CHICKEN PARMIGIANA, THE THRILLER

Phil doesn’t like to mess with a classic.  He’s got his favorite pancake recipe,  the oven-fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits and gravy, the Thanksgiving turkey, and the potato dumplings that his Grandma used to make.  And, he is also adamant about my chicken parmigiana, which he professes to be “the best he’s ever had”. That’s why it took me so long to try Giada’s version, a streamlined, lightened up approach to this American-Italian goodie.  I tried to hide my game, but he saw some of the regular actors in the plot: chicken breast filets, mozzarella cheese, and my tomato sauce simmering on top of the stove.  He opened his brightest smile: “We are having chicken Parmigiana! YEAAAAH!”    I  replied with a sheepish smile:  “Well, sort of, it’s a kind of Parmigiana, yes, but not really, maybe almost Parmigiana, but not quite.  We’ll see if we like it.”   Silence.  A slight shudder of the shoulder, which I could not help but notice.  His body language went more or less like “Why would she do this to me?”  Why? For the simple thrill of it, of course! 😉

First, you must make your own tomato sauce, using good quality canned tomatoes.  I saute’ a little shallot in olive oil until fragrant, season with salt and red pepper flakes, add the tomatoes and some dried thyme, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Then I use an immersion blender to turn it into a smooth sauce.

Next, you need to make a little seasoned oil.  I used thyme from my friend Cindy’s garden (yet another gift from my very thoughtful friend), and rosemary from our own plant here in Manhattan. Chop them finely, and add to the oil with a little salt. And freshly ground black pepper.

Brush the chicken cutlets on both sides with the oil, keep in the fridge for half an hour or so, if you have the time. If not, move on to the next step.

Sautee the cutlets in a very hot skillet with just a tiny coating of olive oil.  Once both sides are nicely golden, pour some  tomato sauce around and over the chicken.  Cover the pan and simmer gently for a few minutes.  Uncover, add grated mozzarella cheese on top of the meat, cover the pan again and bake on a 400F oven for 10 minutes.
Open the lid, turn the broiler on for a little while if you like your cheese to get a nice tan. It’s not mandatory, though… at this point, you have already reached the desired level of yumminess.

Serve with some spaghetti with your home-made tomato sauce, sprinkle Parmigiano cheese on top, and   ENJOY!

For Giada’s recipe, follow this link…

Comments:  When I make my own version of this dish,  I often omit the cheese in some pieces.  I tried it with this recipe (you might be able to notice one small piece of cheese-less chicken on the first photo), but I advise against it. In this particular preparation, the cheese will act as an important blanket for the cutlets that otherwise will be a bit dry.  What I love the most about this recipe is how easy it was to make it.  No need to have those three trays with breadcrumbs, flour, eggwash, and the result is quite a bit lighter but still delicious.  The herb oil adds a lot of flavor, don’t omit this step, and feel free to experiment with other spices and flavorings. Will it be the default Parmigiana in our home?  I doubt it, but it’s definitely a great option for those evenings that pop up right at the end of a hectic day at work.  😉

One more thing before I forget:  the pan I use is a Giada cast iron dish sold by Target.  I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I like it better than Le Creuset.  It is a lot cheaper, it works just as well, and the cleanup is a breeze!  My Le Creusets got stained from the first use, and never cleaned well, even using diluted bleach.  Giada’s pan still looks brand new, after many  encounters with tomatoes, red wine, and soy based sauces.  No, I don’t work for Target, and have no personal links to Giada.  In fact, I have never accepted  freebies from companies to write a review.  I only endorse stuff I love.  And I love, love, love this pan!  😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Wild Mushroom Risotto

TWO YEARS AGO: Tartine Bread:  Basic Country Loaf
(one of my most popular posts!)

THREE YEARS AGO:  Pugliese Bread

THE SECRET RECIPE CLUB: CHOCOLATE ORANGE DRIZZLE CAKE

Last Monday of the month, and it’s Secret Recipe Reveal Day for my group. For those not familiar with it, the SRC is a monthly event in which food bloggers are paired in secret, and after stalking the assigned blog for a couple of weeks, they cook and blog on a chosen recipe. I was paired with royalty this month:  Lavender and Lovage is a great food blog that I’ve known long before I  joined the group.  Karen, the host, has lived in many different places, teaches cooking classes in the Southwest of France, and does a lot of research on British cooking. In fact, she is writing a cookbook about it! Her About Me page is a must read.   I had four recipes high on my list of possible choices, but finally decided to bake a cake. And one that takes creaming the butter with sugar, which proves I am a very daring person.  😉

CHOCOLATE ORANGE DRIZZLE CAKE
(from Lavender and Lovage)

for the cake:
6 oz (150 g) softened butter
6 oz (150 g) superfine sugar
6 oz (150 g) self-raising flour
3 large eggs, beaten
grated rind from 2 oranges
2 tablespoons milk
(7″ to 8″ round cake pan ~ greased and lined)

for the drizzle:
Juice from 2 oranges
2 oz (50 g) sugar
2 oz (50 g) 85% chocolate

Heat oven to 170C/350F.  Beat the butter and sugar together until
light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs and flour,
alternately, mixing well in between. Add the grated orange rind and
mix well before adding the milk to make a soft dropping consistency.

Pour the cake mixture into a greased and lined pan and bake for 35 to
40 minutes, until risen and light golden brown; test the center of the
cake with a skewer, if it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Cool in the pan.

Make the orange drizzle by gently heating the orange juice and sugar
together in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. When the cake has
cooled, pour the orange drizzle over the cake in the tin. When the
cake is completely cold, take it out of the tin and place it on a
serving plate.

Heat the chocolate in a saucepan over a low heat, do not allow to
boil, and as soon as it has melted, drizzle the chocolate over the
cake, using a fork to make patterns.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This cake was delicious, and Karen’s description of it was spot on:  some cakes that are drizzled with syrup after baking will end up soggy and overly sweet.  Not this one.  She coated it with a full layer of chocolate and decorated it with chocolate swirls, I stayed with a humble drizzle, as  my chocolate reserves in the pantry were  unexpectedly low.  One wonders why.   😉

To see what my fellow bloggers from group D cooked up this month,  click on the smily frog below.  To see who got my blog and the recipe chosen (it’s delicious!)  click here for Avril’s siteThe Secret Recipe Club will take a break in the month of December, but we’ll be back in full swing next year!

Karen, it was great to spend time stalking your blog!
I hope you are having fun on your Reveal Day…  

ONE YEAR AGO: Turkey Day, Tryptophan, and Fluorescence

TWO YEARS AGO:  The Ultimate Apple Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Trouble-Free Pizza Dough



BEETROOT SOURDOUGH FOR THE HOLIDAYS

This gem of a recipe comes from one of my favorite bread books, which I reviewed in a not too distant past: How to Make Bread. Such a simple and straightforward title, but it says all that matters.  You will learn how to make great bread following the careful instructions of Emmanuel Hadjiandreou.    This bread is perfect for the holiday season, its crumb decorated with intensely red dots of beets, that are coarsely grated and incorporated raw in the dough.

You may wonder if the bread turns out too sweet or with a strong flavor of beets?  Not really. It is a sourdough still, but with a background of sweetness that is just enough to surprise your palate and act as the perfect supporting actor for a slice of Roquefort cheese.  Sharp cheeses,  eggplant relishes, anything with a nice bite and some saltiness will go extremely well with this bread.  I happen to like it all by itself, slightly toasted.

For this large boule I used two beets, one medium, one small.  One of the things I loved about this dough was the change in color as the dough proofed, starting with a gorgeous, intense purple, and getting more and more subtle as the fermentation went on.

The recipe for beetroot sourdough is very similar to the one I published with Emmanuel’s permission last May, except for the inclusion of grated, raw beets in the dough.  But a more detailed step by step photos of the full process of making this bread can be found with a quick jump to Garlic Buddha blog, a nice virtual spot!

I like a plain and simple sourdough, but every once in a while it is nice to explore different flavors and stretch the horizons a little.  Beets… who would imagine? 😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Cod Filet with Mustard Tarragon Crust

TWO YEARS AGO: Soba Noodles: Light and Healthy

THREE YEARS AGO: Potato-Rosemary Bread

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Growing up, I knew nothing about Thanksgiving.   I had no idea one day I would be living here and calling the US my new home.  Of all American holidays, Thanksgiving is my favorite.  It is a time to just be together with family and friends, being grateful for the good things we have.  On that note, I wish Black Fridays did not exist. Or that they could be placed somewhere far apart in time from this special holiday.   Still, what matters the most is that we all have things to be grateful for, and I hope your day will focus on that.

For our first Thanksgiving in the Little Apple, we will have a joint party, two labs together, celebrating with all the graduate students who stayed here working hard during the break from classes.  It will be a fun evening, I am sure!  Phil will be in charge of the turkey, and I’ll be his sous chef.   All I have to do is mashed potatoes… I got the easy job this  year.

And here is a shot taken a couple of days ago in our street.  One would imagine that with Thanksgiving right at the corner, those guys would be a little more careful!  😉

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

500 POSTS AND THE BEST THING I EVER MADE

Yes, folks, this is my post number 500! Five hundred times that I’ve hit the PUBLISH key, and sent my words and images into the blogosphere! I wanted this post to be special, but at the same time I had to go with life’s flow, which lately has not allowed me to indulge into fancy cooking. But one cannot go wrong with a recipe described as “The best thing I ever made”.  If you are familiar with the FoodTV, you may know they have a show with that exact title, and it’s actually pretty interesting: chefs describe their favorite recipe in a particular category. This was Alton Brown’s best take on chicken. Chicken thighs are de-boned, and roasted with an olive stuffing under the skin, and a smoked paprika rub. They cook over thin slices of Yukon gold potatoes. I could have those potatoes on a daily basis. For breakfast. For lunch. For dinner. For a late night snack. Oh, yes, the chicken was awesome too! 😉

SMOKED PAPRIKA CHICKEN THIGHS WITH POTATO AND ONION
(from Alton Brown’s Best Thing I ever Made)

6 ounces pimento stuffed green olives, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, grated
3 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 + 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled
1 medium yellow onion, cut in small pieces

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the olives, lemon zest and garlic in a small bowl, and set aside. Mix the smoked paprika, olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and pepper into a paste in a large bowl.

De-bone the chicken thighs using a pair of kitchen shears:  make a cut down the length of the bone to expose it, then cut the meat away from the bone. Discard the bone. Add the boned chicken thighs to the paste and massage well to coat. Let it sit for half an hour or so.

Thinly slice the potatoes on a mandoline, about 1/4-inch thick. Arrange the potato slices and onion pieces in an even layer on a foil-lined half sheet pan and sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt.

Stuff about 2 tablespoons of the olive mixture under the skin of each chicken thigh. Arrange the chicken thighs, skin-side up, on a cooling rack and set the rack over the potatoes and onion in the half sheet pan. Bake until the skin is crispy and the potatoes are tender, 55 to 60 minutes. If you prefer the potatoes crispy, remove the rack with the chicken and return to the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments:  The only tricky part of this recipe was de-boning the chicken thighs,  but it’s not that hard.  I normally cook chicken thighs on the bone, but there’s something special about cutting through those pieces of meat, all juicy with the stuffing, without having to work around the bone.  It is a technique that could be applied to other types of stuffing.  The liquid that drips during roasting infuses the potatoes with incredibly rich flavor.

In typical Sally fashion,  onion and garlic were omitted, but I gave you the recipe the exact way Alton made it in the show.  I never thought very highly about pimento-stuffed olives, but they are simply perfect in this dish.  Alton Brown had a moment of inspiration when he conceived this recipe, everything works together extremely well.   Since it’s a reasonably heavy dish,  you won’t need anything else to round the meal.

Five hundred posts published and no special celebration?  Well, stay tuned, my friends.  A special milestone is waiting around the corner, and for that one I’ll have a little giveaway to my readers! 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Back in Los Angeles

TWO YEARS AGO: White House Macaroni and Cheese

THREE YEARS AGO: Korean-Style Pork with Asian Slaw

THE MANY FACES OF KALE

The other day I bought a huge, and I mean HUGE bunch of kale with the firm idea of making a frittata with it. As the afternoon moved along, I changed my mind on our menu, and the kale transmogrified into a light gratin.   But I also  toyed with the idea of simple kale chips (which I love), only to drop that and settle on a salad.  Maybe settle is not quite right.  By the time I jumped on dinner preparation, the kale ended up as pesto. Flip-flopper? Who, me?  😉

FARFALLE WITH KALE PESTO
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 big bunch of kale, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1/4 cup of walnuts, toasted
pinch of red pepper flakes
olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/4 to 1/3 cup yogurt

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil.  Drop the kale leaves and blanch them for a couple of minutes.  Immediately drain, and rinse briefly in cold water. Drain well, then place in a salad spinner to dry the leaves as much as possible.

Add the toasted walnuts and red pepper flakes to the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few seconds.  Add the blanched kale and process together with the nuts until a paste forms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Squeeze lemon juice all over. Close the processor, and add the olive oil as a stream.  Once the oil is incorporated, stop to scrape the sides of the bowl, add yogurt and process until everything is smooth.   Taste, adjust seasoning, and reserve.

Meanwhile, cook farfalle pasta until al dente, reserving some of the pasta cooking water.  When the pasta is cooked, mix with the pesto, and add the reserved cooking water to thin the sauce, if necessary.   Serve with plenty of parmigiano-reggiano cheese grated on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I’ve seen recipes for kale pesto in which the raw leaves are processed with the usual suspects (garlic and olive oil).  I decided it would be too harsh for our taste, so  I took the extra step of blanching the leaves.  If you are a garlic lover, add a couple of cloves together with the walnuts.   I loved this version of pesto,  and even used some as a spread for a ham sandwich at lunch next day.   All amounts are a bit eye-balled,  if you like the flavor of olive oil to be more pronounced, use more and omit or reduce the yogurt.   Don’t leave the lemon juice out, though – it adds that citric brightness that is a must in this recipe.

For additional kale inspirations, a small sample of recipes from the internet:  

Kale Gratin … A nice recipe from Taste Food,  she used spinach, but I think kale would be great too

Kale Salad with Butternut Squash… from Eats Well with Others

Kale Frittata... from My Kitchen in the Rockies

Golden Chard Pie… from the early days of my blog

Kale Chips… from not so early days of my blog

and for an interesting twist on this great veggie, take a look at these cute Quinoa and Kale Patties

ONE YEAR AGO:  Short and Sweet

TWO YEARS AGO: Ciabatta, a Classic Italian Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Magical Lamb Stew

YOU ARE ALL INVITED!

Cookies and coffee will be available at 3:45pm…

THE PUZZLES OF FERRIC ENTEROBACTIN TRANSPORT THROUGH FepA

When Gram-negative bacteria acquire iron, the metal crosses both the outer membrane (OM) and the inner membrane (IM). But, existing radioisotopic uptake assays only measure iron passage into the cell as the accumulation of the radionuclide in the cytoplasm. We devised a novel methodology that exclusively observes the OM transport reaction of ferric enterobactin (FeEnt) by Escherichia coli FepA. This technique, called postuptake binding, revealed previously unknown aspects of TonB-dependent ferric siderophore transport reactions. The experiments showed, for the first time, that despite the discrepancy in cell envelope concentrations of FepA and TonB (approximately 35:1), all FepA proteins were active and equivalent in FeEnt uptake, with a maximum turnover number of approximately 5/min.   The accumulation of FeEnt in the periplasm required the binding protein and inner membrane permease components of its overall transport system; postuptake binding assays on strains devoid of FepB, FepD, or FepG did not show uptake of FeEnt through the OM. However, fluorescence labeling data implied that FepA was active in the fepB-minus strain, suggesting that FeEnt entered the periplasm but then leaked out. Further experiments confirmed this futile cycle; cells without FepB transported FeEnt across the OM, but it immediately escaped through TolC.  These ferric siderophore acquisition systems are crucial to the pathogenesis of Gram-negative bacteria, and our results show that cathecolate siderophores, which are transported by OM receptors such as FepA, CirA, FecA and Fiu, play a defining role in colonization of the gut by E.coli.

Anyone who falls asleep will hurt my feelings!   😉