Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Simon & Garfunkel Rub Turkey

By Paul Briand

This is a simple way to add color and taste your Christmas turkey.

I call it the Simon & Garfunkel rub because the ingredients used here are parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

Yes, from the S & G 1966 album "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" and from the song, "Scarborough Fair/Canticle":

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one who lives there,
She once was a true love of mine.

At any rate, just take a couple of teaspoons of each (with a sprinkle of garlic powder and some salt and pepper) mix it all together in a bowl then rub the entire chicken -- inside and out -- with the mixture. Get some of the rub under the skin too.

As a spokeswoman for the McCormick spice company said to the Associated Press, in a story about seasoning turkey, "Your big three are sage, thyme and rosemary. They work well together so you get a nice balanced flavor."

With the rub inside the turkey, the herbs will drip into your stuffing, if you are an in-the-bird-stuffing kind of person, which I am.

The bird will have nice coloring and great taste.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

By Paul Briand

I picked up this recipe from the Associated Press feed on my Blackberry. The idea here is to create a cheese-stuffed chicken dish that may sound like a diet buster, according to the AP article, but isn't.

In fact the nutrition information for this recipe puts a serving at only 296 calories -- hard to believe since it contains three different kinds of cheeses, primarily cheddar and Gorgonzola. The calorie offset comes from the fact that the high impact Gorgonzola is countered with a reduced-fat cheddar with a little Parmesan cheese thrown in for good measure.

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of excess water
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 ounce shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1 ounce crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
1/3 cup seasoned Italian-style breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 large white egg whites

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees;
2. In medium skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil followed by the onion and garlic. Saute until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes;
3. Add the spinach and Italian seasoning, then cook until all the liquid has evaporated;
4. Mix in both cheeses, set aside;
5. One at a time, lay each chicken breast flat on a cutting board. Use a paring knife to make a horizontal slit along one side to create a pocket (do not cut all the way through);
6. Place a quarter of the cheese mixture into the pocket, then press the meat over it. Repeat with remaining pieces of chicken;
7. In shallow dish or pie plate, mix the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. In other bowl, light beat the egg whites with a fork;
8. Holding the stuffed breast together, dip in egg whites then roll in the breadcrumbs. Repeat with remaining breasts and set aside;
9. In large ovenproof skillet over high heat, add remaining oil and add the chicken. Cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes;
10. Turn breasts over and place the skillet in the oven. Bake until chicken is no longer pink at the center, about 20 minutes.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010


By Paul Briand

I happened to catch a recent airing of "The Phantom Gourmet" -- a regional television program that reviews restaurants and talks about good food in New England.

The program did a piece on pizza joints with a sidebar about Stromboli. I got inspired then and there to make a Stromboli for my dinner table.

A Stromboli is a type of Italian turnover filled with various cheeses, Italian meats such as salami, capicola, and pepperoni, with some vegetables and marinara sauce. The dough is usually Italian bread dough.

I made mine with the ready-made pizza dough you can find at the grocery store, and I filled mine with capicola, pepperoni, cheeses and sauce.

My caveat: I needed more practice spreading the pizza dough. I needed to make it much thinner than it was because once it was all baked it was a little too thick around all that gooey goodness inside.

Store-bought pizza dough
12 slices of capicola (an Italian pork cold cut)
Slices of pepperoni
16 ounces store-bought marinara sauce
Bag of shredded Italian cheese blend
Bag of shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 egg beaten

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees;
2. On a dry, floured work surface, spread the pizza dough using a rolling pin and your hands to as thin as you can without tearing it;
3. Layer the following down the center of the dough: Some marina, several slices of capicola, several slices of pepperoni, a handful of the Italian cheese blend, handful of Mozzarella;
4. Add another layer, then another;
5. Fold the dough over the layers lengthwise, then fold in the ends to create what looks like a long loaf;
6. Use care in turning the loaf over;
7. Use a pastry brush to spread the egg wash over the loaf;
8. Sprinkle with more Mozzarella;
9. Bake until brown and the insides are gooey, about 20 to 25 minutes;
10. Cut in 2-inch slices and serve, using more marinara as a topping.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas

By Paul Briand

As promised, I returned to the grocery store aisle to find and try another of the McCormick spices recipes. This one was for Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas.

And, once again, it proved to be an easy and tasty way to get dinner on the table.

These new McCormick Recipe Inspirations include pre-measured McCormick spices and herbs and a recipe card that you can remove from the box and add to your collection. Previously, we tried a recipe for a Quesadilla Casserole.

In the case of these fajitas, the box included pre-measured amounts of garlic, minced onions, ground cumin, oregano, cilantro and black pepper.

1/4 cup each of lime and orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into thin strips
1 medium green bell pepper -- red or green -- cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
8 flour tortillas

1. Mix juices, oil, all of the spices and salt in small bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup of the marinade;
2. Place chicken in resealable plastic bag or large glass dish, add marinade (except for set-aside);
3. Turn to coat well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes;
4. In large skill over medium-high heat, stir in chicken and cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned;
5. Remove chicken from skillet, add pepper, onion and reserved marinade and cook and stir for 5 minutes, until tender;
6. Return chicken to skillet and cook 2 to 3 minutes until heated through;
7. Spoon chicken mixture into warmed tortillas and serve with assorted toppings -- salsa, guacamole, etc.

Click here for recipe card.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cherry Tomatoes and Almond Pesto

By Paul Briand

When you think of pesto, you think of a combination of basil and pine nuts.

But pesto, by Genoese definition, means "to pound, to crush." So just about anything that you can pound or crush together can become a pesto sauce.

I was inspired by an article about pesto in the Wall Street Journal to try one made from cherry tomatoes and almonds.

The article offered a variety of interesting combinations: pecans, parley and dates; pumpkin seeds and spinach; walnuts and grapeseed oil, as examples.

I wanted to try the cherry tomatoes and almond combination because, as it turned out, I had cherry tomatoes and almonds readily available in the house.

Here's the short and sweet recipe that the Journal said came from PBS chef Lidia Bastianich.

2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes

1. In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, almonds, and garlic clove;
2. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and a bigger pinch of salt;
3. Puree the mixture and add the olive oil in a steady stream until the pesto emulsifies into a thick puree.

It is heartier and nuttier than your store bought pesto and certainly different from the basil and pine nut pesto that most people are accustomed to. But it's a welcome change when you can do it yourself.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Art Smith's Sweet Potato Salad

By Paul Briand

Here's an at home recipe I brought on the road.

The occasion was a family reunion folded around the Air Force at Army football game that occurs at West Point, N.Y., every two years.

This year the event attracted about 50 relatives and included lots of eating -- both at the hotel where we all stayed and at our tailgate party that preceded and followed the football game on Saturday.

My contribution was a sweet potato salad, the recipe for which I found in a recent issue of AARP the Magazine. It comes from Art Smith, who is described in the magazine piece as Oprah Winfrey's former personal chef.

4 orange-fleshed yams (sweet potatoes)
1/4 cup mayonnaise , regular or reduced-fat
4 ribs celery , cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 small red bell pepper , seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup diced (1/2-inch) ripe fresh pineapple
2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans , toasted
Chopped fresh chives , for garnish

1. Wrap the individual potatoes in foil. Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 1 hour, until tender. Cool until easy to handle. Peel, then cut into 3/4-inch chunks;
2. In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise and mustard. Add the yams, celery, red pepper, pineapple, and scallions and toss gently, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerated until chilled, about 1 hour. (The salad can be made 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Adjust the seasonings before serving.);
3. Just before serving, fold in the pecans and sprinkle with the chives. Serve chilled.

A couple of notes: The hardest part of this recipe is getting the sweet potatoes cooked so that they're not undercooked but not so overcooked as to make them mushy once the salad is mixed. Mind tended to be a little on the mush side.

I also doubled the amount of pineapple and added a little more mayo. I felt it needed the added sweetness and the smoother consistency that a bit more mayo brought.

And, when I made this recipe for the first time at home, I substituted almost for pecans. When I made the dish for the crowd I didn't use any nuts at all, just to be on the side side against any food allergies.

For recipe card of Art Smith's Sweet Potato Salad, click here.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shepherd's Pie Stuffed Potatoes

By Paul Briand

Wow, talk about hearty. Take the comfort food of a shepherd's pie and combine it with the comfort food of a good old fashioned baked potato and you've got comfort food squared.

This is a Rachael Ray recipe from her new cookbook, "Rachael Ray's Look and Cook."

I've said before that I like Ray for her quick, easy, off-the-shelf recipes. They don't require a lot of intricacy and a lot of time in the kitchen. This one, however, is a little more involved than the 30-minute recipes you see featured on her Food Channel show.

But it's well worth the effort.

6 large russet potatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
Ground black pepper
1 pound ground sirloin
1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, quartered
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons spicy brown or Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F and on a rimmed baking sheet, roll the potatoes in a hearty drizzle of olive oil and some salt. Bake until tender, about 1 hour, then let cool;
2. While the potatoes cool, in a medium skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the bell pepper and half of the onions and saute to soften for 5 minutes, then set aside to cool;
3. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut a thin top slice off each potato. In a bowl, combine the bell pepper and onion mixture, the sour cream, smoked paprika, half of the Gouda, salt and pepper. Scoop the flesh from each potato and to the bowl. Mash to combine. Set aside;
4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the ground sirloin and brown for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the lumps. Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to turn golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes more;
5. Add the remaining onions and the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Push all of the ingredients to the edge of the pan and add the butter to the middle of the skillet. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in the stock, mustard, soy sauce, and Worcestershire. Bring up to a bubble, combine with the meat mixture, adjust the salt and pepper, and simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes;
6. Fill the potato shells with the beef and veggie mixture, then top each of them with the mashed potatoes;
7. Transfer to a baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Pop the potatoes under the broiler until the cheese is melted and the tops are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

I don't know about Rachael, but I had quite a bit of mashed potato left over, even after piling it high on the potato shell. But having leftover mashed potatoes is not a bad thing; another ingredient for another comfort food dish this week.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quesadilla Casserole

By Paul Briand

The folks at McCormick, the spice people, have come up with what I think is a great idea for people who are not only spice challenged but meal idea challenged as well.

McCormick is now selling what it calls "Recipe Inspirations" -- all-in-one package that includes pre-measured spices, a shopping list and recipe card for a variety of meals.

I chose this Quesadilla Casserole because I've done other dishes that use layers of flour tortillas in a lasagna-type arrangement with layers of meat and cheese, and I wanted to see how it measured up. It was great.

This recipe package included all the spices for the dish, all measured out in separate little packages: Chili powder, ground cumin, minced garlic, oregano leaves and crushed red pepper.

Here's how it came together:

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion (I just used one medium sized onion)
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (4 1/2 ounces) whole kernel corn, undrained (I used frozen corn ... less sodium)
1 can (4 1/2 ounces) chopped green chiles, undrained
6 flour tortillas (8-inch)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Brown the beef and onion in large skillet over medium-high heat, when cooked through drain fat;
2. Add tomato sauce, beans, corn and green chiles, mix well;
3. Stir in the spices, except red pepper, and bring to boil;
4. Reduce heat to low, simmer 5 minutes and add red pepper, if desired;
5. Spread 1/2 of beef mixture over bottom of baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking oil
6. Top with enough tortillas to cover mixture (some cutting of tortillas and overlapping may be required);
7. Layer with half of remaining beef mixture and half of cheese;
8. Add another layer of tortillas;
9. Top with rest of beef mixture and red of cheese;
10. Bake in oven pre-heated to 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through and bubbly;
11. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I'll definitely try more of these "Recipe Inspirations."

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Rice & Sausage Stuffing

By Paul Briand

Here's a good recipe for autumn that captures some of the texture, color and flavor of the season.

I like that the squash becomes not only part of the meal but part of the presentation too.

2 acorn squash, each cut crosswise in half and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces of sweet (or hot) Italian sausage (casings removed if buying links)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt, parsley and cayenne pepper to taste
2 cups cooked brown rice

1. Spray a large microwave-safe plate with a non-stick cooking spray and place squash halves -- cut side down -- on plate. Microwave on high until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool enough to work with;
2. In large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat and add sausage, stirring to break up and cooking until no longer pink. Remove sausage and set aside in large bowl;
3. Add onions, red pepper, garlic salt and pepper to skillet, cook until tender, about 8 minutes;
4. Remove from heat and add mixture to the bowl with the sausage;
5. Scoop out the squash, leaving about a quarter inch thick shell, and add the squash meat to the bowl;
6. Add rice and parsley to the bowl and mix until everything is well combined;
7. Evenly divide the mixture among the four squash shells. Serve warm.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicken Soup

Paul Briand

So, after rooting around for a Chicken Soup recipe that I could try to keep my cold at bay, I decided I'd just give it a go on my own.

How difficult could it be?

Chicken, chicken stock, carrots, celery, spices and some noodles. What could go wrong?

Actually, my recipe was going along like gang busters -- great texture, richness of flavor with the help of some shallots and a splash of sherry. But then I made a fatal, rookie mistake. I used egg noodles, which turned my steamy broth into a thick, stew-like concoction. It became so thick that to make individual servings I had to cut it down with additional chicken stock.

Roasted whole store-bought chicken
1 pound baby cut carrots
2 1/2 cups celery, sliced
2 shallots, chopped
32 ounces low-sodium chicken stock
Oregano, parsley, salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water

1. Strip the chicken of all the meat, discarding the skin and fat. Set meat aside;
2. In the 2 cups of water in a large pot, bring the chicken carcass to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, using a fork to strip away left over meat;
3. Remove the carcass and preserve the broth, using a strainer to remove any leftover bones and a spoon to skim away the fat;
4. Add the carrots, celery and shallots to the broth and simmer at a medium heat for 10 minutes;
5. Add the chicken to the broth and stir;
6. Add the chicken stock and spices to the broth and stir;
7. Let the chicken simmer another 10 minutes;
8. Fill a soup bowl, add a splash of sherry and serve.

My original idea was to add the noodles during the cooking process to create a Chicken Noodle Soup, but it was a mistake to use the egg noodles. They should have been cooked separately and added separately. Or I should have used noodles that didn't produce as much starch.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Feed a cold, right?

By Paul Briand

Feed a cold, starve a fever. You've heard it. I've heard it.

So I should be concentrating on eating this week, given the lousy cold I have.

But preparing meals is the least of what I want to do when my head and chest are full of congestion.

There's a certain mythology to feeding a cold and starving a fever.

Certainly, you can't starve yourself completely if you're trying to fight a fever.

According to Denise Snyder, a nutrition scientist and clinical trials manager at the Duke University School of Nursing.:

...loss of appetite is your body’s natural defense mechanism for fevers, as it helps the immune system focus its energy on fighting pathogens.

“You shouldn’t overconsume, but if you’re hungry you should eat,” she says, adding that fluids can only help fight the fever.

As for “feed a cold,” it’s simply a matter of keeping your nutrient levels up while the virus runs its course.

“Colds usually last longer than fevers,” Snyder says. “You need to be consuming food so you can fight it off -- especially fruit and vegetable juices and warm broths.”

So fluids it is.

And chicken soup, of course.

I'm on the hunt for a chicken soup recipe. I'll try to report back next week on the results, if I can motivate myself beyond the coughing and sneezing.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Roasted Rosemary Baby Yukon Potatoes

By Paul Briand

This is a side dish that has a great ROI -- return on investment. With the investment of little time, the return is huge in terms of flavor.

28 ounces small Yukon potatoes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees;
2. Rinse and quarter the potatoes;
3. In a large zipper-bag, add the potatoes along with the cornstarch, rosemary, garlic powder and pepper;
4. Shake well to coat;
5. Transfer potatoes to large baking dish and spread them into a single layer;
6. Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes;
7. Bake for 30 minutes, giving the potatoes a turn at the halfway point.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pork with Maple Glaze

By Paul Briand

As the season turns from summer to autumn, so does some of our cooking emphasis.

Stews are on the horizon. Comfort food to warm the chill.

This recipe uses a fall staple -- maple syrup -- as the base for a glaze that enlivens a pork dish.
This recipe is adapted from one developed by the Boisvert Farm and North Hadley Sugar Shack in Hadley, Mass. I found it in the "Food Lovers' Guide to Massachusetts."

The original recipe calls for two 12-14 ounce pork tenderloins, which I can usually find at the market but weren't available when I shopped. So I substituted with a pound of boneless pork chops.

For a couple of reasons, I also doubled the recipe for the glaze itself. I love glaze and sauces, so I knew I'd overdo it when it came to using it over the pork, but I also wanted some extra for the sweet potato side dish I made.

1 pound of boneless pork chops
2 teaspoons dried sage leaves (or sage spice in the can)
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
12 tablespoons pure maple syrup
12 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1. Rub (or sprinkle) the pork with sage and sprinkle with pepper;
2. Melt butter in a large skillet and brown the pork, turning so that both sides are brown. When pork is no longer pink remove to platter;
3. Whisk the maple syrup, cider vinegar and mustard together in a bowl;
4. Add the mixture a little at a time to deglaze the skillet;
5. Bring mixture to a boil and add the pork, cooking for another two minutes;
6. Remove the pork and serve, spooning glaze over the pork.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Orecchiette Mac & Cheese

By Paul Briand

Bottom line: Was my Orecchiette Mac & Cheese as good as it was at the Fuze Restaurant in Avalon, N.J.?

It was a noble effort, but the creaminess and texture and combination of flavors in the original far outdid what I was able to replicate at home.

To review:

My wife Jane and I did some traveling last month and ate a lot of restaurant food. We were particularly taken with the mac and cheese offering at the Fuze. See last week's post.

It took a bit of work to reverse engineer the dish to create a recipe.

From our memory of the dish and from the bits and pieces we know from the menu description, it uses orecchiette pasta, which I hadn't heard of before. It found that orecchiette literally means “little ears,” although some people find them more dome-shaped than ear-shaped. They work well with chunky meat and vegetable sauces.

The recipe also describes it as "crispy spec, oven roasted tomato compote, chive, Wisconsin béchamel, herb and toasted bread crumb."

Here's my interpretation:

16 ounce box of orecchiette pasta
1 pound thick-cut bacon
1 pound aged cheddar, grated
14 1/2 ounce can of roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoon butter
Chive, chopped
For béchamel sauce:
3 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/4 tablespoon nutmeg

1. Prepare the béchamel sauce
In medium sauce pan, heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add flour and stir until smooth and mixture turns a light golden sandy color. Meanwhile, heat the milk until it almost boils. Then add the hot milk to the butter mixture, a little at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to boil then remove from heat and set aside;
2. Cook bacon until crispy done. Remove and pat away grease from cooked bacon with paper towel. Set aside;
3. Cook pasta according to box instructions. Drain and set aside;
4. Using 2 tablespoons of butter melted in a skillet, sautee bread crumbs and set aside;
5. With béchamel sauce returned to medium heat, whisk in the grated cheese a handful at a time and repeat until all the cheese is melted into the sauce;
6. Place pasta in large mixing bowl, stir in cheese sauce;
7. Crumble bacon into cheese and pasta mixture and stir;
8. Add roasted dice tomatoes to the mixture;
9. Pour entire mixture into medium large backing dish and spread evenly;
10. Top with sautéed bread crumbs;
11. Add palm-ful of chopped chives;
12. Place the baking dish into oven pre-heated to 350 degrees and cook until the mixture gets bubbly and bread crumbs start turning a deep brown.

Mine wasn't as gooey as the original. It needed more cheddar and a good dose of mozzarella. But it was definitely worth the effort.

Really now, can you ever have too much mac 'n cheese or too many mac n' cheese recipes?

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Road food comes home

By Paul Briand

For the last couple of weeks, wife Jane and I have been on the road, vacating and eating our way through various parts of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

Eating good food is a big part of any vacation.

We had crab of just about every kind, including a Blue Crab Salsa.

Some of what we had was so good I wanted to try to figure out the recipe to create the dish to eat at home.

That's my current challenge with the Orecchiette Mac & Cheese (pictured) we had at the Fuze restaurant in Avalon, N.J.

Drinking one night at Fuze the bar -- which had a very, very expensive bottle of Louis XIII bottle of cognac in a lighted display -- we overheard the talk about the mac and cheese dish and how popular it was.

A couple of nights later, when we had it ourselves as an appetizer, it was clear the dish was worth the raves -- rich, creamy, full of flavor.

So my question was: How do I recreate this at home?

I had a few hints from the menu to go on: "crispy speck, oven roasted tomato compote, chive, Wisconsin bechamel, herb bread crumb."

My ingredients will include a Orecchiette pasta, béchamel, Wisconsin cheddar cheese, oven roasted tomato, bread crumbs and chive.

But this is going to take some forensics to reverse engineer to get the correct balance of those ingredients.

I'll report back next week.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dynasty Burger with Spicy Hoison Barbecue Sauce

By Paul Briand

This is the third in a series of three articles on dogs and burgers ... specifically new takes on the grilling favorites.

We started with Pesto-Parmesan-Topped Burgers, then moved on to Kielbasa Chili Dogs. Today it's back to burgers, but with an Asian influence, courtesy of Martin Yan of "Yan Can Cook" fame.

For Yan, this burger recipe is not only about the flavor but also about the textures.

"I am so passionate about this homemade burger recipe that I have spent my entire life trying to perfect it — and I am still working on it!" he said in an e-mail to the Associated Press, which wrote a story about this burger. "I'm using chopped fresh vegetables and herbs and incorporating Asian seasonings/spices, trying to find the right combination/proportion of ingredients to bring the flavor to a new level."

For the hoisin barbecue sauce:
1/4 cup prepared barbecue sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

For the burger:
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns
4 leaves lettuce
1 large tomato, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1. To make the barbecue sauce, in a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Set aside;
2. To prepare the burgers, in a medium bowl, combine the beef, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and pepper. Mix well, then form the meat into 4 patties, each about 4 inches round;
3. Heat a grill or grill pan to high;
4. Add the patties and cook for 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Allow the burgers to rest off the heat for 2 to 3 minutes;
5. Place each burger on the bottom half of a bun. Top each with some of the barbecue sauce, then arrange a piece of lettuce, and slices of tomato and red onion slices on each.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kielbasa Chili Dogs

By Paul Briand

This is the second of three entries about burgers and dogs. Today we'll look at chili dogs, but a new take on the American staple.

We still have the chili, but we don't have the dog as you might think. The hot dog here is replaced with kielbasa, a Polish sausage made from beef or turkey or pork. And the hot dog bun is replaced with a roll.

The recipe comes from Rachael Ray. I was at the gym, running on a treadmill, listening to music on my iPod, and watching her daytime talk show on one of the TV screens in front of me. She was doing an old school vs. new school show and this was a new school recipe she made on the classic chili dog.

There are a lot of moving parts to this recipe, which means a lot going on in the kitchen at one time ... I had three skillets going. I enjoy that kind of multi-tasking in the kitchen and we sure enjoyed the results.

2 tablespoons butter
2 onions
1 ring kielbasa or turkey kielbasa
Extra Virgin Olive Oil or vegetable oil, for drizzling
3/4 pound ground sirloin or lean ground turkey
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped pimiento or roasted red pepper
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 generous tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup beef stock or broth for beef chili sauce or chicken stock for turkey chili sauce
4 potato rolls, split
Chopped fresh dill, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish

1. Melt butter in small skillet over medium heat. Peel and halve the onions. Thinly slice 1 1/2 onions and add to butter. Sauté until sweet and caramelized, 20-25 minutes;
2. Meanwhile, place the kielbasa ring in a few inches of water and simmer at low boil to heat through, 7-8 minutes;
3. Heat a drizzle of oil in a small pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground meat and brown, 5-6 minutes, crumbling it as it cooks;
4. Grate the remaining half of onion into the meat with a handheld or box grater;
5. Add garlic and pimiento or peppers, smoked paprika and chili powder into the meat, cook 5 minutes more then add tomato paste. Cook half a minute then stir in stock or broth and reduce heat to low;
6. Cut the kielbasa ring into 4 pieces. Halve the kielbasa pieces lengthwise. Heat a drizzle of oil in large, nonstick skillet or griddle pan over medium-high heat. Crisp up the kielbasa pieces on both sides;
7. Place 2 pieces of crispy kielbasa across the bottom half of the rolls. Top with chili sauce, some caramelized onions, dill, a small dollop of sour cream and the bun tops.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pesto-Parmesan-Topped Burgers

By Paul Briand

I'm going to go on a burgers and dogs rant for the next few weeks. It's been ideal grilling weather, and I've been looking for new takes on the traditional grilling fare of hot dogs and hamburgers.

Today's burger comes from the "Flat Belly Diet for Men" book that I've written about in the past. Making use of the diet's recommendations and using many of the recipes in the book, including this one, I've lost more than 20 pounds since March. Read about it here.

What intrigued me about this recipe was the topping: pesto, which gave the whole eating experience a nutty quality to it.

1 pound extra-lean ground beef
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
4 Portuguese rolls, split and toasted
4 Boston lettuce leaves
1/2 tomato, cut into 4 slices
1/4 cup pesto
1/2 red onion, cut into 4 slices

1. Heat the grill to medium high heat
2. Combine the beef and pepper and form into four patties;
3. Set the burgers on the grill rack coated with cooking spray and grill 4 minutes, turn the burgers, grill another 4 minutes and top with Parmesan. Grill about 2 minutes longer, until the cheese melts, then remove from grill and set aside;
4. Set the roll bottoms on a work surface, top each with 1 lettuce leaf, 1 tomato slice, 1 tablespoon of pesto, 1 onion slice and 1 burger. Complete the burger with the top half of the bun and enjoy.

Some notes: I grilled my red onion slices first, giving them a nice bit of carmelization. I used a lot more Parmesan than what was called for, and I used fresh Parmesan, not the stuff out of the can ... what a difference.

Next week: Kielbasa Chili Dogs

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chicken Salad

By Paul Briand

The idea here is for a portable meal -- to take on a picnic, take to the beach, take outside on the porch.

It also smacks of summer, clean and sweet, enhanced by the dried cherries.

We've had this straight up and we've had it as a wrap.

One diversion we made from the original recipe, which we found in Relish magazine, was to replace grilled chicken with a roasted chicken from the grocery. It made a simple meal to prepare even more simple.

1 roasted chicken with meat removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 1/2 pound chicken tenders

1 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard (Creole mustard is suggested in recipe, I went with Dijon)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Black pepper

1. To prepare the grilled chicken, combine all ingredients except chicken in a large bowl. Stir well. Add chicken to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least an hour;
2. Prepare grill to medium heat;
3. Remove chicken from marinade and discard the marinade. Grill chicken for about 3 minutes each side until thoroughly cooked;
4. To prepare salad, combine all ingredients. Add cooked grilled chicken (or the meat -- sans skin -- you had stripped from the roasted chicken). Toss well and serve.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Caprese Salad

By Paul Briand

It's not often that you'd describe something you ate as refreshing. Satisfying, certainly. But refreshing?

Yet that was the case the other evening when we sat down to eat after an afternoon in the summer heat at a Boston Red Sox - Texas Rangers baseball game in Fenway Park.

My sister Margaret served a Caprese Salad that was refreshing in its burst of tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil.

Here's her version of a Rachel Ray recipe:

3 vine-ripe tomatoes, 1/4-inch thick slices
1 pound fresh mozzarella, 1/4-inch thick slices
20 to 30 leaves (about 1 bunch) fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Coarse salt and pepper

Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf on top, on a large, shallow platter. Drizzle the salad with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Margaret says she changes it up a bit by drizzling a dressing made of olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of just olive oil.


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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jack Daniel's Barbecue Sauce

By Paul Briand

So, what do you do when you have just about six ounces of whiskey left in your bottle of Jack Daniel's?

Any sane man or woman would drink it. I made barbecue sauce. All was not lost ... I used four ounces in the recipe and drank the remaining two over ice while I made the sauce.

I used the barbecue sauce first on some grilled chicken then used the rest on some ribs.

You can definitely taste the sour corn mash that comes from the whiskey, but it doesn't overpower and adds a particular sweetness to whatever you're cooking.

1/2 cup of Jack Daniel's whiskey
1/4 stick butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Melt butter in skillet over medium high heat;
2. Add onions and garlic, saute until tender;
3. Stir in rest of the ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally;
4. The yield, about 1 1/4 cups keeps well in the refrigerator.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Barbecue Bacon and Bean Salad

By Paul Briand

This struck me as an odd collection for a salad. Fennel? Barbecue sauce?

I was especially struck by the fennel, a strong herb that has the taste of anise (think licorice). I was worried that the fennel would be overwhelming but it was absorbed nicely into the dish.

I found the recipe while cruising through stories from the Associated Press, which described it as " a rich, but not heavy salad that is the perfect partner for ribs, burgers, dogs, cobs or whatever you got on the grill."

1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces (a low-fat substitute is Canadian bacon)
1 large yellow onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce
15-ounce can corn kernels, drained (or kernels cut from about 4 ears)
Two 15-ounce cans white beans, drained
1 medium bulb fennel, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped chives

1. In a large saute pan over medium-high, cook the bacon for 4 minutes;
2. Add the onion and continue cooking until the bacon is crispy and the onion tender. Remove the pan from the heat. If there is more than about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan, drain most of it, leaving the bacon and onions in the pan;
3. Stir in the smoked paprika and barbecue sauce;
4. Transfer to a bowl and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool quickly;
5.In a large bowl, mix together the corn, beans and fennel. Mix in the cooled bacon mixture, tossing well. Sprinkle in the cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped chives.
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Old Bay Crab Cakes

By Paul Briand

If you know Maryland crab cakes, you know Old Bay.

At any seafood restaurant in Maryland you'll find Old Bay seasoning on the table. It's as ubiquitous as a salt and pepper shaker.

Old Bay is a combination of seasons and herbs used to enhance seafood, and I tried an online recipe from the Old Bay website for its own style of crab cakes.

According to the website, "this is the original recipe that appeared on the back of the Old Bay can ... Baking powder makes the crab cakes light and fluffy, while Old Bay Seasoning adds personality."

2 slices dried bread, crusts removed
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon parsley Flakes
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 pound lump crab meat

1. In a large bowl, break bread into small pieces. Moisten with milk.
2. Add mayo, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, baking powder, Old Bay, salt, egg and crab meat. Mix lightly and shape into patties. If time permits, refrigerate patties 30 minutes to help keep them together when cooking.
3. Broil or fry until golden-brown on both sides.

One issue with crab cakes is that they sometimes fall apart on the griddle. Letting the mixture rest in the refrigerator for about a half hour before cooking certainly helps but I still had a problem with the patties coming apart on the grill. But that was my fault. I had the grill on medium low. I should have had it fired up closer to medium high. That would have put an immediate sear on the patty, perhaps lessening the possibility of it falling apart at the flip.

How to serve it? Alone is fine. Between two lightly toasted hamburger buns is an option. I used mine to top a fresh salad.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Shrimp with Mustard Sauce

By Paul Briand

While visiting my sister Ella and her husband Tom not too long ago, I was at their kitchen table browsing the "Super Suppers Cookbook 2" by Judie Byrd. I figured this recipe for shrimp and mustard sauce would be a keeper, especially for my wife Jane, because it combined two of her favorites: shrimp and mustard.

2 tablespoons olive oil
36 shrimp (for ease, I use pre-cooked frozen shrimp that I thaw in a bath of water)
4 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons of tarragon or thyme (I used a tablespoon each)
1/4 cup sherry or chicken broth (I used half sherry, half broth)
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup of butter, cut in pieces

1. In a skillet heated to medium high, cook the shrimp until it starts to become opaque, set aside;
2. Add shallots and tarragon/thyme to skillet and cook for two minutes;
3. Add sherry/broth and cream and stir until the sauce starts to thicken;
4. Stir in the butter a piece at a time;
5. Stir in the mustard and season with pepper to taste;
6. Return the cooked shrimp to the skillet and stir into the mixture until hot.

Certainly the dish can stand alone, but goes well with rice or, as we did, angel hair pasta.
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Charred Corn and Grilled Shrimp Chopped Salad

By Paul Briand

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay loves to grill and will grill anything and everything as part of his recipes.

His cookbook -- "Bobby Flay's Grill It!" -- was a Father's Day gift last year and is the source of this week's recipe as we get more deeply into the outdoor grilling season (at least here in northern New England).

This recipe leans heavily on corn charred on the grill and shrimp, also grilled.

6 ears of corn, husked and cleaned
1/4 cup of canola oil
Black pepper
12 ounces (21 to 24 count) of peeled and deveined shrimp
Jalapenos, to taste (optional for those who can't take the heat)
1 ripe avocado, pitted and finely diced
2 beefsteak tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 cups chopped watercress or romaine lettuce
1/2 cup coarsely crushed tortilla chips

1. With grill heated to high, brush the ears of corn with oil and season with pepper, then grill until slightly charred on all sides;
2. Remove cobs from heat, let cool and use a knife to remove kernels and transfer into medium bowl;
3. Grill the shrimp until done, then cut in half and add to bowl;
4. Add jalapenos, avocado and tomatoes;
5. Whisk the lime juice, vinegar, honey and olive oil together in a small bowl and season with pepper. Pour over the corn and shrimp mixture, add cilantro, and toss;
6. Arrange the watercress (or lettuce) on a large platter and spoon the corn and shrimp salad over the top, sprinkle with crumbled tortilla chips and serve.
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad

By Paul Briand

I volunteered to make a pasta salad for a family Memorial Day barbecue before knowing just what kind of pasta salad I wanted to do.

Then it struck me that I'd been riffing lately on my love for grilled vegetables, so decided on a pasta salad that combined a variety of grilled vegetables, penne pasta, and balsamic vinaigrette.

There's no real trick to this, just a willingness to grill all the vegetables (either on your outdoor grill or, as in my case, with grilling pan or even with a panini grill) and chopping it all up.

Medium size eggplant
Vadalia onion
Green bell pepper
Yellow bell pepper
Yellow squash
Package of cherry tomatoes
1 box of penne pasta
1 cup of balsamic vinaigrette
Parmesan cheese

1. Wash and prepare vegetables: Cut eggplant and onion in hamburger-like slices, quarter the peppers, and cut the squash and zucchini lengthwise in half;
2. On a medium hot grill (or other grilling appliance) spray some cooking oil and place the vegetables flattest side down;
3. Once the vegetables get a nice char, turn them over until another char develops and they begin to just soften from the cooking;
4. You may have to repeat the grilling process, depending on the size of your grill;
5. Set vegetables aside and let cool;
6. Cook the penne pasta according to the package instructions;
7. Slice the vegetables into bite size chunks and put them into a large mixing bowl;
8. When the pasta is al dente, remove from heat, strain and add to mixing bowl;
9. Add vinaigrette (more to taste, if desired);
10. Add Parmesan cheese to desired taste;
11. Let stand to room temperature or refrigerate to cool, mixing occasionally.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Japanese-Style Pork Cutlets

By Paul Briand

When you think of using a breading mixture in your recipes, rethink what you're thinking: Think panko.

Panko is a flaky bread crumb used a lot in Asian cooking. Since it's made without the bread crusts, it has a lighter almost airier texture to it.

I found this recipe on the back of the box of some panko bread crumbs I picked up at the market.

4 boneless pork loin chops
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cups panko bread crumbs

1. Pound the pork chops to about 1/4 inch thickness, trim off excess fat;
2. Coat each chop with flour, then dip into egg to moisten, then into panko to completely cover both sides;
3. In a large frying pan, pour oil about an inch deep and heat to 350 degrees;
4. Add each pork chop to hot oil and cook until brown, about two minutes;
5. Remove from oil and drain briefly on a paper towel before serving.

This particular recipe suggests cutting the pork in 1/2 inch diagonal strips then arranging on a salad made from shredded cabbage and tomato wedges, garnished with lemon juice and a steak sauce.

I served mine with a side salad and topped my chop with a Thai chili sauce.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grilled Peppers and Onions

By Paul Briand

This is more about technique, and less about a recipe. It's an alternative to sautéing as way to prepare peppers and onions for addition to your spaghetti sauce and chili or as a topping or side dish.

Don't get me wrong, I love to sauté fresh vegetables using a bit of olive oil, then using them as part of a red sauce or chili. But, if you have the time, grilling the vegetables then cutting them up as an addition to your sauce or chili gives you a crunch and heartiness that really stands out in your recipe.

Here's a recipe I use for grilling peppers and onions, with the addition of some other ingredients that I use as a topping for hamburgers, tacos, burritos or as a side dish with sliced avocado or with guacamole.

To do this recipe you'll need a means to grill -- such as an outdoor grill or even that panini maker you hardly ever use. I use a wonderful grilling skillet, a gift from daughter.

1 sweet onion
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 12-ounce jar of roasted red peppers
2 cloves of garlic
2 baby carrots
Lime juice
Black pepper

1. Peel and cut the onion into quarter inch slices, as you would if you were going to use them as a burger topping;
2. Clear the green and yellow peppers of seeds and membrane and cut into quarters;
3. Over a medium hot grill, sprayed with a little olive oil, grill the onion and peppers, just enough to get a little bit of a char on both sides. They should be just barely limp;
4. Remove to a cutting board and slice into bite size pieces, set aside in a mixing bowl;
5. Add two whole cloves of garlic to the grill and cook 30 seconds on each side (easier with a grilling skillet than your outdoor grill);
6. Remove garlic to cutting board and mince, set aside in mixing bowl;
7. Dice the red peppers from the jar and add to the mixing bowl;
8. Julienne the baby carrots and add to the mixing bowl;
9. Add lime juice, cilantro and pepper to taste and mix together;
10. Let stand for 15 minutes, then serve.
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mexican Lasagna

By Paul Briand

If you are a recipe hound as I am, you clip or print out your finds and toss them into a book or binder.

Then, in search of inspiration for a meal, you go digging through your recipe book like an archeologist digging through layers of sand.

I went digging the other day and found this recipe for a Rachel Ray Mexican Lasagna. It was one I hadn't made, dating back to October 2009 when I originally printed it out from the

It's a bit of a variation on the Taco Lasagna recipe that I posted in November of last year.

This is much more like pasta lasagna with lots of gooey layers. With the use of the tortillas this lasagna layers up really well.

A couple of notes: I substituted the red onion with a sweet onion. That's just a personal bias that I don't like to cook with red onion because I think it can be too overpowering at times.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds ground chicken breast, available in the packaged meats case
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
1 cup medium heat taco sauce or 1 (14-oz) can stewed or fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn kernels
8 (8 inch) spinach flour tortillas, available on dairy aisle of market
2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar or shredded pepper jack
2 scallions, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees;
2. Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil - twice around the pan. Add chicken and season with chili powder, cumin, and red onion. Brown the meat, 5 minutes.
3. Add taco sauce or stewed or fire roasted tomatoes. Add black beans and corn. Heat the mixture through, 2 to 3 minutes then season with salt, to your taste.
4. Coat a shallow baking dish with remaining extra-virgin olive oil, about 1 tablespoon oil. Cut the tortillas in half or quarters to make them easy to layer with. Build lasagna in layers of meat and beans, then tortillas, then cheese. Repeat: meat, tortilla, cheese again. Bake lasagna 12 to 15 minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly. Top with the scallions and serve.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chicken Marsala Stew with Spring Vegetables

By Paul Briand

A stew without stewing -- that's essentially what this recipe is all about by replacing stew beef with chicken.

This gives you the heartiness of the stew, which you'll still appreciate on some of these cool spring evenings (at least here in the Northeast), without it taking all that long to get on the table.

I found this recipe on the Associated Press news site, and it noted that the recipe compensates for the flavor of typical stews and their long simmers by drawing on the Marsala wine and balsamic vinegar in the ingredients here.

A couple of notes on substitutions: I used a package of sliced button mushrooms in place of the cremini mushrooms and I used low-salt chicken stock.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces baby carrot
1 cup frozen baby peas
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1. In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat 1/2 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high. Add half of the chicken pieces and season with 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with another 1/2 tablespoon of the oil and the remaining chicken, salt and pepper. Set aside;
2. Add another 1/2 tablespoon of the oil to the pot. Add the mushrooms and saute until they begin to soften and give off liquid, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the carrots and peas, then saute for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside;
3. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of the oil to the pot. Add the onions and saute until they soften and start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute;
4. Pour in the Marsala and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes longer. Add the chicken broth and reserved vegetables, then bring to a simmer;
5. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add the reserved chicken and vinegar and simmer until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Start to finish it's about 45 minutes. No stewing about that.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Baja-Battered Fish Tacos

By Paul Briand

I love baseball parks, particularly Fenway Park, home of my beloved (if currently tortured) Red Sox.

And when the occasion presents itself I'll attend games at other ball parks, and sampling the food is always part of the experience. You find these days that the fare extends beyond hot dogs or peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

This recipe for Baja-Battered Fish Tacos came from a story that the AARP Magazine did about some popular ball park dishes that can be replicated at home. Fish tacos are popular at PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres.

3/4 cup beer, preferably lager or pilsner
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 - 1 1/4 pounds tilapia, or other firm white fish, sliced into 1/2-inch-by-2-inch strips
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1. Place beer, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, salt, oregano, mustard, cayenne and pepper in a blender; blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary;
2. Transfer the batter to a shallow baking dish;
3. Add fish, turning to coat all sides;
4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer one-third of the battered fish to the pan, placing each piece into a little oil. Cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side;
5. Transfer cooked fish to a plate; keep warm;
6. Add 1 tablespoon oil and half the remaining fish to the pan; cook as directed above, reducing the heat if necessary;
7. Cook the remaining fish with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Serve immediately on soft tacos.

I never serve my tacos naked, so I put together a quick salsa-type mixture that included:
1. Sweet onion, cut in hamburger style sliced then grilled with a light coating of olive oil and diced;
2. Diced tomato;
3. Diced avocado;
4. Splash of lime juice.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Healthier Stovetop Mac and Cheese

By Paul Briand

What interested me about this recipe was that it was a mac and cheese recipe that de-emphasizes the cheese ... big time.

In fact, the foundation on which this recipe is made is not cheese at all -- it's the pumpkin or squash puree.

I found this recipe while trolling the Associated Press app on my BlackBerry.

And reading a mac and cheese recipe that wasn't really cheesy captured my attention. The challenge, as I would come to find out, was finding pumpkin or squash puree. Normally, I was told at my supermarket, one or the other would be among the items in the baking aisle. But there were neither, and hadn't been for some time, I was told.

So I have the soup aisle a look. I couldn't find a substitute in the normal soup aisles among the varieties from Campbell or Progresso, but in the natural food aisle I found a Wolfgang Puck brand squash soup, which I used in this recipe. I also substituted the creme fraiche with sour cream.

12 ounces medium whole-wheat pasta shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 slices (about 2 ounces) prosciutto, finely chopped
15-ounce can pumpkin or squash puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
4 ounces creme fraiche (or substitute with sour cream)
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside;
2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium, heat the olive oil. Add the prosciutto and cook until just crisp, about 3 minutes;
3. Add the pumpkin, creme fraiche, hot sauce, cumin and Parmesan. Cook, stirring often, until hot;
4. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss well to coat. Season with pepper and serve.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

By Paul Briand

Do you use canned soup to cook?

I don't, so I was a little surprised recently to read a Wall Street Journal article that noted:
  • 79.5 million households in the U.S. have Campbell's condensed soup in their pantries at any given time;
  • 350 million cans of Campbell's cream-of-mushroom soup are sold each year;
  • Between 85 and 95 percent of the cream-of-mushroom soup sales are used for cooking.

But things at Campbell's aren't as good as the statistics might indicate. Sales are flat and the Campbell's soup folks are testing out new recipes that add a little more oomph to a meal that's made with canned soup and, hopefully, give some oomph to sales.

One that we tried with some success and enjoyment is Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes. It'll officially debut on the backs of cream-of-mushroom soup cans in August.

What sets this apart from its other recipes, according to Campbell's, is the use of the sun-dried tomatoes, not the kind of thing normally found in the kitchen. It's something you're going to have to put on your shopping list. Same thing with the shallots. It adds a different flavor and is something you might not normally keep in the pantry.

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 can Campbell's condensed cream-of-mushroom soup (regular or 98 percent fat free)
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 cups extra-wide egg noodles, cooked and drained
1/4 cup shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat;
2. Add chicken and cook for 10 minutes or until well browned on both sides, set aside;
3. Heat remaining oil in skillet and add the shallot, cook and stir for 2 minutes;
4. Stir in the soup, water, tomatoes, vinegar and chopped basil;
5. Return chicken to skillet, heat to boil then reduce heat to low;
6. Cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked completely through;
7. Serve chicken and sauce over the noodles;
8. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired, and sliced basil.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cornbread-Chili Casserole

By Paul Briand

I thought this was a brilliant idea -- combining the staples of a chili dinner (chili and cornbread) into one dish.

I saw the recipe in the March 21 issue of Parade magazine in my Sunday newspaper and wanted to give it a try.

It was easy to create, though I think I used a slightly larger casserole dish than what was called for, which meant that my cornbread layer over the top was a little thin. But that actually turned out for the better since the cornbread complemented the chili as opposed to overpowering it.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds of ground chuck (I substituted turkey)
1 1/2 cups bottled salsa (I combined a mild with a medium hot)
One can of corn, drained (I substituted frozen corn)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, optional
1/4 cup of water
Cumin, chili powder and black pepper
One box of cornbread mix
1/3 cup milk for the cornbread
1 large egg for the cornbread

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and saute the union until soft;
2. Add meat and cook until no longer pink;
3. Discard fat then stir in the salsa, corn, water and cheese;
4. Season to taste with cumin, chili powder and pepper;
5. Pour the mix mixture into a large skillet (recipe recommends 7-by-11 inch) and smooth the top;
6. Prepare the cornbread according to the package instructions, and spread a layer over the chili;
7. Bake in an oven set at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, then let cool 10 minutes before serving.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Guinness Corned Beef

By Paul Briand

I prepared this corned beef dish for St. Patrick's Day. At least that was the hope. The cooking time, given as two and a half hours in the recipe, was closer to three and a half hours. It was late, we were starved, and we pulled a frozen pizza from the refrigerator and had that as our Paddy Day traditional fare.

The recipe came from the Meat House, a regional butcher with a regular email newsletter that contains seasonal recipes. Guinness appeals to my wife Jane's inner Irish and what better way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day than with a traditional corned beef dinner.

Note: I skipped the turnips the recipe called for, simply because I hate turnips. I quartered the potatoes. And it needed a longer baking time than the two and a half hours.

It was a very tasty Day After St. Patrick's Day meal.

4 pounds corned beef
1 cup brown sugar
1 bottle Guinness Irish Stout
8 ounces of carrots cut into chunks
1 medium head of cabbage cut into wedges
8 small white onions
8 ounces of turnip cut into chunks
8-12 Yukon Gold potatoes

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees;
2. Rinse corned beef and pat dry;
3. Place corned beef on rack in large roasting pan or Dutch oven, and completely coat with Guinness then rub completely with brown sugar;
4. Cover and place in oven for two and a half hours (I found it was closer to three and a half);
5. During the last hour, add the vegetables to roasting pan or Dutch oven and cook until desired tenderness.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Pineapple

By Paul Briand

I know, I know. I've been doing a lot of chicken lately. I promise to move onto something else next week.

This particular chicken recipe comes from the Associated Press and I found the combination of the pineapple/orange juice with the jalapenos/cilantro pretty interesting ... kind of a fusion thing going on here.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
12-ounce package fresh pineapple chunks (1 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1. Arrange chicken breasts in a single layer on a work surface and cover with plastic wrap. Using a heavy skillet or a rolling pin, pound them until flattened to about 1/2 inch thick;
2. In a shallow dish, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge both sides of each breast in the seasoned flour;
3. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil and butter. Add the chicken breasts and cook until they are well browned on both sides and no longer pink at the center, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer them to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Do not clean the skillet;
4. While the chicken breasts are cooking, drain the juice from the pineapple into a measuring cup. Add enough orange juice to total 3/4 cup. Stir in the cornstarch, then set aside;
5. Return the skillet to the stove over medium-low. Add the drained pineapple and brown sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, until the pineapple begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chilies and garlic and stir until the garlic is beginning to color, 1 to 2 minutes;
6. Stir in the reserved juice. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until thickened and reduced slightly, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, then serve, spooned over the chicken breasts.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chicken and Peppers in Vinegar Sauce

By Paul Briand

It's back to the reality of home cooking after a week in Florida eating some exquisite seafood. Grouper. Red snapper. Mahi-mahi. Swordfish. It was a delightful smorgasbord of fresh fish.

But coming home means coming back to eating at home and I found this week's recipe from Bobby Flay -- one of my favorites -- in a recent issue of Parade Magazine.

Some notes on this dish: I substituted the skinless chicken thighs in the original recipe with skinless chicken breasts. I halve the breasts before cooking them. Also, as with almost all the recipes I use, I didn't use the salt that was called for.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups low sodium chicken stock or broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh parlsey

1. Heat oil in a medium Dutch oven over high heat until it simmers;
2. Pat the chicken dry, season with pepper, and cook in the heated oil, turning, until golden brown on both sides. Set chicken aside;
3. Add peppers and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about five minutes;
4. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute;
5. Add the vinegar and cook until reduced by half;
6. Add honey and broth, season with pepper and cook for five minutes;
7. Return the chicken and accumulated juices to the pot, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot and cook until the chicken is tender, about 15 minutes;
8. Remove the chicken to a platter and cook sauce until slightly reduced, about five minutes;
9. Stir in parsley, pour sauce over chicken and serve.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cashew Beef with Broccoli and Snow Peas

By Paul Briand

Here's the last, at least for now, of some recipes from the "Flat Belly Diet! For Men," which I've been using less as a diet regimen and more as a guideline for ways to eat better and, with proper attention to exercise, lose some weight.

So far, so good: I've shed five pounds over a stretch of about two weeks that included several days of fat belly eating and drinking with family during a ski vacation in northern New Hampshire.

One thing you'll notice about these meals is that the serving is supposed to be enough to fill that belly you're trying to flatten. This particular beef recipe has 314 calories in a serving. The idea is to have a so-called MUFA (mono-unsaturated fatty acid) included in the recipe to 1) help you feel more full 2) use the properties of the MUFA (in this case cashews) to work its healthy magic.

1 pound extra-lean top round steak, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of dry sherry
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons black bean sauce
3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 cups broccoli florets
1/3 cup water
4 ounces snow peas
1 carrot, sliced
1/2 cup unsalted roasted cashews

1. Combine the sliced steak with 1 tablespoon of the sherry and 1 tablespoon soy sauce in a bowl;
2. Combine the remaining sherry and soy sauce along with the honey and black bean sauce in a separate bowl;
3. Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil over medium-high heat and cook the steak, stirring occasionally until no longer pink. Transfer to a plate and reserve;
4. Add remaining sesame oil to skillet and stir in the onion and cook for one minute;
5. Add the ginger and cook about 15 seconds, until fragrant;
6. Add the broccoli and water, cook 2 minutes, stirring often until broccoli is bright green;
7. Stir in snow peas, carrot and cashews and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often;
8. Stir in the beef and sherry mixtures, and cook until mixture is hot and vegetables are crisp-tender.

Note: When I cooked this, I didn't use the water. There was enough liquid and I was concerned the water would just -- well -- water is all down too much. Also, I added 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms and some sliced carrot for texture and color.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

By Paul Briand

Italian Sausage Skillet with Caramelized Onions, Tomatoes and Peppers

Here's one more recipe from the "Flat Belly! Diet for Men" that I've been playing with for a couple of weeks, with some success. Without being on the diet, but eating some of what the diet recommends I've managed to lose a few pounds.

I have to confess to a Fat Belly diet the day of the Super Bowl, which impeded some of the downward progress.

What strikes me about some of the recipes in the diet -- this one included -- is that they're actually pretty hearty, and I wonder how there can be so few calories. This particular recipe of pan-seared Italian sweet sausages with vegetables purports to be only 304 calories per serving. The hard part, as I've said earlier, is keeping it to one serving.

12 ounces Italian sweet sausages
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 red bell pepper sliced
1 green bell pepper sliced
3 cloves garlic sliced
3 plum tomatoes cut into 16 pieces each
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Pour the water into a skillet over medium heat and add the sausage;
2. Boil the sausage, turning often, until the water boils away, then brown all sides of sausage until thoroughly cooked through;
3. Transfer sausage to a cutting board and let cool;
4. Cut sausage into half-inch thick slices;
5. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat;
6. Add the onions, sugar, basil and oregano. Cook until it begins to caramelize with a nice brown color;
7. Add the peppers and cook another 3 to 4 minutes;
8. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute;
9. Add the tomatoes and cook 3 to 4 minutes;
10. Stir in the sausage, vinegar, salt (always optional with me), and pepper;
11. Heat through and serve.

Makes four servings.
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