Piling on the Kudos for Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Braised with Milk and Lemon

Milk Braised Chicken

It’s impossible to resist this recipe. There’s an article over at Kitchn titled the “Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk is Probably The Best Chicken Recipe of All Time“; a good friend (aka the Hungry Dog) — a person I trust 200% in all matters food-related — swears by it; and it has even shown up in my email box at least once with a note from Simran saying, “please make this and invite me over!”. So I finally cooked up some of this irresistible chicken, or rather threw it together one night when I found myself staring blankly into the refrigerator wishing it was someone else’s turn to make dinner. The verdict: this is as tasty as advertised, especially given the extra liberties I took (no sage, forgot the cinnamon stick, chicken pieces instead of whole…). What can I say? This is just one more reason to love Jamie Oliver. Continue reading

Warm Yourself Up on a Chilly December Day: Chickpea and Rosemary Soup

Growing up, my family fell into an informal tradition of soup night once a week. There would be a big pot of my dad’s soup going on the stove and a spread of bread, cheese and cold cuts and usually a crisp green salad of some sort. I looked forward to these meals in my parent’s cozy kitchen almost more than any other. My dad is quite a good soup maker, he never uses a recipe and is able to coax out an impossible amount of flavor from the ingredients at hand. Watching him at the soup pot brings Mr. Miyagi to mind, so I guess that makes me the karate kid?

This soup is just about the perfect thing you can eat with a nice piece of crusty bread on a chilly December day (hey it actually dipped below 50 degrees here this week!). It’s savory with tomatoes and garlic, herb-y from the rosemary and has just a touch of chickpea sweetness. My little ones don’t favor terribly chunky soups, so these days I puree about third of the soup then return it to the pot, and might even mash some of the remaining whole chickpeas in their bowls. Give it a try, it’s one of our all time favorites.

Chickpea and Rosemary Soup

(adapted from the recipe in Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”)

  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • leaves from two sprigs of rosemary, chopped finely
  • 1 – 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 – 15 ounce cans chickpeas
  • 1 quart chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth if you want to keep it vegetarian)
  • Salt to taste
  • small piece of Parmegiano Reggiano rind (optional)
  1. Saute garlic and rosemary, and a big pinch of salt. Cook until the garlic is softened and golden.
  2. Add the tomatoes (breaking them up a bit more with the back of a spoon). Stir well and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes
  3. Add the chickpeas, stir well and simmer 10 minutes
  4. Add broth and simmer for at least 15 minutes. For extra flavor, throw in a small piece of parmegiano reggiano rind.
  5. Remove the cheese rind and discard. Ladle about a third of the soup into a blender or food processor. (Beware of pureeing hot food because it can spray out, so let it cool before proceeding). Puree and return it to the pot, stirring well.
  6. Adjust the seasoning and enjoy with a piece of crusty french bread.

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Guest Post: Mac & Cheese Pancakes

Emily from Fuss Free Cooking who wrote the post below for her blog and is generously sharing it with us, is one of my favorite bloggers.  Almost everything she puts up on her blog I love and want to try out.  That might be because her cooking philosophy is a lot like mine.  She is Malaysian and lives in Australia (both amazing foodie countries in my opinion) and takes some pretty mouth-watering photos.  If you have a moment, do check out her blog.  She just posted a Panko Crusted Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich recipe which is genius and looks ridiculously yummy!  Emily seems to be on a comfort food roll and I don’t want her to stop.

The recipe below caught my attention and I thought it would be a perfect one to share on our little blog.  Take two things children (and adults) love – pancakes and mac & cheese and combine them!  Why didn’t I think of this one?  These could work very well for brunch, a birthday party or a school lunch.  I cannot wait to try them out.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese Pancakes by Emily at Fuss Free Cooking

When I think of comfort food, I cannot help but to think of mac ‘n’ cheese. Oh mac ‘n’ cheese, you are so full of calories and yet I’m unable to turn you down! Under a layer of crusty burnt cheese lies the creamy and rich melted cheese and macaroni – how can one turn down such a wonderful meal?

Even though mac ‘n’ cheese is perfect as it is, every so often, I feel the need to shake things up a little. Hence the following equation:-
Mac ‘n’ Cheese + Pancake Batter = Mac ‘n’ Cheese Pancakes

The only tweak to the original recipe is that I’ve added some frozen mixed vegetables. This is mainly to add color to the pancakes and perhaps also to balance the starchiness of the pancakes. If you’re not a veggie person, finely chopped ham or bacon could compliment the pancakes too.

(tweaked slightly from “Eat Me” by Kenny Shopsin and Carolynn Carreno)
Makes about 14 3-inch round pancakes

Neutral flavoured cooking oil (i.e. canola, vegetable, peanut or sunflower oil) to grease the pan
3 cups plain/vanilla flavoured pancake batter
1 cup cooked elbow macaroni (or any small pasta), tossed with olive oil and warmed
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar
A handful of frozen mixed vegetables, blanched in boiling hot water & drained
1. Set the pan over moderate heat. Pour a thin layer of oil in the pan.
2. When the pan is hot (not smoking hot), adjust the heat to low. Drop the batter in 2-inch circles (it’s going to expand to about a full 3-inch circle).
3. Arrange the pasta and mixed vegetables over the batter and only add the cheese when the bubbles appear on the batter.
4. Using a spatula, turn the pancakes quickly and tap gently to make the pancake uniform in thickness.
5. Cook until the cheese is melted and golden (which takes about 1-2 minutes). Repeat step 2 to 5 for the remaining batter.
6. Serve macaroni-side up with butter and warm maple syrup or ketchup.

A Food Hug: Tomato Soup

Summer in San Francisco means lots of fog, but it still means lots of tomatoes. We snap up early girl tomatoes at the beginning of the season and grab cheap boxes of “ugly” tomatoes at the farmers’ market at the end of the season in late September/October. After a bumper backyard crop last year, Luca and I made a go at growing our our own again this summer, but the unusually cool summer has taken its toll.  [BTW: for you gardeners, it’s too late to plant this year, here’s a great guide from Love Apple Farm on growing tomatoes for your future reference.]

Seems like tomatoes show up on our table just about everyday during their season. We love them in salads, sandwiches and sauces. We stock our freezer with homemade conserva di pomodoro (tomato paste) and  the ultimate simple sauce Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion. If you haven’t tried this recipe, you must. Using fresh or canned tomatoes, it’s great as is — especially on gnocchi. And because it’s so simple you can use it as a flavorful base for other pasta sauces. [I usually use a little less butter and rough chop fresh tomatoes, removing the seeds and skin by passing the sauce through a food mill after it’s cooked. My husband and son prefer a less chunky sauce which is another reason I like the food mill. Using fresh tomatoes will require more cooking time because of the higher water content].

We also make sure to cook up as many batches of  tomato soup as we can. It’s become a summertime tradition. For my family, it’s the perfect comfort food especially with a grilled cheese sandwich — and it puts a smile on our faces on even the foggiest summer day. I shared some with a friend recently, and she served it cold, sort of gazpacho-like, which is an interesting idea.

Classic Tomato Soup

This is a hybrid of various recipes we’ve tried over the years. We like the combination of roasted and fresh tomatoes. It’s very tomato-y and the brandy gives it a nice boost.

  1. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Slice 2 pounds of tomatoes and lay them on the cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt and a little sugar, then drizzle with olive oil. Roast in a 375 oven for 30 minutes or until the tomatoes are a bit wrinkled and the much of their moisture has cooked out. Set aside.
  2. Saute 1-2 large shallots in butter in a large pot, then add a small pinch of ground allspice.
  3. Add 2 pounds of sliced (uncooked) tomatoes to the shallots, then add the roasted tomatoes, and enough chicken of vegetable stock to cover (about 6 cups).
  4. Simmer on low for an hour or so.
  5. Put the soup through a fine setting on a food mill, which will strain out the skins. You could use a blender, too.
  6. Return to the stove and taste for seasoning, adding salt or pepper to taste. Swirl in a TBL or sherry and 1/4 cup of half and half or cream.

Happy Lemon Risotto

The crazier life gets, the more I am won over by the versatility and ease of risotto. It’s serious comfort food, endlessly adaptable and an old standby that can be pulled together last minute with ingredients I almost always have in my pantry (arborio rice, chicken stock, an onion, a hunk of parmegiano reggiano) and jazzed up with a few bits of whatever else is around. While stove-side stirring is required, it somehow feels less stressful than recipes that require a lot of chopping or ingredients…. or thinking!

Before I get to some notes on risotto, here are three of our favorite variations:

  • Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, Peas — Some Diced Roast Chicken or Sauteed Shrimp Would Be Nice!
  • Crumbled Sausage; a Can of Crushed Tomatoes Mixed with Broth for the Cooking Liquid; Fresh Spinach for Garnish (chiffonade)
  • Roasted Garlic; Toasted Sliced Almonds & a Dollop of Mascarpone (gotta give credit to Jamie Oliver for this one. Here’s his recipe)

Stacie’s Risotto Crib Sheet:

  1. Bring your stock to a simmer (you’ll need ~2.5 cups for every cup of uncooked arborio rice). [Since I had some asparagus I wanted to use up, I just trimmed it and blanched it right in the stock for 2-3 minutes until tender crisp, then set it aside.]
  2. Saute some finely diced onion and celery in olive oil until softened. Add the uncooked arborio rice to the pan and saute for several minutes until it starts looking less chalky and more translucent.
  3. If you have some available, add a splash of white wine (1/2 cup or so) and let it completely absorb before starting to add the stock (if you don’t have any, you can skip it without sacrificing too much). Then, start adding the warm stock one ladle at a time, stirring until the liquid is completely absorbed between each addition. My Italian cooking guru Marcella Hazan says to start checking the rice for done-ness after about 20 minutes.
  4. When you’re getting close to your preferred done-ness, add your goodies [in this case the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 1.5 lemons, a handful of frozen peas which I didn’t bother defrosting].
  5. Off heat stir in a generous amount of grated parmeggiano and a little pat of butter if it strikes your fancy. Taste taste taste and correct your seasonings. [I scattered my blanched asparagus on top. For a little zip, I also garnished with some finely chopped chives, crispy fried sage leaves (nice for texture and takes the intensity way down), a little squeeze of lemon and drizzle of good olive oil.]

Unfortunately, my little one objects to most green foods lately and picked around the peas & asparagus with determination– even after we made happy face bites on our forks — but my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this dinner of creamy, lemony, comfort food yumminess which we enjoyed with some crispy fish fillets and sauteed asparagus. Yum yum good!