Monday, February 22, 2010

Cod with Prosciutto Topping

Typically, I'm a meat girl. I like steak... I like burgers... I like bacon... I like hot dogs... I like chili... unfortunately, I know that red meat isn't that great for you, especially in large quantities. That being said, I'm trying to fit more fish into my diet. I actually love fish, but I don't like it when it's reheated, so whenever Curt and I have time to cook dinner together (which consists of Curt watching TV while I tinker around in the kitchen) I try to make fish.
A few months ago, I found this recipe in a New England Cookbook. The original recipe was for "Baked Cod with Crispy Proscuitto Topping." The recipe said that you should roast the fish in a pan with some white wine. I thought I would switch it up a bit (surprise, surprise) and pan fry the fish to give it a crispy texture. I also made a sauteed mushroom and green bean side dish with the extra garlic and prosciutto. Who can live without a bit of starch? I added some fresh mashed potatoes. For an appetizer, I made some bacon wrapped shrimp. Here's the story of our dinner :)
The Players
( I can't figure out how to rotate this picture, sorry!)
Bacon Wrapped Shrimp
This is the easiest appetizer ever... I grabbed a few jumbo gulf shrimp and a few slices of bacon. Cut the slices of bacon in half and wrap 1/2 around a shrimp, so they look like this one on the right:
Once all the shrimp is wrapped, place them seam side down in a pan on medium heat. You don't really need any oil in the pan because there is enough fat in the bacon to prevent the shrimp and bacon from sticking. I did give the pan a few spritzes of Pam, though.
The great thing about the shrimp is that they are so easy and fast! They only need a few minutes in the pan to cook all the way through. Once the shrimp starts turning a bit opaque, then flip them until the bacon starts to brown and get crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside for later, or give to your hungry spouse who is complaining of hunger from the couch. :)
( Look how delicious these little guys are!)
Crunchy Cod with Prosciutto Topping
* 2 oz. chopped prosciutto
* 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
* 1 tbs dried basil
* 1 large clove garlic, minced
* 1/4 tsp black pepper
* 2 tbs. olive oil
* 4 (6 oz) cod fillets
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1/2 cup flour
The first thing you do is take care of the fish. Pat it dry, then season with salt and pepper of both sides. Set up 2 bowls, 1 with the beaten egg and 1 with the flour. First, you'll dip the pieces of cod into the egg.

After the cod is covered with the egg, you will dip it into the flour until it is totally covered. This part gets pretty messy, so it helps if you have 1 hand that is dry and 1 that is wet... this will avoid a messy paste of egg and flour covering your hands.

( You can't really see the fish too well since it's so bright!)
In a pan, heat some oil to medium heat. I like using a canola oil because it can tolerate the high temperatures. Anyway, you will know that the oil is hot by doing the stick test... just stick the end of a wooden spoon into the hot oil. When you see little bubbles come out of the spoon (you are essentially frying the spoon), you will know the oil is hot enough.
Gently place the covered fish in the oil a few pieces at a time. Make sure that you don't put too many pieces of fish (or anything you fry) at one time. If you "crowd the pan," the temperature of the oil will drop, which will mess with the way that the fish cooks.

Once the fish is browned on one side, give it a flip and let the other side brown. The fish doesn't exactly need to be cooked all the way because you will be putting it all in the oven a little bit later. As for the frying, I'm not sure if there's a rule about how many times you flip it, but I try to only flip the fish once.
After the fish has cooked, put it on a plate, lined with paper towels to let the excess oil drain off the fish so it isn't greasy. Just set them aside while you make the yummy topping!

For the topping, just chop up the prosciutto, then mix it with the basil, garlic, and the parsley. All I did was mix it all together in a bowl and then plop it in a pan.

( I love all of the bright colors in this)
I decided to cook everything in a pan to give the prosciutto a chance to crisp up. With the fish being crunchy, I thought that the prosciutto should be a bit crispy too.

I didn't want to cook the topping too much, just give it a bit of texture, so after a few minutes, I removed the pan from the heat and let it all cool. Next, I divided up the topping evenly and placed it on each piece of cod. I placed the fish on a baking sheet and stuck them in the oven under the broiler for a few minutes. I then realized that there was no cheese in the meal! So I sprinkled a bit of parmesan cheese everything, then put it back in the oven. I only cooked it all for a few minutes under the broiler. Make sure you watch the fish carefully; I've burned my fair share of food when I stepped away from the oven for just a few minutes!

Ta Da!
Green Beans and Mushrooms with Prosciutto
Next, I made the veggie side dish. I had some extra prosciutto, so I put it on a baking sheet and then stuck it in the oven for a few minutes to let it all crisp up. Remember the comment earlier about forgetting things under the broiler? Well, yeah, I did it again, so the prosciutto was a bit more well done than I had planned, but oh well!

This was a pretty easy dish too... I find that if you take some good, quality ingredients, you can whip up a quick and easy dish that is delicious! Anyway.... I just cut ung up a bit p the green beans and mushrooms and threw them in a pan with some canola oil. I just stirred everything up and added the prosciutto. I also sprinkled a bit more parmesan on top of everything... five minutes later, you have a delicious side dish!

So... here's the finished product! Dinner was yummy and although it was fish, I managed to sneak a little bit of meat into it anyway!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Maple Roasted Chicken

Everyone that knows me well knows that I love to cook... I think I tell just about everyone how much I enjoy chopping onions and preheating my oven. It's no surprise that for my bridal shower last May, my bridesmaids came up with the theme, "bed and breakfast." Each guest arrived with a cute little recipe card for me, complete with their favorite recipe. I collected some really great recipes! This recipe is from my mother in law. It's called Maple Roasted Chicken.
I must admit that I was a bit skeptical when I saw this recipe. I like maple syrup, but on pancakes and waffles... I wasn't sure if I'd like it on chicken. I decided to give the recipe a try; if I didn't like it, I knew that Curt would eat it all anyway. In the end, I think this is a fabulous recipe with a great flavor!

*1 whole roasting chicken
* 1 turnip
* 2 sweet potatoes
* 2 onions
* 3 large carrots
* 1 1/2 cups cremini mushrooms
* 1 lb asparagus
* 2 tbs butter, melted
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp black pepper
* 1/2 tsp rosemary
* 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup maple syrup
*~*Note: this recipe called for your choice of 4 winter vegetables such as carrots, onions, celery, parsnips, winter squash, sweet potatoes... I chose carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, and turnips, but also added mushrooms and asparagus because I LOVE them *~*
( I only ended up using 1 chicken, even though I planned to use 2)
I started making this dish a bit later than I had expected, so rather than roasting the chicken whole, I spatchcocked it. What the heck does spatchcock mean? Basically, you remove the backbone of the chicken, flip it over, and press it down to flatten it. This helps the chicken roast faster. I used a pair of kitchen shears and cut that bad boy out! Make sure you save the backbone (just stick it in a bag and throw it in the freezer) because you can make some great chicken stock with it!
Ok, so the spatchcocked chicken looks a little weird, and it was kinda strange to be taking a pair of scissors and cutting through bones, but who cares... it will still taste good, right?
( how the heck do you use/cook/roast/cut a turnip?!)
For my choice of winter vegetables, I used a turnip - not because I like them or because they were on sale... I've never in my life really eaten one (except for the turnip cakes with shrimp at dim sum) much less cooked onw, so I figured I might as well give it a try. It had a sort of waxy feel to the outside, and I wasn't really sure how to prepare it. I decided to peel it with a vegetable peeler, then chop it into 3 inch pieces. Make sure you cut all of the vegetables to about the same size so they roast evenly.
( Here's what the spatchcocked chicken looks like when you flip it over)

It took a while, but I finally chopped all the vegetables... carrots... onions.... sweet potatoes.... turnips... mushrooms, etc... and threw them in the pan
( Can you believe I got Curt to eat all of these vegetables?!)
Next, just place, the chicken on top of the vegetables. When you roast a chicken (or anything for that matter), you are using dry heat to cook the food. It is important that air is able to circulate around the piece of meat to ensure that the air is able to reach all sides evenly. This will sort of cause the surface of the food to caramelize which enhances the flavors. If the chicken is just resting on the pan, then it will cook in the juices, which won't necessarily be a bad thing, but it's not a traditional roast. At least that's what wikipedia says!
( The poor little chicken looks so pale!)
In the microwave, melt the butter, then brush it on the chicken. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Place the chicken in the oven (I forgot to tell you to preheat it to 400!). Every 10 minutes, baste the chicken with the maple syrup. Once you run out of maple syrup, continue to baste with the pan juices.
Keep basting until the chicken is cooked all the way through. The chicken should be crispy and brown on the outside and the vegetables should be sweet and soft.
( The house smelled FANTASTIC while this was cooking!)

Let the chicken stand for 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute. Place the chicken on a nice platter and surround with the vegetables.
( How beautiful does this look?!)
This dish was absolutely fabulous! Everything tasted delicious. The chicken soaked up the maple syrup flavors, but the chicken juice mixed with it to make a great mellow pan sauce. I packed up the leftovers in some tupperware and had them for lunch the next 2 days. I think it might have been even better because the juices had more time to soak through the chicken and into the vegetables. Speaking of vegetables, Curt ate EVERYTHING! Even the turnips - OK, so he didn't know that they were turnips... I kinda let him think that they were regular potatoes, but no harm done, right?

Jerk Chicken

(Our Subdivision Sign)
We have been getting soooo much snow here in Virginia that I don't even know what to do with myself... besides cook! Here in Virginia, we don't usually get more than a few inches of snow each year (and even that's rare). This year, however, we've been getting tons! I don't even remember how much we've gotten this winter, but it's almost broken the record for the snowiest winter since they started recording snow amounts!
I've been working at my jobs a lot and was super excited at the possibility of just staying at home for a while. Like everyone else in the northern Virginia area, I headed off to the grocery store to pick up plenty of stuff to keep me busy cooking while stuck in the house. With the weather being so cold, I was daydreaming of weather like this:
In that light, I decided to make some jerk chicken. That's a pretty tropical dish, right? Maybe if I pretend hard enough, a plate of jerk chicken could make me feel like I'm in the Caribbean... right?

(There are PLENTY of ingredients needed here)

I'd made this recipe before and really liked it (check out my posting on October 3 about Curtman cooking). I found the recipe in a BBQ book I found at a used book store!

Here's the recipe for my super great marinade!

Jerk Marinade

* 3 jalapeno peppers
* 1 medium onion
* 2 shallots
* 2 bunches of scallions
* 4 large cloves of garlic
* 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
* 1/2 cup cilantro
* 2 tsp. fresh ginger
* 2 tbs salt
* 1 1/2 tsp. thyme
* 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (sounds weird, I know)
* 1 tsp allspice
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 1 tsp. pepper
* 1/4 cup lime juice
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* 1/4 cup brown sugar
* 1/4 cup water (more if needed)

That's a lot of ingredients huh?!

Since I have an old school food processor, I just put in the first half of the ingredients first... garlic, onions, shallots, jalapenos, scallions, ginger, parsley and cilantro... Then I just whirled it until it was all chopped up.

(Don't laugh, I know it's old!)

Be careful when you take the lid off... all the powerful smells of the onions, shallots, jalapenos, garlic, etc.... they really hit you in the face! My eyes immediately started watering!
(the smell is great but SUPER strong!)

Then just throw in the rest of the ingredients and process until you get a nice paste that looks like this:

The whole recipe makes about 4 cups of marinade that I just put into a canning jar, labelled, and stuck in the refrigerator. I did use about 2 cups of the marinade for the chicken dish I was making that day though. The book I found this recipe in suggested using this marinade with a leg of lamb which sounded really yummy. I didn't have leg of lamb, but I did have chicken tenderloins, though!

I stuck the tenderloins (about 10 of them) in a clear glass bowl and covered them with about 2 cups of the marinade. After stirring them a bit to make sure that they were thoroughly coated, I just stuck the bowl in the refrigerator for a day.
After a day of marinating, I was definitely ready for some chicken! In the past, I've grilled the chicken on skewers with some pineapple. Since our grill was covered in 2 feet of snow, I decided to just sear them on the stove.Because there is oil in the marinade, I didn't need to coat the pan much. Just a few sprays of Pam and down into the pan they went.
Like I said before, I usually grill the chicken with some pineapple. I think the sweetness of the pineapple really goes well with the flavors of the jerk marinade. So... I decided to experiment. I threw some canned pineapple chunks in a baking dish and covered them with a little bit of the jerk marinade.
Since I just seared the outside of the chicken, it needed to cook a bit more. I threw the seared tenderloins in the baking dish with the pineapple and stuck the whole thing in the oven on a low broil. I wasn't too sure how it would turn out, but it was great! The broiling was perfect because it allowed the pineapple to brown up a bit and caramalize like it would on a grill. Also, the juices of the pineapple and chicken got to mingle which kept everything super juicy.
(Fresh pineapple probably works best, but i didn't have any!)
I wasn't too sure what to make for a side dish. I wanted to keep the fruity theme going throughout the meal, so again, I experimented! I threw some brown rice, lentils, and raisins in my rice cooker (I'm half Filipino - of course I have a rice cooker!) and hit the go button. It turned out really well and seemed to really complete the dish!

Curt even went back for thirds! There was only a little bit left over... but those were gone before I could even have a plate for lunch the next day!