Friday, September 25, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Italian Chicken Sandwich


Look at that. Will you just look at that and tell me you're not going all Pavlov on me right now?

My friend Barb gave me a packet of Louie's Italian Beef seasoning a few months back. It had been sitting in my cupboard for awhile; I don't make Italian Beef (or pork) during the summers as it's a slow cooking kind of thing and best enjoyed in front of football.

But the other day I made a beer can chicken. Notice no recipe for that is posted here since it wasn't that special. I prefer my brined chicken to beer can any day. While beer can is good, brined is better.

So I had this left over chicken: a breast and two hind quarters. How could I make this taste good?


The bread here is just as important as anything else. I got some baguette from Bonaparte, which I've rediscovered after a long absence. Their baguette is somewhat chewy but when toasted crusts up just right. It was an excellent chicken and broccoli delivery vehicle for the evening.

1 cooked chicken breast and two cooked chicken hind quarters
2 heaping TBS of Louie's Italian Beef seasoning
1 bunch broccoli rabe
6 cloves garlic
Aged Italian provolone cheese (don't get the American crap)
Extra virgin olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper

Remove the skin from the chicken and debone the meat (save the leg bones). Cut and pull the chicken as best you can; you want nice, thumb sized pieces.

In a 2 quart pot add 1.5 cups of cold water, bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Add the seasoning and two cloves of garlic (peeled and smashed) and stir. Add the chicken and leg bones and stir to mix. If too thick (like sludge) add some additional water. Cover and set to simmer for at least 1 hour. Meanwhile....

Bring 4 quarts of water to boil. Peel the leaves from the broccoli rabe, cut off about the bottom inch of stem and rinse. When the water is boiling, add about 2 TBS of salt and blanch the broccoli for 1 minute. Strain into a colander and rinse under cold water until cool.

In a large saute pan add about 4 TBS of olive oil and heat to medium. Shave or mince the remaining garlic and add to the oil with ½ - 1 TSP of red pepper flakes, 6 - 8 cranks of pepper, and two big pinches of salt. Saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the broccoli has become tender but still has crunch.

Remove the inner crumb from the top half of your sandwich bun/roll. Toast the roll and prepare your sandwich with chicken (a lot - watch the bones), broccoli (a lot - and get that oil on there too), and a good helping of thick cut provolone.

Have a good time.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Fried Artichoke Fried Pasta

I made this as a side dish for our left over Four Figgy Chicky last night. Turned out very tasty and easy to put together. Plus, how can you go wrong with fried artichoke hearts?

The artichokes themselves are great on their own - they'd make a great appetizer...which we ourselves had four of prior to dinner.

Half a box of spaghetti
1 12 ounce can of artichoke hearts in water
1 large tomato
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc used here)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese

Cook the spaghetti right to al dente. Once there, immediately drain and transfer to a bowl full of ice water. Set aside.

Peel the tomato using a veggie peeler or a ton of patience using a paring knife. You could also "shock" the tomato in boiling water for 15 seconds then plunging into an ice bath too. Either way, get the skin off the tomato. Remove the seeds and cut the flesh into ½ inch chunks. Set aside.

In a large skillet heat about 2 - 3 TBS of olive oil over medium. Drain and rinse the artichokes. Cut each 'choke in half along the length of the 'choke. Sprinkle the open half with salt and pepper and then dredge each half in the flour. [That's right - no additional egg dredge here as I'm keeping the mess down and the process simple.]

Once the oil is hot (water drops should spatter when added) place the artichokes, cut side down, into the pan. Let fry for about 3 - 4 minutes; turn one over to check for doneness, which is when the 'choke has a nice light brown crust on it. Flip the chokes and repeat. Remove the chokes onto a paper towel and immediately sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese.

Add the garlic to the hot oil; it will begin to turn brown. RIGHT when this starts to happen add the tomato (and any residual juices on the cutting board) and toss to mix. Cook an additional minute to heat the tomato through and then add ½ cup of the wine.

Let the wine simmer off to half then add the remaining wine. Simmer down to half again and then increase the heat to medium high.

Drain the cold pasta and remove as much water as possible - add the pasta to the pan. Careful here as it will spit a bit. Toss to mix as you gently/lightly/oh-do-delicately fry the pasta, about three minutes.

Plate the pasta and place the 'chokes on top of the pasta nest; add additional Parmesan if desired (and when is it not?).


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Four Figgy Chicky

And there I saw them, probably the last ones I'll see for awhile: fresh figs.

I love fresh figs. Plain, wrapped in melon, served with cheese, hot, cold, you name it. If there were a natures candy, these would be it.

While perusing through The Silver Spoon, I found a recipe for chicken stuffed with mushrooms, ham, and mascarpone. Looked pretty tasty but it a) required two ovens to really get it going and b) didn't have figs.

With some modifications, here's what I came up with. The amounts, funny enough, are pretty easy to remember. And while the recipe looks long this actually comes together pretty fast.

4 boneless chicken breasts
4 fresh figs
4 slices cooked ham
4 large mushrooms
4 TBS mascarpone
4 sprigs fresh parsley
4 TBS butter
4 garlic cloves
¼ cup kosher salt
A lot of toothpicks

Brine the chicken: In a two quart bowl add 1 quart of cold water and the salt. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat end of a knife (it's OK to keep the skins on) and add to the brine. Stir to dissolve the salt.

Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry. Cut off the tenderloin, if present, from the breasts. Take each breast and slice horizontally to about ½ inch from the end and unfold. Sandwich each breast between two pieces of wax paper and pound with a mallet until the chicken is about ¼ - ½ inch thick. Don't beat the shit out of it; be gentle in your pounding since you don't want to tear it.

Place the chicken in the brine - tenderloins too as they're your snack while cooking - and set in the fridge for 20 minutes. Meanwhile....

...remove the stems from the mushrooms (and discard) and slice each mushroom into 10 even pieces and mince the parsley. In a skillet add 2 TBS of butter and bring to a bubble. Add the mushrooms and a big pinch of salt and gently saute over medium heat just until the mushrooms begin to turn brown. Add the parsley, stir up for about 30 seconds, remove the mushrooms and set aside keeping the leftover fat in the pan. Meanwhile...

...take each fig and slice into four, round pieces. In a small skillet add 1 TBS of butter and bring to a bubble over medium heat. Add the figs and let brown on each side for about 4 minutes; you should get a nice crust on these. Remove the figs and set aside.

The dog, at this point, knows something good is going on and assumes the feed-me-I'm-you're-best-buddy-pose.

Now, here's where the bitch of this process comes in: stuffing the breasts. Lay each breast flat on a cutting board. On one side of the breast add a slice of ham, ¼ of the mushrooms, ¼ of the figs, and 1 TBS of mascarpone. Fold the other half of the chicken over and using toothpicks - and a lot of creativity - seal the chicken to make a pouch. By my fourth one I finally got this to kind'a work.

Further proof it doesn't have to look good to taste good. You could also use kitchen twine to do this (as my buddy John suggested this morning) but I wasn't thinking. Next time I'll most likely do that. Note that I'm using big toothpicks - they're actually small bamboo spears about 5" long that you can find in many Japanese markets. Very handy.

In the same skillet you cooked the mushrooms add the last TBS of butter (extra if there isn't enough from the mushroom saute) and brown the butter over medium heat. Cook the breasts two at a time; if your skillet is large enough do four but you want at least 1 inch between pieces. Each should cook about 3 - 5 minutes per side; cover the chicken while cooking so it retains the heat. Since your chicken is pretty thin and the insides are a little warm too it will cook fast. If you have space in the pan throw a few of the tenderloins in just to cook them.

Remove the toothpicks prior to eating (duh) and serve with pasta, if you like.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Marinated French Toast

It sounds disgusting, but it's not. And 'marinated' may be too strong a word here anyways.

I love French toast and I hardly make it because when the urge comes, I usually succumb to traditional bagel, eggs and sausage for some strange reason. But yesterday afternoon I was craving French toast.

After picking up a loaf of challah from Morty's - which a) took nearly 10 minutes for some strange reason, b) wound up not being great challah, and c) both of which should be inexcusable if I have to wait 10 minutes for a cold loaf of bread - I was trying to solve the classic problem of French toast that no one but me thinks is a problem: how to get the cinnamon flavor in the bread.

When you whip up the egg and milk mixture for French toast, upon adding the cinnamon it doesn't dissolve. This is for one simple reason. Ground cinnamon is a very fine, dense powder and doesn't absorb water very easily...kinda' like pepper. Now you have bread coated in egg/milk/cinnamon and when you cook it the cinnamon sticks to the outside leaving plain tasting bread.

Thinking of vanilla ice cream, part of getting vanilla into the ice cream is having the whole bean sit in the hot milk. So why not do the same with cinnamon sticks in milk then use the milk for the French toast?

B.I.N.G.O. Did I hit the nail here on the head or what? I should copyright this shit here. Maybe even patent, eh? It's pretty new, novel I would say, and a bit non-obvious.

1 loaf bread (challah, Italian, whatever)
1½ cups of milk
3 whole cinnamon sticks
2 - 3 eggs*
1 TBS sugar
Unsalted butter
Powdered sugar (optional)

In a one quart sauce pan, add the milk, sugar, and cinnamon sticks and bring to a simmer (not boil) over medium heat. Once simmer has been achieved, remove from heat, cover, and let rest for 30 minutes. Go for a run or something (that's what I did...believe it or not).

Cut the bread into thick slices - near one inch if you're into that.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and add the milk into a large bowl. Add two eggs (for more crispy toast) or three eggs (for more eggy), a pinch of salt, and whip up.

Heat pan - cast iron if you've got it - over medium heat and add a big honkin' amount of butter to it (about ½ TBS per slice of toast) and heat until the butter starts to bubble. Dip the bread fully into the mix and sit for about three seconds, flip, and dip and hold for about three seconds. Add immediately to the pan.

Cook the toast on each side until well browned and serve immediately. Garnish with powdered sugar if desired.