Showing posts with label italian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label italian. Show all posts

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sausage & Polenta (Easy & Rustic)


Very rustic Italian dinner you can whip up in 30 mins. Don't fear polenta- it's easy! But if you are worried or super strapped for time you can pick up some quick cooking polenta. Picture isn't that great, but it was really tasty- especially the sauce.

All these items you can have in your freezer and pantry.  That's why it is a great recipe to have in your back pocket in a jam- you can even substitute any other meat (like chicken) or even just add more beans for a vegetarian version.  Sometimes I like to throw in a handful or two of frozen peas in the polenta.

Sauce:


  • 1 lb of sausage (or meat) I used hot Italian sausage
  • 1 (28oz) can of crushed tomatoes
  • water
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • basil, fresh if you have

  1. Heat a sauce pot to medium high
  2. Add the sausage to the pot (I sliced mine into smaller pieces- this is just preference).
  3. Brown on both sides quickly.
  4. Then add the garlic, heat about one minute
  5. Add the tomatoes
  6. Fill the tomato can half way up with water and add to the pot (just eyeball it)
  7. Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and partially cover.  Stirring occasionally.
  8. Cook for about 30mins (you don't have to cook that long- just make sure the sausage are cooked all the way through!) 
  9. Before serving season with salt, pepper and basil to taste.

Beans:

If you have canned beans- wonderful! Use two cans of cannellini beans- just open the can, drain and rinse. Top the polenta with the beans and pour hot sauce over them

If you have dry beans- you had to soak overnight, then take about 2 cups and just cover with water.  Then add a big pinch of salt and bring to a boil and simmer for 30 mins (or until polenta and sauce is done).  Taste a couple beans to see if they are done.  Then drain and rinse quick.


Polenta:

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • pinch of the following spices: onion powder, oregano, red pepper
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 cup of parmesean cheese

  1. In a pot add the water and salt.  Bring to a boil.
  2. When the water is bowling grab a whisk and super slowly add the cornmeal a little at a time, whisking consistently.  This process is called "raining in" because you are adding like a light rain shower basically.
  3. Stir, stir, stir until it comes together- will look like grits or grainy mashed potatoes almost. When it comes together swap your whisk for a wooden spoon (wooden is traditional).  Reduce heat to low and you need to stir pretty constantly (this helps break down the starches and make it yummy).  I don't but stir every couple minutes so the bottom doesn't burn.
  4. Be careful because the polenta will turn thick and bubble and splatter a bit.  So just keep an eye out.  I cook for 30 minutes until smooth and creamy and it doesn't taste bitter anymore.  Should taste sweet and a touch grainy.
  5. Right before you serve stir in your cheese.

Assembly: Polenta, top with beans, top with sausage sauce, and finally some extra parm cheese!






Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Braciole!



Before I get to all the facts about this recipe, I just want to say that my heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to everyone here in NY (and all over) that were effected by Sandy.  Hopefully this recipe finds you well and lucky enough to have a home to cook it in.  Maybe if you know someone that has had a loss, this would be great to make and invite them over, it's great for a lot of people, not a lot of work, and definitely warms your soul (and your tummy).  No matter who or what you believe in, I think this would be a good time to take a minute before eating this meal to really be thankful for what you have, because at this moment some people have nothing.  If anyone in the NYC/LI area needs a helping hand cooking or anything like that email me- I am free on the weekends. xoxo

On a lighter note, braciole is one of those dinners you cook all Sunday and is especially good for a chilly day- which we just started experiencing here in NY.

Braciole is an Italian dish, mainly thin pieces of beef rolled up and pan fried, then braised (cooked low and slow) in liquid.  Serve alongside some pasta (Rigatoni is my personal fav) and a salad with some bread for all the extra sauce.

Not exactly the healthiest meal, but it is easy and can feed a lot of hungry people.  This recipe takes about three hours to complete, so make sure you prep for that.

Also, since there are so few ingredients, I would definitely make the effort to use fresh herbs here.  I used a roast, then sliced it myself because it was the cut of meat that was on sale this week.  Try to get a cheap cut of meat, because we cook it so long that it is going to be super tender regardless.


Ingredients

  • A tough cut of beef- traditionally its flank steak, but I used bottom round roast and cut into thin slices, then pounded out thin.  The roast was a little over 3 lbs and made about 18 rolls.
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley
  • small handful of fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup of pecorino cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp of pine nuts, toasted
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced (2 for the filling, 3 for the sauce)
  • salt, pepper, olive oil
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 14 oz of water (just fill the 28 oz tomato can half way with water-good way to get all the sauce out of the cans too)
  • 1 (8 0z) can of tomato sauce
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, chopped
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tsp of red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Combine the bread crumbs, parsley, basil, cheese, pine nuts, and 2 garlic cloves into a bowl. Mix to combine.
  3. In this case, slice your beef and then pound thin (you don't have to go to crazy here, just try and cut as thin as possible and then I just pounded a bit with my hands to flatten).  The last bit of beef was too small to make into slices so I just cut into small bite sizes which we'll just throw in along with the sauce. (No wasting here!)
  4. On each slice, top with some of our bread crumb filling and then tightly roll up and tie with some string (or toothpicks).  Definitely use the string, I think it makes handling them and frying them so much easier.
  5. In a large deep skillet or dutch oven, put heat on high and get some olive oil hot.  Season the meat with salt and pepper then fry each roll until brown on all sides (I had to do this in two batches to ensure correct browning).  Don't forget to brown the little bite sized left over pieces too!
  6. Remove all beef and reserve.  Then if pan is dry, add a bit more oil and saute the onion, carrot and 3 garlic cloves for a couple minutes until soft.
  7. Add the wine and deglaze the pan.  Let that cook out for a minute or two.  (If you don't have wine, or don't want to use it, use beef broth- but if you have the wine- SO use it- it tastes amazing)
  8. Then add your tomatoes- crushed and sauce.  Then add the water, bay leaves and red pepper flakes.  I added some salt and pepper.  Stir to combine. 
  9. Add your beef rolls back into the sauce.  Bring to a simmer, cover and then put into the oven. 
  10. Cook for one hour, then check on it- stir it.  Then put back in for another hour.  Check it again- if it's tender- eat it! If not, cook for another half an hour.  Before serving make sure you taste the sauce to make sure it is seasoned properly.
  11. Just boil some pasta and serve!



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Italian Chicken Foil Packets


I usually have a lot to say about what I make - but not these- these were just AMAZING. Period. Easy and healthy too- you can't go wrong- try them out tonight or at your next camping trip or cook out. You will NOT be sorry.

I know it's not the prettiest picture- but hey- we were roughing it ;)

This made four good sized packets.

Ingredients
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • 3-4 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • tinfoil
Directions
  1. You will need to triple layer the tinfoil packets- so each packet with be three layers thick of tinfoil.
  2. So size out three fairly big tinfoil sheets and layer them up.  In the middle of the sheet put 1/4 of the chicken, onion, tomatoes and garlic.
  3. The spices listed were what I used- so about a pinch on each packet.
  4. Drizzle it all with a little olive oil.
  5. Then take the end closest to you and farthest from you and pull up like a tent.  Fold/crimp and roll together the ends to create a seal and continue to roll them down until you reach the chicken.  Then take the ends on the right and left and seal/crimp-  then roll up like the first time. Here's an idea of what they would look like.
  6. Cook for about 30 minutes on a medium grill.  I rotate my packets to the size with more heat then the side with lower heat.  Keep the lid closed too.
  7. When they are done, be careful because they will obviously be hot and steam will escape when opened.  I actually had forgotten how long they were cooking so I just opened one up to check if they were done- if it isn't pink you're good.
  8. Just unwrap the packet and go to town with a fork! I served with large store bought garlic knots.
Oh yea and no fuss clean up- just through away the foil!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

DIY Italian Bistro Lunch & Cocktails


So to celebrate my Mom's 39th birthday (again) she wanted some Italian themed food.  I like when the whole family comes to our house instead of going out- we can relax, stay as late as you want, drink as much as you want and most importantly watch the Giants game ;)  There are 6 of us usually and they come with the booze and I'll cook up the meal- having a great time + saving money + everyone pitching in = a normal family gathering for us.

My mom is a bruschetta fanatic- it is always a must have.  So to change it up I made homemade focaccia bread instead of just regular Italian bread- which came out perfect and is oh so good.  Here's the menu run down:

Appetizer

Homemade Focaccia with Bruschetta
Romaine and Fennel Salad
Raspberry Bellinis

Main Lunch

Paninis!
Caprese- Homemade pesto, mozzarella and tomatoes on Italian artisan bread
Proscuitto, arugula, and provolone on roasted garlic artisan bread
Genoa Salami, hot capicola, homemade roasted red peppers, provolone and arugula on whole wheat artisan bread

The last panini combo was the favorite!

Dessert

(Healthy) Lemon Semifreddo with raspberry and almond topping



Wow- this seems like such a lot of work when I actually typed it out! But it really wasn't- just some good planning and prep can make your party easy and enjoyable.

First things first: food shopping the day before.  I basically made the deli counter lady crazy.  I ordered all the meat and cheese pre-sliced so all I needed to do was put on the bread and fry.  I also picked up frozen bags of raspberries because they were on sale and of course all the other fresh ingredients I needed.

When I got home from food shopping I made the pesto, roasted red peppers (you can also just pick up a jar of them no biggie), and the lemon semifreddo.  By the way, semifreddo is like an Italian sherbet.

Fast forward to the day of- I made the focaccia in the morning (which you could have done the night before but I wanted it super fresh and it made the house smell wonderful), pureed the raspberries in the blender, and made the bruschetta (which could also have been made in advance).  When we were all done with the appetizers I just assembled the sandwiches and fried them up. Simple!

So the focaccia recipe is again Anne Burrell's but I this time I used a bit less flour and a bit more yeast.  Can't deny the fact that this is a great simple recipe.



Then you slice the small squares again through the middle and make a small little bruschetta sandwich!

Pesto
  • 1 big bunch of basil leaves (about 1-2 cups)
  • handful of parsely
  • 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese (Or pecorino)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of pine nuts
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 of a lemon, juiced
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Throw everything into a food processor or blender except the oil.  Get everything chopped then slowly add the oil to make a pesto as thin or thick as you like. Freezes wonderfully- but mine never makes it to the freezer ;)



Bruschetta Recipe

  • 4 large tomatoes, diced (I have also used canned diced tomatoes before- just drain them well)
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated
  • 1 bunch of basil, torn or chiffonade
  • Extra virgin olive oil- about 1/3 cup
  • salt to taste
Combine everything and let sit to marry the flavors.



Romaine and Fennel Salad
I wanted something light and crunchy to go along with my focaccia and bruschetta
  • 2 heads of romaine, sliced
  • 1/2 bulb of fennel (aka anise), sliced paper thin- save a couple fronds for garnish (the green leafy stuff on the top of the bulb)
  • orange zest (optional)
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt and pepper
To make the dressing combine the lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper, then whisk in the oil until it looks like a dressing.  Toss the romaine and fennel together and zest the orange on top for garnish as well as the fennel fronds.  I served the salad undressed, then had everyone pour the dressing on their own salad.  Just don't overdress the salad or it will make the lettuce heavy.  (I also made the salad ahead- if you do this definitely do not add the dressing).  Thinly sliced red onion would be nice in this salad too.



Raspberry Bellinis

So a Bellini is a classic Italian cocktail made with peach and prosecco.  I decided to change it up with raspberries. 

  • 2 bottles of good Prosecco (or any sparkling wine/champagne)
  • 1/2 bag of frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup of triple sec (this is really just to help the raspberries in the blender- you could omit or just use water or another flavored liquor)
Blend the raspberries with the extra liquid of your choice until it is a puree.  You can choose to strain out the seeds and pulp- I was in a rush and forgot but they were still good.  You can either make the drinks individually by adding a bit of puree to the bottom of each glass or (like I did) make a pitcher- one bottle at a time.






Panini

Panini is just a hot squished sandwich.  I do not have a panini press- but I do own a cast iron skillet.  If you don't own a heavy pan you can just weigh it down with whatever you have- a large can of beans or tomatoes etc.  One thing about paninis is that it is a good idea to make sure you have a piece of cheese directly on the bread on BOTH sides- so it acts like glue to stick everything together



Caprese: is the classic combo of basil, mozzarella and tomato.  Just slice the bread, slather both sides with pesto, top with cheese and tomato and put in a skillet with a bit of oil and pop the cast iron skillet on top of the sandwich to weigh it down. 



Prosciutto: I used sliced prosciutto, provolone and arugula in this sandwich on a roasted garlic bread. Same technique as before



Salami: This one was the best! And everything you can get right at the deli! Genoa Salami (which is a sweeter salami), Hot capicola is another type of salami-which is from the shoulder or neck- they even have sweet versions, Roasted red peppers , arugula and provolone.  Pile everything up, squish down and fry until the cheese is melty and delicious!



Did this the night before. Oh and check out my new magnetic knife holder I got for Christmas!
 Onto the dessert....

Ok so I basically followed Anne Burrell's Lemon Semifreddo recipe but of course I forgot to buy heavy cream- so I had to improvise (and pray it worked) and then when it did work out I got to call it "healthy" hehe.  This needs to set for AT LEAST 6-8 hours- so I suggest you do this the day before.

  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped
  • other half a bag of frozen raspberries left over from the bellinis
  • 8 eggs- yolks and whites separated
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 3 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2 pinches of salt
Start by prepping the pan- take a loaf pan or even a small casserole dish and line with plastic wrap (for easy removal later!) then in the bottom (which will eventually become our top) coat with crushed raspberries and nuts. 

Separate the egg yolks and whites into two separate bowls- set the whites aside.  Add the sugar, lemon zest and juice and one pinch of salt to the yolks and whisk to combine.  Now we need to set up a double boiler.  In a sauce pot, that will snugly and comfortably fit your bowl with the yolks (obviously the bowl must be glass or metal), fill the pot with just an inch of water and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Put your yolk bowl on top and continuously stir the eggs until the temperature reaches 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.  This takes about 10 minutes.  DO NOT STOP STIRRING or you will end up with scrambled eggs.  When it reaches the correct temperature take off the heat and set aside. 

I didn't use a snug fitting bowl and it took SOOOOOO long- don't let the steam escape!


Back to egg whites: Add the other pinch of salt and beat until tripled in size and have stiff peaks.  You beat the eggs until it becomes like a whipped cream almost.  Stiff peaks refers to the fact when you dip your whisk in the egg whites, pull it out, hold vertical over the bowl for a second, then turn horizontal, and what is on the end of your whisk should look like small little mountain peaks of egg white foam.


Staight Old School- with Grandmas Hand Crank Egg Beater

Combine the egg whites with the egg yolks in three installments.  The first installment try to cut the whites into the yolks with a spatula.  Next two installments gently fold in the whites as to not let all the air out of them.

Fill your loaf pan- I had a bit left over- don’t worry I'll show you a dessert you can make right away with the extra for the cook ;) After you fill your loaf pan wiggle it around so there are no air bubbles and everything will freeze evenly.  Pop in the freezer over night until solid but still soft (like a sherbet!)




To serve- use the plastic wrap to help you pull it out of the pan and then slice and serve! Super delicious, refreshing and pallet cleansing!

Try one or try them all! Buon appetito!


Oh so back to the extra left over from dessert- now this is not brain surgery- but you are going to have to eye ball it- depending on how much egg mixture you have left- sprinkle some flour into the batter- mix as gently and as little as possible to incorporate the flour (sifting would really help here).  Mix until the batter looks like it has a thicker texture.

Now in another loaf pan or I used these cute ramekins- grease the pan, pour mixture in and top with raspberries.

Pop then into a preheated 375 degree F oven until golden on the edges.  Depending on how much flour you put in you might not be able to rely on the "toothpick method" but hey whatever comes out is at least going to taste good for a quick dessert.  It came out almost like a really moist sponge cake.  I think I baked it for about 20-30 minutes.

Before she went in the oven
Obviously we all had a great day!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Braided Calzones


Are you overwhelmed with big intricate holiday meals lately! Whip up a finger food friendly dinner while you whip out some more wrapped presents!

So here is a quick and easy impressive appetizer or finger food for you.  Some nights my fiance and I like to chat over some beers and pick at finger foods, so I need to be on my toes with interesting finger food dinners.  A couple weeks ago I made chicken and cheese biscuit pockets.  This week I had some left over pizza dough in the fridge, which is always a good thing to have lying around- it is so versatile. 

I must confess this is not an original idea, I did see it on a tv commercial once- some sort of Mexican twist with a puff pastry instead.  Any dough, cheese or theme will work- it is just the fancy way of presenting it that's a winner.

AND I still have yet to purchase a new camera. I'm sorry I have been using my camera phone but I didn't want that to stop the blog! So we will have to make due until Santa brings me one ;)


Ingredients

  • My homemade pizza dough
  • 2 cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, shredded or cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 green pepper, sliced or diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion, sliced or diced
  • Pecorino cheese (or Parmesan)- about 1/2 cup
  • 1 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • Olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp of oregano

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Make sure you are using cooked chicken.  I just cut them up into bite sized pieces and sauteed until cooked through.
  3. Flour your working surface and then roll out your dough into a large rectangle shape.
  4. Transfer the dough with your rolling pin to a pizza pan or baking sheet BEFORE you start adding the other ingredients (believe me, I made this mistake and had to take everything off, then put back on)
  5. Add all your ingredients (except the oil and oregano) on the dough but leave a good 2 inches or so of dough on the edges.
  6. Cut the edges into strips- make sure there are the same amount on each side.  You could use a knife but kitchen shears are SO much easier (and I didn't want to cut through the tinfoil)
  7. Take a strip from each side and criss cross them at the top of the filling.  Continue to do this along the whole thing.  Don't worry if the ends are less than perfect- Just tuck them in/under so nothing oozes out.

  8. Sprinkle the oregano on top and cover it in some oil so the bread will brown nicely.
  9. Put in the oven for about 20 minutes- or until golden brown and firm. I also turned it around half way through to ensure even cooking/browning.



  10. I sliced it into inch - inch and a half slices for finger food eating.
*This recipe can be molded to whatever you have- no chicken? Use beef or sausage.  Maybe you have a different kind of cheese or vegetables.  I actually thought broccoli would have been divine in this recipe.  Just make sure you cook the meat before building the calzone.  You don't want to risk uncooked proteins.  Puff pastry, biscuit dough and pizza dough all work here- just check the cooking times might vary a bit though.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Risotto


Ok so risotto isn't as hard as it seems, but it does require a bunch of stirring.  I have made risotto without stirring constantly and you still get a nice result.  Also, risotto is not a dish, it is a cooking technique.  Usually it is made with a short grain rice (there are three types, but the most common one is arborio rice).  For some reason I have a hard time finding it, and when I do it is so over-priced.  So yes, most times I use long grain rice, jasmine rice, or even pasta (especially orzo or broken spaghetti).  You just need to understand what is going on when you cook risotto.  Basically you are breaking down the starches in the food (this is why you need to stir stir stir!) and then some starch is being released and some gets absorbed back into the rice or grain you are using.  That is why it has a creamy texture in the end.  This technique is a classic and a corner stone in the kitchen.  Once you know the technique by heart, you won't think it's that big of a deal.  Actually, I like how risotto takes time to cook- it is time you can spend in the kitchen with friends or loved ones just chatting and enjoying some wine- you can also have them help you stir when your arm gets tired.

Risotto is a classic Italian dish.  I usually pair it with baked chicken, or something I don't really need to keep an eye on, so I can focus on the risotto.  Risotto is a great technique to learn because there are so many different ways you can customize it.  As long as you follow the traditional directions below- you can add pretty much anything to it.  Some examples: mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, lemon, different cheeses, chicken, fennel, bacon and the list goes on. 

 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of rice (shorter the grain the better)
  • about 5-6 cups of chicken stock (you might not use it all- it varies each time)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • ½ cup of dry white wine
  • ½ cup of parmesan cheese
  • Butter
Directions
  1. We need to start with two pans- one a large skillet and the other a pot for the stock.
  2. In the pot add the stock and warm it up- we just need to get the liquid warm and keep over low heat.
  3. In the skillet add about 2 tbsp of butter (or you could use oil too).  Keep the flame over medium heat and when the butter is melted add the onion and some salt.  We are sweating the onion, not browning it.  So do this over medium heat until the onions are translucent.
  4. When the onions are done add the rice and toast the rice for a couple minutes.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the wine.  Let the rice absorb the wine completely.
  6. Now we start with the first edition of the stock.  This is going to take a couple of installments.  Add enough stock to the skillet (about 2-3 ladles full) to just barely cover the rice.  Stir this until all the liquid is absorbed. (Yes, lots of stirring needed to develop the starches).
  7. Repeat step 6 until the rice has a creamy consistency and is cooked through.  You should use almost all the stock, if not all of it.  It varies, sometimes I use it all- sometimes I am left with a cup or so leftover.
  8. At the very end add the cheese and a tbsp of butter and whip it up like mad to get the correct final consistency.
  9. Serve immediately.
 


And that's it! Told you it was easy!

 
If you wanted to make this with additions- you would either add them in when you cook the onions, before the rice toast, or at the end right before you add the cheese.  Add with the onion if the food needs to be cooked (e.g. mushrooms, garlic).  Add at the end if the food is already cooked (or really quick cooking- e.g. peas, spinach).



 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mini Stuffed Peppers


This is one of my most viewed posts- even with the original no so perfect pictures! I think I took the first photos with my cell phone! I originally posted this in Oct 2011, and I felt it needed a photo update* (along with most of my earlier posts-see the end for originals).  Recipe is still the same and still delicious. Perfect for an easy make-a-head appetizer! 

{Since my Greek style Stuffed Peppers- w/ Beef, Orzo and Feta Cheese were such a huge hit, I decided to follow that up with an Italian style smaller/appetizer size stuffed pepper recipe.  These are so cute and colorful they are hard to resist.  Yes it is more of a summer time recipe, but I just found the recipe scribbled down and felt compelled to share.  If you can't find the mini peppers just try and go with the smallest peppers you can find, and you will probably need to cook them a bit longer.  This filling recipe will make about 20-30 mini peppers.  The peppers I usually buy come in a bag already pre-packaged.  Oh, and do I really need to mention they are super easy to make?}

Ingredients


  • 20 mini sweet peppers (I buy them in a bag of about 30-40 peppers)
  • 2 hot (or sweet) sausages, removed from the casing
  • 1 small onion or shallot, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 oz box of spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out (or fresh spinach cooked down to about the same amount- about 2 bunches or so)
  • 3/4 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 c pecorino (or parmesan) cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil























Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prep peppers by cutting off the top and carefully removing/scooping out seeds and ribs from the inside.  Set aside and reserve.
  3. Meanwhile, remove the sausage from the casing and brown in a skillet with about a tsp of oil just to get it going.  After sausage is fully cooked through, drain excess oil but leave about a tbs in the skillet.
  4. Add onion and garlic- cook until soft about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the spinach and heat through
  6. In a bowl combine the cooked sausage mixture and the rest of the ingredients.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Wait until the stuffing is cool enough to handle and stuff peppers.
  9. Spray a baking sheet with some cooking spray, lay out all your peppers, drizzle with a little oil and put in the oven about 20 minutes.
You might end up with a bit of extra filling, depending on the size of your peppers. You can just put the remaining filling in a ziplock bag and then freeze for later use.




*Oh yea, and here are those original photos:





Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pollo alla Cacciatora (Chicken Cacciatore)

Chicken Cacciatore aka Hunter's Chicken.  (Just a heads up this isn't a super quick meal) The name comes from when hunters would come home with freshly hunted game and the wife would cook it up with some tomatoes/veggies, wine and aromatics.  The mushrooms in the dish compliment it's earthy, home cooked aura.  I have seen countless versions of this recipe and this is a dish where each family has their own, but traditionally it will consist of a whole chicken (cut into 8 pieces), tomatoes, wine and mushrooms.  We are essentially braising (cooking low and slow) the chicken to make the tough cuts of meat fall off the bone tender and delicious.  This dish is basically impossible to overcook and definitely calls for red wine and a loaf of crusty bread to be its accompaniment.  Oh, and did I mention it's is easy to make- it's just really cutting up veggies.

One side note is that I used bacon.  Traditionally this dish uses pancetta (which is an Italian version of bacon- it is just not smoked).  You can use either or none.  I can never find pancetta so I just used bacon.  I mean who doesn’t love bacon?

Oh and regarding the chicken- I have made this dish many times with different pieces of chicken, from boneless skinless breasts to thighs and drumsticks only.  It is totally up to you, what's on sale, what you have lying around etc.  Thighs and drumstick family pack with skin and bones were on sale, so I picked up a pack and used 6 thighs and 2 legs.  When it was cooked I pulled them out of the sauce and removed the bones and skin as you can see from the picture above. Whatever you do is totally up to you though, I just wouldn't forget the bread to mop up all that delicious sauce. Buon appetito!

Ingredients
  • About 2-3 pounds of chicken, whatever cuts you like.  It would be about 4 chicken breasts, 6 thighs and 2 drumsticks, 1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces, or any combination of chicken you like that fits in the pan you're using.
  • Flour for dredging
  • 1/4 pound of pancetta (or bacon), chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 10 oz mushrooms, sliced or chopped into chunks (I used baby portabellos, but use whatever you like.  10 oz is usually the standard package at the store)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1 (28oz) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp of each the following spices: rosemary, thyme, oregano & red pepper flakes (feel free to add more or less of any of these)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper (of course)
Directions

1.      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.      In a large deep sided skillet or dutch oven heat some oil over high heat
3.      Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and then dredge them in flour.  Make sure to shake off excessive flour.  If you are using skin-on sear the skin side first.  (Also- if you are using skin on you can choose to skip the flour dredging)
4.      When chicken is seared remove from the pan and reserve.  If there is a lot of oil is the pan, dump it out and add just a splash of new oil.  (The point here is to not have a lot of oil in the pan, just enough to help the bacon/pancetta start rendering.  The bacon will provide a bit more fat for the veggies later)
5.      Add bacon or pancetta.  Cook for a couple minutes until it starts to get crispy, you can lower the heat a bit here- like to medium high.
6.      When that is done add your onion, pepper, garlic and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper and the rest of the spices (except bay leaves).
7.      Let those cook until the mushrooms are brown and the rest of the veggies soft. About 10 minutes I would say.
8.      Add the wine and deglaze the pan.  Cook the wine for about a minute then add the chicken stock and tomatoes.  Taste it and see if it needs more salt and pepper- it most likely will.
9.      Snuggle the chicken pieces back into the pan and add the bay leaves.  Bring this up to a boil, then cover and put into the oven.  You can cook this on the stove top but I find it easier in the oven.
10.  I cooked the chicken covered at 350 for 30 mins, then stirred it, uncovered it and then raised the heat to 400 degrees and cooked it uncovered for another 30 minutes.  (Basically it should just be bubbling gently in the oven).
11.  I served over cavatappi pasta and topped with pecorino cheese.  Don't forget the bread!




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