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Posts Tagged ‘comfort food’

I recently received the Canyon Ranch: Nourish cookbook from one of the readers of my healthy living blog. It is a beautiful cookbook full of delicious and healthy recipes. Brandon and I have both skimmed through the book and I’m pretty sure that we want to make every single thing in it!

I was feeling a chicken dish for dinner tonight and this recipe for Rustic Chicken sounded perfect given the blast of winter weather that we’re experiencing. Last week it was 80 degrees, this weekend it is 40 and raining…go figure. I am ready for spring to be here to stay!

This Rustic Chicken is simple and comforting but still elegant and flavorful with the addition of fresh herbs and a nice mixture of vegetables. I made a some changes to the original recipe, including adding carrots and parsley and subbing oregano for the sage. Next time I will use chicken cutlets rather than full breasts because I think they will absorb more flavor and we found we didn’t need a whole breast with all the other elements of the dish.

One Year Ago: Baby Greens with Warm Goat Cheese
Two Years Ago: Simple Broiled Mahi

Rustic Chicken
(Recipe adapted from Canyon Ranch: Nourished)

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup shallots, sliced thinly
1 cup seasonal wild mushrooms, sliced (I used white and baby portobello)
1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
1 cup baby carrots
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cooked pasta
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 4-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For garnish: grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley

Directions:

Season chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of oil. Sauté chicken breasts for 5-6 minutes per side or until browned and internal temperature reads 160 degrees. Remove from heat and cover loosely to keep warm.

Add remainder of oil to pan and saute shallots, mushrooms, onions and carrots for 8-10 minutes, or until shallots are translucent and mushrooms are soft. Add chicken stock, deglaze pan and reduce liquid by half.  Add rosemary and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Add pasta and toss together until well combined.

Evenly divide the pasta mixture into 4 bowls.  Top each serving with a chicken breast and sprinkle with grated cheese and parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

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I am not exaggerating when I say that I have no reason to ever try another chicken and dumplings recipe. This one is going straight to the “tried and true, will make this for years and years to come” file. I have tried a lot of chicken and dumplings recipes and have never been blown away by any of them – except for this Chicken Pie With Biscuit Crust but it’s not truly chicken and dumplings.

I was in the mood to cook on Saturday afternoon. I wanted to make a dinner that would take a while so that I could spend the evening hanging out in the kitchen, one of my favorite activities to relax and unwind. I chose this recipe from Tyler Florence because I loved that it featured homemade stock, sauce and dumplings. No canned stock, cream of yuckiness soup or refrigerated biscuits.

I made the stock by placing an organic/free range chicken in a pot with garlic, peppercorns, thyme and salt. I covered the chicken with water and boiled. This was a great reminder that homemade stock is easy and far superior in flavor to what you buy in the store. While I am guilty of buying stock, I will be trying to keep some homemade stock in the freezer moving forward. I only used about half the stock this rendered in the chicken and dumplings so I was able to freeze a good amount of leftovers!

I put Brandon to work shredding the cooked chicken while I prepared the sauce. I sauteed carrots, celery and garlic in a mixture of butter and oil and then added in flour to make a roux. I slowly incorporated the chicken stock and then added in extra veggies. I love that this recipe includes peas and pearl onions. The sauce simmered until it was thickened. You get a nice creaminess with the sauce by adding a little heavy cream at the end. Side note: please remember to taste your sauce as you go and season – you might need to add a good bit of salt.

Soon enough it was time to add the chicken and dumplings and sit back and watch magic happen. I love dropping the dough in and then seeing it turn into perfect dumplings.

While this is a labor intensive recipe, it is not hard. I highly encourage you to try this now that the temperatures are dropping and the leaves are turning. This dish is so comforting and it just feels good to eat it knowing that everything is made from scratch.

One Year Ago: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Chicken and Dumplings
(Recipe source Tyler Florence)

Ingredients:

FOR THE CHICKEN AND STOCK
1 (3 to 3 1/2 pound) whole organic chicken
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
4 to 5 black peppercorns
1 head garlic, split through the center (leave garlic unpeeled)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Enough water to cover chicken

FOR THE DUMPLINGS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped chives
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

FOR THE SAUCE
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
Chopped chives, for garnish

Directions:

FOR THE CHICKEN AND STOCK
Place the chicken and all stock ingredients in a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for one hour until the chicken is tender and internal temperature registers at least 165 degrees. Skim the surface of fat as it cooks.

Remove chicken from pot and place on a cutting board. Let rest until it is cool enough to handle. Strain the stock and set aside. When chicken has cooled, shred and set aside.

FOR THE DUMPLINGS
Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, using a whisk, lightly beat the eggs, chives and buttermilk together; pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently fold. Mix just until the dough comes together; the batter should be thick and cake-like.

FOR THE SAUCE
In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the butter and oil. Add the carrot, celery, garlic and bay leaves and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux and continue to stir for two minutes to coat the veggies in flour and remove the starchy taste. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add frozen peas and pearl onions.

Let sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in heavy cream.

Fold the reserved shredded chicken into the sauce and bring to a simmer. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the hot mixture. The dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching or crowded. Let the dumplings poach for 10 to 15 minutes until they are firm and puffy. Discard the bay leaves, season with freshly cracked black pepper and garnish with chopped chives before serving.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 28

Happy New Year everyone! The holidays have been busy for us with lots of family time and traveling. Since we spent Thanksgiving with my family this year, we stayed in Charlotte and celebrated Christmas with Brandon’s family. We rang in the new year in Asheville with The Avett Brothers and then headed to Atlanta on New Year’s Day for yet another Avett Brothers show and to spend the weekend with my family. It was so good to see them! My mom, Brandon and I went to the Georgia Aquarium on Saturday afternoon while my dad stayed home prepping our amazing dinner! He made Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Gumbo. SO DELICIOUS! He made his own seafood stock and made the perfect roux. It was exactly the dark color of Paul’s in the book. It was full of oysters, crab, shrimp and fresh andouille! I roasted up some okra for a side dish and my mom made my favorite banana pudding recipe. Yum! I love going home and enjoying my parents cooking! :)

I was happy to arrive home yesterday and get back in the swing of our normal routine. I attend an incredible hot yoga class every Sunday afternoon at 4. It’s the perfect way to end my weekend and prepare my mind and body for the work week ahead. Since I was a little crunched on time given our afternoon arrival home and wanting to make my yoga class, I was looking for an easy meal. It is freezing here (seriously – lows in the teens, highs in the 30s – that is cold in the South!) and slow cooked meat sounded like the perfect dinner. Our grocery store had chuck roasts on sale so off I went to Epicurious to look for a Gourmet magazine pot roast recipe.

I found this recipe for Oven Braised Beef with Tomato Sauce and Garlic. It only had three ingredients and had received numerous positive reviews. Decision made. You don’t even brown the beef before placing it in the dutch oven! Can it get any easier than that? Off I went to the grocery to grab the ingredients. I threw everything in my dutch oven before I left for yoga and came home to an amazing smelling house!

I was a little nervous because the recipe called for so much garlic but it really mellows out in the oven during the long, slow cook and adds a wonderful flavor. I admit that I added a couple carrots and some onion during the last hour of cooking but it totally wasn’t necessary! I just wanted more veggies. Brandon decided that this should be my “go-to” method for cooking roasts.

I served last night’s roast over mashed potatoes with a salad and french bread. I’m making shredded beef enchiladas with the leftovers tomorrow night.

And now for the announcement:
If you’ve read the “About Jen” section of this site you know that my second love is fitness and nutrition. One of the questions I get all the time is, “How do you cook and bake all that food and stay fit?” Well…I’m going to start sharing that information with you on the blog. Don’t worry, I’m not changing the focus of this blog. It is definitely still first and foremost a food blog but I am going to talk about my nutrition and exercise for the day/week in my posts. If you’re not into it – simply scroll down for the recipe!

In a nutshell, it’s all about maintaining a balance. I’m going to talk about that balance in my posts. I hope I can provide a little bit of motivation and inspiration that you can enjoy delicious food and stay fit!

Let me know what you think in the comment selection below and if you have any questions! Eventually, I hope to add separate fitness and nutrition page to the blog but that’s later in 2010!

And now for the most delicious 3 ingredient roast recipe…

Oven Braised Beef with Tomato Sauce and Garlic
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, February 2001)

Ingredients:

28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
3-3 1/2 pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional: potatoes, carrots, onions or any other vegetables you’d like to add
Accompaniment: mashed potatoes, orzo or egg noodles

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Generously salt and pepper roast. Place roast in a large dutch oven. Pour tomatoes over the roast and then scatter around garlic cloves.

Cover and bake for 3-4 hours, until roast is very tender and shreds easily. Break into chunks or shred and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

*Note: if you’d like to add extra vegetables, add them when you have about 1 hour left in cooking.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 18

Brandon had been requesting Chicken and Dumplings or Chicken Pot Pie for dinner for several weeks. I browsed through The Gourmet Cookbook and found this recipe for Chicken Pie with Biscuit Crust. Kind of a hybrid of Chicken and Dumplings and Chicken Pot Pie – perfect.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I mean, I knew it would be a good dinner but I’m really not a pot pie kind of person. I know that sounds strange…but in general I’m not really so into comfort food. I was wrong. This was amazing. So amazing that I insisted that I didn’t need any help with the cleanup so I could shovel down more as I was putting away the leftovers :)

This can be a relatively quick dinner if you use leftover chicken, a rotisserie chicken or pre-roast a chicken. I put my chicken in to roast that morning while I was out on my run and getting ready for work. Really cut down on the prep time that night.

The biscuit crust was so delicious and the addition of cheddar cheese to the dough really made it special. The filling was a nice consistency and seasoned perfectly. This chicken pie will definitely become a winter tradition in our house!

Chicken pie with Biscuit Crust
(Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, printed in Gourmet magazine – January 1991)

Ingredients:

FOR THE FILLING
4 cups chicken broth
3 carrots, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
3/4 pound red potatoes (about 2 medium), quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large celery ribs, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken (the meat from around a 3 pound chicken)
1/2 cup green peas
1 onion, chopped
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

FOR THE BISCUIT CRUST
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/3 cup grated sharp Cheddar
1 large egg
1/3 cup buttermilk

An egg wash of 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of milk

Directions:

FOR THE FILLING
Bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the carrots, potatoes and celery and simmer, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes. Vegetables should be tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a large bowl, reserving the broth. Add chicken and peas to the bowl.

In another saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and transparent. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes to create a roux. In a slow stream, add 3 cups of the reserved broth. Whisk constantly and bring to a boil. Add the thyme and let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the nutmeg, parsley, salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken mixture and stir gently until combined.

Transfer the mixture to a greased 2-quart shallow baking dish.

FOR THE BISCUIT CRUST

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Add the butter and blend mixture with your fingers or a pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the cheese and toss to coat. Beat together egg and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir just until the mixture comes together and a dough forms. Into a liquid measuring cup break the egg, add enough of the buttermilk to measure a total of 1/2 cup, and beat the mixture with a fork. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until the mixture just forms a dough. At this point you can either spoon 2-inch balls of dough onto the chicken mixture (drop biscuit style) or gather the dough into a ball, and on a floured surface pat out 1/2 inch thick. Cut rounds with a 2-inch cutter dipped in flour. Gather scraps and repeat until all dough has been used.  Arrange the rounds on the chicken mixture.

Before baking brush tops with an egg wash or whole milk. Prick holes into the biscuits with a fork. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until the biscuits are puffed and golden and the filling is bubbling.

Yield: 4 servings

NOTE:
* Filling can be made 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled. Bring the mixture to room temperature before continuing with the recipe.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 15

I saw this recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook as I was putting together our menu for the week. I knew this would be a huge hit with Brandon and I haven’t made meatballs in forever. This dinner was surprisingly quick and easy to put together given that you make your own tomato sauce. I put the sauce on to simmer, assembled the meatballs and stashed them in the fridge while I was doing some things around the house. I put pasta on to boil and cooked the meatballs once we were ready to eat.

Overall, I would have to say that the meatballs were a definite success but I would use a different sauce recipe next time. I loved the combination of veal, pork and beef in the meatballs and they held together beautifully. No falling apart while cooking – this could have been helped too by the time they spent in the fridge prior to being cooked. I found the sauce to be a little too thin. At first I attributed this to my laziness, the recipe calls for pulsing whole tomatoes a food processor. I just stuck some kitchen shears in my whole tomatoes and cut them up so they were more diced than pureed. Then I read the reviews on the online recipe and saw that others had issues with the thin sauce too. I think this could be helped by adding a little tomato paste and maybe using crushed tomatoes instead of whole. Or just use your favorite marinara recipe (see my favorite recipe here) and skip this one all together. Also, if you’re big on sauce and serving this over pasta you may want to double the sauce.

The meatballs are a definite winner though. I recommend using this meatball recipe next time you make spaghetti and meatballs. I’m so excited to use the leftovers for meatball subs tonight! (They were so good I couldn’t resist snapping a photo to share. Yum!)

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, January 2002 and The Gourmet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 (28- to 32-ounce) can whole tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely diced, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Shot of red wine (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 lb meatloaf/meatball mix (mixed ground beef, pork, and veal)
5 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and add garlic and about 1/4 of your diced onion.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until onion softens and becomes transparent. In the meantime, if using whole tomatoes, pulse tomatoes with juices in food processor until chopped. Add tomatoes, oregano, Italian seasoning, splash of wine and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to pot. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes (can simmer longer if necessary).

While sauce is simmering, stir together bread crumbs and milk in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes until bread crumbs have absorbed milk. Add meat, rest of onion, 3 tablespoons parsley, red pepper flakes and remaining teaspoon salt. Blend with your hands until just combined (do not over mix). Form 2-tablespoon amounts into meatballs. You should have about 20.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Carefully add meatballs and sauté in 2 batches, turning occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to tomato sauce using a slotted spoon.

Simmer meatballs, covered, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 5 more minutes. Serve over pasta and sprinkle with remaining  2 tablespoons parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 13

Does it get more comforting than chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce with noodles? I think not. Stocked with a bunch of leftover mushrooms from the Filet Mignon with Mushroom Sauce and a lot of heavy cream from the best ever Macaroni and Cheese, I decided to try out the Chicken Fricassee recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook. We really love creamy chicken dishes but most of them include cream of yuckiness soup. Although this recipe is not exactly low-cal, it is a delicious and creamy combination of chicken and mushrooms with no fake or processed ingredients.

This dish is nothing fancy, it’s just good old-fashioned comfort food. The chicken was extremely tender after being braised in the chicken broth and vegetable mixture and the finished dish was perfect served over egg noodles. This was a great weeknight meal served with steamed broccoli and rolls alongside.

And on another note…I promise the week after Thanksgiving I will attempt to focus more on recipes that qualify for the “Healthy” category!

Chicken Fricassee
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

1 (3 1/2 pound chicken, rinsed, patted dry and cut into 8 pieces) – I used 3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
10 ounces (3 cups) mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
Garnish: flat leaf Italian parsley

Directions:

Generously coat chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat until shimmering. Carefully place chicken in pan, skin side down and cook for about 3 minutes per side, until browned. Remove chicken from pan and reduce heat to medium. Add onion, celery, mushroom and garlic and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until mushrooms and onions have softened. Stir in thyme and flour and cook for another minute or so. Add in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add chicken, skin side up, and simmer, covered, until chicken is just cooked through. This should take 20-25 minutes and internal temperature should be 160 degrees for breasts and 170 for legs or thighs. Transfer chicken to a plate while you make sauce.

To make the sauce, whisk together cream and egg yolk in a small bowl. Add in 1/2 cup mushroom/broth mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Whisk cream mixture into sauce in pan and gently simmer over low heat (careful not to let it come to a boil) whisking frequently. Sauce should slightly thicken and cook for about 1 minute.

Place chicken over egg noodles and spoon sauce over. Sprinkle with parsley.

Yield: 3-4 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 9

I don’t even know where to start. I don’t want to gush so much that you think I’m crazy but this macaroni and cheese recipe is pretty life changing as far as mac and cheese recipes go. If you think you’ve already found the perfect recipe you still have to try this one. I found it in The Gourmet Cookbook. They had me at, “this is arguably the best macaroni and cheese on the planet.”

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort food dinners. I just serve it with a green salad and call it a meal. (Who needs meat anyway when you can just eat more mac and cheese!?) The method in this recipe is pretty basic for mac and cheese: make a roux, stir in milk, cream and cheese, mix in macaroni, sprinkle on topping and bake. The results are a creamy, cheesy mac and cheese with a crunchy topping – heaven!

I’m already planning the next time that I’ll make this…and that will be this weekend. My sister-in-law just brought home a new baby and I know they will love this mac and cheese. This recipe makes a full 11 x 17 pan so it’s perfect for leftovers or entertaining.

Please try this and let me know how it compares to other mac and cheese recipes! This has definitely been one of the highlight recipes of 68 Days of Gourmet so far and I know I’ll be making this for years to come.

Macaroni and Cheese
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

FOR TOPPING
1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups panko or coarse dry breadcrumbs
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

FOR CHEESE SAUCE AND MACARONI
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound elbow macaroni

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 3-4 quart baking dish or 13 x 9 pan with butter or cooking spray.

FOR THE TOPPING
Mix together panko, butter and cheese in a medium bowl. Set aside.

FOR THE SAUCE
Melt butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Whisk in flour and red pepper flakes and cook, whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes to make a roux. Whisk in milk in a slow steady stream. Increase heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently until mixture is thickened a bit. Stir in cream, cheese, mustard, salt and pepper until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

COOK THE MACARONI AND ASSEMBLE THE DISH
Cook macaroni according to package directions, making sure to add plenty of the salt to the cooking water. (At least 1 tablespoon for every 4 quarts.) Undercook macaroni about 3-4 minutes so that it still has quite a bite to it. This ensures the pasta won’t get mushy when cooking. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and then drain noodles.

Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water and sauce in a large bowl or in your sauce pot if it’s big enough. Transfer to prepared baking dish, mixture will be loose.

Sprinkle topping evenly over mixture and bake for about 25-35 minutes. Top should be golden and bubbling.

Yield: 8 main course servings or 12-14 side dish servings

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