Tortilla soup has become a standard of tex-mex menus here in the states, becoming another pillar of the glorious international chicken soup pantheon. While its origin is shrouded in mystery, food historians can pinpoint its arrival to America somewhere around the 1890s. The combination of slow simmered chicken, tomatoes, and fried tortillas is a simple blend of flavors that seem as if they were always meant to be together. Crazily, the myriad chicken tortilla soup fails come in the way of people bastardizing this formula, inundating the soup with unnecessary toppings (or worse, using cheese to cover up a watery broth or lack of chicken and vegetables). Continue reading Mexican Chicken Vegetable Soup (Caldo Tlalpeño)
This one is hardly a recipe in that ginger scallion sauce does all the heavy lifting. As much as I feel that recipes within recipes can be daunting (I’m talking to you, Thomas Keller), the actual ginger scallion sauce is so simple that you’ll barely feel like you are tacking on extra steps.
My first dance with the glory of ginger scallion chicken was at my favorite haunt for Chinese food in the DC Metro area, XO Taste. Prepared the traditional way with a whole poached chicken accompanied by small dishes of the spicy, complex ginger sauce, I was in love. Not with the chicken so much as the sauce, which I wanted to drink by the canteen full if possible. When I set out to make this recipe for myself, I tried to amp up the chicken a bit to include all of my favorite elements. Rather than poach and serve with loose, rubbery skin, I decided to sear the skin on bone-in chicken breasts and then finish them off in the oven. The result is crisp, crackly skin protecting moist, white meat chicken, all of which is adorned with ginger scallion saucy glory. Victory is mine, and can be yours as well with a few easy steps. Continue reading Ginger Scallion Chicken
Back when I was rocking plaid skirts and a blazer in high school (and even before that as a tagalong with my mom’s running club), we used to frequent a quirky eatery called Generous George’s Positive Pizza and Pasta Place. Fake flamingos and pink and teal paint dripping with kitsch and childhood memorabilia everywhere, it looked a little like Miami Vice and Parker Brothers got together as an interior design firm. And do I recall a shark hanging from the ceiling? Or maybe a surf board? It was probably both.
Aesthetics aside, the place was too fun. The pizzas featured airy, pliant dough with mounds of toppings and cheese. And the pastas, all served on a single-sized pizza crust, were epic sized portions that even my dad’s appetite could not slay. People left the place with takeout boxes and close to a pound of pasta in leftovers. My mom usually got the red or white clam, Dad loved Old Naples with crumbled sausage and melted cheese, and Lexi usually ordered a personal pizza and pretended to be full after a bite or two so that she could get away with ordering dessert. I used to be a sucker for the Chicken Romano Fettucine, basically alfredo with chicken, ham, peas and mushrooms, until I ordered the Rosemary Chicken Florentine on a whim. The first time made me a convert – farfalle tossed with tender chicken, spinach, bacon, roasted red peppers in a rosemary cream sauce. It was ridiculous. Preposterous. I was hooked.
Years have gone by since I’ve rolled down Duke Street in Alexandria to see our old haunt, and it turns out that there’s only my memories of the place to serve me now. My sister posted on Facebook that the location was demoed and is now a PNC Bank. I wondered if they auctioned off the merry-go-round pony that was in the main dining room? Anyways, rather than put on my old school uniform, I decided to relive a classic and make a heaping mess of the beloved pasta. I cut back the fat on the sauce, using milk instead of cream, and I didn’t have a pizza crust to use as a plate. But it was still ridiculous. Still preposterous. And apparently, I’m still hooked.
Rosemary Chicken Florentine Pasta
2 chicken breasts
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 c. of chicken stock
1 c. of white wine
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
1 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
2 bay leaves
4 strips of bacon
4 cloves of garlic
6 oz. of roasted red peppers, sliced
6 oz. of baby spinach
1 tbs. of olive oil
1 tbs. of chopped rosemary leaves
1 lb. of dried pasta cuts (farfalle, conchiglie, ziti, penne)
6 tbs. of butter
3 tbs. of flour
2 1/2 c. of whole milk
1 c. of locatelli
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
pinch of white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
Begin by cooking the chicken. Add two boneless, skinless chicken breasts to a saucepan with the stock, wine, rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, 1/2 tsp. of white pepper, 1/2 tsp. of black pepper, 2 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp. of garlic powder. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove chicken from poaching liquid and let cool slightly. Shred with two forks. Set aside.
Now make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour, white pepper, black pepper, garlic powder and nutmeg. Add the milk, whisking the entire time to prevent lumps. Turn the heat to medium and whisk until thickened. Stir in the locatelli and remove from the heat. Stir in the roasted red peppers. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to box directions. While the water comes to a boil, add bacon to a skillet and brown. Toss in garlic, rosemary, spinach and the olive oil and cook until spinach is wilted. Season with a little extra salt and black pepper and set aside.
When the pasta finishes, drain and toss with the red pepper cream sauce, spinach/chicken/garlic/rosemary mixture. Top with extra grated locatelli and serve hot.
I have lovely memories of my mom’s baked chicken parmesan – we’d come home from elementary school and she’s take seemingly no time in breading chicken cutlets, seasoning them with paprika and spices, and then letting them crisp up in a hot oven. They were always so juicy and deliciously perfect, I never ever questioned why we didn’t have Shake ‘n Bake in our pantry. Mom knew what she was doing (and still does!)
After I got married, my aunt gave me a convection oven as a wedding present and I had to see if the crisping action was all it cracked up to be. I made a riff off of my mom’s baked chicken with dijon and cream replacing the usual parmesan cheese. Then, to make things more complicated, I tricked it out deconstructed cordon bleu style with a slice each of prosciutto and provolone.
When the timer went off and the chicken emerged from the oven, the clouds parted in the heavens and the angels began to sing. It was ever so perfect, with prosciutto like bacon and “everything’s-better-with” melted cheese. J’adore!
I kind of like that Chicken Cordon Bleu has nothing to do with the culinary institute and is rather a cousin of retro throwbacks such as Chicken Kiev and other roulade-style meat dishes. It makes me feel like I need to tease my hair, put on an A-line skirt and play a little Jack Jones “Wives and Lovers” to get in an old skool mood. Ok, not really. But it does make me miss my momma, thinking about all the foods that are meant for family dining. This one is certainly high up on the list.
Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. of cream
1/4 c. of water
1 tbs. of dijon mustard
1 c. of flour
3 tsp. of salt
1 1/2 tsp. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
1/4 tsp. of paprika
4 slices of prosciutto
4 slices of provolone (or fontina)
Set up a breading station with two shallow dishes – one with the eggs, cream, water and dijon and the other with the flour, salt, black pepper, white pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Dredge chicken breasts in flour, into the egg and then again in the flour. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and top with a slice of cheese and a few slices of prosciutto. Bake for 35-40 minutes on 350° or until the chicken is cooked through and the prosciutto is crispy and deep rose. Serve.
*in Jay-Z voice* “Tim, you did it again. You’re a genius.” Not too often when I’m cooking am I reminded of the fine balance between strict adherence to technique and freestyle improvisation in the kitchen. This recipe is like a dance – you certainly want to follow the rules to coax it into perfection, but there is room for you to do your thang as well. In essence, it’s everything I love about the kitchen. And as I watched my husband take the first bite of the final product and nod his head knowingly that this was something of pure majesty, I loved it all the more.
In Chef Tim Ma’s interview for this site, he talks about the importance of organization in the kitchen. As home cooks, although we don’t go all out with a true mise en place and prep kitchen work, there is something to be said for taking time to lay out all of your ingredients before you launch into the assembly of the dish. This recipe is a great example of this fact – chopping all of your ingredients first and setting up your kitchen before turning on the stove will allow you the luxury of breezing through this one. When you are all finished, you take a bite and marvel at the genius your tucking into without feeling as if you slaved at all.
Tim purports that this dish is an excellent use of many important kitchen techniques – I see it as a reminder of how much there is to learn in the kitchen, far beyond what we’ve learned from our families or from puttering around on our own with a bit of trial and error. Spending the time to figure out how to properly treat ingredients is so very necessary, and though we won’t all have the honor or luxury of attending cooking school, it doesn’t mean we can’t go out of our way with a little self-directed study on proper methods and techniques. Consider this recipe a solid lesson with Chef Tim as the instructor du jour.
Since we don’t have access to a live demonstration of this one (yet), a trickier part of the recipe is in the deboning of the chicken leg and thigh as one piece. While you can absolutely have your butcher do this for you, it’s a lot more interesting to grab a sharp knife and try it out for yourself. I found this old video of Paul Prudhomme doing it, and teacher that I am, I love his level of encouragement offered to newbies trying this for the first time. Yes, you can do this, and no, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never done it before. Now, fancy names be damned, go get yourself some roast chicken and mushroom action.
Roast Chicken Leg and Thigh with Chardonnay Sauce, Trumpet Mushroom Duxelle and Fingerling Potatoes
2 trumpet mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 tbs. of butter
half of a lemon, juiced
1 shallot, minced
1 oz. of slab bacon or salt pork
1/4 c. of caramelized onions
2 chicken legs and thighs, deboned
2 tbsp dry chardonnay
4 tbsp vegetable or chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
1 lb. of fingerling potatoes
duck fat (or vegetable oil if you don’t have any)
salt and pepper
Melt 2 tbs. of butter in a large pan over low heat. Add bacon or salt pork and sweat for a few minutes without giving it color. Add shallots and sweat without giving color for a few minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to cook over low heat, adding a pinch of salt, pepper and the lemon juice. The mushrooms will begin to release water – once the water is completely absorbed, stop cooking. Add caramelized onions and toss to heat. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Heat a new pan that can go into the oven over high heat with a little blended oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Once pan is hot, add chicken legs skin side down and cook over high heat for a minute. Place entire pan in oven and cook until chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes. Take pan out, remove chicken, drain oil. Deglaze pan with chardonnay, scraping up the brown bits. Reduce wine by half, add stock and reduce by half again. Turn fire off, add 2 tbs. of butter and whisk until incorporated. Place mushroom mix in center of plate, top with chicken, add sauce around, garnish with parsley.
To cook the fingerlings, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and blanch for 3-4 minutes. Drain and dry well. Add about 2 inches of oil (or equivalent amount of duck fat) to a heavy bottomed sauce pan and heat until a piece of bread, when dropped into the oil, browns in 3 seconds. Add the potatoes to the pan, being careful to stand back if the skins sputter a bit. Allow to cook for a minute, remove and drain on paper towels and salt and pepper immediately while still hot. If you’d like to time this all so that the potatoes are finished at the same time as the chicken, cook the potatoes as soon as the chicken goes into the oven.
When the Earl of Sandwich ordered his servant to bring him a bit of meat tucked into slices of bread so as to prevent his playing cards from getting greasy, he started a chain reaction that has left me a happy duck. If I were to live my life eating soup and sandwiches from now until the very end time, I’d be absolutely fine with it all. Chicken soup and turkey sandwiches along could keep me pleased as punch with enough variety to keep things interesting.
Much like my obsession with collecting bolognese recipes, I love love love a good roast chicken recipe. I adore the way in which a little love, butter or olive oil, salt, pepper and aromatics transform the lowly chicken into something worth honoring. Crisp, golden skin and tender meat come into their own with very little effort, and a homestyle supper is on the table for loved ones without a second thought. Or if you love them EVEN more, you’ll just tuck in with them without even leaving the kitchen. Best of all the leftovers make at least one more meal, if not a gorgeous chicken stock.
My husband saw me oogling over Jonathan Waxman’s pan roasted chicken cooked in a cast iron skillet and purchased me a Lodge Logic 15″ beauty from Amazon. It’s heavy as hell (a two-hand job) but an amazing holder of temperature and big enough for a chicken and a mess of roasted veg to boot. It needs a name. Like Thor. Or maybe the Kraken. So whenever I take it out, I’m releasing the…haha…you get it.
For the butterflying portion, you can certainly have the butcher do it, but it’s easy work with a nice pair of kitchen scissors. Simply cut out the back (and save for stock) and flatten the entire mess with a little pressure on the breast bone. Prepping the chicken in this manner cuts the cooking time way down and allows more of the surface area to come into contact with the lemon and herbs. The whole mess forms a delicious sauce for the incredibly moist chicken, all with no fuss at all. So basically, yes, your prayers were answered and that homecooked meal you’ve been dreaming about is here. Now. Go make it.
Butterflied Chicken with Lemon and Herbs
1 whole chicken
1 bunch of rosemary
1 bunch of thyme
1 onion, thinly sliced
coarse sea salt and black pepper
good olive oil
1 bunch of tarragon
1/2 c. of chicken broth
2 tbs. of butter
Preheat the oven to 450°. Rinse the chicken well and pat dry. Using the poultry shears, cut along each side of the backbone to remove it. Flip the chicken over and press down on the breastbone to flatten it. Liberally season with coarse salt and black pepper and then rub with a bit of olive oil. Place chicken skin side down in a cast iron skillet. Surround the chicken with the onions and top with the rosemary and thyme. Halve the lemons and squeeze the juice over the chicken. Tuck lemons into the pan with the herbs and onions. Drizzle with a little more oil and pop into the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the juices of the thigh meat run clear when pierced with a fork.
When the chicken is finished, remove from the skillet to a platter and let rest. Put the skillet on the stove and heat. Add the chicken broth and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. When the sauce thickens a bit, add the butter. Strain the sauce and set aside. If you feel diligent, you can also pick out some of the roasted onions.
Carve the chicken into pieces and serve with the sauce.
I don’t remember cans of Chickarina soup in my house as a child, but they were certainly a big hit during my college years. When we went the route of a splurge, my best friend and I would throw a few cans of Chickarina into the cart for random lunches and dinners. But because we went through them so quickly and couldn’t afford to get them all the time, Chickarina became a bit of a delicacy. With my proclivity for making soups and stocks even back then, I’m surprised I didn’t attempt a homemade version back then. No matter – I came around to it eventually
Upon researching this recipe, I tried to find out more of the history of Chickarina. Like some deep, dark government secret, there is no true history available online. What the hell? There were a few mentions of a “chickarina” jingle from way back in the day, including this one from a site dating it back to the 60s. And a whole lot of people labeling it as Italian Wedding Soup, which it’s not. Though both dishes have mini meatballs and acini di pepe (mini pasta pearls – the name means “peppercorns” in Italian), the spinach or escarole is replaced with carrots and celery for a chicken soup + meatball experience. It’s excellent through and through, and a lovely riff on home cooked goodness. Continue reading Chickarina Soup
Enchiladas Suizas is one of Dennis’ all time favorites – combining tender, white meat chicken with a green chile sauce cooled by cream cheese and sour cream, these babies rarely stay on the plate for too long when Dennis is around. His favorite version were from Cafe Frida in New York City and it was ne’er a visit that he didn’t order both the Enchiladas Suizas and the Tres Leches. Incredibly, the dish originates from Swiss settlers in Mexico contributing swiss cheese to the traditional enchiladas verdes, or corn tortillas rolled and sauced with tomatillos. The dish now refers less to the use of swiss as the inclusion of a creamy sauce with white cheese.
This version, which is loosely based on Dennis’ favorites, is incredibly versatile for all palettes and spice levels. Make the version below for a relatively mild experience or kick it up with a chopped jalapeno in the chicken mixture and a hotter green chile sauce (which are available at the market in both mild and spicy varieties). Poaching the chicken before mixing with the cream cheese helps to keep it super tender and moist, and the scallions add flavor. It’s a nice diversion from straight up red sauced enchiladas, but if you feel like a fiesta, make these along with the red variety and call it a party. I don’t know about you, but I loooooove an impromptu party. Continue reading Enchiladas Suizas (Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas)
For as long as I’ve known, my family has been whipping up several varieties of comforting rice dishes – I can recall many a time coming into the kitchen to a pan of Arroz con Pollo finishing up in the oven, or a pot of Jambalaya simmering away on the stove. This version of the simple dish, a combination of rice, chicken, sausage, seafood and veggies, reminds me of home each and every time I whip up a batch.
This version is far from super traditional, but I love it because it is way easy to prepare and incredibly piquant and flavorful. Some of the harder ingredients to find are substituted with pantry and supermarket staples. Though cajun purists would call this Creole Rice for its inclusion of tomatoes, culinary great Paul Prudhomme puts tomatoes in his, so I feel that I’m not in the wrong. Plus, this dish’s roots are born of the freshness and availability of ingredients, so use whatever suits your fancy – tasso ham (or smoked ham), seafood of any kind, smoked andouille sausage, duck, and homemade stock all have a place in this dish. Case in point, this recipe originates from the Spanish classic, paella, and if it weren’t for a few noble chefs swapping out a few ingredients, we wouldn’t have the jambalaya that we know today.
Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya
1/2 lb. of raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 kielbasa, thinly sliced into rounds
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into large chunks
2 tbs. of olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 plum tomatoes
1 can of tomatoes with chilies
seafood stock (can substitute beef or chicken)
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
1/8 to 1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper (to taste)
pinch of oregano
1 tbs. of Worcestershire sauce
2 c. of converted rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)
splash of white wine vinegar
scallions or parsley for garnish
Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven and add the chicken. Brown very well on both sides and then add the onion, scallions, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Once vegetables begin to soften, add the kielbasa, thyme and bay leaves. Allow to cook for a minute and then add the chopped tomatoes, white pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne and oregano. Stir in the rice.
In a 4 cup pyrex or a measuring cup, drain the juices of the can of tomatoes into the cup. Dump the tomatoes into the dutch oven. Add the tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce into the measuring cup, and then add enough stock to make 3 3/4 cups of liquid. Add the mixture to the pot and stir. Bring the pot to a boil, cover and turn it down to a simmer. A trick, if you are careful, is to stick your ear to the bottom of the pot – you should hear a gentle bubbling. If it sounds like hell boiling over, turn the heat down. If you hear nothing, turn the heat up. Cook for 20 minutes, undisturbed. After 20 minutes, take the top off and add the shrimp. Recover and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove lid. Stir a splash of white wine vinegar into the jambalaya and taste rice for doneness – it should be tender at this point. If not, turn heat back to low and cook another few minutes. If the rice is done but there is too much liquid, let rice sit, covered, for 5-10 minutes so that the liquid will be absorbed into the rice.
Serve with scallions or parsley and tabasco sauce.