Tag Archives: entree

Cherry Lambic Beer Can Chicken

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I had been hearing about beer can chicken, the whole bird roasted over a can of beer on the grill, for years but had never tried it. While visiting my in-laws this summer my father-in-law made a very tasty beer can chicken. It was moist and flavorful and I was determined to come back to Belgium and try my hand at making my own version.

One only has to search the web to find numerous version of this simple roasted bird. Ingredients may vary but the methods are the same. Invert a whole roasting chicken over a half filled can of beer and grill away. Some recipes call for brining the bird first while others suggest spice rubs. Others have you roasting a completely naked bird. Beer is the most common liquid of choice, hence the beer-can moniker, but other liquids are used as well.

I opted for a spice rub and because I am in Belgium, a Belgian lambic was my beer of choice. Wanting a slightly sweet-spicy and barbecue flavor, my spice rub that included paprika, brown sugar and BBQ 3000 from Penzey’s Spices. (You can easily substitute another spice combination if you prefer). For the beer I chose a cherry lambic which infused the chicken with a slightly sweet-sour fruit flavor. When served alongside some duck fat roasted potatoes and a salad, all I can say is “oh-my”. This recipe is a keeper and is sure to make return appearances at my dinner table. So fire up your grill and break open a can of beer.

Cherry Lambic Beer Can Chicken

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon sweet paprika (or 1/2 tablespoon hot paprika)

1 tablespoon Penzeys Spice BBQ 3000

1 3 1/2 to 4 pound whole chicken

1 can cherry lambic beer

2 garlic cloves, crushed

  • To make the spice rub, combine the salt, brown sugar, paprika and BBQ 3000 in a small bowl.
  • Drink (or pour out) half of the can of beer. Place the crushed garlic cloves inside of the can.
  • To prepare the grill, turn one burner to high and place a grill pan filled with 1/2 an inch of water on the other side of the grill.
  • Generously season the chicken with the spice rub by massaging the rub into all sides of the chicken sprinkling any extra spice into the cavity of the bird.
  • Place the cavity of the chicken, legs pointing down, onto the open can so that it supports the chicken uprights.
  • Place the can, with the chicken on the grill inside of the grill pan.
  • Grill the chicken, covered, until cooked through and an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 degrees about 45-60 minutes.
  • Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Serves 4

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Baked Macaroni & Cheese

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Macaroni and cheese is one of those classic American dishes.  During a recent trip to the United States we had international friends who made a point of trying this all-American dish.  However, they came back disappointed and not understanding what all of the fuss is about.  This is just proof that not all macaroni and cheese recipes are created equal.  And as any self-respecting foodie will tell you, cheese should never come in a dehydrated form.  That means those boxes of macaroni and cheese with their bright orange powdery “cheese” are a non-starter for true macaroni and cheese connoisseurs.  Besides, when the dish is so simple to make from scratch, why should you rely on those pre-made kits anyway?

Macaroni and cheese is family favorite at our house and I regularly cook but big batches of it.  I will make a big pan of it and we’ll eat it for dinner one night then enjoy it as leftovers throughout the week.  I’ve even taken to putting the macaroni in individual sized crocks and serving it at formal dinner parties to provide our guests with a little taste of America.

In addition to being easy to make, the recipe is quite flexible.  This recipe calls for cheddar, Swiss and Gorgonzola cheeses but you can easily substitute whichever cheeses you like or have available. This is especially convenient here in Albania where our cheese selection although limited yet growing, is never reliable.  A cheese might be available in the supermarket one week then disappear off of the shelves for months at a time.  Be flexible and experiment since you never know what new flavor combination you will discover and love!  I also like to bake my macaroni and cheese. Panko bread crumbs and a bit of butter make for a crunchy topping but you can also use fresh bread crumbs or even crackers.

BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE

1 pound uncooked small pasta of your choice (I like to use shells for individual   sized servings and penne when I am making it in a single dish).

2 1/2 cups whole or low-fat milk

3 dried bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Generously coat an 8 x 10 casserole dish or 10 individual ramekins with cooking spray.  If you are using ramekins place them on a rimmed baking sheet.  Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions.  You do not want to over cook it since it will continue to cook in the oven.  When done, drain and place in a large bowl.
  • Place the milk, bay leaves, and Tabasco sauce in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Heat over medium-high heat until scalding.  Do not allow to boil.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes then remove the bay leaves.
  • Place the flour in a small bowl.  And the milk to the flour and whisk continually until well blended and no lumps remain.
  • Return the milk and flour to the sauce pan.  Set over medium heat and whisk continually until thickened, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses.  Mix until blended then pour over the prepared pasta.  Season with salt and pepper and stir until well combined.
  • Pour the pasta into the prepared baking dishes.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the Panko crumbs and stir to coat.
  • Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top of the pasta.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.   Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

The dish can be prepared up to one day ahead of time.  Simply allow to come to room temperature (or adjust the baking time accordingly), sprinkle with the crumb topping, and bake.

Serves 10

Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Compote

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

With the arrival of spring in Albania comes fresh cherries.  Small ones have been appearing in neighborhood fruit markets in recent weeks but they are now ripe, juicy and plentiful.  I can eat fresh cherries by the handful but I also like to incorporate them into entrees.  When combined with fresh orange juice and a dab of honey the cherries make for the perfect complement to balsamic glazed grilled meat.  I used pork tenderloin for this recipe but the flavors work just as well with chicken.  I served this dish alongside fresh peas, which are also plentiful this time of year, and leftover pearl barley.  Not bad for a quick and balanced dinner.

BALSAMIC GLAZED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH CHERRY COMPOTE

1 pork tenderloin

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 cups fresh cherries, pitted

1 Tablespoon honey

Juice & zest from one orange

Dash of kosher salt

1 Teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1 Teaspoon cornstarch

3 Teaspoons cold water

1 Tablespoon Kirsch

1/4 Teaspoon garlic powder

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until the vinegar is syrupy and reduced by half, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the honey and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium high heat until the honey is melted.  
  • Stir in the cherries and a dash of salt, cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Continue to cook until the pork is cooked, stirring occasionally and crushing the cherries slightly.  
  • Stir in the orange zest, ginger, and Kirsch.
  • In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and the cold water.  Bring the cherries to a boil, add the cornstarch mixture and boil for one minute.
  • While the cherries are cooking pre-heat a gas grill on high.
  • Liberally sprinkle the pork loin with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  • Reduce the grill heat to medium-high.
  • Grill over indirect heat for 8-10 minutes turning twice.
  • Brush  the reduced balsamic over the pork.  
  • Cook for an additional 4 minutes then baste again.  
  • Repeat basting and grilling until the pork is cooked to your likeness.  The total cooking time will be 16-18 minutes.
  • Remove the pork from the heat and allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Slice into 1/4 inch slices and divide onto four plates.  
  • Divide the cherry compote over the pork.

Serves 4

Ham & Spinach Quiche

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Call it a cliché, but after my weekend trip to Paris I was inspired to make quiche for dinner.  Part of my inspiration came from the light and fluffy slice of quiche Glenn and I shared in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.  The other part of my inspiration came from the fact that Glenn clearly enjoyed his Paris quiche more than the one I usually make.  Needless to say, I was determined to make one he would enjoy as much, if not more.
I realized that the primary difference between my usual quiche and the one we ate this weekend was the amount of cheese.  An avid lover of all things cheese related, I tend to be heavy-handed with the amount I use.  For this quiche I lightened up and only added the thinnest layer of cheese on top of the crust.  Instead of grating the cheese I selected a good quality Swiss from the deli case and had them thinly slice the cheese. (The same results could be achieved at home with a mandolin).  I had wanted to add asparagus as my vegetable but opted for fresh baby spinach since it’s appearance beat out that of the limp looking asparagus.  I threw in a bit of leftover ham to please my meat loving boys but you could omit that and turn the dish into a vegetarian option.  The spinach was bright and flavorful, the custard silky smooth, and the ham added a touch of sweet and salty.  Our dinner table might not have provided the same atmosphere as our bistro table in Paris, but I do think this quiche could give our Parisian version a run for its money.
HAM & SPINACH QUICHE
1 deep dish pie crust
4 ounces diced cooked ham (I used leftover brown sugar baked spiral cut)
2 ounces thinly sliced Swiss cheese
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
8 ounces fresh baby spinach
1 1/2 cups whole milk
5 eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
pinch dried mustard powder
salt and pepper to taste
Paprika
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Prepare the crust of your choice.  Roll out the crust to fit a 10 inch deep dish pie crust.
  • Place the cheese slices over the bottom of the pie crust. 
  • Heat half of the olive oil in a small medium skillet over medium-high heat.   Chop the spinach and add to the pan.  Toss continually and cook until the spinach is just wilted.  Spread evenly over the top of the cheese.
  • Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet. Add the minced onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the cooked ham, toss to coat with oil, and cook until heated through, about 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle the ham and onion mixture evenly over the top of the spinach.
  • Combine the milk, eggs, flour, dried mustard, and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Using a stick blender, blend the mixture until smooth and the flour is thoroughly incorporated into the liquids.
  • Pour the custard over the top of the ham and onions.  Sprinkle with paprika.  
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the center of the quiche is clean.  Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

Rosemary & Red Wine Braised Chicken

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This recipe courtesy of Cooking Light Magazine reminds me of a chicken cacciatore without the long cooking time required of the traditional dish.   Cacciatore is a winter dish and it is spring so meals need to be lighter.  Because I love deep and flavorful dishes I’ve increased the amount of garlic and rosemary called for in the recipe and added an extra bay leaf.  The results are a lighter yet still flavorful chicken dish that when served with garlic mashed red skin potatoes (again, more flavor) and peas makes for a complete meal.  You can easily double the recipe to accommodate a larger family or triple it for a crowd.  
Rosemary & Red Wine Braised Chicken
Serves 2

2 bone-in chicken drumsticks 

2 bone-in chicken thighs

1 Teaspoon, divided

1 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided 

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup all-purpose flour 

1/2 cup chopped shallots

2 Tablespoons chopped garlic

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 cup Chianti or other rich red wine

1 cup unsalted chicken stock 

1 Teaspoon sugar 

1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted whole tomatoes, crushed and undrained

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • Make 1 (1/2-inch-deep) cut in each chicken piece; sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  • Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.
  • Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour. Add chicken to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan.
  • Add shallots, garlic, and rosemary to pan; cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.
  • Add wine to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
  • Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, chicken stock, sugar, tomatoes, and bay leaf.
  • Bring to a boil and boil for several minutes until the amount of liquid is reduced.
  • Return chicken to pan. Reduce heat to medium; cook, partially covered, 15 minutes or until chicken is done, turning once.
  • Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Potato Gnocchi with Crispy Prosciutto & Sage

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It is Fast Friday.  This recipe is the first of what will become a weekly Friday posting featuring fast and easy dishes for your end of the week meal. For me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do to cook a big meal yet we still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series won’t necessarily be fancy but they will bring together simple ingredients that most people will already have in their pantries and will allow you to put a real meal on the table in less than half an hour.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Everyone needs fast weeknight dinner recipes that are both tasty and satisfy.  In our house pasta is always a good standby dish.  While plain pasta is always easy it gets old pretty quickly.  However when dressed up, it serves as a basic palette from which the possibilities are endless.  With this simple dish composed of only a handful of ingredients you can have dinner on the table in less than twenty minutes. The saltiness of the prosciutto combined with the earthiness of the sage bring simple ingredients together in a sophisticated twist.  With something that fast you just can’t go wrong.  If you have the time you can make your own fresh gnocchi.  Or you can buy it pre-made from your grocer’s dairy or fresh food case.  If you don’t have gnocchi on hand you could easily serve the prosciutto over pasta.  I do this for Sidney since he isn’t a fan of gnocchi.

POTATO GNOCCHI WITH CRISPY PROSCIUTTO & SAGE

SERVES 6

12 ounces potato gnocchi

1/4 cup olive oil

4 ounces prosciutto, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 Teaspoon red pepper chili flakes

1/4 Teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons minced fresh sage

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions.  
  • Heat the olive oil over medium-high in a large skillet.
  • Add the prosciutto and garlic and cook until the prosciutto is brown and crispy.
  • Stir in the black pepper, red pepper flakes, and sage and cook one minute.
  • Divide the gnocchi into four pasta bowls.  Evenly distribute the prosciutto mixture over each bowl, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Maple-Soy Marinated Salmon over Orange & Olive Oil Tagliatelle

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I love fresh salmon but due to its being a cold water fish, can rarely find it in the fish markets here in Albania.  It is sometimes available in frozen form but I find that its flavor and texture just doesn’t compare with the fresh version. I had all but given up the hope of finding any so imagine my surprise in seeing some while perusing the fish counter at the supermarket this weekend.  Without a particular recipe in mind I quickly bought two fillets since “easy come, easy go” seems to be the motto here.  I’ve learned the hard way that just because something is for sale this week doesn’t guarantee that it will be available next week.

Once home I dug into the pantry and put together a simple marinade based on the ingredients I had on hand.  The marinade is easy and because you don’t want to let the fish sit in the marinade for too long, the entire meal can be put on the table in less than twenty minutes.  If you don’t have an orange, a lemon can just as easily be substituted.  The same goes for the maple syrup; if you are using it be sure to use the real stuff.  If you don’t have maple syrup you can substitute honey or even brown sugar.

MAPLE-SOY MARINATED SALMON OVER ORANGE & OLIVE OIL TAGLIATELLE

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 Teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 clove minced garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

2- 4 ounce salmon filets, pin bones removed

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Juice from one orange

250 grams fresh tagliatelle

  • Combine soy sauce, maple syrup, orange zest, and minced garlic in a shallow, non-reactive dish.
  • Sprinkle the salmon filets with salt and pepper.  Add to the marinade and turn to coat.
  • Let sit for 15 minutes turning two or three times to evenly distribute the marinade.
  • Preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat.
  • Grill the salmon for 4-5 minutes per side until the fish is firm.  Baste regularly with the marinade.
  • While the salmon is grilling cook the tagliatelle for 4-5 minutes in a pot of boiling water.
  • Combine the orange juice and olive oil in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Drain the tagliatelle then pour the orange juice mixture over the pasta.
  • Divide the pasta evenly between two shallow pasta bowls.  Top with the salmon.
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