Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Orzo Pilaf, Dill and Arugula Salad

This came originally from a Martha Stewart recipe I've pulled easily 2 years ago.  My version simplifies the process a little (using Trader Joe's orzo pilaf that comes with seasoning.)  A nutritious and filling dinner that has amazing zing.  The more I cook, the deeper my love for lemon and arugula; they pair perfectly in this dish.

Serves 4
1 chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut into 10 pieces*
6 garlic cloves, smashed
2 lemons, quartered
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup orzo (or 1 box Trader Joe's Orzo Pilaf)
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
3 bunches arugula (12 to 16 ounces total), thick stems removed, washed well
*You can have a butcher cut your chicken, or if you want to brave the task yourself, here's a good link to get you started:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Set a large saucepan of water to boil (if you are making plain orzo, and not using Pilaf mix).

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss together chicken, garlic, lemons, oregano, and 1 teaspoon oil; season with salt and pepper.  Roast chicken, skin side up, until golden and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, generously salt boiling water.  Add orzo, and cook until al dente; drain well, and return to saucepan.  Add dill and 1 tablepoon oil; season with salt and pepper, and mix to combine (or make Trader Joe's Orzo Pilaf using instructions on box; sprinkle final cooked orzo with a touch of dill.)

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.  When chicken and orzo are ready, add arugula to bowl; toss to coat.  Drizzle chicken with pan juices, and serve with lemon wedges, orzo and arugula salad.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce

It seems like ages since I've posted.  I'm in a busy season at work, so I'm cooking special dishes notably less....and posting about dished even lesser.  On Sunday, I decided to make a special meal.  This came from Giada De Laurentiis' book, Giada's Kitchen.  The prep is a little involved (deveining shrimp is not hard, but it's kind of time consuming), but the actual cooking steps are quick and simple.  The result is a tangy sauce with just hint of spice from the pepper flake; an excellent dish for cooler weather and impressive for a dinner party.  Pour yourself a glass of leftover white wine and manja!  This one comes highly recommended from Mike (my toughest critic).

1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup bottled clam juice
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Note: Use Kitchen Shears for a quick and easy way to chop canned tomatoes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain the pasta and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.

Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup of the basil, 1/4 cup of the parsley, and the red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the wine and simmer for another 2 minutes.  Add the clam juice and cream.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes until sauce thickens.

Add 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, the cooked shrimp, the drained pasta, and the remaining basil and parsley.  Toss together until all ingredients are coated with the sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings

Sunday, April 8, 2012

$h*t I Shake Special Edition #1: The Vesper Martini, Guest Blog by Mike Lanahan

"I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad.” –James Bond

The Vesper

This martini was originated by Ian fleming in the first James Bond novel Casino Royal (also shown in the same Daniel Craig film).  Created on a whim, Bond has been searching for a name to call his invention.  He names it after his new love Vesper Lynd, who eventually betrays him and dies (women, right?).  In the book, he asks for this:
"Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?"
"Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
"Gosh, that's certainly a drink," said Leiter.

The interesting piece of boozy-trivia here is that back in the 50s, alcohol was generally unregulated, so vodka was significantly stronger (100 to 150 proof) that it is today.  Hence, the original Vesper called for three parts gin, ONE part vodka.  With today’s alcohols, that makes for a very strong gin martini.  So in order to capture the original Vesper flavor today we switch those proportions to one part gin (preferably Tanqueray to capture the 50s gin flavoring), with two parts vodka.  They don’t make Kina Lillet anymore either, which had a bitter quality.  So today we substitute Lillet Blanc and a dash of bitters.

This martini, is so smooth, light, and drinkable, but be careful, it is strong!

Two shots gin (preferably Tanqueray)
One shot vodka
½ shot Lillet Blanc
One dash angostura bitters
One long thin slice lemon peel

Combine alcohol and bitters over ice in a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously until ice cold, then let rest.  Cut a long lemon peel and place in the bottom of a martini or traditional cocktail stem glass.  Strain drink into the glass over the peel, and enjoy!  Note: You must include the lemon peel.  Much more than garnish, the lemon peel imparts a distinct flavor to the drink.

You may want to practice making a few twists before making this for friends...

Slice off both ends of lemon, using a sharp pairing knife, cut out pulp

Run a knife down one side of your hollowed lemon...

Roll rind into a tight spiral and cut a 1/4" segment, making 1 lemon twist

Twist lemon rind to release oils before dropping into glass as a garnish