Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Almond-Crusted Chicken Breasts

By Paul Briand

I'm testing some recipes in a new diet book entitled "Flat Belly Diet! for Men."

I haven't given myself over to this diet just yet. I've been reading the book, assessing whether I can adapt my life to this diet or whether the diet takes over my life in my attempt to lose a few pounds around the middle.

The former I can live with, the latter not so much.

What intrigues me about the diet, when I was thumbing through it at the bookstore, was the quality of the recommended. "This stuff I can eat," I said to myself.

So I'm in the process of trying some of the recipes and commenting on them here. The diet in general makes a big deal about what it calls MUFAs -- monounsaturated fatty acids.

This diet likes MUFAs, which are found in olive oil, nuts, avocado, olives and pesto to name a few. One of the diet rules is to eat a MUFA at every meal. So each of the recipes includes a MUFA.

This chicken breast recipe was easy to prepare and was accompanied by a balsamic drizzle. Frankly, it was really tasty. Diet or no, I'd recommend it for everyone.

1 large egg
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped (this is the MUFA)
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons honey

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray;
2. Whisk the egg with the water in one shallow bowl;
3. Combine the almonds, bread crumbs and salt in another shallow bowl;
4. Dip each chicken breast first into the egg wash, then the nut mixture;
5. Place on baking sheet;
6. Bake, turning once, until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes;
7. As the chicken is cooking, combine the orange juice, vinegar and honey in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Boil over medium to high heat for about 10 minutes or until the sauce is reduced by half;
8. Serve over chicken.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Turkey Patty Melt

By Paul Briand

A piece about Patty Melts on a morning news program recently gave me a hankering to try my hand at my own version of the dish that basically combines a burger with a grilled cheese sandwich.

You can use just about anything to make a Patty Melt in terms of meat, kind of cheese, and type of bread.

My Turkey Patty Melt involved some spiced up ground turkey burgers along with lots of cheese -- jalapeno cheese slices for me, American cheese slices for my wife Jane -- and slices of wheat bread.

Note that my recipe is for two, using half a pound of ground turkey.

1/2 pound of ground turkey melt seasoned in advance to taste with garlic powder and salt free Grill Mates Steak seasoning;
Four slices of whole wheat bread, each slice buttered on one side;
Four slices of your favorite cheese.

1. Divide the ground turkey and make two quarter pound patties;
2. In a skillet on medium high heat (or on a grill) cook turkey until done (the middle of the patty should feel firm to the touch), flipping as necessary to give each side a nice crust;
3. Remove patties and set aside;
4. Put two bread slices buttered side down on the skillet;
5. Top each piece of bread with slice of cheese, patty, another slice of cheese, and bread slice (buttered side up);
6. When bread gets dark brown, flip and cook the other slice until it too is dark brown and the cheese is entirely melted.

Serve and enjoy.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fried Rice

By Paul Briand

Fried Rice is one of my favorite cravings. There are times when I just have to have ... have to have, mind you ... some take Chinese take-out. And the collection of take-out food always includes Fried Rice.

But I haven't found the perfect take-out Fried Rice, so I did some research and tried my hand at my own.

This involves cooking the rice in advance to allow it to cool: It makes it that much easier to actually fry it without overcooking it. I put my pot of rice out on the porch in sub-freezing temps to cool it down.

1/3 cup peanut oil
1/3 pound cooked ham (or substitute with pork or chicken)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 whole scallions, thinly sliced
Package of frozen vegetables (I used string beans, peas and carrots)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups cooked brown rice (read the package carefully to determine how much uncooked rice will yield)

1. Heat a wok over high heat and when hot add 1 tablespoon of the oil;
2. Add the ham (or alternative) and cook until lightly browned;
3. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until onion starts to become translucent;
4. Add the garlic, ginger, and scallion and stir-fry about 30 seconds;
5. Add the frozen vegetables. Cook until just defrosted but still crisp. Transfer all contents of wok to a large bowl;
6. Return work to the heat and add 2 more tablespoons of oil. Add the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Stir the eggs constantly and cook until cooked through but still moist, then transfer egg to the bowl and stir into the mixture;
7. Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining oil. Add cooked rice to the pan, season with pepper and stir-fry the rice to coat evenly with oil. Stop stirring, and then let the rice cook undisturbed until its gets slightly crispy, about 2 minutes. Stir the rice again, let cook another 2 minutes;
8. Transfer rice to the bowl. Stir all the ingredients together;
9. Transfer the entire mixture back to the wok and heat through. Top with garnish -- I used cashews and chow mein noodles -- and serve.
Serves 6.
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Beef Bourguignon

By Paul Briand

If you watch the movie "Julie & Julia", as my wife Jane and I did the other night, you come away with a hankering for Beef Bourguignon.

The movie is based on two true stories: Of Julia Childs's rise from diplomat wife to renowned cook, and of Julie Powell who decided in 2002 to cook each of Childs's recipes in her cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and blog about it.

One of the other stars of the movie is the Beef Bourguignon, and I came away from the movie with a hankering to prepare the dish as close to Julia Childs's recipe as possible.

Electronic versions of her recipe are all over the web. I found one on Oprah's site.

But I found a so-called "remastered version" on the site of a woman who writing a "Dinner with Julia" blog and doing today what Powell did several years ago -- cooking her way through the cookbook and writing about it.

The benefit of the remastered version is that I could find all the ingredients -- particularly the meats -- at the supermarket where I shop, instead of the specialty meats at a butcher store, such as butcher-cut bacon for the part of Julia's recipe that calls for lardon's of bacon with the rind removed.

3 pounds beef (for best results, choose rump, chuck roast, sirloin tip, top or bottom round), cut into 2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups drinkable but-under-10-bucks red wine
3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
6 pieces chopped, cooked bacon {roast on a baking sheet 15 minutes at 400 degrees}
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1 pound crimini or baby bella mushrooms
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Fresh chopped thyme and/or parsley for garnish

1. Pat the beef pieces with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture – dry beef browns better than wet beef. Toss the beef in a large bowl with the salt, pepper, garlic and thyme. Marinate at room temperature for about an hour, or cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place a large, ovenproof casserole or Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and let it heat for a minute or two. Arrange a third of the beef in a single layer on the bottom of the pan and brown on all sides – this will take about 10 minutes. This is an important step; adding all the beef at once will steam rather than brown the meat. What you want is a nice dark brown color on the exterior of the beef, so try not to fiddle with it until you see the juices beginning to brown – be patient! Remove browned beef to a platter and repeat with the remaining beef.

3. Put all the beef back into the pot and sprinkle with flour, stirring to coat evenly. Cook for a few minutes to lightly cook the flour. Pour in the wine and enough stock to just barely cover the beef. Stir in the tomato paste and toss in the bay leaf and bacon. Lay a sheet of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) over the pot and top with the lid.

4. Transfer the whole thing to the oven and cook for 1 hour. Take a peek to be sure that the liquid is not boiling madly; it should be gently bubbling. Adjust the oven heat by 25 degrees as needed, up or down. Continue cooking another 2 hours or so, until the beef is very tender when you poke it with a fork.

5. While the beef is in the oven, sauté the shallots in a 10-inch skillet lightly coated with olive oil until they begin to brown. Add a pinch of salt and the mushrooms, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are softened. Set aside.

6. Put the carrots in the same skillet with ¼ cup water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook until the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the carrots and add to the mushroom mixture.

7. When the beef is ready, stir in the carrots and mushrooms. Taste the sauce and season with additional salt and pepper as necessary. Sprinkle with thyme and parsley to add some green. Serve in bowls with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and warm, crusty bread.
Serves 6.

A couple of notes from my experience:

For Christmas, I received a wonderful large grilling skillet from my children. And I used it -- rather than the Dutch oven -- to grill and saute my meats and vegetables. I then added everything into the Dutch oven at the point of tossing everything with flour just before baking.

The results of the effort were delicious, and just as good the second time around as leftovers.

Jane and I, of course, couldn't help but say "bon appetite" to each other several times.
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