Saturday, January 25, 2014

ChezCindy: Chicken Dijonnaise a la Dale

Our favorite local French restaurant served a pheasant dish with a pommery mustard sauce that was so delicious, it was hard not to order it every time we dined there.  Sad to say, the chef retired and the pheasant is just a memory.  In one of my French recipe cookbooks, I discovered a chicken recipe that meets the memory of that wonderful pheasant meal.  Here is my tribute to Chef Dale; thanks for the delicious memories.

Chicken Dijonnaise

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt & pepper to season

2 shallots, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 heaping teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard, such as Maille
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of white pepper
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Season  the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Add the chicken breasts to the hot pan; sauté turning only once, until golden brown on each side - about 3-4 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate; set aside.

Add the remaining butter and olive oil to the sauté pan, heat until foamy.  Add the chopped shallots, cook until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the white wine, cooking for 3-4 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, garlic and bring to a boil.  Boil until the liquid is reduced by half - this should take about 3-5 minutes.  Lower the heat, whisk in the cream and the mustard, cooking until the sauce is slightly thickened.  Whisk in the tarragon, thyme, salt and white pepper. 

Return the chicken breasts, and any collected juice, to the pan.  Cook until the chicken is heated through, about 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken. 

To serve:  Arrange the chicken breast on a serving plate, spooning the sauce over the chicken.  Garnish with chopped parsley.  We serve this with creamy mashed potatoes and a vegetable. 

Wine pairing:  French red Burgundy or a light bodied Pinot Noir 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

ChezCindy: Veal Stew with Sauteed Vegetables

This veal stew recipe has been added to my list of "must make each winter season".  I make a big pan of it on the weekend and serve it throughout the week.  It is hearty, delicious and reheats well for a quick mid-week dinner.  Pictured above, it is served with gnocchi.  But we also like it with egg noodles or spooned over mashed potatoes.  Yum. 

My recipe is derived from a recipe for veal Marengo, a French veal stew said to be made for Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French general.  The traditional basic ingredients for veal Marengo include veal, tomatoes, onion and white wine.  Modern day cooks expand on that list by adding additional vegetables to make a more complete stew.  I have added mushrooms, carrots and pearl onions (I use frozen pearl onions straight from the freezer).   If you are not a fan of veal, I am excited to make this same recipe using boneless chicken thighs.  I think that will be delicious too! 

Veal Stew with Sautéed Vegetables  
2 pounds boneless veal shoulder
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
bouquet of herbs*
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the sautéed vegetables
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup pearl onions
6-8 ounces mushrooms, cremini or white button
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
kosher salt
black pepper

chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with rack in the center of the oven.  Use a large Dutch-oven pan, or a heavy bottomed pan with a tight fitting lid.  Cut a parchment paper into a large circle to fit into the pan as a cover. 

Cut the veal shoulder into 2-inch cubes.  Season the veal cubes with salt and pepper.  Dredge the veal cubes with the flour to lightly cover all sides, shaking off the excess flour. 

Place the pan over medium-high heat.  Add the 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of butter.  When the oil and butter are hot, add about a third of the floured veal cubes to the pan.  It is important to not over crowd the pan, as the meat will not brown properly.  Brown the veal in 2- 3 batches, browning on all sides, removing each completed batch to rest on a plate.  This will create a good amount of brown bits in the bottom of the pan.  Taking your time on this step will yield great color and flavor to your stew. 

Once all of the veal has been browned, add in the chopped onion, cooking until lightly browned and wilted, about 3-5 minutes (if the pan looks to dry add a tablespoon of oil).  Stir in the tomato paste, cook for 2 minutes.  Carefully add the white wine, stir to bring up some of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan; cook for 5 minutes.  Add in the drained chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, salt, pepper, and the bouquet of herbs.  Add the veal back into the pan, including any juices that may have accumulated, stir to combine and bring to a gentle boil.  Turn off the burner heat.  Place the parchment paper circle onto of the stew - this will keep the liquids from evaporating - and cover with the lid.  Place the pan into the preheated oven.  Cook for 30 minutes. 

To make the sautéed vegetables: 
Working with a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the unsalted butter.  Once melted, add the pearl onions; stir to coat with the melted butter, cooking for about 5 minutes to lightly brown.  Chop the mushrooms into quarters or halves, add to the pan, stir to combine.  Allow the mushrooms to brown with minimal stirring at this point. 

Meanwhile, cut the carrots into thin diagonal slices. 

Once the mushrooms are nicely browned, add the thin sliced carrots.  Stirring occasionally, continue cooking on the stovetop until the carrots are tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside until the stew is ready to come out of the oven. 

After 30 minutes, remove the stew from the oven.  Carefully, remove the parchment paper cover and the bouquet of herbs, discarding both.  Add the sautéed vegetables to the stew, stirring to combine.  Taste for seasoning, adding additional salt and pepper as necessary.  Garnish with chopped parsley.  Serve warm and enjoy.  

 *Bouquet of herbs, known as a Bouquet Garni in French cooking, is a variety of herbs tied together wrapped in cheesecloth.  This allows your stew to have the flavor of the herbs without the stems and leaves released into the dish.  When the stew is done you simply remove the bundle of herbs and discard. I used 2 thyme sprigs, 2 parsley sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig, and 1 bay leaf.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

ChezCindy: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

There are numerous squash soup recipes available, but this one has become our "house favorite". 
It is requested by family and friends from Thanksgiving to Easter.  The apples give the soup just a hint of sweetness.  Finishing the soup with a touch of half-and-half yields a delicate, silky texture.  I often serve this as a first course for dinner parties. 

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 butternut squash, roughly 2 pounds
2 Granny Smith apples
4 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup half-and-half
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
scant 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Working with a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add the chopped onions and shallots; cook until softened, but not brown, about 4 minutes. 

Peel the squash, remove the seeds; cut into 2-inch pieces.  Peel and core the apples; cut into 2-inch pieces.  Add the squash and apples to the pan.  Stir to combine with the onions.  Add the finely chopped rosemary and thyme; stir in the chicken stock.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes until the squash and apples are very soft. 
Remove from the heat and allow to slightly cool.  Using a hand-held blender or a standing blender, puree the soup until smooth.  Stir in the salt, pepper and half-and-half.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  If the soup seems to thick, stir in an additional  1/2 cup of chicken stock. 

Perfect Wine Pairing:  pictured with the soup - Gentil "Hugel" Aslace from France

Sunday, January 5, 2014

ChezCindy: Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Pie

Making pie crust from scratch can be tricky.  But once you find the perfect recipe that works for you, it tastes so much better than the "already made" crusts bought from the grocery store.  My sister is actually the better pie crust maker in the family.  She can make pie crust as easily as breathing.  Which is why she usually makes the pies for each holiday gathering.

I used to struggle with making crust from scratch.  At times the crust would come out too tough or it would fall apart when I rolled it out and tried to transfer it to the pie pan.  But now, I have found my go-to recipe for pie crust and it works every time.  I actually have 2 go-to recipes, one for dessert pies and one for savory pies like quiche or tomato tarts.  You will find the savory recipe with my quiche post.  savory quiche pie crust

When I made this Tollhouse Chocolate Chip pie yesterday, I felt it was time to capture my pie crust  recipe here on my blog.  Each time I make a pie, I search through my box of recipes.  Now that sounds like I have a neat organized box of recipes.  But not...  My box of recipes is full of photocopies, pages torn out of magazines, hand-written notes, all somewhat organized.  My fear of misplacing the recipe has prompted me to add it to the blog site.  My husband tells a story that his mother used to make the best pie crust.  But no one has the recipe.  In her last years, even she could not remember her recipe.  So here is my perfect dessert pie crust.   I hope it works well for you.  Practice will lead you to mastering this technique.

Dessert Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks of cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup ice water

makes 2 pie crusts

Working with a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle, add the flour, sugar and salt to the mixing bowl.  On low speed, blend to combine.  Cut the 2 sticks of butter into 1/4 inch cubes.  Add to the flour mixture; mix on low speed until the crumbly.  The butter will look only somewhat combined and still have visible clumps.  With the mixer running, slowly add the 1/4 cup of ice water.  Mix only until the dough comes together and clings to the paddle.  If the dough appears to be too dry, add 1-2 teaspoons more of ice water.  It is key is to not over-mix.  Gather the dough into 2 balls, forming each into flatten disks.  Wrap each disk plastic wrap; refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.  This is an important step as it allows the dough to rest, the water to be absorbed by the flour, and the bits of butter to become chilled again.  The chilled butter bits are what makes the crust flaky and tender.   

Working with one disk, roll out on a floured surface into a 12-inch circle.  Transfer to pie pan for use with your favorite pie recipe.

This recipe makes 2 12-inch crusts, which in turn can be used for 2 single crust pies or 1 double crust pie.  The disks of dough can be frozen and thawed for a future use.  Wrap each disk separately in plastic wrap; place the disks in a freezer bag. 

Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Pie
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
3/4 walnuts, toasted

1 disk of pie dough

Roll out the single disk of pie dough, fitting into a 9-inch pie pan; crimp the edges.  Place the pie pan in the freezer while you make the filling.  The pie dough will be used straight from the freezer.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugars and salt until combined.
Working with the stand mixer, whisk the 2 eggs and vanilla until foamy, about 3 minutes.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture to the eggs; mix for 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides, add the softened butter.  Beat on high until well combined.  Fold in 3/4 cup of chocolate chips and walnuts.

Remove the pie pan from the freezer.  Transfer the pie filling to the frozen pie shell, spreading it out evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup of chocolate chips over the top of the pie.

To bake:  Cover the crimped edges of the pie with aluminum foil to prevent the crust from browning too quickly.  Bake for 30 minutes with the edges covered.  Remove from the oven, carefully remove the foil, return the pie to the oven and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes.  Test the pie by sticking a knife into the center of the filling.  The knife should come out clean with no clumps of filling clinging to it.  If necessary, bake for an additional 5 minute and test again.  Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack before slicing.