Monday, September 28, 2009

Lemony Shrimp Scampi Pasta - Melissa d'Arabian

***If you ask Brad what his favorite dinner is, Shrimp Scampi will definitely be at the very top of that list. THIS recipe from Southern Living magazine is the one that I usually follow, and it's been his favorite for a long time now.

Recently, I was watching another episode of Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian, and she made her Lemony Shrimp Scampi Pasta. It looked easy, affordable and really tasty, so I decided to give it a try. There are a few key differences between this recipe and my old stand-by. First of all, I usually make Shrimp Scampi using angel hair pasta. This particular recipe calls for linguine.

Secondly, the old recipe uses hot sauce, while this one uses red pepper flakes. The old recipe also incorporates green onions. I do really like that Melissa uses every bit of the shrimp in this recipe...including the shrimp shells. So, nothing goes to waste! With this dish, you'll learn how to whip up a quick shrimp stock, and then incorporate part of the stock into the scampi sauce...Mmm! I've saved the extra shrimp stock and plan to freeze it for a future recipe....another money saver!!

Honestly, it's really hard to say which recipe that we prefer....they are both absolutely delicious, and you can't go wrong with either one. I'd have to say that Melissa has given us a wonderful scampi recipe here...definitely worth trying!***

6 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
2 lemons, zested and juiced
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound medium shrimp (21 to 25), peeled, deveined and butterflied (reserve shells)
1/4 onion
3/4 pound thin linguini
2 tablespoons butter
1 small bunch parsley, leaves chopped

In a bowl, combine the garlic, zest and juice of 1 lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, to taste, and the shrimp. Set aside.

Meanwhile make a quick shrimp stock: In a small pot, over medium heat, add the shrimp shells and onion. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain into a bowl and discard the shells and the onion.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add a generous amount of salt. Add the linguini and cook until just tender, 2 minutes less than instructed on the package. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water.

Heat a skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink and start to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan to a plate and add the remaining marinade. Let cook a few minutes then add about 1 cup of shrimp stock and about 1/2 cup pasta water. Continue to cook until sauce reduces by half. Add the zest and juice of the remaining lemon, the butter and the parsley and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Add in the shrimp and pasta and toss to combine with the sauce. Turn out into a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Source: Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian on The Food Network

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gorgeous Vol-Au-Vents with Homemade Puff Pastry!

Vol-Au-Vents with Crab, Avocado, Tomato and Lime Salad

Vol-Au-Vents with Chocolate & Frangelico Flavored Whipped Cream + Fresh Strawberries

***The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. We were given the chance to select our own filling recipes this month, which I loved. I made both a sweet and savory version.

My fillings included (recipes are at the bottom of this post):
1. Crab, Avocado, Tomato and Lime Salad
2. Chocolate & Frangelico Flavored Whipped Cream with Fresh Strawberries & Blackberries

The Crab Salad was incredible. It had a wonderfully fresh flavor. The sweet version was equally delicious...especially with the addition of Frangelico. That just sent it over the top!

Homemade puff pastry is enough to make most people run for cover. It involves massive amounts of butter, arm muscles and patience. The dough has to be kept cold throughout the entire process of incorporating the butter and making the turns. If the directions aren't followed carefully, you'll end up with a buttery mess and flat pastries!

Because of all these little things, puff pastry is something that I've always just purchased at the grocery store...I know, I's the easy way out, right? However, I have to admit...homemade puff pastry is SO incredibly delicious! Sure, it takes time and practice, but it's worth it. It's something that every home cook should try at least once!

I was shocked at the amount of butter in this recipe - a full pound! It was fun pounding the sticks of butter into one big block, though. Who needs a punching bag when you have a ton of butter to smash into oblivion?? The rolling & turning of the dough wasn't particularly hard...just be sure to keep the dough cold, putting it back into the fridge in between turns, if needed.

I wonder how many of my other fellow Daring Bakers sat in front of their ovens, watching anxiously to see if their pastries would rise. Yes folks, that was me....haha! I slid the baking sheet into the pre-heated oven and got ready for the show. I sat right in front of my oven, on the floor, with the oven light turned on. What followed was one heck of a show! After a few minutes, the puff pastry started to, well, puff! And puff up, they did! After they turned a golden brown, I pulled them out and waited while they cooled.

In the end, the results were nothing short of fantastic...Considering the amount of butter in this dish, I'm glad that this recipe isn't extremely easy, otherwise I would be making it all the time!

THANKS Steph for a fabulous challenge this month!!!***

-food processor (will make mixing dough easy, but I imagine this can be done by hand as well)
-rolling pin
-pastry brush
-metal bench scraper (optional, but recommended)
-plastic wrap
-baking sheet
-parchment paper
-silicone baking mat (optional, but recommended)
-set of round cutters (optional, but recommended)
-sharp chef’s knife
-cooling rack

Prep Times:
-about 4-5 hours to prepare the puff pastry dough (much of this time is inactive, while you wait for the dough to chill between turns…it can be stretched out over an even longer period of time if that better suits your schedule)
-about 1.5 hours to shape, chill and bake the vols-au-vent after your puff pastry dough is complete.

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent
Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent
In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water
-your filling of choice.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)
On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)
Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.
Ready for the oven...

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)
Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned).

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.
Fill and serve.
Check out all those flaky layers!

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.
*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.
*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.
There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter
plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:
Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.
Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.
That's a lot of butter!!!
Incorporating the Butter:
Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:
Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.
Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:
If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.
Steph’s extra tips:
-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.
-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.
-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.
-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.
-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.
-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.
-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.
-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.
-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.
-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.
-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).

Crab Salad w/Lime, Tomato and Avocado
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon very finely chopped jalapeño
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, plus cilantro leaves for garnish
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound lump crabmeat, picked over
1 1/2 Hass avocados, diced ( 1/2 inch)
1/3 cup minced red onion
1 large heirloom tomato, cut into four 1/2-inch-thick slices
Tortilla chips, for serving

In a small bowl, combine the lime juice with the olive oil, vegetable oil, jalapeño, chopped cilantro, honey and garlic. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, toss the crab with 3 tablespoons of the dressing and season with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, gently toss the avocado with the red onion and 2 tablespoons of the dressing; season with salt and pepper.

Place a tomato slice on each plate and season with salt. Top with the avocado and the crab and garnish with the cilantro. Drizzle the remaining dressing on top and serve with tortilla chips.


Chocolate Whipped Cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Frangelico

Put chopped chocolate into a medium bowl. Pour cream into a small heavy saucepan; stir in sugar. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Pour boiling cream over chocolate; stir until smooth and chocolate is melted. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, until thoroughly chilled.

Transfer to a large bowl. Beat to spreading or filling consistency, or until it reaches soft peaks.

Add Frangelico and stir/beat until mixed thoroughly.Refrigerate for about 1 hour before using.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups. Keep in refrigerator for up to 2 days.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

And The Winner Is....

First of all....I want to say a HUGE "Thank You!" to every single person who took the time to enter my very first giveaway. Hopefully, this will only be the first of many. I'd love to start offering more giveaways here at Sugar & Spice for my wonderful readers! :)

Now, on to our next order of business...announcing the big winner!

Drumroll Please................................................................................................................................................................................................
The winner of a brand new copy of the Taste of Home Big Book of Soup cookbook is.........................................................................................................................................................................................................

Comment #27 comes from jidgede

She says...

"my favorite?? YOUR taco soup!!!!! jennie in tn <><"

Congratulations Jennie!!! Please e-mail me at to claim your prize!!! :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Fun Fall Giveaway!!!

There's always a big smile on my face this time each year...Autumn is here! It's without a doubt, my favorite time of the year. You can already feel it in the air here in Alabama! The rustle through the trees as the first leaves begin to change from green to a deep golden hue, the sight of a fun pumpkin patch decorated with yellow mums, and yes...even the spooky haunted house attractions that pop up throughout the city! I'm so excited about pumpkin pies, apples, pears, squash, cranberries, pumpkin spice everything, and hearty bowls of scrumptious SOUP!

So, in order to celebrate the changing of the seasons, I'm so excited to tell you about my very first giveaway here at "Sugar & Spice by Celeste"! I'm giving away a beautiful, brand-new copy of the Taste of Home Big Book of Soup cookbook!

Here's a blurb from the Taste of Home website with the details about the book:
"There's nothing like a hot bowl of soup, and this book's full of them! Taste of Home's Big Book of Soup has hearty, family-favorite recipes for soups, chilis, stews and chowders. Creamy Chicken Rice Soup, Pasta Meatball Stew, and Cheesy Potato Chowder are just the tempting beginning. You'll also find 16 recipes for great soup mixes. Make-ahead soups or homemade soup mixes are ideal for holiday giving, house-warming or a neighborly thank-you. Hardcover, 320 pages. Hundreds of full-color photos. "

So, what do you have to do to be the lucky winner, you might ask?? Well, simply reply to this post with your answer to the following question:

***What is your favorite kind of soup to serve on a cool autumn evening?? Is it a classic like Chicken Noodle Soup...or maybe you crave a delectable French Onion Soup?? Let me know! I'm excited to hear your answers!***

To be eligible:
1. At this time, I can only ship to addresses here in the United States. I apologize to all of my wonderful international readers!!
2. Please check back on Saturday, September 26th, to see if you are the lucky winner, so that you can claim your prize!
3. Only one comment per person, please.

Deadline: Friday, September 25th at midnight.

One winner will be chosen at random on Saturday, Sept. 26th using, based on the number of your comment.

GOOD LUCK!!! :-)
Photo courtesy of

Date Bars - King Arthur's Flour

I was so excited the other day when I visited Joelen's Culinary Adventures, and saw that I was the winner of her Foodie Freebie Friday Giveaway! I was the lucky winner of a month's subscription to King Arthur's Flour Mix n'Magic Baking Club! Check out my awesome loot HERE!

My goodies arrived very quickly and I got right down to business with the Date Bars Mix! Wow...this stuff was SO delicious! The mix made the Date Bars uber easy to put together, they baked up in a flash, and it wasn't long before Brad and I were digging in. The only thing that could have made these better would be a big scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Now, I still have the Oatmeal Cranberry Cookie Mix, Soft Molasses Cookie Mix, and the Buttermilk Bran Muffins left. And I'm equally excited about trying all of them. I'll be sure to post my results!

Oh, and if you haven't visited Joelen's Blog, then you are surely missing out! Her blog has long been one of my very favorites. She features awesome recipes and fun foodie get-togethers that you'll want to read about! Show her some foodie love by visiting her site! :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Crazy-Good Crab Cakes!

I think it's so cool how certain foods just bring back warm memories from the past. Your Mom's Cornbread Dressing...your Grandmother's Cherry Pie....your favorite dessert from childhood...or in this case, some absolutely amazing crab cakes.

I'm in a descriptive mood, so here we go...It was summertime a few years ago, and a warm breeze floated across the shimmering ocean and over the sand...eventually finding its way to me where it danced through my hair. It was a perfectly serene evening at the beach...If I close my eyes, I can smell the salt in the air and feel the sand between my toes at this very minute. The beautiful sounds of a live band wafted out of the restaurant and into my ears, and I browsed through an eclectic store just across the street while we waited for our table. Brightly colored, unique gifts filled the store...things that just scream "BEACH!" A funky, hand-painted kitchen table and chairs, a crazy wire statue, a zebra print ottoman.

Where am I? At probably the most fun and unique restaurant in Florida....The Red Bar in Grayton Beach. I love that place! They are known for many things, but I'm convinced that their crab cakes top them all!

When Brad bit into these "Crazy-Good Crab Cakes" a few nights ago, he immediately said, "Wow...these are just like the crab cakes from The Red Bar!" You can imagine my excitement when he compared my crab cakes to those of The Red Bar! Haha. He was right...everything from the crab meat to the filling was perfect. In fact, they were so flavorful, that we didn't even add any sauce! It was one of those meals that I didn't want to end! And best of all, they were a cinch to make!

I pondered about what to name these crab cakes. I mean, I couldn't just give them a boring name like "Crab Cakes". They deserve a more interesting name! Amazing...The Absolute Best...Deliciously Perfect....all of the above could have been

If you like crab, you should definitely give these a'll end up with a full belly and a big smile!

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Crazy-Good Crab Cakes
Adapted from:  Culinary Reserve Premium Hand-Picked Crab Meat packaging

1 lb. Lump Crab Meat 
2 Slices White Bread, crumbled, crust removed (I processed mine in a food processor)
1 Egg, beaten
2 tbsp. Mayo
1 tsp Seafood Seasoning (such as Old Bay Seasoning)
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp. Dried Parley Flakes (I used freshly chopped cilantro, instead)
2 tsp. lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil or butter (for sauteing)
Combine all ingredients except the crab meat in a bowl. Gently fold in crab meat and chill for one hour before forming into three ounce cakes.

Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil or butter in the bottom of a medium skillet.  Saute the crab cakes over medium heat for 2-3 minutes per side, adding more olive oil or butter as needed.


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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Melissa d'Arabian's Crispy Skinned Chicken a l'Orange

***I adore a simple chicken recipe that's different from the same old thing, but also has a delicious flavor...and is very affordable! This recipe from Melissa d'Arabian is all of those things...Extremely easy, delicious, and affordable!

If you're like me, you were an avid watcher of last season's "The Next Food Network Star." I was rooting for Melissa the entire time. She's like a breath of fresh air, and she proved to America that you don't have to be a professionally trained chef to be on national television. Instead, she's a home cook and simply loves to cook dinner for her adorable daughters and husband. If you ask me, she did a phenomenal job on the show and definitely deserved to win.

So far, I've really enjoyed watching her new show, "Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian." Sure, she seemed a little bit nervous on her very first episode, but who wouldn't?? I watched her cook this recipe for Chicken a l'Orange, and I knew that I wanted to try it as soon as I could.

The ingredients list is very short...only 6 ingredients, including salt & pepper! I whipped this together in a flash, and before I knew it we were digging into one scrumptious meal. The chicken was so incredibly tender and could have cut it with a butter knife. The glaze is amazing...the orange and honey are a heavenly combination!

I am certainly adding this one to my chicken recipe arsenal!!!***

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 skin-on bone-in chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
4 tablespoons honey

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Liberally salt and pepper the chicken breast halves. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat and sear the chicken, skin side only, until brown and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the orange glaze: In a small saucepan, heat the orange juice concentrate, honey, and salt and pepper, to taste, over medium heat, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Turn the chicken over and brush each piece with the glaze. Turn the chicken skin side up and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, brushing on more glaze halfway through, about 15 minutes in total. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board. Remove the chicken breast from the bone and slice the meat on the bias. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and serve.

Source: Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian on The Food Network

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Swiss & Prosciutto Tartine

***What in the world is a tartine, you say? Well, a tartine is traditionally an open-faced, French sandwich. They can be topped with countless combinations of meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and herbs. I've wanted to make a tartine ever since we traveled to Paris back in February of this year. This particular meal reminded me of a wonderful lunch we had in Paris at a sandwich shop. I had a delicious sandwich served on a fresh baguette....Mmm....I can taste it now!

Yesterday, Brad and I were getting hungry and I was already busy working on the Daring Baker Challenge for this month (And no, I can't tell you what that challenge is until the 27th!) I didn't particularly want fast food...we were craving something scrumptious. Even more important, I wanted to make something easy! So, I peered into my fridge and pantry and realized that I could make a yummy tartine. I made THIS French Bread very recently, and I just so happened to have an extra baguette in the freezer. I popped the baguette into a 350 degree oven for a few minutes, and it was as good as new! As it turns out, French Baguettes can be frozed very successfully! I topped the baguette slices with some wonderful Swiss cheese that was waiting for its 15 minutes of fame in the fridge. A few slices of fresh Prosciutto turned out to be the perfect addition, and chopped parsley finished it off flawlessly.

This dish was beautiful and could easily be served as an hor d'oeuvre at a party, after cutting it into bite-sized pieces. The combination of flavors is so satisfying and delicious, that you'll want a second helping! This is definitely one of my new favorites!!!***

1 French Baguette
4-5 slices Prosciutto di Parma, torn into pieces
A block of Swiss Cheese
2 Tbsp. fresh Parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice baguette in half, lengthwise. Place slices on a baking sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil.

Next, cut Swiss cheese into slices that are about 1/8 inch thick. Cover the baguette slices with the cheese. Top with Prosciutto di Parma. Drizzle lightly with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and then sprinkle with the parsley.

Place baking sheet on the middle rack and bake until the cheese is melted and the bread is lightly toasted.

Cut into 2 inch pieces and serve immediately.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lemony Honey Butter Glazed Chicken

***Okay, so I got a little creative in the kitchen again last night. Instead of following a recipe, I sort of looked in the pantry and went with what I had on-hand. Hey, it's a fantastic way to save money on food in this economy! And sometimes, you get a kick-butt recipe out of it.

At my last trip to the grocery store, I asked the butcher to cut one of the whole roasting chickens into 8 pieces for me. Don't hesitate to ask your butcher to do the will make your job in the kitchen much, much easier! If you're like me, cutting up a chicken is not very high on my "Things I Like to Do" list.

I decided first on the chicken...Next, I moved on to my next dilemma: How in the world did I want to prepare it? As I scanned my pantry for items my eyes came across artichoke hearts, a can of San Marzano tomatoes, and....peanut butter?? Um, No, No and NO!

Was this pantry thing such a good idea after all? I looked some more....and then, I had it! Honey, Lemon and Butter...YES!

This dish folks, is what we ended up eating for dinner last night. And it was quite delicious if I do say so myself!! The fact that the chicken was bone-in meant that the chicken would be nice and juicy. The scrumptious glaze only helped increase the juicyness factor. Now, we all know that honey and butter are a combo made in heaven. The lemon juice and thyme added a wonderful flavor to the glaze as well. I think you'll enjoy this one!!!***

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp honey
1 tsp dried thyme
Juice from one large lemon
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash chicken pieces with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one 9"x13" baking dish. Lightly drizzle chicken with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.

Place the butter in a medium bowl, and place in the microwave. Heat for 25 second intervals until the butter is completely melted. Be careful...don't heat it so long that it splatters!

Add the honey, thyme and lemon juice to the butter. Stir thoroughly to complete the glaze.

With a basting brush, brush about 1/2 of the glaze onto the chicken pieces...covering completely. Place chicken into the pre-heated oven and cook for 15 minutes. Remove chicken and brush the chicken pieces again with the other half of the glaze. Place back into oven and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove chicken again and baste again using the juices that have accumulated in the bottom of the dish.

Continue basting the chicken at 10-15 minute intervals until the chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. The entire cooking process should take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your oven.

NOTE: Keep a close eye on the chicken while it is cooking. You may have to cover the chicken with aluminum foil about half-way through the cooking process in order to keep the skin from becoming too dark or burning.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Creamy Orzo with Asparagus & Parmesan

***After making this Athenian Orzo recently, I was inspired to try another orzo dish. Every once in a while, I'll get a little more creative than usual in the kitchen and attempt something completely new without using a recipe. This Creamy Orzo with Asparagus & Parmesan was my reward! This turned out way better than I expected. Brad and I both loved this side dish!

The creamy orzo pairs perfectly with the yummy crunch of the asparagus...and of course, parmesan makes everything better! This dish pairs perfectly with a variety of main courses...chicken, steak or seafood. Next time, I may even add a little prosciutto or bacon to this. With that addition, it would even make a great meal in inself!

Because it's been a few days since I made this, I am going to guesstimate at the quantities of the ingredients. Please feel free to adjust the quantities to your own liking. You can't mess this dish's super easy!***

Creamy Orzo with Asparagus & Parmesan

1 cup orzo
1 cup asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 to 1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Bring a large sauce pan of water (filled about halfway) to a boil over medium heat. Cook the orzo until tender, about 10 minutes.

After the orzo has been cooking for about 5 minutes, add the asparagus to the same pot (this will allow the orzo and asparagus to cook in the same pot and keep the clean-up to a minimum!).

Once the orzo and asaparagus are cooked and tender, drain and return to the pot.

Quickly add the parmesan cheese and butter. Stir thoroughly, allowing both the cheese and butter to melt. Slowly add the cream to the mixture, while stirring. Continue to stir and add cream until you reach your desired consistency.

Season with salt and pepper.

Voila! You have a delicious side dish! Serve immediately.