Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Late-Summer Green Tomato Pizza

Last week, my friend Alice had us over for a casual night of pizza and movies. Earlier in the day, she had gone to Bari and loaded up on antipasti--the green olives stuffed with anchovies were a revelation! We noshed on prosciutto and Asiago cheese and sipped sherry and dreamed up toppings for pizza. I suggested we try a green tomato and manchego cheese pizza I had seen on Mark Bittmann's blog. Luckily, Alice had a few tomatoes left from her garden. What a simple, but delicious pie! We left out the sage, but didn't miss it. The tomatoes were soft and sweet, with just enough acid to bite through the fat in the cheese. Lovely.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pretty in Pork

Costco has begun selling pretty little racks of pork, and my family is loving them. Last week, I roasted one according to Tyler Florence's recommendations, and it was delicious. This week, I freelanced a recipe with what was on hand. I chopped some rosemary and sage and made it into a loose paste with some olive oil. I massaged the herb/oil mixture all over the pork and seasoned it with salt and pepper. Then, I threw some sliced onions and garlic in a roasting pan and gently laid the pork on top of the sliced vegetables. Preheated the oven to 375 degrees and poured a generous glug of apple cider below the pork before throwing the whole mess into the heat. Roast for a hour and a half or so until the internal temperature of the roast is 150-155 degrees--this is key to getting a moist, flavorful roast. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes.

You can even make a quick gravy with the pan drippings and a little chicken stock and flour. Serve with mashed potatoes and braised cabbage and apples for a satisfying Sunday supper.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's for Dinner

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I pulled some chicken thighs from the freezer this morning and brought this together in half an hour for dinner tonight. Trying to work fennel into the menu more often--it is a lovely vegetable that brings an unusual flavor to the table.

When I asked Nick what he thought "orechiette" meant, he said that the pasta looked like turtle shells, so that's what he thought the translation might be. I kind of like his answer, but the truth is that it is Italian for "little ears."

Braised Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes and Fennel over Pasta

8 chicken thighs
2 onions, sliced
2 bulbs fennel, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 can whole tomatoes
1 1/2 cups (or so) chicken stock
1 lb orechiette pasta

Season the thighs with salt and pepper and saute them in a heavy dutch oven until browned on both sides. Make sure to do this in two batches so that you don't overcrowd the pan. Reserve the browned chicken on a plate, and pour the excess rendered fat out of the pan, leaving 1-2 tablespoons. Saute the onion and fennel in the pan for 6-8 minutes until it is wilting and fragrant. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Add the can of tomatoes--break them up with your hands or the tongs and stir in with the sauteed onions and fennel. Add enough stock to almost cover the veg. Return the chicken thighs to the pot, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 35 or more minutes until the chicken is done--it gets better the longer it cooks. Meanwhile, put a large pot of water on to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Remove the thighs from the dutch oven, and pour the pasta into the sauce. Toss to coat. Serve pasta with the chicken.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chicago Farmstand Dinner

I wandered over to the new Chicago Farmstand late last week when I was downtown for a day of meetings. What a treat! An indoor farmstand full of organic and locally grown produce, baked goods, and canned products. I met the beekeeper for the garden on top of City Hall and sampled their "Rooftop Honey." There were lovely squash for sale, little potatoes, late summer lettuces and tomatoes, and even some fresh cheeses. I left with a bagful of produce and an idea for dinner.

Autumn Risotto

1 butternut squash*
3 leeks, halved and thinly sliced*
2 cloves garlic, minced*
2 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked off of the stems and lightly chopped*
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cream or half and half

*Available at the Chicago Farmstand

Peel the squash and dice into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a 400-degree oven for 35 minute or until beginning to brown.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute the leeks in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and saute until it becomes fragrant. Add the rice and saute until it is translucent. Add the chicken stock a little at a time, stirring and slowing cooking after each addition until most of the broth has been absorbed. When the rice is cooked but still al dente, add the roasted squash and the thyme. Add the cheese and stir until melted; add the cream until the risotto loosens up a little and is creamy and luscious. Serve immediately.

Homemade Sliders

Sliders ready to cook
Originally uploaded by mickeynick
We've been on a mini-burger craze lately. I've perfected a method of making them, based on a technique I think I learned from Alton Brown. Basically, take your meat (I like ground turkey, family likes beef), add finely chopped onions and your favorite seasonings, and smush it into a quarter sheet pan that is lined with plastic wrap. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top, and roll over the whole thing with a rolling pin. The meat layer should be as even as possible. Lift the top layer of plastic wrap off, and lightly score the meat, dividing it into 12 square burgers. Top with the plastic wrap again and put the sheet pan in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice your buns (I like potato rolls) and prep your condiments. When you are ready to cook, remove the burgers from the freezer and break apart. Place on a preheated griddle and cook for a minute or two on each side. Serve with oven-fried potato wedges.