Friday, July 29, 2011

Crab-Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Pesto Alfredo Sauce

Justin's cousin Mike was visiting us from St. Louis and we'd had all these amazing things we wanted to cook for him, but it was his first visit to Northern California and we stayed busy (and lazy and purple hazy) and hadn't made anything after several days into his visit.  So I brainstormed some things I'd been craving and was originally going to make stuffed chicken breasts with a pesto ricotta, cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and olives.  Then Mike kindly reminded me how his mother's side of the family was Italian and his mom could make some mean Italian food.  I'm going to admit it... I chickened out of the challenge, at least part of the way.  What if after all the recipes he's seen, I try to make something "Italian", but really it comes off as a pathetic botched American version?!  Could I stand for him to go back to St. Louis and tell his mom?!  I wasn't sure.  So I compromised and changed it up to a little coastal crab stuffing!  Something he wouldn't get a lot of in the midwest, so it'd be both appropriate for his visit and it'd be something I'd been wanting to make for a while (crab stuffing).  But I was bound and determined to show him that I wasn't too much of a slouch in the ethnic cooking arena, and I kept the Pesto-Alfredo sauce.

Didn't take too long to cook for as "fancy" as it might have sounded, and it was delicious!  And we ate the hell out of it!  Oh!  And got some crab cakes out of it, too, the next night!  Sadly, we were too busy enjoying our company and food to take some nicer plated pictures.  :)

I don't even remember what we were listening to when we made this.  But I love the band Against Me!, and this song is so great, albeit the acoustic version.  No matter how many times I hear this line, "...and we'll dance like no one was watching... with one fist in the air," I get chills.  Actually the whole damn song gives me chills.  Though I'm still trying to get behind their more recent sound, I really love their earlier years.  Good band.  Good song.  Good food.  -jen

  • 8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shallots, diced fine
  • 1 cup mushrooms, diced fine
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, diced fine
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound crab meat 
  • 3/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1.5 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet,  heat olive oil on a medium-high heat.  Add shallots, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, thyme, and Italian seasoning.  Cook until shallots and mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and crab meat and cook for another 3 minutes.  Turn off heat and stir in bread crumbs and cheeses.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Set aside.

Place chicken thighs between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound until 1/4" thick.  Place 1/4-1/3 cup stuffing into each thigh and fold over like a taco.  Place in a lightly oiled baking dish and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

  • 12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) butter
  • 1/3 cup shallots, diced finely
  • 2.5 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
  • 3 heaping tablespoons pesto
In a medium-sized sauce pan, melt butter on medium-high heat.  Add shallots and cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender.  Add heavy cream and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until cream becomes to thicken. Add a small handful of the cheeses and stir until cheese is entirely blended in before adding another small handful.  Continue until all the cheese is incorporated.  Then stir in the pesto and remove from heat.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Miso Salmon With Cilantro-Ginger Sauce

I'm walking out of work one day last week, around six o'clock, and in the parking lot is a coworker, standing at the back of his pickup.  He asks me if I'd like some fresh-caught salmon... as if anybody would say no.  Even if you didn't like salmon, you would take fresh salmon, when offered, and then gift it to a friend, who will then think you are probably the most amazing friend they've ever had.  So of course I wanted some of his salmon!  And so on a piece of cardboard on his tailgate, he proceeded to fillet a three foot salmon that he just caught five miles off the coast, and I came home with a giant slab of salmon tail!

We eat a lot of fish, but for some reason, not a lot of salmon.  Justin had a few ideas for cooking it, but I was looking for something just a little different.  I'm not going to lie - I didn't make this recipe up off the top of my head.  I've never even cooked with miso before this (but I will be cooking with it again soon!)  I found a recipe by an infamously evil woman, and though it nearly shamed me to use it... well, it just sounded damn good, and who am I to let morals and ethics stand in the way of delicious grub?  I changed the recipe up a little, so it's not an exact duplicate.  I can't say if my way is better or not, because I've never tried the recipe in its original form.  But mine was delicious... so why even bother with the Mistress of All That Is Dark and Crafty's version?  The cilantro-ginger sauce alone was so delicious that we've already begun to come up with other uses!

For some reason, when I was trying to think of some good nautical themed music for this dish, the first song that popped into my head seemed perfect!  Jawbreaker's, "The Boat Dreams From The Hill".  Fell in love with this song the first time I heard it, but the lyrics also depress the hell out of me, even if they sing "fishy flutter on its rudder".  Maybe the song is apropos.  It's upbeat, but also depressing.  And this dish is delicious, albeit stolen from a villain!  And so I give you salmon and Jawbreaker.  -jen

  • 1 cup white miso
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed, plus one 1 teaspoon
  • 4-6 large salmon fillets
  • 1.5 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and quartered
  • 1 serrano chili, seeded
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (or 2 cloves)
  • 1 piece fresh ginger (about 2" in length), peeled and quartered
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
In a medium saucepan combine miso, vinegar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/3 cup water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until miso and sugar have dissolved; cool to room temperature. Marinate salmon in the miso sauce, refrigerated for at least 2 hours.  

 In a blender, combine cilantro, lime juice, shallot, chili, garlic, ginger, oil, and remaining teaspoon of brown sugar. Blend until mixture is smooth.

Heat broiler with the rack in the highest position. Place salmon skin-side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet and broil until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Salmon will flake from skin easily.  Serve with cilantro-ginger sauce.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sausage Gravy

Biscuits and gravy is not entirely uncommon in our house.  It was one of my favourite meals that we had when I was a kid.  My mom's father was from Tennessee and she spent summers there as a kid, watching the women cook giant Southern meals from morning until night.  When I was younger and there were four of us kids to feed, money was tight, so we had a version of Shit On A Shingle that was made with Buddig's beef lunch meat all chopped up in it, over Bisquick drop biscuits.  I loved it.  Once I got older and the older boys had moved out, my dad started making his gravy with sausage, which needless to say, was much better.  Growing up in California, Justin says he never even heard of "biscuits and gravy" as a kid until he'd joined the army at 17 and was introduced to their version of S.O.S.  But once I moved in with him, it became a more regular meal in our home... breakfast, dinner, it didn't matter.

Today, we decided to change it up.  Instead of our regular, quick Bisquick drop biscuits, Justin the Mighty and Awesome Baker I made some old school Southern biscuits... made with lard and rolled out on the counter top.  They came out so-so.  I'll post how I did the recipe, and though they weren't bad, they were kind of small and needed something else, so it's a work in progress until I get it right.  And instead of making my basic sausage gravy, I tried a few new things and am definitely happy with the results!  I always just ground the breakfast sausage up and no matter how much I tried chopping it up with the wooden spoon in the pan, or adding water while cooking, it stayed pretty chunky and I just wanted to get it a little finer for the gravy.  So I threw it into the food processor after it was cooked.  Perfect!  Also, been on a bit of a shallot kick, so added that to the gravy, as well as some Gruyere cheese just to be experimental.  It kicks ass!  I really wanted to make my own breakfast sausage, but it was getting late when I started cooking, so I just bought some Jimmy Dean sausage and spiced it up.  Here it is... guaranteed to cause a heart attack... our version of Biscuits and Gravy!

For music, well... that was pretty easy.  B&G make me think of my mom's family, from Tennessee.  Tennessee makes me think of Nashville and Memphis.  Those towns make me think of rockabilly music, which led me straight to psychobilly and The Reverend.  -jen

  • 2 pounds breakfast sausage
  • 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • couple dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 large shallots, diced fine
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Caldo de Pollo (or chicken bouillon)
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on taste)
  • dash of hot sauce
  • 1/2 gallon of whole milk
  • 1.5 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded fine
In a bowl, mix sausage with sage, 1 teaspoon thyme, marjoram, celery salt, red pepper flakes and Worcestershire sauce.  In a large skillet on medium-high heat, cook sausage until all pink is gone.  Set aside to cool.  Once cool, place in food processor and pulse until crumbled to desire size.

In a large skillet, on medium-high heat, sautee shallots and butter until shallots are tender.  Add flour and whisk until smooth, making a roux.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes.  While whisking, add milk and bring to a boil while continuing to whisk to break up any lumps.  Once boiling, turn heat to medium and add Gruyere in small handfuls, whisking until cheese is fully incorporated in sauce before adding next handful.  When cheese is fully melted in sauce, stir in the sausage and serve.

For the biscuits, I used Paula Deen's recipe, only I switched up the butter with lard, and the milk with buttermilk.  Like I said... they were definitely edible!  But I think I rolled out the dough a little thin and the flavour was missing something.  So I'm going to tweek it a few times and see what I can come up with.