Herb Gnocchi with Lemon Thyme Chicken



Lemon-Thyme Chicken



I have yet to make fresh pasta, for lack of this KitchenAid Mixer pasta attachment, but I thought I’d try making some gnocchi. My Essential Pasta Cookbook has the basic gnocchi recipe, and I made a few adjustments.

Herb Gnocchi with Pesto Parmesan Sauce

You’ll need:

2 large potatoes (about 1 lb)—use old potatoes—supposedly these are more starchy and make for better gnocchi. I let mine sit for about 4 days.

about a cup of flour

3 tablespoons chives

3 tablespoons basil

teaspoon of salt

1 egg yolk

Pesto Sauce

2-3 tablespoons pesto

1-2 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

fresh ground pepper

First, cook your potatoes (I baked mine). Scoop out the insides and let them cool. Add your egg yolk, herbs and salt and MASH. Mash those babies like there’s no tomorrow. I ended up with a few chunks of potato in my dough—not ideal.

Then, slowly incorporate the flour while kneading the dough. Basically, you want a dough that is damp but not super sticky. Keep adding flour until you get there.

Flour your work surface and being rolling long small portions of the dough into long ropes about the width of your thumb (that’s for the ladies—you big-pawed guys should aim for about the size of your ring finger). Then, using the side of a fork, cut the rope into 1 inch pieces like this:

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Hopefully these pictures give you an idea of how to form the gnocchi—the book’s description didn’t help me one iota. I mastered my technique via YouTube.

First, take a piece and rest it on the tines of your (floured) fork. Using your index finger, press down like so:



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Then, peel the gnocchi off the fork, while simultaneously folding it over itself to form a little pocket on the other end:



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There you go, you got it.



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Ta-da!



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See what I mean about the pocket?

If this awesome, step-by-step tutorial isn’t enough, here’s the YouTube Video. You might want to watch it if for nothing else than the awesome, robotic narration of “CHOW! HOW TO!” in the beginning.:

Once you’ve formed the gnocchi, line them up (not touching) in rows until you’re ready to cook them. You can also freeze them, but be sure to freeze them in a single layer, not touching. Once they are frozen like that, you can throw them all in a freezer baggie or tupperware.

Cook them in boiling water until they float to the top. Drain and gently toss in the sauce.



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And since every pasta deserves a protein partner …

Lemon-Thyme Chicken

You’ll need:

3 chicken breasts

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup white wine

1/4 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup flour

juice of 1 lemon, divided

1 1/2 tablespoons thyme

Fresh ground pepper

First, set the oven to 375 degrees. Season your chicken with a little salt and pepper (I wait to add the thyme in the baking dish, otherwise, it just falls off in the skillet). Then brown the chicken in a skillet and set it aside in a baking dish. Now sprinkle the thyme.

Heat the butter, white wine, chicken stock, juice of half of the lemon, and fresh ground pepper in a sauce pan. The stock should add sufficient saltiness, but you can taste and add more if needed. I cooked the sauce down a little and added some flour to thicken it up. Here’s a tip—either sloooowly sprinkle the flour in a little at a time while stirring, or make a roux to pour in, using water and flour. Otherwise, you’ll end up with big chunks of flour in your sauce.

Pour the sauce over the chicken in the baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes (if the chicken breast are large, you may want to cook them a little longer).

To serve, spoon some extra sauce over the chicken and squeeze the other lemon half over the dish.



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Herb Gniocci with pesto sauce



Crispy pizza crust: part two

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I applied the rolling-pin approach to my leftover pizza dough today. It’s definitely the way to go for a thin, crispy crust. I used my great old-fashioned wooden rolling pin. None of that silicone crap.



Crispy Crust



I cooked the crust first, as with before, and poked a few holes in the dough with a toothpick to prevent the giant balloon effect that I got before. Worked like a charm.

Then I topped it with pesto, minced garlic, some of my leftover fried eggplant, a tiny bit of shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan. I popped it under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

Then I sprinkled it with shaved parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes. It was SO good. Better than the eggplant parmesan panini, in fact.

All this pizza making has me eyeing this and this. Yet another couple of items to add to my kitchen tools wish list.



Eggplant Parmesan Pizza_9



Mystery ingredient revealed

Time to reveal the mystery ingredient:



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Ta-da! It’s Eggplant! And this concoction is an eggplant parmesan panini.



Eggplant parmesan panini



I haven’t had eggplant parmesan in a very long time. Perhaps because I tried to make fried eggplant a few years back and it was awful. I blame a bad eggplant.



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This beauty, on the other hand, can do no wrong. Aren’t eggplants funny? Dense and spongy, almost like a nerf ball. Cutting into them is so much fun. I digress.

Anyway, I saw this one in the grocery store and thought, what the hell, Eggplant Experimentation Round II, here we go.

Not sure what I did differently, but these fried eggplant slices were delightful.



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I tried two methods:

  • egg wash, italian-seasoned bread crumbs
  • egg wash, flour, egg wash again, italian-seasoned bread crumbs

The second method was the clear winner. Ironically, it’s the uglier one at the bottom of the picture. See? Picture-perfect doesn’t always translate to a yummy dish.

I used store-bought bread crumbs (and the Sandra Lee in me finally comes out!). They’re seasoned, but not seasoned enough, so I added a generous sprinkling of oregano, basil, salt and pepper.069624182X

I beat up a couple of eggs and followed breading-method number two.

I heated up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan on medium high. You can tell when the oil’s ready by flicking a drop of water in the oil. If it snaps, crackles and pops, it’s ready.

I fried the eggplant for about a minute or two on each side, and then transferred them to a paper towel.



Frying eggplant



Keep in mind that this is a picture of a first-breading-method slice. As I said, the egg-flour-egg-bread-crumb slices looked a little worse for wear.

Then, I went to work constructing my panini. I used an italian loaf (thanks, TJ’s), pasta sauce spread on both slices of bread (I like Newman’s Own—delicious, reasonably priced and the proceeds go to charity), and mozzarella and parmesan cheese. The trick is to sandwich the eggplant between two layers of cheese, sauce and bread.

I heated up my panini pan with a little olive oil and then buttered the outside of the bread on the panini. What? Olive oil and butter go great together—just ask Giada. Besides, everything’s better with butter. You should know that by now.
I don’t have a top for the panini pan, so I improvised:



Panini Press



Here, once again, is the finished product.



Eggplant Parmesan Panini_3



And now, the main event. Behold the look of sheer terror on his face. Priceless.



Eating a panini



The very tentative first bite.



The first bite



Hey, wait a minute … I think I like this …



This is good!



I LIKE EGGPLANT!!!

Please excuse the blurry photo. He was shaking with delight. (OK, it’s actually  just the slow shutter speed).



So Good!



Told you so.

Mystery Panini


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This mouth-watering panini has a secret. It’s harboring a cleverly disguised, rogue vegetable. Dave wouldn’t eat this sandwich if he knew what was nestled between it crispy exterior. Can you guess the sneaky ingredient? I’ll tell you after Dave takes his first bite.


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Heaven on Crust: prosciutto, arugula and parmesan pizza

This, my friends, is pizza the way it was meant to be:


Prosciutto Arugula Parmigiano Pizza


I first tried this delicious combination in a small trattoria in Turino Italy.

The crust was thin, crispy and warm. The flavors and textures of the uncooked toppings mixed PERFECTLY together: paper-thin slices of rich, salty prosciutto, generous shavings of parmigiano-reggiano, crisp, peppery arugula, a drizzle of olive oil, and fresh ground pepper.

If I’m ever lucky enough to see a similar menu item stateside, I plead with my fellow diners to split it with me. Most people aren’t into it. Maybe the arugula and prosciutto turns them off. Or the fact that this isn’t anything close to what we Americanos think of as pizza. If you people only knew what you were missing!

Last night, while shopping at Trader Joe’s, I noticed pre-made pizza dough (for just $1.19!), prosciutto, parmesan cheese and arugula ALL IN THE SAME AISLE! Coincidence? I think not! OK, so the place is pretty tiny. But never mind that. I HAD to make this pizza.


Pizza dough



Prosciutto



Parmesan shavings


Prosciutto, Arugula and Parmesan Pizza

You’ll need:

pizza dough (Trader Joe’s dough is awesome and cheap)

parmesan cheese, thinly shaved/sliced

prosciutto

extra-virgin olive oil

arugula

fresh ground pepper

First I prepared the dough. My first job was at Domino’s Pizza—I know what I’m doing here. The trick is to take the dough ball and press your fingers around edge while stretching it slightly with the other hand to form a crust. Keep the center dome-ish for now, like this:


Forming a crust with Pizza dough



Making a pizza crust


Then slap the dough between your hands to stretch it. Try a spinning toss if you’re feeling lucky. If the prospect of dropping your dough or ripping it in two makes you nervous, you can always roll it out with a rolling pin. But that’s not really my style.

Get the crust as thin as possible. Mine came out a little too thick for my liking. Come to think of it, a rolling pin may be just the trick. Darn.

Put the crust (hold your horses on the toppings) in a 475-degree oven on a sheet of tinfoil or a pizza stone. I purposely left my sheet pan out of the equation (it prevents cookies and the like from burning on the bottom), because I wanted a super crispy crust.

Once in the oven, my pizza crust ballooned without any toppings to keep it in check. I poked holes in it with toothpicks. Crisis averted. Try poking your dough with a fork before you put it in the oven.

When the crust was hard enough, I placed it directly on the oven rack for an extra crispy crust. I think it was in for about 15 minutes total, maybe a little less. Take it out when it looks like this:


Cooked Crust


Notice the conspicuous toothpick pricks? Now comes the fun part.

First, drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil.


Crust with olive oil


Now pile on your prosciutto.


Crust with prosciutto


Then comes the arugula.


Crust with Arugula


Sprinkle your parm shavings.


Parmesan crust


Now for one last drizzle of olive oil and a few turns of the pepper grinder.


Prosciutto Arugula Parmesan pizza


The marbling of the prosciutto makes this one a little difficult to cut, but it is SO worth the extra work.


Arugula Parmesan Prosciutto Pizza


Recipe relations: pupusas and corn cakes with shredded chicken


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Per my post about smart shopping, here are two great recipes that are very closely related, yet pleasantly unique.

We’ll start with the pupusas, but first a background story. It’s quick, I promise.

When I worked at the ad agency, we had several clients in the food industry, and one particular client that did amazing work in flavor and ingredient manufacturing.

I was a PR account manager and copywriter on this account, which required me to subscribe to and read loads of fabulous food trade publications. Picture Bon Appetite for restauranteurs and food product formulators.

One particular article I discreetly ripped from our agency’s copy of Flavor & The Menu has been gathering dust in my cookbook for a little more than a year.

The article was on pupusas and arepas, traditional Salvadoran and Venezuelan dishes, respectively, and since there were no recipes featured, other than instructions for the simple dough preparation, I experimented a little and came up with this:

Shredded chicken and cheese pupusas

You’ll need:

2 cups masa flour

2 cups water

shredded mexican cheese (the traditional Salvadoran cheese is Quesillo, I used a blend of Asadero, Gallego, Manchego and Anejo Enchilado)

chicken filling (this is optional, recipe at the very end of this post)

This could not be any simpler: Mix the masa with water until you have formed a soft and moist dough.

Form dough balls in between the size of a golf and tennis ball (hmmm…the size of a racquet ball, perhaps??).


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The balls should not crack on the edges when you flatten them—if they do, add more water.

Using your finger, shape the balls into mini bowls and fill them with the topping of your choice. The chicken filling is delicious, but since I also used it in the corn cake recipe, I made the majority of my pupusas with only cheese.

Traditionally, this is how it’s done, and sometimes with Chincharron, beans, or all three. Next time I’m trying this with refried black beans. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


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See, they’re cracking—not good. Still delicious, but not as easy to work with.

Now comes the tricky part. Seal the top of the ball by working the edges of the dough over the hole. A little water will seal the deal.

Don’t fret—my first few balls were disastrous. Keep practicing.

Now lightly press down on the balls, forming 1- to 1/2-inch thick patties—try not to let the filling ooze out. Again, practice makes perfect.

Heat up a pan with some vegetable oil and fry them up (medium-high heat, about 2-3 minutes on each side).


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The recipe for the traditional Salvadoran topping can be found here. I did a dollop of daisy. Sour cream, that is.


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Here’s what the gooey insides look like (this one had the chicken in it):


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Yum. Now onto this recipe’s cousin: Corn cakes with shredded chicken and salsa. These were inspired by the magnificent Rick Bayless (who happens to be kicking ass on Top Chef Masters. Go Rick!) and his AMAZING Frontera Grill, and the Tamale Griddle Cakes from Prudence Pennywise.

Corn cakes with shredded chicken and salsa

You’ll need:

1 cup masa

1/2 cup fresh sweet corn kernels (canned will work in a pinch)

1 cup water

2 tablespoons sour cream

1/8 cup shredded mexican cheese

1 tablespoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon ancho chile powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

The batter should be the consistency of pancake batter. Dave told me not to post this picture because he thinks it’s completely unappetizing. I have to agree, but I’m doing it to give you a visual reference. Plus, I promise the end result is mouthwatering. Sorry Dave.


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Cook the batter just as you would pancakes. Just a tip—these take a little longer, so set the heat at around medium and let them cook about three minutes on each side.

In the meantime, reheat your shredded chicken if it isn’t hot off the stovetop.

When the cakes are done, top them with shredded chicken, salsa (this one would be awesome) and a little shredded cheese.


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Now for the family reunion:


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Unfortunately, they didn’t have much time to catch up:


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Shredded mexican-style chicken


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You’ll need:

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces (you can also buy them like this—fajita style—but it costs more)

¼ cup olive oil

1 can black beans

½ Mexican beer (Corona, Tecate, Dos Equis)

1 green pepper, coarsely chopped

1 jalapeno, minced

½ onion, coarsely chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 can crushed tomatoes

3 tbsp cumin

2 tbsp crushed red pepper

1 1/2 tbsp salt

1 tbsp pepper

Cook the green peppers and onions with the chicken and the olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat, until the vegetable begin to cook a little and the chicken browns.

Dump in all of the other ingredients. I did this is a large pot, but it would be even simpler in a crock pot. Set it and forget it.

Simmer over medium to medium-low heat for one to two hours, or until most of the liquid cooks down and the chicken begins to get tender and shred. I help my chicken along by mashing it with a fork when I stir the pot.

¡Que fácil y delicioso!

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