Monday, April 22, 2013

Not just any Spring Chicken!

Spring has finally sprung in the Richmond, VA area, and it couldn't be any prettier around my neighborhood. Redbuds and phlox are blooming, azaleas and dogwoods are budding up. Every yard is showing off some jonquils and maybe a few tulips or early iris. All this flora makes me want to cook in a spring like fashion, even though we are not exactly spring chickens anymore!

Phlox out by my mailbox

This dish was a little more complicated than I sometimes attempt on a weeknight, but the smells and fresh tastes that it produced made it worth the extra trouble. Purchasing boneless, skinless thighs sped things along a little, and having rosemary on hand in the yard makes for easy inspiration. It grows so abundantly, I've just GOTTA' use it, right? If you haven't got rosemary growing in your garden, get some -- it's easy to grow and will even thrive in a container. The one that grows in my yard was transplanted here after living in a pot on the deck at my last house. I first put it in my little bed around the patio, but it outgrew that spot and currently resides over by the fence. It's now about 13 years old and spreading with abandon. It's even got little light purple flowers on it!

Rosemary by the fence

Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Spring Onions and Rice Pilaf
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
10 green/spring onions, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise
1/4 c. flour, seasoned with a little salt and pepper
2 T. + olive oil
4 sprigs rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, divided use
1/3 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. chicken stock
salt and pepper
Rice Pilaf (recipe follows)]
Zest the lemon so that you have about 1 T. of zest. Cut the lemon in half, and thinly slice it. Cut 2 of the slices in half, so that you have 4 small quarter pieces. Wash and dry your rosemary. Put the flour mixture into a pie plate or something similar for dredging. Lay one chicken thigh on the cutting board you use for meat (or a clean plate) and spread it open carefully. You can tell that there is a top to it and a bottom, where the bone was removed. Open the "bottom" and lay a sprig of rosemary and a quarter slice of lemon into the cavity. Close the "flap" back over this and carefully roll the thigh in the flour mixture. Set aside. Repeat this with the other 3 thighs. You can secure them with twine or an uncolored toothpick, but I found that the lemon and rosemary stayed inside when I made this without the trussing. (Plus I'm kind of lazy about things like that, especially on a weeknight!)

Get your pan ready on the stove -- you'll need an ovenproof skillet that all 4 thighs will fit into. Preheat the oven  to 350 degrees. Heat the pan a little. Pour 1 T. of the olive oil into the pan. Drop the halved onions into the olive oil and saute' quickly, until they just begin to wilt. Remove them from the pan and set them aside. Add the other T. of oil to the pan. Heat the pan until the oil begins to shimmer, and add the thighs to the skillet. You may need a little more oil. Cook them for about 5 minutes, so that the flour browns. Turn them over carefully -- I used a fork along with a small spatula - make sure that the lemon and rosemary remain in the cavity. Let the thighs cook for another 5 minutes to brown the other side. Remove the chicken to a plate and add the garlic, wine, and stock or broth to the pan. Add the 6 lemon halves to the liquid. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and a little fresh ground black pepper. Cook for 5 -7  minutes over medium to high heat, reducing the sauce by about 1/2.

Sauce reducing in pan

Put the chicken back into the pan and place into the preheated oven. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes until the juices run clear when thighs are pierced with a fork. Taste the sauce and add a little salt and pepper if needed. Put the spring onions back into the sauce, garnish with a little more fresh lemon and serve over rice pilaf.
Chicken thighs ready for the oven

Rice Pilaf with Artichokes
2 c. chicken stock or broth
1 tsp. butter + 2 tsp. Olive oil
1/3 c. brown rice
1/2 c. white rice
1/3 c. orzo or broken vermicelli
2 T. minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 8 oz. pkg frozen artichokes, thawed and well drained
2 heaping T. Parmesan cheese
In deep saucepan, heat the oil and butter together until the butter melts. Add the garlic and olive oil and saute a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the vermicelli or orzo and saute' this mixture until the pasta begins to brown, at least 10 minutes, over medium heat, stirring often. Add all the rice, stir into pasta mixture and then add the stock. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, bring this up to a boil, cover the pan and turn it down to a lower heat, so that the mixture just barely bubbles. When all the liquid is absorbed, add the artichokes and Parmesan cheese. Stir them into the pilaf and cover to warm the artichokes through, about 5 minutes. Serves 4 - 6. Good leftover, just heat in the microwave.
Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thighs with Rice Pilaf

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cedar Plank Salmon with Soy Glaze

 Last time I blogged, I wrote about being in a chicken breast rut, but we were in a salmon rut too. Salmon is another one of those things I buy every month. Now that there are usually just 2 of us for dinner, I buy a big piece from a big box store and cut it into 2 pieces. I usually oven poach it (Here's my post about how to do that ) or cook it with a lemony herb mixture on top (here's that method ). Anytime I have any leftovers, I make salmon spread, a wonderful appetizer or sandwich spread ( recipe here ). Obviously WE LIKE SALMON but it was time to try something new! After browsing some recipes on my favorite spots, here's what I came up with. It was delicious and it was definitely DIFFERENT. While it took a little time to reduce the glaze, it was not hard to do. If you don't have a cedar cooking plank, they are easy to find -- anyplace that has a good kitchen supply department will have them. You need to soak it for an hour or 2  in plain old tap water before using, but that's pretty simple. I actually had  everything in my pantry for this dinner except the fresh ginger. Give this a try next time you fix salmon and you want to step it up a bit!

Cedar Plank Salmon with Soy Glaze
Put your plank in water to soak, according to the directions on the package. I soaked mine about 90 minutes.
For the glaze:
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. soy sauce
2 T. hoisin sauce
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 tsp.)
1 2" piece of ginger, peeled and grated
Place all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn down the heat to low and let the sauce reduce until about 1/2 in volume.
Preheat your grill to hot cooking temperature.
You will need about 1 - 1.25 lbs of salmon, cut to fit onto the plank. Lay the salmon on the plank and brush it with the glaze.

Salmon on Grill
Place the plank onto the grill and close the lid. Let it cook over medium heat for about 6 minutes. Brush on a little more glaze after 3 - 4 minutes.  Don't worry about the smoke or the slight charring on the edge of the plank -- that's where the good smoke flavor comes from. I left mine on for 8 minutes and it was almost too dry. It cooks pretty quickly, but it will depend on how thick the salmon is. Salmon is cooked when it flakes easily with a fork or knife tip inserted into the thickest part.
I served my glazed salmon with some Pot Stickers from Trader Joe/s and stir fried veggies. Cut a lime and squeeze that over the salmon right before you eat it -- yummy! I prepped the pot stickers and vegetables before I began cooking the fish, so that when it went on the grill, everything was ready to eat when it was done. I also reheated the leftover glaze and we used it to drizzle on the salmon and the potstickers. The glaze recipe is a KEEPER! (Probably be good with chicken or pork too!)
Glazed Salmon, Pot Stickers and Stir Fried Vegetables for dinner!

Here's how I did the veggies:
Stir Fried Vegetables
1 tsp. peanut oil
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
2 ribs celery, trimmed and sliced
1 c. shredded cabbage
6 button mushroom, sliced
16 snow peas, washed and threads removed
1 tsp. peeled ginger, grated
1 T. soy sauce
a little salt to taste
In a medium to large non-stick skillet, heat the peanut oil until it starts to shimmer (hot). Add the onion, garlic and celery. Stir that around for 2 - 3 minutes until the veggies begin to soften. Add the soy sauce and ginger to the pan and then add the cabbage and cook for another 2 -3  minutes, stirring periodically. Don't let them brown. Lastly, add the mushrooms and snow peas. Sprinkle the pan with 2 T. water, turn down the heat to medium, cover it and let the mixture steam about 5 minutes. Any combination of vegetables your family likes will work, but this is what I had on hand.

Stir Fried Vegetables