Weekly Winner:  It’s not easy being green — especially if you’re a meatloaf!

 I was not always a fan of meatloaf.  I never actually refused to eat it or anything, but it was never one of my favorites.  Just acceptable.  I’ve come to  realize that the reason for my previous thoughts on meatloaf was simply because it’s not easy to make a good meatloaf!  Most meatloaf is, at best forgettable and at worst, leaden doorstops.

Lately I’ve found some interesting recipes and have had success (both at my own dinner table and with my clients) introducing both a spinach-and-cheese-stuffed beef meatloaf and an amazingly popular horseradish-y glazed turkey meatloaf to my repertoire.  Then I found this recipe and I have to admit… I was intrigued.  Chicken and Broccoli — in a meatloaf.  What’s not to like?  Well, first there’s the color.  It is somewhat disconcerting to eat a green meatloaf.  Your survival instincts generally tell you to avoid such things.

Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe.  It certainly is easy.  It’s definitely healthy.  I’m just not so sure it qualifies as a meatloaf.  It doesn’t really taste like a meatloaf, but it does most certainly taste good!  I also think it would make an awesome chicken burger and I intend to play around with that as well.

So bottom line, if you can get past the color, try this recipe.  I’m pretty sure that the recipe came from Martha Stewart Living, but for the life of me, I can’t find it online.  So I’ll give her credit for it.  The recipe worked beautifully, which is a sign that it probably came from Martha.  Again, my apologies for the picture.  I’ve included the picture from the magazine after the recipe, but I think they may have “dampened down” the green color. At least with me, you know there’s not going to be any photoshopping.  I post it like it turns out!

Chicken-and-Broccoli Meatloaf

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 head broccoli, cut into small florets, stems peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices

Olive oil, for the pan

1 small onion, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 pound ground chicken

1 large egg, lightly whisked

1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/3 cup finely grated parmesan

2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

1-1/2 tsp coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup ketchup

2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Set a steamer basket or colander in a large saucepan filled with 2 inches water; bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Place broccoli florets and stems in basket cover, and steam until bright green and just tender, 4 to 6 minutes.  Remove basket from pan; let cool slightly.
  2. Brush a 5×9 inch loaf pan with oil.  In a food processor, pulse onion, carrot, and celery until finely chopped; transfer to a large bowl.  Pulse broccoli in food processor until finely chopped.  Transfer to bowl.
  3. Add breadcrumbs, chicken, egg, 1 tablespoon mustard, Parmesan, dill, and salt to bowl.  Season with pepper.  Using two forks, mix until combined.  Transfer to prepared loaf pan.
  4. Stir together ketchup, remaining 2 teaspoons mustard, and brown sugar in a small bowl until smooth; brush evenly on top of loaf.  Set loaf pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until glaze is caramelized and a thermometer inserted in center of loaf registers 160 degrees, about 1 hour.  Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

Weekly Winner:  A Perfectly Pressed Chicken Dinner

 There is really nothing better than a scrumptious roasted chicken with crispy skin.  To me, that’s the ultimate comfort food and a dish that screams “Sunday Supper”.  I’m also a huge fan of lentils – not just any lentils, but aromatic, creamy Puye lentils. Finding a recipe that combines all of these things set expectations mighty high.  This recipe, however, did not disappoint.  My photography, however did disappoint.  Big time.  The dish was delicious and definitely looked much better in person.

The chicken wasn’t overly messed with but it was weighted down with a cast iron skillet which helped flatten it and create a wonderfully crispy skin.

The lentils definitely were messed with and cooked with a whole bunch of balsamic vinegar.  At first I worried that it was too much and would result in an overly acidic dish.  But it actually mellowed a bunch during cooking.  And the addition of the walnuts added a wonderful crunch and richness.

All around this was a banner dish.  The recipe comes from Food and Wine magazine and while the total amount of time required may seem like a lot, the majority of it is “hands-off” cooking.  And as an added bonus, your house will smell fabulous!

Cast-Iron Roast Chicken with Lentils and Walnut Vinaigrette 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Lentils

1/2 cup walnuts

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup Puye or Beluga lentils

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and pepper

Chicken

2 tbsp olive oil

One 4-lb chicken, backbone removed, chicken halved

Kosher salt and pepper

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Walnut Vinaigrette

1/4 cup toasted walnut oil

2 Tbsp sherry vinegar

1 Tbsp chopped parsley

Kosher Salt and pepper

Procedure:

  1. Make the lentils – in a medium saucepan, toast the walnuts over moderate heat until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Chop the nuts and transfer to a small bowl.  In the same saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes.  Add the lentils, bay leaf, balsamic vinegar and 1-1/2 cups of water and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender, 15 minutes longer. Stir in the butter and mustard and season with salt and pepper.  Keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, make the chicken – preheat the oven to 400. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set breast side down in the skillet.  Cover with foil and another cast iron skillet.  Cook the chicken over moderate heat until golden, 8-to-10 minutes.  Flip the chicken halves and roast in the oven, uncovered until golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the inner thigh registers 165 degrees, about 30 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.  Whisk the butter into the pan juices and season with salt and pepper.  Strain the jus and keep warm.
  3. Make the vinaigrette – in a small bowl, whisk the walnut oil with the sherry vinegar and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Carve the chicken. Stir the toasted walnuts into the lentils and spoon onto plates. Top with chicken. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve the chicken jus on the side.

Weekly Winner:  Cheese! Beer! Soup!

 What’s better than soup on a chilly night?  Cheesy Soup.  And what makes cheese soup even better?  Well yes, bacon would definitely make it better but that’s a different recipe.  This time, it’s Beer!

I pulled this recipe back in the depths of winter, certain that it would get made within a week or so.  Well, life got in the way and it got tucked away – that is until a few days ago.  It was a typical chilly early spring night and the perfect time to pull this out and give it a try.  I knew we’d like it…seriously, what’s not to like?  Lots of cheese (including one of my personal favorites, smoked Gouda), beer….and a pretzel garnish.  As with many of the great recipes, this one wound up far greater than the sum of its parts.  Tasty parts for sure, but the finished product was down right decadent and luscious.  And very, very cheesy.

I’m not certain, but I think that I got this recipe from Cuisine at Home.  Regardless of where it comes from it has found a permanent home in my Soup recipe file.

Smoky Three-Cheese & Beer Soup

Makes about 8 cups

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup minced onions

1/2 cup minced carrot

1/2 cup minced celery

1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups whole milk

1 bottle lager beer

14 oz sharp white Cheddar, shredded

8 oz smoked Gouda cheese, shredded

1 Tbsp cornstarch

2 oz cream cheese, cubed and softened

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/8 tsp smoked paprika

salt, black pepper, and Tabasco sauce to taste

Pretzel nuggets

Procedure:

  1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions, carrot, and celery; cook until onions soften and begin to brown, 7-9 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  2. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring often.  Slowly whisk in broth, milk and beer.  Bring mixture just to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are very soft, about 20 minutes.
  3. Off heat, puree soup with a handheld blender.  Return soup to stove top over medium-low heat.
  4. Toss cheddar and gouda with cornstarch.  Whisk cheese mixture into soup, by the handful, making sure the cheese is melted before adding more, then whisk in cream cheese until melted.
  5. Off heat, stir in Dijon, Worcestershire, and paprika; season soup with salt, pepper, and Tabasco.  Garnish each serving with pretzel nuggets.