Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pan Roasted Chicken Breast with Rosemary Marinara

So, thanks to a bought of major pharyngitis which managed to have me both afraid to swallow and afraid to be more than 10ft from a bathroom for almost two weeks, I have dropped about 5 to 7 pounds. If there is any side benefit to a stomach and throat bug it is an involuntary yet appreciated Mary Kate moment.

But you all know that I love food, so not being able to enjoy my food and having no appetite are also cruel and unusual punishment where I am concerned.

So in my quest to keep off the weight I lost, yet wanting to eat something healthy and delicious, and I am desperately trying to teach myself portion control while also continuing to cook efficiently by making sure I cook enough food at one go for at least two meals.

I also had several odds and ends in the kitchen that I wanted to finish up. There was a bottle of red wine that was 2/3rds empty, two frozen chicken breasts in the freezer that were in danger of some serious freezer burn, and a bunch of fresh rosemary that I purchased yesterday for use in my dinner. All of these things combined with some delicious crushed tomatoes is how I came up with this week's recipe.

Pan Roasted Chicken Breast with Rosemary Marinara

2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts cut in half
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup diced fresh basil
1 large sprig of rosemary cut in half
1/2 package of fresh button mushrooms
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup red wine
2 cloves fresh garlic or 1 tsp garlic salt
1lb of your favorite pasta
1 tbs olive oil
Crushed Red Pepper

First, in a large frying pan, over high heat, heat your olive oil. Once the oil is hot add the red onions and garlic. Cook the garlic and onions until the garlic and onions soften and the garlic starts to brown, but do not let it brown completely. Next, reduce the heat to medium and add the chicken breasts.

Brown the chicken breasts lightly. Make sure the surfaces of both sides are cooked. This helps to make sure that the chicken locks in some of the flavors and also that it cooks thoroughly. Next, add the red wine. Allow the red wine, chicken, garlic, and onions to simmer for a minute or two.

Next add the crushed tomatoes, basil, rosemary, and mushrooms. You don't have to slice the mushrooms, as they will shrink to edible size through the stewing process. Add a pinch or two of salt. Also add red peppers to your particular spice tolerance and taste. Then stir the sauce to make sure the breasts are thoroughly covered. Reduce the heat to low.

Allow the breasts to simmer in the sauce for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve the chicken and sauce over your favorite pasta and enjoy!

This recipe should run you somewhere between $8 and $12, and it will feed four people comfortably.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Perfect Turkey

Twice a year, I wind my way to the grocery store and lug home a bird that weighs somewhere between 15 and 25 pounds. Inevitably, I forget to grab a turkey roasting pan, and someone gets sent back to the store to fetch one.

I cooked my first turkey about five or six years ago, but I grew up watching the turkey prepared each year. My first turkey surprised everyone, including me. It was so ridiculously juicy and flavorful. I'd combined a technique I'd heard on some show or another (probably the Frugal Gourmet), and then I added my own experimentation.

I promise you if you follow these steps, your turkey will be a brilliant golden brown and the meat will be so moist and good that it will fall off of the bone. For the last two years, by the end of the night, pretty much only the carcass was left. And that is the best compliment you can give to a cook...even an amateur one such as myself.

The Perfect Turkey

1 Turkey
8 cloves of garlic diced
1 cup olive oil
1 stick of butter cut into 1 tbsp squares
1/4 cup seasoning salt
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1 large turkey roasting pan (the tinfoil ones at the grocery store are fine)
tin foil

First of all, make sure that your turkey is thoroughly thawed out. If you purchased it frozen, leave it in a sink full of tepid water for at least 8-10 hours.

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. This is important. You MUST cook your turkey at a lower heat. This keeps the turkey from drying out and ensures a slow roast that will bring out the other flavors. Towards the end of the cooking process you will increase the heat slightly.

Next, place the turkey in the roasting pan. With a large knife, slide the blade between the skin of the turkey and the breast loosing the skin, but DO NOT TEAR IT. Next, take your pats of butter, and slide them underneath the skin, distributing them as evenly as possible, including sliding pieces down towards the wings and drunk sticks. Next take your diced garlic and also slide that between the skin and the flesh of the turkey.

Next sprinkle the salt, pepper, seasoning salt, curry powder, and parsley across the skin of the turkey. Next pour the olive oil evenly over the turkey. Now it's time to get messy. Using your hands, rub the oil and the seasonings into the skin. Basically, give the turkey a massage.

Next cover the turkey with tin foil and make sure the edges of the foil are tightly closed.

Now comes the time for patience. The turkey takes roughly 15 minutes per pound to cook. About half way into the total cooking time, you will want to start basting the turkey every 30 to 45 minutes. Gently pull back the tin foil and scoop the juices from the turkey and drizzle them back over the back and sides of the bird. Make sure you put the foil back on tightly.

Finally, for the last 30 minutes of cooking time, raise the oven temperature to 375, which will help the skin crisp. When it is done the turkey should be a dark rich brown.

PS A great way to keep your turkey warm while you finish the rest of your dinner prep, is to keep it covered with tin foil, and then wet two hand towels, microwave the towels for 1 minute, and then lay the towels across the tin foil on top of the turkey. This will keep the turkey warm and moist for several hours.

Depending on the price of turkey in your area and the time of year, this turkey should run you anywhere $15 and above. The 22 pound turkey I made at Thanksgiving fed 12 people with leftovers.