Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cilantro Stuffed Chicken with a Roasted Poblano Sauce

I am back in the kitchen - finally! I love vacation but I definitely miss cooking after several days.

This chicken dish was from a recipe found on the Epicurious website for Cilantro Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Poblano Chili Sauce. I followed most of it with a few minor changes. My changes are noted in italics below, and I made the recipe for 2, not 4.
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1.5 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic (original recipe called for 1 clove for 4 breasts...but we love garlic)
  • Added: 1 tsp finely chopped onion
  • Added: dusting of chili powder, salt, cumin, and cayenne
  • Added: grated manchego cheese
  • Poblano sauce: 2 roasted poblano peppers, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 small onion, 8 oz chicken broth, added 1/4 c light cream; added salt


  • Cut a pocket into each chicken breast.
  • Mix cilantro, garlic, onion, and manchego cheese; fill each pocket with the mixture. Coat the chicken with the spices and a touch of olive oil. Place in a baking dish and bake on 400 for approximately 12-15 minutes, flipping once.
  • Make the sauce: roast peppers (I do them right on the gas burner on my stove), peel skin off, and chop. I kept some of the seeds because we like heat. Then, heat olive oil in a small pot and saute onions and garlic. Add peppers and broth and bring to a simmer for 1 minute. Transfer to a blender and puree. Return to pot, add cream and bring to a simmer. Season with salt.
  • Serve sauce over chicken.

I love cilantro, and this chicken was just bursting with the flavor. The sauce had just the right amount of heat to complement the chicken without overpowering it. It was also a very easy dish, about 40 minutes from start to finish including the prep.

Celebrating My 200th Post with a Glass of Monte Bello...

Jon and I just returned from an amazing week in St. Thomas and St. John to celebrate our 5th anniversary just a few months delayed. We ate very well all week, but our favorite restaurant was Havana Blue at the Marriott Morning Star Resort in St. Thomas, a restaurant featuring Latin food.

As soon as we walked into the restaurant, we knew it was not run by the Marriott (this is a good thing). While all of the restaurants and facilities at the Marriott featured your typical beachy/resort decor, Havana Blue looked like a big city restaurant that had been placed on the beach. Dark wood, blue lights, lots of candles, loud music, and flowing white chiffon fabric gave the restaurant a trendy yet cozy feel.

Jon is always in charge of choosing the wine, and I knew he had something up his sleeve when he wouldn't share his choice with me, and only ordered by bin number. As soon as I saw the bottle being placed on our table and the smile on his face, I knew what it was - Ridge Montebello. This wine is something Jon has been eyeing at the wine store and on wine lists for a while now, especially because we love so many of the Ridge wines. I'll let Jon give the review...

"So, I’ve mentioned in previous posts some of the fantastic wines we’ve had: Ridge Lytton Springs (especially 2002), Eponymous, Opus One and so on, but on our vacation we had the opportunity to try one that I’ve only rarely seen – Ridge Monte Bello. Now, I’ve seen a few vintages in some of the better wine stores, but have never found this in a restaurant. At Havana Blue, though, on the menu they had a 2004 vintage, which proved to be the perfect complement to this fantastic dinner.

Side note: when I ordered, the sommelier offered that they had a bottle of 2000 vintage available along with the 2004. For some reason, I was suspicious that, being in the Caribbean with the heat, humidity and unreliable utilities, the 2000 may have had a tough time in storage, and ordered the 2004.

When the bottle arrived, I declined having it decanted, and instead let the waiter pour a taste. What emerged in my glass was nothing short of the most lush, decadent, sultry and smooth Cabernet Sauvignon blend I’ve ever had. The wine is deep red in color, with a full feel and surprisingly dry finish. This wine, an amazing blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc, easily surpasses anything else we’ve tried to date.

If you have the opportunity, save your pennies and treat yourself to a bottle of this for a truly special occasion. If you can find it, you’ll likely shell out in the area of $150.00 for a bottle, but for the right evening in the right company, this wine is certainly worth it."

The food at Havana Blue was just as good as our wine. We started with two appetizers - tacos de filet and lobster taquitos.

The tacos de filet were miniature corn-cilantro tortilla shells topped with grilled filet mignon, a tangy salsa, Manchego cheese, and cilantro. Heavenly is a word I'd use to describe this appetizer! The only downside was that there were only 4 - I could have eaten 20! It was pretty dark in the restaurant so I didn't get great pics of the food (and Jon probably would have crawled under the table from embarrassment if I turned the flash on...). Here are the tacos de filet -

The lobster taquitos featured miniature blue corn hard taco shells stuffed with a nice piece of Caribbean lobster meat, salsa, and cilantro. I don't eat seafood but I ate one of the taquitos. Crunchy with sweet and tender lobster meat topped off with the flavor of cilantro - refreshing and delicious.

For entrees, Jon had snapper (we can't remember exactly how it was prepared, we drank too much during the rest of our vacation :) and I had chicken breast stuffed with Manchego cheese, topped with a Cuban red sauce, and served with pigeon peas and rice. I couldn't get enough of this meal and practically had to be rolled out of the restaurant! Everything was so delicious, perfectly seasoned, perfectly prepared, fresh, and featured all of the flavors I love the most.

Finally, after dinner we had another drink at the bar when I noticed the saying on the back of the servers' shirts - this about sums up our experience at Havana Blue -

Now it's back to reality...can't wait to plan our next vacation!

Bubbles and Squeak

Sounds like a funny drinking game, or some sort of dance step, but Bubbles and Squeak is actually a traditional dish from the UK of fried meat and cabbage. Over the years it has evolved into a fried dish of any sort of leftover, usually involving potatoes.

It has been a while since I cooked (lovely week spent in the Caribbean - restaurant reviews and food pics to follow) so I wanted to do something that I could post in my blog this week! My parents made Thanksgiving dinner this year, and while eating, my mom and sister told me about a show on the Food Network where they made Bubble and Squeak from their leftovers. On Friday, I made my own version with their leftovers.


  • Leftover mashed potatoes
  • Leftover stuffing, crumbled
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated white cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, asiago, etc)
  • Dried parsley for color
  • Optional - leftover veggies or turkey, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • Bread crumbs

Basically, all you do is mix up the leftovers, cheese, and spices, then form patties. I dipped each patty in egg, bread crumbs, and then fried in olive oil for about 3 minutes per side.

The Sauce...

On the show my mom saw, they took beef broth and corn, heated both, and then pureed the mixture with an immersion blender. Here is what I did -

  • 1 can chicken broth (vegetable broth would be tasty, too)
  • 1/3 bag frozen corn
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 c heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese

I heated the broth and corn and then transferred it to a food processor and pureed it. Then I mixed the flour with the cream, and slowly added it to the mixture along with the cheese. Blend well and season with salt and pepper. Return the sauce to the stove to reheat.

This wasn't the prettiest sauce, but surprisingly it was very good! Sweet and creamy, and the perfect taste for the potato-stuffing patties.

So there you have it, I made use of leftovers for my first blog post in 2 weeks. After the next week of business travel and meetings, I'll be back in the kitchen - I can't wait! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Soup Sunday - No Fuss Chicken Noodle Soup

It has been years since I last made real, homemade chicken soup, and that is because of my super simple n0-fuss recipe. I developed this one on my own, with some inspiration coming from my parents, specifically the trick to puree half of the veggies.

I'm sure I'll make real chicken soup again some day when I have a lot of time, but I needed something quick today. Also, there are some really good low sodium canned chicken broths out there which makes cheating a little easier - the Swanson's Low Sodium Natural Goodness was the perfect base for this soup today.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 76 oz chicken broth (1 large can and 2 small cans), or whatever amount you'd like
  • Roughly chopped veggies: 1/2 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 2 carrots, 1 celery stalk
  • Finely chopped veggies: 1/4 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk
  • 2 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • Approximately 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 oz egg noodles
  • Heat olive oil in a large pot
  • Add roughly chopped onions and garlic, saute 3-4 minutes
  • Add roughly chopped carrots and celery; add sage
  • Stir for 2 minutes and then add broth, dried thyme, and bay leaf
  • Bring to a boil then keep at a simmer until veggies are soft
  • Turn heat to low, remove bay leaf and puree veggies using a handheld immersion blender (or transfer to a blender if you don't have an immersion blender).
  • Add finely chopped veggies to the broth and simmer until soft.
  • Cook egg noodles separately and add to each serving of soup. I cook the noodles separately so they don't soak up too much of the broth.
Why do I puree the vegetables? It gives the soup beautiful color and texture - it's thicker than just a broth soup. Also, it's a great way to sneak in some veggies if you have kids who aren't fond of them (not that I have kids but I think it's a pretty good trick). But I also like chunks of veggies in my soup which is why I add fresh veggies after pureeing the soup.
Sure, chicken soup made from real chicken and/or a chicken carcass is pretty hard to beat, but for a quick (45 minute?) soup that tastes like the real thing, my recipe satisfies that craving!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chinese Roast Pork, Noodle-Veggie Stir Fry

Saturday night used to be date night out, but recently it has become date night at home. I was craving Chinese food, and wanted to use the noodles my dad brought me from Philadelphia's Chinatown.

Menu -
- Chinese Roast Pork
- Stir Fry with Noodles, Veggies, and Homemade Stir Fry Sauce

Chinese Roast Pork
I followed this recipe on the Epicurious web site for the marinade. Instead of a pork tenderloin, I used 2 thick boneless pork chops. I adjusted the amounts slightly; what I did is noted below.

  • 2 pork chops
  • 2 slices fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry cooking sherry
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsps hoison sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil


  • Marinate the pork for at least an hour, flipping a few times during the process.
  • Preheat the oven to 425.
  • Cook the pork in a covered dish for about 40 minutes, flipping a few times and basting with the marinade every time you flip.
  • Slice and serve.

The marinade made the chops so tender and full of flavor. I would love to use this marinade when grilling chops, and also want to try it with a pork tenderloin.

Stir Fry with Noodles and Veggies

My dad bought me a package of dry noodles the last time he was in Chinatown. They are about the width of fettucine, but a bit longer and they cook a lot faster.

  • 8 oz noodles, cooked (they took about 4-5 minutes to cook) and then rinsed with cold water.
  • Chopped veggies: 2 green onions, 2 cloves garlic, 1 head broccoli, 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 carrot, handful of sprouts, 6 shiitake mushrooms, 1/2 head Napa cabbage. Feel free to add anything else you like - water chestnuts, bamboo, and celery would have been a nice addition.

Homemade stir fry sauce; whisk together the following ingredients:

  • 4 oz chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsps garlic-chili paste
  • 1 tsp cornstarch


  • Heat approximately 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add green onions and garlic; saute 1 min
  • Add broccoli, mushrooms, red pepper, carrots, and sprouts. Cook, stirring frequently, about 4-5 minutes. If the pan gets too dry, add a touch more oil.
  • Add cabbage and stir until wilted, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Push veggies to the sides of the pan and add stir fry sauce (be sure to whisk it before adding). Let come to a light simmer.
  • Add cooked noodles and toss in the sauce until fully coated. Once coated, stir with the veggies. Serve immediately.

This was a really simple meal making use of some great flavors - ginger, soy, hoison, and heat from the garlic-chili paste. The marinated pork perfectly complemented the flavors in the stir fry. I think the stir fry sauce would have been a bit too sweet without the addition of the garlic chili paste, so I'm glad I thought to add it at the last minute.

Comfort Food Casserole - Inspired by Beef Stroganoff

I posted this recipe once before, but I shouldn't have. I used shells that time because I didn't have egg noodles, and I used MorningStar Farms recipe crumbles - sort of like fake ground meat. So this is my post re-do with the real ingredients. It's a great casserole for a cold night, and the leftovers reheat well. I sometimes add a touch more sour cream when reheating it just so it doesn't get too dry.


  • 1 lb lean ground meat
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Approx 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1 package dry gravy mixed with one cup of water, heated
  • 8 oz egg noodles, cooked
  • 6 oz sour cream
  • 1/2 c shredded cheese, I like to use a Mexican blend


  • Heat a large saute pan and add ground meat. Cook until just about done and drain off any grease.
  • Add onions and garlic; cook a few minutes
  • Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and parsley.
  • Transfer meat to a large bowl; mix with the cooked egg noodles and hot gravy. Let cool for about 15 minutes. Taste the mixture and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  • Add sour cream and most of the cheese. Mix well.
  • Transfer to a casserole dish and top with the rest of the cheese
  • Bake on 350 for about 20-25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

There is nothing fancy or gourmet about this dish, but it's very tasty and comforting, especially on a cold night.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pasta with Hot Italian Sausage, Broccoli, and Red Peppers

Quick and easy - this would probably qualify as one of Rachael's 30 minute meals. This is my own recipe.

  • 1/2 lb pasta - I used farfalle
  • 1/2 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed and chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 sm onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 3/4 c low sodium chicken broth
  • Approximately 1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Cook pasta
  • In the meantime, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pan
  • Add sausage and start to crumble it with your spoon as it cooks; about 10 minutes.
  • Add onions and garlic, stir
  • Deglaze pan with white wine, scraping up brown bits
  • Add broccoli and red peppers; stir
  • Add chicken broth and stir; let simmer for about 8 minutes
  • Add some of the cheese
  • Add pasta and the rest of the cheese; toss to coat

Flavorful and simple, this was a nice one pot meal for a night when you don't have much time to cook, but want a hearty dinner.

Soup Sunday - Onion & Barley Soup with Swiss Cheese Flans

I think I should change the title of my blog to Soup Sunday! Things have been so busy during the week and I have been traveling a lot, so Sunday has really been my only day to cook.

Today's soup is Onion & Barley Soup with Jarlsberg Flans. The original recipe can be found
here ( I cut the recipe in half and used Jarlsberg Swiss; I think Gruyere would also work well.

My recipe, including the amounts I used, is noted below.


Soup (about 4 servings)

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 4 cups sliced onions
  • 1/4 cup pearl barley
  • 3 tablespoons dry Sherry
  • 5 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 pinches dried thyme
Flans (2)
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • Handful sliced onions
  • 1/4 cup light cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Added: 2 fresh sage leaves
  • Added: approx 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • Added: chopped chives, approximately 1 tsp
  • 1/2 cup (packed) grated Jarlsberg cheese
To Make the Soup -
  • Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat.
  • Add onions; sauté until caramelized, about 30 minutes.
  • Add barley and Sherry; cook 30 seconds.
  • Add chicken stock and thyme. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Can be made up to one day in advance. Cool, cover, and chill. Bring to simmer before serving.
To Make the Flans -
  • Preheat oven to 300°F.
  • Place two 3/4-cup custard cups or soufflé dishes in baking pan.
  • Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium heat.
  • Add onions; sauté until tender but not brown, about 8 minutes. Add sage near the end of cooking the onions.
  • Cool slightly; transfer to blender.
  • Add cream, eggs, salt, and pepper; blend until smooth.
  • Stir in cheese.
  • Divide custard among prepared cups.

  • Fill pan with enough hot water to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake flans until centers are softly set, about 30 minutes.

  • Cool flans 10 minutes in pan. Cut around flans to loosen; turn out each in center of soup bowl. Ladle soup around flans and serve.

Another soup success! This was almost like a lighter French onion soup, but without the bread, and with the cheese in the form of the flan. Jon thinks beef broth would work as well, but it would be a heavier and richer soup. The presentation was beautiful - I would love to serve this soup at a dinner party.

The flan was delicious! I could have eaten it on its own. The changes I made - less onions, added sage, added white pepper, added chives -really worked and the result was a savory and creamy flan. This soup will be good for lunch tomorrow even without the flan as I only made 2 to try tonight.

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Soup Sunday - Caramelized Onion & Potato Soup with Bacon

This recipe is my own recipe, inspired by the bag of potatoes I bought yesterday and my craving for caramelized onions - I love them!

I love my roasted potato-onion-garlic soup but felt like something other than that today. I thought about the ingredients for a bit - I knew caramelized onions and potatoes would be the focus, but how would I bring it all together? I decided to use bacon grease to caramelize the onions, thyme to add flavor, vermouth to deglaze the pan, a touch of cream at the end after pureeing most of the potatoes, and would finish it off with some crumbled bacon on top. A touch of shredded Gruyere would work well on top also, but I didn't have any in the house.

So here is my newest soup creation - Caramelized Onion & Potato Soup with Bacon

  • 5 pieces of raw bacon
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped (but small enough to be bite-sized)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, maybe a touch more
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1/4 c dry Vermouth
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 medium-large potatoes, diced (I used red potatoes; Yukon Gold potatoes would probably work well too)
  • 5-6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • Kosher salt, black pepper
  • 1/2- 3/4 c light cream
  • Optional: white truffle oil


  • Heat soup pot over high heat; add bacon and cook until crispy being careful not to let the bacon or grease burn. Transfer bacon to paper towels and set aside.
  • Dispose of all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease from the pot. Add 1 tsp olive oil and turn heat to low/medium low.
  • Add onions and a pinch each of thyme and sugar. Cook the onions over low/medium low heat until caramelized, approximately 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions will turn a beautiful golden-brown color when cooked, but the bacon grease will also make them golden brown so don't let that fool you into thinking they are fully cooked/caramelized.
  • Turn heat to medium, push onions to sides of pot, and deglaze pan with vermouth, stirring and scraping up brown bits for about 2 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
  • Add carrots, celery, and potatoes. Season with more thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir until everything is mixed together.
  • Add broth and bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Turn heat to low. Using a hand-held immersion blender, puree most of the potatoes. I pulsed the blender so I'd still have some chunks of potatoes.
  • Add cream to soup and adjust spices. Let simmer for a few minutes.
  • To serve - ladle soup into a bowl and top with some crumbled bacon. I also drizzled white truffle oil on top. Gruyere cheese and parsley would also make beautiful toppings.

I am very happy with this soup. It is hearty, fragrant, and full of flavor. It has some sweetness from the onions, but is also rich from the bacon and potatoes. It was fairly simple as well - it took about 90 minutes from start to finish. Another Sunday, another soup, and I am happy to add this one to my list of favorites!

And since this is my first time blogging in a week, congratulations to the PHILLIES!!!! Phinally, after 28 years, they are World Champions!!