Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Greek Chicken for Dinner; Dessert in the ER

Oh, my poor, little blog has been so neglected this month.  I’m surprised it didn’t refuse my login ID and password out of spite.  I couldn’t have blamed it.  Sometimes, my real life bears precedence over my e-life, and this February has been one of those times.  I decided my blog needed some love, and I better pick an extra delicious recipe to write about in order to show my true affections for my sweet, little blog.  I chose Greek Chicken Thighs, which I found on my newest food obsession, TasteSpotting (world’s greatest website, I assure you).  The implicated chicken thighs are laden with grape tomatoes, garlic, shallots, lemon, and lush olives.  They are finished with feta and parsley, and I thought this would an utter vision of loveliness over couscous and wilted spinach.  I was particularly smitten over the cooking style: the dish is started on the stove, and then finished in the oven.  The notion of roasted grape tomatoes was irresistible.  This recipe and the ensuing post seemed to be the perfect offering to my neglected blog and readers. 

Let me assure you, the results were everything I hoped for, plus a little more than I bargained for.  What could that be, you ask?  Oh, just a joy ride to the ER due to extensive second-degree burns, and unmanageable pain.  The most attractive element of the dish turned around and bit back: the little trip to the oven.  I got the chicken in the oven safely.  I got it out of the oven without the tiniest hiccup.  My downfall: I wanted it just a touch roastier (no, this is not a word), and thought that a few more minutes in the oven were in order.  The chicken was in a sauté pan.  I usually see such a pan on the stove, and I usually pick up the handle, and this is usually not a problem.  However, it apparently slipped my mind that, on this particular evening, this particular sauté pan had spent some quality time in a 450-degree oven.  

I foolishly and whole-heartedly grabbed the handle.  My hand was on it so briefly that the pan never even lifted off the stove, but this millisecond of contact was still enough to do some major damage.  I now wear a bandage that requires a blueprint and makes me resemble Michael Jackson (if only I could find gauze with sparkles).  Underneath this architectural masterpiece, you can see exactly where the handle touched my skin, clearly delineated in a series of blisters.  Oh, well.  The good news: according the experts at the burn clinic (and I think I can trust them), no skin graft is necessary, and I’ve been prescribed enough Percocet to kill a small horse.  The bad news:  my bandage takes half an hour to assemble, and I am now functioning primarily with my left hand, although I am able to type (hallelujah!).  If something involves heat, moisture, dirt, or chemicals, I am a one-hand show these days (try showering or washing dishes using only your non-dominant hand.  It’s not easy). 
Clearly, by the presence of the pictures of this dish, I was deep in denial about the state of my wound.  Most pictures were taken with my left hand, while the afflicted hand soaked in a bowl of cool water.  Given the circumstances, I think they are pretty good.  And, honestly, this chicken was delicious!  If you are not a lover of dark meat, chicken breasts would be a fine substitute, but don’t come crying to me when they are dry.  I never got around to the sautéed spinach, for obvious reasons, but if you can pull this off and stay out of the ER, I would recommend it.  The moral of this story: be careful in the kitchen; cooking is apparently a dangerous business.  This is not my first kitchen causality, nor will it be my last, but I certainly hope that it is my worst.  Mysteriously, I sober when this occurred.  Perhaps, vodka has protective powers, and I should never be without it.  Hmmm… I will look into it, and get back to you. 
Greek Chicken Thighs (adapted from “For the Love of Cooking”)

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
1-2 shallots, sliced into thin rings
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ½ -2 lbs. boneless/skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of any fat, and cut in half if they are huge
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
Garlic salt, to taste (about a teaspoon or so)
Dried oregano, to taste
Half package of grape tomatoes, halved (about 25)
1 lemon juiced
Zest of one lemon
1/3 t- ½ cup of chicken stock
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
10 to 12 Greek olives, pitted and coarsely chopped (I used a mix of kalamata and green)
Crumbled feta cheese

·      Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (425 at sea level).
·      Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in an oven safe skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the shallot and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot is tender (about 3-5 minutes).  Remove from the pan, and mix with grape tomatoes.
·      Add the remaining olive oil to the same skillet and turn the heat up to medium-high heat. Season the chicken thighs with pepper, garlic salt, and oregano to taste on each side. Once the pan is very hot, add the seasoned chicken to the pan.
·      Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the chicken has browned nicely on one side.  While the chicken browns, mix together stock, pepper flakes, lemon zest, and lemon juice (you should have about ½ to ¾ cup liquid).
·      When the chicken is golden, flip it.  Add the sauce mixture, and grape tomato-shallot mixture. Place in the oven and roast for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
·      Remove from oven and sprinkle with parsley, olives, and feta cheese. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chocolate Mousse

Based on the content of my blog, you may have inferred that I do not have much of a sweet tooth.  This inference is, indeed, correct.  If anything I have a “cheese tooth,” to the dismay of my oldest brother, who hates cheese, and is unable to make the majority of my recipes.  So far, I have only made empty promises to amend this for him.  Mind you, there are a few cheese-free recipes on here, but he objects to pivotal ingredients in those, as well.  His dislike of cheese is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Back to the task at hand: I don’t dislike sweets, but I generally don’t seek them out.  I will go weak in the knees over a perfectly moist yellow cake, but I tend to scrape off the frosting.  To most people, this is sacra-religious.  I am also a sucker for instant Jell-O chocolate pudding, and I will make no apologies for this.  The point of this babbling is that I am fully aware that my relationship with dessert is unconventional.  And because of this, I have made a conscious effort to make and post a recipe that fits in the dessert genre.  If you write a blog, and you have the slightest desire for people to actually read it, you must try to keep those readers happy.  One of my readers (also known as, one of my classmates) recently requested a recipe for something sweet.  She told me she likes to make the white bean chili, but longs for a dessert recipe to follow her magnificent meal.  When a very busy person takes time out of her day to read your crazy food rants, how do you not comply with such a request?  Thus, I have bestowed upon you an actual recipe for dessert, and I will try to do this more often. 

I decided to make chocolate mousse because it is sort of like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way.  It is composed of the world’s most delicious ingredients:  dark chocolate, heavy cream, eggs, and butter.  As if it couldn’t get any better, this recipe even has a splash of booze in it.  Not only does mousse consist of the most delicious things, but it is comprised of them, and only them.  There’s nothing else in it to dilute their flavors and textures.  Their textures are then enhanced by the process:  the majority of the components are whipped up independently before being combined together.  This results in a mousse that is somehow airy and light, and, simultaneously, rich and creamy.  If this sounds like an impossible feat, you will just have to make it, and discover what the impossible tastes like.     
Chocolate Mousse (recipe from the late Gourmet Magazine)

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao), chopped
¾ stick unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
3 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon Cognac or other brandy
1 cup very cold heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt

·      Melt chocolate and butter in a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, gently stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat.
·      Meanwhile, beat yolks in a small bowl with an electric mixer until thick enough to form a ribbon that takes a few seconds to dissolve, 2 to 4 minutes. Whisk yolks into chocolate mixture along with Cognac, then cool to warm.
·      Beat cream in a medium bowl with cleaned beaters until it just holds stiff peaks.
·      Beat whites with salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks.
·      Fold whipped cream and beaten whites into chocolate mixture gently but thoroughly. Transfer to stemmed glasses, 4-ounces ramekins, or a serving dish.

Cooks' Notes:
•The eggs in this recipe are not cooked.
•Mousse can be chilled, its surface covered with parchment paper, up to 2 days. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.

My notes:

I only changed 2 things in this recipe:

1.     I made it with 7 ounces of chocolate, instead of eight.  I did this for two reasons:  someone on recommended it, and the chocolate bars I bought just happened to be 3.5 ounces each. 
2.     I also changed the booze.  I used frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur, because hazelnuts and chocolate are such a lovely combination.  To be honest, I’m not sure if it made a difference, so use your best judgment.