Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Potato Gnocchi with Pork and Wild Mushroom Ragu

Source: Bon Appetit

This week's selection for Recipe of the Week comes to us from the lovely folks at Bon Appetit. I recently made this dish for my roommate's 22nd birthday and absolutely loved it. I had made gnocchi once before in a cooking class while studying abroad in Florence and it was a blast, so I decided to give these delicious dumplings another try.

My roommate is crazy for tomato-based sauces and mushrooms, so I was psyched when I stumbled on this recipe. I left out the pound of pork ribs, but added in extra sausage and prosciutto to preserve the dish's meaty flavor. The sauce was thick and super flavorful and the gnocchi, when cooked properly (remove them about 10 seconds after they float to the top, for some reason the recipe says to cook them for another 4 minutes after that, which would make them ridiculously overcooked), were soft pillowy pockets of joy. I will be posting the recipe for the gnocchi soon, but sadly, I didn't get any photos of the sauce, so no recipe post for that at the moment. Bonus: the sauce tastes just as delicious reheated a few days later.

Source: Bon Appetit, February 2010

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cumin-Crusted Chicken Thighs with Tomatillo Salsa

The chicken thigh: a truly underappreciated cut of meat. When it comes to chicken, most people go directly for the breast, skipping out on the best meat this bird has to offer. Sure, everyone loves a good piece of white meat, but dark meat is in fact juicier and more flavorful than its lighter cousin. Dark meat gets a bad rap as the 'unhealthy' part of the chicken, but the numbers don't lie— thigh meat is by no means bad for you. One unit of skinless thigh meat removed from a 1-lb ready-to-cook chicken (31 g) contains 65 calories, 3 g of fat and 1 g of saturated fat, where as one unit of skinless breast meat (52 g) contains 86 calories, 2 g of fat, and 1 g of saturated fat. So yes, thigh meat has slightly more calories and fat than breast meat, but you also eat less meat when you eat a thigh versus a breast. And personally, I think the small difference in calories and fat is worth the huge difference in flavor.

I'll admit, I too used to be a sucker for white meat, but my taste in chicken has evolved over time, and I have come to recognize the value of the thigh. It develops a delicious crispy exterior when roasted or grilled, and the skin keeps the meat nice and moist while it's cooking. Even if you prefer to eat it without the skin, the meat is great on its own, and is still juicier and more flavorful than breast meat.

The hidden gem of poultry— chicken thighs

This recipe is one of several I've tried out this summer using chicken thighs (see this Recipe of the Week), and I was impressed with the results. The meat is juicy and tender with a kick from the cumin-salsa verde combo, and the medley of spices creates an aromatic rub that packs a flavorful punch. The recipe makes plenty of seasoning, so save the extra and use it later on chicken breast, pork or shrimp.

I paired the chicken with my grilled corn & tomato salad and a side of grilled asparagus, which made for an attractive and colorful plate. While I did eat the leftovers for a few days afterwards, the chicken definitely tasted best fresh off the grill, so maybe not an ideal dish to leave sitting in the fridge. Whether you're eating it immediately or a couple of days later, make sure and serve the chicken warm and the salsa chilled.

Bon appetit!

Cumin-Crusted Chicken with Tomatillo Salsa
Serves 4
Tomatillo Salsa Verde
1 lb. fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
1 fresh jalapeño chile, chopped
1/2 large white onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp light brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper

To make the salsa, coarsely puree tomatillos, chile, onion, garlic, water, salt and lime juice in a blender until relatively smooth (mixture will still be a little chunky). Transfer mixture to a small saucepot and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes. This allows the moisture released from the tomatillos to cook down. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool to room temperature or refrigerate to chill. Stir in cilantro, cumin and lime juice and salt to taste. Note, this recipe makes 2 cups of salsa, so you will have plenty left over. 

I substituted the salsa verde on Epicurious for my personal favorite recipe

While the salsa cools, make the cumin crust rub. In a small, dry frying pan over low heat, toast the cumin, stirring often, until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Pour onto a plate and cool.

In a small container with a tight-fitting lid, stir together all the spices with 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper. Cover and shake vigorously to mix. Note, you will have plenty of rub left over. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 1 month.

To make the chicken, combine chicken and oil. Toss to coat. Transfer thighs to a platter or baking dish and sprinkle evenly on all sides with the cumin rub. Set aside at room temperature.

Prepare a grill for indirect grilling over medium heat and brush and oil the grill grate. If you don't have a grill (or yours is out of gas like mine), use a grill pan set over medium heat and spray with PAM or another non-stick cooking spray.

Place chicken thighs, meaty side down, on the grill or grill pan. Cook, turning as little as possible (once is ideal to develop nice grill marks), until chicken is firm to the touch and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone registers 175° F. Epicurious says 10-15 minutes per side, but it took me closer to 20-25 per side (this may have been because I was using a grill pan). 

Remove chicken to a platter and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve topped with the tomatillo salsa. 

The rub gives the chicken a crispy, brown crust that is visually appealing and tasty

Source: Epicurious, chicken, and salsa courtesy of Justin Keith of Food 101 in Atlanta, GA

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Caramelized Scallops

Source: Annie's Eats

I have been dying to try this recipe since I found it on Annie's Eats about a month ago. Even if I didn't absolutely love scallops, the presentation of the dish is so beautiful that I might make it just to look at it (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little). However, scallops are a little pricy and way too fancy for one of my solo weeknight dinners, so I have been biding my time, waiting for the right occasion.

The perfect occasion presented itself in the form of a weekend trip home and a Saturday night dinner with my dad. I offered to cook our meal and remembered the great scallop dish I had waiting on my list of recipes to try. This served as our main course, accompanied by pan-fried grit cakes with caramelized green onions, garlic and thyme.

Let me say, this recipe did not disappoint. The ingredient list is minimal, which allows the scallops to really shine. The pan sauce is to die for—the white wine, lemon and clarified butter combine to create a light, zesty flavor that complements the scallops perfectly without overpowering them. Plus, the dish lends itself to a beautiful plating that comes with minimal effort, making it the perfect dinner party entree.

A delicious and attractive dish that I will be making again in the future (hopefully with camera handy)!

Source: Annie's Eats

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Source: The Gracious Pantry

I just discovered this blog via Tastespotting and I'm obsessed! Blogger Tiffany has taken on the challenge of trying to come up with 365 different ways to eat oatmeal, an undertaking she has dubbed The Oatmeal Project. Such a cool concept! It's a simple but inspired idea that I can really appreciate, considering I eat oatmeal for breakfast every single morning.

This particular variation of the breakfast staple is entitled Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal and could not look better to me. Three of my favorite foods in one place– oatmeal, pecans and pumpkin. I cannot wait to try this out!

Head on over to The Gracious Pantry to check out The Oatmeal Project and share your favorite way to eat oatmeal!

Source: The Gracious Pantry

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Grilled Corn & Tomato Salad

Can you believe this is my very first original recipe post, after almost a year of blogging? Crazy, I know. As much as I hate to admit it, I've always been more of a recipe follower than a recipe creator. It's not something I'm proud of. As someone who is completely enamored with all things food, I feel like I should enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and coming up with new recipes. But no, I'm a huge perfectionist with a crazy eye for detail, which means that creating recipes out of thin air, a task that practically guarantees imperfection, is not something that comes naturally to me.

But, that's something I've been trying to work on recently. While my precision and OCD-like tendencies have allowed me to excel in baking, they have not made me a great cook. I don't think I can improve my cooking beyond a certain point until I learn to let go a little and play around with things in the kitchen, accepting that my creations won't always turn out well. So, here I go...

The colorful components of this dish make a beautiful summer salad

This recipe screams summer. It's fresh, colorful and, most importantly, it involves grilling. I made it to accompany cumin-crusted chicken thighs with tomatillo salsa, so I tried to give it some Mexican flair. The combination of jalapeños, cilantro, cumin and lime juice did just that and provided a perfect balance of spice, tang and earthiness. When combined, the colorful components of this summer salad make a dish that is a treat for the eyes and the palate.

Next time I might try adding some avocado chunks, but otherwise I thought it was perfect.

Bon appetit!

Grilled Corn & Tomato Salad
Serves 4
4 ears corn
1-2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2/3 cup red onion, chopped
2 small jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
4 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/8 tsp cumin
Coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper

Grill corn, husks on. Let cool. Using a sharp knife, cut the corn off the cob by holding the cob vertically on a cutting board or in a large bowl and slicing downwards using a sharp knife.

Combine all ingredients, including the corn, in a medium sized bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Source: D*lish original