Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken

IMG_5851I love some crispy, delicious fried chicken, but the process to cook it at home and the lingering fried food smell is enough to prevent me from doing it very often. This crispy chicken recipe (an Ina Garten) is a much easier substitute, and though it doesn’t result in crispy chicken skin you can eat (my fave), it’s still quite delicious. You get great flavor and a little tang from the white wine/dijon mustard combo, and I’m a huge fan of panko vs. traditional bread crumbs (crunchier, lighter). I served this with some mashed potatoes and green beans with pine nuts.

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IMG_5848TW’s Tips

  • Make this for a dinner party and you can get it ready to pop in the oven and work, so you can take care of the sides/have a drink and socialize.
  • Make sure you do a good job of patting the chicken dry before you start the breading/coating process, so everything sticks sufficiently.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables in cooler weather, or pasta salad/green salad or grilled veggies in the summer.

Enjoy!

Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese bread flakes)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard, such as Grey Poupon
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chicken, cut in eighths

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the garlic, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely minced. Add the panko, lemon zest, olive oil, and butter and pulse a few times to moisten the bread flakes. Pour the mixture onto a large plate. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the mustard and wine.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Dip each piece in the mustard mixture to coat on all sides, and then place skin-side down only into the crumb mixture, pressing gently to make the crumbs adhere. Place the chicken on a sheet pan crumb-side up. Press the remaining crumbs on the chicken pieces.

Bake the chicken for 40 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees F and bake for another 10 minutes, until the crumbs are browned and the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Baked Shrimp Scampi

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Wow, am I delinquent on my posting lately. So, let’s just pretend that didn’t happen and focus on the food!

I’ve had a crazy last month or so, partly due to a wonderful two-week visit from my parents. I made this Barefoot Contessa baked shrimp scampi for dinner soon after they arrived, and along with my aunt and uncle, we gobbled up the whole thing. Yes, the WHOLE thing. The shrimp was buttery and sweet, with a wonderful kick from the shallots and garlic and great crunch from the panko bread crumbs. I served this with a salad and yummy fresh bread — it was perfect, and is definitely a “make-again” in my book.

Shrimp is one of my favorite seafoods, but they can overcooked easily, and end up tough. One of the reasons this dish is so awesome is the shrimp are cooked *just* to the right point where they are tender and sweet and practically melt in your mouth. Squeeze some lemon over it when you serve, and that kick of acid is the perfect finisher.

I recommend this for when you have company — it’s an impressive dish but really easy to prep and takes next to no time to cook, so you’re not torn away from the action for long. Bon appetit!

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

Pappa al Pomodoro, aka Amazing Italian Tomato Soup

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It’s been a rainy few days in San Diego, which doesn’t happen too often. I won’t complain, though — the variety is nice, actually — and regardless, it’s the perfect weather for a nice, warm bowl of soup, which I took advantage of with this awesome pappa al pomodoro. This is a classic Italian recipe — Tuscan to be exact — and was traditionally a way to get rid of that stale bread Italians tend to have hanging around. As you can expect from a classic Italian dish, the flavors are simple but delicious. You’ve got ripe tomatoes (in this case canned San Marzano), onion, carrot, garlic, fennel, basil and red wine, all mixed in with cubes of bread that break down and thicken it up a bit. This version by Barefoot Contessa incorporates a topping that absolutely nailed it for me — toasted bread (basically fresh croutons), pancetta and basil leaves baked in a hot oven and then sprinkled on top. It’s a great crunch with salt from the pancetta and the crispy basil leaves. Awesome.

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I made this with some of the homemade chicken stock I made the other day, which really made a big difference. It’s so nice to be able to control the salt, and I barely had to add any to this! It was so warm and hearty, and the perfect thing for a rainy night. Serve with a salad or a baguette.

TW’s Tips

  • I splurged on San Marzano tomatoes instead of the regular or store brand. I have to say, it was awesome and much sweeter than you would get from the run-of-the-mill brand.
  • I highly recommend pancetta for the topping — bacon as a replacement just won’t cut it.
  • Barefoot Contessa calls for whisking this before serving — personally, I wasn’t a big fan, particularly of the chunks of carrot. So, I just stuck it in the food processor and smoothed it out a bit. Perfect.
  • This makes a lot — as usual, I froze some, which will definitely take me through at least six more servings.

Pappa al Pomodoro

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the topping:

  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
  • 2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the topping, place the ciabatta cubes, pancetta, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine. Reheat the soup, if necessary, beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Serve hot sprinkled with the topping and drizzled with additional olive oil.

Sun-dried Tomato Dip

DipWhen I was home for the holidays, we threw a baby shower for my sister-in-law, who’s due in February. I’m so excited for the arrival of my second niece/nephew! We made waaaay too much food, but it was delicious, and this sun-dried tomato dip was on the menu. It’s a Barefoot Contessa recipe, and it goes great with chips or a vegetable platter — it’s super creamy, with great flavor from the sun-dried tomatoes and scallions and a nice hit of spice from the hot sauce. The best thing — this is super easy to make. I don’t even have any tips for you, except to make sure the cream cheese is room temp to make blending it easier. Quick and easy!

Dip 2

Sun-dried Tomato Dip

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped (8 tomatoes)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise
  • 10 dashes, hot red pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

Directions

Puree the tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, red pepper sauce, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the scallions and pulse twice. Serve at room temperature

Vegetable Lentil Soup

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This weekend I celebrated Christmas with some of my closest girlfriends at my house around my (if-I-don’t-say-so-myself) beautiful Christmas tree, and I needed the perfect homey, warm, comforting meal to go along with it. I settled on a soup — there’s not much better than gathering in a warm house with people you love and a warm bowl of soup.

I picked this vegetable lentil soup from Barefoot Contessa because it sounded like the perfect comfort meal. It’s packed with veggies — carrots, celery, onion, leeks — plus delicious green lentils that make you not miss the meat at all, and cooking it low and slow really brings out the rich flavor. Finish it with a hit of olive oil and grated Parmesan, and you’ve got a bowlful of happiness. I served this with a salad and bread. Super simple and easy.

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The girls loved it! We drank wine, ate our weight in amazing Humboldt Fog cheese, opened our “secret Santa” gifts and did a lot of laughing. The perfect holiday celebration if you ask me!

TW’s Tips

  • When you clean the leeks, chop off the upper 2/3 of tough green and just keep the lower white/light green part. Cut in half and then across making half-moons. Leeks can get sandy and it’s hard to wash out the sand, so throw the half-moons in a medium bowl of water and swish them around to get the sand out. It will settle to the bottom of the bowl and you’ll be spared any gritty bites.
  • Don’t obsess about the size of your vegetable “dice.” Not worth it.
  • I love the finish with red wine vinegar — in fact, I put a tiny splash in each bowl when I serve it, in addition to the two tablespoons you add at the end.
  • When I was eating up the leftovers, I ran out of Parmesan and substituted Pecorino Romano — just as delish.
  • This makes a LOT — I served four of us for dinner, ate it for several nights for leftovers and still had so much that I froze a couple of quart bags of it. They’re the perfect two-serving size, so I can thaw them in the morning and have a great bowl of soup that night.

I love this time of year. And I wish you a warm, family- and friend-filled Christmas!

Vegetable Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound French green lentils
  • 4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 large onions)
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white part only (2 leeks)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil, plus additional for drizzling on top
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups medium-diced celery (8 stalks)
  • 3 cups medium-diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for 10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until the lentils are cooked through. Check the seasonings. Add the red wine and serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Mustard-Roasted Fish, Orange Pecan Wild Rice and Roasted Carrots

This meal was a HUGE winner in my book. I was looking for a fairly easy fish recipe, and found this one from Barefoot Contessa: Mustard-Roasted Fish. I loved that you cook it in the oven (no fishy house smell), and I’m a big fan of mustard, capers and Barefoot Contessa so I went for it.

Now, cooking fish can be scary — it’s so easy to overcook and turn the fish into a tough, chewy disaster. But don’t let that deter you. This is super easy, and when you’re cooking in the oven it’s easy to test the fish a few times to make sure you’re not overcooking it.

So…about this fish. Basically…it was absolutely delicious. It was so moist it practically melted in my mouth, and the sauce on top, made up of creme fraiche, two types of mustard for a great tang, shallots and salty capers, was perfect — creamy yet light, and with such a great mustard flavor. I’m in love with it. I’ll be making this again. Maybe next week. Seriously.

I paired the fish with a fancy wild rice, also by Barefoot Contessa, that incorporates grapes, scallions, orange zest and pecans for some nutty crunch. I’m not a big rice fan — I tend to find it boring unless it’s soaking up some delicious curry sauce — but now that it has been a part of my two latest posts (check out the mango-basmati rice salad in my last post) I realize you may not believe me! Let’s suffice to say that this rice has enough going on to make it interesting. In fact, when my friend Kim and I were eating this, I commented that I could eat the rice on its own for a meal — it was that good.

And then the carrots. I’m a big advocate for roasted vegetables. It adds such a nutty, delicious flavor to the vegetables while keeping a good firmness (no mushy veggies here). They caramelize under the high heat, adding a little sweetness…yum. I didn’t have any parsley or dill (I thought I did, but then I didn’t…bummer) so I used tarragon — not the best replacement, and I would definitely go for dill next time around.

TW’s Tips

  • I was cooking for two, so I cut the recipe in half; even then I still had a couple of meals of leftovers. I also cut the carrot recipe in half, and probably should have done the same with the rice!
  • I used tilapia for my fish — any white fish works. Mine also didn’t have the skin — worked just fine.
  • Buy your wild rice from the bulk section at the grocery store — I got the “mixed” type.
  • Creme fraiche can be hard to find but it’s worth seeking out — Whole Foods reliably carries it (look by the sour cream and/or milk) — nothing quite matches its flavor
Make this! You’ll thank me!
Mustard-Roasted Fish
Ingredients
  • 4 (8-ounce) fish fillets such as red snapper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces creme fraiche
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons drained capers

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. (You can also use an ovenproof baking dish.) Place the fish fillets skin side down on the sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Combine the creme fraiche, 2 mustards, shallots, capers, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish fillets, making sure the fish is completely covered. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it’s barely done. (The fish will flake easily at the thickest part when it’s done.) Be sure not to overcook it! Serve hot or at room temperature with the sauce from the pan spooned over the top.

Orange Pecan Wild Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced in rounds, white and light green parts (2 scallions)
  • 1 cup pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the rice, chicken stock, 1 1/4 cups water, 1 tablespoon butter, and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover the pot and lower the heat to simmer (pull the pan halfway off the burner if you need to) and cook for about 1 hour, until the rice is tender and the grains begin to burst open. Stir the rice occasionally while it’s cooking, scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent it from sticking. Turn off the heat, and allow the rice to steam for about 5 minutes.

Stir the remaining tablespoon of butter into the rice, then add the grapes, scallions, pecans, orange zest, orange juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper and toss well. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.

Roasted Carrots

Ingredients

  • 12 carrots
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill or parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

If the carrots are thick, cut them in half lengthwise; if not, leave whole. Slice the carrots diagonally in 1 1/2-inch-thick slices. (The carrots will shrink while cooking so make the slices big.) Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a sheet pan in 1 layer and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until browned and tender.

Toss the carrots with minced dill or parsley, season to taste, and serve.