Tag Archives: entrees

Lemony Chicken Piccata


Chicken piccata is one of the few recipes that my entire family can agree on. Between the brightness of the lemons, the saltiness of the capers, and tender chicken filets, you just can’t go wrong.  Complex yet surprisingly easy to make, this can serve as both a quick weeknight dinner and a formal meal for guests.  The original recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen, but I’ve tweaked it over the years until it has been adapted into my current version.

When we were living in Norfolk I used to make large pans of the piccata to serve to all of the geographical bachelors living on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt.  (And let me tell you, those men could eat a lot of food).  Now I am more apt to cook up reasonable, family sized quantities and serve it along side a parmesan risotto and green vegetable smaller sit down dinners.  I usually make a double batch since the flavors mellow with re-heating and taste even better the next day.  If you want to spend time with your guests and avoid last-minute preparations, you can make it ahead of time then let it sit over low heat for several hours since the flavors will only intensify and the lemons will break down and become bite-tender.  The recipe produces a generous amount of sauce since I like to serve it over rice.  You can reduce the quantity by half and since have enough of its tasty goodness to satisfy all of your guests.  Oh, and this is a great dish to use up any extra lemons you might have in the kitchen.


Serves 4

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and fresh ground pepper

8 thin, boneless chicken breast cutlets

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups, low-sodium chicken broth

1 large lemon, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch moons

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons capers, rinsed

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 tablespoons chopped parsley

  • Spread the flour in a shallow dish and sprinkle liberally with the salt and pepper.  Dredge each cutlet in the flour mixture and set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add half of the cutlets and cook until light golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.  Add more oil to the skillet if needed and repeat the cooking process with the remaining chicken.
  • Add the shallot and garlic to the oil left in the skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the broth and lemon slices, deglazing the pan and scraping up any browned bits.  Simmer until reduced and syrupy, about 8 minutes.
  • Stir in the lemon juice, capers, and any accumulated chicken juice.  Return the chicken to the sauce. At this point the chicken can sit over low heat until ready to serve.
  • Immediately before serving stir in the butter, one piece at a time.  Turn off the heat, adjust the salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Potato & Cheese Pierogi

My earliestmemories include watching my Polish nana pinching pierogi in the kitchen. Standing there in one of her apron covered housecoats, her fingers would fly as she grasped the palm sized bits of dough pockets and swiftly secured their fillings inside.  As kids we would eat meat filled ones boiled with ketchup.  The holidays called for fancier versions, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes took the place of ground meat and these special pierogi would be fried in butter and served with sautéed onions. Nana never shared her recipe and as far as I know she took it too her grave.  In college I dated a Polish man.  His babci wore the same housecoats and had the same pierogi pinching technique as my nana.  Like my nana, she never shared her recipe but she did introduce me to the sweet version of this Polish treat.  Plums, blueberries or even apples were staples in her household.  My relationship with this boyfriend probably lasted as long as it did because of her pierogi.
This version from Fine Cooking Magazine is close to the pierogi of my childhood. I was pleasantly surprised at my results.  I couldn’t find the farmer cheese called for in the recipe but I made the best Albanian substitution I could find; half ricotta and half Albanian white cheese (akin to feta) seemed to do the trick.  I need to practice my pierogi pinching technique but I think even my nana would approve of the results.
1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil (I used olive oil)
3 medium white or yellow onions, finely chopped
10 ounces farmer cheese (I used one cup ricotta cheese and one cup of Albanian white cheese)
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups warm water
1-1/2 Tbs. butter or 3 Tbs. vegetable oil, for sautéing (optional)
melted butter or sour cream and snipped chives for serving (optional)

Make the filling

  • Put the potatoes in a pot with just enough cold salted water to cover them and boil until soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter with the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.  Lower the heat and continue cooking until the onion is nicely browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. You may need to add 1 tablespoon or more of additional butter, as the mixture will absorb quite a bit of fat. Set aside to cool.  
  • When the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander and press lightly with a dry kitchen towel to dry them thoroughly. Return the potatoes to their hot pot and shake them dry.
  • Remove the pot from the heat; add the cooled onion mixture and the cheese. Mash the ingredients until they’re well blended and there are no more potato lumps; you may want to use a stiff whisk. Season  with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool while you roll out the pierogi dough.
Make the pierogi dough
  • Put the flour in a large bowl.  Add the butter and using your fingers, work it into the flour until the mixture has the texture of coarse meal.  Add 1 3/4 cups of the warm water and stir with your fingers until the mixture begins to come together.  If the mixture is dry, you can add up to 1/4 cup more warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a shaggy yet cohesive mass.
  • Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and gently knead it until just soft and elastic; the dough will not be completely smooth, but it should be easy to shape, with a Play-Doh-like consistency.
Shape and fill the pierogi

  • Fill a large pot with 5 qt. water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, using lightly floured hands, pinch of one tablespoon portions of the dough and roll them into balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. You should end up with 36 to 40 balls. With a small rolling pin or dowel, gently roll out each ball into a 3 to 3-1/2-inch round about 1/8 inch thick on a well-floured surface. Keep the dough balls and disks covered as you work so they won’t dry out.
  • Hold a round of dough flat in your palm, dust off the excess flour, and spoon a generous tablespoon of the filling onto the center of the dough. Fold the round in half to enclose the filling. Seal the pierogi by pulling the edges away from the filling and pinching them together. To ensure a proper seal, pinch the edge shut once more, working from one end to the other. Set the filled pierogi on a floured work surface or baking sheet and cover with a dry towel or plastic wrap until all are filled. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Cook the pierogi

  • When the pot of water is boiling, drop the pierogi in batches into the boiling water, stirring occasionally. When they float to the top, cook for another 2 to 4 minutes; bite into one to check that there’s no chalky line. Remove cooked pierogi from the water with a spider or slotted spoon and put them in a bowl. If you like, serve them immediately with melted butter.
  • To sauté the pierogi, heat the butter or vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Without crowding the pan, add the boiled, drained pierogi and cook until golden brown and puffy on both sides. Season with a little salt and pepper, and serve with sour cream and chives, if desired.

Bacon and Beer Macaroni & Cheese

On blustery winter days like today, there is nothing like a hot dinner filled with comfort foods.  For me, the ultimate comfort food is homemade macaroni and cheese.  There isn’t any of the yellow boxed stuff served at our house; rather noodles are mixed with a rich sauce comprised of whichever cheeses I have on hand.  Bake it in the oven for a half hour or so and you end up with a rich and creamy cheesy goodness that hits the spot.

This recipe was inspired by one I found on the From Away food blog. Originally made with brown ale and cheddar cheese, I adapted the recipe based on the ingredients I had on hand.  Korce e Ze, a local dark beer was substituted for the recommended brown ale and not being able to find real cheddar cheese in Albania I used a mixture of provolone, Gouda, and Swiss.  The original recipe called for 4 full cups of half and half cream. Again, not being able to find half and half I used whole milk and still received the creamy results I desired.  In the future, I’d like to try this with cheddar and pepper jack combination.  I think this would create a complex and rich dish.  Even without these ingredients the consensus was that this version of mac and cheese was pretty darn tasty.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided plus more for the dish
4 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 pound bacon
4 cups whole milk
12 ounces dark beer
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 small can chopped jalapenos
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
4 cups cheese of your choice, shredded and divided
1 cup penne, ziti or similar sized pasta
1)  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 3 quart casserole dish; set aside.
2)  Place the bread in a medium bowl.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons
     butter.  Pour the butter into the bowl with the bread and toss.  Set the breadcrumbs aside.
3)  Dice the raw bacon and add to a large fry pan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the
     bacon is brown and crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked bacon to paper towels to drain.
     Drain all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease from the pan, leaving all of the brown crispy bits.
4)  Heat the milk and beer in a separate saucepan over medium heat.
5)  Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to the rendered bacon fat and allow to melt.  When the
      butter bubbles, whisk in the flour, scraping the bottom of the pan to release the brown crispy bits
      and stir until combined with no lumps remaining, approximately 1 minute.
6)  While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk and beer mixture.  Continue cooking, whisking
      constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the
      salt, nutmeg, black pepper, jalapenos, 3 1/2 cups cheese, and cooked bacon.  Set cheese sauce
7)  Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook 2 to 3 minutes less than the
     manufacturer’s directions, until the outside of the pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone.
8)  Transfer the past to a colander, rinse under cold running water and drain well.
9)  Stir the pasta into the reserved cheese sauce.  Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.  Sprinkle with
     remaining 1/2 cup of cheese, bread crumbs, and paprika.
10)  Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.  Serve

Beef and Red Wine Stew

Beef stew is the ultimate cold weather comfort food.  This recipe comes together quickly.  I often start a batch in the early afternoon and let it simmer all day until dinnertime.  It tastes even better when reheated the next day.

1 tablespoon oil oil
2 pounds stew beef
2 large onions, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups cubed baby red potatoes, scrubbed with peels still intact
1 1/2 cups cubed sweet potatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
32 ounces low sodium beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1)  Place the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat.  When the oil shimmers add the
     beef and sear on all sides until evenly browned.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened,
     5-7 minutes.
Beef, onions, and garlic cooking

2)   Add the red potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, herbs, salt and pepper to the meat mixture.  Mix to

Vegetables and spices ready for the pot

3)  Add all of the beef broth and the red wine.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cover.


4)  Continue to cook over low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours stirring occasionally.  Taste and add more salt
and pepper if needed.

Potato Pancakes With Rosemary Infused Pears

The most memorable meal during our recent trip to Bavaria was an impromptu lunch eaten on the top of the Zugspitze.  We had taken shelter from the snow squall in a glass walled cafe and ordered off of a poorly translated menu.  Much to my delight this is what the waitress brought to our table:

My inspiration eaten at the top of the Zugspitze

The potato pancake was light and crispy and smothered in melted Gruyere cheese.  The sauteed pears that accompanied the pancake had been infused with fresh rosemary.  I immediately began to think about how I could recreated this dish at home.  Although it isn’t exactly the same, my resulting dish was just as tasty.  To appease my meat loving family I served this with some leftover spiral cut ham that I fried in a bit of olive oil.  I also reheated the previous night’s Swiss cheese fondue and served a dollop of the melted cheese on top of the pancakes.  Served with a sparkling white wine, the resulting meal was a perfect light dinner.


For the pears:

4 large ripe (but not too soft) pears
3 large sprigs fresh rosemary
3 or more tablespoons apple or pear juice, or water
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg

1)  Peel, core, and slice the pears.

2)  Place in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan
with two tablespoons of juice or water.  Add
the rosemary and salt.

3)  Cover the pot and cook over medium heat
until the pears are fork tender –or cooked to
your likeness.  Watch the pot carefully, adding more liquid as necessary to

keep the fruit moist.

4)  When done, remove the rosemary sprigs from the pan.  Sprinkle with the nutmeg.

For the latkes:

1 lb potatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1)  Using the largest holes of a box grater, shred the potatoes
into a large bowl.

2)  Add the salt and pepper, toss to combine, and let the
potatoes sit for 5 minutes.

3)  Using your hands, squeeze all of the liquid from the

4)  Heat the oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet.

5)  Once the oil is shimmering, drip the potato mixture by large
handfuls into the oil.  Quickly spread the potato mixture to
form a flat pancake.

6)  Cook for 10-12 minutes or until the potatoes are crisp and
brown.  Adjust the heat to make sure the potatoes don’t cook too quickly.   Using a spatula,
flip the pancakes over and continue to cook for an additional 6-8 minutes.

Side two is cooking

7)  Remove from the pan and place on a wire rack in a 250 degree oven until all of the pancakes have
been cooked.

My version

Italian Meatballs


To finally fulfill my Christmas promise to Sidney I cooked up a batch of meatballs this past weekend.  Not being able to find any ground meat that I liked in the local stores, I purchased whole portions of veal and pork and ground my own.  Yes, I finally broke out the Kitchen Aid meat grinder attachment Glenn gave me for my first birthday in Albania (isn’t he romantic?!?) and made my own ground meat. I don’t know why I waited so long.  Not only was it easy but the quality of the meat was so much higher.  It looks like the meat grinder will be getting a workout in 2013.

1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground cloves
1 tsp dried marjoram leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil as needed for frying
1)  Combine bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Breaking out the meat grinder for the first time


2)  In a large bowl combine veal, pork, egg, Parmesan cheese, onion, garlic, and spices.  Add the bread
      and milk mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

Everything goes into the bowl


3)  Using your hands, knead the mixture until all of the ingredients are well combined.

Some therapeutic mixing going on


4)  Using your hands, form 1-inch sized balls.  Place on a tray or baking sheet until ready to fry.

Ready to cook


5)   Heat 1/4 inch of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
6)  Once the oil is shimmering add the meatballs, in batches, to the oil.  After 2-3 minutes, turn the
      meatballs over so that they brown on all sides.

Frying to a golden brown


7)  Remove the meatballs from the oil and drain on paper towel lined plates.
8)  Continue frying the meatballs until they have all been browned.
9)  Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.
10)  Place the meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minute until hot and cooked through.
Yields:  50 1-inch meatballs

The meatballs can be served with a tomato sauce over pasta, with ketchup (Sidney’s preferred method) or as is.

Because one can not survive on meatballs alone, I served
these with risotto and steamed spinach
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