Grilled Tarragon Chicken Salad and Radio Show

Every once in awhile you have to go outside of your comfort zone.  I had the opportunity to do that yesterday.  I’ve mentioned Luca, a chef in town and a friend of mine, who does cooking shows.  You might remember my daughter had a chance to do a show with him.

He also does a weekly radio show on our local talk radio with Dan Mitchell talking about cooking and he brings bloggers, chefs, etc on as guests.  He invited me to join him.  I had an absolute blast doing this. I was nervous about doing it but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to do something new.

Here is the podcast if you would like a listen.  But please, I know I sound American.  Every time it comes up that I’m English, without fail, I get “but you don’t sound English”.  That bothers me.  Like there is a doubt of who I am.  I came over very young and didn’t go back again until I was an adult.  The accent doesn’t start coming out much until I’m back in the UK.  It is what it is!  Other than that I do hope you enjoy the podcast.

And of course I had to show up with food.  But because the show was in the morning and there isn’t a kitchen so it had to be something I could serve cold.

I decided to do grilled chicken with tarragon.  For dinner I did it as a salad and for the show I did it as lettuce wraps.

Grilled tarragon chicken 1 2015

For the marinade I finely chopped a few cloves of garlic and a handful of tarragon.  Mix it with equal parts white wine and olive oil.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Make sure it is mixed well and then add the chicken to marinade for at least an hour.

Grilled tarragon chicken 2 2015Grill the chicken and let it cool.  Meanwhile toast half a cup of pinenuts in a dry skillet.  You want to pay attention as you are doing this. The nuts can easily burn.  Keep the pinenuts moving in the skillet as you toast them.

Grilled tarragon chicken 3 2015

Once they are golden remove and set aside.  I did try to do a wine vinaigrette but it just didn’t have any brightness to it.  So I did up a tarragon lemon dressing instead.  Do two parts olive oil to one part lemon juice.  Add a bit of tarragon and season with sea salt and pepper.  Shake it up.

To assemble, lay out the lettuce leaves and layer with the chicken, veg of your choice, and the pine nuts.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with creme fraiche.

Grilled tarragon chicken 4 2015

It is very easy to convert it to wraps.  Just put less into each piece and wrap it up!  Perfect for a warm summer day.  As I said this was a fantastic experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  🙂

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The Lovely Yellow of Saffron…

It’s a busy week with the kids off from school.  For our daughter’s birthday we are redoing her room.  Which means lots of painting.  It’s strange because we’re getting rid of the little girl’s room and ushering in a young lady’s room.  I have to say I like her vision, it is going to look really elegant when it’s finished.

But it does put me in a position of figuring out dinner at the last minute.  I knew we had to use up some chicken but what to do?  A quick trip to the shop to pick up some saffron and paprika did the trick.

Saffron is not cheap but since you don’t need a lot in a dish it can last a very long time.

Saffron Chicken 1 2015Take about two tablespoons of hot water and steep a good pinch of saffron.  Set aside.

Saffron Chicken 2 2015Prep the other ingredients.  This whole dinner is cooked on the grill except the sauce.  For the veg I wanted to do skewers.  I brushed the veg with olive oil and white wine and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Saffron Chicken 4 2015Season the chicken with sea salt and paprika.

Saffron Chicken 3 2015Fire up that grill.  While the chicken, skewers, and the potatoes were grilling I did up the sauce.  In a small skillet I heated up a few tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 cup of dry white wine, and two large cloves of garlic finely chopped.  Slowly simmer the garlic.  Then add the saffron and a cup of chicken stock.  Continue simmering to reduce down.  Then season with a bit of sea salt and paprika.  About a teaspoon each.

Saffron Chicken 5 2015I am so happy it’s warm enough to grill.  Really cuts back on having a bunch of pots to wash!

Saffron Chicken 6 2015Once the chicken is done, slice and serve with the sauce.

Saffron Chicken 7 2015This is a case where once the components come together the balance is really good.  The sauce by itself was a little sharp but add it to the chicken it was a delicious dish.

Now off to continue with the painting!

Roast Lamb and Mint Cream Sauce

Hallo, hallo, hallo.  Been awhile since I’ve sat down and typed something other than tax figures.  It’s been crazy working a lot of hours plus I hurt my hip again so an equal amount of hours have been spent horizontal.  Boy, does that get boring!  I thought I’d complete the injuring myself by slicing my thumb.  Does that make me a real chef now?  I’m hoping my streak of self-inflicted bad luck is at an end.

But this is all peanuts compared to how yesterday went.  It ended with my sister being in a terrible accident while skiing.  Now she will be all right but she has a good 6-8 weeks to heal.  And quite frankly it could have gone in a direction that she wouldn’t be with us anymore.  So we are counting our lucky stars she will be fine in the long run.

It struck me how closely we skate to the edge.  It doesn’t take much.  Which brings me to the way the day started.  In our town it’s against the law to use skateboards, bicycles, and scooters on the sidewalk.  Common sense on why but we’re stuck with the young guys whizzing about.  I came out of a shop yesterday and almost got hit by a guy flying on a scooter.  As I was thinking that it would really hurt if he knocked me down I see him go flying over the bonnet of a car.  The driver was completely shocked, there wasn’t any way she would have seen him.  Luckily she wasn’t going very fast as she just turned onto that road.  Then he’s complaining about it being the third time being hit!  But he wasn’t hurt.  This is what drives me crazy.  My sister isn’t rash, uses common sense and gets badly hurt.  The idiot who is rash, does dumb things, and gets hits repeatedly brushes off and goes about his way.  There are times where it’s hard to not think life is grossly unfair.

Definitely looking for the luck of the Irish this week. It was just my husband and me for St Patrick’s Day and I wanted to make a special meal in honour of it.  Which means no corned beef and cabbage!  You’d think that is the only Irish food given the way social media lit up with corned beef and cabbage.  And I really don’t like that particular dish so I decided to roast lamb.  I took my inspiration from the cookbook The Irish Isle by Sharon O’Connor.  Her recipe is called Noisettes of Lambe with Sorrel-Mint Cream Sauce.  I chose this before I found out sorrel is impossible to find so I had to adjust a bit.

I found a lovely piece of lamb to roast.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 1 2015

Pre heat the oven to 425F/220C.  In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Sear all sides of the lamb.  In the roasting pan add a few sprigs of rosemary, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a few splashes of dry white wine.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 2 2015

Roast until it is medium rare or until you achieve the desired doneness.  Meanwhile in the skillet add about 3/4 cup of chopped onion.  Let the onion soften a bit then add a 1/3 cup of the dry white wine, a tablespoon of dry vermouth, and a cup of homemade chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and start reducing.  Take a handful of fresh mint and chiffonade into thin strips.  Add to the sauce.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 4 2015 Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 5 2015

Allow the sauce to reduce by a third to a half.  Once the lamb is finished have it rest for about 10 minutes.  Just before the dinner is to be served add about 1/3 cup of heavy cream and the drippings from the roasted lamb to the sauce.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 6 2015

Slice the lamb and serve with the sauce.  As a treat for my husband I sauteed Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes to go with the lamb.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 7 2015

What a crazy week but we are so grateful that my sister will recover and for all the nuttiness that can happen in life that is the most important bit.

Lamb with Prosciutto Mushroom Sauce

Every once in awhile we’re confronted with how fast life really moves.  This weekend our daughter had her semi-formal at the middle school.  It was a masquerade ball which was a fabulous idea.  I wish we had that theme in one our school dances.  I had a great time help our daughter get ready.

It was striking to us though as it was obvious that she is no longer a little girl but a wonderful young lady.  I kept thinking back to the first time I helped her do her hair and makeup.  It was seven years ago for Halloween and she wanted to be a geisha girl.  She was small enough I had to have her on the bathroom counter so I could do her face.  Not being used to make up she kept twitching as I tried to do her eyes. 🙂

This time, as she is nearly as tall as I am, I had to reach up to curl her hair and do her eyes.  It seems like the past seven years have gone by in a flash.  And, if you don’t mind me saying so, she was stunning.  We are just so proud of how she is turning out.  Beautiful inside and out.

I was able to find time earlier this week to do some cooking and wanted to play around with prosciutto.  I thought prosciutto with mushrooms would be a lovely pairing.

In a skillet melt a few tablespoons of butter.  Season the lamb steak with salt and pepper and sear both sides of the lamb.

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 1 2015

Finish off in the oven at 350F/175C to be medium rare. In the same skillet melt a little more butter and add a cup or so of sliced shiitake mushrooms and saute until they start to brown.  Then add a few cloves of garlic that have been finely chopped with a teaspoon two of fresh thyme.

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 2 2015

Allow this to cook slowly to soften the garlic.  If the mushrooms soaked up a lot of the butter then add a bit more.  Add 1/2 a cup of dry white wine and let it slowly simmer and reduce down.  As the lamb is resting add about 1/3 cup of chopped prosciutto and stir well.

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 3 2015

As a side dish I roasted golden beets, parsnips, and potatoes.

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 4 2015

We need the good food to distract us from this crazy winter.  We got another 6 inches or so dumped on us this weekend.  We’re running out of places to put it!  Some spots in our garden are about 4 feet deep.  The actual snow fall is now mid-thigh to me.  We have a slight problem of our greenhouse being snowed in and we can’t get the door open.  Unfortunately our potting soil and pots are in there!  Our seeds have arrived so we need to get this sorted out within the next week.

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 5 2015

Spring can’t come soon enough this year!

Rosemary Garlic Pork

Apparently we missed one hell of a game last night.  We don’t have cable any more so I started the day checking out the ads from the Superbowl.  I’m guessing the game was way better than the ads.  I made the mistake yesterday of going to the grocery store to pick up a few things.  It was mobbed.  Not only was the “big” game last night but we are also now in the middle of yet another big snow storm.  So there was game shopping on top of the panic shopping people do before a storm.  This storm didn’t shift to the east this time so we’ll be getting a lot of snow today.

My husband lucked out with the travel and was able to come home safely.  I had a good time with the kids last week but it’s great to have him home with us.  I was struck the other day how much our kids are growing up.  After taking them out for a light meal we drove back and bad music was playing on the radio.  Our daughter decided that we needed to listen to some real music.  So she put on Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and she and I belted out the song.  Slightly to our son’s dismay!  She took us through the 80’s and we ended with the Cupid Shuffle dancing in the kitchen.  Then we topped it off watching Master Chef Junior.  Those kids are incredible cooks.  We are just blown away that an 8 year old can do restaurant quality dishes and an 11 year old did up a branzino.  It’s insane.

To welcome home my husband I decided to make a pork loin with garlic and rosemary.   I found this recipe from Daily Dish Magazine to use as an inspiration.

Rosemary garlic pork 1 2015

Coarsely chop the rosemary and garlic.  This recipe takes a lot of garlic which is fabulous.  I used almost a whole bulb of garlic.  Place in a bag and add about 3/4 cup of dry white wine, 1/2 a cup of olive oil, and a few squeezes of lemon juice.  Season the pork loin with sea salt and pepper and marinate for at least an hour.

Rosemary garlic pork 2 2015

In a skillet heat up olive oil and pan sear the pork loin on both sides.

Rosemary garlic pork 3 2015

Finish in the oven at 350F/175C.  In a small skillet heat up the marinade and begin to reduce down.

Rosemary garlic pork 4 2015

Add butter a tablespoon at a time until there is a nice balance of the wine, lemon, and butter.  While the pork is resting saute some swiss chard with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Slice the pork and serve over the chard.  Top with the sauce.

Rosemary garlic pork 5 2015

It goes very well with roasted potato and parsnip.  It was wonderful catching my husband up with how our week went and listening to him tell us about his.  🙂

Swiss Chard and Diet Trends

I’m not one for hopping on the latest bandwagon for the diet fads.  Though I did try the South Beach diet once.  Wasn’t overly exciting and I felt it was limiting.  The latest is the Paleo diet.  I find it interesting and decided to get a cookbook that would explain it in more depth.  I’m not looking to jump in with both feet, we love bread too much, but I was surprised we follow a lot of the guidelines already.

The funny thing about trends is how people can go down the rabbit hole.  With the paleo there are a lot of people who think that it needs to be mostly meat based.  There is an article in the National Geographic that discusses this and they did point out that the hunting portion of the hunter/gathering could be seriously lacking and the women picked up the deficits with the foraging.

I am all for moderation though I have been wondering if I need to cut back even more on the grains as I’ve been struggling with inflammation this year and can’t seem to shake it.  With the exception of bread and occasional pasta there’s not much to cut.  But it wouldn’t hurt to expand the types of food we try to cook.  The substitutions are curious though.  I doubt there was coconut flour or xanthum gum and the like in the original paleo diet.

There was some lovely Swiss chard at the farmer’s market which I bought.  I was pleased the recipe I came up with fell in line with the paleo diet.

I’ve never had Swiss chard nor had I cooked with it before so I needed a quick lesson in what it was or how it compared to other leafy greens.  The farmer said it was similar to spinach in how it is cooked and if you cook the stems they needed to be cooked longer than the leaves.  The general opinion was to not eat it raw.

Swiss chard 1 2014

It’s a gorgeous veg with the rainbow stalks and I was hoping the colour would hold up with cooking.  Not all veg does so my fingers were crossed.  Plus it seems a shame to waste the stalks!

I sliced up 5 rashers of streaky bacon and began rendering it in a skillet.  Meanwhile I chopped up the stalks, a small red onion, and a few cloves of garlic.  Once the bacon was half cooked add the onion and cook for a few minutes to soften then add the garlic and chopped stalks.

Swiss chard 2 2014

Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.  Stir well.  Once the stocks have softened a bit add the chopped leaves of the chard.

Swiss chard 3 2014

Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the leaves soften down.  I liked that the chard didn’t wilt down as much as spinach.  I don’t like it when it gets that wilted and mushy.

Swiss chard 4 2014

I enjoyed this and was happy that we have another veg to add to our toolbox.  I’m limited with veg as a lot come across as bitter to me but I want to branch out and it was success on the first try!  We’ll definitely have this again and I’ll be playing round with the Swiss chard for different dishes.  Plus we’ll try growing it as well.

Leek and Mushroom Puff Pastry

Our kids are coming home tomorrow!  They’ve been gone for nearly two weeks visiting grandparents in Florida.  While I’m thrilled they are having a blast swimming, getting ice cream, and being goofy, they are missed.

I asked what they are requesting for dinners for the few days they are with us before they dash off to overnight camp.  My son is asking for chicken cordon bleu.  And my daughter would love something Italian.  I think I can handle these requests.  🙂

When I posted about the roasted veg with crepes I said there was another dish to post about from the French restaurant we went to at Terminal 3 Heathrow.  I did find out what the restaurant was called, it’s Oriel Grande Brasserie.  My husband ordered a puff pastry dish with leeks, mushrooms, and goat cheese.  It was delicious so I knew I would try to recreate it.

I confess I buy the puff pastry.  I do want to try to make some but I can get decent store bought and it’s one of the few ingredients I buy so what the heck.  🙂  For this dish I used the puff pastry shells which need to be baked ahead of time.  Follow the directions given.  For mine I baked them at 425F/220C for about 20 minutes.

Leek and mushroom pastry 1 2014 Leek and mushroom pastry 2 2014

Set aside. This recipe is for two servings. In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil and saute 6 sliced mushrooms.

Leek and mushroom pastry 3 2014 Leek and mushroom pastry 4 2014

I wanted a nice roasted flavour from the mushrooms.  As Julia Child taught the best way to do this is not mess about with the mushrooms.  In other words, don’t stir.  After the mushrooms are sauteed for a minute or so, let them “roast” on each side until browned.  In the meantime, finely chop 2 cloves of garlic and add to the skillet with a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.

Leek and mushroom pastry 5 2014

After a few minutes add a 1/4 cup of chicken stock and about 3/4 cup of sliced leeks.  Bring to a simmer.

Leek and mushroom pastry 6 2014

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Once the liquid reduces about half add a dollop of goat cheese and melt it into the sauce.

Leek and mushroom pastry 7 2014

Spoon into the pastry shells and grate fresh Jarlsberg or a similar cheese on top.

Leek and mushroom pastry 8 2014

Bake until the cheese is melted and golden.   The side dish that was served when my husband had the dish was a potato salad of some sort over greens.  I roasted some potato in olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper.  I served it over mixed greens with a lemon thyme dressing.

Leek and mushroom pastry 9 2014

This was a light summer meal but would also be great as a starter or a party dish.  I really wish my son liked mushrooms as I’d like to make this for the kids.  It would be hard to pick round the mushrooms though!

Don’t Be Radicchio With My Risotto…

Occasionally I find myself backed up in the book department.  I’m in the middle of a couple and have several in the wings.  When that happens and the kids want to make a trip to the library I find myself wandering in the cookbook aisle.  Oh the possibilities!

If I had the budget and space I would be buying cookbooks all the time.  Alas, I don’t have either.  Though over the years I’ve collected a few very old cookbooks from the 1800’s.  I find them fascinating.  I have tried to do recipes though it gets tricky when they talk about slow ovens or hot ovens.

This time round I found “Lidia’s Italy” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali.  Now there is a job I’d love to have!  Being paid to travel round Italy and creating a cookbook based on what I see.  Sign me up!

A risotto with radicchio caught my eye.  This is my version of it.  Instead of simmering water I chose to use chicken stock.  As I’ve mentioned before I find water to be a harsh ingredient.  I also changed the recipe to just make 2 portions with enough for a small lunch as leftovers. Before starting heat 2 – 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock.

Radicchio risotto 1 2014

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet.  Chop 4 slices of streaky bacon and start rendering in the skillet.

Radicchio risotto 2 2014

After a few minutes add in a half cup of thinly sliced red onions and two cloves of garlic finely chopped.

Radicchio risotto 3 2014

Add a half cup of arborio rice and half a cup of dry white wine.  Stir well for a couple of minutes.  Add 3/4 cup of radicchio.

Radicchio risotto 4 2014

Add stock a half cup at a time allowing the rice to absorb the liquid.

Radicchio risotto 5 2014

Grate a cup of fresh parmesan cheese.  When the risotto is about halfway cooked add fresh peas to cook and then when the risotto is nearly cooked add the cheese.

Radicchio risotto 6 2014 Radicchio risotto 7 2014

Season with salt.  Serve as soon as the risotto is cooked.  It needs to be firm and slightly al dente.

Radicchio risotto 8 2014

The recipe called for putting in the radicchio near the beginning.  I think next time I would wait longer as the colour is lost as it is cooked.  But it lent a nice balance with the bacon.  And it was really good with toasted buttered ciabatta.

Duck and Leeks – Sounds Like a Good Pub Name…

I love the old pub names you can find and the history behind them.  And I get a kick out of the signs.  I can picture a pub named the Duck and Leek and there would be some historical story going back to the mists of time.  Unlike my dish.  It came about 2 days ago because I was in the mood for some leeks.  🙂

I’ve mentioned a few times this year that the garden has been a bit wonky.  The growing aspect has been all over the place.  The leeks are no exception.  The previous years they have grown to be about 5 feet long and almost 3″ in diameter.  Loads of meals but this year they are about 2 feet and about an inch in diameter.  And we didn’t do anything different!  Fortunately the flavour is still there.  So I thought they would go well with the duck.

To prep I sliced and cleaned the leeks. Dirt gets in all the crevices of those little buggers!

Duck and leek 1 2013

Next I score the fat on the duck and season with salt and pepper.  In a hot skillet I place the duck fat side down.  Once there is a bit of a sear I turn the heat down to slowly render the fat.

Duck and leek 2 2013

Once it’s rendered enough turn and sear the meat side.  Do this for the short sides as well so you’ll have to hold it with tongs.  Remove to rest and keep it warm while the leeks are being cooked.

Duck and leek 3 2013

Next I drain about half the duck fat otherwise it would be overwhelming.  I add about a tablespoon of butter to melt.

Duck and leek 4 2013

I chopped up about 4 cloves of garlic and sauteed them until they started to turn a little golden.

Duck and leek 5 2013

Toss in the leeks and saute until cooked.

Duck and leek 6 2013

While this cooks I slice the duck.  This particular duck was a bit stubborn as it stayed on the rare side.

Duck and leek 7 2013

Easily fixed as I added the duck to the skillet with 1/2 cup of Pinot Grigio and simmered for a couple of minutes to reduce down and to just finish off the duck.

Duck and leek 8 2013

I cooked up some rice pilaf and served the duck and leek over the rice.

Duck and leek 9 2013

Got a thumbs up from the kids.  And the dogs were thrilled because they got the excess duck fat.  Happy campers all round!

Beef Wellington

I have to admit there are times I enjoy a challenge.  As I’ve mentioned before we watch some of Gordon Ramsey’s shows over here like Hell’s Kitchen.  In this show if you can’t do a proper beef wellington he starts yelling.  So I’ve wondered how difficult it was really.  Turns out it isn’t too bad.  And as I’ve never had one before it was a great treat.  I took inspiration from his recipe here.  And as usual I did it my way.  🙂  I changed a couple of things as I geared it to our tastes plus I took more pictures.  I didn’t like that there weren’t more pictures to show us what should be happening.  All went well except a slight hiccup at the end which I’ll get to.

There are a lot of steps but nothing overly difficult.  But it is important to set aside time to get this right.

First the mushroom mixture needs to be prepared.  I chopped up a bunch of mushrooms we had on hand.  It doesn’t have to be finely chopped.

Beef Wellington 1 2013

I melted some butter and added a bit of olive oil to a small skillet.  I started browning the mushrooms.  I then sliced a few cloves of garlic and added them to the mushrooms.

beef wellington 2 2013

To deglaze the pan I added a splash of white wine.  Not too much as you don’t want a sauce.  Once this is cooked transfer it to a food processor and pulse until it is a finely chopped paste.  Set aside and let cool.  Next salt and pepper the filets.

beef wellington 3 2013

In the same pan I did the mushrooms I add a bit of olive oil and heat.  Once hot I seared all sides of the meat.  It only takes a few seconds per side.  The meat shouldn’t be cooked at this stage but you want the juices sealed in.

beef wellington4 2013

beef wellington5 2013

Set aside and cool.  Once cooled take some cling film and lay out about 4 slices of proscuitto.  Try to get the real thing.  My shop doesn’t carry it anymore despite the fact they went through one a week!  Sigh.  What I had was not half as good.  Spread the mushroom mixture over the proscuitto.  Next time I will make more mushrooms as I had to spread this quite thinly.

beef wellington 6 2013

I then spread stone ground mustard over the meat and placed it in the middle of the mushrooms.

beef wellington 7 2013

Fold up the proscuitto around the meet and wrap the cling film tightly around the meat.  Place in the fridge for about 10 minutes to chill.

beef wellington 8 2013

Roll out the puff pastry very thinly and place the meat in the centre.  Use a beaten egg on the edges.

beef wellington 9 2013

Fold the pastry around the meat and tuck the ends underneath.  Cut off the excess.  Then egg wash the pastry and chill for about 5 minutes.

beef wellington 10 2013

I baked it in a convection oven at 395 F/ 200C/ Gas mark 6.  Gordon’s recipe said to bake 35-40 minutes.  So I figured 30-35 minutes for convection.  Here was my hiccup.  Should have done it 25-30 minutes.

While it was baking I decanted the wine.  🙂  This wine worked well with the mustard.

beef wellington 11 2013

Here is the beef wellington while resting.  You want to rest it 8 to 10 minutes before slicing it open.

beef wellington 12 2013

If I had taken it out sooner it would have been more of the pink that we like.

beef wellington 13 2013

However the flavours were amazing and I’m not sure why I haven’t had this before!  And this was served with an asparagus dish my husband made with ham and cheese.  Delicious.  🙂