Monthly Archives: July 2015

Crispy Chicken Tacos

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During my travels this Summer, I had a long lay over at the Charlotte Airport. Given that there are the usual fast food joints in the main terminal, I opted to have lunch at a spot in Terminal D, called “The Rum Bar”, whichDSC09852
was reasonably priced considering that it was at the airport. Although a member of the staff highly recommended the Jerk Chicken Sandwich, I thought about eating such a spicy meal and flying would not agree with me, so I chose the Crispy Chicken Tacos,instead, which consisted of two tacos and was mainly composed of fried chicken tenders with an avocado cream sauce, Monterey Jack cheese and diced tomatoes, served on a flour tortilla. You had the options of having french fries or rice and black beans as a side. It was fresh and hot and tasted pretty good considering airport food. I think that three tacos would have been better as a lunch entree, or maybe because I was hungry and wanted more……

So as soon as I got home, I had to try to make these amazing little tacos, but with a little more low fat and low carb healthy choices.

Yes, it takes is a little time, but the effort is worth it, in developing more layers of flavor. So here is my take on The Rum Bar’s Crispy Chicken Tacos. I oven baked the chicken tenders, rather than frying them, reducing the fat content.

Also note that the avocado cilantro lime cream sauce is so delicious and it is also amazing on Chile Verde, chicken, fish, or seafood tacos. It is also great as a dip for vegetables and tortilla chips.

As for a cooking tip, warming the tortillas is usually the last step when serving a Latin inspired meal for dinner. With a little heat, they get soft and pliable – perfect for wrapping around the filling.

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:
For the Marinade:
2 pounds chicken breast, cut into tenderloin strips
1 cup buttermilk
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
A pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin,
1/4 teaspoons chili powder

For the Breading:
1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk
2 cups Japanese Panko breadcrumb
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

For the Avocado Lime Crema:
1 ripe Haas avocado, peeled and mashed
6 ounces low fat plain Greek yogurt
Juice and zest of one lime
1/2 teaspoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 teaspoon
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

For the Sour Cream Drizzle:
1⁄4 cup light sour cream
1 -2 teaspoons skim milk

One package 6-inch diameter flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack Cheese, for garnish
4 Whole Roma tomatoes, diced, for garnish

Rice and Black Beans, for serving

Directions:
For the Chicken Tenders, combine the chicken tenders with all of the marinade ingredients in a large ziploc bag. Seal the bag tightly and gently message the bag to ensure chicken tenders are evenly coated with buttermilk marinade. Place in a bowl, just in case leakage that may occur from the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. For best results, marinating over night is ideal.

Preheat oven to 375 °F.

Remove the chicken tenders from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the marinade. Lightly season the chicken tenders with salt and black pepper. In a shallow dish, season the flour with salt and black pepper then beat the eggs in another shallow dish with the milk. In a third shallow dish, place the breadcrumbs.

Dredge the chicken tenders in the flour to coat, shaking off any excess flour. Dip the floured chicken tenders into the egg and finally, coat the chicken tenders with the breadcrumbs.

Place the breaded chicken tenders onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.Remove from the oven and set aside and keep warm.

To make the avocado lime crema, cut the avocados in half, lengthwise and  remove the stones and peel. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, place in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap to prevent further oxidation and set aside.

To make the sour cream drizzle, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and the milk. Transfer into a small resealable plastic bag and set aside.

To warm the tortillas making them more pliable, preheat the oven to 350°F.Wrap a stack of five or fewer tortillas in a packet of aluminum foil and put it the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until heated through. You can do multiple packets of five tortillas each all at the same time. Alternatively you can also warm the tortillas in a microwave oven. Put five or fewer tortillas on a microwavable plate and cover them with a damp paper towel. Microwave in 30-second bursts until they are warmed through. Repeat in batches of five tortillas until all your tortillas are warm.

To assemble the tacos, fill the tortilla in this order: spread a smear of avocado lime crema on the tortilla, add the chicken tenders and top with shredded cheese and a 1/2 teaspoon of diced tomatoes. Snip off one corner of bag and squeeze the sour cream drizzle onto the tacos, in a zig zag manner.

Serve immediately with rice and black beans.

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Crawfish Étouffée

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Crawfish Etouffee

 

Being on the Gulf Coast, there is a abundance of seafood and there is no place better than the State of  Louisiana, and there’s nothing better than this classic Southern Creole dish during crawfish season.

Crawfish season varies from one year to the next, based on how cold (or mild) the weather was during the Gulf Coast winter. It also depends on the amount of rain, and the water levels in the swamps and bayous.

Generally, the crawfish season in Louisiana runs from mid-January through early-July for crawfish caught in the wild, with the peak months being March, April and May. Crawfish from farms are available over a longer period of the year. When out of season, you can switch to  cooked crawfish that are available in the seafood section of your local super market. This is a great alternative, and if cooked correctly, tastes exactly like the live crawfish.

There are hundreds if not thousands of recipes for Crawfish Étouffée, just as there  are many cooks and chefs in the world. This is the old fashion Creole way to cook Crawfish Etouffee, with a blonde roux. Very simple yet very flavorful.But this recipe is easy and adaptable with ingredients you may have on hand. The important thing is to have celery, green bell pepper and onions to make the ‘trinity”, which is so common in Southern Cuisine. I used red onions, which will give you very different taste if you used white or yellow onions. The crawfish can be substituted with shrimp when crawfish are out of season. Even better when served with hot corn bread or a crusty French bread. Start cooking the rice first since this is a quick and easy dish. To keep the dish a bit more healthy, I used steamed brown rice for this recipe, but you can use whatever you like.

Enjoy!

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 stick (1/4 pound) butter
2 cups chopped  red onions
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped bell peppers
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound peeled crawfish tails
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon flour
1 cup  chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 Tablespoons chopped green onions
Cooked rice, for serving

Directions:

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and sauté until soft and golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the crawfish and bay leaves. Reduce the heat to medium. Stirring occasionally, cook until the crawfish begin throwing off a little liquid, 10 to 12 minutes.

Dissolve the flour in the water. Add to the crawfish mixture and season with salt, cayenne, black pepper and white pepper. Stir until the mixture thickens, about 4 minutes. Add the parsley and green onions and cook for about 2 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves.

To serve, ladle the etouffée into shallow soup bowls and top of with a scoop of cooked rice. Serve immediately.
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Crispy Sesame Duck Liver Salad

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The delicate acidity and freshness of the  salad serve to counter the richness of the duck livers in this  recipe adapted from Chef Shaun Hill, with a sesame coating adding a pleasing crunch. Chicken livers can be used as a cheaper and more accessible alternative to duck livers if you cannot find them at gourmet or  specialty meat markets.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
For the Duck Livers:
1/2 pound duck liver, trimmed and cleaned of all sinew
Light soy sauce, to taste
2 1/2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Rapeseed oil

For the Tomato Salad:
2 large ripe tomatoes, left at room temperature
1/2 celery, heart and inner leaves only
1 Tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/4 cup  peanut oil
2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
4 teaspoons  mirin, or rice wine vinegar

Directions:
Place a frying pan over a high heat, add enough oil to the pan to coat the base. Season the liver with salt and pepper. As soon as the pan begins to smoke, sear the duck liver until dark golden brown. Reduce the heat and turn the livers over.

Add a small knob of butter and a generous dash of soy sauce. Baste the livers in butter and soy from the pan and remove from the heat. Allow the livers to rest for 2 minutes

Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices, season with salt and set aside.

For the soy dressing, combine the peanut oil, soy and mirin in a small bowl and stir to combine. Place 5 slices of tomato in a tight circle in the center in the plate. Scatter some of the celery and celery leaves over the top and spoon over the dressing.

Roll the livers in the sesame seeds to coat, then, slice on an angle. They should still be slightly pink in the center.

Add the sliced livers and a small sprinkle of the pine nuts to the plates. Drizzle a little more dressing around the plate and serve immediately.

Panko Fried Green Tomatoes

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During my travels this Summer, I had an opportunity to make a stop along the Gulf Shores, in Biloxi, Mississippi. While staying at the Beau Rivage, I dined at  The Buffet, for lunch and was presently surprised at how fresh and inviting the food was.

Yes, I know what you are thinking…. “all casinos have buffets.” But not this buffet. Forget the tired old image and experience a line-up of creations that rivals the best restaurants on the Gulf Coast. No wonder savvy locals consistently choose The Buffet for weekend brunch and holiday dinners. The variety is unparalleled, and so is the quality.

DSC00485The atmosphere is lively, contemporary and warm ……the décor was that of French Copper Pots DSC00484and Cooking Utensils. How imaginative!– A perfect backdrop to the amazing array of mouth-watering food.

Take your time and sample enticing flavors from around the globe; succulent meats carved or grilled to your specifications; made-to-order pastas and omelets; classic comfort food, including down home Southern-style favorites; plus, the most bountiful fresh seafood and salads available anywhere. And the desserts?  Well, you will  just have to try one. Or several.  Now, this is a  real  buffet!

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Anyways, I have digressed…….

For me, the star of the buffet were the Panko Fried Green Tomatoes. They were absolutely to die for. Panko bread crumbs have a coarser texture than ordinary bread crumbs, which you can also use to coat the tomatoes. Yet,  the panko crumbs gave the fried tomatoes a uniquely light and crispy texture and they were seasoned with just the right amount of fresh herbs too.

I  re-created  this quintessential Southern side dish and the results were pretty close to the ones I had while visiting the Gulf Shores.

Enjoy !

Makes 8 to 10 Servings

Ingredients:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
12 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
2 cups Japanese panko  bread crumbs
5 medium green tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Canola oil, for deep-fat frying

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine the , flour, garlic powder, black pepper, salt,  parsley and thyme together.

In shallow bowl gently beat the eggs and the buttermilk together.

In  another shallow bowl, add  the panko bread crumbs. Dip  the tomato slices in flour, followed by the egg mixture, and then coat  the tomatoes with  the panko bread crumbs,  gently pressing the breadcrumbs into the slices of tomatoes, coating both sides well.

Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet, to  375° F. Fry tomatoes, a few at a time, for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy. Carefully remove the tomatoes and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately with hot pepper sauce, lemon or ranch dressing.

Brown Chicken Stock

This stock so rich and savory, that it will make your soups and gravies taste so amazing. It will take a little bit work in the kitchen, but it is so worth it. It is also budget friendly allowing you to save up bones in a freezer bag in the freezer for weeks or months until you will have enough to make a stock. This stock recipe is also a great way to use the backs or necks from whole chickens.

Makes About 12 Cups

Ingredients:
8 cups water
2 diced carrots
1 stalk celery
2 red onions, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 pounds chicken bones
1 head garlic, peeled and halved
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoon cracked black peppercorns

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450 ° F   ( or 220 °  C).

Arrange the chicken bones on a baking sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until well browned.

Heat the olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and carrots; cook and stir until browned. If they scorch, just add a bit of water and scrape up all the bits.

Add the roasted chicken bones to the pot, and fill with enough water to cover the bones by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, and add the garlic, thyme, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to low, and simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Add more water if needed.

Strain out all of the solids from the broth, drain off the fat, and refrigerate. You can also remove the fat after it has chilled. The stock will be thick. Use full strength for soups and gravies, or dilute with water for a milder flavor.

If not using immediately, allow the stock to cool and place in freezer bags for long term storage in the freezer.

Apple Pie In A Skillet

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The stove top pizza in a cast iron skillet was such a success, I thought about cooking an apple pie in the skillet.

This recipe is so easy and so amazing with simple ingredients that you can find in your local supermarket, that it will make your mouth water with the taste of apples and spiced whipped cream.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 Pillsbury Pie Crusts, refrigerated
One 21-ounce can apple pie filling
2 Tablespoons cinnamon sugar
A pinch of cayenne pepper

 

For the Spiced Whipped Cream:
2 cups whipping cream, chilled
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 Tablespoons sugar

Special Equipment:
9-inch cast iron skillet
Metal Mixing bowl

Directions:
For the skillet pie:
Preheat the oven to 400 °F.

Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet; set aside 1 tablespoon of the melted butter for the top crust. To the melted butter, add the brown sugar and melt them together on medium heat, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and line the skillet with one of the pie crusts. Pour the apple pie filling over the crust and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar and pinch of cayenne pepper. Use the second pie crust to cover the filling. Brush the top with the reserved melted butter, then evenly sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar on top. Cut vents in the middle of the pie. Bake for 30 minutes.

For the spiced whipped cream:
Chill a large metal mixing bowl and a wire beater attachment in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Pour the cream, cardamom, cinnamon and sugar into the cold mixing bowl and beat until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes; the mixture should hold its shape when dropped from a spoon. Be careful in not to overbeat the cream, or you will have sweetened butter on your hands.

Serve the pie hot, topped with a generous dollop of the spiced whipped cream.

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*Cook’s Note:
Vanilla ice cream can also top the apple pie and served with a slice of cheddar cheese, if desired.

Stuffed Crabs

You rarely see this dish served in real crab shells, these days in restaurants. Current restaurants use pseudo-crab shells made of thick aluminum foil, and roughly crab-shaped. The only way to get stuffed crabs real way, in crab shells, is to make the at home.

The secret to this recipe is to moisten the bread used to make the dressing with heavy cream, crab or shrimp stock. Chicken stock, can be used, but the final dish will lack the seafood flavor.

These make great appetizers. You can serve them as they are, or drizzle with hollandaise sauce as a side dish, or serve three crabs as a main dish with a vegetable.

Makes About One Dozen Stuffed Crabs

Ingredients:
1 pound lump crabmeat
Two sticks unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small red sweet bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small orange bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 rib celery, finely chopped
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons finely minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper,to taste
Crystal Hot Sauce, to taste
1/2 loaf stale French bread, cubed (about 3 cups)
1 cup homemade French bread crumbs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup homemade crab, shrimp, or fish stock*

Special Equipment:
A dozen or so reserved crab shells, washed thoroughly, or you may substitute aluminum crab forms if fresh crab shells are not readily available.

Directions:
Pre heat the oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl add the bread cubes, cream and crab stock and set aside to soak.

Heat 1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of the butter and heat in a heavy skillet. When the butter is sizzling, sauté the onions, and the celery until the onions begin to brown. Add the green onions, garlic, salt and the bell peppers and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender. Add the parsley and cook for one minute. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

Add the vegetable mixture and bread crumbs to the soaked the bread cubes and mix very thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary, with salt and pepper. Take 2-1/2 to 3 cups of the bread mixture and place in a large bowl, breaking it up with your fingers. Add the crabmeat (which has been picked over for cartilage and shell bits) and use your hands to combine it with the bread mixture, very carefully leaving large lumps of crabmeats.

Stuff each crab shell or aluminum crab form with a generous amount of the stuffing. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over each mount of stuffing. Bake for about 10 minutes, and if you like turn on the broiler for the last 30-60 seconds, so that the bread crumbs will toast slightly. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

*Cook’s Note:

Swanson’s Fish Stock is an excellent substitute for crab or shrimp stock in this recipe.

Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake

This is my version of the Kentucky Butter Cake. A cake that is moist, buttery and coated with a sweet buttery bourbon sauce that crusts the outside and soaks into the cake making it amazing for days. This sweet soft cake is just perfect on its own, but you can top it with fresh strawberries and whipped cream to get a perfect summer dessert.

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Ingredients:
For the Cake
1 cup butter, cubed at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

For the Bourbon Butter Glaze
⅓ cup butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Grease a 10-inch bundt pan with Crisco shortening very liberally. Dust the pan with flour and set aside.

Place all the cake ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low for 30 seconds and then increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 65 to 75 minutes until a toothpick entered into the center comes out clean and cake is golden.

When the cake is done make the glaze. Combine all ingredients into a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir continuously until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Do not bring to a boil.

Poke holes all over the warm cake using a knife and pour the glaze evenly on the cake while still in the pan. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan and then invert the cake onto a serving plate. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar and cut to serve.

Cook’s Notes:
You can substitute 2 teaspoons of vanilla for the bourbon, if desired.

You can make this cake a day in advance, as it will be more moist and flavorful when it rests overnight.

Salmon Tacos

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Photo Credit: Joseph de Leo, 2011

A spin a on a traditional taco made with the flavors of the heart healthy salmon and a fruit salsa made of apples and cucumbers. This dish could be a nice refreshing meal for lunch or dinner.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound skinless wild Alaskan salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 corn tortillas
Kosher, salt to taste
1 Hass avocado, mashed

For the Apple-Cucumber Salsa:
1 Granny Smith apple—peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cucumber—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Kosher salt, to taste

1 cup finely shredded cabbage

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the lime juice. In another small bowl, combine the chipotle powder with the orange zest and sugar. Rub each piece of salmon with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and then with the chipotle–orange zest mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes.

In a bowl, toss the apple with the cucumber, onion and pepper. Stir in the vinegar and sugar, season with salt and set aside.

Wrap the tortillas in foil and bake for about 8 minutes, until they are softened and heated through.

Meanwhile, heat a grill pan. Season the salmon with salt and grill over high heat until nicely browned and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

Gently break each piece of salmon in half. Spread the mashed avocado on the warm tortillas and top with the salmon, Apple-Cucumber Salsa and the cabbage. Drizzle each taco with the lime mayonnaise and serve right away.

Frosted Lemonade

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If you have not heard……..Frosted Lemonade is a recent addition to the Chick-Fil-A menu as a spin off of their classic and delicious lemonade.

This recipe is a little different than most of the Copycat Chick-Fil-A Frosted Lemonade Recipes that you will see. I found the original a little sweet and I wanted something easy to make and that was kid-friendly. This recipe still retains the creamy milkshake like texture with just the perfect amount of lemon juice for  tartness, making it a perfectly cool and refreshing beverage for the summer.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 cup frozen concentrated lemonade
7 to 8 scoops of Edy’s Slow Churn Original Vanilla Ice Cream

Directions:
Shake the can of frozen concentrated lemonade vigorously. Open the container and measure 1 cup of the concentrate using a measuring cup. Add the concentrate and 7 to 8 scoops of the ice cream to blender. Blend until thoroughly mixed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour into a glass and garnish with lemon slices and serve immediately.