Braised Chicken 
Thighs with Marinated Artichokes
 and Blackened Carrots

img_7695I love comfort food, but I also love some big, bold flavors, and this recipe for Braised Chicken 
Thighs with Marinated Artichokes
 and Blackened Carrots is right up that alley. Both of these beautiful dishes are from Food & Wine, and I whipped it up for my friend April and I for a weeknight catch-up. We were in heaven!

The chicken was absolutely divine — you brown and crisp up the skin in a skillet and then braise the thighs in the oven for an hour, so they are super juicy and fall right off the bone. I especially love braising olives and artichokes — it makes them so tender and sweet, and they absorb up the great flavor from the artichoke brine, garlic, sherry, lemon and fish sauce. It’s an amazing combo of acid, umami, salty and rich from the olive oil in the brine.

Look how beautiful that is!

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And the carrots! These were amazing — and it’s a must to make them with super fresh farmers market carrots, preferably smaller ones so they cook through faster. These are coated in an awesome spice mix including paprika, cayenne, garlic and oregano and topped with a vinaigrette of balsamic and honey. Wow, so much flavor happening and you get such a great sweetness from roasting them through in the oven. I could eat these as a meal on their own!

 

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TW’s Tips

  • When you eat the chicken, make up a bite that has a little bit of everything happening — chicken, olive, artichoke and lemon. Yes, lemon. Cut the entire slices, rind and all, into pieces and eat them — it’s such an awesome hint of bitterness alongside the other flavors. If you love tart, you will loooove this.
  • When the chicken is done, squeeze the garlic cloves out of the head of garlic and smash them up a bit in the sauce so you get that flavor all mixed in too.
  • I could have gone even heavier on artichokes in this one — don’t be afraid to add more.
  • I served this straight up, but you could definitely put it over rice to soak up some of the yummy sauce.
  • The carrots are blackened, so you may stir up quite a bit of smoke in the cooking of these — I sure did. And with all the spices, I was sneezing like crazy! Fair warning: open a window, turn on the hood and get the air moving around in the kitchen for these puppies — it’s worth it.
  • Don’t bother cutting of the ends of the carrots, just wash them well.

Enjoy!

Braised Chicken 
Thighs with Marinated Artichokes

Ingredients

  • 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (3 3/4 pounds)
  • Sea salt and pepper (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 15 ounces marinated artichoke hearts, plus 1/4 cup brine from the jar
  • 1 cup Castelvetrano olives
  • 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1/2 cup semidry sherry, such as amontillado
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. In a large cast-iron skillet or black steel pan, heat the oil. Add half of the chicken skin side down and top the pieces (not the pan) with a pot lid; cook over moderate heat until browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer skin side up to a large baking dish. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Scatter the artichoke hearts, olives, garlic, lemon slices and thyme in the baking dish.

Pour off the fat from the skillet. Add the artichoke brine, stock, sherry and fish sauce; bring to a boil. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt, then pour the mixture around the chicken. Cover tightly with foil and braise in the oven for 1 hour, until the chicken is very tender.

Uncover and increase the oven temperature to 400°. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes longer, until the skin is crisp.

Discard the thyme. Transfer to plates and serve.

Blackened Carrots

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 pounds medium carrots, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a small bowl, whisk the paprika with the oregano, cayenne and garlic powder. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 2 minutes, until the spices are fragrant.

Put the butter in a shallow bowl. Dip the cut side of each carrot in the butter and then coat in the spice mixture, pressing to help the spices adhere; transfer to a plate.

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the canola oil until shimmering. Working in batches if necessary, add the carrots cut side down in a single layer and season with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat until blackened on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 12 to 15 minutes, until the carrots are just tender.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the vinegar and honey. Whisk in the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Transfer the carrots to a platter and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Pantry Pasta

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Nothing beats a meal you can whip up in under an hour from what you have in your cupboard. Admittedly, this probably ges a little beyond the cupboard for most people, but it’s a really simple list of ingredients, and what you don’t have you can easily pick up at the market.

I’m sort of obsessed with all the awesome flavors going on in this dish from Bon Appetit. First, there’s olives — and Castelvetrano have to be some of my favorites. They’re more mild than your traditional green olive, with a little sweetness to them. I pop them like candy (or the candy corn pumpkins I’ve been gorging on lately…I digress). We’ve got cherry tomatoes, a little red onion, and some spicy peperoncini, then some salty Pecorino cheese on top and fresh basil, and the delicious meatiness of the sweet Italian sausage. So. Much. Happening. And sooo delicious.

I love that the sauce for this pasta is so simple — it’s just the liquid that comes from smashing the tomatoes, a little oil and butter and the pasta cooking liquid. Because there’s so much going on here, it’s the perfect way to make sure the dish doesn’t get overwhelming and allows the flavors to stand on their own. And stand they do.

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TW’s Tips

  • I used fresh cherry tomatoes — make sure they burst in the pan to give it some juiciness
  • Instead of spaghetti I substituted penne — or use any pasta
  • Use fresh basil — store it on your counter with the stem in a glass of water
  • Really seek out the Castelvetrano olives. Most high end grocery stores will have them either in an olive bar or pre-packed in the olive/cheese section.

This reheats beautifully. I can’t wait to make it again. Enjoy!

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Pantry Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • ½ medium red onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup torn pitted olives, preferably Castelvetrano
  • 1 14-ounce can cherry tomatoes
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup peperoncini, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces Pecorino or Parmesan, finely grated, divided
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup torn basil

Directions

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook sausage, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, browned, and crisp in places, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl with a slotted spoon. Reduce heat to medium; add onion and olives to skillet. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, mashing tomatoes lightly and stirring often, until juices are slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Add pasta and ¾ cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and cook, tossing, until pasta is al dente and sauce coats noodles. Mix in peperoncini, cooked sausage, and another ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid. Then, tossing constantly, gradually add all but ½ cup cheese, followed by butter. Once incorporated, remove from heat and mix in basil. Divide pasta among bowls. Drizzle with oil; top with remaining cheese.

Couscous Stuffed Chicken Breast with Feta, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives

I made this Mediterranean feast for my friend Kim last week, courtesy of a Guy Fieri recipe. The chicken was unbelievably tender and juicy (perfectly done despite my paranoia about cooking chicken all the way through) and the sauce…oh the sauce. It’s what made the dish. A combo of white wine, lemon and garlic, then add in sun-dried tomatoes (the liquid makes them plump up), olives and a touch of butter at the end — it’s a TON of flavor. You’ve got to like olives to give this a go, but if you do, you’ll love it.

I’m not a big fan of stuffing chicken — it’s kind of a pain and I never manage to make the “pocket” quite right, but it actually worked out pretty well for me, despite one chicken breast being on the smaller side, which makes the stuffing part much more difficult.

End result: super tasty. I love the tang and acidity of the sun-dried tomatoes and salty olives and feta, with a little crust on the chicken…delish!

TW’s Tips

  • Try to pick chicken breasts that are on the bigger side to make the stuffing part easier.
  • I made the couscous the day ahead to save some time and reheated it in the oven in a dish covered in foil while the chicken was cooking. (I stuffed the chicken with cold couscous.)
  • Give the chicken a nice browning on the stovetop before you put it in the oven — not only gives the chicken good flavor but you cook the sauce in the same pan and scape up all the yummy bits when you deglaze with the wine.

Couscous Stuffed Chicken Breast with Feta, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives

Ingredients
For the couscous:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 4 tablespoons kalamata olives, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (10-ounce) box couscous
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled

For chicken:

  • 4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter

For the sauce:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 6 tablespoons julienned sun-dried tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons roughly chopped kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled, for garnish

Directions

For the couscous: In a saucepan over medium heat add olive oil, when hot, add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and saute a few minutes more. Add olives and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the box of couscous, turn off heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork, and season with salt and pepper. Spread 2 cups on large plate, add in 1/2 pound feta, and let cool. Keep the remaining hot to serve with chicken. (Put in covered casserole and reheat in oven last 10 minutes with chicken.)

For the chicken:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Trim chicken with a boning knife, if needed. Start at top of breast and carefully make a lengthwise cut from top to bottom and making a pocket about 2 inches, making sure not to pierce the other side of the breast. When couscous is cool enough to handle, carefully spoon couscous mixture into pocket. Even out the stuffing by gently moving it around with your hands. Wipe off any excess couscous from outside of breasts and season with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil and butter in saute pan and brown off both sides of chicken. Place chicken on baking sheet and place in oven for 20 minutes.

While chicken is baking, make the sauce.

For the sauce:
In saute pan that you cooked chicken breasts in, heat and add garlic. Deglaze with white wine and add lemon juice. Reduce by one third. Add in sun-dried tomatoes, let reduce for 2 to 3 minutes, add the olives, turn off heat, add the butter and stir to combine.

To serve, place couscous from oven on plate, cut chicken breast in half, top with sauce, crumble remaining feta cheese over.

Zucchini and Olive Flatbread

More zucchini! While sometimes it can feel like a chore to figure out how to use an ingredient I have on hand, experimenting with zucchini recipes has been fun (and delicious)! This one for zucchini and olive flatbread was ahhh-mazing.

This is a Giada de Laurentiis recipe, and SO simple you’ll be shocked. The key is good pizza dough, fresh zucchini and quality pecorino romano. I bought my pizza dough at the farmer’s market from an Italian restaurant — SO good — but get the pre-made kind in the freezer section and you’ll be fine. I buy my good, hard cheeses at Costco — they come in big blocks but a cheese like pecorino romano or Parmigiano Reggiano will last you a long time in the fridge. It’s worth it for the quality of the cheese.

I loved the crunch of the super fresh pizza dough, freshness of the zucchini, topped with the melty mozzarella and salty pecorino romano cheese and olives. It’s also great reheated!

TW’s Tips

  • I used kalamata olives instead of black olives — I think either one would be amazing, but the kalamatas added a bit more saltiness and a definite kick. I’m a big kalamata fan, so I loved it.
  • For leftovers, cut the remaining flatbread into single serving slices, wrap in foil and throw in the fridge.

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 pound pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus extra, for drizzling
  • 1 large (8 ounce) zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/8-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup (2 1/2 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 cup pitted sliced black olives

Directions

Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle. With a pastry brush, brush 1 tablespoon of the oil over the dough. Using the tines of a fork, prick the dough all over. Arrange the zucchini slices in a single layer on top of the dough. Drizzle the zucchini with oil.

Bake the dough for 18 to 20 minutes until the edges begin to brown. Remove the bread from the oven, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of oregano, the cheeses, and the olives. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes until the cheeses are melted and bubbly.

Sprinkle the flatbread with the remaining oregano, cut into wedges and serve.

Pan-Roasted Sirloin with Salad of Arugula, Sweet Peppers, and Olives

I’ve been MIA from the blogosphere lately, and I’m sad to say it’s not because I’ve been cooking up a storm. A combination of friends/parents in town and lots and lots of work has had me sidelined for a bit. But I’m back with a really tasty, flavorful salad that I made for dinner with my friend Kim a couple of weeks ago for our weekly Bachelor-watching night. Yes, I realize The Bachelor is trash TV, but that doesn’t stop me from watching it, if just to berate both bachelors and bachelorettes for poor behavior from the comfort of my own couch. While eating yummy food. And drinking yummy wine.

This is a Tyler Florence salad, and I’ve found he’s a winner when it comes to combining really strong flavors into one dish that packs some punch. This is one of those. We’ve got medium rare steak. We’ve got sweet roasted red peppers. We’ve got salty olives. And some pungent blue cheese, all over a bed of spicy, peppery arugula. Top it with a vinaigrette made from the pan juices and some lemon juice for some tang, and this salad’s got it nailed. And it’s pretty healthy, too!

TW’s Tips

  • Don’t feel beholden to a New York strip — any steak will do.
  • Roasting the red peppers is a skill. My broiler works really well because it’s the drawer kind and the peppers are really close to the heat source. The key is to really char and blister them, so the skin peels off easily, but it’s easier said than done. Once they’re blistered and have steamed under the plastic wrap, rub the skin off using a paper towel instead of your fingers. Don’t obsess about getting every single bit off. Some parts won’t come off, and it’s not the end of the world.
  • Use good blue cheese, not the pre-crumbled kind, and you’ll be happy.
  • Serve with a nice baguette.
  • This makes awesome leftovers. Just don’t dress the whole salad so it won’t get soggy.

Pan-Roasted Sirloin with Salad of Arugula, Sweet Peppers, and Olives

Salad Ingredients

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup mixed whole black and green olives, such as kalamata and Picholine
  • 1 bunch baby arugula, trimmed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Steak Ingredients

  • 2 New York strip steaks, 8 to 10 ounces each, about 1 1/2 inches thick
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Directions

Start by preparing the peppers because they will take the longest. Preheat the broiler. Pull out their cores, then halve the peppers lengthwise, and remove the ribs and seeds. Toss the peppers with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place them on a cookie sheet, skin side up, and broil for 10 minutes until really charred and blistered. Put the peppers into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam for about 10 minutes to loosen the skins. In the meantime, move on to the steaks.

Switch the oven from broil to bake and set the temperature to 350°F. Season both sides of the steaks with sea salt and a generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper, about 1 tablespoon of pepper per steak. Place a cast-iron (or regular ovenproof) skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with a 2-count drizzle of olive oil and get it smoking hot. Add the steaks and sear for 4 minutes on each side. Throw in the thyme, then transfer the skillet to the hot oven and roast the steaks for 5 minutes for a nice medium-rare (120 to 125°F. internal temperature).

While that’s going, pull the loosened skins off the peppers; cut the peppers into nice fat strips and toss them with the olives. Set aside because the steaks should be ready now. Remove the steaks to a cutting board and let them rest for a few minutes before slicing. (This keeps the juices in the meat, not running all over the counter.)

The last thing to make is a quick vinaigrette using the flavors left in the bottom of the skillet. Pour out some of the beef fat and return the pan to the stove. Add the red wine and boil over medium heat while scraping with a wooden spoon to pull the flavors up. Let the wine reduce to 1/4 cup; this will intensify the flavor. Add the sugar and a 1-count of olive oil to balance it out.

Putting it all together is a snap. Cut the steaks on an angle into slices. Gently toss the peppers and olives with the arugula. Drizzle the salad with a little more olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Toss lightly again and then divide between 2 plates. Arrange the steak slices on top of the salad and garnish with the crumbled blue cheese; then drizzle the pan vinaigrette over the steak salads and serve.

Slow-Roasted Spanish Olives with Oranges and Almonds

I’m going to let you in on a secret: quite possibly the most delicious olives you have ever tasted.
I haven’t always been a fan of olives. My parents have never really liked them, so it was one of those things we didn’t have in the house growing up. But my olive-loving friends converted me, and now I’ll eat them by the handful.

These are some fancy-looking olives, but they are SO easy to make. They’re perfect for a cocktail party, and I’ve made them for my best friend’s bridal AND baby shower, since she loved them so much. I’ll make them for myself as well, and keep them in the fridge to snack on. They are a Tyler Florence recipe — yet more evidence why I love that man.

Why are they so good? I think it’s the magic of slow roasting, which infuses the olives wtih the citrus flavor of the orange, the earthy thyme and a hit of spice from the red pepper, and makes them juicy and a little softer than normal. The sherry vinegar gives them the perfect acidic kick. The almonds are delicious, infused with olivey citrus flavor, and a great contrast to the olives themselves.

TW’s Tips

  • The recipe calls for mixing everything in a bowl, then pouring it into a baking dish. I just throw everything in the baking dish to begin with and mix it up. No extra dirty dishes!
  • I’ve had a hard time finding the specific types of olives that are called for in the recipe — but I’ve had great results just picking some of the green olives from the Whole Foods olive bar. Pick ones with pits, and not the ones that are stuffed with almonds or garlic or marinating in something weird that will throw off the flavors.
  • I take out the bay leaves and thyme stems before serving, as well as most of the oranges. But I leave a few because they give it some color.
  • These are best straight out of the oven. But they’re great either way. If you’re taking them out of the fridge, let them warm up to room temp before serving.

Slow-Roasted Spanish Olives with Oranges and Almonds

  • 2 pounds Spanish olives, such as manzanilla or gordal, with pits
  • 1 orange, unpeeled, sliced into 1/8-inch circles
  • 1 cup whole almonds, with skin
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 red chili pepper, halved lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the olives and the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 2 hours. Drain the oil out (keep it to use as a bread dip) and serve warm or at room temperature with assorted cheeses.