Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mexican Risotto with Marinated Beef Kabobs

I think the flavors of Mexican food are on the top of my list of favorites, and I think Jon would agree. Sometimes, when friends are asking for meal suggestions, I scroll through my blog and notice that the majority of my meals use ingredients such as tomatillos, poblanos, jalapenos, Mexican spices, or cilantro.

I buy jalapenos at the produce store and you must get 25 jalapenos in a bag for $2! Pretty soon I should have that many in my garden - I'm growing them and my plants have several peppers each. Yesterday I wanted to use up a bunch of the jalapenos I had, and Jon felt like grilling, so I came up with a menu that would satisfy both of us.

Marinated Beef Kabobs with Mexican Risotto

The Marinade
Jon was busy outside so I tried my hand at making up a marinade. I did run outside to run it by him before I actually did it... I let the beef marinate for about 5 hours

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c tequila
  • 2 jalapenos, sliced
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 hour before cooking add 2 tbsp lime juice

The Kabobs

I love lots of color on my kabobs. I used red pepper, green pepper, orange pepper, red onion, zucchini, and jalapenos. BE careful, the jalapenos seem to get even hotter after grilling!

I put them together and Jon grilled them up. Look at this shot of them on the grill -

And then the finished product -

Mexican Risotto

I'm not really sure if there is a risotto dish in Mexican cooking, but I'm calling this Mexican risotto because of the flavors. I have several recipes for risotto in this blog and this one will definitely remain on the top of the list of my favorites.


  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 5 c low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • 1/2 each red and green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • Optional: corn, finely chopped zucchini, different peppers
  • 1/2 c shredded cheese; I used a Mexican blend
  • Spices - about 1/2 tsp chili powder and 1/4 tsp cumin
  • A few shakes of red pepper flakes
  • Sour cream for serving


  • Pour chicken stock into a pot and add spices; heat gently
  • Heat olive oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat
  • Add onions and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes
  • Add arborio rice and stir until coated, about 1 minute
  • Add white wine and stir until absorbed
  • Add broth, 1 ladle at a time, letting it absorb while stirring constantly.
  • Add peppers after the first ladle.
  • After about 17-25 minutes all of the broth should have been used and the rice should be cooked through. Taste it to make sure it isn't crunchy - my risotto takes 17 minutes sometimes, but 25 minutes on other days.
  • Stir in cheese and serve. I topped mine with some sour cream.

This was so creamy, flavorful, and delicious. I think adding the spices to the broth instead of directly to the rice really helped to infuse the flavors into every bite.

During the day I made a pot of Mexican Corn and Potato Soup. Here is the link for the first time I made it; this time I added about 6 oz of diced, canned tomatoes and just a bit of the juice and was happy with the addition.

Our 5th Wedding Anniversary - Restaurant and Wine Review

Saturday was our 5th wedding anniversary. Where has the time gone? The past 5 years have been amazing, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. I'm so lucky...

We spent the day together - out to lunch, some shopping, and then dinner at the
Inn at Phillips Mill, and then came back to our home to enjoy a bottle of wine on our on the restaurant and wine follow.

The Inn at Phillips Mill is an old cottage and barn along the river. It has quaint little rooms for dining, and gardens for both dining and wandering. Walking into the restaurant felt like stepping back in time.

The menu at this BYOB restaurant features French cuisine and offers something for everyone - seafood, beef, chicken, duck, and lamb. Jon started with the crab salad over butterhead lettuce with caviar. It was our first time trying caviar and I don't think I need to eat it again, but I'm glad I tried it. Jon described it as eating the candy Pop Rocks without the fizz, and also like little BBs. The crab on the salad was very good. I enjoyed a poached leek salad with shallot vinaigrette that was delicious. We also enjoyed one of our favorite bottles of wine from our collection - a 2002 Ridge Lytton Springs.

For entrees we both had the filet mignon with a blue cheese butter that was so rich and delicious. Surprisingly, the meal came with a substantial amount of sides, not just a potato or two with a carrot or bean like you get at some restaurants. The dish featured mashed potatoes, carrots, sugar snap peas, and a beet.

Jon had the chocolate cake for dessert - I think it was called the chocolate obsession. VERY rich and not too sweet. Mmm. Our server, Ingrid, was soo sweet throughout the whole meal and she even put an anniversary candle in our cake.

The Inn is a very romantic restaurant with good food, and I would recommend it. I think our biggest complaint is about the wine glasses. Yes, it is a BYOB restaurant, but they should invest in really good wine glasses. Glasses DO make a difference. We love the Ridge wine, but it tasted different and not as good in these all purpose goblets that served as wine glasses.

When we got home we brought out the main event of the night - a bottle of 2004 Opus One. Jon has been dreaming about buying a bottle of this wine for years, and at $185 a bottle, celebrating an anniversary seemed like the perfect excuse.

I'll let Jon give the review...

The Opus One is a wine we've read quite a bit about, and with very few exceptions, each vintage has been very highly rated. A product of a unique collaboration between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe De Rothschild, this is definitely a legend in American wines. Even tasting immediately after opening, the wine was bright, smooth and fairly full, and proceeded to get better over the next hour.

Anyone who's read the earlier wine posts in this blog should be able to figure out that we like full, big, bold wines most of the time. This one didn't quite fit that bill, though. Yes, it's a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, but to us it lacked the body and richness of some of the other California wines we've had (see an earlier post for a description of the Eponymous Cabernet Sauvignon we had last week). This blend definitely had tastes of chocolate, blackberry and a nice, soft, feel, but it left us wanting a bit more.

Now, admittedly, a lot of true wine snobs would cringe at this description and review (as well as others previous and those to come), but this is not to diminish what is, in itself, a very good bottle of wine. In truth, this bottle should probably have been cellared for several more years to fully mature, but I lack patience when it comes to a good bottle of wine that's just waiting to be opened. For us, it was a mild disappointment, but only perhaps due to our tastes, and not necessarily worth the hefty price tag.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Creamy Dill Chicken

After a crazy week and traveling to Memphis for work, I finally was able to cook last night. I had chicken in the fridge as well as leftover dill from the dip I made last weekend, so I looked for a recipe using both. I love my lemon dill chicken, but felt like something a little different. I found this recipe on the Food Network web site.

The recipe was for Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce, but it also noted that it would work with dill.

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon butter, divided
  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • I added a pinch of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon peanut or canola oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh tarragon or dill, plus sprigs for garnish


  • Combine lemon juice and cream in a small bowl. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • Mash 1 teaspoon flour and 1 teaspoon butter in another small bowl until a paste forms. Set both bowls aside.
  • Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and white pepper.
  • Dredge lightly in the remaining 1/2 cup flour (I seasoned the flour with white pepper, salt, black pepper, and turmeric), shaking off any excess.
  • Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken—do not crowd the pan. Cook, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total.
  • Add 1/2 cup broth, reduce the heat and cover. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. (Check to make sure the pan juices don’t run dry. If necessary, add more broth, a tablespoonful at a time, to prevent scorching.) Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board and tent with foil.
  • Add the remaining 1/2 cup broth to the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 2 to 4 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium, add the reserved lemon cream and bring to a simmer.
  • Gradually whisk in the reserved butter-flour paste, a few bits at a time, until the sauce coats the spoon, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Stir in peas.
    Reduce the heat to low and return the chicken to the pan along with tarragon (or dill). Turn to coat with the sauce and cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Slice the chicken and serve with the sauce, garnished with sprigs of tarragon (or dill), if desired.

This was an ok dish - good enough for something quick and easy on a weeknight. It had a bit too much dill for my taste. The sauce was nice served over egg noodles.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Artichoke Spread

A few months ago I made a creamy artichoke spread for paninis. On Sunday, my godparents and parents were coming over for a casual BBQ lunch, so I decided to make an artichoke spread for crackers.

Last time I made it I used my handheld immersion blender to get a creamy consistency. This time I kept it chunky and added red pepper flakes for just a touch of heat. It was not hot at all, but the red pepper flakes did add another flavor.

(my other version in the link above is a reduced fat version)

  • 2 cans artichokes, drained well and chopped
  • 4 tbsp cream cheese
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes


  • Heat olive oil in a small pan; add garlic, saute til slightly golden, and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and stir. Adjust the salt if necessary.
  • Serve with crackers

I ate so many crackers with this spread!! It is very tasty, had great texture, and was perfect on a cracker. This dip could definitely be baked - similar to my spinach artichoke dip. It could also be used as bruschetta which I have done in the past.

Ropa Vieja

Once again, I found a recipe on the Epicurious web site - I have had great luck with the recipes on that site. I learned that Ropa Vieja is a Cuban stew of shredded beef, onions, and peppers. Sounds good to me!

Plan on spending 2-3 hours in your kitchen if you decide to make this. It was a lot of prep and time, but well worth it!


For braising beef:
  • 3 pounds skirt or flank steak, trimmed
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 carrots, chopped coarse
  • 1 large onion, chopped coarse
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped coarse
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed lightly
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (I used Mexican oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
For the second step:

  • 2 green bell peppers, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • I added 1 chopped jalapeno
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups braising liquid (will be left after braising) plus additional if desired (I ran out of braising liquid and needed to add some beef broth)
  • a 14- to 16-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (I used Mexican oregano)
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed (I planned on using these but didn't)
  • 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed Spanish olive, drained and halved (don't like olives so I omitted them)


To braise beef:

  • In a 5-quart kettle combine all braising ingredients and simmer, uncovered, 1 1/2 hours, or until beef is tender.
  • Remove kettle from heat and cool meat in liquid 30 minutes.
  • Transfer meat to a platter and cover.
  • Strain braising liquid through a colander, pressing on solids, into a bowl.
  • Return braising liquid to kettle and boil until reduced to 3 cups, about 30 minutes.
  • Stew may be made up to this point 1 day ahead. Cool braising liquid completely and chill it and the beef separately, covered.


  • In kettle cook green bell peppers, jalapeno, and onion in 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat, stirring, until softened.
  • While vegetables are cooking, pull meat into shreds about 3 by 1/2 inches.

  • To onion mixture add shredded meat, 2 cups braising liquid, tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes.

  • While stew is simmering, in a large skillet cook red and yellow bell peppers in remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.
  • Stir red and yellow peppers into stew with enough additional braising liquid to thin to desired consistency and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. (I let it simmer for about 25 minutes; 5 minutes wouldn't have been enough to really let the flavors get to know each other, as Jon would say)
  • Stir in peas and olives and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. (Omitted this step)
We enjoyed this dish over white rice. I was so impressed with the flavors of the beef. Adding the beef broth helped a bit, and I'm also glad I added the jalapeno. This dish isn't supposed to have heat, but since we like heat, I think I'd add a sliced poblano next time.

See the posts below for the salad I served with the meal as well as our wine choices for the evening..

Bean and Corn Salad

This was a quick and easy salad that I found on the Epicurious site.


  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 15 1/2-ounce can Great Northern beans, rinsed, drained
  • 1 15 1/2-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained (I used 2 cans)
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped (I used 2 stalks)
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 small jalapeño chilies, seeded, chopped (I only seeded one of them; used the seeds from the other)


  • Whisk oil, vinegar, and cumin in large bowl to blend.
  • Add remaining ingredients and toss to coat.
  • Season salad with salt and pepper.
  • Let stand at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours, tossing occasionally.

One note - the recipe says to let it stand for 1 hour and up to 4. They mean this.. I put the salad in the fridge after we ate, and several hours later the salad was a bit mushy and almost gelatinous. I drained and washed the beans before putting it all together, but I think the white beans just didn't hold up well. So if you make this, definitely make it and serve it after chilling only an hour or so.

I had hoped to serve it to my parents and godparents the next day, but it was not in good shape. So instead I threw it into my food processor with some salt and made a dip!! The dip tasted great, but the color was so horrible! I'll eat it myself, but no way could I serve it to guests.

Heaven in a Wine Store?

Saturday afternoon Jon took a trip to a wine store in Stockton, NJ - Phillips Fine Wines.

This store is not terribly far from us, but Jon had never been. I recommended he check it out because we love trying new wines, are sick of the selection in the PA state stores, and he wanted to find a nice bottle for our upcoming 5th anniversary.

When Jon got home he could barely contain his excitement from being in that store!! He said he was wishing everyone would leave so he could get locked in the place with a corkscrew and a glass!

Watching and listening to him tell of his experience that afternoon was so funny! When he first walked in, he thought the front room was the entire store, but then he kept walking and discovered room after room of wines from different regions and countries. But he was still disappointed that he hadn't found any really high-end wines, until he learned of the upstairs room, or as he put it, "the big kids room." I think next time he goes he needs to stay out of that room because it's trouble!!

He came home with several new bottles, including a 2004 Opus One that we'll have one our anniversary. On Saturday night we tried 2 of the bottles (yes, 2).

The first was EPONYMOUS, a 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
Jon described it as inky dark, smooth, with tastes of blackberry and currant. We both agreed that it had to breathe for a while. The longer it was open, the smoother and better it tasted. At $63.50, this is definitely not an everyday bottle for us (oh but it would be so nice if it was...).

The second was B.R. COHN, a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma.

Jon described it as a bit fruity and lighter for a cab. It was just ok, and not worth almost $21. Maybe it was because the first bottle was so good, but I probably wouldn't buy this again. If I did, it may be a good idea to let it sit for a few years before drinking it.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Easy Comfort Food - Baked Pierogie Casserole

Whew it has been a busy week! I didn't plan any meals because Jon was supposed to be on the road most of the week, but all of that changed at the last minute so we've been making things up as we go along.

Monday we whipped together some pasta with broccoli rabe with shrimp, did takeout on Tuesday, and after a long day on Wednesday, I didn't feel like cooking at all. But since we had takeout already, we threw a meal together (and I'm glad we did!).

We love to grill turkey kielbasa and I often keep a package in the fridge for nights like this. Sides for the kielbasa are always simple, comfort food sides. Several years ago when I first got into cooking, I used to make a pierogie-spinach casserole that used cream of mushroom soup as the base. I won't use the stuff now - there are too many other homemade options instead of using those soups. So tonight I made my own version of my old favorite.

Baked Pierogie Casserole
The pierogies I used were frozen, store bought pierogies. I really should learn how to make them from scratch - I am half Polish!


  • 1 package frozen pierogies (12 per package)
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1 c light cream or milk
  • Approximately 1 c shredded cheeses; I used Parmesan and a Mexican blend


  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil; drop in pierogies and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Transfer 6 to a baking dish (so they cover the bottom), and keep the other 6 aside until you are ready to assemble the casserole. (I cooked six at a time and timed it so my second set of pierogies were done at the same time as my cheese sauce)
  • Make the cheese sauce: Heat olive oil in a pot. Add all onions and red pepper flakes; saute 2 minutes. Add flour and stir. Add cream/milk and bring to a simmer. Add cheeses, and stir until creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour some of the cheese sauce over the first layer of pierogies. Add the rest of the pierogies and top with more cheese sauce (*I had more cheese sauce than I needed; I didn't use it all - I didn't want a soupy casserole). Top with breadcrumbs.
  • Bake on 375 for about 15 minutes or until bubbly. Turn on the broiler for 3 minutes at the end.

Mmm, cheese and potatoes! My favorite combination. This was so delicious and comforting, there was nothing gourmet or fancy about it, and it was the perfect side to the grilled kielbasa. Even better, it only took about 15 minutes of prep.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Chilled Asparagus Soup (some with crab..)

My mom and dad came over for Father's Day yesterday. Instead of making a salad, I decided on a cold soup. My inspiration was this recipe on the Epicurious web site for Chilled Asparagus Soup with Timbale of Caviar, Crab, and Avocado. I left out the caviar and avocado and made a few other small changes; my version is below.


  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 small leeks, thickly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed, spears coarsely chopped (reserve 2 spears uncooked per bowl of soup for garnish - this was my idea)
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth could be used for a vegetarian version)
  • 3 cups chopped spinach leaves
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot for soup (my addition) and 1 tbsp minced shallot for crab
  • 6 tbsp fresh crab meat
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Original recipe also called for 3/4 cup diced peeled pitted avocado, another tbsp fresh lemon juice, and 6 tsp black caviar; I omitted both


  • Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add shallots and saute 1 minute (not in original recipe)
  • Add leeks and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add asparagus and stock; bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until asparagus is tender, about 8 minutes.
  • Add spinach, cover and simmer until wilted, about 4 minutes.
  • Puree soup until smooth using handheld immersion blender or by transferring in batches to a blender.
  • Transfer soup to a large bowl, season with salt and pepper.
  • Cool, then cover and chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to a day.
  • Mix crab meat, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and shallot in a small bowl.

The original recipe had instructions for serving the soup that included assembling the timbale of avocado, crab, and caviar. Instead, I ladled the cold soup into mugs, put two asparagus spears in each and topped with chives, and then anyone who wanted crab could spoon the mixture into their soup. A dollop of creme fraiche would have been very nice in this soup as well.

I got mixed reviews on this one... my dad and I loved it, my mom didn't care for it at all, and Jon thought it was too heavy. It was a bit heavy for a cold soup, but still delicious. I tasted it warm as it was cooking and it would definitely work as a warm soup.

It was very refreshing so I'm off to find my next inspiration for a cold's only June and we have a lot of summer heat and humidity left!!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chiles Rellenos de Queso

Saturday night, but we decided to cook at home instead of going to a restaurant. We decided to grill - fish for Jon, chicken for me (see post below for the great marinades we used) - so it was the perfect night to make a mess in the kitchen by trying a new side.

I saved
this recipe for Chiles Rellenos de Queso - peppers stuffed with cheese - in my recipe box on the Epicurious web site a while back and the flavors hit the spot tonight. I followed the recipe exactly -


For chiles:
  • 4 large fresh poblano chiles (pick the straightest chiles)
  • 1/2 lb Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated

For sauce:

  • 1 1/2 lbs tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c water
  • 1/4 c chopped white onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves (of course I used three...)
  • 1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp corn or vegetable oil

For coating and frying chiles:

  • 2-3 cups corn or vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 c all purpose flour


Roast chilies: Roast chilies directly on the burners of a gas stove over medium-high heat, turning with tongs, until skins are blistered and slightly charred, 4-6 minutes. You could also broil them on the rack of a broiler pan about 2 inches from the heat. Immediately transfer to a large bowl and cover; let stand 20 minutes.

Make tomato sauce: Puree all sauce ingredients except the oil in a blender until smooth. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids and then discarding them (I didn't strain - my sauce was smooth enough).

Heat oil in a pot/skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Carefully pour in sauce and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes (sauce should still be thin). Season with salt.

Stuff and fry chiles: Carefully rub skins from chiles leaving stem attached. Cut a slit lengthwise then carefully cut out seedpod and ribs without tearing the pepper. Wipe clean if needed. Warning - my fingers were still burning this morning from this step!!

Stuff chiles with cheese and close by overlapping the slit; I used a toothpick to help keep them closed.

Heat 1/2 inch oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat until it registers 360 on thermometer (I didn't use a thermometer).

While oil heats, beat egg whites with 1/8 tsp salt using an electric mixer until they just hold stiff peaks. Whisk yolks with 1/8 tsp salt, then gently fold into whites.

Pour flour in a fine mesh sieve and dust chiles, turning them slightly to coat all sides.

When oil is ready, dip chiles in egg (hold by stem), then fry, turning once until golden on all sides. This took about 4-5 minutes. Then transfer to a paper towel to drain.

Plating: Spoon some of the sauce onto a plate. Place chiles in sauce.

To eat them, I put some rice on my place, put the chile on top, and then poured some of the sauce over everything.

Look how yummy they look with the cheese oozing out!

I ate two with dinner and have one leftover that I may go eat for lunch. I'd definitely make these again and I wouldn't change a thing about this recipe.


A Few Good Marinades

Creating marinades is an art that my husband has completely mastered. Every time we are grilling chicken, beef, or seafood, he creates the most amazing flavors for them. I don't think a bottle of Italian dressing or store bought marinade would ever make it into our kitchen!

Watching him create is almost as fun as eating the final product. He starts pulling things out of the pantry, spice cabinet, refrigerator, and even the liquor cabinet. He mixes, smells, adds, whisks, adjusts, smells again, and with look of satisfaction, brings his latest concoction over to me for a whiff.

Over the past few weeks Jon has come up with some of his best marinades, so I thought I'd share them. The amounts are estimates. He doesn't measure - he goes simply on smell which is probably why they are always so good!

One rule of thumb - whenever using lime juice in a marinade, it will start to "cook" the meat, which is why it is used in a ceviche. Therefore, start to marinate your meat/fish without the lime juice. It's best to add the juice to the marinade an hour or two before cooking. Also, don't use salt in a marinade as it will dry out your meat.

Tequila Marinade

Jon used this marinade on chicken that I ate with chiles rellenos de queso and a Mexican tomato sauce.

  • 1/4 c tequila
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried cilantro
  • 1 tsp lime juice (add an hour or two before cooking)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Whiskey Marinade

This marinade was used on pork chops and right now we have a London broil marinating in it for Father's Day. It's so versatile that it would also work on chicken.

  • 1/3-1/2 c scotch whisky; Jon used Johnny Walker Red
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried Cilantro
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder

Dijon Marinade

Jon grilled some orange roughy last night and came up with this creation. When he told me the ingredients I didn't think it would work, but it smelled and tasted great.

  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard; Jon used coarsely ground
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried cilantro

I hope this inspires you to rummage through your spice cabinet to try some new marinade creations. Have fun, trust your sense of smell, be adventurous, and you'll be happy with what you can create!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Coq Au Vin

Coq Au Vin... a classic French dish of chicken and wine. I've never had it, have never seen in it person (only on cooking shows), but for some reason I really felt like trying it this week so I put in on our menu.

I browsed several recipes and read about it, and decided to follow this recipe. Since I have never made or tasted Coq Au Vin, I followed each and every step. Now that I've made it, I don't think I'd change a thing, although I may try using boneless breasts next time since I don't like the thighs or wings.


For Marinating the Chicken -

  • 1 750-ml bottle French Burgundy or California Pinot Noir
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled, flattened
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 6-pound roasting chicken, backbone removed, cut into 8 pieces - 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings with top quarter of adjoining breast, 2 breasts (I used a 4.5 pound chicken already cut into the pieces noted above).

For Cooking the Chicken -

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 ounces thick-cut bacon slices, cut crosswise into strips
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 large fresh thyme sprigs
  • 4 large fresh parsley sprigs
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 pound assorted fresh wild mushrooms (such as crimini and stemmed shiitake)
  • 20 1-inch-diameter pearl onions, or boiling onions, peeled
  • Chopped fresh parsley

I always get everything prepped before I start cooking - this pic is after my mess from prep was cleaned up and doesn't even show Monday's marinating prep or how many times I (Jon) needed to wash out the dish I was using for the chicken!


To Marinate the Chicken - (do this 24-48 hours before cooking)

  • Combine wine, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and peppercorns in large pot. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Cool completely; mix in oil.
  • Place chicken pieces in large glass bowl. Pour wine mixture over chicken; stir to coat.
  • Cover and refrigerate at least 1 day and up to 2 days, turning chicken occasionally.

Here is how it looked as it went into the fridge..

To Cook the Chicken -

  • Using tongs, transfer chicken pieces from marinade to paper towels to drain; pat dry.
  • Strain marinade; reserve vegetables and liquid separately.
  • Heat oil in heavy large pot (wide enough to hold chicken in single layer) over medium-high heat.
  • Add bacon and sauté until crisp and brown. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to small bowl.
  • Add chicken, skin side down, to drippings in pot. Sauté until brown, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to large bowl.
  • Add vegetables reserved from marinade to pot. Sauté until brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Mix in flour; stir 2 minutes.
  • Gradually whisk in reserved marinade liquid. Bring to boil, whisking frequently. Cook until sauce thickens, whisking occasionally, about 2 minutes.
  • Mix in shallots, garlic, herb sprigs, and bay leaves, then broth.
  • Return chicken to pot, arranging skin side up in single layer. Bring to simmer; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot and simmer chicken 30 minutes.
  • Using tongs, turn chicken over. Cover and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes longer.
This is what it looked like at this stage -


  • Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add mushrooms; sauté until tender, about 8 minutes.
  • Transfer mushrooms to plate.
  • Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet.
  • Add onions and sauté until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.
  • Transfer onions to plate alongside mushrooms; reserve skillet.


  • Using tongs, transfer chicken to plate.
  • Strain sauce from pot into reserved skillet from onions and mushrooms, pressing on solids in strainer to extract all sauce; discard solids.
  • Bring sauce to simmer, scraping up browned bits.
  • Return sauce to pot.
  • Add onions to pot and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook until onions are almost tender, about 8 minutes.
  • Add mushrooms and bacon. Simmer uncovered until onions are very tender and sauce is slightly reduced, about 12 minutes.
  • Tilt pot and spoon off excess fat from top of sauce.
  • Season sauce with salt and pepper.
  • Return chicken to sauce to rewarm.
  • Arrange chicken on large rimmed platter. Spoon sauce and vegetables over. Sprinkle with parsley.

I took this picture before spooning the rest of the sauce over the chicken -

I'm not going to lie - this was a lot of work. There was nothing difficult about it, but it was three hours of almost constant cooking. I'm crazy for doing this when it was 95 degrees out, but it was well worth it. Next time I'll make it in the fall or winter.

Jon and I usually eat spicy things, or dishes full of garlic, red pepper flakes, or even cayenne. So this dish wasn't what we'd define as "our" flavors, but I was extremely impressed. Jon had very low expectations when I explained the dish to him, and even he was impressed. We'll see if he has a comment to add... My comment to Jon is "thank you".... he kept cleaning up after me as I was cooking. Otherwise the kitchen would have been a mess!!! This recipe requires a lot of dishes.

I'd recommend this to anyone wanting to try something new, or someone who has a few hours to spend in the kitchen. Marinating the chicken for 36 hours was key, and I don't see any steps that could have been omitted.


I kept the sides simple. I served buttered noodles (cooked egg noodles, then melted butter in a pan until it browned just a bit; poured butter over the noodles, tossed and topped with fresh parsley) and steamed green beans. I think mashed potatoes would be a nice side as well. Oh, and of course we had French bread!

I don't think I have ever had French food before, but I now have an appreciation for it and would like to try a French restaurant (maybe for our upcoming 5 year anniversary?). I loved the complex flavors that came out of such simple ingredients. Now I'm looking around for more French dishes to try! Recommendations always welcome!

Monday, June 9, 2008


I have been craving a burger. I'm not sure why since I have only eaten one or two in the past 10 years, but for the past few weeks I have been dying for one. Maybe it's the time of year, or smelling all the different grills going as I drive through our neighborhood. Or maybe I'm sick of veggie burgers. Whatever the reason, I was determined to make a fabulous REAL burger over the weekend.

I decided to go for a different topping than what I would normally eat on a veggie burger - lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mustard. I had caramelized onions in mind and used that flavor to figure out the rest.

Prepping the ground meat...

I didn't want to go crazy with flavors in the meat, so I only added minced onion, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire.


Earlier in the day I made some caramelized onions by melting butter in a pan along with a touch of olive oil and adding in half of a sliced white onion. I cooked the onions on medium/low heat for about 25 minutes until they were golden brown. While the onions were caramelizing I added a pinch of thyme, salt, and sugar.

Building the burger...

When Jon was grilling the burgers I gave him a few slices of fresh mozzarella to melt onto my burger. Once the burgers were done and the buns were toasted, I finished with my toppings. On top of the cheese I added a few leaves of fresh spinach, and then topped it with a huge spoonful of the caramelized onions. That's all the burger needed!

It was absolutely delicious and cured my craving...for now!

Grilled Salad Skewers

What is with this heat wave we are having in the Northeast? It's a bit too early for it in my opinion, but we still need to eat so I planned a delicious day of hot weather eating this weekend.

My salsa is extremely refreshing - something about cilantro and cold tomatoes. Yum! I made a huge bowl of it for afternoon snacking. My salsa is very simple - just chopped tomatoes (no seeds or juice), chopped onions, chopped jalapenos (with or without seeds), chopped fresh cilantro and salt.

We're not big salad people, but when I saw
this recipe about a year ago, I put it on my list of things to try. Here's what I did -

Ingredients (for 4 skewers)

  • Cubed crusty bread; I used artisan sourdough. You'll need 3 cubes per skewer
  • Red and green pepper, chopped into large pieces
  • Chopped red onion
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • 4 Romaine leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh mozzarella cut into tiny cubes
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 4 skewers (10 inch)


  • Soak skewers for 30 minutes
  • Assemble skewers in an order where you'll have a piece of bread on each end, and one in the middle. I also go for color when assembling.
  • Brush each skewer on all sides with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

  • Grill on a medium-high grill for 3 minutes on each side.
  • Place each skewer on a romaine leaf and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with some of the mozzarella.

These skewers were so delicious and different! We both loved the contrast between the hot, grilled bread and veggies and the crisp, cold Romaine lettuce.

I think the balsamic vinegar and oil made the perfect dressing. The original recipe called for basil pesto, but we both aren't fans of it and I think it would have been too much and may have taken away from the simple grilled flavor of the bread and veggies.

I can't wait to make these for company. Enjoy and stay cool!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Flank Steak Roulade with Savory Rice Cakes and Garlic Brussels Sprouts

Sunday was one of those days where I felt like cooking, had the time to do it, wanted to try something new, but wasn't in the mood for anything. Nothing sounded appealing.

Jon and I couldn't agree on what we wanted either - he didn't feel like chicken, I wanted pork but he didn't, he wanted beef but I didn't, and I don't like fish. I finally convinced him to go with a stuffed pork tenderloin recipe I found, but when I got to the store all of the pork was packaged in 10 pound loins and I didn't feel like dealing with it. So Jon got his wish for beef when I spotted a nice flank steak in the case.

We have done a few different things with flank steak - grilling, various marinades, even a bracciole. I got my inspiration for tonight's meal from the bracciole I made last year and by looking at the ingredients I had in the fridge.

Flank Steak Roulade

Before cooking - trim and pound the steak thin (or butterfly it as well - works great for a roulade), and marinate it to tenderize the meat. I marinated it for a few hours in a simple marinade of Worcestershire, lime juice, and olive oil.


  • 1 thinly pounded flank steak
  • 3 tbsp spreadable herbed cheese, like Boursin or Alouette
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder


  • Lay flank steak on a piece of plastic wrap in front of you so the grain is running side to side (when you roll the steak and then slice to serve, you want to be cutting against the grain).
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Put a layer of cheese across the center of the steak; top with evenly spread red peppers and spinach.
  • Begin rolling the steak; having the plastic wrap under the steak helps you hold onto the steak and tuck it tightly while rolling.
  • Once rolled, tie with kitchen twine in several places and season the outside of the steak with salt, pepper, and a touch of garlic powder (optional)
  • We chose to grill the steak; it took about 35 minutes on a hot grill. You could also sear the steak and finish it in the oven.

Some of the cheese came out of the steak while cooking, but the flavor was still there. It looked beautiful when sliced. We also had a small piece of steak that we simply grilled after marinating. As simple as the marinade was, we were very surprised at the amount of flavor it gave the steak.

Savory Rice Cakes

In case you haven't noticed yet, we eat plain rice with a lot of our meals. Most guys are meat and potatoes husband is a meat and rice guy. He loves white rice! I changed it up on him a bit tonight with inspiration found in this recipe. I made a few changes; my version is below.

  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped (I used my mandolin to get super thin slices and then chopped them into tiny pieces)
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped (same cutting process as I used on the carrots)
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups unsalted cooked rice at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley


  • While rice is cooling, heat olive oil in a pan. Add veggies and saute until tender, about 6-7 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  • Combine rice with veggies, parsley, and cheese. Mix in eggs and bread crumbs. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.
  • Form rice into patties; I got 8 patties from these ingredients. Set formed patties on wax paper. I then put them in the fridge until I was ready to cook them.
  • Heat olive or vegetable oil in a large pan; you'll need the oil to be about an inch deep.
  • Gently drop the patties into the hot oil and let cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate covered with paper towels.

On their own, these cakes were just ok, but I'd like to try some other things with them..

- I'd love to experiment with different flavors to complement different main dishes, such as cumin and chili powder mixed with rice, mild and hot peppers, and corn for a Mexican inspired taste. They'd be great served with a cilantro cream. Italian spices with rice, celery, peppers, and served with marinara sauce would be great with an Italian inspired chicken or steak dish. The possibilities are endless, and these are a simple side so it's easy enough to experiment.

- I thought the cakes were a bit dry, even with my addition of cheese. When I had my leftovers, I whipped up a quick sauce. I heated a 1/4 cup of half and half in a pan, added red pepper flakes, a tablespoon of alouette, and a tablespoon of shredded Parmesan. This was a nice thick and creamy sauce and was perfect over the cakes - anything thinner wouldn't have held up to the cakes.

Brussels sprouts completed our meal -

  • Clean and trim Brussels sprouts and put in a large pot with about 1 inch of water. Make sure the sprouts are in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a steady simmer and cook for 8 minutes or until slightly tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat 1 tbsp butter and a touch of oil in a pan
  • Add 2-3 cloves chopped garlic; saute 2 min.
  • Add sprouts and toss until fully coated with the butter and garlic.