Monday, September 9, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu

So... I won't lie, chicken cordon bleu is not nearly as challenging as I hoped it would be. I was feeling a little fancy and my husband always likes when I take dinner to the next level and stuff the chicken with something so, cordon bleu just made sense. I've made a few things similar before, but never actually cordon bleu and never actually followed somebody's recipe. So I was all excited and started prep at like, 3:30, thinking I MIGHT be done by 6.. little did I know it was only gonna take me about 20 minutes to do it ALL before it was in the oven! SO, for those of you desiring some tricky, afternoon dinner project, don't make this. But, for those of you who can't deny a good stuffed chicken breast that makes you look much fancier than you actually are and you only have 45 minutes before people are showing up, make this.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

You'll Need: (adapted from Tyler Florence)
  • 2 chicken breasts, thawed and pounded thin (place chicken breasts on a cutting board and lay a piece of plastic wrap or foil over the top, then pound with a meat pounder or the bottom of a small pan until they are thin enough to roll up on themselves, being careful not to let them split too much)
  • 2 thin pieces salty ham or prosciutto, I literally had regular ham and just salted it and let it rest a few minutes
  • 4 ounces soft baby swiss cheese
  • a sprinkle of grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs, I made my own by putting sliced Tuscan Round into my nut chopper and mixing it with a heaping pinch of herbs de provence and salt and pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • extra-virgin olive oil

To assemble, first start by spreading the baby swiss directly onto the ham slices, as it's easier to spread while the ham is on a cutting board, not the chicken.
Now lay the pieces of ham over the chicken breasts and sprinkle with the parmesan-reggiano.
Carefully, roll the chicken breast up on itself until it's in a tight little bundle and can rest on its own without unrolling.
Now generously sprinkle the breasts with your flour mixture, carefully dunk them into the egg wash and coat them in the bread crumbs. I find it easier to coat them fully if you spread the breadcrumbs out on a plate instead of in a bowl.
Now place them side by side on a baking sheet drizzled lightly with your olive oil, place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Voila! I will tell you this.... I baked mine for 20 minutes and they were perfect, but you know me and chicken... I'm a real nervous chicken baker. So I stuck it back in for literally 3 more minutes and I slightly dried it out. So trust your oven and don't let it get dried out!
While the chicken is baking, make your sides! We chose to have a kale & hummus salad and some garlic green beans.
Remove from the oven and slice into beautiful little rounds. Arrange on the plate and serve with something a little sweet, like a cranberry salad or minted melon.
And there you have, the easiest, prettiest, made from scratch Chicken Cordon Bleu.
Aren't you fancy?? ;)
shh... our secret.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

The best pasta I ever made

So I "bought" this book the other day....
(no, i didn't steal it)
We have this RIDICULOUSLY huge and awesome used bookstore here in Nashville called McKay's and it's a WEALTH of great, well-kept used books and music. Since we moved house six months ago (cannot beLIEVE it's been that long already?!), I've had this bag of about 8 random books that James and I have collected over the years, from conferences or seminars, etc.. etc.. SO, I decided to get that annoying, crinkly, HEAVY Trader Joe's bag of books OUT of our laundry and dump them at McKay's.

And to my VERY pleasant surprise, we got $14 of store credit from those icky old books!! :D SCORE! So you know I came home with a cookbook... only cost me $2. And let me tell you, this book is worth ALL my $14 in store credit...
 (sorry for the blurry photo, i took it at a stop light quickly before it changed to send to my sister just after leaving the shop, i was so excited)

Anyways, it walks you through different pasta and rice recipes via country and region within the country! Isn't that great?? Jordan, you know I flipped straight to the tuscany section. ;) And I found it... the world's greatest, "i just want a great pasta tonight, you know, like, a REALLY great pasta" most deliciously satisfying pasta recipe. Too many adjectives? Nah. But also you know me, I had to modify a little bit because I can't help myself. And I wouldn't change it one bit.

ps-i didn't photograph the process... my photo hard drive has crashed and i really didn't think i'd be able to blog for awhile.. thank the Good Lord for instagram and the little space left on my computer. ;)
You'll Need: (adapted from "Savoring Pasta & Rice"

  • 6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 small stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, fresh or dried
  • 1/2 pound ground beef, preferably lean
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 pound plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2-1 cup beef broth, make an entire cup and use extra as necessary
  • 1 pound penne pasta, or half and half penne and spaghetti
  • 2 Tablespoons course sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Freshly grated Parmesan- Reggiano for serving... don't leave this out ;)

First make the sauce.... get out the biggest pan, skillet you have and warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add in the garlic, carrots and celery and saute, stirring often, until it really starts to smell delicious... about five minutes. Stir in the parsley for another minute and then add your beef. Turn the heat up slightly and break it up with your spoon, making sure to combine it with all the ingredients. Cook it and stir around until the meat is just browned. Once the meat is cooked, turn the heat to high and add in the wine. It's going to bubble and sizzle and you want to cook it on high until the liquid slightly reduces.. you're cooking off the alcohol here... do this for about three minutes. Now reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes, salt and pepper them to taste, stir stir stir and cook it all together for about another 10 minutes.

Now add in the 1/2 cup beef broth, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover slightly.. now you just let it cook cook cook down and add in extra beef broth if it starts to look a little dry. About 20, 25 minutes later you'll have a gorgeous, thick meat sauce.
(warning, this is not going to look like a marinara sauce, so don't expect it to.)

Now let's cook your pasta... bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding the course sea salt to speed up the boiling and to flavor the noodles. Add the noodles, stir and cook for 8 minutes, al dente! Drain the noodles. Now let's go back to the meat sauce pan, turn the heat up to medium-high and add all the noodles and butter to the meat sauce. Stir over the high heat to combine the sauce and noodles until everything is well-coated and a little toasty, about 5 minutes.

Warm your big, pretty serving bowl and add your beautiful pasta! Serve with a generous dusting of Parmesan-Reggiano on top and get ready to go back for seconds and thirds. ;)

I hope you love this as much as we did... we are seriously making it again tonight. Really.

LOTS OF LOVE to you all and don't forget to Follow instructions here to VOTE FOR US for Best of Nashville over at the Nashville Scene!  :D