Monday, December 20, 2010

We're moving!

RD3 is in the process of moving!
See new recipes and updates at...

...while I figure out how to redirect the domain name :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Those cupcakes make me wanna say...

Berry "Sorbet" filled Devil's Food Cupcakes

Jumping on the bandwagon, I've gotten much delight over the past year from experimenting with cupcakes. Why cupcakes? Here's the thing: I am a great baker. Whatever the dough or batter, my baked goods always come out of the oven perfectly moist, beautiful and satisfying. The other side of that coin is that I am so (so) bad at decorating. With an art background, you'd think that would be my forte. Alas, for me cake decorating is an acquired skill and not a talent. The great thing about cupcakes is that if one isn't perfect, there's room for 11 more to come out prettily. Really, its just a matter of surface area.

Unfortunately, when it comes to frosting, fondants, and ganache I invariably screw something up. I heat too quickly. I whip when I should have folded. I add something that's the wrong temperature... whatever the mishap, there always seems to be something that tanks. Baking cupcakes is always a lesson in mindfulness and radical acceptance for me. It is a meditative practice that schools me in patience. It is also a wage of war. I had envisioned these cupcakes- I could almost taste them - to be little, beautiful, bites of wintery love. But, as they say, love is a battlefield.

After the cupcakes themselves came out of the oven pristine, without a crack or dent, cooked to succulent perfection, I also had on my hands one batch of botched ganache without enough ingredients (or time) remaining for a do-over, and one bowl of over-whipped cream (which became a raspberry flavored soupy mess after I whipped in the raspberries instead of folding them).

It was a baking "Hail Mary" to resort to buttercream. With clothes and face covered in chocolate and frosting, I ran out to the store. Returning with a bag of confectioner's sugar and a prayer, I finished the job. It only took 3 hours, but the end result was simply meant to be. The cupcakes were filled with a berry-cognac buttercream, which tasted like berry sorbet (Casey said, "If it tastes like sorbet, its okay to eat it with a spoon, right?"). Due to the ganache fail, they were simply topped with powdered sugar and a raspberry. If you could taste Valentine's Day, I guarantee you it would taste like these cupcakes.

Some were for a party, and two were for a birthday. Two more mysteriously disappeared from my mother's counter, and I have it on good authority that one was eaten for breakfast this morning, nothing but a powdery trail of sugar left on a dresser.

The recipe for the Devil's Food Cake came from Food Network Kitchens.
While your cupcakes are in the oven, prepare your frosting.

Berry Sorbet Buttercream Frosting
1 cup mixed Blackberries and Raspberries
1/4 cup Cognac
1 stick (1/4 lb) Unsalted Butter
1 box Confectioner's Sugar
1 cup Mini Chocolate Chips

1) In a small pot over medium-low heat, cook the berries in the cognac, stirring regularly.

2) Once the berries break down, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture reduces and becomes syrupy.

3) Place the berry mixture in a bowl and place in the refrigerator until cool.


4) With an electric mixer, mix the chilled berry sauce and butter until whipped and thoroughly combined.

(If you are using a Kitchen-Aid mixer, fit it with the paddle and not the balloon whisk).

5) With the mixer at a medium speed add the confectioner's sugar 1/4 cup at a time until the frosting is thick and holds together tightly.

6) Stir in mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate until ready for use.

Assembling Your Cupcakes!

1) Using a paring knife at a 45-degree angle, make a circular cut in to the top of your cupcake.

2) Remove the cone section you just cut from the cupcake and cut off the excess cake from the piece, creating a "lid" for your cupcake. Sometimes I make a little notch while I'm making the first cut, that way I can tell how the lid goes back on.

3) Use your knife to hollow out a little more of the inside of the cupcake (this gives you more room for frosting if you want it).

4) Using a teaspoon, spoon frosting in to the cupcake. Just be careful no to fill it too high, otherwise you'll have some trouble fitting the lid back on.

5) Replace the lid and press down to try to eliminate any seams (this doesn't always work so well, which is why I was going to initially cover my cupcakes with ganache).

6) Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Use a dab of frosting to glue a raspberry to the center.

So pretty! Even more tasty. Keep a close watch, they tend to disappear quickly!

Monday, December 6, 2010

How Jenny Got Her Groove Back

Well, happy holidays ladies and gents! So many things a-brewin'... Not that this is out of the norm. The past few months have been working, working, and more working. School, school, and more school! And finally, it all seems to be winding down.

For a long time I wasn't doing a lot of cooking, which is a little strange (believe me, I know). Then, by no uncertain circumstances, a southern gent enters my life and all of a sudden the pots and casserole dishes are full, the kitchen-aid mixer is spinning, and there is sauce all over the place.
With the upsurge in tastiness and recipes, it was without question that posting would have to resume. And oh, how I've missed you. So, without further ado, commence romanticizing!

Bernard is from New Orleans. That's how this all started. While he was down spending time with his family over Thanksgiving he visited the Cafe du Monde, a market whose reputation precedes it. Known nationally (and probably internationally) for its 'coffee and chicory', and beignets (read: fried dough!), I was the happy recipient of a gift basket containing the mix they use to make aforementioned beignets. I don't know if Bernie was aware of my affinity forputting things together, but there was no way I was just going to hang out with my mom and fry dough. Oh no, this was a flour-filled catalyst.

The solution? I decided to make jambalaya for dinner for my family + Bernie, and we could fry up the beignets for dessert. I consulted the few southern friends that I have, as well as innumerable websites, to put together what I thought would be an authentic jambalaya. As it turns out, it came out great! Everyone enjoyed it, and even the southerner was impressed with my first-time attempt.

We stuffed ourselves with jambalaya and made a huge mess making (and eating) beignets. Everyone seemed to have a pretty good time, which naturally made me happy! I love the way food brings people together. I was going to throw on some zydeco music, but Casey shot that idea down pretty quickly. Baby steps for us Yankees!

I'd recommend jambalaya as a main dish to anyone. It is warm, filling, and packs a punch of flavor. It's just one of those "man, that was satisfying" dishes. Plus, you can throw almost anything in it. I made mine with andouille, chicken, and shrimp. This one is definitely going on the frequent flier list!

(I apologize in advance for the lack of photographs! They will come eventually.)

Jenny's "Collective" Jambalaya

2 tblsp Olive Oil
2 tblsp Unsalted Butter
1 Whole Chicken, cut in to pieces
1 lb. Andouille Sausage, sliced (I used Chicken Andouille)
1 lb Jumbo Shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 Yellow Onion, minced
1 Green Pepper, minced
4-5 stalks Celery, minced
5 cloves Garlic, minced
3 tblsp Cajun Seasoning (See Below)
3 Bay Leaves
1 cup White or Brown Rice
4 cups Chicken Stock
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped

There are a lot of reputable pre-mixed Cajun seasonings out there. Papaw Tom's and Zatarains have come most highly recommended. I'd also encourage you to check out the happiest place on earth: Penzy's Spices.

If you want to make your own, the gist is this:
Equal parts of: Black pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. I went a little nuts and used smoked paprika and extra cayenne pepper.

1) In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and a little of the seasoning and place in the heated oil skin side down. Brown the chicken until the fat renders and the skins are crispy. Put a lid on the dutch oven so it cooks almost completely.

2) Remove the chicken from the dutch oven. Remove the skins and cut the meat off the bones in to small pieces. Set aside.

3) Add the andouille to the dutch oven in a single layer so they get browned and a little crispy on each side. Remove and set aside with the chicken.

4) Add the butter to the dutch oven. Saute the garlic, celery, pepper, and onion until the onion is soft and translucent.

(Aside: The celery-bell pepper-onion combination is referred to as the 'holy trinity' and is the cornerstone of a lot of Cajun recipes).

5) Return the chicken and andouille to the dutch oven. Add the Cajun Seasoning, a little salt, cracked black pepper, bay leaves, and rice. Saute for a few more minutes to integrate all of the flavors.

6) Add enough chicken stock to cover the "dry" ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Put a lid on it, and check to stir intermittently, adding more chicken stock if it becomes too thick.

7) When the rice is al dente (about 30 minutes), add the shrimp. Cook for another 10-15 minutes until the shrimp and the rice are tender.

Serve in generous bowls with fresh parsley! If I had more time, I would have made some corn bread to go with it. I don't know if that's authentic, but it sounds like it would have been a tasty compliment! This is the definition of soul food... full bellies and not a frown in the house!

In the words of the amazing Roisin (one of my trusted sources),
Good luck and laissez les bons temps rouler!

P.S. If you don't have a sweetheart from New Orleans to bring you beignet mix back from family visits, you can order it from the Cafe du Monde website!

Check out my awesome new mug!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Here We Go Again

RD3 is planning on recommencing posting mid-December.
Fingers crossed, I do believe it is go time!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Frittata: TAKE 2

The beauty of cooking is that its one of those "lifetime learning" type skills. You're always picking up new things, new flavor combinations, new techniques, discovering new ingredients, or thinking of new ways to use old ingredients.

I also love cooking for other people. I don't know why, but when I'm cooking for only myself, the food just doesn't taste as good. I need someone to share with. I've always said that the frittata is one of the best meals ever. Its compact, easy to throw together, generally impressive, and you can put anything in it. I wanted to share my frittata with my friend Laura and her hubby.

Then I thought about the complications inherent in sharing something generally pie-shaped. Ok, so I'd take my slice... Then what? Hand her over a half-eaten frittata? Enjoy? I'm sure I'd not be asked to do her any more favors.

Solution? Mini Frittatas. Holy cow, you could even individualize them. Well, I wasn't going to go that far, but here is an update on the frittata recipe, and how to make them share-able, without busting your bank on some excessive and unnecessary frittata pan.

Mini-Frittata with Veggies and Smoked Provolone
6 Eggs
1/3 cup Milk
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp Fresh Oregano, chopped
2 Orange Tomatoes
1/2 Red Onion, finely chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, finely chopped
2 cups Smoked Provolone Cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper
1 pat of butter (to grease the pan)

*Preheat the oven to 4oo-degrees
1) In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until slightly frothy.

2) Grease a muffin tin using the butter (you can use a spray if you prefer). Place a few leaves of oregano and a thin section of tomato in the bottom of each cup.

3) In a large bowl, stir together all of the chopped vegetables, provolone cheese, remaining oregano, and the egg mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined. Add a dash of salt and a few cranks of pepper depending on your taste.

4) Spoon the mixture in to the cups until they are 2/3 full. Bake at 400-degrees until the egg is golden brown. When they are cool enough to touch, let them finish cooling atop a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture that may have been released from the vegetables.

And there ya go! Breakfast (or Lunch!) (or Dinner!)! I was able to pack these up in a tupperware for Laura; perfect, little, single serving frittatas. The smokey provolone cheese really gave them something special, and I'm thinking smoked cheeses will probably work their way in to more recipes. Success! Frittatas for everybody!

P.S. I followed up with Laura to see how they went over. She and Phil were both big fans of the mini-frittata. Well, there's more where that came from!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Creamy Dill Sauce for Salmon

Straight from the mouths of grandmas, here is the recipe for the dill sauce that my grandma made. Use it atop salmon - grilled, poached, or smoked. It's a fabulous condiment.

I wanted to eat it with chips.

"Jen, it would be my pleasure [to share the recipe].
Mix together 1 cup sour cream with 1/2 cup mayonnaise first.
Then add 1 and 1/2 tablespoon grated onion, 3-4 dashes of Tabasco sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and then 1 &1/2 teaspoons of dried dill or more to taste. Put in the frige so the mixture has a chance to blend."

And there you have it! Straight from Grandma Leonard's kitchen.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Of Salmon and Grandma Leonard

On a sunny day, when impulse was ripe, a long drive seemed like the perfect way to mix up my routine. There is something to be said for a girl who, when she is feeling like flying by the seat of her pants, goes to visit her Grandma. In any case, a trip over the sound and through the woods seemed like the perfect way to spend a day off, and to break the monotony that can sometimes encompass a 5-day weekend.

My grandmothers are both primary sources of the cooking that has been embedded in my family. Recipes and traditions passed down through generations from Russia and Italy primarily, but influences abound from Ireland, China, and any other place that has been visited or read about.

Grandma Leonard grew up in New York City, on the upper west side. Her father was a catholic Italian, her mother a Jewish Russian pretending to be Italian for a variety of reasons. In fact, my own mother wouldn't know the truth about my Great Grandmother Dee Dee's background until she was in her teens. On this side of the family, this is where eclectic cooking traditions formed. Brisket and kugel intermingling with chicken cacciatore.

Some of my favorite stories are of my grandmother's childhood; the antics, triumphs, and pitfalls, told over meals that are older than the tales themselves, presenting me with an interconnectedness to generations that I never knew. But here it is, all of that history, in the food.

While we were sitting outside discussing geraniums, my brother's travels abroad, and my social life, the discussion turned to food, as it usually does. Grandma asked me about meals I've made, and what has been on the blog recently (she is my biggest fan). I told her about the wonderful night I had had with my friend Cae when I made impromptu seared scallops and an arugla salad with Parmasean cheese, granny smith apples, and a lemon vinaigrette, followed by sitting outside, gelato and window shopping in New Canaan.

"You can make me a salad."

Grandma had poached a salmon that morning. Salmon is a staple in the Leonard household at all times, whether it be poached or smoked, to be eaten at any time of the day. The salad would go perfectly, and of course she had arugula and lemons on hand. We broke out the chips to nosh on and a bottle of white (this happens before every prepared meal I have ever experienced in that kitchen). I watched her stir rice with unmatched purpose (and love). I prepared the salad, and we had the salmon with a dill sauce that she had made. I recognized being part of this kitchen's ritual, something I had been observing since birth, and I was amazed at how something so simple could present me with such a feeling of security.

When we sat down to eat, my grandma sat in the chair she has sat in my entire life, she set a place for me across from her, where my Pop used to sit. He was a pensive, gentle man, and I had always admired his intelligence and patience. As I sat in his chair I wondered if I would be able to fulfill my own expectations of what it meant to take this seat.The dinner was exactly as it should have been, followed by frozen eclairs ("I like these because I can eat one OR two, but I can never wait long enough for them to defrost!").

Breakfast the next morning was coffee, a fried egg over-easy, and toast -- something my grandmother learned from my Pop - "It always looked delicious when he ate it so I started having it too." It became the standard breakfast of almost everyone on that side of the family for longer than I can remember (apart from lox and bagels, of course).

It amazes me how these small, seemingly insignificant moments are actually part of longstanding and rich family traditions. I can't ever make an egg over-easy without thinking of Grandma. I can't make a salad without remembering how I used to be a "taste-tester" in her kitchen as a kid, munching on lettuce and checking for vinegar content, and feeling a little proud that now I get to make my own salads. I think about my morning coffee, and how my grandma, aunt, and mother are all having their morning coffee as well. When I sit down to a table, I think of my family's table, my grandparents' tables, and how Pop would still be eating dinner while we've all moved on to dessert because god forbid he didn't savor every. single. bite.

"This is lovely!" My grandma said as we sat down to eat, and I truly felt the weight of those words.

Monday, May 31, 2010

I'm Thinking...

RD3 is going to be 3 this year! Appropriately, I was thinking there should be a gathering of some sort. So here's the idea: One Helluva Potluck/Barbecue sometime in Mid July for Friends, Family, and Fans of RD3. The location would be TBD somewhere in Fairfield County.
If you are interested or have any thoughts on this, friend RomanticDinner on Twitter or Romantic Dinner for Three on Facebook and respond to the discussion! I'm thinking it's a great opportunity to hang out, listen to some live music, and spread the foodie-love!

P.S. Check out the compost bin!

Friday, May 28, 2010

X=Shrimp (Scampi + Tomatoes)

I don't know why, but for some reason I just recently got over a horrible aversion to shrimp. Sure, I was moderately allergic to the little bastards for years, but what it really boiled down to was that I just didn't like them. What I did like was everything that has surrounded every shrimp dish that has ever existed. I'm pretty excited to be liking shrimp all of a sudden because it is a GREAT summer food and, as far as seafood goes, is relatively inexpensive.

As part of my savvy shopping I've started going through the grocery store's weekly fliers to see what's on sale and try to turn those things in to part of a meal. I usually keep my eye out for proteins, produce, and spices (since they tend to be the most costly part of any meal planning). When looking through this week, I found that bags of easy-peel shrimp were on sale for $6 for the 1lb bag.

Want to know a secret? That frozen shrimp in the bag is the same frozen shrimp you buy at the counter. You're not going to see a huge difference in quality unless you go to a local fish monger. So if you're shopping in the big grocer's, you might as well get whatever is on sale.

Also on sale was Ronzoni pasta (10 boxes for $10!). So I picked up a box of whole-wheat angel hair pasta. At this point, shrimp scampi would be a no-brainer. Scampi is great because it's just parsley, butter, oil, and garlic with pasta and whatever meat you put in. So, I was ready to roll. My plans changed a little when I discovered sun-dried tomatoes in my fridge... the suspense killing you?

Shrimp w/ Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce
1 lb Shrimp -- peeled, veined, and cut in to thirds
1 Shallot, minced
4 cloves Garlic, minced
2 tblsp Butter
1/3 cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup White Wine
1/4 cup Half-and-Half (or heavy cream)
1/3 cup chopped Parsley (fresh!)
1lb whole wheat angel-hair pasta

1) In a medium sauce pan, boil water and cook the pasta. Drain.

2) In a large skillet: Saute garlic and shallot in the butter over medium heat until soft. Add sun-dried tomatoes.

3) Add white wine and shrimp. Give it a quick stir and then put the lid on. Cook for about 5 minutes until the shrimp are mostly pink. Stir again and then put the lid back on for another 5 minutes until the shrimp are fully cooked and all of the flavors are combined.

4) Remove the lid and reduce the heat to low (give it a second for the heat to lower). Stir in the half-and-half and parsley until everything is combined. Toss with pasta!

(Salt and Pepper to Taste!)

This dish was delicious. I was so excited that it tasted exactly how I imagined it would: wholesome, healthy, fresh, yet robust. The whole-wheat pasta isn't just a healthier option, but it also compliments the rustic flavor of the dish. See? Shrimp is your friend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Stepping Out, Getting Green

So, after being in limbo (again) and transitioning (again) things are finally starting to settle. Good timing, too, because the weather is phenomenal, memorial day is around the corner, and we're starting to see all things green.

People are starting to think a little greener as well, so I figured we might as well incorporate that here. After all, we're all about being savvy with our ingredients and cleaver with our meal planning. A little conscientious consumption goes a long way. I'm a novice myself, so this seemed like a good place to have a learning experience.

Here are some projects RD3 will be taking on:
1) Composting. I now live with two gents who are both big time foodies. Apart from getting to eat a ton of creative and well prepared dishes, we go through a lot of produce. I was amazed at how many raw scraps we throw away. Carrot tops, lettuce stems, celery leaves... you name it. So I started looking in to composting as a way to decrease our waste. I was surprised to learn that we can also include things like coffee filters and grounds, TP tubes, and other biodegradable materials. So we're jumping on the composting bandwagon. But what to use it for...

2) Vegetable Garden. I'm a little limited because I can't plant directly in the ground and, unfortunately, New Canaan doesn't have a community garden. But if it can grow in a pot, I'm growing it in a pot. So far I've planted tomatoes, basil, rosemary, lavender, eggplant, sweet red Italian peppers, and cayenne peppers. I'd like to add some peas and beans to the mix. I'm already getting pretty excited about a) watching the veggies grow and b) how much money I'm going to save on herbs this summer.

3) Rain Barrel. It seems stupid to water a garden from the tap when plenty of the stuff falls out of the sky on a pretty regular basis. We're going to start collecting the rain in a barrel so we can use it for the garden, or even purify it for other uses.

4) Farmer's Markets. It's a no-brainer. By supplementing your weekly food-shopping by going to a farmer's market, you support your local farmers and agriculture industry, get ridiculously fresh meats, dairy, vegetables (and even shellfish), are usually getting pesticide-free, organic product, and it's socially responsible. Even though it's a little more expensive, you can plan your meals around what's being sold at the market and what's on sale at the food store.

My friend Jodi and I went to the Westport, CT farmer's market today. It was honestly my first real dig at a market, and I didn't really know what to expect. I'd gone in the past to purchase some novelty items, but never with the intention of "shopping". I was excited to see a TON of vegetable plants, so I picked up some eggplant and pepper plants. We took note of what was in season (green stuff -- lettuces, asparagus, herbs..) and realized that we'd come unprepared. Note to self: bring a cooler.

We ended up staying for lunch and had some pretty amazing thin-crust pizza. The guest chef was from Rizzuto’s Wood-Fired Kitchen. They had a fantastic whole-wheat pizza topped with asparagus and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I don't know how, but Jodi and I got ridiculously lucky and ended up with the last pizza before they ran out. The whole experience was pretty great and I'm looking forward to going back next week to see what else we can find. For a list of your local farmer's markets, you can visit your local Department of Agriculture website. Most of them run from mid-spring to early winter, some even stick around until Christmas. I've actually found one in my area for every day of the week that I'm not working. I'm pretty excited to be cutting out the middle-man and going straight to the farmers.

So, that's where I'm at. I am looking forward to enjoying the summer and getting some great recipes up while I'm at it. I'll hopefully be able to keep you posted with tips and whatnot as I go along. Have fun!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Signs Of A Chef-To-Be:

A Culinary Dry Run
Getting acquainted with pots and pans at an early age. Perfect primer.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pulled Chicken [Sandwiches]

For one year, when I was in college at UConn, my childhood friend Evan's apartment was right down the road. It was always fun having him around, but one of my most memorable weekends was when a huge storm rolled through. Forecasters promised 18"-24" of snow. The plan? Get lots of beer, get snowed in, and go riding around in Evan's Jeep Wrangler the next day. Really, I couldn't think of a better way to spend a snow day.

The only thing missing was the perfect meal. Something easy, warm, filling, and containable... pulled pork. It was the icing on the cake, really.

It dumped 1/2" of snow in the 15 minutes I was in the food store today. Nothing says crock-pot meals like a snow squall. I worked all weekend, I worked today, I've been running around like a crazy person... this meal plan is perfect for today.

Now, my recipe has (thank God) evolved a bit from my days at UConn, and there are even a few different variations.

I wanted to go for the epitome of hot/sweet/smoky, and so I concocted a Pineapple-Habanero Barbecue Sauce. Keeping with the healthy, I pulled chicken instead of pork. But no matter how you slice it, this is a damn good dish.

Pineapple-Habanero Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
You can cook this in a crock pot on high or low heat (preferable), but if you're short on time you can do it in a dutch oven on the stove.

5 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 15oz. can Crushed Tomatoes
1 Habanero Pepper
1 can of Pineapple Chunks (if you can go fresh, by all means, go for it)
1 Sweet Spanish Onion, chopped finely
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 Chipotle Peppers (or 2 tblsp. Chipotle Seasoning)
3 tblsp Vegetable Oil
Juice of 1 Lime

Romain Lettuce, Pepper-Jack or Cheddar Cheese, Fresh Cilantro, Bulkie Rolls

1) Put 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, 1/2 the chopped onion, 1/2 the pineapple chunks (with liquid), habanero pepper, and chicken in a crock pot (or dutch oven) set to low, and place the lid on.

2) In a sauce pan, saute the rest of the onion, chipotle peppers, and pineapple in remaining oil until the onion is soft.

3) Add tomatoes, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and lime juice, bringing to a boil.

4) Reduce to a simmer with the lid off, let the sauce reduce until it is thick and all of the ingredients are fully married, about an hour. (Taste to test. It should be tangy with a little kick, subtly smoky, and not too tomato-y).

5) Add the sauce to the chicken, which should be fairly well cooked by now. Let the chicken cook in the sauce until it is very tender and pulls apart easily (about an hour on the stove, two in the crock pot set on high).

6) Shred the chicken breasts by pulling apart with two forks. Keep going until all of the chicken is thoroughly shredded, and there are no big chicken pieces left.

7) If you are using the crock pot, drain some of the liquid and continue to cook. On stove top I like to keep it simmering with the lid off for another 30-40 minutes so that the chicken is thickly coated in the sauce.

8) Serve on toasted bulkie rolls with lettuce, pepper-jack cheese, and cilantro.

I'm telling you: Light a fire, turn on a game. It's cold outside, you're warm inside. Plus, you've got a dynamite sandwich.

Jenny 1 : Winter 0
Bring it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Sometimes the meals that have true "romantic dinner" potential sneak up on you. Take today for instance: I woke up, did some research, went to the chiropractor, and thought to myself, "Hey, I should do a new sandwich post today."

I happened to be right by Stop and Shop.

The suspense is killing you, right?

Well, while I was perusing the isles, trying to remember what exactly my chicken cutlet sandwich consisted of, I saw it... Already cut, peeled, and neatly packaged right in front of me: Butternut squash. What a great wintery vegetable. I threw it in my cart figuring I could always find something to do with it, and went on my way.

Turned a corner, and BLAMMO! I was face to face with lamb rib chops. On SALE. When does Stop and Shop have rib chops? When are they on sale!?!? It came to me in an epiphany. I was tempted to scream "eureka!" and run like Archimedes, naked through the isles.

Rosemary Braised Lamb Rib Chops
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Roasted Asparagus with Truffle Oil

Feast fit for a king... or in this case, my family.

I've said this before and I'll say it again, you know what's more exciting than getting flowers on Valentine's Day or your birthday? Getting them when you're not expecting them, for no reason at all, just 'cause.

The same goes for dinners like this one. Sure, I could make my Dad lamb chops on his birthday, but a meal like this on a Tuesday night? You'd better believe he was the happiest guy in town.

So happy, he made his Robert De Niro Face

His favorite part of the meal? Surprisingly, it was the risotto. A risotto done well is always satisfying. I have to say... it's a labor of love. If you aren't going to be patient and take the time to make any risotto the right way, you'd better put down that spoon. This rice takes commitment!

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

1 Butternut Squash, cut, peeled into 1"-2" pieces
4 tblsp Olive Oil
1 tblsp Sea Salt
1 tblsp Light Brown Sugar

2 cups Arborio Rice
1 Shallot, minced
1 Clove Garlic, minced
4 tblsp Unsalted Butter
1 cup White Wine (I used Pinot Grigio because it is light)
6 cups Chicken Broth
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated + extra for serving

Preheat oven to 400*f

1) Place the squash in a bowl or large Ziploc bag and add the olive oil, sea salt, and brown sugar. Mix well until all of the squash is coated evenly.

2) Spread out all of the squash on a baking sheet*, and place in the oven to roast. You can keep it there basically for the duration of the cook-time. It will take the squash about 20-30 minutes to become very soft.

3) Meanwhile, in a 2 qt. pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat.

4) Add the shallots and garlic. Saute and let them cook until they are fragrant and soft, about 5-7 minutes.

5) Add the rice to the pot and stir so that the rice is fully coated and combined with the butter and shallots. Add the wine.

6) Once the wine reduces and is absorbed by the rice, add the chicken stock 1 cup at a time, each time waiting until the prior cup has been almost completely absorbed. Stir constantly. Continue this measure until the rice is thoroughly cooked and creamy.

7) Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

8) Finally, add the roasted squash to the pot. Reduce heat to low and stir well, smashing the squash into the rice until it is more or less uniform.

9) Serve with extra cheese!

Intrigued? You don't even know! This rice is the perfect accent to a succulent meal. It's warm and timeless. The squash flavor isn't overwhelming, and just adds something special to a very basic (but still tasty) risotto. It goes great with lamb or beef. Along with our truffled asparagus and a good glass of red, if I closed my eyes I would have thought I was at a cozy homestead restaurant. Bon Appetite!

*I used the Bar Pan from Pampered Chef. I love it because it a) holds seasoning, b) adapts the exact temperature from the oven, so it cooks uniformly, and c) cooks the bottom and top at the same time. It is my favorite thing in my kitchen.

Monday, January 18, 2010

and We're Back!

Sorry for the delay, folks. My entire life has been in transition (and still is), but if you would please remain seated and return your trays to the upright position, we can get this show back on the road.

So, it's January again. January, synonymous with new beginnings and resolutions. I promise you, I have a few myself. When inquiring about the resolutions of my friends and family, I frequently get the same two answers: 1) Be Healthier 2) Save Money.

How convenient that their resolutions fit so nicely with my first post of the new year, and hopefully a recurring "segment" on the RD3 site...

"The Brown Bag"
Now, there are a ton of financial benefits to bringing your own food to work. I don't even want to think about how much I was spending on take out, pizza, and deli sandwiches during my long weekends at work.

Packing a lunch sound unappealing? Well, its not like there is a rule that says you are to be forever limited to rubbery left-overs and tuna salad sandwiches. You can still eat well, bring your lunch, and save some cash.

Shhhh, let me show you how with...

The Sandwich of the Week
Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Arugula and Basil, with a Balsamic Reduction on Ciabatta Bread

Ciabatta Loaf
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Mozzarella, sliced
Arugula Leaves
Fresh Basil
Balsamic Reduction (below)

1) Cut ciabatta the length of your sandwich and then into halves lengthwise. Drizzle each half with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

2) Assemble the sandwich with arugula on the bottom, prosciutto, mozzarella, balsamic reduction, and finally the basil on top before closing it up.

To make the balsamic reduction:
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 cup balsamic vinegar

- In a small pan, melt butter slowly over low heat with a clove of smashed garlic.
- Once the garlic begins to brown, and the butter begins to clarify, remove the garlic.
- Add balsamic vinegar and raise heat to high **just until it simmers**
- Bring heat back down to low and let the vinegar cook down until it is reduced and has a syrup-like consistency

This sandwich is delicious and savory. Reduced balsamic vinegar is so great. That sharp vinegar taste is cut, and replaced with a little bitter and a little sweetness that compliments the spice of the arugula so well. Between that and the smoky prosciutto and sweet basil, you really can't go wrong.

Expensive ingredients? Touche. But the fact of the matter is that you can make quite a few of these gourmet goodies with your purchase. Plus now you have all this left-over mozzarella, prosciutto, basil, and arugula. Pick your poison, there are a ton of dinners you can use those ingredients in.

It's in the bag!

As an aside, this balsamic reduction would be great with a Caprese salad. Hey! You could totally make that to go with your dinner. Good thing you have leftover arugula and mozzarella cheese!