Chicken and Clams

Nothing goes together like chicken and clams.  Nevermind…

Surf and turf they call it.  Long associated with stained red lobster claws and tails, a hunk of juicy aged steak butter and potatoes.  Nothing says steak house like good ol’ drawn butter a bib and meat.   I like the flavor that clams and other seafood creatures lend to land critters when thrown together in a pot.  Just when I thought I was cooking for two, I then found out that I would be welcoming a third, so I decided to head down to my local seafood monger and bought some clams.   As I tasted the broth I knew that clams would be a great addition, not only would it stretch my meal but it would also give the braise additional broth when the clams open.

There is a heavy Italian influence here.  The kitchen staples to work, aromatics to start with and creating an inviting and aromatic dish.  This recipe allows the avid home cook to gain access to cooking a basic and delicious nonchalant dinner.  From this simple dish you can add olives, lemons, different meats,  different herbs.  Allow yourself to experiment with other root vegetables, as well as spices,  as well as using canned verses fresh tomatoes.

The marjoram and fresh herbs in this dish as well as the freshness of the tiny plum tomatoes sweeten and freshen the braise.  Instead of a braise it becomes a juicy stew, and thus is lighter than a thick and unctuous sauce.   Served over rice, or over pasta, maybe cous-cous, and even polenta it creates a delicious dinner for a mildly breezy summer night.

My pantry needs, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Lemons, Onions, Garlic, eggs, herbs, and canned tomatoes.  If I have that I can make and create a dinner in no time.  .

Chicken and Clam Stew w/Plum Tomatoes and Herbs over fresh Tagliarini
Serves 2-4
 
3-4 Chicken Legs
12-16 Manila Clams
1 C. Red Wine
1/4 C. Red Wine Vinegar
1 Medium Yellow Onion
1 C. Carrots
3 Cloves Garlic
1 T Each – Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme
Capers
1 1/2 C. Plum or Cherry Tomatoes
Olive Oil 
Salt 
 
You will need a pot that could go from stovetop to oven.   Salt and pepper chicken, let sit, pay dry.  Heat pan, add Olive Oil.  Add chicken and brown well.  
Remove chicken when skin side is well seared and browned.  Remove some fat from pan.  Add a bit more olive oil, and add onions and garlic and salt.  After about 4 minutes, add red wine, vinegar scrape pan.  Add herbs, carrots, tomatoes and 1 C. of water-cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes till tomatoes blister and pop.   Assist the popping by puncturing the tomatoes with a fork if needed.  Add Chicken, capers continue to cook for another 20 in a 375° oven. Take out of oven and add clams, place back into oven for another 10 min or so just enough until the clams pop open.  
 
Place atop fresh pasta and drizzle with some young olive oil. Yum.
 
 
[youtube http://youtu.be/AdimD8Z-ppY]

Bloom

I do this thing…

I have had a few interviews…

So I do this thing when the interviewer asks me why do I cook and I begin to tell my story… my throat starts to tense up – my voice starts to  shake –  shivers and a slight tremble of excitement trickle throughout  my posture leans forward and my eyes start to water and words get elongated.  It’s a bit of a trance.  It always frustrates me and I feel completely crazy when I do this but I just can’t help it.  I love cooking.  As a small child my earliest memories were food related. Running through the park with a carton of Donald Duck orange juice, as a todder there was a story of me walking out of a grocery store with cookies and ice cream unpaid for, my mother had to run back in. Baking cakes from a Betty Crocker box, squatting down on the kitchen floor helping my mother pick herbs and other greens, cutting up chicken livers next to my Hello Kitty Stickers.

I always wanted to cook, it lasted into Elementary school into my teenage years into college into well…now.   It fell into my lap but I had to make it happen and I just let it.  Now how am I gonna make a living outta this?

The other night a girlfriend and I (the beautiful Mia) had a farewell dinner at Zuni Cafe.  We sat down ordered wine and I left her at the table for moment to rush down to greet the kitchen crew.   I felt an instant rush of nostalgia and I knew that I would be missing all the people in this kitchen.  We were of course like some sort of family and a team!  Not to mention some of the nicest people whom I have met.

I stepped down to see another cook getting trained on the station where I work, and felt a bit of sadness as I knew that I was easily replaced. Feelings of separation really hit.   However, no ill feelings.  We…I just gotta go.  However, I have gained a slew of passionate and driven cooks that I can now call my friends.  I said my hello’s and went back upstairs to continue to my dinner.

I glanced down into the kitchen.  Our table overlooked the oven and the grill as well as the rest of the downstairs dining room. No regrets. It was magical.  I was able to sit and have a bottle of wine with her enjoying our delicious meal.  The meal as well as atmosphere really solidified why I loved working there.  Even the times well when…nevermind.

Photo: Daniel Dent

But what kept me there?  What inspired me? Learning…and maybe it was the freshness and quality of the produce and ingredients that peaked my interest.  Maybe it was the dedicated few that lasted beyond my comprehension.  Maybe it was Judy who constantly walked through the kitchen – hers,  a look of concentration – with the folds of her forehead working with her eyes to portray the inner workings of her mind- every –single– detail from food to dust thoroughly examined over relentlessly.   I’ve worked the station watching her trying to extract what I can from her unyielding quest for high quality and standards.

Maybe it was my naïve / romantic notion of what cooking  gives someone when they button up that white jacket, “CHEF”, but like I said, a person learns how easily they can lose patience and in the same moment gain patience.   The good bad and everything in between.

My palate grew, my cooking evolved, I developed more ideas, and I am inspired to do more.  Whatever happened it’s happening and will continue…is this too much? Stop me now.

Roasted Poblano Peppers Stuffed w/ Chicken Shrimp and Black Trumpets- w/ Braised Chayote

4 Large Poblano Peppers
1/2 lb of Ground Chicken
4-6 Medium sized Tiger Shrimp – Pounded to a Chunky Paste
1/2 C. Fine Diced Yellow Onion
1/2 C. Shredded Carrot
1/2 Chopped Black Trumpets
1/4 C. Roughly Chopped Cilantro
1 Leek Sliced at a Bias 1/2 Inch think
1/2 C. Cubed Chayote
1 C. Chicken Stock
1 Serranno Chili
1/4 C. White Wine
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 T. salt
1 tsp. Vietnamese Anchovy Sauce (you can omit this)
10 Grinds of Black Pepper
Prep:  Place in a bowl the chicken meat -Using the side of a heavy knife pound down and out on the shrimp – then roughly and carefully seperate the shrimp by going over once or twice with your knife. Be careful of the knife slipping.
Clean and grate a carrot – Fine dice a yellow onion – Roughly chop the Cilantro- Roughly chop the Black Trumpets- COMBINE Salt – sugar and the above ingredients in the same bowl as the chicken – mix well.
De-vein the poblanos by first cutting off the top.  Remove seeds and veins- Do the same with the Serranno and fine dice Peel and cut the Chayote to 1/2 inch cubes-  Clean and Cut the leeks into 1/2 inch slight biased cuts. Carefully fill cavity of with mixture – Heat up a pan , add olive oil – Carefully add poblanos and pan char. Remove.
Add leeks to give slight color, deglaze with white wine – add chicken stock- turn heat down- add Serrano & fish sauce &  Chayote. Season w/ salt.
Add the ingredients from the sauté pan into the roasting pan.  Place the stuffed poblanos on top.  Set Oven to 375° bake for 30 Minutes.  Finish with A good douse of Olive Oil.   When Serving slice on a bias and pour juices and ingredients from pan on top.

Cooking shenanigans will continue…

Roll out the…

Spring has arrived! So with Spring showers come those May flowers.  I am hoping  blossoms will be plentiful in the garden.

This is a new recipe developed while feeling giddy about the youthfulness of  Spring.  This season somehow evokes a feeling of  fresh yet soft and creamy food.  But not too heavy. Which is why in this particular recipe  I went with milk instead of the heavy  cream to cook with.  This delightful dish is light and milky, satiny and succulent and when sliced, look not only appetizing but also attractive.

I made this for my client 2 weeks ago and this was one of his favorite dishes.  So I thought this would be great to include in my new post.  Hopefully I will include 1 thing per week that I make.

This dish is delicious and satisfying, it’s one of those one dish meals that has everything included in a small scolding hot ceramic dish.  The milk in this dish acts as a braising liquid with the sherry and the chicken stock.  The potatoes are cooked gratin style  and acts as a sponge, soaking up all the delicious goodness from the juicy chicken and aromatics.

Roulade of Chicken with Spinach Feta and Walnuts atop a Potato and Milk Gratin
( will serve 2-4)
 
 
2 Chicken Breasts butterflied and pounded to an even thickness 1/4 inch thickness
1 1/2 C. Roughly chopped Spinach
1/3    C. Course chopped walnuts (optional)
1 1/2 C. Sliced Red Potatoes or  Sliced larger Fingerlings
1/4   C. Diced Onions
1/4   C. Diced Leeks
1/4   C. Diced Celery
3      Sprigs of fresh Thyme
1      C. milk
1/4  C. Sherry (White wine can easily be substituted)
4     T.  of butter
1     C. Chicken Broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
 
Begin with butterflying your chicken breast.
It might have to take you up to 2 times to butterfly one chicken breast depending on how thick they are.  Pound them into an even thickness (not too thin) about 1/4 inch thick and season the breast inside well with a bit of salt and pepper.
Roughly chop your spinach, crumble your feta, coarsely chop your walnuts.  Sprinkle all these items in a single layer on the cut and butterflied part of the chicken breasts.   Be sure to leave room at the end about 1 inch so that the filling does not fall out.
Get some kitchen twine and tie your bundle neatly. Then lightly season the outside of your bundle with some salt and pepper
 
In a 8×8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish (or a baking dish of your choice), lightly butter the bottom and sides.
 
Using a mandolin (if avail) begin to slice your potatoes to an 1/8 of an inch thickness.
Dice your leeks, celery and onions in small dices.
 
Heat your sauté pan and add a bit of olive oil.  Reserve 2 sprigs of  Thyme and.  Add your carrots, onions leeks and 1 thyme sprig.  Sweat till onions are slightly translucent.  Douse with Sherry and let come to a boil.
 
Combine the rest of the liquids – Milk, broth and add this to your sauté pan.  Season with salt and pepper.
 
In your baking dish add a layer of the liquid/mixture.  Reserve about 80 percent of it to cover the rest of your chicken.  Add a layer of the potatoes as you would a gratin season with a light sprinkling of salt a pepper.  Lay your chicken atop the potatoes and now add the rest of your cooking liquid.  If you have any left over potatoes just lay them around.  Lay your butter atop the chicken with a sprig of thyme on each breast and bake.
 
Bake covered at 375 for about 30 minutes.