Category Archives: American Regional Cuisine

TOASTED RAVIOLI FROM ST.LOUIS

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American cuisine is a mashup of practically every food culture on Earth.  There’s nowhere else that can boast so many layers of immigrant cuisines that make up the very complex notion of the United States of America.  Take one immigrant group..the Italians.  They came in droves to the USA in search of better lives and many times fleeing abject poverty and oppression.  Wherever the Italian settled in the USA there was lots of employment and it  certainly did not stop in NYC or the other usual suspects.  Italian immigrants settled all over the US and one midwest city, St. Louis, Missouri was certainly no exception.  Italians from the far North, from Milan and Lombardia  were the majority but there were sizable immigrations from Sicily and other parts of the south.  The Milanese settled in the area still called the Hill and the southern Italians settled along the river.  Eventually the river area was fully claimed for warehouse and businesses and the old Italian enclave there was destroyed and scattered the rest of St.Louis’ downtown Italians around the area.  Notable St.Louis Italians are Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola, American Baseball greats.  Many of the displaced Italians moved up to the Hill which is still a great place to walk around and sample some of St.Louis’ particular brand of Italian-American food.  Like the TOASTED RAVIOLI.  It’s just a fried ravioli served with sauce.  I’m sure you’ve seen them in places other than St. Louis, but here they are called TOASTED rather than Fried (which is what you’ll see elsewhere). They are generally a locally or house made meat, parmigiano, spinach and other vegetable filled small square.  One of the finest versions, and the one used in many of St.Louis’ eateries is made by the Mama Toscano Company.  They contain an old family recipe of Beef, pork, spinach, carrots, onions, celery, Parmigiano and eggs and they are fantastic.  For those outside of St.Louis you can order on line.

http://mamatoscano.com/store/

Back to the Toasted Ravioli story…During an evening in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s the new cook at Oldani’s, now called Mama’s on the Hill mistakenly dropped some ravioli into hot oil. The owner tried to salvage them with some Parmigiano on top…and so the story goes, and so the legend goes.  I love to have my Toasted Ravioli (they are on EVERY MENU in St.Louis, Italian and non-Italian restaurants) at Charlie Gitto’s “Pasta House” downtown.  It’s the epitome of an old school Italian American restaurant.  It’s a movie set.  It’s just perfect.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Now doesn’t that say old school?  Family owned, local workers and a mix of traditional Italian American food with the St.Louis twist.  Meat Ravioli with that greens and beef filling are more “Northern”.  To “Milanese” a dish is to flour, bread and fry it.  So you see those characteristics here in the “toasted” ravioli.  The addition of the Marinara to dip in is most likely a Southern Italian influence.  Together they make a fantastic appetizer, a party food, a first course or an entree.  More importantly the dish is a living legacy of an immigrant story coming to the United States.  Let go to St.Louis now and make some TOASTED RAVIOLI.

SERVES: 4-6                                TIME: 45 minutes-1 hour

3/4 to 1 pound small  square  FROZEN MEAT Ravioli
3 large  organic eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk or half n half
2 cups  plain breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh  Italian parsley
1/2 tsp. oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Mix the cheese with the breadcrumbs, oregano and parsley, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

1/2 cup sifted flour
Marinara sauce, for dipping. about 3 cups

Lay out in pans or trays one with flour and one with the breadcrumbs. Dust the ravioli with the flour, then into the egg letting excess run off, then fully coat in the breadcrumbs completely covering them.  Lay them out on a baking tray.  When completely done place them into the fridge to stay cold.  Heat a heavy pan with high sides, a cast iron pan works great for this, with about 2 inches of oil.  Bring to 400 degrees if you have a thermometer or test with a cube of bread.  It will “dance”  (i love that..lol) and start to toast immediately if the oil is at the right temperature.  Make sure you have pans with paper towels or racks over them and take the ravioli out of the fridge.  Now start frying.  This should take about 1 1/2 minutes total..and they need to be turned after the first minute to make sure they don’t burn.  Only add about 5 at a time or you will reduce the oil temperature too much and then they don’t cook evenly. Serve with extra chopped parsley and Parmigiano over them along with a small cup of warm Marinara.

 

There…done.  Just like Charlie Gitto’s, Mama’s, Kemoll’s, and all the other classic and new restaurants in St.Louis do.  Enjoy this recipe.  SIZE IS EVERYTHING.  Stick with the meat…stick with the regular square size, not the big round ones or the tiny soup ones.

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Buon Appetito!!

 

 

 

OLD FASHIONED APPLESAUCE CAKE

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It’s almost sinful to call something OLD FASHIONED today but I’ll gladly use that term to describe this sinfully delicious APPLESAUCE CAKE I made.  What makes it so good?  Attention to sticking to a tried and true formula that will spark all your memories of applesauce cakes of your youth.  If you don’t have that shared history it’s time to make Applesauce cake memories of your own.   As always I reach into that memory box of mine and pull down from it’s shelf the aroma of my mother’s Applesauce cake.  This isn’t technically hers because I never knew how she made it.  Mom had lots of apple cake recipes.  Crisps, PanDowdies, Cobblers, Pies, Loaves, Cakes.  Some were a blend of All purpose flour and other pantry staples,  some were part of that BISQUICK family of cakes, others were simply using a commercial Spice Cake mix and adding apples.  Her Applesauce cake, unlike mine, was made in those Round Tube Pans.  Peppery, spicy, warm and aromatic, she sometimes added diced apples to applesauce batter and would glaze it.  There’s an idea,  a glazed one but I’d add diced crystallized ginger to the top.  Back to the style that I make..it’s baked in a rectangular pan and cut into squares.  It can be frosted, left plain, glazed, or a simple dusting of powdered sugar.   Out here in Monmouth County New Jersey where I live we have a few really nice “farm” and gourmet markets with in house bakeries.  One of them,  Delicious Orchards of Colts Neck N.J. makes a delicious apple spice cake with a white icing on it that is just about one of my favorites.  If you want to make homemade applesauce for this cake recipe I am giving you, this is the Delicious Orchards recipe:

Delicious Orchards Applesauce

 

Or you can simply use your own or a good brand.    My cake uses the spicy mix of my mom’s with the white icing of Delicious Orchards, but I do a basic Cream Cheese Icing.  It’s awesome.  I must tell you, I screwed up when making this.  The crushed walnuts and the raisins get folded in after you have finished the batter.  Well…even with the bag and box of the two ingredients RIGHT NEXT TO THE MIXER, I was so excited to get this cake made…um…they are still not in the cake.  Still delicious.  I wound up just sprinkling some of the crushed walnuts over the frosted cake.  It’s a win-win regardless of including the fruit and nuts or not.  Successful recipe anyway.  I base my recipe off of the Land O’Lakes Applesauce cake recipe with a few changes.  Ready to bake?  Let’s go…preheat that oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 13 X 9 ” pan well, then lightly flour it.

Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar, I used Vanilla Sugar  (see note on bottom)
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1/2 cup Butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Paste or Extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup  raisins dusted with some flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
ICING
1 stick butter (1/4 lb)
8 oz REAL Cream Cheese Not a spread, the bar type
3 cups Confectioner’s Sugar
2 tbs. Vanilla Paste (or 1 1/2 tsp. extract)  PLEASE USE THE REAL STUFF, NOT IMITATION
1/8 Tsp. salt
Add all the ingredients into the Mixer bowl for the cake EXCEPT the raisins and nuts.  Mix on low till all is well blended scraping down on the sides.  Then beat on High Speed stopping to again scrape down the sides until the batter is smooth.  Now fold in the nuts and the raisins.  The flour you shook the raisins up with helps to suspend the raisins in the batter and keep them from sinking to the bottom.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. The sides should have pulled away a bit from the pan and the center will be springy when done.  Let this cool COMPLETELY on a rack for 3 hours.  I hurried the process by sticking it out the window and right into the 30 inches of snow that came up to the sills of the kitchen windows.  Chilled that cake RIGHT down.  LOL…but one doesn’t always have a quick chill handy like that, so wait the 3 hours.  applesauce cake 005  Can you smell that?? It’s spice heaven.  NOW, onto the icing.  While your cake is cooling or while you were baking it, add the butter and creamcheese to the mixing bowl and slowly cream the two.  When they are blended start to slowly increase the beating to medium and slowly add in the sugar and the salt.  Add the vanilla and beat on high until it’s completely blended and it of nice firm consistency.  Place in a cool spot, covered until your cake is ready to frost.
Simply frost the top till it’s all covered.  Crumble toasted walnuts over the top if you like.
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applesauce cake 003  I used the paste and you can see the Vanilla Beans in the frosting.  Delicious. CHILL THE CAKE FOR 1 hour before serving.  Then slice into squares and serve.  It’s amazing.
So, here’s the note about Vanilla Sugar..I was in Central Europe this Summer and of course was picking up ideas and recipes.  Almost all of their sweet baked items use Vanilla Sugar which is simply made by slipping a whole Vanilla bean into a canister of regular sugar.  Let it sit for 5 days before you use it.  Keeps for a long time and the vanilla essence is really great.
Now time for a glass of milk or a nice Black Coffee (only black for me thank you) and a square of my Applesauce Cake.  Happy Cooking!!
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SHRIMP AND CLAM CHOWDER…SEAFOOD HEAVEN

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A big bowl of warm chowder…works on a dock overlooking the sea in the Summer and it works next to a roaring fireplace in the Winter.  It’s an all seasons food so enjoy this one all through the year.  New England Clam Chowder is just about one of the best things…EVER but this is a little different..it’s a creamy soup with potatoes, vegetables, fresh dill, Hungarian Paprika, Onions, Sherry, Butter, and SHRIMP AND CLAMS.  It’s an elegant dish.  Make it for a fancy dinner or it’s wonderfully casual to..jeans and T-shirt time infront of the TV.  A little bit about some of the ingredients.  If you’re not using dill in some of your cooking, let this start you off.  It’s not just for flavoring pickles.  The Paprika should be SWEET HUNGARIAN.  SZGED is a good brand to look for, most Supermarkets do sell it so I’m not promoting a ridiculously tough ingredient to find.  Why Hungarian?  It’s way more aromatic than the cheaper PAPRIKA that just says PAPRIKA on the label.  There’s also a hot Hungarian paprika, don’t use that one in this.  For the Shrimp, if you can, use Wild Caught U.S.Shrimp and the clams, fresh that are shucked and chopped, liquor reserved.  When these items are not available, find the freshest shrimp you can and use a good prechopped fresh clam or a good canned variety.  Doxsee is generally a safe canned variety.  So, into the kitchen we go to whip up a pot of SHRIMP AND CLAM CHOWDER….you are going to love this.

BTW, don’t think that this is an all day affair….you’re going to be shocked…in an hour you will be enjoying this.

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SERVES: 4                TIME: 1 HOUR, about
3 tablespoons Unsalted butter
1 medium onion, fine dice

1 peeled and diced carrot

2 medium stalks of celery, fine dice
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Sherry (Harvey’s Bristol Cream is really nice in this!)
2 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth or an organic/fat free low sodium boxed broth
2 tbs. tomato paste

1 1/2 tbs. SWEET HUNGARIAN PAPRIKA

Kosher Salt and black pepper to taste

1/2 tbs Tabasco Sauce or 1/8 tsp. ground cayenne or chiles
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, coarsely chopped
18  clams,steams,  shells discarded, clams chopped, liquor reserved or 1 cup chopped clams
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, organic is richest
2 tbs freshly chopped dill

In heavy sauce pan heat the butter.  Add the onions, carrots and celery, pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook this on medium till the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes, careful not to let them brown. Simply lower the heat if you see any of that happening.clamshrimpchowder 001 Add the 1/2 the dill. Heat for 2 minutes.  Now sprinkle the flour over the softened vegetables.  Add the paprika.  Whisk gently and let this cook until a roux is formed around the vegetables.  Cook an additional 1 minute or so..then add the sherry.  Whisk till blended and bring to a boil.  The whole thing will begin to thicken up. Whisk in the tomato paste.  Then whisk in the tabasco and the chicken stock.  Make sure it’s ALL well blended.  NOW bring this to a boil for 2 minutes..then reduce to a simmer.Let this cook for 10 minutes.  Keep Stirring. Now add the potatoes and cook until they are fork tender, takes at least 10 minutes. Only when you’ve tested the potato and it’s done. then you will whisk in the cream and the paprika.  Add the shrimp and clams with their liquor and simmer this for 6 minutes.  Taste for seasonings.  Adjust.  clamshrimpchowder 003 When the soup is of “chowder” consistency you can shut it off.  Stir in the remaining dill.  Now let it sit for at least 1/2 hour..TIP..make the soup..put it to the back of the stove..serve it an hour after you are done.  Let those flavor marry each other, but certainly, you can eat it before you wait another hour…I like letting it “meld” first.  Another option is to serve each bowl with a small spoonful of sour cream in the middle…ahh very rich, but very delicious.

Serve this with nice soft dinner rolls or biscuits..with sweet butter.

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WARM APPLE COBBLER, AMERICAN CLASSIC

 

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American Cuisine all too often is solely looked at for it’s Processed and Fast Food side.  I’ll have to agree that YES America is the leader in Processed/Fast Foods but one reason is that American culture in many ways fosters the bigger, better, quicker, easier route to get from point A to point B.  Sometimes that’s a good way to live.  Sometimes it’s not.  And most times we can alter that pattern LIKE….cooking from ingredients that are not pre-made for you.  Here’s how I create my recipes, I use my head, my 57 years of cooking, eating, reading, traveling and take that and place it into my kitchen and create.  Then, when I’m ready to actually make something on the spot or have been planning on and commit it to this blog for you to follow I research my cookbooks and online as many recipes as I can to see if I’m still on the right track.  Only then do I title a recipe.  Cobbler is an American dessert that falls into that CONFUSING C WORD category..Crumbles, Cobblers.  Here’s what I’ve come up with..Cobbler is a flour based batter poured over sweetened and sliced fruits baked in a buttered pan.  They are easy.  The most laborious part is peeling and slicing the fresh fruit.  It’s also a wonderful “pantry” recipe.  Chances are, the fruit being the variable, you have all the ingredients in your pantry at all times.  320880_2097459198452_191891307_nApples!! That’s what’s in the pantry this time of year. APPLES!  Delicious baked in treats all year long but PARTICULARLY in the FALL/WINTER.

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This cobbler is my version of a very easy and basic American dessert.

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The farm markets are heady with their scent.  So….let’s buy a few and make an APPLE COBBLER.

SERVES: 8                                      TIME: just under 1 hour start to finish

FRUIT BASE:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour or cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 cups sliced peeled firm tart apples (4-5 apples)
  • 1/2 tsp Lemon zest
  • 1 tbs. fresh lemon juice (throw those bottles of lemon juice away!!)

BATTER TOPPING:

  • 1 cup  unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 11/2 teaspoons baking powder (check the expiry date on your BP, it might be time for a new one)
  • 1/4 teaspoon  Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted then cooled to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbs. sour cream
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • butter for greasing the pan
  • plain fine breadcrumbs for lining the bottom of the pan

Pre Heat the oven to 35- degrees F.  In an 11X7 rectangular baking pan lightly grease the bottom and sizes with butter.  Dust the bottom of the pan with dry plain breadcrumbs. Set aside.  In a large bowl mix all the Ingredients in the FRUIT BASE portion of the recipe.  Pour into the pan.

Beat together all the wet ingredients of the Batter Topping part of the recipe except for the milk. Then Sift together all the dry ingredients.  Stir 1/2 the dry into the wet.. When it’s combined stir in the milk. When combined stir in the rest of the dry.  When combined stop stirring and pour over the top of the fruit base.  Sprinkle with cinnamon lightly, then into the oven for 30-35 minutes, rotating it once 1/2 way thru. Test to see if the topping is done by poking the center with a toothpick. Do not let it go thru to the fruit.  If if comes out clean, you are done. If not at this point 5 more minutes should do it.

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Sometimes the baker doesn’t cover all the fruit!!! Shame on him !! (ok, that was me)…But this is what your APPLE COBBLER should look like!!  Serve in a few ways, warm (BEST!!!) topped with Vanilla Ice Cream, or sour cream, or whipped Cream…some sugar crystals or Raw sugar crystals, and when warm a drizzle of Maple Syrup (pure)…it’s heaven.. Room Temperature is ok too…Ice cold out of the fridge, not so good…the cold temperature masks all the flavors.

Happy Baking…Happy Eating…Happy Sharing!!

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PUMPKIN MAPLE SUNFLOWER SEED BREAD

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Now that it’s November I can officially stop whining that the Summer is almost over, it’s done and like the first few days of November celebrate the dead, it’s a haunting reminder that my pool will not be used for quite a long stretch.  Breathing a deep breath it’s onto the FALL and WINTER  with the end of the year Holidays in front of us in all their PUMPKIN-Y spiced deliciousness…no..no…i’m not talking about the #PSL everything that has taken over everything we eat or smell but something enduring. An  American baked good long made long before Starbucks was even thought of.  PUMPKIN BREAD. An American “Quick Bread” as my mom’s old cookbooks called it..a bread made without waiting for it to rise from yeast, but using other leavening agents like Baking Powder or Baking Soda.  I’ve been cooking for years and still do not know why one is used over the other in certain dishes, but I’ll just do what I’m told.  For this Pumpkin Bread of mine, Baking Soda is the choice.  Do any of you remember your family baking this in a coffee can?  I do.  Another great memory of things that in the absence of a calendar or your iPhone giving you the date, you know what month of the year it is and certainly know the season.  Pumpkin Bread means October thru January.  Let’s get you in the mood..I like “mood”…makes for a better eating and cooking experience..so here’s my current view..my home..thanks to my wife Deb for doing what I can’t (nor want) to do, and that is decorate the house, set the mood, make our home…I’ll happily stay in the kitchen.  punkin 009

If that doesn’t make you want to hang with some Pilgrims and Native North Eastern Americans and enjoy the dried corn and pumpkins, nothing will.  Something about these colors too, they are warm..evocative…and the spices in the bread, while sharp on their own blend into this orange hug that makes you happy.  Pumpkin Bread is supposed to taste of Pumpkins and Spice.   As the leaves turn and peak with the colors of Fall, fill your home with the warm scent of this Pumpkin Maple Sunflower Seed Bread.  Now let’s go into the kitchen…

TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes               SERVES: 8

1 1/2 CUPS UNBLEACHED FLOUR

1 CUP SUGAR

1 TSP. BAKING SODA

1/4 TSP. EACH OF CLOVES, ALLSPICE, CINNAMON, NUTMEG

1/2 TSP. OF GINGER

3/4 TSP. KOSHER SALT

2 EGGS BROUGHT TO ROOM TEMPERATURE, ORGANIC IF POSSIBLE, WELL BEATEN

1 1/8 CUP PUMPKIN PUREE (I RECOMMEND TRADER JOE’S ORGANIC PUMPKIN, but any good pumpkin puree works, If you are crazy enough to do the pumpkin puree from scratch, remember it’s a Sugar Pumpkin that’s used for Pumpkin pies, not Jack o’Lanterns, everything about them is wrong for this smooth puree, they are watery, tough to work with and full of fibrous flesh, so..while they look like the right thing..they are a different type of pumpkin than what’s used for cooking pumpkin..)

1 TSP PURE VANILLA

2 TBS PURE MAPLE SYRUP plus 1 TBS for finishing the loaf

1/2 CUP VEGETABLE OIL

2 1/2 TBS ROASTED SALTED SUNFLOWER SEEDS

 

Pre heat your oven to 350 Degrees F.  You will need 2 large bowls.  In one, crack the eggs and beat well, then add the oil, mix well..then the pumpkin, vanilla and maple syrup till smooth and well blended.  In the other bowl sift ALL the dry ingredients together. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry and gently combine the two using a folding motion JUST until lumps are gone, and it’s a smooth batter.  Over mixing will toughen the bread. Pour into a well greased loaf pan :punkin 001  Then top the loaf with the sunflower seeds       :12179337_10205151361846037_935758826_nPlace on a baking sheet and into the middle rack of the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating at the 30 minute mark.  That helps to evenly bake your bread. The bread is done when it’s springy in the center and a tester run into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  It should look well risen and like this:punkin 003   Here’s a close up of the top of the bread.  12188474_10205151540770510_980123793_n After the bread has sat out for 5 minutes, take it off the hot pan and leave it to cool on a wire rack. Drizzle the additional Maple Syrup over the top of the loaf.  Now leave it to completely cool before you serve/slice.  Fast forward 3 hours….time to slice it..LOOK AT THAT!~!!punkin 006 Moist, warm, spicy, you taste the pumpkin in the background..it’s wonderful.  PLEASE don’t short cut and use Pancake Syrup..no lecture on Corn Syrup here other than Pancake Syrup is Corn Syrup with imitation flavorings and colors added…it’s texture is all wrong for this too.  So, if you plan on making this make sure you get yourself a nice bottle of American or Canadian Pure Maple Syrup, my favorite is the DARK AMBER grade.

I concede, I wave the white flag..Summer is over…let the Pumpkin Bread bake.  Enjoy!!!

 

 

 

PINEAPPLE TEQUILA MARINATED GRILLED CHICKEN…

542515_3251677893198_1909468499_n Can you smell that?  Stick you nose closer to the screen, now can you??  If you can’t then you just have to make this yourself.  Let me just put this out there…this is infinitely better made with trimmed boneless chicken thigh cutlets.  However it will work with breast too, your cooking times will be adjusted.  Taste will determine what you eventually will cook but the thighs always work better with the direct heat that a grill provides.  Why?  It’s the make up of the meat itself..more fat in the dark meat which keeps the meat from drying out.  Breasts are wonderfully almost fat free but the downside is over cooking since there’s no self basting provided by nature.  The pictures are of thigh cutlets but feel free to use the breast cutlets.

One of the best flavor profiles with direct grilled heat is the chile, fruity, sweet, sour, spicy type which is wonderfully achieved with a mix of cumin, pineapples, cilantro or mint, tequila, lime, garlic, and chiles.   Your mouth should be watering at this point.  Layer the smoke and char of the flames on the grill and you are in grilled meat heaven.  This marinade sort of has a southwest US meets the Pacific coast of Mexico sort of vibe.  a cilantro or other fresh herbed rice is a very nice base to serve it over.  OK, let’s talk about pairings like this for a moment shall we? The chicken is the star, don’t have it become Jan Brady and become a middle child fighting for attention! All too often when a strong flavored protein is served with a side, or on a side, the side is way too highly flavored and instead of the chicken being complimented by the rice they are fighting for your attention and the combo of all strong flavor diminished the whole point of the dish…in this case the chicken.  A plain steamed long grain rice (short grain, too creamy, you want the rice to be fluffy and separate) that you finish with  a little minced cilantro or mint is all you need.  Let’s walk into the kitchen now.

TIME: 2 1/2 hours or more depending on your marinating time         SERVES: 4

MARINADE:

1 can CRUSHED PINEAPPLE , important  IN IT’S OWN JUICE,not in SYRUP  (the syrup contains too much sugar and will char quickly

1/8 cup OLIVE OIL or Grapeseed Oil or Vegetable Oil

1 sliced JALAPENO, cored and seeded

2 GARLIC CLOVES turned into a paste or pushed thru a Garlic Press

1 TSP KOSHER SALT

3 BRUISED SPRIGS OF CILANTRO OR MINT

1 TSP GROUND CUMIN

1 TBS. FRESH LIME JUICE

1/8 CUP TEQUILA

CHICKEN:

12 TRIMMED AND POUNDED to no less than 1/4 inch (ORGANIC IF POSSIBLE)  BONELESS CHICKEN THIGHS OR BREAST

KOSHER SALT, BLACK PEPPER

AGAVE NECTAR

CHILE POWDER

Prep your chicken and lightly season it with salt and pepper and cover it, place in a cool spot in your kitchen.  If it’s hot out and your kitchen is hot, place the prepped chicken into the fridge.  Safety first my cooking sisters and brothers.  Whisk all the other ingredients except the Cilantro together and leave alone for 1/2 hour. Now strain the marinade and reserve the pieces of crushed pineapple..place to the side in a bowl. Cover.  Add the chicken to the marinade and marinade for AT LEAST 1 hour, certainly the longer…the better the flavor .that’s up to you.  Prep your grill blasting it with the cover on for at least 15 minutes.  Open the cover and lightly oil those grated..make sure you cleaned them up after your last use.  C’mon…use that grill brush!! Grills with bits of meals past not only are gross, but that interferes with your cooking evenly and  you miss out on those REALLY COOL grill marks that I KNOW excite you.  Especially if you’re a food picture taking geek like me. When your grill is ready, smooth side down place all the chicken on the grill careful not to overlap any of the pieces.  (Steaming happens and not what you are looking for in this recipe).

While the chicken is cooking…in a small lightly greased pan, saute’ the the reserved pineapple for about 6 minutes..keep shaking the pan to get some color on the crushed pineapples. Reserve.

Grill for 4 minutes per side for breast meat, grill 8 minutes on one side and 5 on the other for thigh meat.  Now to complicate this dish, but it’s a good thing.  About 2 minutes before you are done grilling, top each piece of chicken with some of the sauteed pineapple.  Cover till done.

All GRILLS COOK DIFFERENTLY..make sure your chicken runs clear juices and it thoughroughly cooked before serving.  Better to be safe than sorry so use my cooking times as guides but you ARE THE COOK so make sure you are not serving either undercooked or overcooked chicken.

Transfer all  to a platter.  Mix about 1/8 cup of Agave Nectar with 1/8 teaspoon (or more , to your taste) ground Chile Powder together and drizzle over the finished chicken.  Let rest for 5 minutes…then serve…over the steamed rice (ooooohhh Jasmine or Basmati , those fragrant ones are best for this).

Happy Grilling, Happy Cooking!!!

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BACON, APPLE, AND CHEDDAR STUFFING..FALL COOKING SEASON HAS BEGUN

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are some pairings and combos that are truly meant for each other.  Let’s start with BACON. I don’t agree it goes with everything.  There, I’ve said it and I’m not taking it back.  i LOVE Bacon..especially American bacon with it’s pork belly fat and smokey goodness.   It really needs to either shine in a dish or on it’s own, or be part of a bigger picture..lofty ambitions for sure especially when I ‘m talking about bread stuffing.  Here’s the thing, and I love simple as well as the fussed..but some American stuffings are terribly bland.  Bump up one ingredient on that list you’ve got something but mushy bread is not a great idea on it’s own.  Here’s my other lecture with regards to this post, this is not my only stuffing, in fact, i hardly ever make a stuffing the same way twice.  So there you go! Basically for Thanksgiving I will make the same stuffing which is a mixture of my own ideas with my Mom’s t-day stuffing.  I use what’s hanging around the kitchen and last night i made some Roasted Chicken halves that were brined in Apple Cider (my favorite Fall ingredient) and roasted along with some Chicken stock.  The stuffing I do in a separate dish, i just like that better, certainly you can always stuff the bird.  No right or wrong. I hate when people feel they need to be slaves to ONE recipe for a type of food..like stuffing.  It’s waiting for you to personalize it!!! Well my little “Chopped” experience, which is basically how I cook started with some stale bread, just natural whole grain white bread sitting on the counter.  Opening the fridge revealed some natural (unsweetened ) apple sauce, and an open bag of shredded sharp cheddar, next to the bacon.  In that moment the recipe developed.  Knowing basics about what really goes well with other ingredients is the building block for me, for any recipe.  Bacon, Apple, and Cheddar all compliment each other.  Can you say TASTES LIKE FALL and not have a combo like that as part of what you are thinking?  I can’t.  Stuffing is the perfect way to deliver these tastes that combine into a buttery, comforting stuffing that will compliment your roast poultry or pork dishes.  Add this to your recipe files as another idea for your stuffings.

MAKES:   4 servings                           TIME: 1 hour

The servings are a “strange” idea because stuffing is usually a spoonful while you are loading your plate up with other sides and the main.  By 4 servings I mean enough for 4 people to have a nice sized portion so use your head here, the more food you are serving doesn’t mean you need more stuffing..however..it’s so good, you may want leftovers, just saying.

1/2 lb chopped BACON (SMOKED)

1 large ONION, small diced

1 cup fine diced CELERY

10 slices of good stale white BREAD  that you’ve torn into pieces or 14 oz. of a cornbread or mixed bread stuffing (the cubes).  Feel free to use a whole wheat if you like.

1/4 cup unsweetened APPLESAUCE

1 tsp. fresh chopped Thyme

1/2 tsp. BELL’S SEASONING (http://www.bellsseasonings.com/BellsSeasoning.html)or 1/4 tsp Poultry seasoning

1/4 stick UNSALTED BUTTER

1/4 cup CHICKEN STOCK(WARM)

1/8 CUP APPLE CIDER (filtered and unsweetened)

1/2 tsp freshly ground BLACK PEPPER

1/4 tsp. KOSHER SALT

1/2 tsp. YELLOW MUSTARD

1/4 cup Shreddded SHARP CHEDDAR

1 tsp UNSALTED BUTTER CUT IN CUBES

In a large skillet/pan heat on medium and add the bacon and let it start to render it’s fat.  Once is starts to crisp up a bit, add 1/2 of the butter and let it melt.  Now add the celery and onions and let this cook on low until the vegetables are soft.  Add the cider and stock and bring to a boil.  Add the thyme.  Let this cook for 3-4 minutes and then add the bread and mix well until it’s a pasty consitency, all hydrated.  Cook stirring for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Into this add the salt, pepper, mustard, Bell’s Seasoning, Applesauce..Blend.  When all is nicely mixed in add the cheese folding it in gently.  Pour this into a baking pan, I use cake pans.  Smooth it down and place the cubes of unsalted butter over the top.  Bake in a preheated OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 350 degree F oven for 25 minutes or until it looks like that picture.  Nice and golden.  Remove from the oven and serve with the meal.  If there are any drippings from the poultry, pour some of that over the top too.  Adds more flavor.

Stuffing (dressing in some parts) is an American Classic that for me has no peer.  I may have more ideas for you as the Fall progresses, let’s start with this one. Who doesn’t love BACON???  By the way, the mean was amazing…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I like it richly flavored, certainly, you can alternatively cook the bacon separately and discard most of that fat, just in case that’s your preference, then continue with the rest of the recipe.