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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