Saturday, May 29, 2010

Beef Burgundy, Banks! and Creamy-Dreamy Mashed Potatoes

First of all, Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Please remember that it's not just an excuse to have an extra day off of work or a way to mark when the pools open (though both have us feeling extra relaxed this weekend).

After watching Julie and Julia (the movie) with my husband a couple months ago (and loving it!), I decided to read the book ("Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking of Dangerously"). Now, I definitely enjoyed Julie Powell's writing style, but I didn't take to her character as much in the book as I did in the movie. I digress. After all of the  cooking inspiration, I decided to try my hand at Beef Burgundy (aka "beef bourguignonne"), a French classic. The Creamy-Dreamy Mashed Potatoes were a no-brainer when I saw them in the same cookbook ("Bride and Groom: First and Forever Cookbook).

Side note: For once, this recipe actually serves 4 (normal-sized adults).

Ingredients for Beef Burgundy:

  • 4 bacon slices, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless beef stew meat, such as beef chuck or bottom round, cut into 1" cubes
  • 8 oz. cremini or shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and quartered (if using shiitakes, discard stems) - *or, if you're anything like me, avoid the fungus like the nasty it is. ::shivers::
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 C good-quality red wine, such as Burgundy
  • 3 C beef broth (not double strength)
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • fresh rosemary sprig (4" long)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 20 packaged, peeled baby carrots
  • 1 C fresh pearl onions, peeled, or frozen petite whole onions, thawed
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnishing
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Fry the bacon in an ovenproof 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until lightly browned and slightly crisp, about 4 minutes.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the pot.
  4. Set the pot over high heat. Add the meat and cook until browned on all sides.

  1. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms (ick), onion, and pepper.
  2. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the wine, broth, tomato paste, rosemary, bay leaf, brown sugar, and bacon.

     

  4. Stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. (Note: I did NOT read the recipe ahead of time ::hangs head in shame:: The good news is this does just fine if you don't have an ovenproof pot. Just leave the lid on and continue on with the directions.)
  6. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. 
  7. Remove the pot from the oven (or remove the lid) and add the carrots and pearl onions.
  8. Bake, uncovered, until the carrots and meat are tender, about 30 minutes more. 
  9. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
Wake up Sleeping Beauty, er, your sous-chef. 


 
Advise him to pay very close attention. (You may have dripped a little burgundy-goodness his way.)

Ingredients for Creamy-Dreamy Mashed Potatoes:
  • kosher salt
  • 2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
  • 3/4 C heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 C milk, plus more as needed
  • 1 C (2 oz.) grated white cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp grated onion, plus more as needed 
  • freshly ground black pepper
Directions:
  1. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with salted water. 
  2. Bring just to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pieced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the cream, butter and the 1/4 C milk in a small saucepan over medium heat or in the microwave.
  4. While the potatoes are still hot, press them through a potato ricer or mash with a potato masher or large fork.


  5. Return the potatoes to the large saucepan and fold in the warm cream mixture, then the cheese and the 2 tsp onion.
  6. Season with kosher salt and pepper and more onion to taste, thinning with additional milk to the desired consistency. 
Et voila!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mexican Chicken Salad with Taco-Ranch Dressing

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been out of the house a lot here lately. While the Simple Spaghettini with Blistered Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic and Toasted Breadcrumbs at Sequoia (in downtown DC) was light and refreshing and the "Dos Enchiladas" (roasted chicken rolled in corn tortillas with mexican cheeses and
two sauces; tomatillo verde and mole poblano) at Dos Caminos (in the Venetian in Las Vegas) was rich and creamy, I really just needed to cook myself dinner, free of any hot lamps and/or pre-processed additives.



I create my weekly menu Monday mornings and all I could think of today was making something fresh. Thus, I give you: Mexican Chicken Salad with Taco-Ranch Dressing (serves two, courtesy of the Bride and Groom: First and Forever cookbook). Note: You could always cut the chicken and try this vegetarian style.




Ingredients for Taco-Ranch Dressing:

  • 1/3 C mayonnaise (hands down, Miracle Whip is the way I'd go)
  • 1/3 C buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Ingredients for Chicken:
  • 2 tsp taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (~ 6 oz. each)
  • 1 tbsp canola oil (I use vegetable)
Ingredients for Salad:
  • (1) 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped into 3/4" pieces
  • 1 plum tomato, cut into wedges
  • 1 tsp taco seasoning
  • 4 C chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 C crumbled tortilla chips
  • 1/4 C fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 lime wedges
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

To make the taco-ranch dressing:
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes.

To prepare the chicken:
Mix the taco seasoning, onion powder and kosher salt in a small bowl. Season the chicken on both sides with the spice mixture and brush with the canola oil. Place the chicken on the prepared baking sheet and bake until opaque in the center, 15 to 20 minutes. 

To make the salad:
Combine the beans, avocado, tomato and taco seasoning in a large bowl and toss gently. Add the lettuce, chips and cilantro. Add 1/2 C of the dressing and toss, adding additional dressing if necessary. 


Divide between two plates. Slice the chicken and fan on top of the salads. Garnish each with a lime wedge.

 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Orecchiette with Broccoli & Chickpeas

With friends visiting from Florida, one "day of rest" (come on, though, we all know how crazy the day before travel is) and then a wild weekend in Vegas, I've been busy, busy, busy! I'll have to keep it short 'n' sweet (wait, no, healthy!) tonight as I'm still adjusting to the time change, lack of groceries, and the idea of having to let my husband go back to work in the morning.

I found this recipe on EatingWell.com (April/May 2006: "Eating Well Serves Two") in hopes of creating a low-cal dish (hey, I knew I'd have to wear a bathing suit and cocktail dress in Vegas ...). It's tasty, quick and easy. Oh, and healthy! Double up on everything if you want leftovers or have a hungry hippo at the table.

Side note: Happy 1st Anniversary to my hungry hippo, sous chef (jk!), and favorite food critic. :)

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. orecchiette, or chicciole (about 1 1/2 C)
  • 1/2 bunch broccoli rabe, ends trimmed and cut into 2" pieces (regular broccoli chopped up is fine, too, if you don't have rabe on-hand or can't find it at the store)
  • 3/4 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary, or 1/8 tsp dried
  • (1) - 8 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Directions:
  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Cook pasta for 6 minutes. Add broccoli and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pasta and broccoli are just tender, about 3 minutes more. Drain. Rinse and dry the pot.



  2. Whisk broth and flour in a small bowl. Heat oil in the pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to1 minute.



  3. Whisk in the broth mixture. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, until it thickens. 
  4. Add chickpeas, vinegar, salt, pepper and the pasta mixture. Cook stirring constantly, until heated through and coated with the sauce, about 2 minutes.
 

Et voila!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Marinated Grilled Flank Steak with BLT-Smashed Potatoes

I first tried this recipe (from Rachael Ray's "All-Occasion" cookbook) on my husband nearly a year ago. We don't have our outdoor grill here (since we're confined to apartment living for a little longer). We also didn't have a grill pan yet. So, as goofy as it sounds, my very first attempt at this was literally "grilled flank steak" in a T-Fal non-stick skillet (thanks, Mom!).

The second time I made this, my littlest brother and baby sister were visiting from Texas. Now, I know kids can be fickle about their food, but when I suggested steak and potatoes, they were both emphatic about trying it. At the time, our humble little abode didn't even have couches, so we sat indian-style* around the coffee table and as I presented dinner to them, their eyes lit up. My brother genuinely looked stunned. And, in typical "DD" fashion, said, "Kaylie. This is, like, gourmet." My heart could hardly stand it. :) Needless to say, the boy ate nearly the whole bowl of potatoes. If you've got hungry hippos at your table, I definitely recommend doubling this.

*In writing Indian-style, I found myself, for the first time, really thinking about the phrase. It didn't sound right so I Googled it and an "understandingprejudice.org" site popped up. I won't get into it, but I'm a little surprised that I never thought twice about the common occurrence of the term "Indian-style." Wiki says that many Europeans use the term "Turkish-style." I may have to force myself to say "cross-legged," but I'll try.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp grill seasoning blend, such as Montreal Seasoning by McCormick
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, ground chipotles, chili powder or ground cumin
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper sauce, such as Frank's Red hot or Tabasco
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 C EVOO, plus a drizzle
  • 1.5 lbs flank steak
  • 1.5 lbs small new red-skinned potatoes
  • 1 leek, trimmed of tough tops
  • 4 (I prefer 6) slices thick-cut smoky bacon, such as applewood-smoked bacon, chopped
  • 1 small can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes, well-drained
  • 1/2 C sour cream, half-and-half or chicken broth (I prefer sour cream or half-and-half)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Directions:
  1. Mix garlic, grill seasoning, paprika, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and 1/3 C EVOO in a shallow dish. Place meat in dish and coat it evenly in marinade. Let stand 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cut larger potatoes in half; leave very small potatoes whole. Place potatoes in a small pot and cover with water. Cover pot. Bring water to a boil, remove lid, then cook potatoes until tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
  3. Heat a grill pan or cast-iron pan over high heat.
  4. Cut leek in half lengthwise. Chop into 1/2" pieces. Place leeks in a bowl of water and swish, separating the layers, to release the dirt. Drain leeks in a colander or strainer.
  5. Grill flank steak on hot pan; 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare to medium, and 6 or 7 minutes on each side for medium-well.



  6. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of EVOO and the bacon. Cook bacon until it begins to crisp and has rendered most of its fat, 3 to 5 minutes. Add leeks and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and heat them through, 1 minute.
  7. Drain potatoes and return them to the hot pot. Smash potatoes with sour cream (half-and-half or chicken broth) and the BLT (bacon, leeks, and tomatoes). Season with salt and pepper.



  8. Remove flank steak from grill and let it sit a few minutes before slicing. Thinly slice meat on an angle, cutting against the grain. Serve sliced flank steak next to BLT tomatoes.


    Et voila!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Skillet Gnocchi with Chard and White Beans

When I was planning last week's menu, I wanted to make sure that we could pack in a good amount of healthy goodness. What, with my first spin class and a week full of other good fitness fun, it was important to up the fiber and protein intake. And, of course, it had to be tasty since all I really wanted was a chocolate bar and caramel frappuccino.

My fix? This dish, found over at EatingWell.com, is a great low-cal, vegetarian dish. The best way I can describe the taste is that it's like pizza. Through vegetables. The beans and gnocchi channel the doughy consistency and taste. The mozzarella and basil just set the whole thing off. And the best part? You can make this whole dish literally in ONE dish! Great for weeknight cooking when you don't want to waste more time cleaning up in the kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp EVOO, divided
  • (1) - 16 oz. pkg shelf-stable gnocchi
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C water
  • 6 C chopped chard leaves (about 1 small bunch), or spinach


  • (1) - 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, Italian-style
  • (1) - 15 oz. can white beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 C shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 C finely shredded Parmesan cheese (or grated if that's what you keep on-hand)
Directions:
  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook, stirring often, until plumbed and starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Add the remaining 1 tsp oil and onion to the pan to cook, stirring, over medium heat, for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and water. Cover and cook until the onion is soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Add chard (or spinach) and cook, stirring, until starting to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. 
  3. Stir in tomatoes, beans and pepper and bring to a simmer.




  4. Stir in the gnocchi and sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. 
  5. Cover and cook until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 3 minutes.

Et voila!


Shared here: 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Angela's Awesome Enchiladas

(I've got an awfully sleepy husband and pup lounging around the house so this'll have to be short-n-sweet. I like to stock up on as much Sunday-night cuddling as I can get!)

Cinco de Mayo was last week and what better way for us (personally) to celebrate the Mexican army's victory over the French than to feed a small army of Marines! :) I had spent the day out and about with some of my girlfriends doing "social work" (as we told the sommelier at the winery after a morning of antique-ing). After nearly two hours in the car on the way back home, I was more than nervous about preparing a meal I had never made before for a couple of my husband's colleagues that I had never met before either.

Like usual, this recipe (from AllRecipes.com) is awesome. (How could it not be with 546 reviews and an average of 4.5/5 stars?!) Quick and easy with just enough ingredients to keep it tasty without being cost-ineffective for "Mexican night." This is another one to definitely try on a weeknight to change things up!

(Prep time: 45 minutes. Cook time: 1 hour. Ready in:  1 hour, 45 minutes.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • (1) - 10.75 oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 1/4 C sour cream (reduced if you want, but fat free never has the "oomph" I like)
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • (1) - 4 oz. can chopped green chilies, drained
  • 1 pkg. mild taco seasoning mix
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped and divided
  • 1 C water
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • (6) - 12" flour tortillas
  • 3 C shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • (1) - 10 oz. can enchilada sauce
Directions:
  1. Place the chicken in a large pot and add water to cover. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the chicken pieces are no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Shred chicken by placing two forks back to back and pulling apart. Set the shredded chicken aside. 
  2. Meanwhile, combine the cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and chili powder in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, then turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.


  3. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, chopped green chilies, taco seasoning, half the bunch of chopped green onion, and water. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice, onion powder, and garlic powder; simmer for an additional 10 minutes.


  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir 1 C of the soup mixture into the skillet with the chicken mixture. Spread the remaining soup mixture on the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish.
  5. Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the chicken before folding the tortillas, reserving half of the shredded cheese for chopping the enchiladas. Fold tortillas over the filling and place seam-side down in the prepared baking dish.

  6. Pour enchilada sauce evenly over the enchiladas. Cover with the remaining 1 1/2 C cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the reserved chopped green onions on top of the cheese.


  7. Bake in preheated oven until filling is heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 25 minutes. 
Serve with tortilla chips, salsa, fresh guacamole and Mexican beer. (We like Dos Equis and Corona.) 

Oh, and I apologize for forgetting to snap a shot of the finished dish ... maybe that'll be the encouragement you need to try it and see your own cheesy, bubbling goodness! 

Coffee Table Book: Julie Powell's "Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously"

Oh, how to begin a book review on my mostly-food blog about a book about cooking and food-blogging? I feel like anything I say could be construed as cliche or just mimicking thoughts from the book, so, here goes nothing:

 I picked this book up after I had watched the movie with my husband. What I loved most about the book was the same thing I loved most about the movie: the honesty and wit. An openly miserable (apparently mostly bored/aimless) soon-to-be thirty-year-old city-slicker, Julie Powell picks up her mother's copy of  Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and, with very little thought, decides to prepare every single dish listed in the cookbook in her tiny apartment. In a year. And blog the whole way through it.

With what appears to be an almost even split between successes and epic failures, Julie's experiences in the kitchen are usually replete with profanities and gimlets (ice-cold vodka and Rose's lime juice combined). Her husband seems be her bartender, dishwasher, guinea pig and Valium-equivalent in the household. It's his support that takes enough edge off to let her focus on her project.

While she never met Julia Child, Julie speaks about hearing and feeling Julia in her mind - a pretty amazing thing to occur considering her only connections would be the cookbook itself and the DVDs of her old TV show "The French Chef."

A few things I was displeased with in/about the book:

  • The use of Paul Child's (Julia Child's husband) letters. While I'm sure she was trying to draw the line between her story and Julia's, I just didn't get anything from them and was more bugged when I came upon his letters scattered throughout the book.
  • Julie's disassociation from 9/11 in general (very much so on page 68). 
  • Julie's choice not to include or go into much detail about how she so quickly "rose to fame," if you will. I would have liked to hear more about how it happened so quickly, how her friends/family reacted, what it meant for her, etc.
Conclusion: I thought the book was great: very well-written and attention-keeping when it's not grabbing. A lot of interesting (to say the least) recipes that sound nothing but fabulous when described in French. A lot of funny interactions between Julie and her food, husband and friends/family. And, mostly, a lot of motivation. Who couldn't use some of that in the kitchen or in life? 

P.S. I should mention that Julie began blogging in August 2002 (marking the beginning of her project) and quit in December of 2003. If you'd like to check out the original, and I highly recommend it, click here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fettuccine with Peas, Asparagus and Bacon

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When I was trying to come up with a Christmas List (or what should be called the "Things-I-don't-really-need-but-you're-asking-me-for-ideas-list-so-here-goes, it seems) last holiday season, I ended up getting excited about the possibility of actually getting something off of said list: foodie magazines. (Ok, and the chocolate/gold "Audrey" Coach purse below that I'd been stealthily caressing at the base exchange, but that's neither here-nor-there.)

I digress. My sister-in-law and her husband were kind enough to have subscribed me and hubby to a year's worth of Bon Appetit! When the first one came in the mail in February, opening the plastic wrapping was like opening a Wonkabar during the time of golden tickets. It was my first food magazine and the whole thing new and exciting: recipes with gorgeous accompanying pictures, restaurant reviews and, my personal favorite, the kind of "How'd They Do That?" section based on reader inquiries about restaurant dishes they've tried and want to recreate at home, sometimes with the exact recipe and sometimes with Bon Appetit's best guess.

After four months of magazines came, it was finally time to try one out. Now, that may sound like I was dragging my feet, but some of the recipes can be a little daunting, especially for a newbie like me. When I saw the cover of the May 2010 issue, I knew it was time. The bacon and asparagus were calling my name...

I was pleasantly surprised by the lemon's ability to take on a key role in the dish. It was a yummy medley of summer veggies, pasta and the ever-popular with one particular constant guest at Cafe Groenhout, bacon. Easy to prepare and in under an hour, I definitely recommend trying this one on a weeknight!

Ingredients:
  • 12 oz. fettuccine (or penne)
  • 3 oz. bacon (or pancetta if you're feeling authentic), chopped
  • 1 1/4 lbs. asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1" pieces
  • 2 C shelled fresh green peas, blanched 1 minute in boiling water, drained (or unthawed frozen peas or, my cheat-cheat, canned peas)
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts separated from the dark green parts
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/2 C finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
  • 1/3 C heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 1/4 C thinly sliced fresh basil, divided
Directions:
  1. Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to the bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 C pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.
  2. Meanwhile, cook bacon (or pancetta) in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon (pancetta) to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tsp drippings from skillet. Add asparagus to drippings in skillet; saute 3 minutes. Add peas, white and pale green parts of green onions, and garlic; saute until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.


  3. Add vegetable mixture, 1/4 C pasta cooking liquid, dark green parts of green onions, 1/2 C Parmesan, cream, EVOO, lemon juice, lemon peel, half of parsley, half of basil to pasta. Toss, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoons if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle bacon (pancetta), remaining parsley, and basil over. Serve, passing additional Parmesan cheese.

Et voila!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chicken in Tarragon Cream Sauce, White and Wild Rice with Walnuts

Last Thursday, hungry husband and I needed to fix a fast dinner before our six-hour road trip down to the Outer Banks (a.k.a. my third home-sweet-home, second only to my family's river community Fairview Beach in King George, VA). Now, I'm all for a quicky corndog when I'm pushed for time, but seeing as how I was about to enjoy a weekend full of, well, junk food, I figured I'd squeeze in one more home-cooked meal.

This dish is one of both of our favorite's. Not only is it packed with flavor, it's so quick and easy. We usually have most of the ingredients on hand already, too, which puts that sweet maraschino cherry right on top!

(From Rachael Ray's Classic 30-Minute Meals cookbook.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg (5-7 oz.) white and wild rice, chicken or herb flavor
  • 2 tbsp EVOO (twice around the pan)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 C balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 C heavy cream, half-and-half, or sour cream (I prefer the first or second)
  • 4 or 5 sprigs fresh tarragon, leaves stripped and chopped
  • 1 pkg (2 oz. or 1/4 C) chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional) 
Directions:
  1. Toast walnuts. (Make sure to remove from pan when done as leaving them in will keep them cooking.)


  2. Start cooking rice according to package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add EVOO, then chicken, and season with salt and pepper. Brown and cook chicken 5 minutes on each side.
  4. Transfer chicken to a plate and cover. Reduce heat under skillet a bit.
  5. Add vinegar and water; scrape up pan drippings.
  6. Stir in tomato paste, cream and tarragon. Remove skillet from heat.


  7. Toss cooked rice with nuts and parsley. Slice chicken on an angle and arrange on a bed of rice. Top with sauce and serve.
Et voila!

P.S. It wouldn't be kind of me to just tell you how I got to leave city life behind for five days of shrieking seagulls, salty air and sandy toes without sharing just a little bit with you, so I leave you this evening with