Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tarragon-Cream Chicken and Polenta Pot Pies (GOOD WITH HELP)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tarragon-Cream Chicken and Polenta Pot Pies (GOOD WITH HELP)

Saw this one on 30 Minute Meals and it looked pretty good, so I gave it a whirl. As with just about every Rachel Ray recipe, it needed a little bit of help to take it from OK to good.

Here's the link to the original recipe

If there's one thing I've learned on just about every Rachel Ray dish ... they're bland. It's not that they're bad, they just need more seasoning (I imagine her blandness is by design for the mainstream crowd).

So here's my tweaks ...

* Not nearly enough polenta in the recipe, and the polenta that it called for was also incredibly thick (too thick). I added more polenta and more liquid. You certainly don't want the polenta to be soupy since it needs to sit on top of the chicken mixture, but the original result was way too damn thick and borderline pasty and dry.

* Way too much liquid in the chicken mixture. Again, you want the polenta to sit on top of the mixture, and if it's too liquidy there's no way that will happen. I ended up straining off some of the liquid, but next time I'd just use less stock and cream.

* Not enough seasoning. You'll definitely need to add salt and pepper a couple times, and I'd also add fresh tyme next time as well as the tarragon to give it a little more punch.

All in all it was good, but it needed a little minor surgery to get it there.

Lemon-Lime Crockpot Chicken and Acorn Squash(GOOD)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lemon-Lime Crockpot Chicken and Acorn Squash (GOOD)

Fall is here ... so that means Sunday football and Sunday crockpot. This was very simple, but very good. Took a whole chicken (cut up), seasoned it with salt, pepper, and Emeril Essence ... browned it on both sides and threw it in the crockpot. I then added the juice and zest of two lemons and limes each, a half can of cream of celery soup, a couple of chopped cloves or garlic, and about a half cup to a cup of chciken stock (whatever you need to come up about halfway on the chicken).

Cook it in the crockpot until the meat is falling off the bone and serve on a bed of rice. I thickened the juices in a sauce pan with some cornstarch and served that on top. Quite good.

For the squash ... bake squash halves face down on 400 until tender. Let cool a little bit and then scoop out all the squash into a saucepan and add butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Heat through on medium to medium-low.

Fall cooking rules!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Baked Four Cheese and Sausage Ziti (GOOD)

September 9, 2008

Baked Four Cheese and Sausage Ziti (GOOD)

This one's nice and easy, and also works great if you need to feed 4-6 people. I just cook some penne pasta (or whatever you want) for about half the time that the directions call for. I then browned off some ground sausage, and mixed it together with the pasta, some bottled pasta sauce and ricotta, parmesan, mozzerella, and asiago cheese. Toss it in an 8x12 baking dish (spray it with a little cooking spray first) .. sprinkle more cheese on top ... and then baked on 425 until everything is hot and bubbly.

Serve with a garden salad and my favorite toasted bread ... Panne Rustico (which is basically a rosemary ciabatta) sprinkled with some olive oil, black pepper, and Hawaiian red salt. Bake it on 425 as well for about 8-10 minutes until golden brown. If you've never had Hawaiian red salt it's an awesome finishing salt and is great on things like hot bread, salads, and grilled meats.

Black Sauce Chicken Breasts (GOOD)

September 5, 2008

Black Sauce Chicken Breasts (GOOD)

Hey ... look who still had some Black Sauce left over from the weekend BBQ. I marinated two bone-in chicken breasts for a couple hours, and then threw them on the grill for about 25 minutes until they were done, basting them all the way with the rest of the sauce. It was definitely quite good, and the sauce doubled nicely as a marinade (since it's most vinegar and Worcestershire anyway). Side were very basic ... brown rice and green beans.

Click here for the Black Sauce recipe

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Grilled Red Hot Wings and Asian Sticky Wings (VERY GOOD)

September 4th, 2008

Red Hot Wings and Asian Sticky Wings (VERY GOOD)

A great one for company is to grill up a big batch of chicken wings, and then toss them in a couple different interesting sauces for people to try. What makes this great for entertaining is that you can grill the wings earlier in the day, and then just heat them up in the oven with the sauces when it's time to serve.

For grilling the wings I keep it simple ... salt, pepper, and paprika ... the sauce can do the rest. NOTE: I highly recommend paprika when you're grilling things that you want to have a char (wings, steaks, etc.). For whatever reason, paprika makes a great crust on an open flame.

When the wings are done I put them into two different over trays (buy this disposable aluminum ones to avoid any messy cleanup later), and then tossed one tray in a Red Hot Sauce and the other in the Asian Sticky Wing Sauce. When it was time to serve, I put them both under the broiler for a couple minutes to brown up the sauces.

The Red Hot sauce came from a Paula Deen recipe I found. (Click here for the recipe) I will say this ... I did NOT add the butter ... I thought it was plenty good without it and it seemed like it would be too buttery if I added it.

The Asian Sticky Wing sauce is one I came across awhile back, and am definitely a big fan. This time all I did was make the sauce and toss it with my grilled wings, but the full recipe gives you oven directions as well. Here's the recipe ...

Asian Sticky Wings

1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons dark Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 pounds chicken wings, cut in 2 pieces at joint

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease large baking pan.

Combine green onion, honey, soy sauce, chili sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic in large bowl. Add wings; toss to coat. Place wings with sauce in single layer in prepared baking pan. Bake, turning occasionally, 25 minutes or until chicken is evenly browned.

Increase oven temperature to broil. Broil wings 6 inches from heat, turning occasionally, for 8 minutes or until sauce is thick enough to coat back of spoon. Remove wings to platter; spoon sauce over.

BBQ Ribs and Chicken (GETTING THERE)

September 1, 2008

BBQ Ribs and Chicken (GETTING THERE)

Perfecting BBQ in your own home is like searching for the Holy Grail ... it's pretty much a never-ending process. I've just about nailed chicken on the smoker, but my ribs haven't yet turned out the way I've wanted. That being said, this is the closest I've come so far.

My recipes online says you should be able to slow smoke a rack of ribs for about 4 hours and they'll be done. Based on my experience, I say that's a big fat lie. At the four hour mark the ribs are definitely cooked, but I have yet to see them be so tender that they're practically falling off the bone (which is of course what we're all looking for). That being said, leaving them on longer doesn't seem like much of an option, because they're almost sure to start drying out if they stay on the smoker much longer. Enter my tactic this time ... smoke 'em for a while, then finish them in the oven. This way you get the smoky taste and the pink smoke ring, but can also regulate the temperature toward the end and get them to be both tender and most.

So this time I approached both the chicken and ribs the same way ... rub 'em both down with my Four Chile Brown Sugar Rub that I've whipped up ... and then leave them on the smoker for just under 4 hours. At that point I took them both and finished them in the oven on 225 degrees for another hour.

The chicken was about 175-180 degrees when it came off the smoker (185 is ideal), so the hour was ideal. The ribs were good and crusted on the outside when coming off the smoker, but also definitely needed some more TLC to tender up. I wrapped them in foil, making a little pouch, and then put some apple juice in the bottom of the foil pouch to keep them moist. After an hour they were quite tender ... I threw some BBQ sauce on top (Stubb's this time ... I was too lazy to make my own) .. .and hit the broiler for a couple minutes to char.

Both the chicken and ribs were tender and juicy, though I think they could actually come off the smoker a little bit earlier (the ribs were smoked-pink all the way through, which isn't bad, but not ideal). Next time I think I'll try 3 hours (or maybe 3:15) on the smoker, then finish them in the over and see what I get.

Oh ... served the chicken with Black Sauce, which I love. Black Sauce is a blog rerun ... click here for the recipe