Monthly Archives: April 2016

CHICKEN SCAMPI STYLE

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CHICKEN SCAMPI STYLE BY A FOOD OBSESSION

One of the most delicious recipe styles is “SCAMPI STYLE”.  Generally it means a saute’ of Shrimp but the style can also be used on other seafood and poultry.  Chicken has that amazing ability to retain it’s distinctive poultry flavor yet take on all the flavors you’re cooking it with.  Versatile is the word! Garlic, Olive Oil, a bit of Butter, Wine, Lemon, and Parsley are the typical ingredients in the “sauce” that is created for Shrimp Scampi. Just replace the Shrimp with Chicken, in this case cut pieces of Boneless Chicken Breast.  OK, let A FOOD OBSESSION voice his very opinionated OPINION on white meat chicken.  It’s delicious when you are using good chicken (I use Organic chicken) and when you season it well and don’t overcook it.  Oh I like thigh meat and bone in thigh pieces for various Chicken Dishes as they will perform better in certain recipes than White meat, especially off the bone.  This is a showcase recipe for the unjustly maligned Boneless breast.  Sorry, you’re not getting FOODIE points from me if you bash white meat chicken..lol. Everything has it’s place.  By the way, I once tried this preparation with boneless thighs.  There’s a reason why THEY aren’t in the picture above.  Key to any dish being its best is the quality of the underlying ingredients.  Use that rule and your dishes will excel!!  Now talking to one of my inner food circle friends, he thought this dish sounded a bit like his idea of Lemon Chicken.  I make Lemon Chicken about 1000 ways as does everyone else, it’s one of those recipes that’s just a name of any recipe of chicken and lemons.  I’m pretty much keeping to the Scampi style here so I gave this that name.  Now there are some Chicken Scampi recipes on the WEB that simply have nothing to do with the agreed on recipe or method of SCAMPI STYLE.  Sauteed Peppers and Onions in the mix do not a Scampi make.  Call me closed minded but that would be Chicken with Peppers, Onions, Garlic, Wine, etc.  Next order of Shrimp Scampi you get, check to see if it comes loaded down with peppers and onions (hello, sometimes restaurants do that just to bulk up a dish…so, just putting that out there).  Don’t confuse my recipe with the one that comes from that ItalianAmerican chain restaurant…just saying.  What would you serve it with?  As much as I love Pasta this dish LOVES Rice or oven roasted potatoes.  Those would be my choices, you like the Pasta? use the Pasta. Quinoa, CousCous..Israel CousCous..all go nicely too.  The choice is yours…now let’s cook!

TIME: 1 hour   SERVES: 4

Ingredients:

4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts cut into 3 pieces and lightly pounded
1 CUP Seasoned  All Purpose Flour (Seasoned With Salt, Pepper, Granulated Garlic)
4 Tablespoons  EXTRA VIRGIN Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, SLICED THIN or MINCED
1 Cup White Wine
Juice From 1 Lemon,  5 thin lemon slices, for garnish.
1 Cup  ORGANIC LOW SODIUM Chicken Broth, preferably homemade
1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh ITALIAN FLAT LEAF Parsley, plus some sprigs for garnish
Kosher Salt , Fresh Ground Black Pepper

SPLURGE HERE:  3 TBS. of EUROPEAN BUTTER, UNSALTED for finishing the sauce.  (no interest in the Euro-Butter?  ok, any unsalted butter will do. But that EuroButter….)

This recipe works best with pounding the chicken pieces.  Pound them to about 1/4 inch, no thicker.  Dredge them in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess.  AFO NOTE: why are we flouring them?  creates a moister chicken at the end of the saute’, helps create some body for the pan sauce without making it “thick”.  In a wide pan, add the olive oil and heat. Saute’ the chicken for about 4 minutes per side, till golden.chicscampi 025

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chicken dredged, going into the heated olive oil and browning for 8 minutes.

Remove the chicken which you’ve cooked in batches  ( AFO NOTE: crowding creates cooking chaos!!! the oil will drop in temp, the touching of the chicken will create steam pockets and there will be no browning.  Are you in a race?  OK, good, take your time cooking.  That’s what makes a dish..attention paid to all the details!!!) to a bowl or platter and tent with foil.

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That’s what the chicken should look like after it’s been sauteed.

Deglaze the pan with a little of the White Wine and pour it over the chicken.  Now add 2 tbs. of ExtraVirgin Olive oil to the pan and when it’s heated add the garlic and saute’ just till fragrant, only takes about 1 minute.chicscampi 020 To this add the wine and the broth, pinch of salt, and when reduced by 1/4 add the chicken back to the pan. Bring this to a boil then IMMEDIATELY reduce to a simmer.  Let this cook for only about 4 minutes then add the Lemon juice and the parsley.  Mix.  The move the chicken to the sides of the pan giving you a small area in the center to melt in the butter. As soon as it’s melted (takes only seconds) make sure it’s incorporated into the whole pan and all the chicken is coated.  Remove from the heat. Gently mix in the parsley and season to taste with the salt and pepper.

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how good does that? look..oh, wait..it’s going to look even better!!

Serve immediately.  AFO NOTE:  if you over heat the butter, it separates immediately and doesn’t thicken your sauce. Make sure you don’t over heat it!

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I told you it would look even better.  Thin lemon slices and parsley garnish this dish.

Enjoy your CHICKEN SCAMPI STYLE…btw, always test the chicken for it being fully cooked by slicing into a piece, it should be easy to slice into, the juices should run clear.

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and there’s the money shot..all dressed up and somewhere to go…into your mouth!! That’s the Chicken Scampi served over Rice and Broccoli Rabe, with a side of Zucchini Marinara.

 

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STUFFED ARTICHOKES…A TRIBUTE TO A BEAUTIFUL SOUL

stufarti4316 006   Cooking is sometimes called a labor of love, you have to love to do it, you have to love the whole process, and you have to love to feed people and satisfy them.  Lots of love.  There’s another type of love and it’s the love you feel because that dish you are making, the aroma, the prep, the taste, the look, all of it combines and fills your soul with someone who has touched your heart.  Many times is a person who is still living…and many times it’s a reminder of someone who has left us.  This is such a dish for me.  Stuffed Artichokes are a very common dish in the Italian-American home.  Their origin is somewhere down south, this preparation anyway.  In many articles Sicily claims it and in others the people from Naples claim it.  Truth be told I’ve never met an Italian-American whose ancestry hails from any of the southern regions that doesn’t make this.  It definitely shows up at every Fall thru Winter holiday table.  It’s festive and there’s a good amount of work in making them, all worth it.  Simply put, they are trimmed, centers are cleaned out, and they are stuffed with any number of breadcrumb combinations, usually the same with some differences from kitchen to kitchen.  Before we tackle these amazing “vegetables” let’s discuss what they are.  For me, they are as common as apples and chocolate candy but I realize you all didn’t grow up in my home.  The ARTICHOKE is the bud of a type of THISTLE plant.  They are cut before the flower blossoms and to cook they are braised, steamed, fried, the leaves are scraped against your bottom teeth to release the delicious “meat”, the bottoms are eaten, and the hearts sometimes are used in salads, fried, baked, grilled.

Here is where this Stuffed Artichoke takes on a special meaning for me.  Whenever my mom made them and my recipe is close to hers it’s not exact, but when she made them she made sure to connect herself with her late sister Luigina (Jean) Scaramuzzi Clark.  You see Aunt Dee Dee (Italian American families have a confusing habit of calling someone 2-4 different names, don’t ask) would add pignoli to her stuffing, and she crowned each stuffed artichoke with a piece of Anchovy and some fennel seeds.  My mom would almost say a prayer as she was doing it.  “This is how my sister Jean would make then”..over and over again I can hear Mom saying that.  auntdede  It was 51 years ago on October 9, 1964 that my Aunt passed away leaving a husband and 2 children.  She was only 39, complications from a surgery.  I have a huge family and each Aunt and Uncle were special but Aunt Dee Dee was something just a little more than special.  That picture is of her in her home Easter 1959.  I think you can see from the picture the loving and fun person she was.  I was only 6 when she passed away but I was heartbroken.  I’ll say my mom never recovered from losing her sister, nor did the other 6 Scaramuzzi siblings.  Aunt Dee Dee let me do things my VERY over protective mom did not, like go around the corner to the store on my own, I know, only 6 but we are talking 1964, very different times.  The Italian store, FAZZINO’S was literally in Aunt DeeDee’s backyard.  I stayed over their home that summer of 1964, so long ago, it may have only been one night but it was like the best night ever.  My cousin Eddie had stacks of horror magazines that he let me pour through, and Aunt DeeDee needed something from the store, it might have been cold cuts so she gave me the money and send me around the corner and watched me go with the list.  What a thrill that was, I was a man now !!  I guess we had a nice lunch or dinner when Uncle Ed and cousin Joyce were home and that’s where that memory of letting me do something like a big kid ended. Dad picked me up and then it was back to waiting till I was a little older to do that again, but I never forgot my Aunt for giving me that thrill.  Only a few short month later she was gone.  However I’m sure I speak for my cousins, we’ve never forgotten her and every Oct. 9 I remember, and this one I decided to make the Stuffed Artichokes “her way”….my kitchen tribute to a loved Aunt who is still missed over 50 years later.

Ok…time to cook.

for 4                    Time: 2 hours

stufarti4316 015  It would be a lie if I said..so easy..artichokes are a pain in the ass to prep.  Don’t ask me for the easy way because Nature is Nature and they are what they are. If they are very prickly you must cut them away with a very sharp knife, trim the bottom and the stem leaves, then smash them onto a hard and flat surface. Then with your hands pry them open. See, it’s really a flower and you can see this as you pry them open.  Into the center you go and at the bottom are 2 layers..one if the choke…and it will do just that to you if you don’t remove it.  It’s a slightly thorny, needle like fuzz that with a spoon, a Grapefruit spoon best if you have one of them (really, who has them anymore?) scrape it all out, using the spoon and your fingers.  The layer under that is the  HEART, the prize, to me, one of the BEST TASTING FOODS ON EARTH. The idea here is to stuff down to the choke and fill in randomly the layers of leaves surrounding the choke.  It’s random RANDOM random…meaning there’s no symmetry to this. Every leaf doesn’t need to have stuffing on it…you’ll see.

  • 4 large artichokes (PREPPED)
  • 3/4  cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated PECORINO ROMANO
  • 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 smashed cloves for the sauce
  • 1/2 mashed filet of anchovy, one filet cut in fourths, 1/2 filet for the sauce
  • 2 tbs toasted pignoli
  • 2 tbs chopped italian flat leaf parsley
  • pinch of peperoncino
  • 1/2  tsp fennel seeds
  • salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 juiced lemon
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  •  1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbs EUROPEAN butter, if not, use Unsalted.

Mix the breadcrumbs, Pecorino, Garlic, Mashed Anchovy, pignoli, 3/4 of the fennel seeds (give them a little whack with the side of your knife), pinch of salt, a little of the lemon juice and enough Extra  Virgin Olive Oil to “moisten” them…careful not to over oil.  Fill the artichokes, center first, don’t PACK the crumbs,then the sides.  Chokes are all different sizes so you may need more filling, or less. stufarti4316 013 In a heavy bottomed saucepan that will hold all four Stuffed Artichokes,  add a few tbs. of the olive oil, add the smashed garlic cloves, then the 1/2 filet of anchovy.  Let this saute’ together, then add the water and the wine and the lemon juice. Pinch of salt.  Add the artichokes and make sure the liquid comes at least 1/2 way up the chokes.stufarti4316 011

Top each artichoke with a few fennel seeds and the 1/4 piece of Anchovy.1896946_356315294536777_6420556031303265535_n  NOW  bring to a boil for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to a simmer. Pour some of the cooking liquid over each of the stuffed chokes . Drizzle with olive oil. COVER TIGHTLY making sure there’s no steam escaping, they will steam for 45 minutes minimum.  You will check at the 1/2 hour point to make sure there’s still enough liquid in there.  Add as needed but don’t bring the liquid to the middle of the chokes this time. Cover again .  They should be done by now BUT that’s not foolproof.  Try to remove a leaf from one of the chokes.  If it easily pulls off, you are done, if not go for 10 minutes more.  They should look like this when you remove the cover. stufarti4316 008  The breadcrumbs should have a moist look to them.

Let them sit in this hot pot, COVERED, for 10 minutes.  Remove to a serving platter.  Bring the pan liquid to a boil then a simmer and let it reduce if it hasn’t already. you may not need to do anything.  Remove from the flame and whisk in the butter.  A squeeze of lemon. Done.  Now Drizzle this over each of the Artichokes.  Serve.  And at the end of the eating you’ll be left with the PRIZE, the HEART…I was way too excited to take the picture when I got down to it so, pardon the chewed up look of my plate, but you get the idea.  BTW, that plate, not my Aunt Luigina’s, but it was another beloved Aunt’s, it was my Aunt Angelina DeSiato Scaramuzzi’s.  Food with no history and love is the stuff you eat on the run or when that’s all that is available.  In your kitchen…you are in control and I like to good with my relatives all around me, figuratively.  They made me happy as a child and their memory continues to make me smile, especially at my kitchen table.

Buon Appetito!!