Weekly Winner – Good to the Bitter End

The pickings for this week’s Weekly Winner were a bit slim.  Not because I cooked anything that wasn’t tasty, (gasp!) but because we were on vacation and I didn’t do much cooking at all.  Also, when I do travel, I always prepare ahead of time and have some tasty leftovers in the freezer that can be quickly thawed and reheated upon our return.  But last night I did make Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Pesto & Sausage and this week’s winner was decided.

It doesn’t take much for me to like a pasta … I mean, it’s pasta!  What’s not to like?  However this dish was surprising because of all the somewhat bitter notes going on from the broccoli rabe and the pistachios in the pesto.  Trust me.  It works.  This recipe is from Anne Burrell and I think I got it from the Food Network Magazine.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Pesto & Sausage

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, tough lower stems removed
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, toasted
  • 3/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 pound orecchiette pasta
  • High-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing (optional)

Directions

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Set up a bowl of well-salted ice water. Cook the broccoli rabe in the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes and then immediately plunge in the salted ice water. This will prevent the broccoli rabe from being overcooked and will set the lovely green color.

Drain the broccoli rabe and squeeze out any excess water; coarsely chop. Place the broccoli rabe in the bowl of a food processor and puree until it is a coarse paste. Add the pistachios and parmigiano and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning; you probably will need more salt. Add the ricotta and pulse until combined. Taste for seasoning once again-it should be full-flavored, slightly bitter and creamy at the same time. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. (If you are making the pasta right after the pesto, just use the broccoli rabe blanching water.) Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the cooking time on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, place the pesto in a large skillet and add about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water; place over medium-high heat. When the pasta is ready, drain and add to the skillet with the pesto. Stir vigorously to combine and cook until the sauce is creamy and heated through, 1 to 2 minutes; add salt to taste. Remove from the heat, add 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, if desired, and stir vigorously. Garnish with more parmigiano.

Weekly Winner (Belated)… Porky Goodness!

Last week got away from me a bit.  I meant to post this on Saturday in keeping with my weekly theme but never quite got around to it.  See, it was St. Patrick’s Day…. and I’m in Chicago.  If you know Chicago and their craziness about St. Patrick’s Day (or St. Paddy’s Month) as it is known here… you’ll understand.

Anyway, I made these Beer-Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs not for St. Patrick’s Day but for a simply Sunday dinner last week.  They are, without a doubt, some of the most succulent pieces of meat I have ever prepared.  Very easy too, since most of the magic is done in the oven with no human interaction except for a bit of turning and stirring.  I got the recipe from the Food Network Magazine and it is definitely a keeper… and a winner, in my book!

 

 

Beer-Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds bone-in country-style pork ribs
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 12-ounce bottle amber ale
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Pat the ribs dry, season with salt and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon paprika. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the ribs in batches and cook until browned, about 8 minutes per side. Remove to a plate. Add the onions and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon paprika and season with salt.

Add the beer; bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 8 minutes, scraping up the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and thyme; when the liquid begins to simmer, return the ribs to the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook, uncovered, turning the ribs once or twice, until the meat is almost tender, about 1 hour.

Mix the vinegar and honey in a measuring cup. Remove the pot from the oven and place on the stovetop; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the vinegar mixture and bring to a boil, then return the pot to the oven. Continue to braise, uncovered, until the ribs are tender, 15 to 20 more minutes. Return the pot to the stovetop and transfer the ribs to a plate. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat; skim off the fat and cook until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Return the ribs to the pot and heat through. Discard the bay leaves and thyme.

Weekly Winner — Not Your Average Bird

This week turned out to be a fairly impressive food week, actually.  I tried a bunch of new recipes plus some old favorites but this one truly stood out.  It’s amazing that a few ingredients, and hardly any hands-on time can turn a typical Tuesday evening into a memorable dining event.

This week’s Weekly Winner is Filipino Chicken Adobo.  The recipe came from Cook’s Illustrated and I served it with Asian-Style Green Beans and simple white rice.  I also used boneless, skinless thighs because it is what I had. This cut down on the cooking time a bit.

I know, I really must work on my food photography.  Trust me, it tasted much better than it looks here.

Filipino Chicken Adobo

Serves 4

Ingredients:

8 (5 to 7 ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk

¾ cup cider vinegar

8 garlic cloves, peeled

4 bay leaves

2 teaspoons pepper

1 scallion, sliced thin

Toss chicken with soy sauce in large bowl.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Remove chicken from soy sauce, allowing excess to drip back into bowl.  Transfer chicken, skin side down, to 12-inch nonstick skillet; set aside soy sauce.

Place skillet over medium-high heat and cook until chicken skin is browned, 7 to 10 minutes.  While chicken is browning, whisk coconut milk, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and pepper into soy sauce.

Transfer chicken to plate and discard fat in skillet.  Return chicken to skillet skin side down, add coconut milk mixture, and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  Flip chicken skin side up and continue to cook, uncovered, until chicken registers 175 degrees, about 15 minutes.  Transfer chicken to platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil.

Remove bay leaves and skim any fat off surface of sauce.  Return skillet to medium-high heat and cook until sauce is thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.  Pour sauce over chicken, sprinkle with scallion, and serve.

Hope Springs Eternal….Again

Here we are again… it is time. Spring training! Today is the first televised spring training game for my beloved Cubs and I find myself once again ready for my absolute favorite season — Chicago Cubs Baseball. Can you sense my eagerness? Can you feel my prickly anticipation?  Do you detect my unwavering devotion?   Let me state right now without hesitation that I am certain that THIS year is going to be different.  Why, you ask?  Because this is how I feel EVERY year.  I have to.  I am a Cubs fan.

Baseball is a funny sport.  And as much as I totally love the game, I have serious problems with the business-side of it all.   See, I like my guys. No, check that… I adore my guys.  Win, lose or draw, it doesn’t matter.  Of courses I’d prefer they win.  But it’s more about the chemistry and camaraderie of the team. Inevitably, I always form emotional ties with 95% of the Cubs players.  Sure, there are some that don’t seem to fit from day one and are considered the poor relations, but that happens in every family, right?  It’s just that I hate the fact that they are seen as commodities to be traded or sold off.

This stems from the fact that I am a very loyal creature.  When I find something I like, its mine.  I stick with it.  I’ve been married for over 23 years.  I’ve bought the same laundry detergent since college. I am a single brand of mustard and single brand of mayonnaise kind of gal. Therefore, when the Cubs team is created each year I feel that’s it. That’s the team! Those are my boys! Don’t let me get all attached to them….see them at Spring Training…learn their stories and histories…cheer them on and then tell me “that’s it…we’re done with them”.  But I’m not!  These are my guys!

Sigh. And so it begins again. But this time….this year…it will be different.  I just know it!

Go Cubs, Go!

Weekly Winner – The Rebranding of the Prune

Have you noticed you can’t buy prunes anymore?  They are now “dried plums”  I guess the time has come to make the lowly prune a bit more hip and sexy.  Let’s face it, there really is nothing sexy about a prune.  However I love them… both in the original plum version and the dried state.  Which brings me to my Weekly Winner recipe for Double Plum Baked Chicken.  I made this for a “Girls’ Night In” dinner this week and it was a big hit.  Incredibly easy and surprisingly moist and flavorful.  The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Double Plum Baked Chicken

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup sliced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup plum wine
  • 3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon chile sauce (such as sambal oelek)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese mustard
  • 1/2 cup halved dried plums (about 9)
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1/2-inch) slices green onions

Preparation:

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. 2. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl. Add shallots and ginger; sauté 1 minute. Add wine; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Add broth, chili sauce, and mustard; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 3/4 cup (about 8 minutes). Stir in plums. Remove from heat.
  3. 3. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat; swirl. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan, and sauté for 3 minutes. Turn chicken over; pour plum mixture over chicken. Bake at 425° for 6 minutes or until done. Let chicken stand 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions.