Years ago, my wife went to a bridal shower or a baby shower or something like that. She knows me really well, so she always gives me the rundown of the menu at any of these things. (She even knows all the questions I’m going to ask before hand, so she pays extra attention to those things even though she thinks I’m a geek. I’m not worthy!)
Anyway, at this event she had a salad that she REALLY liked, but didn’t get the name of for some reason. She describes it to me – it has grapes and apples, grilled chicken and bowtie pasta. She says, “I know you won’t like it…it’s a girl salad”. How am I supposed to take a statement like that? What does the fact that I actually really like this “girl” salad say about me? I like shoes too!! YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT?!
Ahem. Try this exceptionally tasty, perfect for summer meal and I think you’ll like it too. Regardless of any other…preferences.
For the Salad:
For the dressing:
Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl until completely smooth. Chill in the refrigerator while you assemble the rest.
Stem and core the apple. Cut into bite sized pieces. Wash the grapes and remove from the stem. Put fruit into large bowl with cooked pasta.
Generously coat the whole chicken breast with lemon pepper and garlic salt on both sides. Heat grill or grill pan to high heat. Grill the chicken for 4 or 5 minutes on each side, depending on thickness. Remove from heat when done (internal temperature of about 160 degrees F), and allow to rest and cool for a full five minutes. Cut the chicken across the grain into bite sized pieces, then add to pasta and fruit. Pour the dressing over the top and toss vigorously to coat. You can eat it right away, but it’s really good if it can chill for an hour or two first.
I LOVE authentic Mexican food. “Street Style” Enchiladas Rojas, fresh guacamole, spicy citrusy ceviche, bring them all and we’ll party. Knowing this, you’d think I would’ve made something special last night. Alas. My kids would have none of that. So what did I make? Pasta. Don’t get me wrong, pasta is fantastic. It just would’ve been nice to do something a little more timely.
At any rate, I think this dish turned out very well. You be the judge.
Chicken in Cream Sauce with Mushrooms and Red Peppers (these names get worse and worse)
In a large sauce pan, heat 6-8 cups of water for the noodles. As soon as you have a good boil going, cook the noodles according to the directions. It should take just about as long as the rest of the dish.
In a heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and mushrooms. After about 5 minutes, add chicken and about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and cook 4-5 minutes, until the pink is gone. Remove onions, mushrooms and chicken to medium bowl and set aside.
Add remaining tablespooon of butter to skillet, and heat until the foaming stops. Add garlic, and stir for about a minute. Then add cream, crushed red pepper and basil. Bring to a slow boil, stirring frequently and reduce the cream by half, which takes a good 7 or 8 minutes. It will thicken considerably over this time. Add the chicken mixture back along with the red bell pepper and allow to cook for 4 or 5 more minutes to finish cooking the chicken. If the sauce thickens too much, you can thin it will a little chicken stock. Serve with noodles and freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese. Viva el cinco de mayo!
This is a quick and easy dish that you can do with almost any ingredients you have on hand with only slight variations. No chicken? Use pork! No zucchini? Use eggplant. The list could go on and on.
My dear wife (who is sweetness and light, who I couldn’t possibly be worthy of) gets on food and drink “kicks”. Maybe you know someone like this. She will try something and then that’s all she wants to eat, drink or think about for a good while, and then she never wants to see it again. This is just another way that she is a perfect match for me because it lets me make a dish that she likes over and over again which helps me to refine it until it’s exactly right.
I say all of that because a few years ago she got on a kick for Voila, which is a frozen, pre-cooked bag of food that had noodles and chicken and vegetables. All you have to do is add a little water and defrost it. I’m not bashing it at all, you could do worse. But we had it quite a few times before I thought, I can do this better. Thus Chicken and Pasta Primavera was born at our house. It’s not quite as fast as the Voila was, but it’s very fast.
Chicken and Pasta Primavera
In a large sauce pan heat 4 quarts water for pasta. While that is coming to a boil, in a large heavy skillet put melt butter with olive oil over medium high heat. Add sliced carrots and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and chicken pieces. When chicken pieces start to turn white, add salt and crushed red pepper.
By now, the water should be boiling. Add salt, then the noodles and cook according to directions.
Add the zucchini and squash to the chicken and cook stirring occasionally until the noodles are ready. Drain the noodles well and then mix them into the chicken and vegetables. Toss together to coat the noodles, then top with parmesan. Serve immediately.
We had company for dinner again last night and at 5 pm I still didn’t know what I wanted to serve. I ended up going with some fried chicken fingers, fruit salad, and a bacon ranch pasta salad. (The fruit salad was my wife’s idea.)
I wasn’t really thinking I want to make a summer meal, but after it was all done it just seemed to fit. The chicken recipe is one I am pretty happy with, although I do continue to tweak it. The pasta salad was inspired by a box thing that I thought I could do better.
Note the fancy plate.
Take a large, heavy skillet and put the oil in. You want it to be about 2 inches deep. Heat over medium high while you coat the chicken. We’re shooting for 350 degree oil.
Take 3 shallow dishes (pie plates or something). In the first dish put the flour, put the buttermilk in the second, and the breadcrumbs in the third. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the breadcrumbs and mix.
Toss the other teaspoon of salt with the chicken pieces. Take a piece of chicken and dredge it in flour until it’s fully coated. This will help the buttermilk stick to it better. Dunk it in buttermilk, then roll it in the breadcrumb mixture. Repeat until you’ve done all of your chicken pieces.
By now the oil should be hot. A word or two about frying. First of all, be careful! Make sure no part of you or your clothing touches that oil, it would be very bad. If you ever see flames, do NOT use water. Smother the flames with a large pan lid, dump baking soda or flour on them etc. Also, do not put too many pieces of chicken in at one time. I usually do 3 batches of 4 or 5 pieces. If you crowd the pan, it will take longer to cook and will not be as even when you’re done.
Cook the pieces for 5 minutes or so and the flip and cook for another 3 or 4 depending on thickness. I usually go by color which works great as long as your oil is at the right temp. If you’re too hot, they will turn brown on the outside, but still be raw on the inside. It is most embarrassing to serve chicken that looks done but is raw in places (sorry honey, but you must admit I have gotten better at this). Once the chicken is cooked, remove and drain on paper towels.
Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
Cook pasta according to directions, but about 3 minutes before the pasta is cooked, take carrot and with a vegetable peeler, shave off 2 inch pieces of carrot into the boiling pasta water. Add peas to water also, then drain when pasta is cooked. Rinse with cold water then put in large bowl. Add bacon, tomatoes, pepper, olives, ranch and mayo. Mix well, then chill for 15 or 20 minutes before serving.
This meal may sound time consuming, but it really won’t take too long and people love both these dishes. Try mixing ranch and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce for a dipping sauce for the chicken…awesome!!
Everyone has days that they just don’t feel like investing a lot of time or effort into the after work meal. Either it was a long day and I was late getting home or you flat out don’t want to deal with it. BEWARE for these are the times that the forces of fast food and delivery pizza make their assault against your better sensibilities. RESIST I say, and do it with this super simple, but tasty dish. We almost always have the ingredients for this one on hand and it is very quick to put together. I can usually have this on the table in under 20 minutes.
Chicken and Corn Tacos
Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally over the chicken breasts. I usually saute them over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, then let them cool. After they’re cool enough to handle, shred into bite size pieces. You could also boil the chicken, then shred which is healthier, but less tasty.
In a large skillet (the one you sauteed the chicken in if you went that route), put the oil in and heat until it shimmers. Add shredded chicken, corn and salsa. Mix until combined, then heat to a low boil. Once it’s heated through, serve on tortillas, taco shells or with chips. Cheese, tomatoes, olives all make great toppings for this.
If you’re not worried about fried (or in too much of a hurry) try this:
Take 8 corn tortillas and cut them into 8 wedges. Heat about 2 cups of vegetable oil to about 350 degrees. Add the tortilla pieces to the oil in batches of 8 or 10 and fry for about 3 minutes on both sides. They will turn a beautiful golden color (if they go to a dark brown, that’s too long). Take out of the oil, drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. This will significantly extend your time investment for this meal, but they are FANTASTIC.
Every time I order this dish at a restaurant, it seems that everyone from the dishwasher on up feels the need to tell me what the word means. I patently refuse to subject you my reader of obvious good taste and refinement (reading this blog clearly proves that) to the same treatment. If you want to know, I hear the Internet is good for that kind of thing.
The dish is Chicken Saltimbocca, and I really enjoy it. The crispy salty prosciutto complements the chicken perfectly and the sage brings the whole thing together. I’m not the greatest at pan sauces (I’m working on it) but this one turned out well, I think. I got the recipe from a back issue of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.
This was the first time I actually made it for the family, and I got mostly positive reviews. My wife’s not a big fan of sage, so I toned it down for her, but I think she’d have been happier to leave it out. My nine year old daughter said she liked it and my son said he wouldn’t eat the “green stuff” (sage) or the “bacon” (prosciutto). Oh well…I win some and lose some with that boy.
If you don’t have breast cutlets, you make your own cutlets by cutting the breast in two pieces, leaving the “tail” end a little longer than the thick end. Either way, pound out the chicken pieces with the flat side of a chef’s knife until they are about equal thicknesses. Also, it’s good to turn on the oven to it’s lowest setting, so you can keep the chicken warm while making the pan sauce.
Put the flour in a shallow dish or pie plate, mix in the pepper. Then dredge the chicken pieces in the flour until they’re completely coated. Shake off the excess flour. If you’re using it, sprinkle the minced sage over one side of the chicken. Then take the prosciutto slices and fit them to the chicken pieces, folding as needed.
Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over medium high heat. Once oil is shimmering, set 4 of the whole sage leaves in the oil and cook for 20 or 30 seconds. Remove and then repeat with the other 4.
Place the half of chicken pieces (if your pan is big enough – don’t crowd them in – if you need to, just do 2 at a time), prosciutto side down in the hot oil. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. It should be a beautiful golden brown. Place the chicken pieces on a wire rack set on a cookie sheet and put in the warm oven. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
For the pan sauce: drain off the excess oil from the skillet and add the vermouth/wine/stock while scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan (this is called deglazing). Let the pan sit over medium high heat at a boil for a few minutes. The liquid in the pan should reduce to about 1/3 cup. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and then take pats of the butter and swirl it around until it melts. You can pour the sauce over the top of the chicken or have it on the side.
Serve the chicken with whatever makes you happy, pasta, rice, potatoes.