Here is a fun twist on a classic chicken marsala. To me, with its rich and spicy undertones, brandy is a winter liqueur. So what better way to dress up a chicken breast than bathing it in brandy? Like chicken marsala this dish is fast. The brandy adds a spicy sweetness to the onions and mushrooms making it a meal that the whole family will love.
4 chicken breasts sliced in half or 8 chicken breast filets
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium high heat.
- Combine the flour, salt and pepper on a shallow plate and dredge the chicken breasts on both sides with the mixture.
- Working in batches if necessary, add the chicken to the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes per side. You want the breasts to be browned and mostly cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet along with the sliced onion and the sugar.
- Saute, stirring occasionally until the onions are softened and have caramelized slightly, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms to the onions and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Turn the heat to high and deglaze the skillet by adding the brandy to the onions and mushrooms, scraping up any stuck on brown bits.
- Stir in the chicken broth.
- Return the chicken to the pan and cook for an additional minute or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Off the heat, add the butter to the skillet and stir until it has melted.
The old adage that everything is better with bacon holds true. In my quest for new bacon related recipes I stumbled upon this one from King Arthur Flour. Because it is made in a crock pot, the hands on time for this dish is minimal and your entire house will be filled with the sweet and salty aroma of this jam before you are done. I was initially taken aback by the ingredients, which individually I love but I just couldn’t fathom being put together as a single dish (maple syrup mixed with coffee???), but the results surprised me……..after all everything is better with bacon. Whether served on bread slices and paired with a salad for a light dinner or paired with bread and goat cheese as part of a buffet table, this jam is a hit.
Not having boiled cider on hand, and being unable to have it shipped to me, I improvised by making a reduction of apple juice cooked with a whole cinnamon stick and five whole cloves. The result isn’t quite the same but the resulting syrup seemed to do the trick.
1 1/2 pounds bacon
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup boiled cider
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
2 dried bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
- Slice the bacon into 1″ slices and cook in a large skillet until well browned. Drain the fat and reserve the bacon.
- Place the cooked bacon and all other ingredients into a 2 quart or larger crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours.
- Remove the cooked jam from the crock pot, remove the bay leaves, and carefully transfer to a food processor or blender. (I used a bowl and my trusty stick blender). Pulse until the consistency is to your liking, a soft, spreadable jam. You can leave the bacon in larger bits or pulse until very small, your choice.
- If you find the jam too liquid for your taste, transfer to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the liquid has evaporated and the jam is thick and syrupy. Adjust the seasonings and serve warm.
- Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm in the microwave before serving.
Yield: 2 cups
Fall means stews and one of my favorite fall dishes is a hearty chicken stew. You really can’t go wrong when you combine chicken, potatoes and vegetables in a rich broth. But sometimes I like to change things up a bit and when that is the case, this French inspired chicken stew from Cooking Light is just what the chef calls for. The classic ingredients remain but instead of a cream based sauce, the broth for this stew is a white wine reduction. The result is a lighter yet equally flavorful dish that is sure to please.
Serve it as is with crusty French bread for sopping up the sauce or on top of egg noodles.
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1-inch-long, ½-inch-thick strips
4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup dry white wine
¾ cup water
1¼ cups sliced carrots
1½ tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
12 small red potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
8 baby portobello mushrooms, halved
12 small pearl onions
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 cup frozen petite green peas
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat.
- Add the pancetta and salute until crisp, 3-4 minutes.
- Add the chicken and cook for 8 minutes, turning once.
- Sprinkle the flour, pepper, and salt evenly over chicken mixture, turning chicken to coat; cook for an additional minute.
- Stir in the wine and water.
- Add the carrots garlic, potatoes, mushrooms, onions and thyme; stir well.
- Bring the mixture to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 45 minutes or until the chicken is very tender.
- Add the peas to the chicken mixture.
- Bring the stew to a boil; cook 2 minutes.
When is pizza not pizza? When it is flatbread of course. Flat bread is one of my favorite go to foods. It can be served as part of a light dinner, as an appetizer or even a mid afternoon snack. All it takes is some flatbread—pre made or my preference of fresh homemade pizza dough– and the toppings of your choice. You can make them sweet, savory or a combination of the two. Top them with meat, cheese, fruits or vegetables. Really, anything can be a topping for flatbread so you can make individual ones to please your entire family or bake up a variety for a smorgasbord.
This flatbread is one of my favorites and is inspired by the Savory Simple food blog. I’ve used my own pizza dough and topped it with fresh ricotta cheese, crumbled bacon and homemade port infused onion jam. The jam is sweet, savory and decadent and the key to its success is cooking the onions slowly so they caramelize. You can make the jam earlier in the day if you prefer then top the flatbread with it when you are ready to cook. So go ahead and try this recipe then let your imagination decide which direction you go next. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
RICOTTA & ONION-PORT JAM FLATBREAD
For the flatbread:
1 recipe of your favorite pizza dough
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup onion-port jam
1 cup crumbled bacon
1/4 cup green onions, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions, peeled, quartered and sliced thin
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup water (more if needed)
1/2 cup port wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Melt the butter on low heat in a large skillet.
- Add the onions, sugar and salt.
- Sweat the onions, stirring, until they begin to caramelize.
- Turn up the heat to medium-low. Once the onions have begun to brown, pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of water into the pan to deglaze, using a spatula to scrape up the brown bits and stir them into the onions.
- Repeat this glazing and deglazing process until the onions have been thoroughly caramelized and taste both sweet and bitter, approximately 25-35 minutes.
- Add the port wine and balsamic vinegar to the onions and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring periodically, until all of the liquid has reduced and is coating the onions.
- Taste and add a bit more salt if desired.
When you are ready to build your flatbreads:
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. If your oven has a pizza setting, use that.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper then set aside.
- Divide the pizza dough into four even portions and working one at a time on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a long oval.
- Place each piece of dough on the prepared baking sheet taking care to make sure the edges are not touching.
- Place 1/4 cup of the ricotta cheese on the top of each piece of dough and use a rubber spatula to evenly distribute it across the entire surface.
- Divide the onion-port jam amongst the flatbreads, spreading it to cover as much of the surface area as possible.
- Add the bacon and the green onions to each flatbread, evenly distributing them across the top of each one.
- Bake flat breads for 15-17 minutes or until the crusts are browned and crisp and the toppings are beginning to bubble.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.
Yields: 4 flatbreads
I was a fan of ratatouille long before the Pixar movie about the French culinary inclined rat made this classic vegetable dish a common household word. Bursting with fresh vegetables ratatouille is hearty enough to be served on its own as a stew yet tastes equally good when served alongside grilled meat. Ratatouille is the perfect way to use your fresh vegetables when your garden or farm share is out of control (I’m looking at you zucchini) but I also find it incredibly comforting during cold winter months. This recipes comes from Epicurious but I think of it more as a method than an exact formula. If I have plenty of eggplant or zucchini on hand I will use more of that; sometimes I will use a single variety of bell pepper while other times I will add a rainbow of them. It all depends upon what I have on hand and what looks good. Regardless of what formula or combination you use, you just can’t go wrong. And as tasty as this dish is when it is first cooked, it tastes even better when reheat the next day.
2 1/2 lb tomatoes
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
4 assorted bell peppers,cut into 1-inch pieces
4 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick pieces
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Set a large pot filled with water over high heat.
- Cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and when your water boils, blanch the tomatoes for 1 minute.
- Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife.
- Coarsely chop the tomatoes and transfer to a 5-quart heavy pot along with the garlic, parsley, basil and 1/3 cup oil.
- Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
- While sauce is simmering, toss the eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the onions in 3 tablespoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Transfer the onions with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, then add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook the bell peppers with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer the peppers with a slotted spoon to bowl with onions.
- Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook the zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Transfer the zucchini with a slotted spoon to bowl with other vegetables.
- While zucchini are cooking, pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Add remaining oil to the skillet and cook the eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to12 minutes.
- Add the vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and black pepper to tomato sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour.
- Cool, uncovered, and serve warm or at room temperature.
It’s 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 I want to do is 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.
Here is a slightly different take on a “Fast Friday” dinner; it is still fast but it made in two parts. Simply marinade your meat in the morning–or even the night before–then pop the kabobs on the grill in the evening and dinner is served in a matter of minutes. These kabobs are tasty and remind me of the delicious grilled meats I’ve enjoyed in Greece. I used streak in this version but have also used lamb when I can find it or even chicken. Either way the flavors are fabulous. Serve the kabobs alongside steamed rice and dinner is served
GREEK STEAK & PEPPER KABOBS
For the marinade:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Dash cayenne pepper
For the kabobs:
1 pound flank steak, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large red onion, cut into chunks
- Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a large zip lock bag.
- Add the steak pieces and allow to marinade for at least 2 hours or up to over night.
- When you are ready to cook, lightly oil a grill and pre-heat it to medium-high heat.
- Removed the meat from the marinade and shake off the excess.
- Place the meat and vegetables onto metal skewers, alternating between the steak, peppers and onions.
- Place the skewers on the grill and cook, turning every two minutes and brushing with the extra marinade until the meat is cooked to your desired level of doneness. I cook my kabobs for 6 to 8 minutes.
Yields: 6 skewers