Weekly Winner: My Ten Mile Reward

As I noted in a previous post, a friend of mine has talked me into walking a half marathon in a little over a week.  Because of this, my Sundays have been dedicated to training.  This past Sunday was my 10-miler.  That’s right … my husband and I went out and walked 10 miles in two and a half hours.

As soon as I got home, I immediately started thinking about dinner.  What was going to be my reward for keeping up my pace for 10 miles in what turned out to be a cold, extremely windy morning?  Steak!  Steak and potatoes to be exact.  To be precise, it was Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom-Dill Sauce and oven-roasted fingerling potatoes.  I got the steak recipe from Fine Cooking Magazine and it was the perfect reward for a job well done (luckily the steak was not well done!).

Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom-Dill Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tbs. unsalted butter
12 oz. assorted fresh mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Kosher salt
1/2 cup minced shallot (about 1 large)
2 Tbs. Cognac
3/4 cup lower-salt beef broth
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
4 6-oz. beef tenderloin steaks (about 1 inch thick), preferably at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. sour cream
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbs. minced fresh dill

Directions:

Melt the butter in a 12-inch heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season generously with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallot, and cook until softened, about 3 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully add the Cognac, stirring to deglaze the pan. Add the broth, bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 3 minutes. Cover the skillet, and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the steaks dry and season generously on both sides with salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot, add the steaks. Sear until a dark crust forms, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the steaks, and cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes more for medium rare. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the steaks to a platter, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes.

With a rubber spatula, scrape the mushroom mixture into the cast-iron skillet. Add the sour cream and mustard, stirring until heated through and well mixed. If necessary, return the skillet to the stovetop to heat the sauce. Stir in the dill.

Transfer the steaks to plates, spoon the sauce over, and serve.

 

Weekly Winner – “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!”

I am a big fan of chicken and I think boneless, skinless chicken breasts get a bad rap.  Yes, dark meat and chicken skin are tasty; however you simply can’t beat the ease and convenience of boneless, skinless breasts … especially when you dress them up like I did this week for Baked Chicken Imperial.

I got this recipe from Cook’s Country, a magazine I truly enjoy.  It’s relatively easy, totally luscious and just a bit decadent for a midweek dinner.

Baked Chicken Imperial

Serves 4

 Do not salt the chicken for longer than the recommended hour or it will become too salty. Don’t worry if some of the crumb topping falls into the skillet in step 3. It will disappear into the sauce.

Ingredients

  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 ounces French baguette, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons melted and cooled
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Instructions

 1. Sprinkle chicken all over with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

 2. Meanwhile, process bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about 20 seconds. Add Parmesan, softened butter, 2 tablespoons parsley, garlic, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and process to combine, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.

 3. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Arrange chicken, skinned side up, in 12-inch oven safe skillet with narrow ends pointing toward center of skillet. Brush chicken with melted butter. Top each breast with equal amount (generous 1/2 cup) crumb mixture, pressing firmly to adhere.

 4. Whisk cream, broth, wine, shallot, and mustard together in 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Carefully pour 1 1/2 cups around chicken breasts, taking care not to wet crumbs on top of chicken. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until crumbs are deep golden brown and chicken registers 160 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes.

 5. Using spatula, carefully transfer chicken to platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Pour remaining 1/2 cup sauce mixture into skillet and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cook until thickened and reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing sauce with chicken.

The Strange Allure of the Orange Glitter Ball

The World’s Dorkiest Cat strikes again.  This rather odd-looking thing is what we are referring to as a glitter ball.  The cat (Gene) is completely and utterly obsessed with it.  He has many other toys that used to entertain and delight him … for a while.  Like all cats, his preference for toys (as well as sleeping places, treats, people, just about everything) changes and goes through cycles.  Not the glitter ball.

This all started about a month ago when the World’s Dorkiest Cat’s sitter came by.  She visits and cares for him when we travel.  Recently, she lost her own cat and decided to bequeath some toys and other goodies to Gene.  Among these things were quite a few of these glitter balls … all different colors.  Since day one it has always been the orange one.  I thought animals could not differentiate colors.  Perhaps I was mistaken.

This ball is carried, thrown, hidden, hatched, stared at, stalked and pretty much obsessed over during most waking hours.  And I’ve noticed that those waking hours has significantly increased since the arrival of the orange glitter ball.

I love it when pets seem to think and plan for themselves.  Gene’s entire concept of play has changed since coming in contact with the orange glitter ball.  It used to be all about the chase.  You threw something –  he’d chase it and bat it around.  Done.  Total elapsed time?  Approximately 35 seconds.  Now, we play fetch.  Yes, he’s actually learned to retrieve and drop it at my feet.  But mostly he entertains himself.  Deliberately placing it at the top of one of our staircases so he can ever so strategically “accidentally” knock it down the stairs and then attack it.  He throws it and must then pounce on it to teach it the appropriate lesson.  He lays on it and “hatches” it so when he moves ever so slightly he can be surprised to find it hiding under him.  He purposely places it next to closet doors so he can stuff it under the door and then spend hours on his side trying to retrieve it while banging said closet door incessantly (this, by the way, is best done at around 2am and the bedroom closet seems particularly suited for this). The total elapsed playing time with the magic orange glitter ball can last hours.

The other morning I was convinced he ate it.  I could not find it anywhere.  We searched high and low in all closets, bathtubs (another favorite playground) and under all furniture.  It was gone.  It wasn’t until I decided to make the bed that I found it…. tucked safely away under my pillow.

What exactly is it about this thing??  Whatever it is, it makes me laugh and makes The World’s Dorkiest Cat just that much dorkier.

Weekly Winner – Soup so good you’ll wish you were sick

Last night I made Chicken and Egg Soup with Pastina (small pasta) for dinner.  It was wonderful.  The only problem was I felt totally fine.  Not a bit of a sore throat, no fever, no aches or pains whatsoever.  This soup is so rich and satisfying that you sort of wish you were down with the flu and someone had lovingly whipped this up for you to make you well.  Regardless, it’s a fine soup.  I got the recipe from Food Network Magazine and altered it a bit.  Those changes I’ve recorded in my version of the recipe below.

CHICKEN AND EGG SOUP WITH PASTINA

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 (2-1/2-to-3-pound) rotisserie chicken (on the bone), shredded
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup pastina (small pasta)
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Crumbled feta cheese, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the onion, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, the broth, 4 cups water and the juice of 1 lemon; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the pastina and simmer until the pasta is cooked and the soup thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat. Whisk the juice of the remaining lemon with the whole eggs and yolks in a medium bowl until frothy. Gradually whisk a ladleful of the hot soup into the egg mixture, then stir the warm egg mixture into the soup and return to medium-low heat. Cook until creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in the spinach and dill, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls; garnish with feta, if desired.

Weekly Winner – Belated Again, but worth the wait

So another holiday weekend came and went and with it, my deadline for posting my Weekly Winner.  I actually made this dish a week ago yesterday, but it lingers in my memory as a phenomenal Indian chicken dish.

I got the recipe from Saveur (one of my favorite food magazines), and the only alteration I did was to use all boneless chicken thighs because I had them on hand.  The other thing that really made this dish amazing was my hubby’s homemade naan.  Without further ado, the recipe for Butter Chicken, or what is more colorfully known as Murgh Makhanwala.

Murgh Makhanwala

(Butter Chicken)

Serves 4

FOR THE CHICKEN:
1 3–4-lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces, skin removed

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. canola oil
2 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 3″ piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise
Kosher salt, to taste

FOR THE RAITA:
1/2 English cucumber (about 6 oz.), seeded and grated
1/2 medium tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 medium carrot, finely grated

FOR THE SAUCE:
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 green cardamom pods, cracked
3 whole cloves, crushed
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
1 3″ piece ginger, washed and grated (skin on)
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup heavy cream

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 tsp. garam masala
4 fresh or frozen curry leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Mango chutney, for serving

1. Marinate the chicken: Combine all marinade ingredients except for chicken in a food processor; purée. Transfer marinade to a large bowl and add chicken, tossing to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

2. Heat oven to 500°. Transfer chicken to an aluminum foil—lined baking sheet and spoon any marinade from bowl over chicken. Bake chicken until light brown but not cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack; set aside.

Meanwhile, make raita: Toss cucumbers, tomatoes, and salt in a colander and let sit for 10 minutes. Press cucumbers and tomatoes to drain well and then transfer to a medium bowl along with yogurt, mint, lemon juice, coriander, cumin, and carrots; toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

3. Make the sauce: In a 6-qt. pot over medium-high heat, combine chile flakes, garlic, cardamom, cloves, tomatoes, ginger, bay leaf, and 2/3 cup water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often and crushing tomatoes with a spoon, for 25 minutes. Discard bay leaf and transfer sauce to a food processor; purée. Return sauce to pot and continue cooking over medium-low heat until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Add reserved chicken pieces and any marinade from pan, along with 1/3 cup water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream, butter, garam masala, and curry leaves. Reduce heat to low and cook until flavors meld, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and keep warm.

4. To serve, transfer chicken and sauce to a serving platter and serve with the raita and mango chutney.

Training vs Doing … and the persuasive power of friends

I do not consider myself an athlete.  I don’t get into training … for anything, really but certainly not athletic training.  That’s not to say I don’t work out, because I do…regularly… like six days a week.  Recently, however my oldest friend – and probably the only human on Earth who could do so – (Hello, Ellen) has talked me into walking a half marathon with her in a month.  What was I thinking?

Now I know what everyone is going to say… “you’re walking!  What’s the big deal?”  Well, you see, they do not leave the course open forever.  The majority of people will be running and you do NOT want to be the last one on the course with the “sag wagon” riding up your rear-end.  Also, walking continuously for 13.1 miles is not something that should be entered into lightly.  Your feet, legs and back just aren’t used to it.  So train I must.

Hubby was thrilled.  Having run several full marathons and close to 30 half marathons, he went into full-on coach mode.  Which is good because, as I said … I don’t train, I just do.

After finishing a short run with said hubby, we discussed the differences between those that enjoy training (him) and those that don’t (me).  When I’m just working out because I enjoy exercising (or more honestly because I enjoy the results that exercising brings), each finished work out is a completed task in and of itself.  It’s a job done.  A checked off item on my to-do list.  Done, finished!  I don’t have to think about it again.  Now, with my training, it is just a piece in a puzzle… a building block.  Job not complete.  Task not finished.  Closer, yes.  But still unchecked.  I hate unchecked boxes.

So I think the trick is going to be changing my mindset (ouch!  hate that!)  Hubby mentioned continuing to think about each long walk or run as an individual workout on a weekly workout checklist.  Well, that’s better… but I’ve still got that big, whopping, un-checked half marathon box looming over my head.  So…. train I must.