comfort food

Crispy Lemon Rosemary Chicken

By Lisa

I tried this recipe because in the middle of cooking a run-of-the-mill dinner for my kids last week, I got a text from a friend with a cooking question. I responded & asked what she was cooking. She told me she was trying to cook like Giada. I responded I wanted to look like Giada.   That is not going to happen.

But the chicken did happen, in both our homes, and with good results. These are basically a version of chicken “nuggets” rolled in mixture of polenta and rosemary and sprinkled with lemon rosemary salt. They’re nicely crispy, great at room temperature, and appealing to kids without being too familiar.  It’s a fast, good weeknight chicken recipe. Next time, I might experiment with baking these, since frying can be messy & I hate the clean up.

The kids liked it, the book club liked it, and we even liked it leftover as a little  side dish of protein for a composed salad (with Boston lettuce, cilantro, cucumber with olive oil and white balsamic)

It was a busy week and I forgot to take a picture, but you can trust me that it’s an appealing looking dish.  For the visual, today, in honor of Giada, here’s the closest thing I have a to a glamour shot, taken by the amazing Lisa Johnson, Rock Photographer, in case, you know, one of those glossy magazines comes calling.

But seriously folks, try the chicken. And be sure to make extra salt: it’s great on salads. Or popcorn.

Crispy Chicken with Rosemary-Lemon Salt

Vegetable oil for frying

Salt
1 (6-inch) sprig fresh rosemary
1/4 cup kosher salt
Zest of 1/2 large lemon

Chicken
1 pound chicken tenders, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fine cornmeal or instant polenta

For the salt: Heat 1/4-inch of oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat (the oil is hot enough when a pinch of cornmeal sizzles when added to the pan). Add the rosemary sprig and fry for 30 seconds until crisp. Using tongs, remove the rosemary sprig and drain on paper towels. Remove the leaves and finely chop to yield 1 tablespoon. Place the rosemary, salt and lemon zest in a small bowl. Mix with a fork until combined. Set aside.

For the chicken: In a medium bowl, mix together the chicken, garlic, chopped rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Add the cornmeal and toss until the chicken is coated. Add 1/2 of the chicken to the same skillet used to cook the rosemary and fry for 2 to 3 minutes each side until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Sprinkle with the rosemary-lemon salt and serve.

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 to 7 minutes

Nigella’s Lemon Linguine

by Caroline

daffodils, since I forgot to take a picture of the dinner

I don’t know when I began needing so much lemon in Easter dinner, but this year it worked its way into almost every dish I made for my family, parents, and brothers on Easter day: lemon fettucine, lemon roasted asparagus, and a lemon cheesecake for dessert; only the peas (grown by my dad) and bread were lemon free. And yes, I acknowledge that following cream sauce with cheesecake might feel over the top, but it’s better, perhaps, or lighter, than the Easter my sister and I unthinkingly served the all-cream-and-carb meal of strata and trifle. But it’s Easter, the joyous end of a long fast, so a family should feast.

Here, in her own inimitable voice, is Nigella Lawson’s fabulous lemon linguine:

* 2 pounds linguine
* 2 egg yolks
* 2/3 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
* 1 lemon, zested, and juice of 1/2, plus more juice, as needed
* Salt
* freshly milled black pepper
* 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
* 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves

Directions

Fill just about the biggest pot you have with water and bring to a boil. When friends are coming for lunch, get the water heated to boiling point before they arrive, otherwise you end up nervously hanging around waiting for a watched pot to boil while your supposedly quick lunch gets later and later. Bring the water to the boil, cover and turn off burner.

I tend to leave the addition of salt until the water comes to a boil a second time. But whichever way you do it, add quite a bit of salt. When the bubbling’s encouragingly fierce, put in the pasta. I often put the lid on for a moment or so just to let the pasta get back to the boil, but don’t turn your back on it, and give it a good stir with a pasta fork or whatever to avoid even the suspicion of stickiness, once you’ve removed the lid.

Then get on with the sauce, making sure you’ve set your timer for about a minute or so less than the time specified on the package of pasta.

In a bowl, add the yolks, cream, Parmesan, zest of the whole lemon and juice of half of it, the salt and good grind of pepper, and beat with a fork. You don’t want it fluffy, just combined. Taste. If you want it more lemony, then of course add more juice.

When the timer goes off, taste to judge how near the pasta is to being ready. I recommend that you hover by the stove so you don’t miss that point. Don’t be too hasty, though. Everyone is so keen to cook their pasta properly al dente that sometimes the pasta is actually not cooked enough. You want absolutely no chalkiness here. And linguine (or at least I find it so) tend not to run over into soggy overcookedness quite as quickly as other long pasta. This makes sense, of course, as the strands of “little tongues” are dense than the flat ribbon shapes.

Anyway, as soon as the pasta looks ready, remove a cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta, and then, off the heat, toss it back in the pot or put it in an efficiently preheated bowl, throw in the butter, and stir and swirl about to make sure the butter’s melted and the pasta covered by it all over. Each strand will be only mutely gleaming, as there’s not much butter and quite a bit of pasta. If you want to add more, then do; good butter is the best flavoring, best texture, best mood enhancer there is.

When you’re satisfied the pasta’s covered with its soft slip of butter, then stir in the egg mixture and turn the pasta well in it, adding some of the cooking liquid if it looks a bit dry (only 2 tablespoons or so – you don’t want a wet mess – and only after you think the sauce is incorporated). Sprinkle over the parsley and serve now, now, now.

Pannini

by Lisa

My new favorite appliance is my Breville pannini press. Actually, we’ve had it for a while, but getting rid of the microwave (actually, the microwave sort of exploded and we haven’t replaced it) has made counter space for the rice cooker & the pannini press, both of which I now use all the time.   The press is great for quick marinated & grilled meats for rice bowls (think Thai chicken skewers, etc) & clean-up is really fast.  But not so long ago  Trader Joe’s started carrying this bread, and our life changed (a little).

This bread makes a perfect pannini–and it makes all the difference between a run of the mill grilled cheese and a sandwhich that’s something special. The bread is not too thick, the crust grills perfectly and it’s very, very fresh–just the right combination of crisp and soft.   Pannini has become one of the kids favorite dinners–and one thing I’ve turned to a lot over the past month of crazy book launch things-to-do. We serve them with a sides of green salad, and there’s not much faster on a weeknight.  The kids like them simple:  cheddar or mozarella; or salami or mortadella and mayonnaise.  Kory & I like some variation of meat + cheese + thin slice of crisp fruit for crunch. For instance:

  • mortadella + provolone
  • salami + cheddar
  • prosciutto + mozzarella + apple
  • ham + cheddar + apple
  • provolone  + pear
  • cheddar + tomato
  • turkey + jack + apple

You get the idea:  whatever you like; whatever you have on hand.  Make a few variations, cut them up , and serve a platter–and there’s nothing like a platter to bring a family together.  Also, giving the kids a choice–even a small one–makes them happy.

The Last Supper

by Caroline

Every year at my sons’ school, parents organize a night of Random Dinners for each class. Some families volunteer to host, and can dictate a style of cuisine or theme for the evening. About a week in advance, other parents are randomly assigned to provide a dish or course and then are given an address the morning of the dinner. We’re about to participate in our fourth random dinner with Ben’s third grade class, and our first with the kindergarten group, and I’m looking forward to them. We’ve always had fun, always wound up talking to folks we don’t see in our regular drop-off/pick-up routine, always discovered new things about our fellow parents. It has always been a terrific meal.

This year, I’m helping organize the kindergarten random dinners so I have an advance peek at what some of the families are planning. There will be several Mexican dinners, one barbecue, one couple doing sushi, another serving Greek food. One couple decided to focus on the theme rather than a style of food and has asked everyone to bring something they’d want to eat on their last day. They were inspired by Melanie Dunea’s book about chefs and their final meals (see some of the photographs here) and even though I’m not necessarily attending that meal, it’s got me thinking: what would I want my final flavors to be? Lemon cake? Puttanesca? My mom’s apple crisp? What would you want to eat on your last day?

Rainy Day Lentil Soup

by Caroline

I was locked in a terrible head cold all last week, leaving the house only when I had to, mostly lying in bed drinking gallons of tea. I didn’t have the energy to cook, so I was so happy when I remembered one smart thing I had done with the CSA produce last year: steal a friend’s idea to make mirepoix and stick it in the freezer.

Now a proper mirepoix (also known as refogado in Portuguese, soffritto in Italian, or sofrito in Spanish) is an evenly-diced combination of onion, celery and carrots. But my knife skills are not all that, and I knew no one was going to be examining my dice. I did the chopping in the food processor, and then scooped half-cup portions of each vegetable into quart-sized freezer bags. I have been using them to start soups all winter long. This is my last one, a little fuzzy with ice but still perfectly good and tasty:

It only took about 30 minutes, and minimal effort from me, to go from that to this:

Lentil soup with a poached egg on top, for extra comfort.

Soup recipes are so flexible and such a matter of personal taste, I hardly want to give a recipe, but here’s a general road map for a meatless version:

Drizzle a couple tablespoons of olive oil into the bottom of your soup pot and warm over medium heat. Add:

1/2 cup each diced onion, celery and carrot
or, 1 small onion, 2 stalks of celery and 2 carrots, diced
1 or 2 cloves of minced garlic

Saute until the vegetables are tender and just starting to color. Deglaze the pot with a splash of wine (red or white, whichever you prefer). If you happen to have some tomato paste, a couple tablespoons are a nice addition here. Now add

1 c lentils, rinsed and picked over
4 c water or vegetable stock

Bring to a simmer and then simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.