20 Aug 2012

Magical Chicken Marbella ala Mamma, with Rice and Salad

Giving my mom a kiss!

This dish is my mother's signature dish and she is a tremendous cook! She has cooked this dish for close to fifteen years to the vast praise and delight by those lucky enough to be involved. My mother first became acquainted with this dish through her friend when we lived Canada for a year while mom studied for a master's degree in education. The recipe first appeared in Julee Russo and Sheila Lukins's Silver Palate cookbook which came out in 1982. This is a particularly appetizing and inviting book. The first edition was only decorated with drawings but the 25th anniversary edition is beautifully embellished with images. One of my favorite cookbooks - therein you can, among others things, find the recipe for Chicken Monterey and then the greatest turkey recipe of all time!

The Silver Palate Cookbook

If you click here you will be brought at the speed of light to Amazon in England

Anyways, my mother recently visited us and stayed over for a week. This was less of a vacation for her and more a work-camp - where she diligently worked at her PhD from dusk till dawn, hardly straying away from her computer, except to join me in putting together this amazing dish. And as always, it did not disappoint.

Magical Chicken Marbella ala Mom, with Rice and Salad

Ready for the oven

The first step revolves around marinating the chicken. For best results, do this the night before you cook it so the herbs will be able to properly envelope the chicken and the vinegar can break down the muscle threads. In that way, the chicken will be become soft like butter.

Add some white wine

Two chickens are pieced and placed into a big bowl. Next, I poured in 150 ml of extra virgin olive oil, along with 75 ml af white wine vinegar, and 25 ml of balsamic vinegar. Then I added a cup of green olives, cup of good black Kalamata olives - it's a good rule to allow half of the juice from each type of olive to float along with. 35 chopped prunes, 2 heaping spoonfuls dried oregano, handful of chopped fresh parsely, 6-8 bay leaves and whole, finely chopped garlic.

Adding some brown sugar (or Muscovado)

Another good rule, stir the chicken occasionally while it's marinating so the pieces will be equally marinated. The following day, place the pieces into an ovenproof dish and pour in all the remaining juices. Sprinkle over dark Muscovado sugar (the skin of the chicken will perturb slightly from the liquid and become caramelized in the sugar). Finally, in addition I added a cup of white wine so there will be enough liquid with the chicken (and of course for a bit of extra flavor). Place in the oven and bake at 180 degrees for 50-60 minutes (and the chicken begins to caramelize). When the food is ready, decorate it with a bit of fresh coriander and parsley.

Ready to enjoy!

The chicken is best served with boiled rice - to absorb the delicious sauce that is produced through the cooking. And of course a bit of salad - no food without rich salad!
Donna di Valiano Chardonnay
With the food we had white wine that I had not tasted before. This time, Italian wine from the Toscana region, Donna di Valiano Toscana Chardonnay from 2009. This is a very fruity wine, sweet in the nose - perhaps a touch of vanilla. On the palette enters fruit, oaky and slightly buttery taste. A delightful sip.

A delicious meal!

Bon appetit!

14 Aug 2012

Holy Crepes: Savory Stuffed Crepes filled with Homemade Ricotta cheese & Spinach

The last few days have been treating us well here in lovely Lund. We are at the end of the summer but it appears that we will enjoy a few more weeks of summer warmth before the autumn comes knocking on the door. 

The inspiration for this dish comes from a fellow gastronome and countryman whom while living in the States started a small catering business - www.cookinggoodinthehood.com. I got to know this gentleman online through my website and we have chatted about our shared interest,  which is the love for good quality food! Anyways, he publishes his menus online and one morning I saw this appear on his daily menu. I just needed to see the picture to become convinced that this dish needed to be tried as I do love anything that has to do with or is related to the wonderful crepe! And this variation turns the often sweet crepe into something savoury and substantial enough to be a hearty lunch or a satisfying dinner!

Holy Crepes: Savory Stuffed Crepes filled with Homemade Ricotta cheese & Spinach

So, let's get started! 

The evening before I made some ricotta cheese. And that is simpler than many would expect. Last year I purchased some cheese making equipment from Ricki Carrol - the Cheese making Queen of New England. The kit I ordered included some simple instruments and ingredients to make some fresh cheeses including this ricotta cheese.

Simple Ricotta cheese

I started by pouring 4 L of whole milk into a clean stainless steel pot. To that I added one teaspoon of citric acid and one teaspoon of salt (called cheese salt - but I think it is just good old NaCl). Heated the milk gently to 90 degrees Celsius and stirred continuously. When the milk starts to curdle take of the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Than put some "butter muslin" into a colander and strain the liquid through the muslin. The cheese will remain in the muslin. I then tied the muslin bag up and left to drain for 30-40 minutes over the sink. And that's the whole story - a delicate ricotta cheese ready to be eaten within the hour. Stored in the freezer until the day after.

The next step is to prepare the crepes. 

Crepes on the fire

I put one cup of flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tablespoon oil, one egg and one cup of milk and stirred all together until you have a smooth and relatively thin batter. 

Butter a pan and bake the crepes one by one. 

Preparing the filling

Cut 20 forrest mushrooms in quarters and then fried them in a potent garlic oil with a chopped red onion. When the mushrooms were cooked I added 300 gr of fresh washed spinach which is allowed to wilt over the hot pan - it will reduce in size, at leash 80 percent.  

Adding the ricotta

I put the vegetable mixture in a bowl and crumbled the ricotta cheese into the mixture. Stirred well to combine. Seasoned with salt & pepper and added 3 tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil. 

Filling the crepes

Next step was to stuff the crepes. Placed a heaped tablespoon of filling into the centre of each crepe and than folded to seal in the mixture.

Ready for the oven

Then place the stuffed crepes in an oven drawer and bake for 20 minutes in preheated 180 degrees warm oven. 

Meanwhile I made this simple tomato sauce. Chopped half an onion, 1 glove of garlic and fried for 5 minutes. Added a whole can of tomatoes. Seasoned with salt&pepper, a dash of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. Bring to the boil. 

Montalto Chardonnay

We drank some white wine with the meal. A bag-in-box that I picked up in Denmark recently. This is a lovely wine made in Sicily, Italy. It is a rather light Chardonnay. Scents of  fruits, melon. Light on the palate, fruity and dry. A good accompaniment to the meal. 

Bon appetit

Served with a colourful salad, some green leaves, sliced tomatoes and multicoloured peppers. 

Simple - don't you agree!

Bon appetit!

7 Aug 2012

Succulent Slow-Cooked lambshanks with gorgonzola polenta and a scrumptious gravy

I do love cooking lamb. When asked about my favourite dish I usually answer leg of lamb - slowly cooked as my mother would cook it, with herbs and garlic and a delicious gravy - but this type of dish could easily be ranked among my favourites! Lambs shanks, if not handled correctly, are a tough piece of meat that requires care so it can be transformed into a tender bite. And the key is to cook it for a long time - to slow cook!

Slow cooking is one of my favourite methods of cooking. Most of my most successful endeavours have been achieved by applying this methodology to various meats. The key is just using a fatty (and often cheaper cuts of meat) piece of meat and cooking for a long time at a low temperature. This will transform the toughest cut into a "melt in the mouth" experience, and all your guests will praise your cooking talents!

Succulent Slow-Cooked lamb shanks with Gorgonzola polenta and a scrumptious gravy

And this is a wonderful savoury dish - and for those of you who do not want to spend alot of time over pots and pans this is a delicious solution. It only takes 15 minutes to get things going, and the oven and time takes care of the rest!

Lambshanks in a pretty pot

My lovely wife, Snædís, had picked up some Icelandic lamb shanks on her last trip to the homeland. I was home and took care of the kids and this was my reward!

Dried wild mushrooms

I picked these forest mushrooms last fall when my parents were over for a short visit. We drove out to the Swedish countryside and in a small wood near Sjöbö, in central Skåne, we found a ample harvest of lovely boletes. These are boletus badius and a closely related to the porcini (boletus edulis) which often are mostly prised. But these are of equal quality, or at least I think so. I cleaned the mushrooms, sliced down and dried in the oven, 50 degrees Celsius, for a few hours. Stored in a jar until an appropriate moment presents itself. And this was one of those moments!

Fry a few onions & garlic

Sliced one yellow onion, one red, 5-6 garlic gloves and fried in a few tablespoons of extra virgin oil. I also added a couple of branches of rosemary. And when the onions were soft I added the lamb shanks and browned on each side.

Add stock

Then I poured in half a litre of red wine and brought to the boil - just to cook off the alcohol. Next nearly two litres of a hearty beef stock, a heaping teaspoon of chopped timian and the same amount of marjoram. Season with salt & pepper.

Handful of mushrooms

Then I added a handful of the dried boletes. The stock was then brought to the boil again, a lid was placed on the pot and the pot placed in a 120 degrees hot oven for 4-6 hours. Next, do something else. This dish simply cooks itself.

Polenta with Gorgonzola

Making polenta is also a simple venture but requires manual labour and is rather time consuming. For each 250 gramms of polenta you need 1 litre of water. Bring the water to the boil, season with salt, and then add the polenta. Turn down heat and then simmer for 40 minutes and stir frequently. When the polenta is ready I added 150 gr. of Gorgonzola cheese and blend together. Season with salt & pepper. 

Wolf Blass

We enjoyed some Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignion from 2010. This is a wine from the southern parts of the country. It is a good bottle of wine, dark red in the glass, thick as a Cabernet should be. Dark fruits, plums and oak notes. A good Cabernet Sauvignion - and suited the meal well!

Bon appetit

Just before seven o'clock I removed the pot from the oven. Removed the shanks from the stock, and be careful, because the meat wants to fall of the bone. Placed to the side while I quickly made the sauce. Put 30 gr. of butter in a pot and melted, added 30 gr. flour and made a roux, to thicken the sauce. Added 600-700 ml of stock to the roux and stirred together, added 75 ml of heavy cream and brought to a simmer and cooked for a few minutes to cook away the "flour" taste from the roux. And the sauce was ready!

All that remained was just to plate the dish. First the cheesy polenta, then the succulent and tender lamb shank and finally drizzle some sauce over the whole thing!

Bon appetit!


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