Friday, July 25, 2014

Easy One Pan Italian Dressing Roast Chicken + Fresh Tomato Sauce

As promised yesterday, my Easy One Pan Italian Dressing Roast Chicken + Fresh Tomato Sauce recipe. While this isn't the quickest chicken recipe ever, it is super easy, family-friendly, and rustically elegant enough to serve to guests. 

By roasting the chicken atop fresh tomatoes, you get a lot of moist, juicy flavor through the underside of the chicken, but then keep the skin safely away from moisture so you still get an irresistibly crispy brown chicken skin made all the more delicious by the layer of frico you get from adding some grated dry cheese atop the chicken in the last few minutes of roasting.

And then all those delicious juices and fat from the chicken along with some of its velvety collagen drip into the fresh tomato sauce, giving it a wonderfully rich and developed flavor while still retaining the light and summery flavor of fresh tomatoes.

Key to the success of this dish is a cooking vessel with enough surface area to be able to spread the chicken out in a single layer without having the pieces touch. I used a 12-inch oven safe stainless saute pan to make mine. If you have an equally large cast iron skillet or a medium sized roasting pan, they'll work just fine.

If you've been with me a while, you know that I almost always advise to bring your proteins up to roughly room temp before you cook them in order to prevent an undesireable internal steaming effect as they cook. Well, I've done some experimenting and as it turns out, when roasting individual chicken pieces, you can actually start the chicken in a cold oven and because of the particular size of the pieces, the gradual increase of the oven heat as it comes up to cooking temperature will also gradually bring the temperature of the chicken meat up to something fairly close to room temp right as the oven hits the cooking temp, giving you the same benefit of taking the chicken out of the fridge 45 minutes ahead of time to bring it up in temp. A most welcomed discovery in my kitchen for sure. :)

If you happen to hate fresh tomato sauce, the roast chicken component of the recipe can stand alone.

Easy One Pan Italian Dressing Roast Chicken + Fresh Tomato Sauce

Serves 4 to 6
Time: 90 minutes total, 15 active

For the chicken:

- 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken drums and/or thighs, each piece scored twice on the skin side, down to the bone, about 2-inches long and 1-inch apart (this helps the flavors penetrate the meat better)
- 1/3 cup Italian dressing (well shaken) + 1 teaspoon garlic salt mixed in a small bowl
- 1/4 cup grated dry cheese (like Parmesan, Asiago, Manchego, etc...)

For the fresh tomato sauce:

- 2 baskets grape or cherry tomatoes (about 4 cups)
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon dried Italian herbs OR 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (Any combination of generally Italian appropriate herbs, like basil, parsley, oregano, and/or thyme is fine. I wouldn't recommend rosemary for this particular dish.)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar (if needed to round out the acid in the dressing)

1) In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken and dressing mixture and toss gently several times to coat the chicken thoroughly. Take some of the run off dressing mixture and work it into each score. Let the chicken sit while you're preparing the tomato sauce components.

2) In your roasting vessel, add all the tomato sauce components and give them a few good stirs to evenly distribute all the ingredients and seasonings.

3) Lay your chicken skin side up atop the tomato mixture, leaving a little space between the pieces. Make sure to put any leftover marinade into the pan, too.

4) Pop the pan into the middle rack of the oven, turn it up to 425F, set the timer for 60 minutes, and sometime in the next 60 minutes, boil whatever pasta you'd like to have with your tomato sauce, drain, toss it with a teaspoon or so of olive oil so it won't stick, and set it aside. I'm a big fan of the cold, shallow water method.

5) After 60 minutes, sprinkle the grated cheese in equal portions atop the chicken pieces, and put it back on the top rack of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. (Check at the 10 minute mark to see if it's done to your liking or if it could use just a few more minutes in the oven.)

I like to put the chicken on its own platter and serve the pasta on the side and just spoon the tomato sauce, broth and all, over the pasta.

A crisp white like a Pinot Grigio or Sauv Blanc or even a light, sunny red like a Tempranillo go great with this meal. I just happened to make a tangerine sangrĂ­a out of some leftover Sauv Blanc last night when these pics were taken.

Enjoy! :)


Friday, July 18, 2014

Small Batch Yogurt "Buttermilk" Pancakes (with Blueberries)

Printable Version (Recipe Only)

Since Fridays are always good for sharing breakfast posts because most of us have a little more time to indulge in a homemade breakfast on the weekends, I figured I'd share my standard scratch pancake recipe today. It's a small batch recipe that makes about 6 pancakes (perfect for 2), but it's easily doubled.

And if you're like me and don't always have buttermilk on hand but do have yogurt, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how the acid and the cultures in the yogurt tenderize the batter much in the same way that buttermilk does.

I always have plain yogurt on hand because I like to use yogurt for so many dishes, but you could use the flavored stuff as well. Lemon flavored would be specially yummy, I think. If you do use the sweetened stuff, you can reduce the sugar in the recipe to 1 teaspoon or so.

Scratch pancakes seem like a hassle until you make them just once, and after you do, you'll wonder why you ever didn't make them from scratch. ;)

Small Batch Yogurt "Buttermilk" Pancakes
Makes 6 roughly 5" diameter pancakes
Time: About 30 minutes
Printable Version

- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon whole milk
- 2 Tablespoons yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon sugar

- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 Tablespoon butter, melted

1) In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg, whipping cream, milk, vanilla extract, yogurt, and sugar and whisk thoroughly until it has a soft pastel yellow color to it.

2) Add the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and melted butter and whisk again just until the batter is smooth and no more.

3) On a well buttered griddle, well-seasoned cast iron pan, or nonstick pan brought up to medium heat, pour the batter in 1/4 cupfuls, and let them cook for about 3 minutes (or until most of the surface of the pancake forms bubbles) before flipping and letting them cook another 30 seconds or so. (It doesn't take long once you flip because you can't even flip a pancake without breaking it until it's almost cooked through.)

The top pic was dotted with blueberries before flipping, but you can put a dollop of homemade jam on top along with a little drizzle of maple (this was my homemade raspberry lemon jam)...

...or add some mini mallows and chocolate chip cookies and make s'mores pancakes of them...

...or spread a little Nutella on top... 

So many options!

Enjoy. :)


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Quick & Easy Fresh Tomato Focaccia Pizza

Before I get into this recipe, many hugs and much thanks for all the speedy recovery juju you sent for my little procedure last week. It was a minimally invasive dealie, and my family's been supportive as usual, so healing has been painless and easy.

It's not a super top secret thing, and I'm not trying to be coy about it, but I think the whole experience deserves a little more reflection than I can give it at the moment, so to partially satisfy the curiosity of the well meaningly curious who ventured a guess, I'll just say for now that it wasn't the removal of a tat. I'll even go so far as to tell you that I have no tats anywhere. :)

Moving along to today's recipe...

Thanks to things like greenhouses and Mexico, many of us can have tomatoes pretty much all year long, but Summer is still prime and best tomato season and a perfect time to enjoy their flavor in this Quick and Easy Fresh Tomato Focaccia Pizza.

The olive oil and the fat from the cheese will caramelize the sugars in the tomatoes during the baking process, retaining their fresh flavor, but intensifying it. Even my fresh tomato hater Joey loves this pizza. 

Since you can easily adapt the number of servings by using only as much bread as you need, this recipe is mostly a description of process with a loose guideline for measurements.

On the day I took these pics, I used a mixture of Black Prince, Oro Dulce, and Sweet 100 tomatoes.

Quick & Easy Fresh Tomato Focaccia Pizza
Time: 25 to 30 minutes

- a loaf of focaccia or ciabatta (or similarly flat-ish shaped softer, rustic bread), sliced in half lengthwise (This is one of those tasks made much easier by a bread knife.)
- fresh, ripe tomatoes. About 1 medium beefsteak tomato's worth per piece of pizza, which is about 1.5 pear type tomatoes, and maybe about 10 grape or cherry type tomatoes
- grated cheese. I recommend something like mozzarella (not fresh), Monterey Jack, Fontina, or Havarti
- about 1/4 small clove of garlic, grated, per tomato
- olive oil
- fresh basil, finely chopped or chiffonaded. About 1 leaf per tomato used
- salt

1) Preheat the oven to 400F.

2) Dice as many tomatoes as you'll need and thoroughly squeeze the excess liquid from them in a two-handed fist. (If you're like me, you'll save the juice and pulp in a little bowl and take a shot when you're done. It's a given your hands are clean when you squeeze. ;) )

3) Toss the squeezed tomatoes with about 1/8 teaspoon of garlic per tomato, about 1.5 teaspoons of olive oil per tomato, fresh basil to taste, and a pinch of salt to bring out the flavors, remembering that your cheese will also be salty.

4) Spread a layer of grated cheese on the cut side of your bread first, then a layer of the tomato mixture, then a thin layer of cheese on top again to hold the tomatoes in place.

5) Bake the pizza on a cookie sheet or sheet pan for 10 to 12 minutes, or until all the cheese is melted.

And that's it!

Enjoy. :)


Friday, July 11, 2014

Quick & Easy Sweet & Sour Pork Stirfry-ish For 2

Sweet and Sour Pork usually involves some deep-frying as well as stir frying. This version involves a little bit of pan frying with stir frying, taking the inconvenience of the deep fry out of the equation. You won't get the same deep-fried crunch of a super fresh order of the traditional preparation, but seriously - when do you ever get it so freshly made it's not a soggy gloppy mess anyway? :P

This hits all the major notes - sweet, sour, and fried - with a little less effort, oil, time, and glop. :)

Quick & Easy Sweet & Sour Pork Stir Fry-ish for 2
Serves 2 with a little extra (easily doubled, but as with any stir fry dish, you'll want to cook in smaller separate batches)
Time: About 30 minutes


- 1 pound pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 Tablespoons potato starch
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


- 1/2 small green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/2 small red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 a medium carrot, cut into 1/8-inch thick coins
- 1/2 a medium onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup pineapple chunks (If you have to use canned, get the unsweetened stuff and drain it well.)


- 1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce (I use Mae Ploy.)
- 1 Tablespoon regular soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons vinegar (use something on the tart side like white, red or white wine, or apple cider)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced

- oil for frying

1) In a medium bowl, combine pork with starch, 1 clove garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and toss to thoroughly combine and coat.

2) In a small bowl, put all sauce ingredients together and stir to combine.

3) In a preheated slightly higher than medium high wok or saute pan, stir fry the vegetables excluding the pineapple in about 1 teaspoon oil until the onions just begin to turn translucent. No more than 1 to 1.5 minutes - you don't want the veg to turn soggy. Set aside.

4) Turn the heat slightly down to medium high, add 2 Tablespoons oil, and cook the pork, spreading it in a single layer with as much space between the pieces as possible. Because they're 1-inch pieces, you're not exactly going to stir fry, but rather fry them, letting them cook undisturbed on one side for 3 to 3.5 minutes or so until they get a brown crust, and then turning to flip them and letting them cook undisturbed on the opposite side for another 3 to 3.5 minutes until it also gets a brown crust.

5) Turn the heat up to high, add the sauce mixture, and stir thoroughly two or three times, then leave undisturbed for 20 to 30 seconds while the sauce starts to boil. The potato starch used to coat the meat will help create a nice, light, and not goopy sauce.

6) After the sauce has been boiling for about 20 seconds, toss in the veg and pineapple, let the sauce boil again for another 20 seconds or so, and there you have it!

Enjoy. :)


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Genmai Tea Infused Jasmine Rice Horchata

The Man and The Boychild both love horchata, and since it's so hot and sticky out these days, I think I'll make some for them this weekend after I've had a couple more days to rest up from my little procedure that I'll share a little more about later when I have a clearer brain. 

Somewhat related, I've never had Percocet before today, and it doesn't make me nearly as loopy as I thought it would. I'm not sure why I thought it would make me particularly loopy. Maybe it's because people always talk about it like it's one of those relaxed and groovy Class II meds.

At any rate, you can make horchata with a variety of grains and infuse it with all kinds of flavors. I really like the combination of jasmine rice and tea, and the water-like viscosity of this lighter horchata combined with genmai tea is a refreshing pairing for a number of Asian-inspired dishes.

Genmai-Tea Infused Jasmine Rice Horchata
Serves 4
Time: About 3.5 hours total, but only about 30 minutes active

- 1 + 1/4 cups uncooked jasmine rice
- 6 cups water total
- 1 cup milk
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like your horchata
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 bags of genmai tea (or you could use a number of other Asian teas like green, oolong, jasmine...)

1) Soak the rice in 3 cups of water for 2 to 3 hours, stirring two or three times during the process to make sure all the grains are steeped. Microwave your tea bags for 30 seconds and steep the tea in the mixture as well. (your tea bag staples will be just fine in the microwave for that short amount of time). (Microwaving the tea blooms the flavor and infuses the cold liquid more quickly than if you hadn't heated the tea.)

2) Remove the tea, put the rice and water in a blender and blend, starting on low, and then eventually moving to the liquefy setting. Blend at the liquefy setting for 20 seconds or so.

3) Stop the blender, add the remaining ingredients including the other 3 cups of water, and blend (again starting on a low setting and moving to the high setting to avoid splatter) for a good minute or so.

4) Pour the content of the blender, including the rice, into a pitcher (including the tea bags if you'd like more tea flavor) and cool in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.

You can either strain the horchata through a fine sieve before or when serving or you can just keep the rice in the pitcher and just allow it to settle to the bottom like silt. Keeping the rice rather than straining allows the rice to continue to add flavor and body to the horchata as it settles, and you'll have to problems pouring the horchata into a glass without accompanying rice particles.

Enjoy! :)


Monday, July 7, 2014

Maddie's Favorite Thousand Island Slaw

From time to time I get requests for an easy creamy slaw recipe that goes well with various American-style BBQs, and since we're in high BBQ and grilling season, I thought it a good time to share this recipe.

I call it a Thousand Island Slaw because the flavors mimic that sweet tangy savory creamy flavor of Thousand Island dressing. And it's Maddie's favorite slaw, which she requests whenever we make fried or roasted chicken or barbecue. And she loves to snack on leftovers later in the day.

I am all about whatever gets my goobers happily munching on raw veg.

Maddie's Favorite Thousand Island Slaw
Serves 4 to 6
Time: About 20 minutes

When you're selecting heads of cabbage, always check for tightly packed leaves and high density of water content. A good way to check for the latter is to pick up a few of the same size and select the one that's heaviest for that size. This means the cabbage is fresh and still has a lot of its original water content.

- 1/2 a medium head of green cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded (about 7 cups)
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned or shredded
- 1/2 a white onion, thinly sliced
- 3 to 4 Tablespoons ketchup
- 1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon mayo
- 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
- 2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
- salt to taste (if needed at all - I often find that the salt in the condiments used in the recipe is enough)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
- optional 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
- optional 1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1) Toss all ingredients together thoroughly in large mixing bowl.

2) That's it!

Add some celery seeds (just about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoonful), and it's great on a Reuben, too.

Enjoy. :)


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Vietnamese Grilled Pork (Thit Nuong)

Since a big grilling holiday weekend is upon us, I thought I'd share this recipe for Vietnamese Grilled Pork (Thit Nuong) for those who'd like to try something different.

This sweetsavory pork is most often served with steamed jasmine rice and a side salad dressed with a little nuoc cham or as the main attraction of one of my favorite dishes ever, Bun Thit Nuong.

And much like Bulgogi is for Korean cuisine, it's a great gateway dish to Vietnamese cuisine for the uninitiated.

Vietnamese Grilled Pork
Serves 4 to 6
Time: 15 to 20 minutes to season, 30 minutes and up to 2 days to marinate, 30 minutes to cook

- 2 pounds pork shoulder, thinly sliced or cut into 1/2-inch thick steaks to be cut into smaller pieces after cooking
- 3 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1.5 Tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon lime zest or 1 Tablespoon very finely minced lemongrass (the latter is preferable, but not widely available)
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 large green onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced

In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients together thoroughly and marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days, before cooking.

Cooking Methods

Meat generally cooks best and retains the most juice and flavor at room temp. Bring the meat up to room temp by taking it out of the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes before cooking. Also, chargrilled or charbroiled cooking is best for this dish, as the char is part of its signature flavor, but you can also pan fry or saute/stir fry if that works best for you.

Saute/Stir fry: Cook in three equal batches in a medium high preheated and well oiled (about 2 teaspoons oil per batch) saute pan or fry pan or wok. If you want to ramp up the char factor with this method, you can turn the heat up a little bit higher and use about a teaspoon more oil for each batch. I won't lie - it's messy. But sometimes, you gotta put up with a little mess to make something really delicious.

Broiler: Preheat broiler. Spread in a single layer on a broiler pan and place about 4 inches under the broiler for 10 to 12 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and some of the fatty bits are charred.

broiler method

Grill: If you're cutting the meat into small pieces, you'll need a grill basket to keep them from falling through the slats. Spread the pork in a single layer and cook over medium high heat (and at least 5 inches above the coals or gas element) until the meat is cooked through and the fatty bits are charred. 5 to 7 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the cut and grill heat.

Enjoy. :)


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

On Simple Pleasures & Simple Summer Corn & Tomato Salad

Sometimes having kids means that you trade in big excitements for little ones.

Take yesterday for instance. Yesterday was the first day of our Summer mini staycay. So we figured we'd pack up the family and go do something. Out there. In the world. Not stuck at home.

Maybe Balboa Park. Maybe a hike. Maybe The Museum of Making Music. Just anything that would have felt like we were going somewhere and doing something... Until your almost two year old decides she's going to start being pretty terrible on you, and it becomes clear that she is not fit for public consumption.

And no one's going anywhere that makes you feel like you went somewhere and did something. Because that wouldn't be decent or fair to anyone. Not. any. one.

But one of the kids wants steak for dinner, and that is something you can make happen without being a menace to society. So grilled aged ribeyes it is. With some of this simple, fresh, and seasonal corn and tomato salad.

And that's how you trade in one big excitement for two little ones until the next big opportunity presents itself. :)

Simple Summer Corn & Tomato Salad
Serves 4 to 6
Time: About 25 minutes

If your corn is exceptionally sweet, you can use the kernels raw, and you'll have an even fresher, crisper salad to enjoy in less time. But sauteing the corn does bring out a different flavor and texture, and each variation is worth trying at least once.

If you're going to saute your corn, I suggest you do that first, set the corn aside in your salad bowl to cool, give it a couple of stirs or tosses to release some of the heat, and then do your knifework on the rest of the ingredients while the corn cools.

And you already know I'm not such a stickler for upscale ingredients, but if you can get your hands on some sweet, flavorful heirloom tomatoes, they really do make the salad better.

If you'd like to give it a slightly more complex flavor, some optional spices that would work well individually in this salad in small amounts (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoonful): cumin, chipotle, smoked paprika, coriander, or even a little curry powder.

- 2 cobs' worth of fresh, sweet corn kernels (how to remove kernels from corn HERE)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil (1 for sauteing corn, 1 for dressing)
- 2 medium beefsteak tomatoes (heirlooms are great if you can get 'em), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/4 to 1/2 small sweet onion, minced
- 5 to 6 leaves basil, chiffonaded/chopped (fresh mint, parsley, and cilantro also work well)
- 2 to 2.5 Tablespoons of white or red wine vinegar or fresh lemon or lime juice
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- a pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon) sugar
- a few shakes or grinds of black pepper

1) If you're going to saute your corn, preheat your pan and 1 Tablespoon oil to medium high heat, add the corn and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, or until most of the kernels start to turn translucent. Set aside in salad bowl and cool as suggested above.

2) Add in the rest of the ingredients, starting with the lower end of the seasoning measurements, and give the salad a few gentle folds to evenly incorporate all the ingredients and seasonings.

3) Adjust seasoning if needed. If you have time to chill it in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes before serving, that's ideal, but no biggie if you don't.

Enjoy. :)


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Joey's Favorite Crunchy Soy Slaw

Yesterday, I shared my Easy Braised Teriyaki Chicken recipe. Since this is one of our favorite go-to veg sides to enjoy with it, I figured I'd share Joey's Favorite Crunchy Soy Slaw with you today.

I've been making this slaw for the kids for, like, EVER, and it gets them both to eat lots of raw, colorful, healthful veg, which is always a good thing. Joey likes the take the last of the slaw and drink whatever dressing's left. Kooky kid. :P

Joey's Favorite Crunchy Soy Slaw
Serves 4 to 6
Time: 20 minutes
Printable Version

- 7 to 8 cups very thinly sliced cabbage, about 1/2 a large head (I prefer red, but I use green if that's what I've got on hand.)
- 1 to 2 green onions, chopped, including whites
- 10 to 15 stems cilantro, chopped, including the stem part
- 1/2 Tablespoon minced garlic (a very small clove)
- 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons sugar (you can use honey or agave syrup if you prefer)
- 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (white wine and distilled white also work)
- 2.5 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl and toss thoroughly until seasoning is evenly distributed. serve on a platter sprinkled with extra chopped green onions or cilantro if you like.

Also delicious with added avocado and toasted almond pieces.

Enjoy. :)