Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Saturday Night Special

First off, let me apologize for the recent infrequency of my Homeskillet blogs. Between work, March Madness and culinary school in the morning and studying at night, it just fell by the wayside. Not that we haven't been cooking or coming up with new ideas and recipes its just, well, we've been too tired to write about them.

But now, after another long and arduous 10 day stretch at work, I have 3 days off and some time to chat with you guys and share some recent awesomeness.

Actually I just wanna show you what I did this one night.

Okay, so, She-Ra, who usually works the bar during the day, switched shifts with someone and got a closing shift on a Saturday night. This particular Saturday was my first of three days off, one of which was spent sleeping in, reading and watching bad TV. It was amazing and a well needed day to just be all 'bleh'. But when the time came for She-Ra to head off to work, I cracked open a deserved beer and scanned the fridge and pantry for the night's cooking mischief.

After some deliberation and even considering ordering delivery, I nailed down a fun snack and awesome dinner that I want to share with you know.

Ready? Here's what I did.

First off, I nailed down the ingredients. We had some leftover BBQ chicken, some beets, cilantro, red and green cabbage, feta and Swiss cheese, sweet peppers, fresh sourdough bread and a bunch of other stuff. As you may or may not know, my recent challenge of late was to convince me that beets are great. So far what I did with them (beet chips, threw some in a salad and this new one) convinced me that beets are awesome. Now I'm just down to pretty much hating olives. And that dear readers is something you will never convince me to like. I ate one just the other day during lunch, just to see if they suck as bad as I knew they did.

Yep. Spit it right out.

So here is an amazing recipe for an appetizer, side or just a fun snack. You'll need:

Couple of beets (I had both red and golden)

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Feta cheese

Lemon juice


Dice the beets into little bite size pieces, about ½ or ¼ inches, and toss with a decent amount of olive oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pre-heat the oven at 450 and toss the beets in there on a baking sheet for about 10 to 15 minutes. Take them out, stir them, and return to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Thinly chop up those scallions and when the beets are done, immediately plate them, drizzle with the lemon juice, add the scallions and top with the feta cheese.

Blammo! This was a fairly healthy, earthy but savory snack. It'd be a great side for a Mediterranean dish or a different option for a cookout. I gobbled this down in no time flat...mainly because I only had 2 small beets of each variety and was on my second beer. Soooo good!

As time passed, watching a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives marathon while uploading music onto my MP3 player, I started to get hungry for a real meal. Basically watching those truck stop wizards concoct dishes that would put any James Beard awarded chef to shame for a few hours, I knew I wanted some serious grub. Not to mention, I was on cocktails now.

For the chicken sandwich I decided to make a tangy BBQ sauce. The chicken was already cooked, on the grill, so if you wanna use this recipe in the future, I suggest a fun dry rub on your chicken (salt, pepper, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder...whatever you prefer) and slather this stuff on a minute or two before plating. Me?, I just heated it up in a small pot before adding the shredded chicken.

Here's that sauce:

½ cup of Ketchup

Tablespoon of honey

Tablespoon of Brown Sugar

Mustard (to taste)

White Wine Vinegar

Salt and Pepper



Onion and Garlic Powder

Worchestershire Sauce

Squeeze of Lemon

Chili Powder


Some Olive Oil

Basically, those are the components I used and you can use them as liberally or conservatively as you want. I personally like a nice sweetness to my sauce but love a good kick so, this is a pretty good one. After combining everything in a sauce pot, letting the flavors meld and seep into each other, about 5 or 10 minutes on a low heat, I added the chicken and stirred it up and let it sit there on warm for a bit.

Knowing I had some good cabbage left, I decided to make a yummy slaw dressing. Here's what I used:

Mayo (we use the reduced fat olive oil Kraft type, it's the best 'best for you' mayo on the shelves there days)


Red and White Wine Vinegar

Celery Salt

Mustard Powder

Fresh Ground Pepper

Hint of Salt

Dash of Chipotle sauce

Now, if you guys don't have a mandoline (it's a fantastic kitchen tool for getting perfect uniform shreds and slices) then you need to get one. Unless you don't like cooking then...why are you reading this? Using the mandoline, I shredded up the green and red cabbage and used the julienne setting for the carrots. So fast and easy. Man I love our mandoline.

I combined the cabbage and carrots with the dressing in a bowl and set aside. Then I went about making my sandwich.

Luckily I had some organic sweet peppers and a fresh loaf of sourdough bread. So I chopped up the peppers and cut me some bread. Here's a trick: Once you cut the amount of bread you're going to use, what I like to do is scoop out the excess stuff in the middle, this way your sandwich wont be a bready gluteny mess; just a tasty vessel to get the filling into yo face.

I then put the BBQ chicken in the bread, adding the peppers and topped it with some Swiss cheese. Then it went into the broiler for about a minute to melt the cheese. Once it came out, I added some cilantro (which is amazing on BBQ by the way) and plated it with the coleslaw and some leftover potato salad. I don't have a recipe for the potato salad....we bought it at our local deli. And, viola!, a perfect midnight snack. And, yes, it was actually midnight at this point.

Let me tell you, it was beyond tasty and a good base after a night of some light drinking. I know I had pre-cooked chicken but when you do it on your own just make sure it's cooked all the way through and the juices run clear. I suggest using a grill pan in you're gonna do it indoors. Just adds a bit more flavor and it makes the chicken look real nice. You know, those grill marks and crap.

There you have it kids, another fun time in the kitchen and another grubby yet healthy (as much as I can get it) option for the next time you're left alone with a fridge full of food and beer while deciding which version of Iron Maiden's “Running Free” to upload: the Paul Di'Anno one or the Bruce Dickenson version?

I went with Di'Anno.

Stay hungry and keep cooking everyone!

(The pets usually hide when I'm cooking and blasting the Metal. They're smart like that...)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Leeks is not something your sink does.

Fun recipe with leeks, chicken and a yummy salad.

As you probably guessed from some Homeskillet entries, I tend to glom onto one ingredient or component for a while, literally using that one item in almost everything that I cook. Then I move on. For me, it's sorta like mastering one judo move or skateboard trick, and once you got it down, it's time to move onto the next.

Pretty soon I'll be getting into beets as loads of pals on Facebook and Twitter have given me tons of ideas of what do do with those things. For some reason, I just can seem to get that rough dirty flavor of beets to shake hands with my tastebuds. Maybe its because as a kid, beets were served at this daycare center and they were absolutely hideous. Its sort of like Jimmy Fallon and why he hates mayonnaise. One time as a youngster, he got his head caught in the railing of some stairs and his grandma used mayo to squeeze his lil' Fallon head out of there. Perhaps that's why I don't like beets.

But I don't wanna talk about beets right now. I wanna chat about my new ingredient that I wanna be the master of.

And those are leeks.

Now, leeks belong in the Alliaceae family, which also is home to garlic and onions, so the flavor is similar to those but completely unto its own. Think a mild onion with a earthy scallion scent with a bit of cucumber thrown in for good measure. A lot of people and recipes use them in soups, the most common I suppose it the potato leek soup. And, believe me, I love me some potato leek soup. But I wanted to try a new dish using leeks and I made one that was pretty successful and I wanna share it with you here.

OK, first, you need to clean those leeks. The growing process of leeks means that a lot of dirt gets caught in those rough stalks. So, after you trim off the stalks and base (save the stalks for later use in making stock or you can also use them as a component in your bouquet garni) cut the leeks in the desired fashion and wash them under cool running water.

Then, after those have been rinsed, fill a bowl full of water and place the leeks in the bowl. They will float on top but all the excess dirt will fall to the bottom. This is a great trick to get rid of all that nasty dirt.

After all of the dirt is finally gone, remove the leeks and now you are ready to use them in a recipe.

Here is one that we made recently and was a bit hit. Hopefully it'll be a big hit with you too.

Alright, since She-Ra and I usually cook for just two I am going to give you the recipe for two. Just adjust the recipe for larger parties. I'm sure you can just eyeball the amount. I trust you. Here's what you're going to need:

4 medium or 2 large leeks (cut lengthwise if medium, quartered if large)

1 cup of low sodium chicken broth

4 cloves of garlic

Few sprigs of thyme

2 boneless chicken breasts, about 5 ounces each, trimmed

½ teaspoon of Kosher salt, divided

½ teaspoon of pepper, divided

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

½ cup of heavy cream

Preheat your oven at 450.

After cleaning and slicing the leeks, place them in a single layer in a fairly large baking pan, a 9x13 inch is what we used, getting them good and nestled in and then pour in the broth. Then get the garlic and thyme submerged in between the leeks and bake for about 40 minutes.

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and get a griddle pan or skillet ready with a bit of oil in it. After about 30 minutes of the leeks cooking, heat the pan to about medium-high and cook the chicken for about 3 minutes each side getting them a good golden brown, but not cooked all the way through, then remove and set aside. Turn the heat off of the pan or skillet but do not remove from the burner. You'll see why.

Once the leeks have cooked for 40 minutes, remove them from the oven. Now nestle the chicken between the leeks, getting them good and cozy in there. Your skillet should still be kinda hot so we are now going to add the cream and a tad more salt to it and stir it around getting up all the extra browned chicken bits. You don't want the cream to be all boiling. Just enough heat to get it up to temp and help remove the browned meat. Once that's done, pour the cream over the chicken and leeks and return them to the oven. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the internal temp of the chicken is 165.

Once everything is cooked to perfection, plate the chicken with the leeks and spoon over as much sauce as you can or want over them.

Viola! The result should look like this:

We served ours with egg noodles, which provide a good source of soaking up all that excess sauce but not heavy enough like most other pastas to interfere with the main course. On the side there is a salad which, if I might toot my own horn here for a second, was probably one of my most successful.

Here's what I did.

I used a large, well washed and dried, leaf of romaine and filled it with red leaf lettuce, a mix of rocket greens (arugula, petite and artisan), sliced red onion and some grape tomatoes. Here's a good trick to get the most flavor out of tomatoes: Once you washed and cut them into the style that you want, place them in a colander and sprinkle them with Kosher or sea salt. This way that amazing grassy flavor comes out in full throttle and right before serving shake off the excess salt.

Plus, and here's another tip for you, I made a mustard vinaigrette by using the last annoying bits of mustard in the bottle. You know when you're squeezing an almost empty bottle of mustard and you start to get those 'mustard farts', the kind that just splatter all over your bologna? Yeah, you can make a really good dressing out of that.

Using the near empty mustard bottle, add 1/3 cup of olive oil, ¼ cup of red wine vinegar, some salt, black pepper, minced garlic (basically some left over spices from the chicken and leek recipe) and your favorite herbs with a pinch of sugar, put the cap back on the bottle and shake it up real good. The result should be a light yellow mustard vinaigrette but if it tastes too much like mustard, just keep adding oli, vinegar and spices till you get it right.

This salad, and I'm not kidding here, tasted like a burger. It was so weird. It (almost) trumped the main dish because it was so surprising. Give it a shot and tell me what you think.

There you go Homeskillet fans, a fun, delicious and quite healthy dish for the next night you're all “So, what should we eat?” Try this one. Shake hands with your good pal the leek and shake the mustard bottle well when you make that vinaigrette.

Thanks for reading. Now get cooking! 

 "I've got a cure for that baby. And, like...who's Barry?"