Thursday, January 31, 2008

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

It has been so cold in Southern California lately that we've been trying to use the oven as often as possible to keep our tiny apartment warm. And when it's this cold outside, Matthew and I crave comfort foods and these chicken pot pies are probably the ultimate comfort food, next to fried chicken. I used the Barefoot Contessa's recipe, but I didn't make my dough from scratch, and I used frozen veggies instead of fresh.

INGREDIENTS (Makes 2 big individual pies or 4 small ones)

  • 1 whole (2 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock, low sodium
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup heavy cream
  • 1 bag (16oz) frozen stew vegetables (contains carrots, celery, potatoes and pearl onions)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • Frozen puff pastry sheets, defrosted
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 2 to 4 cups of cubed chicken. You can save time and use a rotisserie chicken instead!

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, the frozen stew vegetables and and parsley. Mix well. Remove from heat.

Keep the oven at 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 2 or 4 ovenproof bowls.

Cut the pastry sheets into 4 pieces and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, and then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 35 - 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Poorman's Crab Cakes

These tuna cakes take me back to a time when I was a little girl and I loved, just loved watching The Love Boat with my brothers--even though none of us understood English at the time! During those days, my mom had to feed three very hungry kids. But since money was a bit scarce, my mom made up recipes that were clever because she used ingredients that were always available and oftentimes cheap. I called these poor man's crab cakes because after I made them for Matt last night, he actually thought they were made out of crab and he preferred these to crab cakes. Can you believe it?

INGREDIENTS (makes 6 tuna cakes)

  • 2 cans of tuna in water, drained
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • Olive oil
  • 8 oz. canned crushed tomatoes and its juice
  • 1/4 tsp. Spike Seasoning or your favorite seasoning salt
  • Steamed white rice, as a side

In a bowl, combine first 8 ingredients and mix well. Place in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. Start cooking your rice, if you haven't done so yet.

In a large skillet, heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high. Mix the tuna mixture again (it will be a little watery) and divide into 6 equal parts and slightly flatten them into patties.

Once the oil begins to shimmer, add 3 tuna cakes and cook for 3 minutes. Flip cakes over and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove cakes and cover with foil to keep warm and finish cooking the remaining cakes, adding more olive oil to skillet, as needed.

Once the final batch is done, keep warm in foil. Add the crushed tomatoes to the same skillet and 1/4 teaspoon Spike seasoning and bring to a simmer for 2 minutes. Add all the cakes back into the skillet with tomato sauce and simmer one more minute. Remove from heat.

To serve, place two to three cakes in a plate, drizzled with some of the tomato sauce and with a side of cooked white rice. Mmmmm....thanks, mom!

    Monday, January 28, 2008

    Spicy Habanero BBQ Chicken

    spicy bbq chicken
    While we were in Portland, Oregon, we ate at Roots Brewery and they had the best Habanero hot sauce called Secret Aardvark Habanero Sauce. We got a bottle and brought it home. Unfortunately we found out that they don't sell this stuff anywhere outside Portland. So, for this recipe you can use your favorite smokey habanero hot sauce, but if you ever do end up in Portland, make sure you buy yourself a case of this stuff and send me some!

    INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

    • 4 chicken pieces, such as legs, thighs and/or wings, with skin on
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Fresh ground black pepper
    • 1/4 up to 1/2 cup Secret Aardvark Habanero Sauce, depending on how hot you can handle it
    • 1 (8oz) can Dole pineapple chunks in 100% real juice, with juice reserved
    • 1 tablespoon flour
    • 1/2 cup orange juice
    • 1/4 cup chicken stock

    In a small bowl combine olive oil, salt, pepper, Secret Aardvark sauce, and the reserved pineapple juice. Place chicken in a large zip-loc bag and add the marinade. Marinate in the fridge for 4 to 8 hours.

    Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

    Place a cast-iron skillet or an oven-proof skillet with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil on the stove and heat on medium high. Remove chicken from marinade and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Discard marinade. Place the skillet in the oven and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.

    Once chicken is done, remove and wrap well in foil to keep warm. Remove all but 1 teaspoon oil from skillet. Place the skillet back on the stove and heat on medium high again. You should have lots of brown bits in the skillet. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add orange juice, chicken stock and pineapple pieces, scrapping the brown bits. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for a couple of minutes until sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

    Serve chicken with some of the sauce and pineapple pieces drizzled over it. Serve with a side of steamed white rice and extra Secret Aardvark Sauce if you dare! Stone Old Guardian beer goes well with this dish to keep your mouth from burning up!

    Old Stone Guardian

    Saturday, January 26, 2008

    Garlicky Baked Salmon

    yummy baked salmon
    I've been kind of lax with my postings lately and that has to do with two things: 1. my camera died and I can't take pictures of my food and 2. I haven't been trying any new recipes lately. Anyway, I've been getting into the cooking groove again and I made this very simple but quite flavorful dish. Try to get the freshest salmon for this because it really makes a difference.

    INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

    • 2 Salmon fillets, 6 oz. each
    • Butter (real butter)
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • Salt and pepper
    • 1 lemon, cut into slices

    Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

    Place a large piece of foil onto a baking sheet (you want the foil to be large enough to create a tent over fish). Smear the center of foil with butter.

    Meanwhile, rinse the salmon and pat dry with paper towel. Drizzle olive oil all over both salmon fillets, then season with salt and pepper and divide the garlic on both sides of each fillet.

    Place the fillets on top of smeared butter on foil, then place a pat of butter (or two) over each fillet, followed by two slices of lemon over each piece. Bring the corners of foil together to create a tent and make sure all sides a closed tightly.

    Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve with your favorite side dish (I served it with cannelloni beans and sauteed spinach) however plain white rice and steamed broccoli will also go well with this dish.

    Thursday, January 17, 2008

    Creamy Grits with Shrimp

    Diva's Kiss My Grits
    If you've ever been to the South, you've probably had shrimp and grits for breakfast or even lunch. This is a super yummy, creamy and rich dish that I just love. I used instant grits because I could not find stone-ground grits in San Diego, however my grits came out so creamy and delish you couldn't tell they were instant. After Matthew ate the dish, he lovingly said, "Kiss My Grits" to me. I think he meant it in a good way. Hmmm..

    INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

    • 1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 cup hot stock (shrimp, chicken, or vegetable)
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • Salt and black pepper to taste
    • 1 cup quick-cooking grits
    • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 6 bacon slices
    • 1/4 cup chopped onion
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
    1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cream, water, and hot stock; bring to a gentle boil. Add butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and ground black pepper. Slowly add grits, stirring constantly (so that the grits do not settle to the bottom and scorch), until all are added reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 5 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Grits should have absorbed all of the liquid and become soft and should have the same consistency as oatmeal (moist, not dry). If the grits become too thick, add warm stock or water to thin. Remove from heat.
    2. Sprinkle shrimp with lemon juice, salt, and pepper; set aside.
    3. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until brown but not crisp. Remove from heat and pat dry with paper towels; set aside. Coarsely chop bacon when cool.
    4. Reserve 4 tablespoons bacon grease in the frying pan. Add onion, garlic, and red bell pepper; sauté 7 minutes or until the onion is transparent. Add shrimp mixture and sauté 5 to 7 minutes or until shrimp are opaque in center. Lastly, add the chopped bacon to quickly heat through. Remove from heat.
    5. To serve, spoon hot grits onto individual serving plates and top with shrimp and bell pepper mixture. Your Mama would be proud!

    Friday, January 11, 2008

    Cocktails: Black Velvet

    If there is a cocktail that best describes me and my boo, I think this is the one! This cocktail contains Guinness, for the Irishness of Matt, and champagne, for the fabulousness in me. How perfect is that? Cheers!


    • Champagne
    • Guinness

    Half fill a champagne flute with Guinness and gently pour the champagne over the back of a spoon so the liquid runs down the sides, this avoids mixing the two liquids.


    Is champagne too spendy for you, or not your thing? Then make a Poor Man's Black Velvet by replacing the champagne with hard apple cider. In a pint glass, add the cider halfway up as the bottom layer and then slowly add the Guinness over the back of a spoon, to make the top layer.

    Thursday, January 10, 2008

    "Mock" Huevos Rancheros

    Melissa cooking for us!
    Last weekend, Matthew and I were in Portland, Oregon visiting my lovely cousins. I 'd forgotten that my cuz, Melissa, was a vegetarian--can you believe a Mexican vegetarian? Anyhoo, she invited us over for Sunday brunch and she made the most delicious mock huevos rancheros. If you're not a vegetarian, just substitute fried, over-easy eggs instead of tofu, and you've got yourself one awesome breakfast. But even with the tofu, this dish is delicioso!

    INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

    • 1 Block of firm tofu, drained well and cut into 1/4" or 1/2" cutlets
    • Spike Seasoning (a must!)
    • 8 Corn tortillas
    • Oil for frying
    • 1 can of El Pato tomato sauce (15 oz)--also a must!
    • Cilantro, for garnish
    • Sliced avocados, for garnish

    Season the tofu on both sides with Spike seasoning. Heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat and pan-fry tofu for a few minutes (you want it nicely browned) then flip tofu and pan-fry on other side. Set aside and keep warm.

    In a sauce pan wide enough to fit a tortilla, add the El Pato tomato sauce and heat to a simmer, then keep it on low heat.

    Clean out skillet where you fried the tofu and add about 1/2" of oil and heat on medium-high. Once oil is bubbly, add a tortilla and fry for 30 seconds, flip over and fry for 20 more seconds. Them quickly place tortilla into the tomato sauce and dip it in just to coat on both sides, then set aside on another plate. Continue this process with remaining tortillas, working quickly, if possible.

    To serve, place two crisp tortillas in each plate, then top with a tofu slice/cutlet. Drizzle a bit of the remaining tomato sauce, and garnish with cilantro and avocados.