Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Better Than Comfort Food

Growing up, we had dinner as a family almost every night of the week. My mom was a trooper. Until I was 18, she worked midnights and would sleep all day, wake up, cook dinner then go to work for the night. My dad was a big meat and potatoes kind of guy so we could always expect some rendition of that. My all-time favorite was breaded chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. It was like a mini Thanksgiving dinner and tonight, I had a craving.

Breading and baking chicken is fairly easy so I picked out a new recipe from Food Network to try out: Parmesan Chicken with my version of Aaron McCargo's funked smashed potatoes. DEEE-lish!

You'll see in the recipe below that you add parmesan to the bread crumb mixture. This added a delightful subtle parm taste to the meat which went great with the robust flavor in the mashed potatoes. (I'm pretty sure I will forever make my mashed potatoes just like this!)

Parmesan Chicken Recipe:
4 to 6 boneless chicken breasts
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 extra large eggs
1 tbsp water
1 1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
unsalted butter
olive oil

1) Pound chicken until they are about 1/4 inch thick, using a meat mallet or rolling pin.
2) Combine flour, salt and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tbsp of water. On a third plate, combine bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Coat the chicken on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides in egg mixture then dredge both sides in bread crumb mixture, pressing lightly.
3) Heat 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan and cook over medium low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until cooked through. (I struggled with this. Every time I went to flip the breasts, more and more skin fell off. I was able to save 2 pieces from total destruction, but really enjoyed eating the scraps while I cooked.) ;)

Mashed Potato Recipe:
*I eyeball this dish depending on how many potatoes I feel like cooking (and eating) each night, so this can vary based on how many people you are cooking for.

4 to 6 yellow potatoes (Yukon Gold potatoes are great for this)
4 shallots, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup to 1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt and pepper

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2) Wash the potatoes. Add the potatoes to a large saucepan of salted water over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes, Drain potatoes.
3) In a large bowl, toss together the potatoes, shallots, olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Add them to a quarter sheet pan and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven, allow to cool and then smash.
4) Toss cooked potatoes into a sauce pan. Add the cream, butter and garlic in a medium and cook over medium heat. (This is where you can determine how much cream to use depending on how smooth you want your potatoes. I like them a little chunkier so I stick to about 1/2 cup of cream.)
5)Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper, to taste, then transfer the potato mixture to a serving bowl.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

2 Dinners and a Baby!

My brother Chris and his wife Ashley just had their first child, Grady. He was born on Mat 23rd weighing in at 8 pounds, 2.5 ounces and 18 inches long. He is such a cutie! (and I am not just saying that because he is my nephew!)

It was so exciting to spend time with him and watch as he cried, slept, ate, etc. I was mesmerised. He is so precious. But I could tell from watching my sister-in-law, that having a new baby is as challenging as it is joyful. Having to constantly feed, change and play with him leaves my sister with little time to take care of herself, let alone prepare dinner so to help, I did what I do best: I Cooked!

Night one: Grilled steak and corn with Mojito lime shrimp, chickpea salad and rosemary potatoes.

Chris prepared the steaks with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary then grilled them to perfection. Thanks to the help of Ashley, the corn was covered in butter then grilled in foil. It turned out great. To go with the meal, I marinated fresh shrimp in McCormick's Grill Mates Mojito Lime marinade and fried them for 6 to 7 minutes, until crispy. I followed my own recipe for chick pea salad and to make the potatoes, I sliced them thinly and covered them in olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. I baked them for 20 - 25 minutes on 400 degrees. Everything tasted delicious and we had plenty of left overs for lunch the next day!

Night two: Baked salmon with mushroom and herb cous-cous and left-over chick pea salad.

I prepared the salmon just like I did in my post in the past. The cous cous took about 10 minutes, thanks to the directions on the box and the chick pea salad was ready to go. It couldn't have been easier and tasted delish!

It was great to finally cook for my family, especially new parents that hardly have time to cook. If I could, I would cook for them all the time. There is no better feeling than to know that the meal you prepared was appreciated by so many.

The entire weekend was fabulous. Getting to know Grady and spending time with my family was great. It was so hard to say goodbye but I am looking forward to visiting again soon.

Here are some more shots of my adorable nephew! I can't get enough of him!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Putting my Cooking Class to Work

If you read my post about the cooking class I took in April, you'll recall that I learned how to make vinaigrette from scratched...and loved every minute of it. I have a bag full of frozen strawberries in my freezer from Costco so I figured I might as well try making a strawberry vinaigrette.

There isn't much to making this and you can't really using measurements so here is what I did: I thawed about 6 berries and threw them in a blender (or food processor, but I don't have one.) I added a little red wine vinegar then a decent amount of olive oil. Blended it until smooth and added a little bit of pepper.

I gave it a taste and found it to be too vinegary for my liking so a added more oil. The end result was a bit frothy so I'm not 100% sure if I did this correctly, but it tasted REALLY good over fresh baby spinach. I'm looking forward to trying this again with other berries.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's Grilling Season!

One of the joys of living in a new building in NYC is having a beautiful rooftop. Last weekend I took a trip up to my roof to enjoy the sunshine and came across a BRAND NEW grill! Our landlord kept mentioning that he was trying to get a licenses to have a grill for us, but I always had my doubts...until now.

I ripped off the cover to find that not only did we have a grill, but it has a built-in sink and direct lines connecting the grill to both water and gas. It's AMAZING! And lucky for me, I had just bought steaks at the grocery the day before.

Once it was about dinner time, I threw together my favorite chickpea salad, fake baked some potatoes in the microwave, seasoned my steaks and went straight to the roof.

The meat cooked perfectly...beautiful grill marks and just the right shade of pink! (I prefer my steak cooked medium.) We enjoyed our meal on the roof as the sun was setting. How good does it look!?

One a side note: check out this panoramic view of me on the roof. So beautiful!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Veggies Please!

I never eat enough vegetables. I'm not the kind of person that hates them by any means, but when I'm cooking, I never remember to prepare them until the rest of the meal is finished. And at that point, I just want to eat!

It's time to make a change so tonight I added some broccoli and tomatoes into my normal mix. After grilling a few chicken breasts in a frying pan, I tossed the veggies into cous-cous. It was very simple, but tasted great. Plus, who can complain about itty bitty noodles with veggies?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tomato Basil Soup

Even though the summer heat is enough to make you melt, don't forget about winter's favorite meal: Soup. My fridge and pantry were empty last night. The only things I had left were various cans of soup, noodles and spices galore. Canned soup alone is never enough for me so I doctored it up by making my own semi-homemade tomato basil soup.

1 can Campbell's tomato soup
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup cooked cous cous
1/4 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper

1) Bring soup to a rolling boil over medium heat. Add in heavy cream and stir until well blended and heated through.
2) Sprinkle in basil and salt and pepper to taste.
3) Stir in cous cous and continue heating on low for about 5 minutes.

Serve and enjoy! (You may want to blast the air conditioning for this one) ;)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

15 Minutes or Less

Another night of extreme exhaustion led me to find the quickest way possible to cook and get my butt on the couch. I made sandwiches earlier in the week with Italian meats and fresh mozz and had plenty of cheese to spare, which would go perfect with pasta.

In 15 minutes, I had rigatoni with mozz, peas and grilled chicken.

I would give you a recipe, but I think you get the gyst. ;)