February 28, 2011

Turkey Parmesan

Recently our hometown grocery had some nice-looking turkey cutlets for sale.   We picked some up, and after considering what to do with them, I decided to make some Turkey Parmesan.   I consulted our Chicken Parmesan recipe, published back in November, and came up with some improvements on that recipe.  After jotting down the changes, I went to work. 

One thing I discovered right away - which was not evident in looking at the package - was that the cutlets weren't even close to evenly-sized.   This forced me to cut some of the larger cutlets into two pieces before pounding them flat, because otherwise they wouldn't cook up as evenly as I'd prefer.   That wasn't too much hassle, fortunately, and everything else went off without a problem.  I breaded the cutlets in panko crumbs and Parmesan, fried them golden-brown on both sides, then tossed them on a wire rack, sprinkled them with cheese and tossed them in the oven to finish cooking.  Meanwhile, I cooked the spaghetti and made a quick and flavorful pasta sauce, and by the time those were done, the cutlets were ready to come out of the oven.

This turned out great - even better than the last time I made Chicken Parmesan.  The changes I made in the recipe really were improvements.  The cutlets were delicious - crisp outside, juicy, tender on the inside and flavorful all the way through - and the sauce was also quite tasty.   I even managed to find some good, fresh basil in the grocery (not at all a sure thing this time of year), which made for a nice garnish.

The recipe below will work fine for Chicken Parmesan, too.  Just use chicken breast cutlets in place of the turkey.   If you've printed off our Chicken Parmesan recipe, replace it with this one, because it's even better.  As far as I'm concerned, this recipe replaces our old one for Chicken Parm.

Turkey Parmesan

yield = 4 servings

1 1/2            pounds turkey breast cutlets
                    salt and pepper to taste
1                  cup all-purpose flour
2                  eggs
2                  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, + 2/3
                    cup for frying
2                  cups panko bread crumbs
1/4               cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, +
                    1/3 cup
1/2               cup freshly-shredded mozzarella cheese
1                  teaspoon table salt + 1/2 teaspoon
1                  onion, finely chopped
1                  teaspoon minced garlic
1/2               teaspoon dried oregano
1/4               teaspoon crushed dried basil
1/8               teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1                  can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/2               ounces spaghetti
1/4               cup (packed) chopped, fresh basil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Set a wire rack atop the baking sheet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. 

Dry the turkey breast cutlets with paper towels and sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper.   Put the flour in a wide, shallow dish (such as a pie plate).  Combine the eggs and one tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl.  Beat thoroughly, then pour into another wide, shallow dish.  Add the panko crumbs and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano in a third wide, shallow dish and mix thoroughly. 

Place one cutlet in the dish with the flour, flipping it to cover thoroughly and shaking off any loose flour.  Dip and flip the flour-covered cutlet in the egg mixture to coat it, letting any excess drip back into the bowl, then dip it into the panko mixture, pressing and flipping the cutlet to get the crumbs to stick on both sides.  Place the cutlet on the wire rack and repeat with other cutlets.  After coating all the cutlets, allow them to dry for 5 minutes to help the coating adhere.

Add four quarts of water and one teaspoon of salt to a large pot and start the water boiling for the spaghetti.

Heat 2/3 cup of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until smoking.  Place 2-3 cutlets in the oil and cook for about 3 minutes before flipping them and cooking another 3 minutes.  They should be browned on both sides.  Transfer the cutlets to a plate lined with three layers of paper towels.  Repeat with the rest of the cutlets, returning the fried, cooked cutlets to the wire rack. 

When all the cutlets have been fried, top each first with a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano, then with a bit of mozzarella, dividing the cheese evenly between the cutlets.  Place in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, about 7 minutes.

Add the last tablespoon of olive oil to a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add the oil and cook until it has started to brown, then add the garlic, oregano, dried basil and red pepper flakes and cook another 30 seconds.  Stir in crushed tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, when the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook per package directions.

Remove the turkey cutlets from the oven, arrange on a serving platter and spoon some of the sauce over the cutlets.  Top with chopped fresh basil.  Serve with spaghetti and remaining sauce.

February 27, 2011

Spicy Pineapple-Pork Stir-Fry

Like I've said before, I like to combine fruit flavors with meat, especially poultry and pork.   I've recently been experimenting with lime, but a few nights ago, I decided to try something combining pork and pineapple.

After considering various options, I decided to make a stir-fry with pork, chunks of pineapple and (for color and to make a more complete meal) snow peas, and to use pineapple juice as the foundation of a flavorful sauce.   Rather than try to design a dish in the style of any particular cuisine, I decided to just go free-form, so I could focus on selecting ingredients that would go along well with pineapple and pork.  Some were a given - ginger and tamari sauce, for example - but as I considered options, I decided I wanted to use a mix of savory, sour and salty flavors to balance out the sweetness of the pineapple.  I also decided to give the dish a bit of heat, courtesy of some Asian hot chili oil and some sweet chili sauce.  All that remained was to round out the flavors a bit, which I did with Chinese five-spice powder (to add some depth to the sauce) and some shallots.

I'm not sure what else to say about this one, other than that it blew us both away.   As I designed the recipe, I expected it would be pretty good, but the delightful scents hinted from pretty early on that this was going to be more than just "pretty good."  The pork smelled wonderful as I browned it in tamari and the hot chili oil, and the pineapple smelled even better as it cooked.   Toward the end, the scent of ginger mingling with the chili sauce and five-spice powder were literally mouthwatering, but none of that really prepared us for how good the first bite would be.

My original recipes aren't always a home run, but this time I knocked it out of the park.   Try it and see.

Spicy Pineapple-Pork Stir-Fry

yield = 4 servings

1 1/2      pounds pork loin, sliced thin and against the grain
2            teaspoons tamari (or regular soy sauce)
1/2         teaspoon Asian hot chili oil
3            tablespoons peanut oil
1/4         cup sweet chili sauce
2            teaspoons cornstarch
1            teaspoon lemon juice
3/4         teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/4         teaspoon table salt
12          ounces fresh snow peas, trimmed
1            can (20 ounce) pineapple chunks in juice,
              drained and juice reserved
1            shallot, peeled and minced
2            teaspoons minced garlic
1            tablespoon grated, fresh ginger

Toss the pork slices with tamari and hot chili oil.   Heat two tablespoons peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until smoking, then add the pork.   Allow the pork to brown on one side, then stir and continue to cook until most of the pork is lightly browned on both sides.  Transfer pork to a clean bowl and set aside.

While the pork is browning, stir together the reserved pineapple juice, sweet chili sauce, cornstarch, lemon juice, five-spice powder and salt in a small bowl, then set aside.

Add the last tablespoon of peanut oil to the same skillet.  Add the snow peas and pineapple chunks and stir-fry until the snow peas and pineapple pieces have started to brown. 

Clear a spot in the center of the skillet and add the shallot and garlic.  Cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds), then add the ginger, stir everything together and cook 1 minute.   Return the pork to the skillet, stirring to mix it in.

Add the pineapple juice mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until it thickens and coats the pork and vegetables (about 1 minute).  Serve with rice. 

The easiest-to-find example of Asian hot chili oil is probably also the best on the market:  House of Tsang's Mongolian Fire Oil.  It's as good as, or better than, any version you'll find in an Asian grocery, but a lot easier to find, as it is stocked by most major supermarket chains in the US. 

By thoroughly draining the canned pineapple, you should get about one cup of pineapple juice, which is what you need for the sauce.  If you don't get that much pineapple juice from the canned pineapple, add enough pineapple juice to bring the amount to one cup.

February 26, 2011

Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder, Wild Rice Pilaf & Carrots with Honey-Ginger Glaze

Last weekend, I made another great pork roast.  The two sides I made to go with the roast were pretty excellent as well, and one of them was an original recipe of mine.

The pork roast recipe I used was Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Peach Sauce, from the September/October 2010 issue of Cook's Illustrated.  

You start with a bone-in pork shoulder roast (also called the pork butt or Boston butt), season it with kosher salt and brown sugar and let it rest overnight, then rub it down with black pepper and roast it at a low temperature for about 6 hours. 

That slow roasting melts away most of the fat, including the intramuscular fat, which makes for an incredibly moist and tasty roast.  

I used some of the peaches Juli froze late last summer to make the sauce for the roast.  The peaches were mixed with some of the pan juices, white wine, sugar, rice vinegar and some other ingredients, and the resulting sauce was savory and sweet with the slightest sour undertone.  

I also made a Wild Rice Pilaf using a recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which has fast become one of my two go-to cookbooks (the other being The New Best Recipe).   Long-grain rice is cooked with sauteed carrots and onions, chicken broth and seasonings, then mixed in with cooked wild rice, toasted pecans and cranberries.   The recipe called for dried cranberries, but I instead used some frozen cranberries from the stock I'd tossed in the freezer back during the holidays.  The different ingredients provided the side dish with a nice mix of textures and flavors, and the fruit element made the Pilaf go along well with the pork roast.

Finally, I made up some Carrots with Honey-Ginger Glaze.   I based the technique on the general recipe for Glazed Carrots from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, but the flavor mix was my own.   I attempted a blend of sweet, sour, salty and savory flavors, and the result went along excellently with the other two dishes.  We'll be making this one again, I'm pretty sure.

These three dishes made for a really nice dinner, and there were enough leftovers that we'll be able to enjoy some lunch-size portions several times over the coming days.

Carrots with Honey-Ginger Glaze

yield = 4 servings

1              pound carrots, peeled and bias-sliced
1/2           cup low-sodium chicken broth
3              tablespoons honey
1/2           teaspoon salt
1              tablespoon unsalted butter
1              teaspoon fresh peeled and grated ginger
1/4           teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/8           teaspoon ground cinnamon
1              pinch cayenne pepper
2              tablespoons lemon juice

Combine the carrots, broth, 1 tablespoon honey and salt in a large skillet.  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for aother 5 minutes.

Uncover, return to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced to 1-2 tablespoons.  Stir in the butter.  Once the butter is melted, stir in the grated ginger, black pepper, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.   Cook until the liquid has cooked to a thickened glaze, then remove from heat.  Stir in lemon juice and serve.

Cooking Tip:  When peeling vegetables such as carrots or potatoes, peel them directly onto one or two paper towels.  When you're done, just fold the paper towel up and throw it away.  This saves cleaning the countertop (carrots can stain if they're juicy), and it quicker and easier than picking up the peels from the bottom of the kitchen sink if you don't have a disposal unit.

February 25, 2011

Revisiting Some Old Favorites

As I've said before, part of the joy of cooking so many new things and making up so many new recipes is finding more things you'll want to make over and over.  Over the past couple weeks, we've revisited several recipes we've previously featured.

We've written a lot about Graziano Bros. Italian Grocery in the past.   You can buy a lot of great things there... fresh-made Italian sausage, excellent cheeses, salami and pepperoni, imported pastas and meats and homemade meatballs and ravioli.   We picked up some cheese ravioli and cooked it up along with a batch of our Chunky Marinara Sauce.  The ravioli was great - tender pasta, a flavorful mix of cheeses - and the Marinara went great with it.

It's been awhile since I've tried out any new cookie recipes, but I have been falling back on some old favorites, including my Chewy Lime Sugar Cookies and the Incredible Cookies I've written about before.  Both turned out great, and between them, our cookie jars are now well-stocked.

For Valentine's Day, Juli requested that I cook up another batch of Chili Shrimp with Broccoli.  It wasn't that long ago I first made that, but she loved it and was more than ready for another batch.  It turned out just as good this time as it did the last one. 

For dessert, I made up a batch of the Easy Chocolate Pudding from the most recent issue of Cook's Country.  Last time I made this recipe, I did the almond version, but this time I went with the basic recipe.   It produced a creamy pudding with incredibly rich chocolate flavor - almost too rich, strange as that sounds.

Talking about things we've made multiple times has me wondering... have any readers tried out any of our recipes and liked them enough to have made them more than once?  If so, we'd be glad to hear from you.

February 24, 2011

Stovetop Lasagna

One of the cookbooks I got for Christmas was The Best 30-Minute Recipe.  I haven't paid it as much attention yet as I have some of the other ones, but recently I found myself in need of something that could be tossed together quickly.  I'm always wary about recipes or cookbooks advertising "30 minutes or less," because often that time doesn't count necessary prep or is based on someone being an expert chef, but the ATK ones I'd made in the past have generally been pretty fast, even when not quite "on the table in 30." 

The recipe that most caught my eye right off the bat was for Skillet Lasagna.  I read over that recipe, and it looked pretty good, but there were a couple points I didn't like about it.  The version published in The Best 30-Minute Recipe looked to be under-seasoned, in my opinion.  I suppose this was to accommodate for one of the other ingredient choices, namely the recommendation of using a jar of pasta sauce in place of making a sauce.   Commercial pasta sauces generally have some seasoning, after all.   Still, I'd rather risk over-seasoning than under-seasoning, and as far as I'm concerned, it's difficult for a dish to have too much garlic.   So, I bumped up the amount of garlic and red pepper flakes from the amounts suggested in the recipe and added some oregano to the mix.  

I also went with a type of pasta other than that suggested in the recipe.  The published recipe suggested just breaking up some lasagna noodles, but I decided to just go with mafalda pasta.  Mafalda looks like miniature lasagna noodles anyhow, plus it's thinner than lasagna noodles, so it would cook quicker.  I also ended up bumping up the amount of pasta a bit, and rather than go with a "meatloaf mix" of ground beef, pork and veal (the local stores never have ground veal), I just went with the ground beef this time around. 

My take on the recipe cooked up great.  It was richly-flavored and completely satisfying.  And best of all, from start to finish, it took slightly under 30 minutes to make.   The changes I made wouldn't have had any impact on time - if anything, adding a couple ingredients would probably have added a tiny bit of time - so the original recipe can also clearly be made in 30 minutes or less.

Though inspired by the recipe from the book, the amount of changes I made makes the version detailed below very much mine.   I think the recipe as-written would also be quite good, mind you; this one just better reflects my and Juli's tastes.  Still, credit where due.

Stovetop Lasagna

yield = 4 servings

1           pound 85% lean ground beef
3           teaspoons minced garlic
1/2        teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4        teaspoon salt
1/2        teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
10         ounces mafalda noodles
1           jar (26 ounce) pasta sauce with mushrooms
2           cups water
1           cup shredded Italian cheese blend
3/4        cup ricotta cheese
1/4        cup chopped fresh basil

Cook the beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until thoroughly browned.  Drain off most of the grease, then add the garlic, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook until the garlic is fragrant (30-45 seconds).

Add the pasta to the skillet, then pour in the marinara and water.  Stir to mix all the ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a strong simmer and cook until the noodles are tender (about 15 minutes), stirring often.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in 1/2 cup of the Italian cheese blend.  Dot heaping tablespoons of the ricotta over the skillet mixture and sprinkle with the remaining shredded cheese and the basil.  Cover and let stand until the cheeses melt (about 3 minutes), then serve. 

We went with a sauce with mushrooms (Barilla Mushroom and Garlic Sauce), but the dish would be fine with a plain marinara sauce.  If you'd like things a bit spicier, you could up the amount of crushed red pepper to a full teaspoon.  This recipe would also be good using half ground beef and half sweet Italian sausage.

February 23, 2011

Jeffrey and Juli's Mushroom Bisque

This recipe was inspired by a recent post from one of my favorite blogs, The Iowa Housewife.  I was making the Fresh Mushroom Bisque recently featured there and had just about finished cooking the soup.  Jeffrey and I tend to like our food on the spicy side, and we wanted to perk the recipe up by adding more herbs and seasoning.  So we came up with a variation on the fly that adds thyme, bay leaf and cayenne pepper. 

We actually had to add the herbs and spices at the end, but that's not ideal, so the recipe is written the way we should have done it (if we weren't adjusting for flavor after the fact).  The finished soup is decadently creamy with a really deep, meaty mushroom flavor.  It is light years apart from condensed mushroom soup and manages to be both elegant and hearty.  Trough-worthy, for sure!

Jeffrey and Juli's Mushroom Bisque

4 generous servings

4 ounces fresh white mushrooms, cut into eighths
4 ounces fresh white mushrooms, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf

6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups half and half cream

4 tablespoons butter for sauteing onion, mushrooms, and garlic
1/4 cup sherry

1.  Start by chopping the mushrooms, onion, and garlic as directed.  Set aside.

2.  Using a small sauce pan, add the chicken broth and heat on medium low until just simmering.  Add the instant bouillon and whisk until mixed thoroughly.  Add thyme sprigs and the bay leaf.  Simmer all together for 5 minutes.  Remove the thyme sprigs and the bay leaf with a slotted spoon.

3. Using a 2 quart sauce pan or small Dutch oven, melt 6 tablespoons of butter on medium low heat.  Add flour, salt, white and cayenne peppers.  Cook over low heat.   When the mixture begins to bubble, remove from heat.  Add chicken stock, milk, and half and half cream slowly, whisking as you add the liquid to avoid lumps.  Stir constantly until mixture is smooth.  Cook over medium heat until thickened (keep stirring!), remove from heat and set aside.

4.  Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan/skillet.  Add minced onions and cook for 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid and shrink, and the mushroom liquid has cooked off.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add sherry to the pan to deglaze and cook until the sherry has mostly cooked off or been absorbed by the mushroom mixture.

5.  Stir the mushroom mixture into the cream mixture and cook on low heat until heated through.

We served our soup with fresh ground black pepper, a little garnish of grated cheddar cheese, and oyster crackers.

February 22, 2011

Jeffrey's Second Pie: Sweet Cherry Pie

My office had another pot luck last week.   It was scheduled on Valentine's Day, and had something of a Valentine's theme:  Everyone was supposed to bring food that was (at least in part) red or pink.  I decided that fresh cherry pie might be appreciated by my colleagues, so the weekend before the potluck, I spent a fair bit of time in the kitchen, cooking a pie for only the second time ever.   Or, I suppose you could say last weekend was both the second and third time I'd made a pie, because I ended up making two cherry pies.

I used the recipe for Sweet Cherry Pie that was published in Cook's Illustrated last year.  The recipe had some pretty neat futures, including pureeing some cherries and red plums to help make for a thicker sauce, and it was made with the rightly-famous Cook's Illustrated vodka pie crust, which had turned out great the first time I made a pie.  I'd been thinking about making that recipe from the first time I read it, and was glad for this month's potluck theme for giving me a good reason to make it.

Things didn't go quite as neatly this time as they did the first time I made a pie.  This time I found the dough for the pie crust to be a bit too sticky, to a degree that made it difficult to work with. Beyond that, I had a tough time with the top crust, especially on the first pie.   On that pie, the top crust ended up separating from the bottom crust in several places.  This allowed the filling to bubble up and over quite a bit, which made for a fair bit of mess on the baking sheet I'd placed the pie pan upon.   Still, better the cookie sheet than the oven... that really would have been a mess.

The second pie went a bit easier than the first, and turned out looking quite a bit neater than did the first one.  There were a couple small spots where a bit of the filling bubbled out from the edges of the crust, and a bit more did the same at one of the vents on the top crust, but these were pretty minor issues.  The second pie looked pretty good, really. 

Interestingly, the filling of my cherry pie didn't end up being very red at all.  The frozen cherries I used were pretty red, but by the time the pie was finished baking, the filling was a uniform, dark, purplish color.  Nobody complained about it, though.

The pies tasted pretty good, with a strong, sweet cherry flavor, and the crust was wonderfully light and flaky.  I honestly wasn't as happy with the flavor of these pies as I was the Apple-Cranberry Pie I made back in November, but it was still pretty good.   My colleagues seemed to appreciate it, anyway, so mission accomplished.