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by Danica Waters (image courtesy of www.organicsoul.com)
If you are a stranger to cooking with Tarragon, here’s a fantastically foolproof way to get acquainted. (Trust me: you’ll be ever so happy you did.)
Called the “King of Herbs” in France, Tarragon is the primary flavoring of many of the sauces that form the foundation of fantastic French cuisine, such as béarnaise, rigavote and tartare. It contains highly aromatic volatile oils which are unfortunately lost when the herb is dried; therefore, it is best to use Tarragon immediately after cutting from the stem, and after the cooking process to ensure the purity of its flavor. While some heat will help to release its essence, be sure it is only exposed to heat for a brief period of time.
Because it’s best used fresh, Tarragon makes a spectacular addition to any kitchen herb garden; however, it does not perform well when started from seed. Cultivated by cuttings and root divisions, it makes a spectacular living heirloom gift for family and friends. Got a Harry Potter fanatic on your gift list? Here’s a tip: Tarragon used to be referred to as little Dragon Mugwort. Legend has it that, because of its dragon-like root structure, Tarragon was supposed to cure bites and stings of venomous beasts. As a matter of fact, in France, Tarragon is called Herbe au Dragon. Just think: with a small pot, a Tarragon plant, and a fancy label, you’ll be giving a gift that will excite the imagination as well as the palate! Score! Be sure to give your Tarragon full sun and well-drained soil and it will happily enhance your finest potions… uh…recipes for years to come.
F.Y.I, of the two most common varieties (Russian and French), French Tarragon is the most widely used in culinary endeavors, primarily because it is a bit richer in flavor than its cousin, whose inferior flavor tends to the bitter side. French Tarragon, on the other hand, has a sweet, oh-so-slightly tangy flavor with licorice (anise) overtones; it pairs beautifully with chicken, fish, vegetables, and eggs. Happily, it happens to be the star of this incredibly easy to make, elegant, and over-the-top delicious recipe.
Chicken With Tarragon Cream Sauce
5 Chicken breast fillets, cut into ½ inch slices and lightly seasoned with white pepper
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh chopped fresh French tarragon
1 C cream or half-and-half
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare chicken breast fillets and lightly season with white pepper. Heat a large, shallow frying pan over high heat, add the oil, and stir to coat the pan. Add the chicken, in batches, and cook each batch over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, or until chicken slices are golden brown.
When all the chicken is cooked, return all of it to the pan and stir in the chopped tarragon.
Add the cream and bring to the boil; boil for three minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve with buttered egg noodles and a crisp salad.
Posted October 19th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters
“Necessity is the mother of invention”. Amen.
And where there is a whole lot of necessity, there you shall find a whole lot of inventing goin’ on. Let’s just say I happen to be on a roll these days; indeed, I am one inventin’ so-and-so. Happily, much like the FML day I concocted the Queen’s Rings, it seems to be working in my favor. Happy for all the wonderful folks who follow my blog, I like to share.
You know THOSE nights when you realize too late that the grill is out of gas, everyone is starrrrrrrrrvinnnng, and dinner just needs to be UBER-delicious because even the dog appears to be out-of-sorts? Yep. It was one of those. (We are all down with nasty colds this morning, so that explains it.)
For some odd reason, when the mood is afoul, I seem to reach for turmeric and curry every single time. (Probably because it works every single time.) This time was no exception. These crispy chicken tenderloins are not only visually stunning, with a rich golden color from the turmeric, they are just plain addictive with their crispy texture, the round, deep flavor of curry graced with the tang of freshly squeezed lemon and a hint of cilantro.
I am happy to report that the evening finished out with rave reviews of dinner, fresh blackberries over ice cream, and a healthy session of “laugh-’til-you-almost-pee-your-pants”. All’s well that ends well. Thank you, Necessity. You rock.
Crisp Chicken Tenderloins With Curry and Lemon
8 chicken tenderloins, thawed
½ C flour
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cayenne, or to taste
Salt & pepper to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro
Fresh lemon slices
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Combine flour, turmeric, curry powder, salt and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Rinse chicken tenderloins and immediately dredge in flour mixture; set on separate plate to rest.
Bring large (12”) frying pan to temperature over medium high heat. When ready, add enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan and heat until oil is hot but not smoking.
Using cooking tongs, add coated chicken tenderloins to hot oil. Fry until golden brown; turn and repeat on other side. After turning, sprinkle remaining flour mixture over the tenderloins and turn once more to brown.
Remove tenderloins to serving platter; sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro and serve with lemon wedges.
Note: These are fantastic served with Flash-Cooked Green Beans and Garlic Mashed Potatoes (recipes forthcoming), or chop them up and serve them in a pita with lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki.
Posted September 29th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters / image courtesy of greenacreshobbyfarm.blogspot.com
As the “Back to School” season descends and the evening air brings with it the first few whispers of fall, there’s one critical weekend I spend doing nothing but cooking “emergency meals” to freeze ahead. This intense little ritual has saved me again and again; there is nothing nicer than being able to come home from a stressful day and not have to worry about doing anything but setting a table and preheating an oven.
Chicken Pot Pie is one of our favorites; it fills the house with delicious smells and takes the chill out of autumn evenings.
Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie
Pie crust for top and bottom of pot pie
2-1/2 C cooked cubed 1” chicken, seasoned
2 C fresh or frozen peas
¼ C finely chopped onion
1 leek, washed and sliced into 1/8” slices
3 med. Carrots, sliced
2 med. Potatoes, cubed 1”
6 Tbsp butter
6 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 C milk, or for richer flavor, substitute half and half, or a combination of both.
1 C chicken broth
¼ C sherry, or to taste
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Herbs to taste (fresh marjoram or thyme work very well)
Soften potatoes by boiling just until crisp-tender, preferably in chicken stock. Drain, reserving stock for sauce. Place softened potatoes, frozen peas, and carrots to large bowl. Add cooked cubed chicken.
In a small pan, sauté leeks and onion until tender and fragrant. Add to rest of vegetable and chicken mixture.
Make sauce: melt butter; add fresh herbs of choice and briefly wilt; stir in flour and stir over medium high heat until hot and bubbly (3-4 minutes). Whisk in milk, chicken broth, sherry, and salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens (3 – 5 min.) Stir hot sauce into prepared filling.
Line deep dish pie plate with pie crust;; add filling. Top with second pie crust, trim and flute edges.to seal. Make 3 small slits in top crust to vent, and brush lightly with milk. (Note: a more decorative option for your top crust might be to use cookie-cutter shapes to create an artistic look to your pie…)
Pie can be frozen at this point – simply remove from freezer and thaw overnight in refrigerator, bake as follows:
375 degree F oven – 50 – 60 minutes or until golden brown.
by Danica Waters
For all you pasta salad lovers out there, hold on tight, because this just might be the best pasta salad you’ve ever eaten. My eldest daughter, who is a pasta salad fanatic, claims this as her very favorite. She loves it so much she’s requested it for every single birthday dinner she’s had over the last ten years. Today is no exception. And in honor of her birthday, I am sharing this with all of you.
Southwestern Chicken and Pasta Salad
(from Better Homes & Gardens Hot & Spicy Cooking)
In stockpot, cook per package directions:
4 oz rainbow rotini
Drain; rinse with cold water to stop cooking process and drain again. Place cooked noodles into large bowl; set aside.
¼ C salad oil
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp lime juice
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp dry mustard
Several drops Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
Mix well and pour over pasta in bowl. Add:
3 fresh or canned jalapeno or Serrano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced finely.
To pasta & pepper mixture, add the following:
1 C chopped cooked chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 ear fresh corn or 1 8-3/4 oz canned whole kernel corn, drained (fresh preferred!)
½ medium avocado, seeded, peeled, and cut into bite sized chunks
2 oz Pepper Jack cheese, cubed
¼ C sliced pitted ripe black olives
2 Tbsp sliced green onion
1 – 2-oz jar diced pimiento, drained
Toss all ingredients together well. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
by Danica Waters
The midsummer harvest is a beautiful thing; the seasonal bounty from the local Farmer’s Market provides a never-ending and always changing source of inspiration. This week the red bell peppers beckoned voluptuously from the produce stands, at an unheard-of low seasonal price! I remembered a recipe I had tucked away in the archives and really needed to revisit. Originally posted in the food section of the Rocky Mountain News, it comes from Kevin Taylor’s globally-inspired Palettes Restaurant, which is located in the Denver Art Museum.
This recipe is an absolute treasure; it’s upscale but unpretentious and just spicy enough to make your tongue tingle a bit. Fire-roasting the vegetables takes a little while, but is hands-down worth it in the end, so give yourself some room.
In my opinion, this is the perfect thing to serve when you’re surrounded by friends, the room is filled with intelligent conversation, great music, and lots of candlelight. Accompany with a simple salad, a baguette with Roasted Garlic Spread, and a delectable hearty red wine, and you’ve got a weekend dinner everyone will remember for a long, long time to come.
Palettes’ Roasted Chile Sauce With Chicken and Penne Pasta
(Recipe from Kevin Taylor’s Palettes Restaurant in the Denver Art Museum)
Grilled chicken breasts
Penne pasta, cooked and drained
Roasted Chile Sauce:
4 Roma tomatoes, roasted
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1 jalapeno pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
1 Tbsp roasted garlic puree (1 large head)
2 C chicken stock
Corn kernels cut from 2 ears of fresh corn
Garnish: scallions, sour cream
To roast the garlic:
Pull off the papery outside and place the whole head in a pan with a little water on the bottom. Drizzle with olive oil. Cook at 350 degrees F for about an hour and 15 minutes. Let cool and squeeze out the garlic puree.
To roast tomatoes and peppers:
Cut tomatoes and place cut side down on a roasting pan. Cut into quarters lengthwise and remove ribs and seeds from red bell peppers and jalapeno peppers; place on same roasting pan. Brush all with olive oil. Place under broiler. Broil five minutes; turn tomatoes and peppers and broil five more minutes. Remove pan from oven and carefully remove tomatoes (if jalapeno is also blackened, remove from pan). Place pan back under broiler. Continue to char the peppers, turning to blacken all sides. When peppers are charred, remove from oven and place jalapeno and bell peppers in a plastic bag. Allow to cool to loosen the skins. Rub off skins.
Saute the shallot, garlic puree, and the herbs until the shallot is translucent. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer covered for 20 minutes.
Place in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with sliced grilled chicken and fresh corn, tossed with penne pasta. Garnish with scallions and sour cream.
by Danica Waters
I love strong Southwestern flavors – especially when it’s hot outside. And boy, let me tell you, it’s been hot for the last few days. Rummaging through my recipe collection for ANYTHING that wouldn’t require me to turn on the oven, I re-discovered this yummy summer salad I clipped from a Martha Stewart magazine years ago. It has a Southwestern flare to it that makes it unbeatable for hot evenings; accompanied by Southwestern Corn Cakes, it’s the perfect summer meal. While the tequila in the marinade/dressing is optional, I highly recommend including it because it adds terrific dimension and depth to the overall flavor.
Mixed Greens with Grilled Chicken and Citrus Salsa
¼ c plus 1Tbsp fresh lime juice
¼ C plus 1 Tbsp olive oil
2 jalapeno peppers,1 thinly sliced, 1 diced
4 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and skin.
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 dashes tequila (optional)
1 navel orange, peeled, sectioned, and cut into ¼ inch pieces.
1 small pink grapefruit, peeled, sectioned, and cut into ¼ -inch pieces
4 scallions, thinly sliced
10 yellow and red cherry tomatoes, seeded and diced
Grated zests of ½ orange an ½ lime
¼ C fresh cilantro, chopped
4 tomatillos, diced
4 handfuls of mesclun or other mixed greens
In a shallow bowl, combine the jalapeno slices with the ¼ c each of the lime juice and olive oil. Rub chicken with salt and pepper, add to marinade. Add a dash of tequila, if using. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the citrus fruit, scallions, tomatoes, remaining lime juice and olive oil, zests, salt and pepper, diced jalapeno, cilantro, tomatillos, and remaining tequila. Set aside.
Remove chicken from marinade. Cook on hot grill for about 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove from the grill and let stand for 5 minutes.
Divide the greens among four plates. Slice the chicken, and arrange it on top of greens. Spoon salsa over each salad, and serve immediately.
by Danica Waters
There are several books in my cookbook collection that show heavier signs of wear and tear than the rest. One book my mother-in-law gave me is absolutely destroyed: Favorite Restaurant Recipes – 500 Unforgettable Dishes from the RSVP Column of Bon Appetit. These flautas are delicious; the filling is so incredible- and so easy to make- I’ve made it my universal go-to for all my basic Mexican fare – tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, etc. My daughter requested these for her graduation dinner; I happily made them with the intent of saving a few to photograph this morning, but alas! There was nothing left. All gone. Kapoot! Zilch! Needless to say, the photo will have to wait for another day. Here’s the recipe:
Zapata’s Mexican Restaurant / Portland, OR
2 C chicken stock or broth
3 chicken breast halves
1 Tbsp oil
1 C finely chopped peeled tomatoes
1/2 C finely chopped onion
2-1/2 Tbsp cumin (ground or whole)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
Salt and pepper
Oil for deep frying
1-2 C guacamole
In a medium saucepan, bring stock to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, add chicken breasts, cover and cook. Reduce heat to low, add chicken breasts, cover and cook 15 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 C stock (don’t throw the rest away – you can use it in other recipes later!). Cool chicken slightly, then chop finely.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in medium skillet. Add tomatoes and onion and saute over medium heat 5 minutes. Add chicken, stock, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat 25 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Heat oil to 375 degrees F for deep fat frying. Dip tortillas into hot oil one at a time to soften, about 10 seconds. Remove and drain on paper towel. Immediately place 1 Tbsp chicken mixture on tortilla and roll up tightly. It is important to fill and roll each tortilla immediately after softening to prevent the flautas from cracking.
When all tortillas are filled, fry at 375 degrees Ff until crisp. Serve warm on large platter surrounding a bowl of guacamole. To serve as hors d’oeuvres, simply cut flautas in half prior to serving.
Makes 20 – 24
by Danica Waters
Little kids teach you so many things. Like what’s “easy” and what’s not. Take chicken, for instance. Left to choose between a breast, a thigh, a wing, or a leg, the kids will, without fail, go for the legs, because you can eat them easily with your hands, there’s not a lot of picking you have to do, and the amount is usually just right. This happens to be invaluable information when it comes to buffet-style entertaining.
Oddly enough, I scribbled this recipe down while on a flight to see my aunt in Texas years ago. (I wish I could tell you the name of the publication, but unfortunately it did not get copied down on my trusty cocktail napkin.) I re-discovered the recipe – on its original napkin – while I was digging through my “Things I Need To Try” binder last Memorial Day. I was trying to find something that would:
- satiate a houseful of hungry teenage musicians without emptying my bank account;
- intrigue the discerning palates of the several adult musician/producer friends that would be joining us;
- would not leave my house a complete disaster if I served it buffet-style.
OMG, did I pick the right recipe. These legs were sooooo good (And cheap. And easy.) I made them again the following week – just for us.
If you grill them over medium heat, basting frequently and turning regularly, the marinade will caramelize to a thick, sweet, gingery, burgundy-colored coating. Sprinkling them with kosher salt after they’re done is the finishing touch – they are over-the-top. Enjoy!
Update: I recently found this same recipe on Martha Stewart’s website – it is entirely possible she was the contributor to the publication I originally found the recipe in… just so credit goes where it’s possibly due!
Sticky-Sweet and Salty Chicken Legs
1-1/2 C dry red wine
1 C plus 2 Tbsp. packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 C low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, finely minced
8 chicken drumsticks, skin on
Combine wine, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until mixture has thickened until it’s the consistency of honey, about 35 to 40 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.
Rinse drumsticks thoroughly and pat dry using paper towels. Using a sharp knife, make three diagonal slashes through the skin and flesh on both sides of each drumstick to allow the marinade to really sink in. Add drumsticks, and turn to coat thoroughly on all sides.
Preheat your grill to medium-low. (A good way to know when the grill is ready is to hold your hand about 5 – 6 inches above the grill plates – it will have reached the correct temperature when you can’t hold your hand there any more than 6 -7 seconds.) Place drumsticks on the grill, and brush with the remaining marinade. Close the grill cover, and grill about 4 minutes. Turn chicken, and again brush with marinade. Continue to cook, turning and brushing with sauce every 4 to 5 minutes, until the legs are thoroughly cooked, about 20 minutes. Remove to large platter and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Serve ‘em up and enjoy!!!
(NOTE: Be sure to accurately anticipate how much your guests will eat… Drumsticks are cheap, and it’s better to have more than you need. These are great cold the next day, too, so don’t worry about what to do with the leftovers. They won’t last.)