Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Friday Night, Braised Chicken Thighs

This week the style of "a`la Florentine" was on my mind. A` la Florentine means; In the style of Florence Italy, which is something (like chicken) presented on a bed of spinach and topped with Mornay Sauce. I didn't want to do chicken breast, which is my first thought, I wanted to do something I haven't done much and believe me, I have cooked plenty of plain old chicken breasts. Chicken Thighs came to mind because it's Tony's favorite cut. I thought the best way would be to braise them, cook them so they fall off the bone and make a really comfort food dish.

Steamed Artichokes with Almond Saffron Dip

I've often thought that artichokes are an enormous waist of time and artichoke (really), to deal with from the produce department so I never buy them. I usually buy them marinated in a jar or I have even gotten them frozen. Today I thought, Ok let's give artichokes a chance again, they looked nice and fresh at the store. I wanted to try this whole steamed artichoke that you kind of scrape out the goodness from each leaf of the artichoke with your teeth. It was surprisingly good with this Almond Saffron Dip, which you can find on the, it's by Ellie Kreeger. I cut off the top 1/3 of the artichokes and removed some of the outer leafs, then snipped off any pointy tips that were left. Cut the stem off at the Base of the artichoke. Steamed in a big pot with the stem side up for about 40 minutes. Then I removed the choke and filled in where the choke was with this dip. It makes a good snack before a meal because they are really not filling at all, but it gives you something to chew on.

Braised Chicken Thighs Florentine Style

Instead of making the sauce separately I wanted to make it all in the same pan. So I seasoned the chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on) with salt and pepper and seared them in a cast iron pan with olive oil on both sides. I removed them to a plate and poured off any fat. To the pan I added a good splash of white wine, a splash of water (out of chicken stock), crushed garlic, bay leaf, 1/2 of an onion cut in half and black pepper. I removed the skin from the chicken and put the chicken into the liquid in the pan, covered tightly and simmered gently for 90 minutes (turning over the chicken half way through). Once it's falling off the bone, remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm. Pour off the liquid in the pan and return to medium heat. Put a bit of olive oil in the pan and throw in some minced shallots. After about 5 minutes add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds, add about a cup of white wine and reduce in half. Add about 1 cup of heavy cream and reduce that in half. Whisk in about 1/2 cup of fontina cheese, a bit of fresh parsley. Place the chicken back into the pan and coat with the Mornay Sauce.

Fontina Stuffed Risotto Cakes

I made just a basic risotto in the morning, but you can also do it the day before. It's butter and oil in a pan with some onions then garlic and some short grained rice (I used Carnarolli). After toasting the rice for a couple minutes you add some white wine and evaporate it completely. Then over the next 25-30 minutes you add ladles of chicken stock, one ladle at a time letting it evaporate each time, and stirring the whole time. When you stir the grains of rice rub against each other and the starch is rubbed off and after 25-30 minutes you have perfectly cooked rice that is in a "creamy" sauce. So later in the afternoon I took the risotto out of the refrigerator and stirred in some thinly sliced scallion tops for color and flavor. I was able to make 9 risotto cakes out of the one cup of rice I cooked. They were about 1/3 of a cup in size. I made a little indention in the center of each one and put in a small square of aged fontina cheese. I filled in the hole with more rice and shaped them again. I coated each risotto cake in some panko crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs). Put them on a plate and chill in the refrigerater, covered, for at least 20 minutes, I let mine sit for a few hours. When I was ready to serve I heated about 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter in a non-stick skillet until the butter melts and added in 4 of the risotto cakes. Cook over medium heat until the outsides are golden brown and they are heated through so the cheese melts in the center, this takes only 5-6 minutes total. This was really a good way to do it. In the past I have made these, coating them with flour, egg and regular bread crumbs, I have to say this is a much better way of doing it.

Trumpet Mushrooms
I saw these mushroom at Whole Foods and they looked very fresh. I had never had them and I am still exploring different mushrooms to find the ones I like. They are expensive per pound but I only needed a little bit to go along side our dinner and they don't weigh very much. And that is what Friday Night is all about, spending a little bit more and trying really good and different stuff, instead of going out and spending even more. Well I am happy to say it was a good choice. I did cook them in really good European style butter and a little olive oil but they tasted buttery, I think on there own, and they were very nice, Tony loved them. So what I did was cook them until they were done and I put in some baby spinach and 30 seconds later it was done. I put that combination on the plate and put the chicken over it. Very nice!

Caramel Brownies with Fleur de Sel and Deep Fried Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

On the show "The Best Thing I Ever Ate", someone was saying they loved the brownies at this place in NYC, where they made these brownies and layered in the middle of the batter some caramel sauce. I saw that episode a few weeks ago and I have been thinking about them ever since. I gave it a go and they were tremendous brownies but the layer of caramel got lost in the batter somehow. They showed them pouring in the caramel before baking them off and I think they made a thicker caramel and maybe they put more than I did. Then I thought well I can't just have a brownie for dessert on a Friday Night so I thought of every one's favorite cream... but what can I do different? "How about fried ice cream, I have heard of it, I never did that"!! So I looked it up and came across some "You Tube" videos and basically there are two ways of doing it. You can either cover a scoop of ice cream with slices of pound cake and fry it or do what I did and that was coating it with corn flakes mixed with a little bit of sugar then egg wash then more cornflakes and sugar, freezing the balls between to make sure they are really hard and frozen then you fry them in canola oil very quickly (before any ice cream leaks out and splashes everywhere). I did it and in 30 seconds they were golden brown and delicious. It was interesting but I don't know if I would do it again, I am happy with just a scoop of ice cream. But now I can check -Fried Ice Cream- off the list.

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