Lemon Garlic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

Lemon Garlic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

We’ve been watching a lot of Giada De Laurentiis lately, thanks to the giant flat screen TV my mother bought us for Christmas, along with the new DVR we’re paying way too much for. I’ve been a fan of my fellow five-foot foodie for a while, but she’s really been on a lemon kick lately. I recently bought a whole bag of lemons at Central Market (mainly with cocktails in mind), so all that sharp footage of lemon sauces, lemon parfaits, lemon chicken, and lemon cookies inspired me to create this simple recipe.

On Memorial Day, we made her Lemon-Cumin Chicken on the grill out by the pool, so we had some of that left over. You could use plain baked chicken breasts, pan-fried chicken, or shredded roast chicken for this recipe; whatever you prefer or have on hand. The added flavor of the grilled crust, marinated in cumin and lemon juice, really added something special to the final dish, though. Try it sometime.

This simple, bright recipe is a good pasta dish for summer; it’s creamy comfort food without being too heavy, and pairs well with chicken, shrimp, salmon, or grilled portobello mushrooms.

4 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
1 lb. capelli d’angelo pasta (angel hair)
olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
zest of two lemons
juice of two lemons
1 cup heavy cream (or sour cream)
1 heaping Tbsp flour
salt, to taste
1 tsp black pepper, or to taste
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste

1. Fill a large stock pot with water, salt liberally, and add a splash of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon). Bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook for approximately five minutes, or until al dente. Test a strand to see if it’s done; if not, boil for an additional minute.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter and add sliced chicken, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for about five minutes, until chicken is warmed through and garlic is fragrant but not burned. Add the lemon zest and juice, and cook for about two additional minutes, stirring constantly. Drizzle in cream, stirring while doing so, then add flour. Mix in with a light hand until flour is well absorbed into the sauce, and a thicker consistency begins to form. Reduce heat to low. Taste and re-season as needed.

3. Drain pasta and return to pan. Lightly toss with a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon). Using a slotted pasta fork, plate the pasta. Pour the chicken and lemon garlic sauce out over each helping, and serve immediately.
Lemon Garic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

These pictures don’t really do justice to this dish; it’s way tastier than they make it look! I also went a bit nuts with the pasta portions sizes. Anyway, try it, and let me know what you think! If you like lemon infused savory dishes, I bet you’ll love it, too!

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Southwestern Chicken Salad with Homemade Mayo

Southwestern Chicken Salad

I’ve been thinking about making homemade mayonnaise for a long time.  But I hadn’t gotten past thinking about it until I used my Barnes and Noble Christmas giftcard to buy Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain.  Not only do I highly recommend the latest cookery book (as they say in the UK) from the good-natured Essex maverick, but I also insist that you make this mayo immediately!

Other food-obsessed friends had been telling me for years.  But I don’t eat that much mayo, and figured it wasn’t worth the trouble.

I was wrong.

Not only was it quick and easy, the result was so rich that Eric and I were desperately trying to think of things to use mayo on or in!  We ended up making a huge bowl of chicken salad, and it was so good, I had to share the recipe (see below).

I also used Eric as a food taster, making him do a blind test.  It was quite simple to tell the difference between the mass produced, processed mayo in our fridge and this stuff.  I was afraid the olive oil would be too overpowering (you can cut it with half rapeseed oil for a less robust flavor), but we really liked it.  I’m going to make some of Jamie’s variations soon: basil, garlic, and curry!  Mmm, curry.

Somehow, I didn’t take any pictures of the process; but it’s so straightforward (really, stop worrying and just whisk!).  Here it is.

Stella’s Homemade Mayonnaise
adapted from Jamie Oliver
3 egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1.5 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
juice of one lemon
salt, to taste

1. In a medium mixing bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks and Dijon mustard. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, only a little bit at a time, while continuing to stir. It’s best if you take up to ten minutes to do this, so the ingredients won’t separate.

2. As the mayo begins to thicken, add the vinegar and lemon juice while continuing to whisk. Continue until it is well mixed and smoothly textured.

3. Add salt to taste; scoop mayo out into a Mason jar or other sealable, refrigerator-safe container.

Yields approximately two cups of mayonnaise. Will keep for two weeks in the fridge.
 

Southwestern Chicken Salad
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup homemade mayo (see above)
1/4 white onion, finely diced
handful cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp Cholula hot sauce
dash of balsamic vinegar
2 tsp chili powder, plus more to garnish
4 Tbsp crushed pecans
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Meanwhile, prep other ingredients.

2. Bake chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet for approximately 30 minutes, or until fully cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about five minutes.

Southwestern Chicken Salad3. Chop or shred chicken to desired consistency. Sometimes, I pull it by hand; for this dish, I cubed it on a cutting board with a knife. Place cubed chicken in large mixing bowl.

4. Add mayo, onion, cilantro, and lemon juice, and mix thoroughly. Then add hot sauce, vinegar, and paprika, and stir again. Taste, then add salt and pepper as desired.

5. Spoon out chicken salad onto serving plates and garnish with a dusting of chili powder, crushed pecans, and additional cilantro sprigs. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6. Refrigerates well; eat within a couple of days.

Southwestern Chicken Salad

How to Roast a Duck

Roast duck

Yes, that’s a duck’s beak.

1. Procure a duck.

8403790201_72db80a5fe_nWe’d been talking about how great it would be to get a whole duck and roast it. Our friend Jeff has recently taken up duck hunting, but hasn’t had much luck so far.

We heard that there might be a duck purveyor at the Mueller Farmer’s Market, so we went there one Sunday morning. We grabbed some coffee and cash and spent a good hour browsing the stalls; they have so much good stuff!

After fearing we’d have to settle for an eight dollar jar of duck fat, we finally noticed that the Countryside Farm stand was selling duck in addition to chicken, eggs, and charcuterie. Sebastien Bonneu sells whole ducks (complete with their heads, as above), breasts, and legs.

We pondered the options for about ten seconds before putting our money down on a whole duck. It was $42.00 and weighed nearly seven pounds. Keep in mind as you read on that duck fat usually runs about a dollar an ounce, and duck broth goes for about three dollars per ounce!

2. Roast the duck.

If your duck is frozen, let it thaw out overnight (or up to 24 hours, depending on its size) in a refrigerator, in its original wrapping.

When it’s fully thawed, preheat your oven to 325°.

If necessary, gut the duck.

After much hand-wringing and YouTube-video-watching, we finally stuck a hand in our duck and realized that it had been gutted, its guts stored neatly in plastic bags inside the cavity. We took those out and set them aside for later (duck pâté, anyone?).

Rinse the duck and pat dry with paper towels.

Slice off any excess fat (with special attention to the duck’s hind quarters). Set aside for later.

Grease a large roasting pan (we used olive oil).

Place the duck in the roasting pan, breast up.

Stuff the duck with the spices or other foodstuffs of your choice. We used lemon, orange, roughly chopped garlic, and sprigs of homegrown rosemary and thyme, tied with twine. Do not overstuff your bird, like a Thanksgiving turkey. You want air to get in and around the seasonings for even cooking.

Truss the duck with twine. Grab both legs, pull tight, crossing one over the other, and tie. This will still leave an opening to the cavity, which is what you want, as previously discussed. You can also tie the wings, if desired; I left the wings and head as they were.

A note about the head: You can remove the head before cooking, if desired. There’s not much use for it, as it has little meat (aside from the brain and tongue), and, if used in a stock, will impart a slightly metallic taste (or so I hear). We decided to leave the head on, Chinese style.

Score the skin diagonally as below—just through the skin, not into the flesh. Then use the tip of your knife to poke a few tiny holes in the skin, like you would a potato! This will allow the bird to release more fat, making for a crispier skin.Trussed duck

Add a light glaze of olive oil to the skin using a medium pastry brush, and roast the duck in the oven for an hour.

e. basting the duckRemove the pan, and turn the duck over so that it’s breast-side-down.

Baste the underside in the juices from the pan, and roast for another hour.

Remove the pan again, turning back over so it’s breast up, as it to serve.

Your duck will now be getting nice and crispy. Remove most of the liquid fat from the pan and set aside.

Glaze the duck. We used a mixture of orange glaze: the juice and zest of one orange and one lemon, 2 tablespoons of raw honey, salt, and pepper. Again, baste in any remaining pan juices.

Return the pan to the oven and cook for another 30-60 minutes, depending on bird size.

After a total cooking time of two and a half hours, check the internal temperature periodically using a meat thermometer. The duck is fully cooked and ready to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°. This will probably take at least three hours.

Roast duck

3. Render your own duck fat.

While your duck is roasting, you can make your own duck fat!

First, strain the liquid fat from the pan. We strained the fat into a wide mouth Mason jar, using cheesecloth to separate the fat and crispy pieces from the liquid. If your fat is still a little cloudy, feel free to strain it again. Leave the resulting liquid fat uncovered while you render the rest of the fat from the bird.

Take the solid pieces of fat you sliced off the duck earlier and chop them up into smallish pieces. Place these in a pan with a little water—enough to entirely submerge the fat. Simmer over medium low heat until the liquid is a nice golden color.

Rendering duck fat

Time will depend on how much fat you have, but it took me about 30 minutes to render the fat from our seven pound duck. Watch the fat boiling, and note the color. It will get darker, and the simmering bubbles will get much smaller as the water escapes the pan. Be careful not to burn it—this stuff is premium.  Our bird resulted in about a cup and a half of rendered fat!

Duck fatFollow the same process from earlier, straining the fat through cheesecloth, allowing it to cool for at least a half hour, then seal and place in the refrigerator.

Now you have delicious duck fat, which can be used for any high temperature frying for which you’d use bacon fat or schmaltz (like my Schmaltz Roasted Potatoes with Crunchy Sage). It should keep for a few months in the fridge, or up to a year in the freezer (however, you’ll eat it way before you get to that point!).

4. Carve the duck.

When you’ve determined that the duck is done—golden brown and crispy on the outside, 165° and juicy on the inside—, remove it from the oven and turn off the heat.

Duck carvingAllow the duck to sit for about ten minutes.

Carve the duck as you would chicken or turkey. Everyone wants the succulent breast pieces first, and I don’t blame them!

If using a sauce, drizzle it over your duck (I whipped up a quick, thin sauce using additional orange juice and honey, plus a little tamari), and serve immediately.

Shred any leftover meat and save for later. We ate duck salad, duck with collards, and duck scrambles for a couple of days before freezing the remainder.

Fresh roasted duck breast

Freshly roasted duck breast, with crispy skin.  Delicious.

5. Make duck broth.

Duck carcassUsing a large butcher knife, chop up all the bones and any meat leftover from your duck carcass. Chop into medium to small pieces, to release as much flavor as possible.

Place all of this in a large stock pot, along with any vegetables or vegetable scraps (I used a mirepoix put together specifically for this purpose, purchased from Johnson’s Backyard Garden the very same morning I picked up the duck).

Add a sprig of herbs (I again used homegrown, fresh thyme and rosemary, tied with twine).

Cover with water and bring just to a boil, then immediatey reduce heat to a simmer.

Simmer, uncovered, for three to four hours.

Skim off any soapy residue as it rises to the top.

Duck broth

After three to four hours (your kitchen will smell amazing by this point), you’re ready to strain. Start by removing all the large pieces of bone and veg with a large slotted spoon. Set aside.

Once all the large pieces have been removed, it’s time to strain. I put a large plastic strainer in an even larger plastic mixing bowl, then lined the strainer with cheesecloth. I then poured the broth through the strainer. If you have a proper sieve, even better! Use that, pouring the strained broth into another bowl. As with the fat, strain multiple times if necessary. If the cloth becomes clogged with duck debris, rinse it and reuse.

Straining duck broth

If you want an even more concentrated broth, pour this first broth into a new pot and simmer down to desired strength.

Note: I did not add salt or pepper to this broth, so that the result would be neutral and useful for a variety of purposes. Salt can be added to taste in cooking.

Duck brothPour the broth into a sealed container (or containers, as at left—we ended up with more than ten cups of broth!). It will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Or you can freeze it (as I did); it should last for at least six months, maybe up to a year.

Finally, use the boiled-down bits of carcass as a fertilizer for your garden!

And that is how you make the most of a duck. I’d say it’s well worth the $42.00 and time, wouldn’t you?

Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs with Garlic-Sour Cream Sauce

Pan-fried chicken thighs

This is another fairly straightforward recipe that created with some of my usual, simple ingredients (grits, butter, Brussels sprouts, fresh spinach), this time with chicken!

I’m posting it in honor of my Twitter friend and fellow medievalist David Works, by special request. Enjoy!

4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs*
2 Tbsp butter
~1/2 tsp salt
~1/2 tsp black pepper
4 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
~1 cup Brussels sprouts, washed and roughly shredded
~1 cup fresh spinach, washed and roughly shredded
1/2 cup sour cream
1 portion of my Horseradish Cheese Grits, precooked

1. In a large, cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium high heat. Add chicken thighs and sauté for about three minutes. Turn over carefully with a non-scratch spatula. Sauté each piece on the other side for an additional three minutes or so, so that both sides are nicely browned.

2. Using the spatula, gently butterfly each thigh in the pan. At this point in the cooking, this should be easy to achieve. The pieces may break in half; this is fine. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook for an additional ten minutes or so, or until each piece is thoroughly cooked through (grey, not pink).

Chicken thighs

3. Remove chicken with a slotted spatula or spoon, draining off as much of the pan juices a possible, and place in a large piece of aluminum foil. Close the foil around the chicken to retain its heat, and set aside (I put mine on an adjacent, cool burner).

4. Drain all but about one tablespoon of the chicken fat juices from the pan and discard (or save for later use). Add garlic and Brussels sprouts and continue to cook for about five minutes, until garlic is fragrant and sprouts have brightened.

sprouts

5. Add spinach and stir thoroughly. Cook for an additional couple of minutes.

6. Reduce heat to a simmer. Spoon in the sour cream, stir thoroughly, and allow the mixture to cook for another couple of minutes. A nice, savory-smelling and creamy sauce will arise. Sample the sauce, adding more salt or pepper as desired.

spinach

7. Uncover and plate the chicken on a bed of my warm Horseradish Cheese Grits, spooning out generous amounts of sauce to drizzle over the whole dish. Serve immediately.

Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs with Garlic-Sour Cream Sauce

Serves 2-4.

*You could of course use thighs with skin, if you like them (and I do!), as the pan-frying process will result in some nice, fatty, crispy pieces. You could also use bone-in chicken; just skip the butterflying step and cook a bit longer, until they’re grey all the way through (and/or use a meat thermometer). I used these pieces because I already had them on hand. And they were excellent.

Gluten Free Tex-Mex Fried Chicken

We’ve been eating this once a week, so I had to share!

I’ve been developing the perfect gluten free batter recipe for a few weeks; last Sunday, while we were at Sagra for their amazing weekend brunch, our waiter surprised us with a gift of mixed pepper flakes!  They’re serious about locally grown, organic ingredients.  They even have their own greenhouse in South Austin.

And they accept vegetables from their customers!  Eric often takes batches of homegrown produce to Sagra (squash, chiles, pumpkins). Our chiles have made their way into infused olive oils, for instance.  Sometimes we get to sample the latest cocktails dreamed up by the amazing bartender.  This week, we got these amazing pepper flakes.  I can’t remember the whole litany, but I know it included jalapeño, habanero, poblano, anaheim, serrano, and hatch chiles.

I decided to incorporate them into my fried chicken batter, and they took the result from good to fantastic!

We’ve been buying chicken tenders from Wheatsville lately, so that’s what I fried.  Note that frying whole pieces will take longer, depending on the part, and bone-in chicken will take considerably longer.  In fact, that would be a whole different recipe, involving a lot more frying fat and a lot more splatter.  But this recipe is perfect for smaller pieces of meat.  It would also be excellent for veggies, such as zucchini (which I served roasted, as a side dish).

Another secret is the bacon fat.  I keep two Mason jars in the fridge at all times.  Every time I fry some bacon (so, practically daily), I drain it through a paper towel and into the jar.  I then use it for all manner of things, such as extra decadent scrambled eggs, perfectly fried corn tortillas, or Yorkshire puddings.

If you have a problem with deep frying things in bacon fat, you’re on the wrong blog!

~2 lb. chicken, cut of your choice (I used boneless breast tenders here)
2 eggs
1 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes (mixed varieties, if available)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
~6 Tbsp strained bacon fat

1. Using two shallow dishes (I have stainless steel dredging pans just for this purpose), crack eggs (white and yolks) into one and lightly beat until well mixed; thoroughly mix dry ingredients in the other to create your batter. Set them up in order, depending on whether you’re moving the chicken left or right, with a large plate at the end for your dipped and battered meat.

2. Dredge each piece of chicken as follows: dip the meat into the egg mixture, turning it over so that the whole piece is coated in a thin layer of gooey egg. Immediately drop it into the batter mix and thoroughly coat it, turning over a few times. Gently place the battered chicken on the plate to the side. Continue until all pieces are battered. Allow them to sit for at least ten minutes to give the batter a chance to set. This will help prevent batter from sloughing off in the pan.

3. Meanwhile, in a large, preferably cast iron, skillet, heat half the bacon fat over medium high heat until melted and popping. The fat should be at least a half inch deep, preferably an inch. You may need to adjust the size of skillet you use or amount of fat in order to get just the right amount.

4. Next, gingerly lay pieces of chicken into the grease until the pan is full, with room to maneuver each piece with a scratch-proof spatula. You may have to do two, or even three, rounds of frying. The chicken will immediately begin to pop and spit; if this presents a problem, use a splatter screen when not turning the meat.

5. Allow the chicken to cook for about five minutes on each side, turning them over carefully with your spatula, until the batter is nicely browned and crisp. Gently scoop each piece up and place it on paper towels aside on a plate to cool and drain the excess grease. Repeat until all the chicken is fried.

If you’re unsure whether the chicken is fully cooked, just cut one of the tenders open with a knife and see. The meat should be white throughout and tender, but not rubbery. If it is rubbery, you’ve cooked it too long. Adjust your times accordingly for the rest of the batch. Fully cooked chicken should be 165° in the center. Use a cooking thermometer to test if you are unsure. After you do this a few times, you will become an expert on the cooking times for different meats based on the combination of your particular oven or stove and chosen cooking method.

After the meat has drained for a few minutes, you can wrap it up in clean cloth to serve a bit later with sides, or serve it immediately while it’s piping hot.

I like this Tex-Mex fried chicken with hot sauce (we keep a bottle of Cholula on hand at all times), but Eric also likes to dip his tenders in Ranch dressing, which is also delicious with the side dish I like to make: roasted zucchini wedges drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dill. Go crazy!

Serves 2-4.