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Sticky and sweet – finger lickin’ good

I recently made a batch of these chicken wings for a Super Bowl party after hearing there was a Buffalo wing shortage in the area.  Of course, these are not Buffalo wings, but I snatched up several packages of chicken wings just in case.  Korean style chicken wings can be spicy, although they usually are sweet and sour (and almost always delicious).  This recipe is always a big hit at any party or potluck for adults and children alike.  Just be sure to keep plenty of napkins on hand.


Korean-style Crispy Chicken Wings with Sweet Ginger Glaze

30 pieces of chicken wings, rinsed and patted dry
1 medium onion, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1″ piece of ginger, finely minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2  tsp.  salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. corn starch

2″ peeled ginger, thinly sliced
3/4 C. water
3/4 C. packed dark brown sugar
1/2 C. vinegar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1/2 C. corn syrup
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

oil for frying

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Heat oil on medium high  in large skillet or pan.  Combine minced onion, garlic, ginger, egg, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add chicken wings and coat thoroughly.  Then add flour and corn starch to chicken mixture and coat well.

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Cooking in batches, fry chicken wings in oil over medium to medium high heat for about 15 minutes until golden brown.

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In the meantime, bring water, brown sugar, soy sauce and ginger slices to a rolling boil in small sauce pan.  Boil vigorously for 15 minutes.  Lower heat to medium and add corn syrup.  Cook until mixture thickens to the point where the glaze stops half way when dripped from a spoon.

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Take out ginger slices with a slotted spoon and set aside when slightly thinner than you want.  It will thicken significantly as it sits.

The key to crispy chicken is cooking it twice, so after you cook all the chicken wings once, refry briefly (about 3 minutes or so) right before you are ready to serve. 

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Pale and limp looking once-cooked chicken

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Deep golden brown and super crispy twice-cooked chicken

Drizzle glaze over the chicken and toss carefully.  Serve immediately and be prepared for to be asked for the recipe.


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After eight months of daring baking, Thanksgiving, a Christmas party, gallons of cream, pounds of chocolate, and bricks of butter, I had to take a cold look at my jeans I was having trouble buttoning.  No, the jeans weren’t shrinking in the wash – it was the almost 8 pounds I have gained in the past year.  So, I, along with millions of others, decided to shed those extra pounds this new year.

I dusted off my old Weight Watchers cookbooks and decided to try this recipe from In One Pot, a surprisingly good cookbook for those trying to lose weight while still wanting to cook with real ingredients (translation: nary a condensed cream of anything soup to be seen).  I decided to try this orzo recipe since it is similar to a mushroom risotto I blogged about a month or so ago.  Orzo is an easy alternative to the constant stirring risotto requires. 

Adapted from Weight Watchers In One Pot
Yield 6
1 C. serving = 5 points

1 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 minced garlic clove
3/4 lb fresh shiitake, crimini or baby bella mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced
1/3 C. dry sherry
2 C. low-fat milk (1%)
4 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 C. cooked orzo
10 oz. cooked chicken breast
1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in large non-stick skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly brown, about 4-5 minutes.  Add sherry and cook until it evaporates, about 1 minute.

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Combine milk, cornstarch , salt, pepper and nutmeg in  a bowl until smooth.  Add the milk mixture into the skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens, about 3 minutes. 

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Stir in the orzo and chicken.  Cook, stirring occasionally until heated through for several minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the parsley. 

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Chicken Cassoulet

September 9, 2008

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 The recent onslaught of hurricanes and tropical storms have left its mark all along the Gulf Coast and Eastern seaboard.  Dark skies and heavy rains make for a perfect day for a cassoulet, a French stew made of white beans, vegetables, and meat.  Just add a salad and some crusty bread, and you have yourself the perfect meal to chase away gray skies.

Chicken Cassoulet with Panko Topping (adapted from Martha Stewart)

5 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
6 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
19 oz. cannellini beans
3 C. chicken stock
3 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into B-inch pieces
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 dried bay leaf
1 tsp. coarse salt 
1+ 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 C. panko breadcrumbs

Marinate the chicken: In a bowl large enough to hold chicken thighs, combine 2 garlic cloves, rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and vinegar. Add chicken; toss to coat. Cover; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in upper third.  In a large stockpot bring chicken stock with carrots, celery, onion, remaining 3 garlic cloves, bay leaf, sage, and remaining teaspoon thyme to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low until vegetables are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.  In the last 5 minutes, add the drained beans.

Transfer bean mixture to a colander set over a bowl, reserving cooking liquid; let cool slightly. Puree half the mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. With the motor running, pour in about 1 cup reserved cooking liquid until thick and smooth. Return to pot with remaining bean mixture. Add the salt; stir to combine.

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Brush an 8-by-2 1/2-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon the oil. Remove chicken from marinade, and arrange in a single layer in prepared dish. Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Remove dish from oven; pour bean mixture over chicken.  Combine the remaining olive olive with the breadcrumb, then sprinkle over the bean mixture.   Set dish on a baking sheet; return to oven, and bake until breadcrumbs are golden brown and beans are bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven; serve hot.

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The fresh herbs is the key to making this bean stew so savory and delicious.  The kids love to dip bread into the bean mixture and so do we.

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The mercury is hovering above the 90 degree mark and the humidity is palpable.  Ahhh, time for … a steaming bowl of chicken soup?  Yes, Koreans eat a special chicken ginseng soup on the hottest days of the summer, which counterintuitively is believed to cool and rejuvenate the body.  According to tradition, sam gae tang replenishes the body of essential nutrients while sweating out the toxins.  So in sweltering weather, the hotter the soup, the better.  (We’re an ornery people).

I like to eat sam gae tang both in the winter and the summer, especially if I feel a cold coming on.  And when they’re sick, both my husband and children can only palate a bowl of chicken soup to nurse them through a cold – it’s Korean penicillin and cold-eeze, all rolled into one. 

To be honest, I never cook sam gae tang with the ginseng root since it is commonly believed that ginseng is potentially harmful to young children or to people with hypertension.  While neither I nor my husband have high blood pressure, my mother does and never uses it in any of her cooking, and consequently, neither do I.  I did include some in this batch since I thought it was only proper as the name of the soup is “chicken ginseng soup.”

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Precooked whole chestnuts may be hard to come by in some areas, but try your local Asian market.  I get a vacuum sealed packet (back of above photo) for $.99.

Korean Chicken Ginseng Soup (Sam Gae Tang)
serves 3-4

3 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry
1 1/2 C. glutinous sweet rice, rinsed and soaked in water for an hour (chap ssal)
8 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
8 dried jujube red dates
8 precooked or dried chestnuts
2 fresh or dried ginseng root
salt and pepper
6 round coffee filters
kitchen twine
3 toothpicks
2 scallions, sliced

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Place about 1/4 C. of pre-soaked glutinous sweet rice in a coffee filter, being careful to leave room as it will expand during cooking.

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Place one garlic clove, jujube date, and chestnut inside the Cornish game hen’s cavity. 

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 Follow with a bag of glutinous sweet rice.

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Close the cavity up with a toothpick.

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Place stuffed hens, ginseng, remaining garlic, jujube dates, chestnuts, 3 remaining packets of sweet rice and enough water to cover the hens in a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil and skim off fat and foam.  Lower to low heat, cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.

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Season the broth lightly with salt and discard the ginseng.  Ladle the soup into large bowls, including a whole chicken, jujube, garlic, chestnuts and an extra packet of the cooked sweet rice per bowl.  Garnish with sliced scallions.  Serve with salt and pepper mixed in a small bowl on the side so you can dip the chicken directly into the seasonings.  Kim chi is also a must.  (An empty bowl for the skin, bones, date pits and coffee filters is helpful).

I hope you give this soup a try and if you’re not up for chicken soup in the summer, give it a whirl this winter.  I know you’ll love it.

My second Daring Bakers Challenge is another first for me – Danish braids.  Made from a yeasted butter-laminated dough, Danish braids can be filled with sweet or savory fillings, and I opted to make one of each.  (Actually, I ended up making three kinds of braids since I like to make more work for myself).  The actual dough-making process was not terribly difficult, although it did require several hours for rolling and allowing the dough to rise.  What made this into an all-day affair was my savory braid, which had about 100 ingredients, but was well worth the time and effort.


Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe) 
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.  Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice.  Mix well.  Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated.  Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth.  You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky.  Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

1.    Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free.  Set aside at room temperature.
2.    After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick.  The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. 

Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. 

Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. 

Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third.  The first turn has now been completed.  Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally.  Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3.    Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface.  The open ends should be to your right and left.  Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle.  Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third.  No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed.  Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4.    Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns.  Make sure you are keeping track of your turns.  Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight.  The Danish dough is now ready to be used.  If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it.  To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze.  Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling.  Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

For the egg wash:  1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1.    Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  On a lightly floured  surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick .  (Now I rolled this out to about 30 X 40 and cut it into 3 rectangular pieces, 2 equal sizes and one larger than the others).   If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again.  Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2.    Along one long sideof the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart.  Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.


3.    Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle.  Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover.  Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling.  This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished.  Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.



Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1.    Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid.  Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2.    Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3.    Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15 minutes more, or until golden brown.  Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature.  The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.


The Fillings

And now for the fun part:  the fillings.  My first choice was fairly simple – a strawberry cream cheese filling with sliced almonds on top.  The recipe below is more than double what I needed for my small braid but would be perfect amount if I had simply halved the dough recipe.


Sweet Cream Cheese for Danish Filling

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1/2  C. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat all ingredients until fluffy. 

The strawberries were picked earlier this month by my children and a friend at a local farm.  I made a basic jam out of them and used that on top of the sweetened cream cheese.

I topped the braid with an egg wash and sprinkled with sliced almonds.


IMG_9685I filled my second braid with a sour cherry filling with cherries picked from my kind and generous neighbors’ backyard.  Sour cherries are mouth-puckeringly sour but when sweetened with just the right amount of sugar, they bake into the most deliciously tart filling.  The struesel masked my oddly anatomical braid while simultaneously adding sweetness.  This recipe uses a large amount of corn starch in order to make the filling as thick as possible to discourage a runny or exploding braid.

Sour Cherry Danish Filling

2 C. sour cherries, rinsed and pitted
1/4 C. sugar
2-3 Tbs. corn starch

Bring all three ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan while whisking frequently.  Simmer at medium high for 2 minutes then let cool completely.

Streusel Topping

1/2 C. all purpose flour
3 Tbs. (packed) golden brown sugar
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/4 C. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix first 5 ingredients in bowl. Add melted butter and vanilla; rub in with fingertips until small clumps form.

I tried to get fancy with my sour cherry braid, but it ended up looking like a grotesque vertebrae lying on my counter.  That was quickly remedied by struesel topping.

Homemade danishes and coffee – does it get any better than this?


IMG_9770And for my pièce de résistance – a unique combination of sweet and savory in one dish, b’stilla.  B’stilla (also called pastilla or bsteeya) is a traditional Moroccon pie made with pigeon, although more commonly with chicken, almond sugar and phyllo, topped with powdered sugar.  I modified this recipe to fill a single braid, although this could be doubled to fill two braids or a phyllo pie (the traditional way to serve it).

The ras el hanout (translation:  “top of the shop”) has the potential to be a bank-breaking proposal.  If you have the great luck to live near an Indian grocery store like me, however, 90% of the spices listed below are incredibly inexpensive (like $1.99 for 8 oz. of coriander seeds).  The aroma of the chicken cooking in that amazing blend of spices will make you finally truly comprehend your lessons back in the fifth grade about the spice trade and how it become the driving force among  European nations, inciting wars and building empires.  One bite of this B’stilla and you’ll nod in understanding.

B’Stilla Filling (adapted from Gourmet)

For the almond sugar:
1/4 C. blanched whole almonds, toasted and cooled
1½ Tbs. sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon

For the filling:
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
2 tablespoons hot water
1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, cut into thin strips
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. chicken leg quarters ( about 2)
3/4 C chicken broth
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
powdered sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling
2 teaspoons ground ras el hanout

For the ras el hanout: (Moroccan spice blend)
1/4 tsp. aniseed
1 tsp. fennel seeds
4 whole allspice berries
seeds from 4 cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom)
4 whole cloves
8 whole black peppercorns
1 stick cinnamon, broken in half
1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. cumin
a pinch dried red pepper flakes
a pinch ground mace
1/2 Tbs. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

To make the ras el hanout:
In a cleaned coffee grinder grind fine aniseed, fennel seeds, allspice berries, cardamom seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, and red pepper flakes, In a small bowl stir together ground spice mixture, cumin, mace, ginger, and nutmeg until combine well. Ras el hanout may be stored in a tightly closed jar in a cool dark place up to 6 months. Makes about 2 tablespoons.


To make the almond sugar:
In a food processor grind fine almonds, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Almond sugar may be made 1 day ahead and kept covered in a cool dark place.

To make the filling:
In a small bowl combine saffron with hot water and let stand 10 minutes.

In a heavy 4-quart pot sauté onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate and add ginger, ras el hanout, and pepper. Cook mixture, stirring, 3 minutes.

Add chicken parts, broth, and saffron mixture and simmer, covered, turning the chicken once, until chicken is very tender and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Let chicken stand in cooking liquid off heat 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, reserving cooking liquid and solids, and, when cool enough to handle, shred chicken, discarding skin and bones.

Measure reserved cooking liquid and solids and if necessary boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 cup. Reduce heat to moderate and add eggs in a stream, whisking. Cook mixture, stirring, until eggs are set, about 3 minutes. Remove kettle from heat and pour egg mixture into a coarse sieve set over a bowl. Let mixture drain undisturbed 10 minutes before discarding liquid. Transfer egg mixture to a bowl. Stir in chicken, parsley, coriander, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste and chill. Filling may be made 1 day ahead and kept chilled, covered.

After cutting diagonal 1″ strips along each side, spoon almond sugar over the middle section of the dough.  Place chicken mixture on top of the almond sugar and close braid.  Apply egg wash and complete proofing and cook as per recipe above.  Allow to cool slightly and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  I made a stencil of a palm tree since it fit the long nature of the braid.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

No need to say “Open Sesame.”  This braid will disappear in seconds.



Coq au Vin

May 13, 2008

What do you cook when it’s raining, 50 degrees outside (in mid May) and you have these two items on the counter?

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The answer is coq au vin, bien sûr.  I just cannot bring myself to cook it the traditional way by using an entire bottle of wine, but I think this recipe still results in a rich full flavor.  And you can still have a couple glasses to drink with your delicious dinner.


Coq au Vin

6 slices of chopped bacon

2 Tbs. olive oil

1/2 C. plus 3 Tbs. flour

4 chicken leg quarters, excess skin and fat trimmed (or small whole chicken cut up)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots, sliced

2 medium onions, quartered

10 oz. button mushrooms, quartered

2 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped

1 bay leaf

2 C. dry red wine (Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, French burgundy)

2 C. chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbs. butter for rue


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook chopped bacon in dutch oven until crisp, about 4-5 minutes. 

 (shhh…. don’t tell my husband there’s bacon in this dish.  Hey, the red wine makes it heart-healthy!)

Transfer bacon to paper-towel lined plate and drain all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat out of pot.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to pot and heat on medium high.  Coat chicken with flour and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Working in batches, sear chicken until brown, about 4-5 minutes per side.  Transfer to plate.

 Add garlic to pot and saute for about a minute.  Then add onions, mushrooms, carrots and thyme until onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add red wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits.  Add chicken stock, bay leaf, and bacon and boil about 5 minute more.  Place chicken back in the pot, cover and bake for about 1 1/4 hours.


Optional:  If you like your sauce thicker, make a rue (heating 2 Tbs. butter and 3 Tbs. flour) in small saucepan.  After chicken is cooked, transfer wine sauce into the saucepan with the rue, bringing to a boil, whisking until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper and pour over chicken and vegetables.


Serve with mashed potatoes, egg noodles or a crusty bread.  And of course, your left-over wine (Bearboat Pinot Noir 2005).


Chicken with Pesto

May 1, 2008

Chicken and cavatappi with pesto

When my son was very young, still small enough to be sitting in a high chair, we went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant.  It was a “real” restaurant with no kids’ menu, so we ordered buttered penne with parmesan for him.  Once our meals came and he saw what we were eating, he would have nothing to do with his plain pasta.  My husband had ordered a pesto dish that was quite heavy on the garlic, a dish of which he had very little as my son took quite a liking to it.

 So two years later, pasta with pesto is still my son’s favorite meal, and the more garlic, the better.  It’s one of my favorites to make as it is an almost no-cook meal, like my daughter’s favorite meal, California rolls.  This is a great go-to meal on nights we have soccer practice or ballet.


(enough to coat one pound of pasta)

3-4 C. basil leaves

2-3 cloves of garlic (keep the breath mints handy)

1/4 C. toasted pine nuts

1/4 C. grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 C. extra virgin olive oil

Place first four ingredients in a food processor and pulse while slowly pouring in the olive oil.  (Purists feel free to break out the mortal and pestle and bruise away).  Season and mix into cooked pasta.  I reserve a few tablespoons to top the grilled chicken breasts.



While this meal may be the kid’s choice, the wine is all mommy’s (Misterio Malbec 2006 – a great pairing).