Monday, April 25, 2011

Chicken and Pork Chops a la Polly Kohen

Ok, today I'm giving you two recipes for the price of one! Actually, it's just one recipe, but I tried it using two slightly different cooking methods. The chicken recipe is the original. I first saw it as I was watching Good Deal with Dave Lieberman. He was doing some of his grandmother's recipes and it looked so yummy, I knew I had to give it a try. I followed the recipe exactly as it was written and I LOVED it!!  CJ came over for dinner that night and also gave it two big thumbs up. Perfect.
 But did you ever taste a bite of something and think "Oh, this sauce would be GREAT on top of ___" ? I wondered what it would be like on top of pork instead of chicken. So, that's what I did. I gave it another try, only this time I used boneless pork chops.
 I also tweaked the cooking method slightly, just to see if my was easier. Did you ever read a recipe and think "wouldn't it be easier if I just did it THIS way instead?" So, that's what I did. Instead of adding this and that, and waiting until the end to add that and this, I just threw everything together and popped it in the oven.
 Oh, and I tweaked the amounts of some of the ingredients too. Have you ever taken a bite of something and thought "It needs more of ____ or less of ____" ?  Of course you have. So, that's what I did. I simply adjusted some of the amounts to taste.
 And there you have it! One recipe, used two slightly different ways! So, what'll it be?
Chicken a la Polly Kohen? Or Pork Chops a la Polly Kohen a la Joey??
 Why not try the chicken this time and the pork next time! If you like a nice sweet tangy BBQ sauce, then I think you're gonna love it!

Chicken a la Polly Kohen

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (3 to 4-pound) whole chicken, quartered
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, medium diced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
12-ounces chili sauce
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sherry
1/4 cup water
8-ounces canned pineapple chunks with half the juice from the can

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat oil in large saute pan over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and sear in a large saute pan only to brown the skin not to cook through. Remove chicken and add the onions. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes, then add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the chili sauce, raisins and sugar. Return the chicken to the skillet, skin side up and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil then bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Uncover pan, add sherry, water and fruit and bake for another 20 minutes.

Pork Chops a la Polly Kohen a la Joey

8-10 thick cut boneless pork chops
salt and pepper
2-3 tbs oil
1 12oz bottle chili sauce
1/4 cup water
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 8oz can crushed pineapple, with the juice
1 big handful raisins
2 medium onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced

Heat oven to 375F.
Season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and half the pork chops. Let them brown on both sides. (no need to cook them all the way through). Remove to a large casserole dish. Repeat with the rest of the chops. Add sliced onions to the pan, making sure the heat isn't too high. Let the onions slowly caramelize. After they've softened and cooked down, add the garlic and continue to saute for a minute. Add all remaining sauce to the onions and garlic. Give it a good stir, making sure any browned bits come up from the bottom of the skillet. Pour everything over the pork chops. Cover tightly with foil. Place in oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil and leave in oven for 20-30 minutes longer, or until sauce thickens slightly.

Joey's Tips:
If you don't have dry sherry, simply leave it out. It'll still be yummy!
If you're not a fan of raisins, try dried cranberries or other dried fruit instead.
By the way, if you like a really thick sauce, go ahead and leave it in the oven, uncovered, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Keep in mind, though, that the sugars will concentrate and the sauce will become sweeter the thicker it gets.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chicken DeMarco

 Is it time for stories? I think it's time for stories..... ok here we go...

Once upon a long long time ago, I met two of my favorite people on the planet, Nancy and Roe. I was just the young guy who liked to dance, and they were the weekend party girls. However the first conversation started, we hit it off immediately and became fast friends.
  Roe and I have always been fabulous dance partners, right from the beginning. We were even dubbed "Fred & Ginger" after one fateful New Year's Eve jitterbug that got the entire crowd going. I think the song was one of those "hooked on classics" medleys.  Remember them? Anyway, to this day, Roe and I still call each other Fred & Ginger. I love that.
 Nancy and I always refer to each other as husband and wife. That's because a guy was bothering her one night, kept hitting on her and wouldn't leave her alone. So, in an effort to get rid of him, she told him that I was her husband. He left shortly after that. We HOWLED laughing about that, especially since I was just a boy of 18 and well, lets just say it was clear which team I was playing for. We still laugh about it. Too funny.
As is often then case with friends, we sort of fell out of touch with each other. I guess we were just busy carving out our own paths in life. Phone numbers were lost or became obsolete and before we knew it, years had passed. Of course I thought of them ALL the time, though. I'd think of Roe every single time I'd hear "Hurt So Good" on the radio (or anything by Mellencamp, for that matter). Nancy and I have a lot of specific memories in common too. Well, she is my wife, after all....Anything by Jennifer Holliday, Boy George, (always reminds me of a costume party they had years ago)...oh, and speaking of costume parties...there was the story of how she dressed up as Diana Ross..... always cracks me up!
  Anyway... I'm thrilled to say that we recently reconnected. Thank you Facebook! It was wonderful to get together with them, to meet their beautiful families and laugh all night. We had a lovely dinner at Nancy's gorgeous home. Roe brought some appies, Nancy made a fabulous dinner, and I brought cupcakes for dessert. It was one of those nights that was just fabulous! All we did was laugh and reminisce. It was like we didn't even miss a beat, picking up right where we left off. We clearly need to do that again!! Soon!
  This was the dish that Nancy made. She took an existing recipe, added her own twist and this was the result. Delicious!! I'm so glad she shared it with me and is allowing me to pass it along to all of you! It's as simple as it is elegant.
 So, the next time you decide to cook dinner for friends you haven't seen in 13 years, consider making this! Then you can put on some Diana Ross, grab your dance partner, and have a blast! Many thanx to my lovely gorgeous and talented wife, and also to Ginger Rogers, the best dance partner ever.

1 lb boneless chicken. cut into strips
butter or margarine
garlic powder
salt and pepper
2/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
1 bag baby spinach
2 sliced long hot green peppers
1 jar roasted red peppers (cut into strips)
grated cheese
1 lb penne pasta (or other favorite cut pasta)

In a large skillet, saute chicken with butter or margarine and sprinkle with paprika, garlic powder and salt and pepper. When chicken is cooked through, remove from skillet to plate.

Use the same skillet and add olive oil, garlic, sliced long hots, mushrooms, and roasted peppers. Add spinach and saute until it cooks down. Add chicken back into the skillet (along with any juices) just to warm together.

Boil penne pasta according to package directions.
Add all the above with pasta to a large serving bowl and add grated cheese (as much as you like). You can add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Joey's tips:
In any kind of dish where the chicken is cut up and then sauteed, I like to dredge it in flour before sauteing. It adds a little bit of texture to the dish, helps the chicken to brown nicely, and thickens your sauce. It's very simple to add your seasonings right to the flour before you dredge the chicken. Easy!
If you'd like to add a little heat to the dish, simply add some crushed red pepper flakes as you toss everything together. 
Oh, and since I love to add extra cheese, I think it's a great idea to bring a block of cheese to the table and a microplane, and let your guests grate it for themselves.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Stewed Vegetables with Baked Tilapia

Whenever my schedule begins to get crazy, I find myself making less healthy food choices. I'm sure many people can relate, am I right? Come on.... you all know what I'm talking about. It's easier to just order a quick take out something instead of cooking a nutritious meal, right? Cheese steak? Egg rolls? Onion rings? Burgers and fries? Pizza? Yes, I've had my fair share of "pick up a pizza on the way home" nights, but sooner or later, it starts to get old.  Don't get me wrong. Believe me when I tell you I love anything deep fried and I've never met a pizza I didn't like. But after a while, I begin to crave fresh produce and crispy green salads, and NO pizza or NO deep fried anything.
  So, recently, I found myself at the grocery store, once again tired of all the heavy and craving the more healthy. I decided to buy a bunch of fresh veggies and go from there. I wanted something that was low in fat, and very hearty. I chose the freshest rainbow assortment of veggies I could find, added some fresh herbs and aromatics and I was on my way to a delicious stew. Oh, and instead of adding chicken or beef to it, I decided to serve it along with some baked tilapia. The two seemed to be the perfect pair, so I went with it. The tilapia is really just a blank canvas for the vegetables, so I just seasoned it with salt and pepper, then baked it.
 So there you have it. The final dish was SO yummy, it was TOTALLY what I was craving. I'm so pleased with how it turned out!!! If you're a vegetarian or looking for a meatless dish or even if you're just a fan of fresh vegetables, then you MUST give this recipe a try!

olive oil
1 medium onion
4 large cloves garlic
2 small zucchini
2 small yellow squash
1 lb bag baby carrots
2 parsnips
1 lb fresh green beans
1 lb snow peas
1 28 oz can sliced stewed tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock
handful fresh basil
handful fresh parsley
2 or 3 springs fresh thyme
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs tomato paste

Heat oven to 350F.
Place a large heavy pot on the stove top and add a few glugs of olive oil. Roughly chop the onion and add it to the pot. Let it saute over medium heat for a bit, then add the chopped garlic. Roughly chop the remaining veggies into large chunks and add them to the pot. In a small bowl, stir together the canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, chopped herbs, and salt and pepper. Pour over the pot of vegetables. Place a lid on top and place the whole pot in the oven. Let it cook for a good hour. In the meantime, Place tilapia fillets in a baking dish. Spray with olive oil cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
 When the veggies are tender, remove pot from oven and use a slotted spoon to remove the veggies to a large bowl, leaving the broth behind. Add tomato paste and cook over low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the pan of tilapia in the oven. Remove when it's cooked through. (baking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fillets).
  Serve vegetables with tilapia and pour the sauce over the top.

Clearly, the vegetables can be changed to suit your own tastes. If you love carrots, add a lot of carrots. If you're not feeling the green beans, omit them entirely. If you want to add mushrooms, go ahead and add mushrooms. It's best to just go to your produce market and see what looks good.
Substitute any kind of fish you like. If you're not in the mood for fish, you can do the same with boneless chicken breasts. Just slice them thinly.
When making the sauce, if it's too thick, add a little more vegetable stock. If it's too thin, add a little more tomato paste, then adjust the seasoning if necessary.
You can use chicken stock or even just plain water if you don't have any vegetable stock.
You could also serve the veggies and sauce over a bed of rice or pasta.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chicken Wellington

 Here's a dish that you should make the next time you want to impress someone. It looks impressive, it tastes impressive, even the name sounds impressive! As soon as you tell someone you're cooking with puff pastry, they'll think you're slaving all day in a hot kitchen. It's really quite easy, though.
 Kristin told me she had this at a restaurant once upon a time and loved it so much she asked her Mom (my Jeanie) to make it for her for her birthday. It was the perfect thing to serve for a birthday dinner!! So, the next time you're celebrating an event, maybe give this one a try. I PROMISE you everyone will love it!

1/2 package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sliced mushroom
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 package (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard 

Thaw pastry sheet at room temperature 30 min. Mix egg and water. Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle chicken with thyme. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Melt 1 tbs butter in skillet. Add chicken and cook until browned. Remove chicken from skillet. Cover and refrigerate 15 min. or up to 24 hr. Add remaining butter to skillet. Add mushrooms and onion and cook until tender and liquid is evaporated. Stir in parsley. Mix cream cheese and mustard. Unfold pastry on lightly floured surface. Roll into 14" square and cut into 4 (7") squares.
Spread about 1 tbs mushroom mixture on each square. Top with chicken. Spread 1 heaping tbs cream cheese mixture on chicken. Brush edges of squares with egg mixture. Fold each corner to center on top of chicken and seal edges. Place seam-side down on baking sheet. Brush with egg mixture. Bake 25 minutes or until golden.