Tender, juicy roasted chicken leg quarters are easy to prepare and delicious. The leg quarter is made up of the thigh, drumstick and part of the back of the chicken. It’s named a quarter because it consists of about a quarter of the whole bird. The dark meat takes well to roasting and yields moist and flavorful chicken.
Asiago has long been a favorite cheese of Brion & I. It is a brilliant cheese to bake into bread for a cheesy treat or grate over soft pretzels before baking. It also works particularly well with chicken dishes.
Asiago is a whole milk cheese that originated in Northern Italy, around the Po River Valley where Italy borders Austria. Coming from the mountains, Asiago is similar to other mountain cheeses, such as Switzerland’s Gruyere or France’s Beaufort. Asiago is made in large wheels designed for long-term aging to get through tough winters. Dense and flavorful, Asiago’s flavor profile changes as time polishes the wheels over the course of several months or years. Taken from the milk of cows grazing on the grasses and wildflowers of the mountains, Asiago can have a fresh, fruity flavor or a savory, zesty taste on the palate.
This is a very simple recipe but has an amazing flavor and is well worth trying, especially if your an Asiago lover.
Roasted Garlic Chicken w/ Asiago Gravy
In a saucepan, fry bacon, blot on paper towel & set aside. Add the seasoned chicken & brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Set aside.
Add onion, mushrooms & garlic to saucepan; sauté until tender crisp & lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.
Sprinkle in the thyme & flour; cook for a minute.
Add the broth & deglaze the pan by scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a spoon while the broth is sizzling.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix asiago cheese into the sauce & season with salt & pepper to taste.
Add the chicken, cover with a lid or foil & roast for 15 minutes. Alternately, you can turn heat down to a medium-low & simmer on top the stove for 15 minutes.
Add crumbled bacon to sauce after roasting. Serve.
CELEBRATING LABOR DAY!
Labor day week-end gives us an opportunity to enjoy family & friends before summer is officially over. Although, we have not officially reached the first day of fall (Sept. 22nd), this part of the year often begins with a tinge of melancholy. Even so, there are many ways to appreciate Canada’s most sentimental season.
Part of our country’s appeal is its four season’s: Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall. We are entering the season of the fall harvest and the leaves on the trees begin their transformation to stunning shades of orange, red and yellow.
Whatever your choice of relaxation is, you know good food will play a big part in the week-end events. For some reason, ‘Chicken & Fries’ just seems like a great meal for this occasion. Ever since I started using this seasoning blend, I want to put it on everything.
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried minced garlic & onion and sea salt. These five ingredients aren’t necessarily the heroes of the spice world, but together they are irresistible. Move over Colonel Sanders there’s a new spice for that chicken!!
Everything Spice Chicken & Fries
Slice chicken into 'fingers'. In a plastic bag, combine all seasonings & spices along with the shredded Parmesan cheese. Drizzle chicken with oil then place in seasoning 'bag' & coat heavily with the mixture.
Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place chicken fingers on it in a single layer. Set aside in refrigerator until fries are prepared.
Wash & slice potatoes to desired size for the fries. Toss in a large bowl with oil & seasoning; coat well. Line a baking sheet with foil paper & spread fries out on it.
Place prepared chicken fingers & potato fries in preheated oven. Bake the fries for 30 minutes then flip them over & bake for another 15-20 minutes or until they are crispy. Bake tray of chicken fingers until cooked through & golden brown.
- Alternately, chicken can be cooked in oil in a skillet if you wish.
As my love affair with leeks continues, I just can’t imagine what took me so long to try them. It’s amazing how many ways there are to use these giant ‘onions’.
The ‘cordon bleu’ idea has been around forever and generally it features a specific cut of meat stuffed with ham and cheese. In this recipe, the leeks are wrapped in Swiss cheese & Canadian bacon, then baked in a béchamel sauce and served over steamed rice.
Though ham and Canadian bacon look and taste remarkably similar, they’re not the same thing. Ham comes from the back legs, specifically the thighs and rear end, while Canadian bacon comes from the center of the pig’s back otherwise known as the eye of the pork loin.
There are a few names for Canadian bacon which include back bacon and pea meal bacon. During the early part of the last century, yellow peas were ground up and used to coat and cure pork loin. This became known as pea meal bacon. Once cornmeal became more readily available, it was swapped out for the pea meal.
Probably the bacon most people are familiar with is American bacon, which comes from the belly of the pig and tends to be much fattier …. hence the name ‘streaky bacon’.
I have to be honest, I’ve never been a bacon lover (which probably stems back to my Dad’s home cured version !!) but I did find this meal light and tasty.
Leeks Cordon Bleu
Remove roots, outer leaves & tops from leeks; leave 6-inches of each leek. Cut each in half crosswise. Steam, covered 8 minutes or until tender. Wrap each leek half in 1 piece of cheese & top with 4 pieces of Canadian bacon. Place leeks in an 8-inch square baking dish.
Place flour in a small saucepan; add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook 6 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat & season with salt & pepper. Pour sauce over leeks & sprinkle with panko crumbs.
Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Serve over steamed rice.
Versatile & plentiful, zucchini has endless applications. To mention a ‘few’, we’ve made zucchini bread & muffins, noodles, roasted it and put it on kabobs with chicken. It’s used in curry, ratatouille, stir fry and relish, etc. etc. etc. But just when I think there’s nothing I can do different with it, another idea pops into my head.
Among the family of sausages there is perhaps none so beloved in North America as the bratwurst. There are many interpretations of bratwurst, with variations on texture, flavor, size and cooking methods. Traditional bratwurst, which is German in origin, is made with pork & veal. Turkey bratwurst is a popular alternative to this traditional kind because of its low fat content.
For this recipe, I combine ground turkey with a combination of ‘German’ bratwurst spices and formed them into long sausage shapes. The shredded zucchini/cheese ‘crust’ is wrapped around each sausage and baked. All the flavors blended so well, creating yet one more use for zucchini!
Zucchini Crusted Turkey Bratwurst
Place the shredded zucchini on paper towel & sprinkle LIGHTLY with salt. Cover & blot with another piece of paper towel. Allow to sit for about an hour to release excess moisture.
When zucchini is ready, place in a bowl & combine with remaining 'crust' ingredients.
Combine all ingredients & mix well. Divide mixture into 5 equal portions, shaping each into a 5-inch long sausage.
Assembly & Baking
Divide zucchini mixture into 5 equal amounts. On a piece of plastic wrap, place a portion of the zucchini mixture & pat it into a small rectangle large enough to enclose a sausage in it. Lay a sausage on the zucchini; use the plastic wrap to help roll the sausage & enclose in the zucchini crust. Repeat with remaining sausage,
Oil a piece of foil paper. Place foil on a baking sheet. Top with crusted sausages & bake for 30 minutes or until slightly browned.
These are nice served with baked potatoes & corn.
Scallops are beloved by pretty much everyone who can eat them …. they’re tender, sweet and taste ever so slightly of the sea. Being not only expensive and easy to overcook, scallops are often considered restaurant only fare.
Wild scallops feed by filtering microscopic plankton from the water. They are hand shucked immediately and frozen at sea to capture their fresh sweet flavor.
Pan-seared scallops pair well with bright, tangy flavors that contrast their meaty sweetness or in creamy dishes that emphasize their richness.
One of my go-to ‘sauces’ that I’ve used on numerous occasions on the blog, contains hot red pepper jelly. I’ve added a raspberry preserve to the jelly for a new twist on the flavor this time. The parmesan risotto brings it all together, definitely making this meal a ‘keeper’.
Pan-Seared Scallops w/ Spicy Raspberry Sauce
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook & stir diced bacon until browned, about 5-10 minutes. Drain the bacon & reserve.
In the skillet, melt the butter & sauté onion & garlic for about 4 minutes until soft & translucent. Add the rice & mix well until it is fully coated with the butter.
Pour in 1/2 cup of the broth & lemon/lime juice. Once the rice has absorbed all the liquid, turn heat to medium low. Add one cup of broth & continuously stir until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat, one cup at a time, with the remaining broth. This will take about 20-25 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup water & take the pan off the heat once risotto is at your desired consistency. Add the parmesan cheese, reserved bacon & parsley; stir to combine. Add salt & pepper to taste.
In a food processor, puree ingredients for sauce & set aside.
Thaw scallops as directed on package. Rinse & pat dry with paper towels; season with salt & pepper. Add oil & butter to a non-stick skillet & heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Sauté scallops by turning over once until browned & just cooked through, 4-6 minutes total.
Serve over a bed of parmesan risotto & drizzle with sauce.
- Of course, if you live where you have access to fresh scallops, your in a whole different class!!
Here on the Canadian prairies we have a native berry called a ‘Saskatoon’. These berries are very special …. the kind of special that only comes once a year.
Saskatoon berries look much like blueberries, but in fact are part of the rose family which includes apples, cherries, plums and of course roses. Saskatoons ripen in late June or early July. They grow in many conditions from sea level to mountain peaks and are less picky about soil conditions than blueberries. Trying to explain their flavor to anyone who has never tasted them is difficult and elusive. They’re sweet, dense, rich, seedy, slightly blueberryish, more almondish, a bit apple-y, dusky and deep. Like I said …. difficult to explain!
Throughout North America, saskatoon berries have a variety of names including: prairie berry, service berry, shadbush or juneberry.
Saskatoon berries work equally good in sweet treats as well as savory recipes. This pork tenderloin entrée is a good example of the latter.
Honeyed Saskatoon Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
In a small bowl, combine panko crumbs, Parmesan, thyme, oregano, garlic & pepper.
Remove silverskin from tenderloin & 'butterfly'. Place meat between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & pound, making it all the same thickness. Spread mustard evenly on flattened cut side & top with 'stuffing'.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Starting with the long side, carefully roll the tenderloin as opposed to just folding it over.
Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan & lay a piece of foil on top creating sides for it. Lightly oil center of foil; place tenderloin on it & brush with Fig Balsamic Olive Oil Vinaigrette or just use olive oil. Roast for about 45 minutes until just a hint of pink remains.
In a small saucepan over low heat, add 1 tsp oil & sauté green onions & ginger for a couple of minutes. Add honey, water, cider vinegar, cornstarch & salt; mix well. Add saskatoons; bring to a simmer & cook until chutney thickens slightly.
Slice roast tenderloin into medallions about 1-inch thickness. Pour some chutney onto serving platter; place sliced tenderloin medallions on top & drizzle with remaining chutney.
No matter what the stuffing or style is, love for the empanada is not a difficult one to understand. They are cheap, easy to eat, transportable, and versatile.
Empanadas look as good as they taste; perfect food for a picnic. Eating outdoors, spaced apart is probably one of the safest ways to gather during the ongoing pandemic crisis. The great thing about picnicking is that you can do it practically anywhere you can throw a blanket down. If you can’t make it to a park or field, your yard, porch or any flat surface with a little grass (or sand), some sun (& shade) will do.
Empanadas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can be served as appetizers or snacks (hot or cold), but they can easily make a full and satisfying main course.
The very basics for an empanada are a combination of three things; dough, filling and a cooking method. The dough can be made from wheat flour, cornmeal, mashed plantains, potatoes, yuca, sweet potatoes etc. and the fillings can consist of meat, fish or vegetables. The cooking method is usually to be baked or fried although some can be cooked on a griddle or grill.
According to food historians, empanadas with seafood filling first appeared in a 1520 cookbook, published during the Moorish invasions.
I was real interested to see what I could do to make some salmon empanadas taste special. We found they were good as a hot meal served with the remaining ‘sauce’ or eaten COLD for a picnic lunch.
Salmon Picnic Empanadas
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles both coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. Do NOT overwork dough.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour.
In a skillet, melt butter & sprinkle with flour. Allow to cook for a few minutes. In a bowl, whisk together broth, milk & soy sauce. Slowly add to flour/butter mixture, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from skillet & set aside.
In the skillet, sauté salmon filet in 1 Tbsp oil until JUST cooked. Remove to a dish. With a fork, 'shred' salmon; set aside.
In the skillet, sauté vegetables in remaining Tbsp of oil for a couple of minutes. Add seasonings, shredded salmon, 1/3 cup prepared soy sauce & grated cheddar. Toss to combine; set aside to cool.
Assembly & Baking
Divide chilled pastry into 10 balls. Roll each one in cornmeal. Place a ball between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & roll into a 6-inch circle.
Divide filling into 10 portions. Place a portion on one side of the pastry circle, leaving about a 1/2-inch border (on filled side). With your fingertips, moisten edge of pastry with a bit of milk or water. Flip opposite side over filling & press edges together to enclose it well. Use a fork to make the classic look.
Repeat with remaining pastry & filling. Lay empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until pastry is baked & slightly browned.
Although there are many variations of this dish, Austria’s apricot growing tradition has made apricot dumplings (marillenknodel) an emblematic dish of Austrian cuisine. Each spring, some 100,000 apricot trees transform Wachau Valley into a fragrant pink-white sea of blossoms.
There are two types of dough that can be used to make apricot dumplings …. potato dough (made with cooked & mashed potatoes) and cheese dough. Topfen is the Austrian cheese traditionally used as its ‘sour’ taste gives the dough a nice ‘tang’. Other alternatives would be either Quark or cream cheese.
To prepare the apricots you need to slice them in half and remove the pit, then place a cube of sugar in the cavity. A few other alternatives for the centers of the apricots would be chocolate or a nougat cube.
Once the dough has been chilled, it is divided into balls and stuffed with the filled apricots. These dumplings are then boiled in salted water and while they are still hot, coated in cinnamon-flavored, buttered breadcrumbs.
Apricot dumplings are most often served just sprinkled with powdered sugar. Soft apricots provide enough liquid so they don’t taste too dry. If you wish, you could serve them with: vanilla ice cream, apricot coulis, whipped cream, vanilla or chocolate sauce.
Austrian Apricot Dumplings
In a bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, vanilla & salt; add the egg & cheese & whisk until combined. Add flour; stir until combined. Don't overmix, the dough should be slightly sticky but not dry. Form into a disk & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Slice each apricot in half & remove the pit. Place a sugar cube in the cavity & press the two apricot halves together until the apricot closes. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine milk, sugar, salt, cornstarch & vanilla; stir well until combined. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly. Lower heat & continue to cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens & coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat; cover with plastic wrap & chill. When sauce is cool, whisk it until it becomes smooth.
Cook & Coat Dumplings
Cook dumplings in a large amount of salted water, half of them at a time. Cook for about 12 minutes from the moment you've put them in the water. Reduce the heat to medium-low as the water should only simmer. Do not allow the dumplings to stick to the bottom. Take cooked dumplings out of the water with a slotted spoon, drain well.
Place the hot dumplings in the breadcrumb topping. Roll the dumplings around to coat completely, the place on a platter.
At serving time you can place them atop some vanilla sauce or just simply sprinkle with powdered sugar (or any of the other suggestions listed in the main article).
- Other fruit alternatives for the dumplings would be: plums, cherries or strawberries.
CELEBRATING HERTIAGE DAY!
In 1974, the first Monday of August was made an official provincial holiday to recognize and celebrate the varied cultural heritage of Albertans. Businesses can choose whether or not to recognize the day as a general holiday, which most do.
Our choice of meal for today are some special beef burgers on Portobello buns. Mushrooms are often cooked and served as a meat substitute in today’s ‘plant based’ society. Large Portobello mushrooms are the general size and shape of hamburger buns so using them to sub for buns seems only logical. I guess you could say they are the earth’s natural burger bun!
I have fond memories of my first introduction to a Portobello ‘burger‘. It was in the quaint little village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, located about 190 km (120 miles) from San Francisco.
Some 35 years ago, actor Clint Eastwood, was elected mayor of Carmel for a two-year term. During that time he opened a restaurant/bar there called the ‘Hogs Breath Inn’. You had to enter it through a long cobblestone alley/corridor. The outdoor patio was nestled between the restaurant and the bar. A massive wall mural and numerous stone fireplaces all added tremendously to the wonderful ambiance. It was here that I first tasted a Portobello Mushroom Burger.
This version , the Portobello mushroom seemed to have been marinated and then grilled on a barbecue. On top of it were some battered onion rings, lettuce and tomato. All of the came in a grilled ciabatta bun with pickles and a side dish of your choice.
In the case of today’s blog recipe, we are using the mushroom cap as the bun. The guacamole is a great accompaniment to the beef burgers along with smoked Gouda cheese, tomatoes and the mushroom ‘buns’.
Guacamole Beef Burgers on Portobello 'Buns'
Preheat oven to 400 F. & place rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with foil paper & set aside.
Brush the mushroom caps (top & bottom) with Italian dressing & place them, gills side up , on the lined baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes then flip them over & bake for an additional 10 minutes.
When mushrooms are ready & the juices have been released, remove them from the baking sheet. Place them on a wire to drip off a bit.
On a piece of plastic wrap, mash avocado with lime juice, salt, garlic, onion & cilantro. Fold plastic wrap over guacamole & set aside in fridge.
Preheat barbecue grill (or roast burgers in oven).
In a bowl, combine all burger ingredients & mix well. Divide beef mixture into 4 equal parts & shape into patties. Grill patties 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Divide cheese between patties & allow to melt.
Top each of the 4 mushroom caps with some guacamole, a burger patty & tomato slices. These are definitely the kind of 'burger' you want to eat with a fork & knife. Of course you could always squeeze the whole thing in a ciabatta bun!
Most often guacamole is relegated to a small bowl next to some tortilla chips. Brion & I love ‘guac’ and since its so quick and easy to make, we use our fair share. This creamy, citrus infused quac is the perfect foil for this salty, savory salmon.
Plantains make another good pairing to this meal. While technically, they can be eaten raw when they are very ripe, the fruit is called a ‘cooking banana’ for a reason. For most part, they are prepared like a vegetable …. specifically, a potato. Around the world, the fruit is used to make breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert.
The unripe plantain is traditionally prepared with a deep-frying method. The frying is done twice to ensure a crispy chip. You first peel the green plantains and slice them. Then the chips are fried on both sides, removed from the oil and blotted on paper towel. The plantains are now flattened somewhat and re-fried to provide extra crispiness. Salt may be used to add flavor to the chips. The thicker version should be served hot or warm and are nice eaten with guacamole, garlic sauce or grated cheese as a side dish.
As always, in my quest to bake rather than deep fry, I decided to bake our plantains today.
Roasted Salmon & Plantains w/ Guacamole
In a large bowl, coarsely mash avocados with lime juice & salt. Stir in garlic, onion, cilantro & diced tomato. Cover & set aside until ready to use,
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil placed shiny side up. Brush one side of foil lightly with oil.
Peel & slice plantains into 1/3-inch slices. Place the plantains on the oiled side of the baking sheet & roast for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven & with the bottom of a tumbler, 'squash' each piece down flat. Thinner = crispier. Season with coarse sea salt.
Brush opposite side of pan with olive oil & add the salmon fillets to the baking sheet. Brush salmon lightly with a bit of oil & season with your choice of seasonings.
Place the salmon & plantains in the oven & roast for about 10 minutes or until salmon flakes when you cut into it & is slightly opaque.
Serve salmon topped with guacamole alongside plantains. Steamed rice compliments this meal as well.