Mango Chicken with Mascarpone Sauce

Sometimes I read someone’s blog and find a recipe that looks just too perfect to mess with, like this Creamy Kabocha Truffle Pasta that Bam recently posted.  Or how about Happiness Stan’s Shrimp-entouffee which looks fantastic as is but I can’t help but think…what if I added mussels to that… and then made up some of Celia’s Dakos to dunk in the sauce?  Then there are times when you’re not sure where you’re going with an idea and start scrolling through other blogs as I did one evening only to find Adam Holland online.  All I had for an idea was ‘something with sausages…and it should have a sauce’.  Since Adam was online at the time we went back and forth with ideas about adding a marinara sauce and caramalized onions – viola!  a great meal was born.

Some times it takes a team effort and someone to bounce ideas off of when you hit that road block of “what am I going to make tonight”.  This happened when my daughter called me from the market.  “I’ve got chicken and and a mango, but I really want a sauce – what do you think?”  Mango, mango…”Okay, what do you think of mascarpone cheese?”  Bingo!  A new and very easy recipe was born.  After giving it a try that night, Niki had to call me to tell me what a winner it was.  Now we both make this one on a regular basis.IMG_1593Easy?  You betcha:
– Thinly slice about 3-4 shallots.  Cook in a large saucepan with a half stick of butter
– After pounding chicken  breasts, sauté until almost done
– Add 8 oz. of mascarpone cheese, stirring with pan drippings and butter until creamy
– Add sliced mango for just a few minutes.  Mango should be ripe but not mushy to get the best flavor, over-ripe or overcooking the mango gives it sort of a bitter taste.
– Sprinkle a little cilantro on top for a nice fresh taste

And there you have it – a simple meal that takes less than a half hour to prepare and cook.  If you don’t count the butter (I never do), I’m pretty sure it’s even healthy.  As a matter of fact this is hitting the table tonight – thank you Niki.  And thanks to all of you, my blogging friends for inspiring me as well as holding my hand when I lack the confidence to try something on my own.  Does anyone else get inspired to try something different – a new ingredient, a new cooking technique from blogs you follow?

 

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Gluten Free Chicken Piccata

Time to catch up… We had a great time hosting the engagement party.  We were certainly glad to have rented the canopy because it was cold and rainy although lucky for us, the rain held off until the food was served.  The amazing thing is that we actually were able to stand under the canopy – if it had been up to my husband we would have been standing on top of it.  If you ever need anything assembled, my husband is not the first guy you’d call for help.  After the rental company dropped it off along with 50 tables and chairs, my husband went out to set it up with Tim.  Not that he gives up easily, but seriously…14 minutes after being out there he was back inside fuming, telling me to call the company to send someone out to set it up.  I had to tell him that they don’t do that and sent him back out with the warning that he’d better not come back inside in under an hour.  As it was getting dark I started to worry until I heard our neighbor out there and figured we finally had a fighting chance on getting the canopy up.  Our neighbor is not only a super nice and handy guy but he’d already dealt with the same canopy for a party he’d had a few weeks earlier.  So thank you Jim for getting that canopy up and helping John save face by explaining that the equipment was all rusted and bent.

We had plenty of food some made ahead, some provided by Tim’s mother, and delicious appetizers friends brought.  The only thing that I had to do at the last minute was to make the chicken piccata – why I made so much I’m not sure but by the time I sliced and pounded the chicken breasts, I ended up with about 50 cutlets.  At least I had great help from Tim’s mother and we sort of got a rhythm going with me dusting the cutlets and Kath sautéing like crazy.   I had a number of guests who have severe gluten intolerance and decided to make this a gluten free dish that everyone could enjoy although I was a little leery of how the almond flour would work out.  Frankly, it turned out great and I’d definitely make it again because the almond flour actually seemed to make it a little lighter yet the flavor was marvelous.  I especially liked this recipe because it made plenty of extra gravy and who doesn’t like a little extra gravy on top?

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GLUTEN FREE CHICKEN PICCATA (for less than 50)

4-6           Chicken breasts, pounded to thin slices
1/2 Cup   Almond flour
5 TBL     Olive oil, or enough to coat bottom of pan
1/4 Cup  Lemon juice
1 Cup     Chicken stock – I found gluten free chicken broth made by Swanson
Capers for topping

–  Coat chicken breasts in almond flour then sauté in hot olive oil until lightly browned
–  Remove chicken and keep warm while making sauce:
– Add lemon juice and chicken stock to pan, loosening chicken bits, reducing sauce
– When sauce has thickened, add chicken and capers

And that’s all there is to it…unless you’re doing 50 of them in which case bring a stool over to the stove.

 

 

Chicken Marsala – for “one of those days”

Ah, nothing like sitting down in the morning with a cup of French Roast Peet’s coffee, ready to catch up on what your blogging friends are doing when you’re suddenly hit with the smell of burning plastic and smoke billowing out of your laundry room.  Yes, you know you’re going to have a day.  Maybe not the day you’d planned or hoped for, but certainly a day.

I should have known that something wasn’t right when I shifted the water lever on the wall over to turn the water on and it moved a little too easily.  Hmm, it normally gives a little resistance but who am I to complain when it slides over without any effort?  So, load up the washer with a batch of towels and push the start button.  I did wonder if the lever might not have turned the water on so I waited until I heard water going into the washer and went back to my coffee… until the smell hit me, and then the smoke, and a grinding kind of noise… time for action:

#1 – shut the water lever to the off position (notice the panel on the washer shows a code of ‘nF’ (huh?)
#2 – hit the off button on the washer (oh, so you don’t want to shut down?  Fine!)
#3 – pull the plug
#4 – open the window & doors
#5 – consider calling husband to say I just burnt up the washing machine
#6 – reconsider and using bad language, get the owner’s manual out

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to find out what the “secret code” is for this washer.  The display is 2 characters but I didn’t know that the first time I got a code of “DO”.  I stood there waiting for the rest of the secret code to scroll across the screen assuming that it was going to tell me exactly what to “DO”.  As it turned out, I was supposed to realize that it meant Door Open…okay, got it, the door wasn’t fully closed but it took me a while to figure that out.  So although I kind of remember long ago looking in the manual for what the codes meant, and discovering that in the 46 pages (ok only 13 pages in English), I still went back to it to see if the secret codes had magically appeared.

No, they had not.  However, I did find all sorts of extremely useful tips like:

– Install the washer on a floor that can support the weight – I guess you find that out when your new washer lands in the basement.
– Do not allow children to play around or IN (YES IN) the appliance  – kids don’t do well on the spin cycle
– Of course – Do NOT sit on the washer
– Here’s a good one for all of you cooks out there – Do not wash or dry items that are soiled with vegetable or cooking oil.  These items may contain some oil after laundering.  Due to the remaining oil, the fabric may smoke or catch fire by itself.  Don’t say I haven’t warned you if you spontaneously combust!
– My favorite though:  Do not add gasoline or explosive substances to the wash water.  I’d like a show of hands please…how many of you out there have added gasoline to your laundry?  If yes, please tell me why.

So forget about that secret code of “nF” – maybe non-functioning although the capital F makes me think of something else.  I ended up telling my husband what he had to come home to and of course got the standard “I’ll take a look at it when I get home” response.  That’s ok, I’m used to it.  He’ll take a look at it and decide that we need to call a plumber.  This is the situation as of now…

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That’s not a pretty picture and I think this one makes me feel much better:

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When your day starts with almost burning the house down, it’s definitely a day that needs a quick and easy dinner.  There is nothing faster, easier, or more tasty than this Chicken Marsala recipe and a huge benefit is that you get to take the mallet and pound that chicken into giving you the ‘secret code’.  (My chicken however decided not to give it up).

CHICKEN MARSALA

4          Chicken boneless chicken breast, thin sliced or pounded
¼         Cup flour
½         teas Salt, pepper to salt
½         teas Oregano
4          Tbsp Oil
4          Tbsp Butter
½         Cup Marsala wine
Optional:  mushrooms and/or capers

Pound chicken breasts between sheets of Saran Wrap

  • On plate, combine flour, salt, pepper & oregano
  • Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess
  • Heat oil & butter in large frying pan over medium heat
  • Saute chicken on medium high heat until lightly brown (just a few minutes each side)
  • Add mushrooms/capers around chicken & cook a few more minutes
  • Pour wine over chicken & cover, simmering for about 10 minutes or until chicken is not longer pink.
  • If more sauce is needed, additional sherry can be added or canned chicken broth.  Just before serving, baby spinach leaves may be added
  • Serve over buttered noodles

 

Garlic Roasted Chicken & Butternut Squash with Pecans

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I’ve noticed a lot of us sitting in the polar vortex have been sticking with our old basic comfort foods to get us through the rest of this winter.  This past Wednesday was definitely a comfort food kind of day.

I tend to stay close to home when the weather’s going to be nasty, mainly because I drive a very impractical (but very fun) sports car.  Much to my dismay, I was caught about 10 miles from home coming out of Boston heading west into what was supposed to be rain with a dusting of snow.  All I needed was 14 minutes and I would have been back home – instead I ran straight into white out conditions with snow accumulating rapidly, slicking the highway and turning the back roads into skating rinks.  As I was trying to figure out which of the 4 approaches I could take to get to my house, I realized that they all included hairpin turns and were all uphill.  I think if I’d practiced a little earlier this winter I could have made the Olympic bobsled team which would have been a snap on a nicely groomed track.  With my skid control warning light flashing at me and my rear end sliding out (my car’s rear end) I just made it to our driveway and thankfully hit the garage door opener to slide the bobsled into the garage.  The only concern I had at that point was whether or not I’d be able to stop the slide into the garage before hitting the rider mower (just a little tap, shush).

A cup of tea to simmer down the shakes and it was time to get some comforting aromas in the house.  A roasted chicken has always been comfort food for me because it was usually what we had growing up for Sunday dinner.  There weren’t any foodies in the 50’s so menus didn’t vary much – chicken on Sunday, pasta on Wednesday, fish on Friday, and some kind of roast on Saturday.  Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday was up for grabs but usually the choices were  meatloaf, stuffed peppers, cabbage and spareribs, pork chops, casseroles from the latest Woman’s Day or Good Housekeeping magazine and always dessert.  Sometimes we’d have steak but that was always an incredibly long meal as everyone chewed…and chewed…and finally gave up to work on the potatoes and vegetables to give their jaws a rest.

A little story about our Sunday chicken dinners…my mother was a very good cook and especially known for her unbelievable pies.  She never minded cooking for a crowd and we often had family joining us for Sunday dinners – until my Uncle Arthur with his 7 boys got booted out of the house by Aunt Mary one Sunday.  If you’re younger than I am you might not remember that having a phone was still a new concept but the aunts and uncles who were invited to Sunday dinner would have called earlier in the week to let my mother know that a 5 pound chicken might not be enough and to plan accordingly.

I still remember sitting down one Sunday – 5:00 pm exactly – and just as the food had been passed around, Uncle Arthur was knocking at the door.  The 7 boys were already through the door and finding chairs to fit themselves at the table – they were hungry!  Of course my mother would never think not to invite someone to sit down to eat even if they were already stuffing their faces.  In any case, that dinner we all just had a little less than usual with no leftovers for lunches for the week.

Since Arthur was my father’s brother, Dad got an earful that night.  Not even close to the earful he got the next week, and the week after when Uncle Arthur and the boys continued to show up right at 5:00 every Sunday thereafter.  We never did see Aunt Mary who was probably still in bed recovering from the week.  I honestly thought that we were getting a special treat that Sunday when my mother had us all dress up and lined us up by the back door.  Just as Uncle Arthur’s car pulled into the driveway, we were marched out the door and just getting into our car as the boys began to pile out.  “Oh dear, so sorry but we weren’t expecting you…we were just heading out”.  As soon as the eating army was around the corner though we were marched back into the house and our chicken dinner was served.  I did wonder why we were leaving the house with the oven on and food ready to hit the table.

You’d think that would have been the end of it but nope, the following Sunday Uncle Arthur was back.  Yes, he was and we were caught unawares.  You did not mess with my mother though because the following Sunday we had our chicken dinner at 4:00 and were at the ice cream stand when Uncle Arthur pulled up wondering why no one was home.  A couple weeks of that and we were back to our 5:00 pm routine.

This isn’t  my mother’s chicken recipe, but it’s extremely juicy, tender, and flavorful.  I know it sounds like a lot of garlic in here but it isn’t overwhelming at all…although you can always have some mints on the side.

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Garlic Roasted Chicken with Rosemary

1     Whole chicken
6     Large cloves garlic
1     Whole head garlic
5     Tablespoons softened butter
4     Sprigs rosemary
1     Beer or 8 oz. chicken broth

– After rinsing chicken, insert full head of garlic and a couple sprigs of rosemary into cavity with a few glubs of beer
– Soften butter then mix in chopped rosemary (or use dried) and the 6 cloves of minced garlic
– Cut small openings under the skin of the chicken and push the butter/garlic/rosemary mixture into all of the areas you can read under the skin
– Pour more beer or broth on top of the chicken then cover and roast at 400° for about 1 1/2 hours, depending on size of chicken.  Remove foil for last 1/2 hour to brown skin.  You can continue to baste with beer.

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On the side, I had mashed potatoes with gravy and this butternut squash which was perfect with pecans.

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Butternut Squash with Pecans

– Chop about 1/2 large white onion
– Peel and dice butternut squash into 1/2″ cubes
– In heavy skillet, melt 4-6 tablespoons butter to cook onions until they’re almost caramelized
– Add diced squash and cover until squash is just tender
– Add 1/2 cup of chopped pecans, mixing onions, squash, and nuts
– Sprinkle granulated brown sugar on top

When I make this again, any of you are welcome to join us – just call ahead.

Festive Chicken Stir Fry

Almost set for Christmas – I think most of the gifts have been bought (no, not wrapped otherwise I won’t remember what’s in them), candles in the windows, and the Christmas tree is up and decorated for now…

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Most of the decorations are still on the tree and so far Moe hasn’t been one of them…

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But, every day he picks a decoration off to play with while Lola dutifully brings them over to me to show me what Bad Cat’s done. Most make it in one piece but some of Lola’s favorites might get a little mangled first, like this poor guy who lost an ear and an antler – she really liked this one…

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And, this being New England, we’ve got snow.  The last storm was the worst since it hit during commuting hours and came down fast.  Of course, because this is New England, it will probably all melt this weekend when the temperatures ‘soar’ possibly into the 50’s:

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See the deer tracks?

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They’re from our ladies who live in our woods.

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Thing is, now that there’s snow on the ground I can see that they’ve been coming up to the dining room window.  Little peepers are kind of creeping me out.

I know chicken stir fry isn’t really a Christmas themed dish, but I thought maybe I’d go for a fast and easy meal with Christmas colors to make it festive.

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FESTIVE CHICKEN STIR FRY

2/3     Cups soy sauce
1/3     Cup water
1/4     Cup brown sugar
1        TBL cornstarch
1       TBL minced fresh ginger or sprinkling of powdered
1/4    Red pepper flakes
3-4    Chicken breasts, cubed or sliced
Vegetables – your choice but for a Christmas look, I went with reds & greens
– Red bell peppers, thinly sliced
– Broccoli florets
– Snow peas
– Carrots, sliced
– Onions, chunked
– Water chestnuts if you have them
– Rice, about 2 cups

– Combine soy sauce, water, brown sugar, and corn starch in bowl, stirring until smooth
– Add ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes into this sauce.
– Stir chicken chunks into marinade and refrigerate for about an hour
– Cook rice, then do the chicken stir fry since cooks very fast

– In large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Cook red bell peppers, onions, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, and water chestnuts until just done.  Remove and set aside.
– Heat a couple tablespoons more of oil in same pan.  Remove chicken from marinade (hold aside) and fry chicken until just barely cooked.  Return vegetables into the same pan then add marinade.  Bring to a boil while marinade thickens.  Serve over rice.

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Just Trying to Buy Some Honey

All I wanted to do was go buy a jar of local honey.

I really haven’t been doing much ‘real’ cooking these past couple of weeks because I’ve been trying to finalize the last items for the kitchen remodeling job and pretty much everything that could break, broke.  Although my kitchen designer has everything under control and ready to start at the beginning of October, I still have to find a bathroom vanity that I can have a soapstone sink dropped into.  I didn’t think that would be so hard, except most places sell the vanities with the top and sink already installed and I’m looking for a funky, cottage style cabinet that the fabricator can then make a sink to fit.

Then there’s all the men showing up at my house.  The new neighbors have got to be wondering if I’m running a bordello here because I’ve got a new guy at my door every few hours.  Let’s see, first the septic pump guy – had to wait for him.  Then one chilly morning I found that the oil burner didn’t want to kick on so that meant hanging around waiting for another guy to show up to fix that.  I was trying to get a couple different quotes from tile guys for the floors so that was another 2 guys at my door on different days.  Then I had to wait for an electrician to come take a look at our wiring to get a quote for a generator that we’ll be putting in (after 5 days without power last year we decided we’re too old for roughing it).  Oh, and when the oil burner guy showed up we noticed that the 100 gallon hot water tank was leaking all over the basement floor…can we get another guy out here to take a look at that?  There was a lot of car shuffling too since my daughter’s car had a problem and we swapped cars around.  As soon as her car was fixed, my husband’s car broke down so he needed some rides.

So, as I said, I just wanted to go out and buy a jar of honey to make this super easy honey chicken dish.

No problem – Lola and I hopped in the car for what should have been an uneventful run to a local farm for a jar of honey.  It was a glorious day and Lola was all happy ass about finally getting out until I had to slam on my brakes, just about putting her through the back seat.  You see, I was driving on this narrow back road when Granny came flying down a side street, not bothering to stop, and came careening into the road in front of me.  No, she was not driving a car because I’m guessing her kids took the keys away.  They must have forgotten to lock up the golf cart she was driving which had a metal cage on the front and looked something like this:

Buggies Unlimited Golf Cart Forum • View topic - Dune Buggy Style Top/

She had her little white lap dog beside her and did manage to stop her buggy just in front of my car but she was clearly upset that I slowed her down because she started cussing me out – I was a crazy driver and should watch where I(she) was going.  I would have just smiled and said “oh the poor dear” until she started swinging her croquet mallet at my car.  Yes, let me recap:

– Granny on a golf cart racing onto a through street
– white lap dog
– croquet mallet
– mouth like a drunken sailor

You just can’t make this stuff up and I can verify that at least I was sober.  Rather than risk getting my headlights bashed in, I decided to forego the “poor dear” stuff & shifted into first gear getting around her as fast as I could.

I’m not sure if her kids thinks she’s safer in the golf cart or if they just didn’t think she’d grab it to make an escape, but they really should lock up everything with wheels.  I’m not sure where she was going or what her hurry was…maybe she was late for bingo or maybe she was off to meet these gentlemen:

In any case I had to get out of there and after Lola righted herself in the backseat doing the doggie head cocking thing – left…right…what the???? we got the damn honey and we had a very tasty dinner while I was able to entertain my husband with a much more interesting story than what the electrician had to say.

HONEY CHICKEN

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–  Pound skinless chicken breasts until very thin, then let sit for a bit in milk
–  Coat each chicken cutlet with breadcrumbs
–  Mix honey and water to taste:  I used about 3 TBL of honey to 6 TBL of water
–  In large skillet, brown cutlets over medium heat until lightly brown on one side
–  Flip each cutlet to brown the other side & spoon honey/water over the chicken, let simmer until lightly browned and just cooked through.