Monthly Archives: September 2009

Chicken Breast With Eggplant, Shallots and Ginger

This was really tasty! I was unsure when I first viewed the recipe, but I am really glad I tried it.

I bought a Sicilian eggplant from Farmer Dave at the Wakefield Farmer’s Market and didn’t feel like doing the usual garlic, olive oil, and/or tomato-based thing, or even cheese, but did want a “one pot meal” with some kind of animal protein.  I found this nifty  Chicken Breast With Eggplant, Shallots and Ginger recipe by Matt Bittman via  Bitten, Recipe of the Day, in the New York Times. Click the title to see the original post.

Chicken Breast With Eggplant, Shallots and Ginger

Here is the original recipe with my adaptations added in brackets.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces shallots (about 6 large) [I started with 8 oz but one was partially rotted, so 6 ounces is more like it.]
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed [I used grapeseed]
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger or 2 teaspoons dried ginger [I used fresh ginger]
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts (4 half breasts) [I used Bell & Evans]
  • 1/4 cup or more minced fresh cilantro [I used mostly flat parsley and some chocolate mint because I could not get any cilantro that day from Farmland and I found a suggestion online calling for a bit of mint added to parsley as a substitute for cilantro.]
  • everything but the chicken

    everything but the chicken

    It is hard to see here, but the mint leaves in with the parsley have a purplish hue that went nicely with the eggplant in this picture.

Method

  • 1. Peel shallots. If they are small, leave them whole. Otherwise, cut them in half the long way. (Most large shallots have two lobes and will naturally divide in half as you peel them.) Heat the broiler or a gas or charcoal grill. [I used the gas broiler in my oven]
    peeled shallots

    peeled shallots

    Half of one my big shallots had rot. Plus, you lose a lot when peeling.  Here is what was left to use, which was quite enough to do the trick.  Don’t they look lovely?  I just love shallots.

into the frying pan

into the frying pan

  • 2. Place oil in a large nonstick skillet, and turn heat to medium high. Add shallots, and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown. Add eggplant, salt and pepper, and lower heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until eggplant softens, about 15 minutes.
next, add the eggplant

next, add the eggplant

  • 3. When eggplant begins to brown, add half the ginger, and cook 3 minutes or so more, until eggplant is very tender and the mixture fragrant.
  • [In lieu of steps 2 and 3, I did not use a nonstick pan.  I used my 12″ stainless steel All Clad pan.  I covered the pan after 5 minutes, and added 1/2 cup water after 12 minutes, and then cooked for 10 minutes more with the water, adding the ginger for the last 5 or so minutes.  I did this because I didn’t peel the eggplant and I didn’t think the called-for cooking time and method would soften the skin enough.]
ginger sliced

This was one "leg" of the ginger and made one Tbsp minced

Here is a trick for mincing ginger: slice it one way, then turn 90 degrees and slice again. to get the results in this picture.  Next, slice crosswise in tiny increments.  Finish up mincing to desired size.

the eggplant "relish" all cooked and ready to go

the eggplant "relish" all cooked and ready to go

  • 4. Meanwhile, rub chicken breasts with salt, pepper and remaining ginger. Grill about 4 inches from the heat source for 3 minutes a side or until done. [All our broilers vary – preheated the broiler as called for and cooked the chicken breast halves about 4 inches from the heat source, but it was more like 4 minutes, each side, then another 4 minutes each side, with a quick finish of a minute or so on each side.  I think I have a really lame broiler…Just cook until nicely browned, turning every few minutes,  and check with an instant-read thermometer to confirm that it is done enough if you are not sure.  160 degrees or so.]
chicken ready for broiler

chicken ready for broiler

chicken done

chicken done

  • 5. Stir half the cilantro into eggplant mixture. Serve chicken breasts on a bed of eggplant. Garnish with remaining cilantro. [As noted in the ingredient list, I used 9/10th flat parsley and 1/10th chocolate mint that I have growing on my deck.]
ready to eat!

ready to eat!

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I was so excited to serve and eat the meal that I forgot to take a photo of it plated the night I first made it.  But, I had leftovers and took the above picture before creating the meal for the next evening.  But, it looks about the same.  <grin>

I am really glad I took a chance on this recipe.  While I like just about anything, even I was not sure about the flavor mix, whether or not I would use cilantro or when I had to find a substitute and decided upon the parsley/mint mix. And, I had no idea what Steve would think.  Steve actually had a little trouble with the mint the first night, although he admits it was because it was such an unfamiliar flavor to him in a main course.  But he really enjoyed it the second evening.  I, on the other hand, was not at all sure about the cilantro and obviously have yet to find out how that works in this recipe.  However, I was very comfortable with the mint, being used to Middle Eastern food and having used chocolate mint in my hummus in the past.  [Note to self: now that I have a chocolate mint plant, it is time to revive that hummus recipe – and the tabbouleh!]

Italian Sausage with Fennel, Peppers, and Onions

Here is another “wicked good” one!  I served this with the recently posted Mashed Potato Casserole and it was just an amazing combination of flavors, both within each recipe and among the two. Talk about comfort food with a complex flair!

And, just a reminder – I don’t have tons of time to post, never mind proofread, so please forgive typos and grammar errors – but feel free to point them out to me, also.  Thanks!

I made the recipe exactly as presented.  Here it is, followed by more discussion by me.  🙂

Italian Sausage with Fennel, Peppers, and Onions Gourmet | April 2008
by Melissa Roberts
The fennel bulb we’ve added to this Little Italy combo is a natural complement to the fennel seeds in the sausage.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active Time: 15 min
Total Time: 40 min

4 Italian frying peppers (Cubanelle) cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large fennel bulb, bulb quartered, then cut into 2-inch-wide pieces and 1/4 cup fronds coarsely chopped (discard stalks)
1 large onion, quartered and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 1/2 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage links, halved crosswise
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat broiler.
Toss together all ingredients except fennel fronds with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large shallow baking pan. Broil 4 inches from heat until sausage is browned and vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Turn over and stir, then broil until sausage is just cooked through and vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes more. Serve sprinkled with fennel fronds.

_____________________________________________________________________

I believe I mentioned in my previous post that I made this because I had fennel in my fridge that I had bought the week before.  I now remember why I had fennel in my fridge.  While I don’t remember what recipe I was going to try, I know it called for a bulb of fennel.  I went to Farm Land, which is my favorite grocery store,  and found….a bulb of what was called “anise.”  Hmmm, I said to myself, is it the same thing?  I bought it, but then got sidetracked and didn’t research fennel and anise until this week.  Turns out that the plant that is officially known as anise is used only for its seeds, whereas the names fennel and anise are used interchangeably when referring to the fresh bulb of what is actually fennel.  SO, if it looks like this, it is what you want, providing you are looking for fresh fennel!

Fresh fennel, aka "anise" or "sweet anise"

Fresh fennel, aka "anise" or "sweet anise"

This recipe asked for the bulb and fronds, only.  Save the stems and munch on them like a stick of celery  for a tasty snack.  I am munching on a stalk as I write this.  Very refreshing.

chopped fennel bulb and fronds

chopped fennel bulb and fronds

This recipe calls for another ingredient with which I was not really familiar, although it turns out I have been seeing them for years at, you guessed it, Farm Land!  Cubanelle peppers are long and thin like chili peppers, but are mild in flavor, considered to be a sweet pepper.  To me, the flavor is lighter yet also more intense than bell peppers.  Does that make sense?  Hmmm.  I’ll have to buy some more and think about it.  Anyway, I forgot to take a picture of them whole, but here there are chopped and ready to go into the dish:

Cubenelle peppers

Cubenelle peppers

Along with cutting up the onion (I used 1 and 1/2 of regular size rather than one large), I used 2 sweet and 4 hot Italian sausages from Farm Land.  The total of 6 came, conveniently, to the 1.5 pounds called for in the recipe.

While I would prefer to use meats from animals that have NOT gone though the typical “manufacturing process used by the bulk of our food industries, I do feel better about using sausages and ground meats from Farmland because they make/grind their own so you are not eating a mixture of meat from god knows how many cows or pigs in each bit, and don’t add lots of unnecessary ingredients.   Plus, they make really delicious sausages!

Ready for the broiler

Ready for the broiler

Once all the ingredients are chopped – just toss with the olive oil and salt and pop in the pre-heated broiler, turning one part way through, as directed.

the finished product

Then, eat.  It is really, really good!  And, it is even better when matched with those Mashed Potatoes with collards.  Just a great blend of flavors.  Both recipes and the combo are keepers at my house!

To my vegetarian readers – try this with a vegetarian sausage or maybe even with flavored tofu or tempeh and let me know how it comes out.  🙂

Mashed Potato Casserole with collards, cheese, and caramelized onions

WOW.  This was, to quote the native Wakefield MA person that I am, “wicked good!”  (Should I add “Menga?  I have no idea how to spell it, but the last time I heard it (other than from some long-lost and quickly again forgotten person I ran into last year) was at Lanie Island in the 1980s.  Scary times.  However, I digress.  <grin>

It was time to use up things in the cupboard and fridge.  I had lovely potatoes from Farmer Dave and exquisite carrots from Flats Mentor Farm, both via the Wakefield Farmer’s Market, and collard greens from the garden I help with by the lake.  By the way, the best way to keep greens such as collard, kale, and chard, is to put them like cut flowers in water, cover loosely with a plastic bag, and store in the fridge.

This is after TWO weeks in the fridge!

This is after TWO weeks in the fridge!

So, I started by searching for “potatoes and collards” and found this:

Collard-cannon with ale-braised onions & raw milk cheddar

I pretty much followed the directions, although I added grated carrots and I didn’t happen to have a block of high-test cheese in the fridge.  I actually did have a small amount of super cheddar from the Farmer’s Market, but not enough for the recipe and better savored with a cracker or two, anyway.

The original recipe didn’t have any set amounts of ingredients, but it was easy enough to wing it.  Here is what I used for ingredients:

About 3 cups  chopped collard greens, not tightly packed:

(See Simmered Greens – Collard, Mustard, and Arugula for tips for chopping collard greens)

chopped collards, one- cup measure on right for scale

chopped collards, one- cup measure on right for scale

The original recipe calls for steaming the greens, but I opted to blanch in boiling water for just under 3 minutes.

Not shown here, but I also grated a few small carrots – maybe 1 cup loosely packed after grating.

About 2 and a half pounds or so of potatoes with skin left on
1/2 cup or a bit more low-fat plain yogurt
2-3 TBSP olive oil
1/4 cup or more hot water:

Potatoes getting the pre-mash cook

Potatoes getting the pre-mash cook

After cooking to fork tender, I mashed the potatoes with a few dollops of low-fat yogurt and some olive oil, along with a bit of hot water to get the right texture.  Next, I caramelized the onions to be folded into the mashed potatoes.

Here are the results: about five cups of mashed potatoes.

three favrorite tools

Three of my favorite tools

As aside, here.  I just love pyrex measuring cups.  This is my quart – or 4-cup one.  I have the 1, 2, and 8 cup versions, too.  Really handy!  And, of course, the knife my Mom gave me years ago.  Just a treasure.  And, my new handy-dandy heat-resistant up to 400 degrees  “spoonula.”    Okay, on to the onions.

Three medium to large onions, sliced
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 cup or so beer

Just starting to brown

Just starting to brown

First, I heated up two TBSP or so olive oil in my saute pan.  (Yes, it’s All-Clad and I love it!)  I sauted the onions on high, stirring frequently, until they started browning nicely, as shown above – up to 10 minutes. Then I cooked them for another 10 or so minutes on med-low until they got really brown:

Ready to deglaze!

Ready to deglaze!

The next step is to deglaze the onions with beer.  I’ll just quote the original recipe:  “When they were nicely browned, we deglazed the pan with a cup or so of brown ale — gathering up all those delicious browned bits that clung to the pan and granting the onions a bit of that delicious beer-y flavor.”  I couldn’t say it better myself.  🙂

before reducing the deglazing liquid

before reducing the deglazing liquid

After scraping the pan to loosen all the tasty bits, I let the onions stay on a low simmer for a few minutes until just about all the liquid evaporated.  Then, I folded them into the potatoes:

Taters and onions.  YUM!

Taters and onions. YUM!

Next it is the layering game.  Put 1/2 the taters in a greased baking dish and cover with all the collard and carrots.  I used my 10 inch square corning ware pan.

great colors!

Great colors, don't you think?

The last ingredient is about 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese.  I just used regular New York Sharp.  I then sprinkled half the cheese on the veggie layer:

Half way assembled

Half-way assembled

Next,  I added the rest of the potatoes and topped it off with the rest of the cheese.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

I used my toaster 0ven.  I have the Cadillac of toaster ovens.  It is a Krups 6-Slice Digital Convection Toaster Oven, as recommended by cooks Illustrated, and it rocks.  I just used the regular oven setting versus convection for this dish.  1/2 an hour at 375 degrees did it. (Pre-heat first if using a regular oven.)

YUM:

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

Okay – here is the list of indgredients and the instructions all together so you can copy and paste to a file for printing:
I pretty much followed the directions, although I added grated carrots and I didn’t happen to have a block of high-test cheese in the fridge.  I actually did have a small amount of super cheddar from the Farmer’s Market, but not enough for the recipe and better savored with a cracker or two, anyway.

The original recipe didn’t have any set amounts of ingredients, but it was easy enough to wing it.  Here is what I used for ingredients:

About 3 cups chopped collard greens, not tightly packed
1 cup grated carrot
2 and a half pounds or so of potatoes, peeled or not
1/2 cup or a bit more low-fat plain yogurt (or sour cream)
2-3 TBSP olive oil
1/4 cup or more hot water as needed for mashed texture
3 medium to large onions, sliced thin
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 cup or so beer
2 cups grated cheddar or other type of cheese

1) Chop up the potatoes and set to boiluntil soft.
2) Slice onions and saute in olive oil until caramelized.
3) While potatoes and onions cook, chop collard greens and grate carrots and cheese.
4) Add beer to deglaze the onions, and simmer for a few minutes until most liquid is gone.
5) Mash potatoes with yogurt, olive oil, and hot water as needed.
6) Fold onions into mashed potatoes
7) Lightly grease a shallow baking dish and spread with 1/2 the potatoes.
8) Cover with collards and carrot (and/or any other veggie) and top with 1/2 the grated cheese.
9) Spread on the rest of the potatoes and top with the rest of the grated cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees in a pre-heated oven.

To accompany, I also prepared a very interesting dish that I will blog about the next time I have a moment.  My reason for this dish?  I had fennel in my fridge.  Why?  I don’t remember why…well, last week I was going to try a recipe that used it but never got around to it.  I don’t remember what the recipe was…BUT, the good news is that the dish I made was super.  You can find it here:

Italian Sausage with Fennel, Peppers, and Onions Check back later for my post about it.  Enjoy!