Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tarragon Chicken

Tarragon Chicken is lovely dish of chicken, cream and tarragon - a classic in France. Serve it over rice or pasta.

I read cookbooks like novels. Every recipe evokes an emotion and hints at a story, the person who invented the dish, the culture that nurtured the tradition or the landscape that grows the local produce used. Jamie magazine’s 22nd issue is all about France and French cooking.

The whole issue was like snuggling into a warm bed in the dead of winter, while cold rain falls outside. We lived in Paris for three years and, while it wasn’t all a bed of roses and I can acknowledge the highs and lows of Paris, all in all it was a happy three years full of family, friends and fun and fresh food.

When I read this recipe, I knew I had to make it. Just the word tarragon brings me back. (Does anyone use tarragon but the French?)

Tarragon Chicken

Call it Tarragon Chicken or Petite Blanquette De Poulet a L’estragon, if you are feeling fancy. This recipe is adapted from one in the cookbook Boundary by way of Jamie magazine, Issue 22. 

3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 x 3 lb or 1.4kg chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 1/4 oz or 150g button mushrooms, quartered
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon or 50ml white wine
1 bunch of thyme, tied with string
5 bay leaves
2 cups + 1 tablespoon or 500ml chicken stock
1/3 cup or 40g flour
1/8 cup or 40g butter, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
Scant cup or 220ml whipping cream
2 egg yolks, beaten
3–4 tbsp chopped tarragon

Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pan over a high heat. Add the chicken, in batches if necessary, and cook until browned on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Wipe out the pan then heat the remaining oil. (I skipped this step because I couldn’t bear to wipe away all the beautiful caramels of the pan. I don’t know why on earth you would want to get rid of all that flavor!) Add the carrot, celery and onion and cook over a medium heat for five minutes, until the onion is translucent.

Add the mushrooms and cook for a further five minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. 

Return the chicken to the pan with the thyme, bay and stock. Simmer, covered, for 40–50 minutes or till the chicken is falling off the bone.

Spoon the chicken and vegetables into a serving dish and keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan. 
(I simply used a slotted spoon.)

Whisk together the flour and butter, (which we all remember is called beurre manie, right?) add to the cooking liquid, whisking continuously, and place over a medium heat.

Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. (I don’t know if my simmer is hotter than the Jamie test kitchens, but I didn’t have a whole lot of juice let after the chicken and the vegetables were scooped out so I had to add about 3/4 cup of water to make the sauce easier to stir.)

Add the lemon juice and season to taste.

Combine the cream and egg yolks in a jug and whisk into the sauce.

Stir in the tarragon, pour the sauce over the chicken and serve. 

I served this over some lovely linguine. It was indeed delicious! Enjoy! 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dutch Sandwiches

Toasted artisan bread spread with garlic mayonnaise then topped with grilled chicken and tomatoes makes a lovely lunch. 

Long ago, in an era we call BC (Before Children) we lived in Abu Dhabi and I worked at the InterContinental Hotel. My boss was head of marketing and I was in charge of Public Relations, which meant I entertained the journalists who came to see a performance at the hotel, or attend a restaurant opening, and I produced our in-house brochures and newsletter, among other tasks. I got along well with my boss and his wife, a Dutch couple of enormous height with an equally large sense of humor. Aside from me, all the executive staff lived in the hotel. (As I already had accommodation through my husband's company, I opted for a transportation allowance instead.)

One day they invited me to their hotel apartment for sandwiches. Much to my surprise, they brought out bread with ham and cheese on top. Apparently, in the Netherlands, all sandwiches were open-faced. And there I was thinking that a sandwich was a sandwich all over the world. From them, I also learned that the Dutch kiss three times upon meeting. Left cheek, right cheek, left cheek or the other way around. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s three times. Both lessons have stood me in good stead in the years since.

Here, then, I offer you, my Dutch sandwiches:

1 very small clove of garlic, minced finely
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 grilled chicken breast (Those of you who read Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken might have been wondering what happened to the third breast. Here it is.)
1 tomato
6 slices of artisan wholegrain bread

Add the lemon juice to the minced garlic in a small bowl. The lemon juice will reduce the sharpness and pungency of the fresh garlic so leave it to steep for at least five minutes before adding the mayonnaise and mixing thoroughly.

Meanwhile toast your wholegrain bread slices, slice your chicken breast and your tomato.

Add a nice spread of the garlic mayo to each golden slice. Top with chicken and then tomato. Finish it off with a good grind of fresh black pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt, if desired.

1. Garlic mayo 2. Grilled chicken 3. Tomato slices

Best served with a glass of crisp white wine and eaten while watching England trounce poor Romania in the Rugby World Cup. I wonder how many times the Romanians kiss upon meeting. They could sure use some love right now.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken

This Easy Caesar salad with grilled chicken recipe - with creamy homemade dressing - is a full meal, or divide it up as starters.

Food Lust People Love: This Easy Caesar salad with grilled chicken recipe - with creamy homemade dressing - is a full meal, or divide it up as starters.

For years when I asked elder daughter what she wanted for dinner, this was her most frequent request.   After she went off to university, her little sister continued the tradition.  We even have bowls, big lovely salad bowls - one is large enough when making for side salad for everyone - which replace plates when we are having Caesar salad as a main course.  We have four such bowls.  It makes me sad tonight to be filling only two.

Ingredients for dressing
2 tablespoons fresh or reconstituted lime or lemon juice (You can also use vinegar, in a pinch.)
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup cold water (Cold helps the dressing emulsify.)
1 small (45g) can of anchovies in olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt or to taste (Some anchovies are saltier than others so you can wait to add the salt until after the dressing is emulsified so you can taste it.)
¼ teaspoon powdered English mustard (Colemans)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled

Puree all together in a blender or with a hand blender until emulsified.  This will keep for a couple of weeks stored in the refrigerator in a closed jar.

Ingredients for chicken
One chicken breast per person
Sea salt
Black pepper
Olive oil

Sprinkle the chicken breasts with your vinegar.

This can be a flavored vinegar, red wine, white wine, balsamic, cider, etc.  Your favorite vinegar. I keep several in my cupboards, but my go-to bottle for most marinating is plain white vinegar. I poke a hole in the lid with a sharp knife and then sprinkling is very easy. You don’t need much and, without other flavors and spices, the flavor of the charred chicken comes through.  I also always buy the same brand, same size bottle so I can reused the lid on each new bottle instead of flailing about with a sharp knife re-poking holes each time I run out.

Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a Ziploc bag and pop the chicken in.  Zip it up and rub the oil all around. Leave bag of chicken in the refrigerator to marinate until you are ready to grill it.

When you are ready to grill, heat your griddle pan until it is screaming hot.  Imagining your grill pan is a clock and the lines on the grill run from 12 to 6 o’clock, put your chicken on point to the right at about 2 and 8 for three minutes.  Try to move the chicken with tongs. If it is still sticking, leave it on for another minute or so.

Turn the chicken over and point it to the left at about 11 and 5 for another three minutes.

Turn the chicken once more and keep it pointing left for about one minute.

Turn the last time and point it right for one more minute.   

Remove the breasts from the hot pan and allow to rest for a few minutes, lightly covered with foil.  These times are approximate, depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts. If you think yours may be thicker than average, cut the thickest part to check for doneness before serving and pop them back on the grill if you see any pink.

To serve, slice the chicken breasts on the diagonal.

Ingredients for salad
Salad greens (Romaine, Romaine hearts, Baby Cos, Rocket, Arugula – even some of your heartier spring mixes or mesclun. They need to be able to stand up to the thickness of the dressing.)
Caesar dressing
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Grilled chicken
Croutons (optional)

Make sure your greens are clean and dry.  Drizzle them with your Caesar dressing and toss until lightly coated.  Add the Parmesan and croutons, then the chicken.  Serve, with extra freshly ground black pepper if desired. 

Food Lust People Love: This Easy Caesar salad with grilled chicken recipe - with creamy homemade dressing - is a full meal, or divide it up as starters.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana – my homage to Lillian

A quicker version of classic eggplant Parmigiana but still including the essential ingredients: Golden eggplant, bread crumbs and rich tomato sauce topped with mozzarella and Parmesan then baked to bubbly perfection. Purists, please avert your eyes!

Food Lust People Love: A quicker version of classic eggplant Parmigiana but still including the essential ingredients: Golden eggplant, bread crumbs and rich tomato sauce topped with mozzarella and Parmesan then baked to bubbly perfection.
Many years ago we were living in Paris and the summer of 1993 brought us a beautiful baby girl and, two weeks after her arrival, my mother to help me when dear husband went back to work. (Yes, France has paid paternity leave!) She brought along her wonderful friend, Lillian, and together, they spoiled us rotten. 

Lillian’s specialties were anything Italian and, from her, I learned how to make eggplant Parmigiana, which we adored. I must confess that if Lillian were ever to read this post, she would not recognize her recipe because I have developed many shortcuts over the years of which I know she would not approve but, honestly, when I did it her way, I didn’t make eggplant Parmigiana often enough.  And my way is healthier.

Please forgive me, Lillian, but it’s really not just laziness that made me change your recipe! And I hope you know that your kindness and generosity touched our hearts even more than your wonderful meals increased our girth. We have never forgotten you.

Eggplant Parmigiana
This basic tomato sauce is the one I make for spaghetti and meatballs or really anytime I need tomato sauce as an ingredient in any other recipe. Why buy a jar when homemade is so easy? 

For the sauce:
2 cans (15 oz or 424g size) of whole or crushed tomatoes 
1 can (15 oz or 424g of tomato puree or sauce, unseasoned 
3 cloves of garlic 
1 large or 2 small onions 
2 tablespoons dried oregano or Italian spice mix
Sea salt 
Black pepper 
1 tablespoon of sugar

For the parmigiana:
1 lb or about 500g eggplant
4 1/2 oz or 125g breadcrumbs
4 1/2 oz or 125g Parmesan, freshly grated
4 1/2 oz or 125g mozzarella, grated

Dice the onion and garlic and sauté them in a couple of good glugs of olive oil.  

Turn the fire to medium and put the lid on to let them sweat and get soft. This could take as many as 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally, letting the condensation on the lid drip back into the pan.  

When the onions and garlic are soft and translucent, add the canned tomatoes and sauce, along with about another can full of water and the two tablespoons of oregano and the tablespoon of sugar.

Lower the fire to simmer and cook the sauce down, covered, until it is thick and the whole tomatoes start to break apart. You can speed this process along by mashing them with a potato masher, right in the pot.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Continue to simmer until you are ready to assemble your eggplant Parmigiana.

Meanwhile, slice your eggplant and heat your griddle.  

Lay the slices on the hot griddle and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.  

Flip them when browned on one side and remove to a plate when both sides are brown. [If you’d like to make it the authentic (read: Lillian’s) way, you dip the sliced eggplant in egg and then breadcrumbs. Then you shallow fry the slices in olive oil until crispy. Drain on paper towels.  You have to keep adding oil to your pan because the eggplant soaks up the oil like crazy. It’s delicious but, oh, so fattening!]

One step away from Lillian’s method is to dip the slices in egg and then breadcrumbs, lightly spray them with Pam, and then toast them on a cookie sheet in a hot oven until crispy.   I did it that way for a while until I figured out a way the way to cheat even further.)

Don’t forget to give your tomato sauce the occasional stir while you are browning the eggplant.

Your sauce is ready, your eggplant slices are ready and now it’s time to assemble the dish. Start with a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of your ovenproof dish. (If the sauce is too thick to spread, by all means, add a little more water.)

Next, sprinkle the sauce with breadcrumbs.

 Now add a layer of eggplant slices. 

And sprinkle again with breadcrumbs.

Now add another layer of tomato sauce.

Cover generously with Parmesan.

And sprinkle again with breadcrumbs. Then add another layer of eggplant slices. And another coating of breadcrumbs.  You get the picture. The layers go tomato/eggplant/Parmesan, but you put a thin sprinkle of breadcrumbs below and on top of the eggplant each time to mimic the breadcrumbs you would find on each side, if you had dipped the slices and fried them first. Your final layer will be tomato sauce topped with Parmesan, mozzarella and about 25g of breadcrumbs. 

I mixed mine together by hand and sprinkled them on. I find the breadcrumbs help the cheese not stick together as much, which makes sprinkling it much easier.

Food Lust People Love: A quicker version of classic eggplant Parmigiana but still including the essential ingredients: Golden eggplant, bread crumbs and rich tomato sauce topped with mozzarella and Parmesan then baked to bubbly perfection.
Bake at 350°F or 180°C for about 45-50 minutes or until golden and bubbling. We love eggplant Parmigiana and will be forever grateful to Lillian for introducing us to this delightful dish.


Food Lust People Love: A quicker version of classic eggplant Parmigiana but still including the essential ingredients: Golden eggplant, bread crumbs and rich tomato sauce topped with mozzarella and Parmesan then baked to bubbly perfection.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pasta with Spinach and Baked Camembert

A fabulously easy option for entertaining, this Camembert baked with garlic and rosemary is set on the table where guests can help themselves to a spoonful or two to drizzle over pasta that's been tossed with baby spinach. 

Last night it was my distinct and utmost pleasure to cook dinner for my elder daughter and her friends. Their cozy hallway kitchen had all the necessary tools despite its compact size and the company was superb.

Our menu included the pasta, fresh Rhode Island-grown grape tomato salad and strawberries and cream.

The fun for me started in Eastside Marketplace where I got to peruse their fresh produce and extensive selection of dried goods. I can see why it has been voted best local market for so many years. With a large Whole Foods in one direction and Eastside Marketplace in the other, the Brown and RISD students are spoiled for choice.

This recipe comes originally from one of Jamie Oliver’s books. I think it might have been Ministry of Food, but don’t quote me.

1 X 250g box of Camembert cheese – you want one with the wooden box
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
100g of Parmesan
16 oz or 500g dried rigatoni or penne pasta
150g or three good handfuls of fresh spinach

Preheat over to 180°C (350°F) degrees. Open the box of cheese and unwrap it. Place it back in the wooden container. (I suggest lining with foil first! The first time I made this, my box popped the side and my cheese melted all over the foil-lined pan that I had put it in.) Score a circle in the top of the skin, then lift it off and discard.

Peel and finely slice the garlic. Pick the rosemary leaves off the woody stalk. Lay the garlic slices on top of the cheese, sprinkle with some pepper and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Scatter over the rosemary leaves and gently pat with your fingers to coat them in the oil. Grate the Parmesan.

Place the box of cheese on a baking tray and put it into the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until golden and melted.

(Mine was well melted after only 20 minutes so watch it.) Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. When your cheese has 10 minutes left to cook, add the pasta to the pan and cook according to the packet instructions. When the pasta is cooked, add the spinach to the pan – it only needs cooking for 10 seconds or so. Drain the pasta and spinach in a colander over a large bowl, reserving some of the cooking water. (I forgot to add the spinach before I drained the pasta and found that it wilted just as nicely when added to the pot of hot pasta with the lid on.)

Drizzle with a couple of good glugs of olive oil and add the grated Parmesan. (I probably should review a recipe before I decide to make it again after many months, but I didn’t. Anyhow, I also completely forgot this part yesterday and didn’t even buy Parmesan, but in the past I have left out the last part of this step anyway and let everyone add Parmesan at the table. Some like it, some don’t in my family.) If you do add the grated Parmesan here and the sauce is too thick, add a splash of the reserved cooking water to thin it out a bit. Season with salt and pepper and give it a good stir. Remove the cheese from the oven.

Divide the pasta between your serving bowls. Either drizzle the melted Camembert on top or pop the box of cheese on the table and let everyone help themselves to a lovely, gooey spoonful.


Everyone served themselves last night and then fought over the last vestiges of cheese while doing the dishes. We finished the evening sipping red wine, sharing funny stories and listening to Johnny Cash. Bliss.