Monday, January 25, 2016

Chicken Thighs, Portobellos, Wild Rice & Noodle Bake

Maybe it isn't Thursday (or maybe it is by the time you read this), but what we've got here is a throwback. A throwback recipe, that is. Our cold and snowy weather outside had me remembering warm kitchens and tempting aromas of slower times and some old fashioned family recipes. 

Memories of a rice and egg noodle side dish I used to make back in the seventies kept nudging me until I looked up the old recipe. It included a little soy sauce and some water chestnuts along with chicken stock. In fact, it was kind of a made-from-scratch Rice-a-Roni twist...which (sigh) I couldn't have because of the celiac issue. 

You know, I reworked that old recipe into a one dish dinner with chicken thighs and beefy portobello mushrooms and ended up with an entire Sunday dinner that was even better than the original side dish. Instead of egg noodles, fine rice noodles worked perfectly. Instead of Minute rice, I used a box of Near East Wild Rice mix (this brand is gluten free). And, of course, I used wheat free tamari in place of soy sauce. Chicken, portobellos, wine....voila! A throwback recipe that was updated to be gluten free, that was almost a one dish dinner, and was everything I'd remembered. 

All that was needed was a salad or a green vegetable for a Sunday dinner that brought back warm memories with a whole new and easy dinner. They say you can't go back. Maybe, with a good old fashioned recipe in hand, there's a way after all.

Chicken Thighs, Portobellos, Wild Rice 
& Noodle Bake

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 5-6 skinless chicken thighs (or equivalent chicken breasts, if you wish)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large portobello mushroom caps, sliced across in half and then into 1/2" pieces
  • 3 T butter
  • 4 oz fine rice noodles (half a box of 8.8 oz Thai Kitchen Thin Rice Noodles or same amount of another brand)
  • a 6 oz box of Near East Long Grain & Wild Rice mix (original), save the spice packet
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • 20 oz low salt chicken broth
  • 1 T wheat free tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 can of sliced water chestnuts - do not drain

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On top of the stove, in an ovenproof Dutch oven, heat olive oil. 

Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, then brown on both sides. Remove from pan. Add mushrooms to the pot and stir a minute or two until just cooked. Remove to same plate as chicken.

Add butter to pot and melt. Add noodles and stir until lightly browned in places; add the wild rice mix - do not add seasoning packet yet. Stir rice and noodles until coated with butter. Now sprinkle the seasoning packet over the mixture in the pot and pour the wine in; stir up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add chicken broth and tamari, stir again. Add water chestnuts, including the liquid, and stir well.

Top rice and noodle mixture with browned chicken and then with the mushrooms. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Serve with a side salad or green veggie.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Quick Shrimp & Penne With Bleu Cheese Vermouth Sauce

If you've heard the old saw that forbids the combination of fish or seafood with cheese, this is one recipe that dispels that misguided advice. Lets be real, there are loads of dishes that ignore that rule including Sole Romano or Flounder with Parmesan Crumbs; Lobster Mac n Cheese; Shrimp, Crab & Scallop Alfredo; or even good old fashioned tuna casserole. So go ahead, it's perfectly delicious to cheese up your fish with abandon!

Quick Shrimp & Penne
With Bleu Cheese Vermouth Sauce

Serves 2

  • 12 jumbo shrimp, tails removed, deveined
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 T dry white vermouth
  • 4 T half and half
  • 4 T bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 2 small green onions, sliced across - reserve 1 T of the green bits for garnish
  • lots of fresh ground black pepper
  • freshly shaved parmesan cheese for finishing
  • 2 C cooked penne
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes - stir, but do not brown. Once the garlic has softened, add the shrimp. Cook until just pink on both sides. Remove just the shrimp to a plate and set aside.

Add green onions to the oil, garlic and red pepper in the skillet, then add vermouth. Stir up all the good stuff from the bottom of the pan. Add the half & half and stir again; add bleu cheese and stir until smooth. Season with pepper.

Plate the penne in two shallow bowls (to hold all that creamy, cheesy sauce), then divide the shrimp and sauce between them. Garnish with green onion and shaved parm. Add a green salad and dinner is ready in minutes!

NOTE: This really is a quickie long as you have cooked pasta on hand, and I did. 

Pro Tip: Cook that whole box of pasta even if you only need part of it, and freeze what's left for fast future dinners (just be sure to cook it only to the al dente stage before freezing in 2 C portions). 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sweet & Spicy Baked Butterbeans, Brisket & Bacon

The holidays are over and I'm still dealing with a few bits and pieces of the Ghost of Christmas Dinner Past. Admittedly, this was a friendly ghost...there's nothing spooky about a great big smoked brisket!

Ahhhhhh, the brisket. Not to brag here, but this was the best brisket I've ever smoked....hell, it's the best brisket I've ever eaten! For sure, I've upped my skills over the years, but it was the quality of that huge cut of beef that made all the difference. 

Have you been to Butcher on Butler in Lawrenceville yet? Thank goodness I found them. Right after coming back from our trip to the Bourbon Trail, I hit them up for some really good thick-sliced bacon to recreate the Bacon in a Glass with Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce we'd enjoyed at OBC Kitchen in Lexington, KY. Whoa! Best. Bacon. Ever! My version kicked some major bacon butt, too...again it's the quality of the meat. I knew right then and there where I was getting my Christmas brisket. (You can bet the bacon recipe will be hitting Dinner Plan-it soon.)

Okay, back to the brisket. I put the 11 1/2 pound deckle-on, spice-rubbed beauty on to smoke Christmas Eve. Christmas morning there was a miracle of a gorgeously smoke-ringed, juicy hunk of brisket waiting to be sliced for dinner. Opening the door of the smoker was just like opening a Christmas present!

After using the leftover brisket in sandwiches, brisket hash, and such, I had one last hunk...and I was looking for something a little different to use it all up. A one pot wonder perhaps...and so a nice pot of rich, hearty, smoky beans with brisket and bacon - and a little heat and sweet was born.

Sweet & Spicy Baked Butterbeans, Brisket & Bacon

  • 1 lb large lima beans, soaked overnight according to package directions - reserve the soaking water!
  • 1/2 lb thick sliced slab bacon cut across into 1/4" lardons (yes, I got it at Butcher on Butler!)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, minced
  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz.) fire roasted diced garlic tomatoes
  • 3/4 pound smoked brisket, cut into 1/2" squares
  • T instant coffee powder
  • 3 T maple syrup - the real stuff, not fake pancake syrup
  • 1/4 C blackstrap molasses
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 T Jane's Crazy Salt
  • 2 T Mike's Hot Honey
  • LOTS of fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 C reserved bean soaking water - add chicken stock if you don't have a full 4 C

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Using a large ovenproof Dutch oven or large, deep enameled casserole dish, saute the bacon long enough to release the fat. Add the onion and jalapenos and saute until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. 

Cover the dish and bake for 4 hours. Increase the oven temp to 400 degrees, UNCOVER the casserole dish and continue baking another hour. 

NOTE: I went back to B on B for my good luck New Year's kielbasa to tuck in with some good ole Pittsburgh sauerkraut. When I picked up my order after waiting in a long line with other meatlovers in the know, the meat sticks were still warm from the smoker. Meat heaven!