April 19, 2007

We're Moving!

Maryland, here we come! We just bought our first home, closed on it this past Monday afternoon. Actually, it's not that far from where we are in Chincoteague...about 30 minutes. But, it's that much closer to civilization, which is always a good thing. Maryland is my home state, and I'm looking forward to returning to it. While I love the ocean, I have got to admit that I'm a Bay girl at heart. I grew up on the Chesapeake. Boating, crabbing, tubing...we did it all. We'd wake up on a Sunday morning, hop in the boat, and go over to Rod N' Reel in Chesapeake Beach for their breakfast buffet. After breakfast we'd walk the beach below Calvert Cliffs (unfortunately, they don't allow you to do this anymore) and find sharks teeth. Those were such fun trips!

The house is great, a Cape Cod built in 1935. Needs some work, but it's all work that Jon and I can do ourselves. Painting, floor refinishing, kitchen remodeling. Heh, I must admit I'm kind of agonizing over the latter part. The kitchen that is currently in there is...how can I say this? Vintage. I refuse to cook anything in the ancient wall oven that is currently in there. It's so small...I don't think I could fit my damn dutch oven in there! The countertops and cabinets are hideous. So, I think we're going to just say to Hell with it and just totally re-do the kitchen. Cabinets, countertops, range, floor. I just keep looking forward to what it will be like when we're finished. I'll finally have a gas range, it's going to be wonderful! It's just going to take a little time...Needless to say, don't be expecting too much in the food dept. from me in the next month or so. Which sucks, I'm sick of take-out already. On the bright side there is a great italian place that delivers right in town. We tried their pizza the first night, and it was quite good. I think we may get them again tonight, and I'll try a pasta dish this time. They had a damn fine cannoli as well.

Speaking of italian, does anyone watch the Sopranos? Things are really starting to get good...

April 13, 2007

Tangerine-Beef Stirfry

This is a recipe that I tested for Cook's Illustrated last night. It was the first recipe that I was a tester for, and it was delicous. A light tangerine oriental flavor. I served it over Jasmine rice, although next time I think I'll try brown...I think the dish would benefit from the heartier, nuttier flavor that brown rice lends. I hardly ever buy flank steak. For something that was considered "trash meat" 5 years ago, is now close to $9 a pound. But, I broke down and bought some for this recipe. I must say that I really enjoyed it, and will try working with it again in the future. I used more garlic than the recipe calls for, per usual. I also think the stir-fry could use a little more color, the addition of carrot might be nice. All-in-all it was a wonderful, easy, weeknight dinner. Jon and I both really enjoyed it!

Tangerine Stir-Fried Beef with Onions and Snow Peas
Serves 4

To make slicing the flank steak easier, freeze it for 20 to 30 minutes. If flank steak is unavailable, replace with sirloin tip steaks (also called flap meat) or blade steaks, trimming any excess fat and gristle before slicing thinly. If using blade steak start with a pound of meat in order to compensate for any loss during trimming. Serve this dish with rice. Orange can be used in place of tangerines. If available, substitute 1 teaspoon toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns for the hot red pepper flakes.

4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
12 ounces flank steak, cut into 2-inch-wide strips with the grain, then sliced across the grain into 1/8-inch-thick slices (see note above)
3/4 cup juice plus 1 teaspoon grated zest from 2 tangerines
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 medium garlic cloves, pressed through garlic press or minced (about 1 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon Chinese black bean sauce
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, halved and cut pole-to-pole into 3/8 to 1/2-inch wedges
10 ounces snow peas, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons water

1. Combine 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sugar in medium bowl. Add beef, toss well and marinate at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring once. Meanwhile, whisk remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, tangerine juice, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch in medium bowl. Combine tangerine zest, garlic, ginger, black bean sauce, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon oil in small bowl.

2. Drain beef and discard liquid. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add half of beef to skillet in single layer, breaking up any clumps. Cook, without stirring, for 1 minute, then stir and continue to cook until beef is browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer beef to medium bowl. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in skillet, and repeat with remaining beef. Wipe out skillet using paper towels.

3. Add remaining tablespoon oil to now-empty skillet and heat until just smoking. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently until beginning to brown and soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add snow peas and continue to cook until spotty brown, about 2 minutes longer. Add water and cook until vegetables are tender but still crisp, about 1 minute. Push vegetables to sides of skillet to clear center; add zest/garlic mixture to clearing and cook, mashing with spatula, until fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds. Stir to combine zest/garlic mixture with vegetables. Return beef and any accumulated juices to skillet and stir to combine. Whisk sauce to recombine, then add to skillet; cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and evenly distributed, about 30 seconds. Transfer to serving platter and serve.

April 5, 2007

Chicken Marsala

I found this recipe for Chicken Marsala from Cook's Illustrated a few years back. Over the years, I've made some adjustments. I think I've got it down to just about perfect now. If you like a thicker sauce, prepare a slurry of cornstarch and cold water, the add that to the sauce after you've melted in the butter. Serve atop a bed of fettuccine, with a side of fresh sauteed green beans. Absolutely delicious! Recipe can easily be halved by just using 2 chicken breasts instead of 4. I'd recommend using the same amount of sauce though. Enjoy!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
kosher salt
ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices of bacon or pancetta, chopped
2 cups white or cremini mushrooms
2 large garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tbsp.)
1 tbsp. minced shallot
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 cups Marsala wine (sweet)
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1 small lemon)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter cut into 4
pieces, room temperature
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place large heatproof dinner plate on oven rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until very hot (you can hold your hand 2 inches above pan surface for 3 to 4 seconds), about 3 minutes. Pat chicken breasts dry. Meanwhile, place flour in shallow baking dish or pie plate. Season both sides of chicken cutlets with salt and pepper; working one piece at a time, coat both sides with flour. Lift breast from tapered end and shake to remove excess flour; set aside. Add oil to hot skillet and heat until shimmering. Place floured cutlets in single layer in skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip cutlets and cook on second side until golden brown and meat feels firm when pressed with finger, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to heated plate and return plate to oven.

2. Return skillet to low heat and add pancetta; saute, stirring occasionally and scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits until pancetta is brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towel--lined plate. Add mushrooms and increase heat to medium-high; saute, stirring occasionally and scraping pan bottom, until liquid released by mushrooms evaporates and mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and shallot Saute for 1 minute. Add cooked pancetta and tomato paste. Stir while sauteing, until tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute. Off heat, add Marsala; return pan to high heat and simmer vigorously, scraping browned bits from pan bottom, until sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes. Off heat, add lemon juice and any accumulated juices from chicken; whisk in butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in parsley. Pour sauce over chicken and serve immediately.