August 24, 2008

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken


I make this recipe at least a couple times a month... sometimes as often as once a week. My kids love it. I always serve this over penne pasta because the sauce is *very* thick. There is a LOT of spinach in it... if you would prefer you could half the amount to make it creamier. I usually serve this with a slice of garlic toast on the side. It's a simple, filling and delicious meal.

Ingredients
1 # penne pasta, cooked to package directions. I also like a drizzle of good olive oil over the pasta right before serving for extra flavor.

2# fresh baby spinach, chopped and wilted in 1 tablesoon bacon grease (I know so sinful!) or olive oil.

2 Cups diced cooked chicken breast ( I like it grilled the best)



Alfredo Sauce
2 Tbsp unsalted Butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 Cups heavy cream
3/4 Cup parmigiano reggiano
1 tsp chopped Italian parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, saute garlic until soft.
Add the cream and bring to a simmer.
When the cream has reduced in volume by half (about 8-10 minutes)add the Parmesan and whisk well to incorporate.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss in the Italian parsley just before serving.

Once you have the chicken and spinach ready, make the pasta and Alfredo sauce at the same time. Once the sauce is completed, add the spinach and chicken, combine well and heat gently on the stove if needed. Serve over the pasta and enjoy!

August 20, 2008

Butter-Poached Lobster Tails



This was a first for me... but I will make lobster this way again, I guarantee. This was just too amazing. Tender and sexy. Delicious. Try it... you'll love it.

1 lobster tail, per person, shells removed.
Non-salted butter, cut into small chunks
1 tablespoon water

Determine how much butter you will need by placing the lobster tails in a large enough pan, side by side; add just enough water to cover. Immediately remove the lobster tails, drain them, set aside; and measure the water in the pan. You will need this amount of butter to cover and poach the tails.

When you are about an hour from serving the lobster tails, take them out of the refrigerator and bring them to room temperature.

To make the Beurre Monte:

Definition of Beurre Monte: Butter is an emulsification of 80% milk fat, 18% water, and 2% milk solids. Heating butter above 160 degrees will cause it to "break" or separate into its different composition parts. A Beuree Monte is a techniques of keeping melted butter in an emulsified state between 180 degrees and 190 degrees, which is sufficient to poach meats or vegetables.

In a saucepan, bring the 1 tablespoon of water to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low and begin adding the chunks of butter (a little at a time) whisking to emulsify. Once the emulsion is started, more butter may be whisked in faster. Hold the temperature of the Beurre Monte between 160 and 190 degrees for poaching. DO NOT BOIL OR THE MIXTURE WILL BREAK! The mixture should have the consistency of a very thick butter sauce. NOTE: Beurre Monte can be set aside on the stove after being prepared. You should use the beurre monte within an hour after you make it.

When ready to poach the lobster tails, use a thermometer and bring the beurre monte up to at least 160° degrees, but not over 190° degrees. Depending on how large and how many lobster tails you are preparing, will determine how long to poach them; it usually takes from 5 to 7 minutes. They should not be rubbery but of a soft consistency (almost as if not completely cooked). The lobster should be white and not very opaque in color. When done, remove them from the Beaurre Monte and serve.



Recipe credit to: Thomas Keller and his French laundry cookbook

August 19, 2008

We have an August WINNER!!!

A short time ago, I used random.org to draw a random number. And the winner is...
Rebecca from Foodie With Family!!! (click the name for a really nice website, too)


(click the picture to see a larger version)

CONGRATS Rebecca!

I hope you will all come back again and enter the next giveaway in September!

August 16, 2008

Scallops with Tarragon Cream and Wilted Spinach


This was a new way for me to serve scallops and we enjoyed it very much. I highly suggest using the Pernod, as the very first time I made this, I left it out and it wasn't nearly as tasty. I'd also suggest getting the jumbo sea scallops, if you can find them. The presentation is so much nicer in my opinion. Unfortunately, once again, my locale betrays me and the smaller sea scallops were all I could get my hands on. And please do make the spinach, cooking it in the pan drippings was simply amazing!

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided.
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup whipping cream

8 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon, divided.
3 teaspoons Pernod

1 Pound sea scallops, patted dry.
1 Pound baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly.

Method:
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sauté 3 minutes. Add wine; boil until reduced by half, about 2-4 minutes. Add cream, 6 teaspoons tarragon, and Pernod. Simmer until sauce coats back of spoon, about 2-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper; cook until brown and almost cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer scallops to plate. Add spinach and garlic to drippings in skillet; toss until beginning to wilt, about 1 minute. Spoon sauce onto plates; divide spinach between plates. Place scallops on each plate; sprinkle with remaining tarragon.

Serves 2 to 3.

August 15, 2008

Asparagus Risotto



Risotto is one of those dishes that seems to intimidate people. Maybe we've all watched too many episodes of "Hell's Kitchen" where Gordon Ramsay chastises his cooks for not making the risotto well and it's made it seem like a difficult dish. Really though, it's not. It does require some "babysitting." You need to watch it carefully so that it doesn't stick and it's takes your full attention to add the stock at intervals as the risotto cooks. But, still, risotto is not difficult... as long as you have patience and keep you eye on it.

This is the risotto I make most often as my family loves asparagus, but this recipe is also extremely flexible. You could substitute whatever vegetables you like for the asparagus.... mushrooms, peas, whatever might strike your fancy. You could add prepared shrimp, lobster or crab. Or,you could even eat it with nothing added. It's up to you. No matter how you eat it, I do hope you'll give it a try in your own kitchen and I hope you'll find it as lovely as I do :) Enjoy!

Ingredients
* 1 pound asparagus
* 4 Tablespoons butter (reserve 1 Tablespoon)
* 1/2 cup chopped shallots
* 1 cup arborio rice
* 1/2 cup white wine (use a dry wine you would like to drink, please!)
* 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
* 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* Salt and pepper

Method
* Prepare the asparagus by breaking off the last inch of the spear, this is to get rid of the tough parts. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Bring a saucepan with a quart of water to a boil. Blanch the asparagus pieces for 4 minutes. Remove the asparagus pieces and place into ice water. This will stop the cooking process and keep it's beautiful green color. Drain and set aside.

* Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Keep the stock simmering as you use it.

* In a 4 quart saucepan, heat 3 Tablespoons butter on medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until tender. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring until well coated.



* Add the wine. Stir, allowing the rice to absorb the wine. Once the wine is almost completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup of stock to the rice. Continue to stir until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, adding more stock in 1/2 cup increments. Make sure you keep stirring and do not walk away, you do not want this rice to stick. Continue cooking and stirring rice, adding a little bit of broth at a time, cooking and stirring until it is absorbed, until the rice is tender, but still firm. This should take about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

* Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining 1 Tablespoon butter. Finally, carefully fold in the asparagus. You may want to re-heat the asparagus a bit in the microwave before adding it to the risotto. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 side servings, or 2 meal sized.

August 8, 2008

My Favorite Knives

There are a lot of items in my kitchen that I couldn't live without, but near the very top of that list is my knife collection. I am *really* fussy about my knives. I've learned over time that a good set of knives can make the difference between a good kitchen experience and a bad one. There is nothing more frustrating that being ready to cook a well thought out meal and then coming to find that your knives aren't up to the job. It seems that a good portion of cooking is in the prep work; slicing, dicing, chopping, and paring. So, having a good knife (or 2 or 3) is essential.

My favorite brand of knives is WÜSTHOF. Over the years I have built up a nice collection of Wüsthof knives. They are pricey, but worth every penny. It took me some time to get my knives. I started out by buying the smaller, less expensive knifes and worked my way (slowly) through to the bigger, more expensive ones.

The one single knife I couldn't do without though?
This one:


This is the knife I use the most. My Wüsthof Culinar 8 inch Cook's Knife. This is "THE KNIFE." *MY* knife.


I hope you will make the investment in some knives you love for your own kitchen. It makes all the difference, I assure you. Talk to your friends, go to a department store when you can try them in your hands, read reviews. But find a knife that "fits" you, take good care of it and cook happy.

Good site about kitchen knives:
fantes.com

The Care and Sharpening of Kitchen Knives:
Knife Care

August 5, 2008

*Review* TranquiliTEA

TranquiliTEA
117 West Main Street
Waynesboro, Pennsylvania 17268

My 7 year old daughter and I recently took a "girls day out" and spent the afternoon having tea at TranquiliTEA in historic downtown Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. I was hoping this would be an experience to remember for my daughter, as this was her first grown-up affair, and the folks at TranquiliTEA delivered. It was an amazing time for both of us.

I have some experience with tea rooms and whenever I am in a new city, I seek them out. There is something wonderful about tea service, if done well. One leaves relaxed and refreshed. For a couple of hours you are treated like a lady, pampered, and can forget the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The whole point of tea service is to take a step back to simpler, slower times... when spending time chatting with a friend over a well prepared cup of tea was important.

My daughter and I chose to indulge in "Queen's tea," which was the most hedonistic of the services offered. In Queen's tea, you receive an entire service of a soup, finger sandwiches, scones, fresh fruit, desserts and an endless pot of tea. The entire experience start to finish takes a couple of hours, so plan to relax and fully enjoy the service. There are smaller services available. You can take a Duchess service, which includes only the endless tea and scones, or the Princess service which includes everything the Queen's tea does, minus the soup, but in smaller quantities. The current price for the Queen's tea is $16.95 per person.

TranquiliTEA's menu changes from time to time to reflect whatever foods are currently in season. On our visit, they were serving a delicious tomato bisque as their starter course. Keep in mind that the portion sizes at tea service are small, you don't go to tea expecting to have a full meal. These foods are delicate and petite, made to accompany the teas served and to encourage and accommodate lingering and conversation. The point of tea is spending time with your company and the food is there to enhance that time spent with them, not so much as the prime focus.

There were many teas to select from. White teas, herbal teas, traditional teas and many lovely and creative blends. I chose TranquiliTEA's most popular tea, the crème brûlée tea. My daughter chose first a chocolate raspberry decaffeinated tea, and then later switched to an amazing hot chocolate. The teas are served in individual pots on flame warmers and you can drink all you like. In fact, they even encourage you to try as many of their blends as you like. The Crème brûlée tea was so amazing though that I didn't even want to try anything else. I did try both of my daughter's selections and I have to say they were both wonderful. It's obvious that the folks at TranquiliTEA know their teas well. Knowledge really counts. It's not impossible to make a bad cup of tea. Certainly, we had what I like to call a "perfect pot."

The finger sandwich selection that day was delightful. There was a cucumber sandwich, dressed with a beautiful edible flower and bow. My daughter was particularly tickled over that one. There was a delicious pumpernickel, cream cheese, spinach and basil sandwich that was so good that I have made it several times since here at home. A chicken salad in puff pastry, an egg salad which had it's edges dipped in fresh herbs and finally a sweet sandwich of curried cream cheese served on cinnamon raisin swirl bread. Our favorites were definitely the spinach and cucumber, but all the offerings were very good.

We were served 3 small scones each. Again, the selections change from time to time, but on this visit we were treated to lemon poppy seed, orange lavender and French vanilla scones. There was a scrumptious lemon curd and a delectable clotted cream served along side the scones. The scones were tender and fresh and very clearly home made. Again well done.

The fresh fruit selections were sliced cantaloupe, green grapes, orange segments, and strawberries. The fruits were all very good, the finest grade, ripened well and presented beautifully.

Desserts included a German chocolate brownie square, a coconut macaroon, an apricot square and a small pecan tart. Again, all home made and very well executed. The desserts are all 2-bite sized. The macaroon and brownie squares were our favorite, but they were all delicious.

Our server was extremely personable and made sure that she was always available to cater to our needs, but also made sure she let us have our space. I think that is something so very important and yet difficult to do well. You want your server keeping an eye on your needs, but having them come around too often when you are conversing with your companions is distracting. She was graceful and able to clear the table of unneeded dishes, refill pots and the like without even being noticed and to me that is the mark of excellent service.

The atmosphere at TranquiliTEA was wonderful. This is a classic Victorian tea room with fine linen tablecloths to the floor, gentle piano music playing in the background, beautiful china and silverware. Lace edged linen napkins. There are many gorgeous antiques on display in the rooms. Hats, purses, tea cups, saucers and pots. Not only was this trip a treat for the palate, but for the eyes. TranquiliTEA entertains all your senses and provides you with a unique and unforgettable experience. We will definitely return to TranquiliTEA again.... *very* soon.

August 4, 2008

August Favorite Things Giveaway!

This month I'm giving away a "goodie bag" of a few of my favorite kitchen items... a bottle of my favorite olive oil, some of my favorite seasonings, and a few other surprises! All you need to do is follow the directions below to enter and when the winner is chosen at random, I will contact them for an address to mail out their winnings!

So, here's what you do to enter:
Comment on this entry with:
1. Your valid e-mail address
2. Your name (your online pseudonym is fine)
3. Tell me the one kitchen item you couldn't live without.


Get your comment entry in by 8/18/08 11:59 PM EST. I will pick a random winner on 8/19/08 and will announce it here.

August 2, 2008

Savory Mint Lamb (or PORK!) Chops



3 O'Clock in the afternoon on a Saturday and my Honey gets a craving for my spicy lamb chops. Great! Only one problem. In the middle of this cornfield in PA where we live, it's hard to find fresh lamb chops on short notice. If you want it fresh, you order it ahead... otherwise all that the butchers around here have on hand is frozen. So, what to do? I start thinking about it and decide that maybe the seasonings for my lamb chops would be tasty on pork chops? I ask the Honey if it sounds good to him, and it does, so I try it. And delicious and wonderful and divine it was! In fact... I've made pork chops this way a couple of times since. It's *that* good. I even served it with the creamy cucumber sauce I normally would serve with the lamb chops and it worked really well together. Yummy in the tummy :)



Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lamb Loin Chops or Center Cut Pork Chops
Fresh mint sprigs

Method:
Place olive oil, chopped fresh mint, minced garlic, salt, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, and black pepper in small bowl; mix well. Spread herb mixture over both sides of chops. Let stand 20 minutes. Grill or broil chops to desired taste.



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