Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pinched Chicago-Style Chicken Vesuvio

I'm sure you can find this in other cities, but Chicken Vesuvio is seen as often in a basic Chitown restaurant as an iPhone is seen in the hands of a frantic/frenetic/fractious soccer mom. Disclosure: I use an Android but the alliteration applies accordingly. :)

Anyhoo, in a weekend Google goose chase I came across a  great Chicago blogger: Proud Italian Cook. I was inspired to make her Chicken Vesuvio and  Cauliflower Steaks and both were terrific. My steaks broke up a fair bit (I really only got two slabs out of the entire head) but it was all beautiful and tasty. Here are those recipes:

Chicago-style Chicken Vesuvio
Print recipe only here

Serves 4

4 split chicken breasts (bone-in)
2-4 potatoes (2 large Russets, halved and then quartered or 4 bigger Yukons or Reds, halved)
7-8 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Garlic powder
1 1/2 cups white wine (Proud Italian suggests Pinot Grigio)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth

- Large skillet (I used a 10-inch nonstick only because the chump that rented our house in Colorado stole my 12-inch stainless steel saute pan)
- Roasting pan

Preheat oven to 375

Wash and cut potatoes. Peel garlic.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.

Remove skin from chicken breasts. Season on both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano.

Add 1-2 T olive oil to the skillet. Brown the potatoes, cooking for about 2-3 minutes, tops. Transfer potatoes to the roasting pan.

Add chicken to skillet, working in batches if necessary. Brown both sides then transfer to the roasting pan.

Add garlic cloves to the skillet and saute until golden. Transfer to the roasting pan.

Add wine and broth to the skillet and deglaze. Scrape/stir to loosen any tasty bits from the pan. Heat through, cooking for 1-2 minutes. Pour over chicken in the roasting pan.

Transfer roasting pan to the preheated oven and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Add peas and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.

Cool a bit if you plan to remove the breast from the bone. Otherwise, taste for seasoning (you can add salt and pepper to the sauce), then serve and enjoy.

Photo courtesy Proud Italian Cook

Roast Cauliflower Steaks
Print recipe only here

Serves 4

One head cauliflower
1-2 t olive oil
1 T freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch seasoning blend (I used a shake or two of Smoke House Seasoning)

Preheat oven to 400

Remove the outer leaves and stand the cauliflower up on it's stem/core. Using a large chef's knife, cut 1-inch slabs. Don't freak out if they fall apart!

Drizzle some olive oil on a sheet pan and transfer the slabs to the same, turning to coat both sides. Sprinkle the slabs with salt, pepper, Parm and seasoning if you're using it and then roast for about 20 minutes, flipping the slabs midway thru the baking time. They are finished cooking when golden at the some edges and tender. Serve and enjoy.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What Goes in Your Easter Basket?

When I saw the movie Hop with my kids the one thing I tucked away was the image of a beautifully stuffed Easter basket. An elegant basket can be hard to do amid the over-abundance of cheap candy, beanie baby bunnies and baskets pre-stuffed with things - Fun Dip, Tootsie Roll pops, and Pixie Stix to name a few - that have no business in an Easter basket.

My kids are getting older, but we still really enjoy the tradition of the basket and our annual in-house egg hunt. Our baskets haven't changed much over the years. There are five things that always go in, and then a few random things I pick up when inspired. The five mainstays:

1. Hershey's mini eggs. Gotta have em. They're just reshaped kisses in pastel foil.

2. Cadbury Creme Egg. One time in college my boyfriend (now husband) received an Easter basket in the mail from home. It included, among other things, a Creme Egg and a basketball hand toy (ball on a string that you had to swing into the basket). I bet him that I could make the basket on the first try, but before waiting for him to accept the terms of the bet (if I succeeded he had to relinquish the Creme Egg), I shot and made the basket. Wahoo! What followed was a lengthy discussion of the terms of the bet that lasted until one of us had to go to class. By the time I resumed the debate it was moot: he had eaten the egg! Grrr.

3. Big Chocolate Bunny. It's just not an Easter basket without one. I've been buying the Cadbury Dairy Milk ones. They're solid.

4. Jelly Belly Sour jelly beans. Best beans. I buy big bag and portion them into plastic eggs for our hunt.

5. Peeps. My children have inherited intact my genetic disposition for Peeps-love. This makes me proud even though the fact they prefer Peeps to #3 is a real mystery to me. When I was a child my Peeps usually went stale. My kids gobble them right up.

There's other things I love putting in there, like an old-fashioned swirly lollipop or a cute stuffed bunny, or even an egg of Silly Putty. One year I put shaker-eggs (find them in music stores) in their baskets. One year I found those gorgeous crystallized sugar egg dioramas, but I haven't sourced them since. I had one when I was a kid and couldn't take my eyes off it.

Critical reading to balance your sugar consumption: Is Sugar Toxic from the April 13, 2011, New York Times Magazine.

Critical reading to increase your Peep knowledge: How Peeps are Made

Peeps photo courtesy Big Sis Lil Sis.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Regarding The Joy of Not Cooking

This piece, from The Atlantic, attempts to answer the excellent question of why so many non-cooks posses such well-equipped kitchens. Three paragraphs really stand out. The first is because of these stats:

...in the 1920s, the average woman spent about 30 hours a week preparing food and cleaning up. By the 1950s, when she was raising her family, that number had fallen to about 20 hours a week. Now, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, women average just 5.5 hours—and those who are employed, like me, spend less than 4.4 hours a week. And that’s not because men are picking up the slack; they log a paltry 15 minutes a day doing kitchen work.

The second is because of the nod to South Park:

Jack Schwefel, the CEO of Sur La Table, talks about “the romance” of the high-end kitchen gadgets he sells. Take something like a Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker, which has “550 watts of shaving and blending power” and four preset frozen-drink settings and, according to Sur La Table’s Web site, was featured in the March 25, 2009, episode of South Park. (Stan tries to return it to the company but can’t because it’s on a payment plan and he can’t find out who owns the debt.) It retails for $349.95.

The third is where that author answers her question:

If you see cooking as an often boring part of your daily work, you’ll buy the pots you need to finish the job, and then stop. But if it’s part of a voyage of personal “rediscovery,” you’ll never stop finding new side trips to take—and everyone who’s been on a nice vacation knows the guilty pleasure of spending a little more than you should.

All I'd add is that while an enjoyable hobby or passion will always command a tidy portion of your disposable income, that explanation doesn't cover the trend in home building/kitchen design that calls for a six-burner plus griddle dual fuel range in every kitchen regardless of the residents' inclination to cook. This trend can only be attributed to keeping up with the Jones, or good old fashioned bigger is better consumerism.

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