PORK WITH PRUNES, OLIVES AND CAPERS

Time for comfort food. This is great on the day it is prepared, but even better a couple of days later, so it is one of those perfect dishes for entertaining. I went the extra mile and cut the pieces of meat myself, from a large bone-in pork shoulder. I suspect if you buy pork stew meat it will work nicely too, and save you quite a bit of work. Zen work, but… sometimes even that seems a bit much. There is a ton of flavor, so you don’t need to brown the meat, just marinate it overnight and it will be perfect.

PORK WITH PRUNES, OLIVES AND CAPERS
(adapted from Nigella Lawson)

1.5kg pork shoulder – diced into pieces
375 ml dry white wine
200g pitted prunes
75g pitted black olives
2 Tbsp capers
2 tbsp Herbes de Provence
2½ tsp sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
250ml water
lemon juice to taste
fresh parsley leaves to serve (optional)

In a large freezer bag add the diced pork, wine, prunes, olives, capers, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Seal the bag and marinade overnight in the fridge.

Before cooking it, take out of the fridge a couple of hours before it goes in the oven to bring it to room temperature.

Heat the oven to 300 F.

Put the marinated pork into a large casserole dish, then add water.  Stir together, put the lid on cook in the oven for 2.5 to 3 hours. The pork will be soft and tender. Sprinkle with fresh parsley if so desired, and a nice squeeze of lemon juice.  

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Perfect meal to prepare during the weekend, although it could also be marinated early in the morning, stay full day in the fridge, and cook in the evening. Then it can go back to the fridge for a fantastic dinner next evening, absolutely effortless.  If you don’t care for capers or briny flavors, this might not be for you, it’s really the most prominent flavor. I happen to love it.

We enjoyed it with cauliflower puree, but obviously it would be a nice match for other side dishes, from mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, or even a hearty pasta too.

ONE YEAR AGO: Kansas Corn Chowder

TWO YEARS AGO: Impossibly Cute Bacon and Egg Cups

THREE YEARS AGO: Pulling Under Pressure

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cooking Sous-vide: Two takes on Chicken Thighs

FIVE YEARS AGO: Miso Soup: A Japanese Classic

SIX YEARS AGO: On my desk

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A must-make veggie puree

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Vegetarian Lasagna

NINE YEARS AGO:  Brazilian Pão de Queijo

ZAKARIAN’S PROSCIUTTO-WRAPPED CHICKEN BREAST

One of the only shows I watch on FoodTV these days is The Kitchen, with Marcela Valladolid, Sunny Anderson, Katie Lee, Jeff Mauro,  and the one and only Geoffrey Zakarian. The crowd has great chemistry together, each person bringing something different and fun to the show. Zakarian offers that touch of class and knowledge, sophisticated without ever being obnoxious, a tricky line to negotiate. Recently he shared a recipe with his characteristic signature: elegant, complex, but not overly fussy.  Chicken breasts filled with ricotta,  wrapped in prosciutto, crisped up on the stove top and finished in the oven. A quick pan sauce beautifully crowned the dish, bringing capers to the party. I have a weak spot for capers, in case you did not notice yet…  As I watched him prepare the recipe, I could not stop thinking that the whole thing would be perfect for sous-vide.  And sous-vide was the path I took. It was O.M.G. delicious. With the most enthusiastic happy dance to go with it.  Of course, if you don’t have the Anova gadget, don’t let that stop you.  I give you the exact method used by Zakarian in the show. However, I tell you, the texture of the meat cooked at that magical 141 F for hours… was superb. Superb!

zakarian-chicken-breast

PROSCIUTTO-WRAPPED CHICKEN BREAST
(adapted from G. Zakarian)

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup (about 60g)  sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (divided)
150g ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh sage
1 large egg yolk
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
9 slices prosciutto
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1 shallot, finely diced
1/4 cup (60 mL) Verjus (or white wine)
1/2  cup (120 mL) chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter

If using regular cooking, heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Using a small knife, make an incision in the top rounded end of a chicken breast, cutting through the center and to the ends without breaking the sides, to form a pocket for the stuffing.

Combine 1/2 cup of the tomatoes, ricotta, walnuts, sage and egg yolk in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Using a spoon (or place the filling into a piping bag without a tip), stuff each chicken breast with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then lay the prosciutto into sheets of three pieces each, and roll around each stuffed breast. Heat the canola oil in a large, ovenproof saute pan until almost smoking. Sear the chicken breasts on the seam side of the prosciutto, then flip and sear the other side.Transfer the whole pan to the hot oven until the center of the chicken registers 160 degrees F, about 15 minutes.

If using sous-vide method: wrap each piece in plastic, then seal in a foodsaver type bag. Submerge in a water bath set to 141 F for 4 hours. When the time is up, remove the meat from the package, dry well and proceed to browning both sides on the stove top.

For both types of cooking, continue to make a pan sauce:  remove the chicken from the pan, add 1/2 cup of the sun-dried tomatoes, capers and shallots and cook over medium-high heat for 1 minute to soften the shallots. Add the Verjus to deglaze the pan, the chicken stock and cook until reduced by half, then swirl in the butter. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Slice the chicken and serve with the sauce.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite

Comments: I had a bit of a tough time filling the chicken. First I tried it as recommended, without a tip in the piping bag, but my bag was too thin, not sturdy enough to force the filling in. I tried with a tip, but the largest one I had was not wide enough and kept plugging with the pieces of walnuts. Since I was going to wrap the pieces with plastic anyway, I ended up cutting a slit around the side, opening the meat like a book, then rolling the prosciutto around. During the sous-vide cooking, it all turned into a perfectly shaped package. If you have a sturdy piping bag, it should work well.

What I love about sous-vide is how flexible you can be with timing. I served this meal for dinner on a super busy Sunday, in which we had no idea when we would be ready to finally sit down to eat. I set the water bath at 3pm and knew that whenever we wanted to have dinner, it would be a matter of 10 minutes to sear the pieces, and make the pan sauce. I had side dishes already made, just waiting to be re-heated. Easy but very impressive dinner.  Meat was perfectly cooked, the prosciutto gets all crusty and salty and tasty. And the sauce… capers are the perfect addition.  Zakarian really knows his way around food, Iron Chef that he is. And his beautiful gray hair only adds to his charm. Partial? Me? You’d think?   😉

About that Verjus: If you don’t have it, use white wine or simply chicken stock.  I am getting more and more fond of its subtle flavor, the way it brings mild acidity to a sauce or dressing.  And, by the way, did you know that a little Verjus mixed with carbonated water is a fantastic drink? Elaine tried it first and raved about it. Some people add sweetener, but we both like it straight. I am very fond of carbonated water with drops of bitters such as Angostura, so I’m not surprised that Verjus pleased me so much.

But, I digress. This is about the Zakarian’s recipe, and you definitely need to try it!  Perfect for a dinner party, you can assemble the chicken before, sear it quickly and bake it. Your guests will be impressed, thinking you slaved away for hours. But truth is, you did not…

prosciutto-wrapped-chicken-breast-from-bewitching-kitchen

ONE YEAR AGO: Amazing Apricot Bars

TWO YEARS AGO: Spiralizer Fun

THREE YEARS AGO: Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

FOUR YEARS AGO: Carriage House Apple-Walnut Pie

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chicken Marsala

SIX YEARS AGO:  Home, sweet home

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Levain Bread with Caramelized Onions

 

 

CHICKEN THIGHS WITH ARTICHOKES AND CAPERS

If you are into Paleo recipes, make this dish!  If you are not into Paleo recipes, make this dish!  Yes, I am a bit bossy today, as a husband and a few graduate students might have noticed. But it’s all with good intentions, as I know what is good for them, for you, and maybe even for myself.  The inspiration for this recipe was found in one of my Kindle cookbooks, Make it Paleo II, by Hayley Mason and Bill Staley. They also have a food blog, Primal Palate, with great recipes and youtube videos. I always read the good and the bad reviews of a cookbook before buying it, and one of the reviewers at amazon.com said that this recipe alone was worth getting the book. I made it twice, once exactly as written, but in this post I am sharing my take on it, modified not only in flavor but also in the method itself. In their version, it is all made in a single skillet, but I did not want to turn on the big oven, so after browning the meat I transferred the pieces to a baking dish that fits in our Breville.

SkilletChickenThighs

CHICKEN THIGHS WITH ARTICHOKES AND CAPERS
(adapted from Make it Paleo II)

6 skin-on chicken thighs, boneless
Sea salt to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp za’tar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (6-oz) jar artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and drained
2 Tbsp capers
1 lemon, sliced into rounds and quartered

Heat the oven to 425°F. Heat a skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat. Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel, removing as much moisture as possible. Season the skin with salt and place them skin side down in the hot skillet. Flip the thighs once they develop a nice brown sear on the skin, which should naturally make them easily release from the pan. Cook the chicken skin side up for 1 minute, then transfer to a baking dish, skin side up.  Season evenly with the oregano, za’tar, and  more black pepper to taste. Add the artichoke hearts, olives, capers, and lemon slices to the skillet. Place the skillet in the oven and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  If you never de-boned a chicken thigh yourself, take a deep breath and try it, because it’s a nice skill to acquire in the kitchen. I don’t know what type of chicken meat your grocery store carries, but where we live I can find bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, and boneless, skinless.  The former I use for roasting all the time, but the skinless I reserve for either braises, stir-fries, or grilling (usually after a nice marinade with yogurt or some citric concoction).  You absolutely need boneless pieces with the skin on for this recipe, so if you cannot find it, roll your sleeves up and get working.  It was a bit of a struggle, but I got better and better as I did it.  I watched some videos on youtube to help me with the technique, but most videos available show professional chefs who handle the knife as if they were born with one in their hands.  Amazing to watch, but when trying to mimic them, my shortcomings became quite evident. I say take your time, put some soothing music on, and practice. By the way, if you don’t have za’tar, don’t worry. But get some, will you?  I must say it’s one of my favorite spice mixtures at the moment. Love it.

Phil is so addicted to my default recipe for chicken thighs, that at first he was disappointed by the different preparation. But, it took him only one bite to say that I should revisit this recipe whenever I feel like it. Two thumbs up!  So there you have it, make this dish because I said so, and Sally knows what’s best for everyone. HA!

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Pea Pancakes with Herbed Yogurt

TWO YEARS AGO: Mushroom Stroganoff

THREE YEARS AGO: Tomato Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

FIVE YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

CRISPY CHICKPEA AND CAPER SPAGHETTI

Absolutely delicious and a cinch to put together, I dare say that even chickpea haters might appreciate these little creatures when presented this way.  This was my first time roasting capers, but it won’t be the last. Great boost of flavor for an ingredient that already has quite a strong personality.

Pasta with Roasted Chickpeas and Capers
CRISPY CHICKPEA AND CAPER SPAGHETTI
(slightly adapted from Real Simple)

3/4 pound spaghetti
1 can chickpeas (15 ounce)  rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup capers, drained
1/4 cup olive oil  (I probably used a little less)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
salt and black pepper
1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat oven to 400° F.  Combine the chickpeas, panko, capers, oil, coriander, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, tossing once, until crispy, 18 to 22 minutes.

While the chickpeas are roasting, cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the pan.

Add the chickpeas, cilantro, and lemon juice to the pasta and toss to combine.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

roasted

Comments:  What a great, simple recipe this was! I’ve roasted chickpeas before, but they always turned a little mushy. The addition of panko-style bread crumbs brought a very pleasant crunch to the mixture.  Roasted capers were another very pleasant surprise. I love their sharp, pungent taste in any type of recipe. Roasting changes that sharpness quite a bit, I would say it takes some of it away, but at the same time intensifies the pure caper flavor.  Am I making sense?  😉  Make this pasta and see what you think.

served111Dinner is served! 
Grilled lemony chicken breasts and snow peas completed our meal…

ONE YEAR AGO: Leaving on a jet plane

TWO YEARS AGO: Crispy Herb-Crusted Halibut

THREE YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Bonjour!

BRAISED FENNEL WITH SAFFRON AND TOMATO

This side dish is elegant and luscious. Perfect to pair with chicken, pork or a mild fish like cod or sea bass. But, if you prefer to walk the vegetarian path, enjoy it over farro, barley, or as we did, a colorful quinoa.  Add a hearty loaf of bread, and you will be all set…

Fennel with Tomato Saffron1

The recipe is published in  Vegetable Literacy  the latest cookbook from Deborah Madison. Lisa  from “Lisa is Cooking” wrote a great review about the book a few months ago, and shared a recipe from it, check it out by jumping here. Deborah Madison has the amazing ability of bringing the best out of the most humble vegetable. I do not own a copy of this particular book (bravely resisted so far), but her classic Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is part of our collection.

The recipe is available online, just click here.

composite

Definitely the most important advice is to take the time to brown the fennel well, that will ensure a deeper flavor in the end.  I don’t recommend this dish for those who have issues with fennel, because its flavor is very prominent.  I crumbled goat cheese over the braise, allowing it to melt down in the liquid, and right before serving added the greens from the fennel, minced. As the recipe states, if your fennel bulbs came without the tops, use parsley instead. My main modification from the published recipe was to squeeze a little lemon juice all over, and reduce slightly the amount of tomato paste. I thought three tablespoons seemed excessive, so I added only two.  Capers and saffron are fantastic together, by the way.

Served
Because we have nothing against a little meat with our veggie goodness,  a boneless, grilled chicken breast was part of our dinner too.  As far as looks are concerned, I suppose a fully white quinoa would have been better, but the bag of tricolor quinoa acquired months ago at a Trader Joe’s was winking at me from the pantry.  I spooned a little of the braising sauce over the chicken, so that it all got tied together in a beautiful caper & saffron glory!

platedDinner is served!

ONE YEAR AGO: Revenge of the Two Derelicts

TWO YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

THREE YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

FOUR YEARS AGO: Baked Shrimp and Feta Pasta

ANCHOVIES, THE FINAL FRONTIER

This is my 300th post!

While growing up I was a picky eater.  The list of things I avoided was huge, including most vegetables (except for tomatoes and potatoes) and all kinds of seafood.   Invitations for dinner at a friend’s home made me worry for days, thinking about what to do if they served such or such an item. When my friends suggested a night out for sushi, I made sure that the restaurant had other choices (and I don’t mean miso soup or tempura!  ;-)).  But, in my twenties the food aversions started to bother me.    Even though I had trouble admitting it, I wanted to be a person who could appreciate any type of food that a host served me, and stop worrying about my humongous list of neurotic restrictions.

Slowly but surely I experimented  with things I disliked: a small bite here, a taste there, and to my surprise, I found that the worst part of the experience was not the food itself, but its anticipation, … the fear of it.  When I was 30 I’d overcome almost all my food aversions, and each one felt like a small victory. Nevertheless, one item stubbornly refused to capitulate: anchovies.  I recently set on a mission to change that.  Following  Jeffrey Steingarten in his great book “The Man Who Ate Everything,”   I’ll slowly  introduce anchovies in my cooking.  This recipe is my first step on the path to  enjoying them.

PASTA PUTTANESCA
(adapted from Fine Cooking, October 2010)

salt
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2  cloves garlic, minced
2-3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
One 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 lb. dried spaghetti
1/2 cup pitted brine-cured black olives, such as Kalamata, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs. nonpareil capers, rinsed and drained
1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano or marjoram
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbs. of the olive oil with the garlic in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant, but not too dark, about 2 minutes.  Add the anchovies and red pepper flakes and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the tomatoes,  increase the heat to medium high, bring to a boil, and then simmer gently for 10 minutes.

After adding the tomatoes to the pan, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions until al dente.

When the tomato sauce is ready, add the olives, capers, and oregano and stir. Simmer until just heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is ready, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain well. Return the pasta to the pot, set it over medium-low heat, pour in the sauce, and toss, adding cooking water as needed for the sauce to coat the pasta. Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Pasta puttanesca was a perfect option for anchovies, because it has so many other flavors in the sauce: capers, black olives and herbs.  I felt a little uneasy opening the can of oil-packed anchovies, took a careful sniff and tried to concentrate on “umami” instead of “impossibly fishy.”  I had no idea that they would splatter so much in the pan, loudly announcing their presence  and making  a mess on the stove.  Next time I’ll be better prepared!

The verdict?  I detected a hint of the salty, smoky flavor of the anchovies, but nothing offensive.  This time I only used two filets, just to be safe, but the next time I’ll  add three.   Some day I want a slice of pizza with one of those small fish laying defiantly on top, but it may take more time!

Puttanesca is a hearty dish that will stand on its own as a meal, but because I wasn’t sure about it, I also prepared plan B: grilled flank steak.   It was really a tasty match!

ONE YEAR AGO:  Hoisin Explosion

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine