Roasted Garlic Chicken w/ Asiago Gravy

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.

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Roasted Garlic Chicken w/ Asiago Gravy
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon, blot on paper towel & set aside. Add the seasoned chicken & brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Set aside.
  2. Add onion, mushrooms & garlic to saucepan; sauté until tender crisp & lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle in the thyme & flour; cook for a minute.
  4. 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.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix asiago cheese into the sauce & season with salt & pepper to taste.
  6. 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.
  7. Add crumbled bacon to sauce after roasting. Serve.

Gorgonzola Stuffed Shrimp Wrapped in Bacon

Bacon wrapped shrimp is one of the most popular appetizers in culinary history dating back to the early 1940’s. Let’s face it …. bacon has a way of getting into our meals one way or another. Although shrimp prepared in this way are usually appetizers, there is no reason they can’t become the main course.

When done right, bacon wrapped shrimp make such such a great entrée. I find its important to partially cook the bacon before wrapping it around the shrimp. It takes 8-10 minutes to make juicy, flavorful shrimp in the oven. Baking bacon until crispy takes 15-20 minutes, so you need to give the bacon a head start.

Many recipes call for heavy seasoning with spices or sauces. Shrimp stuffed with Gorgonzola and wrapped in bacon need absolutely nothing else to be utterly delicious.

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Gorgonzola Stuffed Shrimp Wrapped in Bacon
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. With a sharp knife, slice the bacon lengthwise & place the half strips on a baking sheet to precook them in the oven. This should only take about 5 minutes as you want to slightly render the bacon but not cook it to a point where it isn't still pliable.
  3. Take most of the shell off of the shrimp, leaving the tails on & devein them. With a sharp knife, butterfly-cut the shrimp in half, being careful to split them but not cut right through.
  4. Lay the butterflied shrimp on a work surface. Cut Gorgonzola cheese into sticks & place one inside each shrimp. Wrap the shrimp/gorgonzola in a bacon strip. I should mention, there is no simple way to do this. It just takes a bit of time & patience but they are worth it.
  5. Place the bacon wrapped shrimp on a piece of foil paper & place on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes. If you wish, you can finish them under the broiler if you want crispier bacon.
  6. Remove from the oven. On a serving platter, slide stuffed shrimp & any cheese & shrimp broth over a bed of Jasmine rice. Nice to serve with steamed broccoli.

Herbs de Provence Shrimp

If you are not familiar with ‘Herbs de Provence‘, it is a mixture of dried herbs considered typical of the Provence region in Southeastern France. This region is known for endless vineyards, olive groves and its vibrant, purple lavender fields. Lavender is the herb that adds a distinctive scent as well as working beautifully with the rest of the herbs (thyme, marjoram, savory, oregano & rosemary) that make up this blend.

Prior to the commercialization of the product in the 1970’s, the person responsible for bringing the French phrase into the vocabulary of cooks around the world was non other than Julia Child (American-turned-French chef), who included it in a recipe in her classic cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking‘.

This iconic French spice blend can easily elevate any number of meals. Like most spice blends, there is no set formula for the ideal Herbs de Provence. While it uses ingredients that are found in the North American creation known as ‘Italian Spice‘ (with the exception of basil), it also includes lavender flowers and has a strong floral taste.

Although I am using the individual herbs in this recipe, you can easily substitute with bottled, dried Herbs de Provence with no problem. They are readily available in the larger grocery stores. This makes such a great tasting meal …. well worth your time.

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Herbs de Provence Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, fry chopped bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes; remove from pan & blot on a paper towel. Saute mushrooms, onion & garlic in bacon drippings until softened.
  2. Add peas, basil, lemon zest & 1 Tbsp oil. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine shrimp, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, lavender & remaining tablespoon of oil. Add shrimp mixture to saucepan; cook, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes. Place in a dish & set aside to keep warm.
  4. In the saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a boil & add couscous. Cover saucepan & remove from heat; set aside until liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add shrimp mixture along with cooked bacon, lemon juice & tarragon. Gently stir together with a fork. Serve immediately.

Bacon Crusted Quiche w/ Savory Madeleines

Quiche is one of those meals that appeals to me at any time of the year. The choice of ingredients is truly only limited to one’s imagination and what’s in your fridge or pantry. In this particular quiche, I opted to use bacon as my ‘crust’ since it was filled with vegetables.

I have been wanting to make some savory ‘madeleines’ for a while and think they will compliment this quiche well.

The madeleine or petite madeleine was first created in northeastern France in the Lorraine area. Technically — they are tea cakes, not cookies and are nothing like scones, very light, puffy and soft — not heavy at all.

Madeleines have a distinctive shell-like shape acquired from being baked in pans with shell-shaped depressions.

The appeal of them is how easy they are to make, how cute they are and how light and airy they are. And while they’re delicate and generally a sweet cake, madeleines hold up to having cheese and onion added to them as well. Many savory versions exist so I decided to go with a cheese madeleine today.

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Bacon Crusted Quiche w/ Savory Madeleines
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Instructions
Parmesan Cheddar Madeleines
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease depressions in madeleine pan. (If you are using a regular size it will have 12 or the mini size you will have enough batter for 36). It is a good idea to dust the pans with flour as well, tapping out any excess. Sprinkle dried thyme leaves in depressions of pans.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter & honey; remove from heat & cool for 10 minutes. In a bowl using a hand held mixer, beat eggs until pale, thick & doubled in volume.
  3. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold butter mixture into eggs. Next fold in flour, cheeses, yogurt & 1/4 tsp salt until combined. Divide between madeleine cups but don't smooth out.
  4. Bake until risen & golden. The time will depend on whether you are using a regular or petite size madeleine pan. Cool in tin for 5 minutes. Firmly tap tin on surface to loosen the madeleines, then carefully invert onto a wire rack to allow them to fall out onto the rack.
Bacon Crusted Vegetable Quiche
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8-inch round baking pan with foil paper.
  2. In a skillet, fry bacon until lightly cooked but still pliable, 3-4 minutes. Remove the bacon from skillet & blot on paper towel. Drain all but one Tbsp of bacon drippings from pan.
  3. Add the leeks, mushrooms & thyme; cook over moderate heat until veg are tender crisp but not browned, about 5 minutes. Microwave potatoes & slice; drain corn (or cook corn on cob & remove kernels). Grate cheese. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk & remaining spices.
  4. Line the sides if baking pan with slices of bacon. Layer bottom with sliced, cooked potato & half of the cheese. Top with corn kernels & leek/mushroom mixture. Pour egg/milk mixture carefully over vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, until the quiche has puffed up slightly & browned. Test middle to make sure eggs have set. Remove from oven & allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan & serve with savory madeleines.

Creamy Bacon Fish Pie w/ Potato Topping

This English classic originated in small fishing villages as a way of using up the surplus catch. After poaching, baking then adding cream sauce and potatoes, the quality and the cut of fish used really doesn’t matter.

Like its cousin, the shepherd’s pie, fish pie is a comforting, homey affair of savory stew, topped with cheese laden mashed potatoes.

Traditional fish pie makes use of white fish such as cod, haddock and halibut. However, salmon and prawns can also be used. Vegetables such as mushrooms and leeks will help to make the pie even tastier.

I found, adding bacon to the filling made it a really flavorful meal. You know that expression ….. ‘bacon makes things better’!

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Creamy Bacon Fish Pie w/ Potato Topping
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a casserole dish or individual ramekins; set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, sauté bacon until partially cooked then add leeks & mushrooms. Sauté, while stirring until leeks & mushrooms are cooked. Remove from saucepan & set aside. Wipe out saucepan with paper towel. Melt butter; add flour & cook until mixture bubbles & thickens. Gradually stir in chicken broth, milk & grated Parmesan cheese. Stir over heat until mixture boils & thickens. Season to taste; add fish & steamed broccoli along with bacon mixture. Gently stir until combined & heated thru.
  3. Spoon into casserole dish or divide between ramekins. Top with cooked, mashed potato & sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered, about 25 minutes or until browned lightly.

Chicken Avocado Fiesta Salad

For some of us, the best part of salads is everything but the greens! I have always had a hard time digesting lettuce so I’m never drawn to it when we get to salad season.

The idea of a full meal (lettuce-less) salad has always appealed to me. Of course there are many of these using a variety of ingredients. Probably one of the most popular was the taco salad. The earliest record of it dates back to the 1960’s with its predecessor being the small teacup-sized ‘Tacup’. It consisted of beef, beans, sour cream and cheese, served in a small ‘bowl’ made entirely of a Fritos tortilla.

The taco in a Tacup was invented by Charles Elmer Doolin, the founder of Fritos (tortilla chips). He created a device that looked like tongs but with two tart molds at the end of each tong. One mold would fit within the other mold with a tortilla sandwiched between them. The scalloped-edged shell was the dipped into hot oil. Holes in the bottom mold exposed the tortilla to the hot oil, enabling it to cook evenly.

Tacups were first served in Dallas, Texas in the early 1950’s and by 1955, he was selling them in Fritos’ flagship restaurant, ‘Casa de Fritos’, at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It became popular enough that the Tacup was made bigger and served as a full, main-dish sized salad bowl.

Today’s salad is a satisfying meal (without a shred of lettuce) served in an edible tortilla bowl.

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Chicken Avocado Fiesta Salad
Instructions
Marinade
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients. In a large resealable plastic bag, pour marinade. Add sliced chicken; seal & turn to coat. Refrigerate for 1-4 hours. When finished marinating, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Remove from heat & set aside.
Salad
  1. Cook corn cobs in a pot of boiling, salted water, covered for 5-7 minutes. When cool enough to handle, hold the corncob vertically on a slip-proof cutting board & cut corn kernels from top to bottom around the sides with a sharp knife. Leave corn in bite-sized pieces.
  2. Fry bacon slices until brown & crispy. Chop into small pieces.
  3. Peel, pit & cube avocados. Sprinkle with a bit of lime or lemon juice to keep from turning brown. Dice Roma tomato. Slice green onions, chives & dill. Drain sliced black olives. Cube Gouda cheese.
Tortilla Bowls
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush the inside of 2 heat-resistant glass bowls with oil. Place one tortilla in each bowl so that the shape more or less adheres to the bowl. Line each tortilla with cheddar cheese slices & then place the second tortilla on top.
  2. Place the bowls with the layered tortillas in the oven & bake for 7 minutes. Remove the bowls from the oven & allow to cool before removing the 'edible tortilla bowls'.
Assembly
  1. Place tortilla bowls on serving plates. Place cooked chicken on the bottom, top with corn, avocados, tomato, onions, olives Gouda & herbs. Drizzle with Ranch dressing (or dressing of choice). If you wish, before putting the dressing on, give it 30 seconds in the microwave to warm it slightly again.

Bacon Wrapped, Cauliflower Stuffed Meatballs

It seems the cauliflower craze has managed to last longer than just about any other that’s come before it. A total superstar when it comes to all the popular diets currently on everyone’s radar, including keto, paleo & whole 30. All signs point to cauliflower becoming the longest lasting food trend of all time.

Cauliflower ….. a naturally gluten-free food that just requires heavy seasoning, is healthy, versatile and ‘tasteless’. Its an entirely blank canvas for all your cooking needs because you can make it taste like ‘anything’ you want.

Last summer, Brion & I stopped for lunch at a popular take-out restaurant. He decided to try their much advertised ‘plant-based burger’. He was not impressed. Let’s say … it was not as advertised!!

In a previous blog, a while back, I had made cauliflower pizza crust and we had really enjoyed it. So today I am making meatballs stuffed with cauliflower in a cauliflower cheese sauce. I guess, this is my version of a ‘plant-based meatball’. Hopefully that works out better.

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Bacon Wrapped, Cauliflower Stuffed Meatballs
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Instructions
Meatballs
  1. In a large pot, cook head of cauliflower in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Remove the stem & cut off florets. Set STEM aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, with eggs, onion, garlic, mustard & spices. Mix well. Divide meat mixture into 7 equal amounts & flatten each piece in your hand (one at a time). Place a cauliflower floret in the middle of each, then seal the meat around it forming a meatball.
  3. Wrap a slice of bacon around each cauliflower meatball. In a saucepan, heat a small amount of oil over medium heat & cook the meatballs on all sides.
Cheese Sauce
  1. Chop the reserved cauliflower stem. Shred cheese & place in a food processor with milk, seasonings & chopped cauliflower stem. Puree mixture until smooth.
  2. Pour the cauliflower cheese sauce over the meatballs in the pan & allow to simmer about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted & smooth. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

Rice has always been a staple at our house. I think Brion could eat rice almost everyday without problem. Although the steamed long grain would be his favorite, I can’t resist making a risotto periodically.

A properly cooked risotto should form a soft, creamy mound on a dinner plate. It shouldn’t run across the plate, nor should it be stiff and gluey.

Risotto’s signature tenderness is traditionally achieved by slowly adding spoonfuls of liquid while the rice cooks. This shortcut version eliminates most of the stove top stirring, but produces equally silky results.

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Chicken & Mushroom Risotto
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Course Main Dish
Keyword risotto
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Course Main Dish
Keyword risotto
Servings
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Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tsp oil in a LARGE POT or DEEP SKILLET over high heat. Add bacon & cook until golden. Transfer to a small microwave-proof bowl.
  2. Leave about 1 Tbsp bacon drippings in pot & discard the rest. Add chicken & cook until browned through. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add mushrooms & cook until light golden. Add to bowl with chicken.
  3. Turn heat down to medium & return pot to the stove. Add butter & melt; then add garlic & onion. Saute for 3 minutes or until softened. Turn up heat, add rice & stir until grains become partially translucent, about 1 minute (do NOT overcook).
  4. Add wine & cook, scraping the bottom of the pot to get any brown bits, about 2 minutes. Turn down heat to medium-low; add about 3 cups of chicken stock. Leave, uncovered, stirring just once or twice, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Check firmness of rice & add 1/2 cup of broth at a time, stirring in between until absorbed & rice is cooked to YOUR taste. Add the chicken & mushrooms back into the risotto towards the end, just to heat through. Right at the end when the risotto is ready, add a 'splash' more chicken broth to make the risotto slightly soupy, then take it off the stove.
  6. Add butter & Parmesan cheese, then stir vigorously (this will activate the starch & make it super creamy). Serve immediately. Garnish with reheated bacon & extra Parmesan if you wish.
Recipe Notes
  • Risotto is best made with Arborio rice which is starchier than other types of rice, making it essential to achieve a creamy risotto.
  • In order to use this 'no stir' method of cooking risotto, you MUST use a large pot or deep skillet so the rice & liquid is spread out & not too deep.

Braided Pork Tenderloin w/ Pineapple Stuffing

EASTER GREETINGS!

Easter is synonymous with spring, it represents a time of renewal. The winter months are now in our rear view mirrors and we can look forward to those wonderful summer days. Fresh new buds are on the trees, just waiting to burst out as the season unfolds. Everything speaks of new life and fresh hope. Spring is so unique (even if we still have snow on the ground in our part of the country).

Though ham is traditional in many homes, there are just as many people who would prefer something different for dinner on Easter Sunday. Holiday cooking is all about making a meal that feels more special than what you would cook on a regular basis.

Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite meats due to its tenderness and versatility. This meal started out with an idea to stuff a tenderloin and developed into so much more. I must say, I was even more pleased with the final results when we both enjoyed it.

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Braided Pork Tenderloin w/ Pineapple Stuffing
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Tenderloin Rub
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Tenderloin Rub
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Instructions
Pineapple Stuffing
  1. Drain pineapple; reserving 1/3 cup juice. In a large saucepan, melt margarine. Add walnuts, celery & sage; cook stirring until celery is tender-crisp. Stir in green onions, pineapple & reserved juice. Remove from heat; toss in cornbread stuffing mix & set aside.
Tenderloin
  1. Using a sharp knife starting 3-inches from end, slice tenderloin lengthwise twice; making 3 equal strips. Carefully take the knife & cut pockets lengthwise every 3-inches in the center of each of the tenderloin strips. Spread the combined rub ingredients over meat & allow to stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before continuing with preparation.
  2. When meat is marinated, stuff each pocket with pineapple stuffing. Place a strip of bacon along each tenderloin strip. Braid the stuffed tenderloin/bacon by crossing the right section over the middle section then the left section over the new middle section. Continue until you run out of tenderloin.
  3. Insert a wooden or metal skewer into the end of braided tenderloin to keep it together. Tuck in the remaining stuffing mixture in the folds of the braid.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake, uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 160 F. Remove from oven & loosely cover with foil. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes before slicing. Serve with pineapple salsa.
Pineapple Salsa
  1. In a large skillet, combine pineapple, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, red onion, cumin, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil & cook over medium-high heat until thickened, 7-10 minutes. If there is still a lot of liquid left, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pineapple to a bowl & continue to cook the liquid over high heat for 5 minutes more, then pour the liquid over the pineapple. Mix in the onions & cilantro. Season with salt to taste.

Bacon & Chicken En Croute

The debate between chicken thighs and breast has been one that’s continued over generations. Juicy, inexpensive and highly versatile, chicken thighs are the unsung heroes of the protein realm. You can enjoy them baked, glazed or simply grilled.

In the flavor department, chicken thighs naturally have a more intense and flavorful edge to them. As for fat content … yes, there is more fat on a thigh than on a breast. However, the monounsaturated fat in chicken thighs can help aid in weight loss, control and reduce cholesterol numbers and even lower you risk of heart disease and cancer.

From an economical point of view, in our part of the world, chicken thighs are generally more affordable than breasts. Let’s face it, at the end of the day, both chicken breasts and thighs are good for you. It all comes down to personal choice.

This meal is good, homey, comfort food that’s easy to prepare using frozen puff pastry but elegant enough to serve at a holiday supper with friends.

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Bacon & Chicken En Croute
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a skillet, cook bacon until just crisp, then remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain; chop when cooled. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings from skillet.
  2. Salt & pepper chicken thighs on both sides. Place in skillet with remaining hot bacon drippings & cook until browned. Remove & cut into bite-size pieces. Set aside on a plate.
  3. Add butter to the skillet, cook onions, garlic & mushrooms, scraping up any brown bits, until the onions have softened & mushrooms have lost most of their size & moisture. Stir in the bacon & chicken thighs; taste for seasoning. Cook for another minute or two, then remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Gravy
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, then add the flour. Whisk until flour darkens & begins to thicken then add broth. Season with herbs, salt & pepper (to taste) & continue to whisk until gravy boils. Allow it to boil for 2 minutes, stirring often, until it thickens. Remove from heat & cool.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. At this point you can either make individual servings or bake as one long tart. Fit thawed puff pastry into tart pan or cut into 4 equal squares. You can roll the dough out on a floured surface to accommodate the size you need.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cooled filling & gravy. Place evenly in pastry shell(s). Brush edges with beaten egg wash & bake for about 20 minutes until puffed & golden brown.