quarters
5 eggs
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
2 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Special equipment: 2 one-gallon zipper bags
  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil. If the chicken legs are particularly fatty, place a flat rack or broiling rack in the baking pan and cover the rack with foil; poke holes in the foiled rack for the fat to drip through.
  2. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Beat rapidly with a fork or whisk. Beat in the lemon juice. Pour this mixture into one zipper bag.
  3. Pour the breadcrumbs and the rest of the dry ingredients into the other zipper bag. Shake thoroughly to mix the seasonings.
  4. Place one chicken leg quarter in the egg bag and seal tightly. Shake or massage the egg mixture to coat the chicken leg. Remove the wet leg to the breadcrumb bag and seal tightly. Shake, shake, shake, shake until the leg is completely coated with the breadcrumb mixture. Place the coated chicken leg in the baking pan, skin-side up.
  5. Repeat Step 4 for the remainder of the chicken leg quarters. Space them evenly in the pan so they do not overlap or touch each other, if possible.
  6. Bake chicken legs for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and crunchy on the outside. You can turn the oven off at this time and let the chicken remain in the cooling oven for another 10-15 minutes for more tender chicken and less fatty skin.
Serves 6 adults.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tortellini Bolognese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 lbs ground veal
3/4 cup red wine
2 24-ounce jars of your favorite marinara sauce (I like Mom's or Rao's.)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch sugar
2 20-ounce packages fresh or frozen cheese-filled tortellini, such as Buitoni (family size)
  1. Fill a pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Add some salt to the boiling water. Cook pasta for the minimum time given on the directions.
  2. Preheat large sauté pan on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Add butter and olive oil and swirl to coat. Add garlic and sauté until soft but not brown. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cover and cook 3-5 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Crumble ground veal into the vegetable mixture. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until meat is no longer pink. Drain this mixture.
  4. Stir in wine, one jar of marinara sauce plus another 1/2 jar of marinara sauce, salt, pepper and sugar. Cover and cook 5 minutes on medium-low heat, until thoroughly heated, then turn heat to low.
  5. Pasta should be finished cooking. Drain the pasta but reserve 1 cup of the cooking water to rehydrate it, if needed.
  6. If the bolognese sauce is ready when the pasta is finished cooking, spoon some drained tortellini into a bowl. Add 1-2 small ladles of bolognese sauce over the pasta and serve. There will be bolognese sauce left over.
Serves 6 adults, with leftovers of pasta and bolognese sauce.

Endive and Gorgonzola Salad

You just never know where inspiration comes from. I crafted this recipe and the one for Tortellini Bolognese from ones I saw in a supermarket flyer.

6 heads Belgian endive, rinsed
10-12 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, rinsed
6 slices turkey bacon (center-cut bacon is OK)
1 lemon, for juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 1/2 ounces crumbly Gorgonzola cheese
  1. Peel outer leaves of endive and cut off root end; discard both. Cut endive into 3/4-inch or bite-size pieces. Chop parsley leaves coarsely and combine both in a salad bowl.
  2. Fry bacon in a large sauté pan on medium until crisp. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Squeeze lemon through a small strainer into a small bowl until you have 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Whisk in olive oil, salt and pepper until well blended.
  4. Crumble bacon and Gorgonzola cheese into the salae and mix. Add dressing, toss, and serve.
Serves 5-6 adults as a small salad portion.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Drunk Mushrooms

Serve these with your favorite beef dish, or even better, with my Roasted Tenderloin of Beef.

16 oz. cremini (baby portobella) mushrooms, cleaned and de-stemmed
1/2 cup diced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine
Kosher salt
Black pepper
  1. Slice the mushrooms cross-wise into 1/8" slices.
  2. Melt butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.
  3. Sauté onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper, and continue sautéing until the mushrooms soften.
  4. Add the red wine and cover the saute pan. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking for 10-15 more minutes. The mushrooms are done when they are wine-colored and soft.
Serve with beef. Serves 8-10 people as a side dish.

Roasted Tenderloin of Beef

This is a perennial favorite in this house. Caveat: beef tenderloin is an expensive cut of meat, so consider making this dish for a special occasion. Plan on purchasing approximately 1 pound of meat per person, pre-cooked and -trimmed weight. Ask your butcher to trim and tie the tenderloin for you.

5 lbs. beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
kosher salt
black pepper

Special equipment: pastry brush, digital meat thermometer, roasting rack and pan
  1. Preheat the oven to 500ºF. If possible, bring the meat to room temperature before roasting. This will reduce cooking time.
  2. Place meat on a rack in a roasting pan just big enough to hold the tenderloin. Using a pastry brush or your bare hands, brush the entire beef tenderloin with the melted butter. Season the meat with salt and pepper all over. Insert meat thermometer into the thickest part of the tenderloin.
  3. Place the meat in the oven and let it sear for 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat down to 300ºF. Roast the meat for an additional 5 minutes per pound or until the internal temperature reaches desired doneness: 125º for medium rare; 130º for medium. Don't cook this meat any more than medium.
  4. Once the roast reaches the proper internal temperature, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. This is to let the juices retract into the meat. If you cut the tenderloin too soon, it will dry out.
  5. Carve the meat into 3/4" - 1" slices for each person.
Serve with oven-roasted potatoes and sauteed mushrooms. Serves 6-8 hungry adults.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Honeybell Tangelos

Honeybells tangelos are hybrids of tangerines and grapefruit. They are sweeter, juicier and pulpier than regular oranges. Honeybells are easy to peel, and thus a nearly perfect fruit! Their season is very short: late December through late January.

A Honeybell is actually a Minneola tangelo. It is a cross between a Duncan grapefruit and a Dancy tangerine. Each fruit is usually 3-3.5 inches in diameter and has a bell-shaped dome at the blossom end. The flavor is rich, tart, and aromatic. Although early Honeybells are more tart, they get sweeter throughout their short season. Last year, the Honeybells came in late and had a very long season here in SW Florida. I was able to buy that fruit through late February. This year the crop came in early and will be done in about two weeks.

For you nutrition nuts, here is the data from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences:
One medium tangelo or 1 cup sections (3.5 ounces in weight) contains: 47 calories,.94 gm protein, 11.8 gm carbohydrates, 2.4 gm dietary fiber, .12 gm fat, 86.8% water, 21 RE vitamin A, 53.2 mg vitamin C, 30.3 mcg folate, and 40 mg calcium.
Honeybells are pretty difficult to find in stores, in or outside of Florida. You usually have to order them directly from the grower. If you haven't had a chance to taste these wonderful fruits, consider ordering a few trays for yourself. You might catch the last batch this year at this grove. Their prices are the lowest I've seen.